"Fire for Watersheds"

"To bring more water to the landscape — and fight the growing risk of catastrophic wildfires — a Tribe in California helps to reshape fire management policy."

"Fire is not coming easily to the pile of dried grass and brush. Four college students fuss with the smoldering heap while Ron Goode, a bear-like man with a graying braid, leans on his cane and inspects their work. Crouch down low, he tells them. Reach farther into the brush with the lighter. Tentative orange flames spring to life and a student in a tie-dyed t-shirt blows gently, imploring them not to die.

It’s a clear November day in the western foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada near the town of Mariposa. The students, visiting from the University of California, Berkeley, are here to help revitalize a patch of live oaks that belongs to Goode’s wife’s family. Goode, the chairman of the North Fork Mono Tribe, is here to teach them how. Now in his early 70s, Goode and his Tribe have worked for decades to restore neglected meadows and woodlands on private property,  reservations belonging to other Tribes, and on their own ancestral homelands in the Sierra National Forest. And restoration, in these dry hills, calls for fire.

Dressed in cotton shirts and pants, the students feeding the thread of smoke in the oak grove look more like landscapers than a fire crew. “We’re not firefighters. We’re burners, professional burners,” Goode explains. “And we’re using Native knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, from centuries ago.” This approach, employed by Native peoples across the world, is known as cultural burning."

Ashley Braun reports for bioGraphic April 26, 2024.

Source: bioGraphic, 04/29/2024