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From research to policy: The White Cap Wilderness Fire Study


Diane Smith



Publication type:

Magazines or Trade Publications

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Forest History Today. Spring/Fall: 4-12.


On August 18, 1972, an aerial patrol reported a snag burning deep in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho. Bob Mutch, then a young research forester, traveled to the site the following day for an on-the-ground assessment. It was, Mutch later recalled, a little "nothing fire" that posed no threat. And he was right. Growing to only 24 feet by 24 feet, the lightning-started blaze burned itself out after four days, covering less than a quarter-acre. The Bad Luck Creek fire proved to be good luck for Mutch and his colleagues, who the day before it started had received written permission from the chief of the Forest Service to allow some fires to burn in a newly defined wilderness fire management area.


Smith, Diane. 2014. From research to policy: The White Cap Wilderness Fire Study. Forest History Today. Spring/Fall: 4-12.

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