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Karuk Tribe And Allies Want Fewer Restrictions On Wildfire Management

"GOOD FIRE" report

Wildfires burned more than 2 million acres in California last year. Now, a coalition of tribes and environmental groups is pushing for changes in fire management policy.

The advocates, including Northern California’s Karuk Tribe and the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, want to see more prescribed fires. By burning under controlled conditions, prescribed fires clear underbrush and small timber that can fuel larger, out-of-control fires.

Don Hankins, a professor with Chico State University, is helping develop proposed policy changes. He says he sees support for prescribed burns gaining traction.

“I think there is recognition that there is a very specific type of fire that the landscape evolved with and we need to get back to that so that we can avoid the types of impacts of the devastating fires we’re seeing today," says Hankins. "So that gives me hope.”

Prescribed fire is also a key part of traditional tribal forest management, and is a centuries-old cultural practice.

Hankins says that many farmers and ranchers trying to manage vegetation are showing support for prescribed burning, as well.

“I think the broader the base is, you know, spanning the social, cultural side of things, and political spectrum as well, there’s this commonality that something’s got to change," says Hankins. "And that’s really where the strength is coming from in what we’re developing here.”

The Karuk tribe is working with California officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom, to fund tribal burn programs and streamline often-complex regulations to make prescribed burns easier.