In 1988 nearly one third of Yellowstone burned (almost 800,000 acres). Forest fires are a way of life in the American West. In fact, the seeds of the lodgepole pines only germinate after a burn. Fires thin out the forests and keep the eco-system healthy. However, catastrophic fires like the one in 1988 are devastating because of their scope. Much of Yellowstone will remain scarred for several decades to come.
From the ashes and charred remains of the ancient lodgepole forest new growth emerges like the fabled pheonix. These saplings were knee high in 1996 eight years after the fire. I wonder how high they have grown in the past seven years.
Since the great fires of 1988, the park has increased the number of animals living in it's confines. The fires opened the forest, allowed for new growth, created more 'edges', where wildlife can live and diversity can florish. The easiest place to see it is along the central road from Norris Geyser Basin to Canyon Village.
These pictures are 10years after the fire and while the standing pines still show where the forest stood, the lush grass and open meadows are signs of a healthy ecosystem.