Fire-prone landscapes are experiencing rapid and potentially persistent changes as the result of complex and potentially novel interactions of anthropogenic climate changes, shifting fire regimes, exotic plant, insect, and pathogen invasions, and industrial, agricultural, and urban development. Are these landscapes fully departed from historical conditions? Should they be managed as novel environments or as landscapes in transition? Historical range and variation is a benchmark representation of the conditions that describe fully functional, healthy ecosystems or landscapes. The HRV can provide an ecological reference against which contemporary and future conditions can be evaluated to determine status, trend, and magnitude of departure. This text describes the concepts of HRV, methods for developing HRV data sets, and application of HRV for fire management. We discuss the limitations of HRV, and its use under future climates that are no longer representative of historical conditions.