Karuk Tribe Showcases Indigenous Stewardship’s Role in Forest Resilience

Karuk Tribe Showcases Indigenous Stewardship’s Role in Forest Resilience


The Karuk Tribe teamed up with Oregon State University (OSU) researchers to create a novel computer simulation model that showcases Indigenous fire stewardship’s role in forest ecosystem health. The project explored the impact of cultural burning at a landscape scale, focused on 1,000 square miles of Karuk Aboriginal Territory in the western Klamath Mountains of northern California.

The Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources and OSU scientists developed historical estimates for cultural ignition locations, frequency, and timing, which showed that cultural burning was extensive across the landscape, with an estimated 6,972 cultural ignitions occurring annually, averaging about 6.5 ignitions per year for each Indigenous fire steward. It is important to note that this information is not new and has been held by Karuk Tribal members for millennia.


Two New Films Showcase Paths to Heal CA’s Relationships with Fire and Watersheds

New Films Showcase Paths Forward to Heal California’s Relationships with Fire and Watersheds


MAATHAAW: The Fire Within Us
A powerful, Indigenous-led research documentary created by the Condor Visual Media team with support from the Climate Science Alliance, this film documents the cultural, emotional, and scientific relationships of Southern California Tribes with the gift of fire. The film features cultural practitioners who were part of a panel on Cultural Fire and Indigenous Stewardship at our recent Southern California Task Force meeting. The project is still in production with an anticipated release in Spring 2024. However, you can watch the informative and inspiring 12-minute extended trailer now! Learn more about the project and donate here.

California’s Watershed Healing
Documenting how restoring forests to healthier densities has cascading benefits starting from headwaters to watersheds and ultimately to the state’s water supply, this beautiful film features an array of Task Force partners and makes a compelling case for California to better align goals for forest, wildfire, watershed, and landscape resilience. The full-length film created by UC’s Center for Ecosystem Climate Solutions and the nonprofit Chronicles Group is available to watch here.


USFS Study Shows How Fuel Treatments Improve Wildfire Outcomes

USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) Study Shows How Fuel Treatments Improve Wildfire Outcomes


PSW researchers recently published findings that provide strong evidence for the use of fuel treatments to mitigate fire behavior and resulting fire severity even under extreme fire weather conditions. When the 2021 Antelope Fire tore through the Goosenest Adaptive Management Area (long-term research plots set up in northeastern California in the late 1990s), it seemed that 20 years worth of research had been lost. However, shortly after the fire a 2,300-acre study was conducted that demonstrates how reducing canopy bulk density via mechanical thinning treatments can help to limit crown fire behavior for 20 years or more. The findings make a compelling case for doing both tree thinning and prescribed burning to protect forests in the future. 


Road clearing

CAL FIRE Funding Grants Available for 2024

Road clearing

CAL FIRE Funding Grants Available


  •  Wildfire Prevention: CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Prevention Grant Program will award up to $117 million to local projects that address the risk of wildfire and reduce wildfire potential to communities. Applications are due January 10, 2024.
  •  Forest Health: CAL FIRE’s Forest Health Program will fund up to $120 million forest fuels reduction, prescribed fire, pest management and reforestation projects and $50 million post-fire reforestation and regeneration projects. View the virtual workshop. Applications are due January 15, 2024.
  • Forest Health Research: CAL FIRE’s Forest Health Research Grant Program will award $4.5 million for scientific research projects that address wildfire and forest health issues critical to the State of California. Concept proposals are due January 24, 2024.
  • Business and Workforce Development: CAL FIRE Wood Products and Bioenergy expects to open a solicitation for a new round of funding on January 15, 2024.


Explore the Treatment Dashboard - Take The Survey

On Tuesday, November 14 the Task Force hosted a Virtual Public Workshop on the CA Wildfire & Landscape Resilience Interagency Treatment Dashboard. The goal of the workshop was to gather input from those using the Treatment Tracking System and Dashboard to improve how data is accessed and displayed, and to ensure we are providing transparency and effective planning information on statewide wildfire resilience treatments. 

