• Fire regime;
  • fire severity;
  • General Land Office survey;
  • historical range of variability;
  • mixed-conifer forests;
  • ponderosa pine;
  • wildfire


Accurate assessment of changing fire regimes is important, since climatic change and people may be promoting more wildfires. Government wildland fire policies and restoration programmes in dry western US forests are based on the hypothesis that high-severity fire was rare in historical fire regimes, modern fire severity is unnaturally high and restoration efforts should focus primarily on thinning forests to eliminate high-severity fire. Using General Land Office (GLO) survey data over large dry-forest landscapes, we showed that the proportion of historical forest affected by high-severity fire was not insignificant, fire severity has not increased as a proportion of total fire area and large areas of dense forest were present historically (Williams & Baker, Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21, 1042–1052, 2012; W&B). In response, Fulé et al. (Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2013, doi: 10.1111/geb.12136; FE) suggest that our inferences are unsupported and land management based on our research could be damaging to native ecosystems. Here, we show that the concerns of FE are unfounded. Their criticism comes from misquoting W&B, mistaking W&B's methods, misusing evidence (e.g. from Aldo Leopold) and missing substantial available evidence. We also update corroboration for the extensive historical high-severity fire shown by W&B. We suggest that restoration programmes are misdirected in seeking to reduce all high-severity fire in dry forests, given findings from spatially extensive GLO data and other sources.