Culturing Burning: Building Leadership, Trust, and Capacity

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.

“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

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Karuk Tribe

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CAL FIRE Resource Management

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USFS Will Resume its Prescribed Fire Program

USDA Forest Service Chief Randy Moore Announces Actions the USFS Will Take to Resume its Prescribed Fire Program


Update on USFS’ Prescribed Fire Pause. In a statement announced on September 8, USFS Chief Randy Moore has decided – based on a thorough review, findings, and recommendations provided by its National Review Team – to conditionally resume the USFS’s prescribed fire program nationwide. The conditions include a requirement that all USFS units immediately follow all seven tactical recommendations identified in the National Prescribed Fire Program Review. These actions will ensure prescribed fire plans are up to date with the most recent science, that key factors and conditions are closely evaluated the day of a prescribed burn, and that decisionmakers are engaged in those burns in real time to determine whether a prescribed burn should be implemented.

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Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

2022 Program Review

U.S. Forest Service Announcement

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California Air Resources Board Releases California Smoke Spotter 2.0

California Air Resources Board Releases California Smoke Spotter 2.0


The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has released a major update to its California Smoke Spotter mobile app to help users protect themselves from smoke during wildfire season. New features of the app include wildfire information and alerts, a 24-hour wildfire smoke forecast, and Air Quality Index (AQI) data from PurpleAir sensors to provide users with real-time smoke conditions (in addition to AQI data from permanent and temporary air monitors).

California Smoke Spotter 2.0 still contains its original features including prescribed fire details, alerts and smoke forecasts, as well as information on how users can protect themselves from smoke. It’s available to download on the App Store and Google Play.

This achievement contributes to the Task Force’s broader goal of strengthening the protection of communities, and more specific aim to reduce the health impacts of smoke.

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active fire in grass field

State Can Fight Fire With Prescribed Fire By Funding Jobs In The Field

active fire in grass field

State Can Fight Fire With Prescribed Fire By Funding Jobs In The Field


“It is now accepted that prescribed fire is needed to conserve and restore biodiversity, prevent catastrophic fires, stabilize carbon and promote public health and safety. To address the pace and scale of prescribed fire that is needed, we must invest in careers in prescribed fire.” Read this guest commentary in CalMatters.org from Tom Gardali, CEO, Audubon Canyon Ranch. 

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Cal Fire controlled burn

LA Times Op-Ed: Why Forest Managers Need To Team Up With Indigenous Fire Practitioners

Cal Fire controlled burn

LA Times Op-Ed: Why Forest Managers Need To Team Up With Indigenous Fire Practitioners


Los Angeles Times, July 31, 2022, By Don Hankins, Scott Stephens and Sara A. Clark 

The forests of the Western United States are facing an unprecedented crisis, besieged by wildfires and climate change. There is a precedent for part of the solution, though: intentional burns such as those set by Indigenous peoples.

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post fire woods

This Indigenous Practice Fights Fire With Fire

post fire woods

This Indigenous Practice Fights Fire With Fire


For decades, the U.S. government evangelized fire suppression, most famously through Smokey Bear’s wildfire prevention campaign. But as climate change continues to exacerbate wildfire seasons and a growing body of scientific research supports using fire to fight fire, Indigenous groups in the Klamath Basin are reviving cultural burning practices that effectively controlled forest fires for centuries. National Geographic photographer Kiliii Yüyan introduces us to people bringing back this cultural practice and teaching the next generation how to use fire. 

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prescribed fire burn

Task Force Issues Strategic Plan For Prescribed Burns

prescribed fire burn

Task Force Issues Strategic Plan For Prescribed Burns


Comprehensive strategy lays path for state, federal, and tribal partners to promote use of “beneficial fire” on up to 400,000 acres annually by 2025 to help make forests more resilient.

