FS Reunion in Missoula: Fire Myths and the Future

Ed Heilman retired as regional fire director in the Northern Rockies after 35 years with the U.S. Forest Service. Yesterday in Missoula, he had his mind changed, which he says “doesn’t come easy.”

It was University of Montana professor Ron Wakimoto who changed Heilman’s mind about fire history, during a presentation Wakimoto made about historic use of fire by Native Americans.

Anyone who’s been in wildland fire for any length of time has heard about this. But Wakimoto, UMT Professor of Forest Fire Science, put a new spin on it at the 2009 Forest Service Reunion currently under way in Missoula. His presentation, “Fire in the Forest: Myths and Realities,” detailed the research on this topic over the last 50 years, which indicates that Indians did indeed use fire as a management tool. As early as the 1750s, Wakimoto said, New York and other colonies were passing laws to outlaw Native Americans’ use of fire.

Forest Service retirees and employees have shown up from all over the country, with over 500 registered guests registered for the reunion. Today’s schedule included a panel discussion on “Where Do We Go From Here?” with participants including the current USFS Chief Tom Tidwell and all six living former Chiefs.

The Missoulian has a great story on it [HERE] and they’ve also run several related stories — check the links on that page. Stay tuned to missoulian.com for ongoing updates on the FS Reunion and related news.

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