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For more than a century, the Forest Service has worked to prevent and suppress wildfires. In recent years, however, we have learned many ecosystems need occasional fire to thrive.

Healthy, thriving ecosystems are less vulnerable to extreme fires that can devastate watersheds, destroy wildlife habitat, and risk lives. Healthy ecosystems can adapt to climate change, invasive species, and insect infestations. Unfortunately, keeping fire out of the wildlands has left forests and grasslands crowded with flammable vegetation. Climate change has made fire seasons longer and droughts and insect infestations worse. Whole landscapes are now vulnerable to devastating, extreme fires.

Restoring ecosystems includes thinning crowded forests and using prescribed fire, which can help prevent the buildup of flammable vegetation that feeds extreme fires. Prescribed fires are planned carefully. Compared to extreme wildfires, prescribed fires are less harmful to air quality. And, in certain locations, when conditions are right, we will even use natural wildfire to reduce fuels and restore ecosystems that benefit from fire.

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