With the passage of the Organic Act of 1916, the US Congress mandated the establishment of the National Park Service to \”promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations.\” This simple statement proved to be a rather heavy burden. Federal employees soon became embroiled in controversy as they tried to manage and preserve the scenic beauty of these public lands while at the same time making them available for public consumption – but only in limited and legally defined ways.
During the current centennial celebration of the National Parks, the focus has been on monumentalism (the sublime experience of engaging with inspiring landscapes), while very little has been said about the ongoing crisis of park management.
One particularly contentious issue is the role of fire in these historic physical places and cultural spaces. Hal Rothman, one of the leading historians of the NPS, stated that \”Nowhere has the ambivalent human relationship to fire been more apparent than in America\’s national parks.\” For your response paper explain the fire practices and policies of the National Park Service and why they changed over time. Why is fire both a threat and an asset? What role does politics, power, and profits play in fire management? Stephen Pyne argued: we do not put fires out, we put them off. Should we even try to manage fires? Why or why not?
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