March 30, 2022 – California Wildfire and Forest Resilience Task Force issued a Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire to expand the use of prescribed fire and cultural burning to build forest and community resilience statewide – efforts critical to forest management and wildfire mitigation. By expanding the use of beneficial fire, the state can utilize smart burning tactics on brush and other fuels to help both prevent the start of fires and mitigate the spread of wildfires.Based on a collaborative effort of the state’s leading fire experts and managers, the Strategic Plan sets a target of expanding beneficial fire to 400,000 acres annually by 2025, a shared goal between state, federal, tribal, and local entities – part of an overall goal to treat 1 million acres annually in California by 2025. The state invested $1.5 billion in wildfire resilience in 2021 alone, including significant support for prescribed fire and cultural burning.“As climate change continues to exacerbate wildfire conditions, we’re bringing federal, state, tribal, and local partners together to more effectively address the scale of this crisis,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California is putting in the work to help protect our communities from the devastating impacts of wildfires, build for the long-term, and safeguard our treasured state for generations to come.” The Governor earlier this week participated in fuels management work along Highway 50 ahead of peak wildfire season, click here for b-roll of the Governor joining CAL FIRE and Conservation Corps crews.“We know that returning good fire to the ground is one of our best tools in the fight against catastrophic wildfire and climate change,” said Task Force Co-Chair and California Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot. “This Strategic Plan includes the key steps we need to take over the next few years to build capacity, return to a culture of beneficial fire, and invest in our future.”“This plan is vital to improve the health and resilience of the state’s forests, reduce wildfire risk of vulnerable communities, and increase stewardship by Native American fire practitioners,” added Task Force Co-Chair and U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien.The key elements of the Strategic Plan include:

  • Launching an online prescribed fire permitting system to streamline the review and approval of prescribed fire projects;
  • Establishing the state’s new Prescribed Fire Claims Fund to reduce liability for private burners;
  • Beginning a statewide program to enable tribes and cultural fire practitioners to revitalize cultural burning practices;
  • A prescribed fire training center to grow, train, and diversify the state’s prescribed fire workforce;
  • An interagency beneficial fire tracking system;
  • Pilot projects to undertake larger landscape-scale burns; and
  • A comprehensive review of the state’s smoke management programs to facilitate prescribed fire while protecting public health.

The announcement delivers on several of the key commitments made in the Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan issued in January 2021. The Action Plan is also backed by the Governor’s $1.5 billion investment in forest health and wildfire resilience, and a proposed $1.2 billion additional investment for fiscal years 2022-23 and 2023-24. Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Area Fire Advisor, UC Cooperative Extension: “The plan gives me hope because it represents the vision and priorities of the people who know prescribed fire best—the community leaders, cultural burners, and agency practitioners who have been leading and championing this work for years. California is ready for a bolder, more collaborative approach to prescribed fire, and this plan gives us a great place to start.”Don Hankins, Professor, CSU Chico and Cultural Fire Practitioner: “California’s Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire takes an unprecedented step for the state to address shortcomings of current fire policy and use. Most significant is the recognition of the role of Native American tribes, organizations and practitioners to revitalize traditional fire stewardship.”Craig Thomas, Director, The Fire Restoration Group: “California’s Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire demonstrates the collaborative commitment to expand the use of restorative fire to limit damaging wildfires, stabilize forest carbon, better protect communities, and restore and maintain resiliency and biodiversity in the California landscape.  This past year of collaborative work with State and Federal agencies, scientists, and multiple non-governmental partners has addressed and supported the proper role of restorative fire in California.”

Visit: Prescribed Fire Action Area Page

CONTACTS


Download the Task Force
Strategic Plan

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Len Nielson,
CAL FIRE
Len.Nielson@fire.ca.gov

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Lance Noxon,
U.S. Forest Service
William.Noxon@usda.gov

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Photo of Yuba Forest

High Risk Landscapes To Receive $80.7M in U.S. Forest Service Funding

Photo of Yuba Forest

Two High Wildfire Risk Landscapes To Receive $80.7M in U.S. Forest Service Funding


Targeted investments for first high-risk areas identified in Tahoe and Stanislaus National Forests.

April 20, 2022 – As part of the Forest Service’s strategy for Confronting the Wildfire Crisis, two landscapes within the Stanislaus and Tahoe national forests will receive targeted investments to increase forest resiliency and health through a broad range of treatments. These two forests will collectively receive $28.6 million in 2022 and an additional $52.1 million over the next three years, for a total of $80.7 million. This funding is being appropriated through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The North Yuba Landscape Resilience area on the Tahoe National Forest and the SERAL (Social and Ecological Resilience Across the Landscape) area on the Stanislaus National Forest are two of 10 landscapes selected nationally to receive this funding. Overall, the 10 landscapes will receive $131 million this year to begin implementing our 10-year strategy for protecting communities and improving resilience in America’s forests.

In addition to state and federal agencies, these two landscape-scale restoration efforts are supported by partnerships with Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions, Tuolumne County, the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk, the North Yuba Forest Partnership – which includes Sierra County and the Nisenan of the Nevada City Rancheria – and several others. To find out more about the initial landscape investments, visit WCS Initial Landscape Investments- USDA Forest Service.

