Managing Wildfire Through Cultural Burning

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So Lauren. You were telling us about how in February. You were heading out with a group of tribes from Northern California conducting a cultural burn very cool. But I, tell me how cultural burns are different from say. Or prescribed burns something I know the Forest Service does yeah. The service and other fire agencies they set controlled fires to, and that's for the vegetation they WANNA, get rid of it so that there's not too much that builds up because overgrown vegetation can make fires more extreme. Cultural burning it does that too but the tribes also do it to encourage certain plants to grow. Like the first thing that team did that day was actually a harvest, Oh yeah. They headed out to some tall bushes sour berries, which is also known as three Samak and you know this was winter. So there were these long spindly branches that were totally bare of leaves. So my mom is basket lever. That's why I meant Ragu Taras I'm reggae tears. Mahu Newnan Rageh Tears He. He's clipping. The longest straightest branches are used in traditional basket weaving and then after being harvested, the plant is burned to encourage more growth like that. All our basket material needs to be tended to in some way. So they need to be burned and then next year we'll probably have sticks that are sick seventeen, tom one year. fired. Oh. So does the fire burn the plant completely? Yes completely to the ground, and it really actually happens pretty fast but the rootstock stays alive. So you know after the spring rains come the plant will re sprout got in the harvest can kind of happen again. Yeah and I know some plants in California they're kind of used to being burned regularly. Yeah. Yeah. I, mean I think a lot of. People forget this but they're adapted to regular fires I mean historically, those are both naturally caused fires by lightning, and then there were fire set by tribes and Ron says they burned like this for Millennia to encourage plant growth also to shape the landscape to attract certain game for a lot of reasons when I was a kid I learned from my mother. My mother got in trouble when she burned because the fire department you know didn't want her doing what we're doing today. As you probably know white settlers had a very different take on fire they came with their concepts of being afraid to fire. Then, you didn't understand fire in the sense of the tool that it could be. To create and what it did to help, generate and rejuvenate the land. And let's not forget. There's a bigger history here when when white settlers arrived in California in the eighteen hundreds there was an intentional and violent campaign to destroy their tribal culture I spoke to Beth rose Middleton manning about that She's Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis, and she brought her students that day to be part of a ceremony. There was actually a a bounty on California. Indian people The governor had announced a war of extermination. So you have all that. and. It really fostered removal settler ownership of indigenous lands. So tribal burning basically stopped and fast forward a couple of decades to the early nineteen hundreds, and that's when the federal government began an era of fire suppression. Please be careful with fire. That's the whole smokey the bear era, right? Yeah. Make, sure your fire is dead. Remember only you can prevent forest fires. Yeah. It's just interesting that the legacy of this idea that fire is always something that's bad and that has to be put out continued from settler colonialism onwards. Yeah. Definitely I mean up until the nineteen seventies the forest service had this rule they called the ten am rule it was basically that all fires should be put out by tanning him the next day but all that suppression, you know it caused a lot of vegetation to build up in California, the force became denser and that set the stage for extreme destructive fires. So fire matters of realizing that has to change and they started embracing prescribe burns a now we're slowly being open to cultural burning too. So that brings us to today where western states are grappling with how to manage wildfire season, and you're going to talk about how cultural burns kind of fit into that right and so ron and other tribal leaders have been trying to restore cultural burning for a while and you know not just teaching the concepts of people but actually bringing out the land to practice it, and that's not easy to do when the land is. No longer legally there's as as Beth rose described to me I think it's really important that we don't think about traditional burning as what information can we learn from native people about how they care for the land and then exclude people and move. On, with non natives managing the land, but the native people are at the forefront and our leading. Okay. So this event is maybe a way to do that. Yeah which is why Ron invited these government officials to participate and kind of get their hands dirty during the ceremony You know like Jennifer Montgomery she directs California's Forest Management Task. Force. So it's her job to figure out how to deal with all these overgrown for us and she was there helping light this fire in a big grassy field using a drip porch that was super empowering. I mean I think every woman should get a chance to use a drip torch is that like a flame thrower or something? Not Not. Quite It's it's like a watering can lighter thing that basically spilled out fire instead of water. That's pretty cool. So yeah yeah I mean by the time she was done there was this kind of giant line of fire that that kind of spread out pretty quickly across this entire field but remember this was February winters. So it the fire burned itself out pretty quickly. and. Then all that dried brushes

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