If you missed the workshop, or want to look back at what was covered, click on the buttons above to watch a video of the presentation from Alan Talhelm, Assistant Deputy Director for Climate and Energy at CAL FIRE, and a key architect of the Dashboard. You can also view and download Alan’s presentation and take a moment to answer a quick survey for gathering additional  input on how the Dashboard can be most effective.


Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission Releases Final Report

Wildfire Mitigation and Management Commission Releases Final Report


On September 27, the federal Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, co-chaired by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, released a final report submitted to Congress that reflects a comprehensive review of the federal wildfire system. The report makes 148 recommendations covering seven key themes:

  • Urgent new approaches to address the wildfire crisis
  • Supporting collaboration to improve partner involvement
  • Shifting from reactive to proactive in planning for, mitigating and recovering from fire
  • Enabling beneficial fire to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire
  • Supporting and expanding the workforce to hire and retain the wildland firefighting staff needed to address the crisis
  • Modernizing tools for informed decision-making to better leverage available technology and information
  • Investing in resilience through increased spending now to reduce costs in the long run

RESOURCES


Read the Report


New Online Treatment Dashboard to Track Wildfire Resilience Projects

New Online Treatment Dashboard to Track Wildfire Resilience Projects


On August 29, the Governor’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force launched the beta version of a first-of-its-kind Interagency Treatment Dashboard beta that displays the size and location of state and federal forest and landscape resilience projects in California.

The dashboard offers a one-stop-shop to access data, provide transparency, and align the efforts of more than a dozen agencies to build resilient landscapes and communities in California. It reports treatment activities such as prescribed fire, targeted grazing, uneven-aged timber harvest, mechanical and hand fuels reduction, and tree planting. Users can sort treatments by region, county, land ownership and more.

The beta version of the dashboard will continue to be refined to include additional data, including projects by local and tribal entities, along with revisions based on public feedback. An official launch is expected in spring 2024 with more complete data on projects implemented in 2022.

Learn More

CAL FIRE conducts advanced live fire training in Williams, California.

Prescribed Fire Liability Claims Fund Pilot

Prescribed Fire

Liability Claims Fund Pilot


The Need

One of the primary obstacles to increasing the use of prescribed and cultural fires in California is the difficulty of obtaining adequate liability coverage. While escape rates are very low, there is always some risk when working with fire. Liability coverage protects qualified practitioners, property owners, and the public from the associated financial risk. However, many practitioners on private or tribal land are unable to obtain affordable private insurance for beneficial fire operations.

The Legislation

In September 2022 Governor Newsom signed into law SB 926, which established a pilot Prescribed Fire Claims Fund. This legislation authorizes claims covering certain losses arising from prescribed fires and cultural burning until January 1, 2028. This claims fund is intended to both encourage increased beneficial fire use and demonstrate that prescribed and cultural burning is low risk, to entice private insurers back into the market.

The Fund

Administered by CAL FIRE, the $20 million allocated for the Prescribed Fire Liability Claims Fund Pilot will cover losses in the rare instance that a prescribed or cultural burn escapes control, providing up to $2 million in coverage for prescribed fire projects led by a qualified burn boss or cultural practitioner. The fund is meant to demonstrate that carefully planned, resourced, and implemented beneficial fire is a low-risk land management tool to mitigate high-severity wildfires and promote healthy and resilient landscapes.

To Enroll

Enrollment in the Fund is done by completing the California Prescribed Fire Claims Fund Online Application. To be eligible to enroll in the Fund, a prescribed fire must be conducted or supervised by a Burn Boss or a Cultural Fire Practitioner for a Cultural Burn.

> APPLICATION

Questions

CAL FIRE offers a detailed set of Frequently Asked Questions, covering everything from enrollment, application approval, claims submissions, coverage limits and much more.