 


Tahoe National Forest: 

The 313,000-acre North Yuba Landscape is one of the largest contiguous “unburned” landscapes remaining in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The North Yuba watershed is also an important water source for residential and agricultural areas surrounding Sacramento. It feeds a reservoir retained by the tallest dam in California, which also provides power to the Sacramento area. Through ecologically based thinning and prescribed fire, the North Yuba Forest Partnership seeks to protect North Yuba communities from the threat of catastrophic wildfire and restore the watershed to a healthier, more resilient state. This landscape is also host to the first two Forest Resilience Bonds, which leverage substantial private sector investment to help fund implementation of this work.

 


Stanislaus National Forest SERAL: 

Within the Stanislaus Landscape a full suite of needed treatments to restore forest resilience at a landscape scale. Named SERAL for Social and Ecological Resilience Across the Landscape, these treatments include mastication, biomass removal, machine piling for burning, hand piling for burning, hand thinning, timber harvest, hazard tree removal, prescribed fire, and fuel break construction and maintenance. Combined, these efforts will reduce hazardous fuels and create a landscape that can better withstand disturbances such as wildfire, insects, disease, and drought conditions, while also protecting local communities, providing for critical species habitat, and supporting forest use and recreational opportunities.

 

 

 

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

CAL FIRE Exceeds Goal of 100,000 Acres Treated Ahead of Schedule

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

CAL FIRE Exceeds Goal of 100,000 Acres Treated Ahead of Schedule


Transition to peak staffing for upcoming fire season also complete.

June 21, 2022 – CAL FIRE is making significant progress in their important contributions to California’s Wildfire and Forest Resilience Action Plan. Today they announced two significant accomplishments, starting with the news that they have already surpassed one of the plan’s Key Action items – to treat 100,000 acres by 2025.

According to current estimates, CAL FIRE has achieved 110,925 acres treated by using all fuels reduction methods, including prescribed fire. The work includes more than 600 fuel reduction projects.

Along with achieving this important milestone, in preparation for the upcoming wildfire season, CAL FIRE has also completed the transition to peak staffing across California. Peak staffing ensures all CAL FIRE stations are open and staffed 24 hours per day; response capabilities are enhanced; all aircraft are prepositioned and staffed; and crews are staffed, trained, and working.

Read The Full Press Release

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Governor’s Office Press Release

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Photo of CalFire worker starting a controlled burn

Recent CAL FIRE Grants Total Over $250M For Wildfire and Forest Resilience

Photo of CalFire worker starting a controlled burn

Recent CAL FIRE Grants Total Over $250M For Wildfire and Forest Resilience


Funded projects address threatened communities, forest health, prescribed fire, restoring burned landscapes and more.

June 2, 2022 – CAL FIRE Grant Programs have allocated funds to address crucial needs in a wide range of areas related to wildfire and forest resilience. Together, they represent significant progress towards achieving the goals of California’s Wildfire & Forest Resilience Action Plan.

$118 million in funding was awarded for 144 Wildfire Prevention projects across the state. CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Prevention Grants enable local organizations like fire safe councils, to implement activities that address the hazards of wildfire and reduce wildfire risk to communities. Funded activities include hazardous fuel reduction, wildfire prevention planning, and wildfire prevention education. 

CAL FIRE’s Forest Health Program awarded 22 grants totaling $98.4 million for landscape-scale forest health and prescribed fire projects spanning over 55,000 acres and 14 counties. They also awarded $10 million to the North Coast Resource Partnership (NCRP) for its regional wildfire resilience plan, which was developed with support from the Department of Conservation’s Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program. 

30 grants totaling $33 million came from CAL FIRE’s Wood Products and Bioenergy Team for business and workforce development projects. Ten workforce grants will help train over 5,000 individuals in prescribed fire, fuels treatment, firefighting, and forestry, and another14 grants will create 120 jobs and utilize 750,000 tons of forest biomass that would otherwise remain in the woods or be burned in open piles. Two projects will expand the State’s native tree seed bank and grow seedlings to assist with reforestation, and six research and development grants will fund novel uses for forest biomass sourced from wildfire mitigation projects. 

CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Resilience Program awarded $9.99 million in block grants to the American Forest Foundation (AFF), Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD). The grants will support forest improvement projects on approximately 6,000 acres of small non-industrial private forestlands and provide technical assistance to private landowners in13 counties.

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Learn more about the CAL FIRE Grants Program

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