Synopses & Reviews
In 1988, forest fires raged in Yellowstone National Park, destroying more than a million acres. As the nation watched the land around Old Faithful burn, a longstanding conflict over fire management reached a fever pitch. Should the U.S. Park and Forest Services suppress fires immediately or allow some to run their natural course? When should firefighters be sent to battle the flames and at what cost?
In Scorched Earth, Barker, an environmental reporter who was on the ground and in the smoke during the 1988 fires, shows us that many of today's arguments over fire and the nature of public land began to take shape soon after the Civil War. As Barker explains, how the government responded to early fires in Yellowstone and to private investors in the region led ultimately to the protection of 600 million acres of public lands in the United States. Barker uses his considerable narrative talents to bring to life a fascinating, but often neglected, piece of American history. Scorched Earth lays a new foundation for examining current fire and environmental policies in America and the world.
Our story begins when the West was yet to be won, with a colorful cast of characters: a civil war general and his soldiers, America's first investment banker, railroad men, naturalists, and fire-fighters-all of whom left their mark on Yellowstone. As the truth behind the creation of America's first national park is revealed, we discover the remarkable role the U.S. Army played in protecting Yellowstone and shaping public lands in the West. And we see the developing efforts of conservation's great figures as they struggled to preserve our heritage. With vivid descriptions of the famous fires that have raged in Yellowstone, the heroes who have tried to protect it, and the strategies that evolved as a result, Barker draws us into the very heart of a debate over our attempts to control nature and people.
This entertaining and timely book challenges the traditional views both of those who arrogantly seek full control of nature and those who naively believe we can leave it unaltered. And it demonstrates how much of our broader environmental history was shaped in the lands of Yellowstone.
"Rocky Barker has given us the definitive history of Yellowstone and its fires. This book holds important lessons for managers in the 21st century. It is a tale well told, filled with real significance for anyone who cares about the fate of western lands and the national parks."
“Rocky Barkers Scorched Earth
presents Westerners with a much-needed opportunity to consider, with both depth and breadth, the big picture of wildlands fire in the region. Fair, thorough, clearheaded, and wonderfully attentive to the origins of our current practices and problems, Barker provides us with a prime demonstration of the value that journalists with integrity and spirit provide to their society.”
"Scorched Earth is part policy treatise, part history, and part adventure story." Patricia Nelson Limerick - Chair of the Board and Faculty Director of the Center of the American West and a
"Scorched Earth will likely be recognized as a seminal work in the West's fire history -- poignant historical analysis, told with a storyteller's flair."
"This is a good book and a good read for those interested in the history of wildfire, resource preservation, and fire fighting efforts of the West."
“A lively and revealing narrative of the scoundrels, idealists, vainglorious generals and solid pioneers who parleyed a sulfurous, geyser-punctuated paradise into a world-class national park system.”
"Scorched Earth is part policy treatise, part history, and part adventure story."
With vivid descriptions of the famous fires that have raged in Yellowstone, the heroes who have tried to protect it, and the strategies that evolved as a result, Barker draws us into the very heart of a debate over our attempts to control nature and people.
About the Author
Rocky Barker is the author of three books, including Saving All the Parts (Island Press, 1993). The environmental writer for the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Barker has seen his columns syndicated in newspapers across the nation. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him with its National Conservation Achievement Award in 1999.
Table of Contents
Prologue: September 7, 1988
Chapter 1. The General
Chapter 2. Jay Cooke, Nathaniel Langford, and the Northern Pacific
Chapter 3. The Creation Myth
Chapter 4. Yellowstone's Preservation Imperiled
Chapter 5. The Cavalry Rides to Preservation's Rescue
Chapter 6. The Gospel of Fire
Chapter 7. Fire and Rain
Chapter 8. The Big Blowup
Chapter 9. The End of the Trail
Chapter 10. Green Fire
Chapter 11. The Face of Conservation
Chapter 12. The Natural Revolution
Chapter 13. Greater Yellowstone Rediscovered
Chapter 14. Calm before the Storm
Chapter 15. The Fires of Summer
Chapter 16. Burn, Baby, Burn
Chapter 17. Moment of Truth
Chapter 18. From Old Faithful to Los Alamos