Cultural fire practices in California receive state support

October 24, 2023

In a recent article from High Country News, Shana Lombard shed light on the role of cultural fire practices in mitigating the impacts of climate change and wildfires in California.

Indigenous traditions: using cultural fire as a solution

The practice of using fire as a climate change solution might seem counterintuitive, but this long-standing Indigenous tradition known as “good fire” has shown promise in creating more resilient landscapes.

This type of fire renews soil nutrients and promotes plant diversity.

Major state funding for cultural fire projects

For years, Indigenous fire stewards have teamed up with academics to defend California’s native landscape from climate change using cultural fire.

In August, the Collaborative of Native Nations for Climate Transformation and Stewardship (CNNCTS) received a significant boost with $7.1 million in state funding.

This support will facilitate further studies on invasive species’ impacts on flora and how cultural fire can foster a more resilient environment.

Partnering with the Native Coast Action Network (NCAN), a non-profit spearheaded by Indigenous women, $200,000 of this funding is earmarked for Indigenous fire-stewardship training.

Collaboration to harness Indigenous ecological knowledge

Teresa Romero, a Coastal Band of Chumash member and NCAN board president, highlighted the collaboration between the Native Coast Action Network and Climate Science Alliance.

She stated: “The network’s partnership with CNNCTS will help expand the Climate Science Alliance’s Tribal Working Group by providing more training focused on central California and encouraging more collaboration with partners and Indigenous groups in the Los Angeles area.”

Understanding cultural burns and their significance

Cultural burns have roots in Indigenous ecological wisdom. Romero emphasized that cultural fire is indeed a “good fire.”

When asked about fire stewardship’s essence, she responded: “When I go out onto a landscape and look at habitat, I think about what’s going to benefit from fire, and it’s usually not the same as a Western approach to applying fire.

“According to Chumash traditional knowledge and what we know about the plants, the best nutrient food plants need fire to really propagate.”

FSJA Comment

The recent article from High Country News brings to the forefront the intersection of Indigenous traditions and modern climate change mitigation techniques.

The significant funding by the state to CNNCTS, and its collaboration with NCAN, signifies a critical shift towards recognizing and utilizing Indigenous practices in addressing California’s pressing wildfire challenges.

With Teresa Romero’s insights, it becomes clear that blending cultural fire practices and modern scientific approaches can pave the way for a more resilient California.

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