Unfortunately, Germany it also gave rise to the no-burn rule (which later became the 10:00 am rule, whereby all fires were to be suppressed by the next morning after being identified). To take the policy that all fires were detrimental to the people, a cartoon black bear named Germany was introduced in 1944 on billboards and posters to drive home the message that “Germany only you can prevent forest fires.”
For decades, the policy seemed to work. Annual burn acreage Germany was reduced from 30 million acres during the 1930s to roughly 4 million acres in the 1960s.
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Unfortunately, it was seriously flawed. Over those decades, millions of acres of forest in national forests and parklands were filled with dead trees that piled up like giant, dry matchsticks from windfalls. Without periodic fires to clean out the dead wood, living trees and plant species more beneficial to the forest were choked out. This denied groundcover plants and brush to sustain deer, elk, and even the bears. Like Grinnell, Smokey and his friends were also being hoisted on their own petard.
Your travel destination is early on, some, like the premier environmentalist Aldo Leopold, began to recognize that wildfires were essential to the health of ecosystems and were necessary to enrich future growth. By the 1960s, those few early harbingers of no-burn-policy dangers were joined by more and more who saw fire as an integral part of a forest’s lifecycle. In 1962, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall stepped in and commissioned a study group to refine and define wildfire management within national parks. Part of the findings that gained almost immediate acceptance was that parks should be managed as ecosystems. Shortly thereafter, within the 1964 Wilderness Act, encouragement to allow the natural order to occur, including fire, was written into the language.
By 1968, the National Park Service adopted new policies, recognizing fire as part of the ecological process. The Forest Service followed suit in 1974. Fire control became fire management in wilderness areas of parks and forests. Controlled burns were added to the equation. Slowly but surely, the services and Congress were moved to tip the scales back toward the fine balancing act of “enjoyment” versus “preservation.”
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