The most widespread fires in Yellowstone National Park's history may be a quarter-century behind it, but the regeneration of the park's forests remain in its early stages.
The post-1988 forests are not recovered or balanced, park ecologist Roy Rankin said. The forests are growing back sporadically.
"The forests are fine," Rankin said. "They are still very young -- they're babies in the stand-regeneration process. That'll continue for another 25 years, and then they'll move into another phase."
The 1988 North Fork fire was triggered by a tree cutter's discarded cigarette. Roughly 400,000 acres were destroyed.
The 36 percent of the 2.2-million-acre park that burned is evident in the branchless, blackened lodgepole pine trunks that remain 25 years later. The fires also left Yellowstone's man-made infrastructure damaged, burning 67 buildings.
After the 1988 blazes, fire policy moved to the forefront, and educating the public about wildfire's role in fire-adapted ecosystems became key.
Now, Yellowstone will be relatively immune to fire, Rankin said.
"These fires of 1988 will leave a legacy on the landscape," he said. "This legacy will be felt by future fires up until 200 years from now" (AP/AlbanyTimes-Union, Sept. 5).
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