Yellowstone's Legacy of Fire
September 24 - 25, 1998 -- In August of 1988, the American West burned as it had not in at least a century. Nowhere did the fires receive as much attention as in Yellowstone National Park, the great icon of conservation and the world's first national park. In a controversy that itself roared, the fires in Yellowstone were eventually left to burn themselves out.
National Park Service officials had come to believe that burning played an important role in regional ecology; that the fires would have long-term benefits for the park and its surrounding communities.
NPR's Alex Chadwick covered the '88 fires for Morning Edition. Now, ten years later, He takes Radio Expeditions to explore the legacy of the fires, and the promises of the "let it burn" policy. On his return to Yellowstone, Alex finds that some park visitors are still profoundly disturbed by the impact of the fires while others accept the explanation by naturalists that fire is simply a part of the ecological system.
Radio Expeditions also looks at Yellowstone beneath the surface -- at the geysers, mud pots, steam vents and hot springs. University of Utah physicist Bob Smith -- a long-time student of the region -- says that changes are sure to come at some point that will dwarf anything that's occurred at Yellowstone so far. He describes Yellowstone as the earth's only "hotspot" not located underwater: "It's a gigantic energy center of both heat uplift and earthquakes interrupted periodically by volcanoes. Yellowstone is not just sitting on a volcano. It is a volcano."
Listen to these Morning Edition reports as NPR's Alex Chadwick takes National Public Radio/National Geographic Radio Expeditions to Yellowstone National Park.