At Yosemite, a Preservation Plan That Calls for Chain Saws
With treasured forests perennially threatened by fierce wildfires, many experts say it’s time to cut and burn protectively. A lawsuit is standing in the way.
Decades of research have shown that the wilderness appreciated by early European settlers, as well as 19th century naturalists like John Muir, was often a highly managed landscape. Core samples from beneath a pond in Yosemite, retrieved in the way that scientists might bore deep into a glacier, showed centuries of layers of pollen and ash. The findings suggested a long history of frequent fires in Yosemite and buttressed the oral histories of Native American tribes who have long seen fire as a tool.
Ms. Muldoon says that more aggressive steps need to be taken than before to make the forests of Yosemite more resilient. But she and the park’s management will first have to prevail in court.
Most experts involved in the debate say it is not a question of whether forest thinning should be allowed — but how much needs to be done.

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