Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cultural Burning on the Sierra Nevada for Everyone's Benefit

For thousands of years, California Indians used fire as a tool for managing natural resources. Throughout the state, Native peoples conducted cultural burns on a wide range of plants. Their fire regimes created diverse habitat mosaics that sustained meadows, coastal prairies, and grasslands. The careful application of fire increased fruit and seed production, caused new growth that was better suited for making baskets, and reduced the fuel load that could be burned by naturally occurring wildfires. 

But starting with the Spanish conquest and continuing today in the form of Forest Service and CalFire policies, fire suppression has drastically limited cultural burning. As a result, the forest has become incredibly dense and we are now facing a situation in the Sierra Nevada where drought is causing many trees to die. This massive tree mortality has brought the forest to a tipping point, where large scale wildfires threaten to alter the Sierra forests permanently. 

This video explores how cultural burning is being practiced today and what lessons it holds for the future of the forest.  The scene is an area just south of Yosemite National park where the North Fork Mono Tribe and the Cold Springs Rancheria Tribes are working to bring fire back to the land for everyone's benefit.  

Please take a moment and watch this video and share it with your networks, teachers and communities. 


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