A National Geographic article explores Indigenous traditions of controlled burns. Tribes such as the Karuk from Northern California have engaged in the practice for hundreds of years. Recently, they have asked state governments to allow them to continue their method of controlled burns but have repeatedly been denied. Karuk and other Tribes use controlled burns to deter fires, and also cultivate the ecosystem as a whole. They still keep a fire-lighting brigade that sets carefully controlled fires to manage the forest as their ancestors did.

In recent years, California has recognized the need for controlled burns as a deterrent. The state even created an official forest plan in 2018. The plan argues that burning a minimum of “approximately 500,000 acres per year” would be required to make “an ecologically meaningful difference.” Last year, the latest for which statistics are available, California burned 51,744 acres—barely 10 percent of the minimum.

You can read the full National Geographic text here (email required): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/12/good-fire-bad-fire-indigenous-practice-may-key-preventing-wildfires/#close