April 27, 2023
Just in time for the publication of Stephen Pyne’s new book Pyrocene Park, American Scientist has republished the author’s essay on fire in one of America’s most popular national parks.
Pyne writes, “A century-long policy of fire exclusion has transformed Yosemite Valley into a tinderbox that threatens the ancient sequoias of the Mariposa Grove.
“Stand at Glacier Point and you’ll instantly understand why it is one of North America’s iconic overlooks. The great trough of Yosemite Valley in California fills the foreground below and, with almost gravitational pull, carries the eye eastward to the crest line of the Sierra Nevada mountains. With its sheer granite walls, waterfalls that plunge hundreds of meters, and uniquely sculpted stone monoliths (such as El Capitan and Half Dome), words such as monumental hardly do justice to the scene…”
Organized around a backcountry trek to a 50-year experiment in restoring fire, Pyrocene Park describes the 150-year history of fire suppression and management that has led us, in part, to where the park is today. But there is more. Yosemite’s fire story is America’s, and the Earth’s, as it shifts from an ice-informed world to a fire-informed one. Pyrocene Park distills that epic story into a sharp miniature. Flush with people, ideas, fires, and controversy, Pyrocene Park is a compelling and accessible window into the American fire scene and the future it promises.