> GUIDELINES/FAQ’s

RESOURCES


Forestry and Fire Protection Report Cover
Read the Guidelines & FAQ

Interview with Lenya Quinnn-Davidson on the Prescribed Fire Claims Fund


Read the Press Release

California Takes a Big Step to Help Insure Private Companies That Fight Fire With Fire

Read the Article in LAist

Treatment Screen of North Lake Tahoe

Wildfire & Forest Resilience Treatment Tracking and Mapping

Treatment Screen of North Lake Tahoe

Wildfire & Forest Resilience Treatment Tracking and Mapping


At the March 30 Task Force meeting, the Task Force’s Monitoring, Reporting and Assessment Work Group gave an update on their efforts to build an interagency treatment tracker. The group is assembling federal, state, local, private data on planned, active, and completed projects statewide, including those on forests, grasslands, shrublands, and covering approximately 60 different activities (type of work completed). The goals include tracking progress toward state/federal acreage targets; facilitating regional planning and monitoring; and assessing benefits/costs beyond “acres treated.” The Task Force anticipates having a publicly available treatment tracking map and dashboard by summer 2023.

Learn More

RESOURCES



Woman Teaching

Culturing Burning: Building Leadership, Trust, and Capacity

Woman Teaching

Culturing Burning: Building Leadership, Trust, and Capacity


The Karuk Tribe hosted a day long workshop that included presentations from Karuk and Yurok tribal members.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is actively engaged with tribes to better understand how cultural burning is different from prescribed burning and then applying these lessons learned. By building relationships with tribal practitioners, CAL FIRE staff are gaining new insights into fire management and finding new ways to support tribal fire management practices.


As California continues wildfire and forest resilience efforts throughout the state, many changes are underway to empower governments at all levels and private landowners to treat more acres in the effort to keep California communities safe and better protected.


One tool in the toolbox for achieving this: using fire to treat brush and vegetation before wildfires occur. Prescribed fire and cultural burning are fuels reduction tools recognized as cost effective and ecologically beneficial to the landscape. Indigenous peoples in California have a long history of using fire to modify the landscape and cultural burning has been conducted by indigenous tribes for millennia. Reintroducing this tool to the landscape is a mutual goal for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and native tribes.

Group of Volunteers Listening to Directions
Woman Teaching

“By building strong relationships, and through the Tribes’ sharing of knowledge about cultural burning, we can gain a deeper understanding and connectedness to our environment that will help our staff to better support cultural burning,” said Len Nielson, CAL FIRE Staff Chief, Prescribed Fire. “This understanding is needed to have cultural burning occur at an increased pace and scale.”


It also fits within the department’s broader mission. CAL FIRE is responsible for fire protection and stewardship of over 31 million acres of California’s privately-owned wildlands. Assisting landowners and land managers with the support, knowledge, and skills to treat their property safely and effectively with fire is a critical strategy for sustaining the values we cherish for managing our state forests and other wildlands.


In this spirit, a number of activities are happening. CAL FIRE is supporting a burn boss training and certification, providing grants to Prescribed Burn Associations (PBAs), establishing a liability claims fund, creating prescribed fire training centers, and supporting California’s tribal communities to revitalize cultural burning. These are several of the strategies that CAL FIRE is working on to get more beneficial fire on the ground to help improve the health and resiliency of our forests.


“It was a pleasure to host so many great people from across multiple sectors of state government, and to have such a strong presence of CAL FIRE leadership at our event,” commented Bill Tripp, Director of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy for the Karuk Tribe.   “It is, after all, the personal relationships and mutual understandings that we can establish based on real world, place-based situations that will help us to truly address the many challenges we face,” said Tripp.


The workshop included presentations from Karuk and Yurok tribal members and a field tour of previously burned areas showing how prescribed fire and cultural burning practices are interrelated for resource protection and revitalization of resources.  In attendance were the CAL FIRE leadership team from Sacramento, local and regional foresters, archeologists, and environmental scientists from CAL FIRE and other state agencies. Building relationships and learning about the connections between culture and the landscape from tribal cultural practitioners is a good first step in fostering relationships with Tribal partners and other land managers in California to achieve our wildfire and forest resilience goals
.

Photos: Tisina Parker

RESOURCES


Karuk Tribe

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CAL FIRE Resource Management

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