Many people criticized the National Park Service for letting the fires burn. Park Service policy was to let nature take its course. But when the fires worsened, the Park Service decided to bring in firefighters. Before the flames were extinguished by a light September snowfall, more than $100 million was spent on fighting the fires.
Critics said the park would never be the same. They were right. But their pessimism, many say, was misplaced.
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Even the animals are doing well. Rangers say many animals are doing better than ever. For many species, there's more food. Grass and bugs have thrived in the burned-over forests, providing animals with a steady food supply.
So the Park Service will continue with its laissez-faire park management. "We believe that you have to do some management here but we believe that the hand on the tiller should be very light," says Mike Finley, the Park's superintendent. "Fire is a natural process like floods, it's a natural process like disease, like predation. All of these forces shape what is Yellowstone and what is the majesty of Yellowstone."
As part of this policy, the Park Service even re-introduced wolves to Yellowstone, in 1994. "We made this place whole," says veteran Park Service scientist John Varley. "That was the last species we were missing and, and we've restored them. They're doing very well."
produced by David Kohn