Wild Lands of the West | The BLM, National Geographic Magazine: Fueling The Flames Of Wildlife

Smoke billows from orange flames in field with helmeted fire fighter.

Smoke and flames rise in eastern Oregon from a Bureau of Land Management prescribed burn designed to clear land for grazing and keep down potentially flammable undergrowth. Years of fire suppression create an environment that is prone to wild fires during dry summers. Managing cattle land and wilderness ecosystems is a difficult task.

More than a billion dollars are spent annually suppressing wildfires that burn millions of acres of western land. Fire plays an integral role in many forest and rangeland ecosystems, and decades of efforts directed at extinguishing every public land fire have disrupted naturally occurring fire cycles that once existed.

As more communities develop and grow in areas adjacent to fire-prone lands—in what is known as the wildland/urban interface—fires pose increasing risk to people and their property.