Oh, the fires leave lasting scars

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — I feared this sight as we approached the nation’s original national park.

We looked all around us as we drove through the park from east to west and noticed thousands upon thousands of scarred trees.

They are the casualty of forest fires.

The sight of them breaks my heart.

Our return to Yellowstone, which we first saw in 1973 — when we came here with our then-infant older son — is off to a great start. We drove slowly through the park and saw three large herds of bison. One of the beasts was ambling down the highway at his own pace, stopping traffic along the way; fortunately we didn’t see any yahoos trying to taunt the cantankerous critter, like the idiot who did just the other day.

But those trees, or what is left of them, is a troubling sight to me.

I recall the huge 1988 Yellowstone fire that engulfed thousands of acres of timber. The National Forest Service was forced in the wake of that blaze to change its firefighting policy; in other words, the service went from a quick-suppression policy to a “let it burn” policy, understanding that fire is nature’s way of cleansing the forests.

Well, the fires have “cleansed” the park. Don’t misunderstand, there’s plenty of handsome timber still standing throughout the park. A lot of the mountain slopes, though, remain scarred by previous blazes.

The sight of them makes my heart hurt.

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