Fire and Climate Change

Offield Mountain Sunset Thunderhead from PPT

Smokey day looking upriver at Offield Mountain. Photo: Will Harling, Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative

The Karuk People see the role of fire touching upon many aspects of their life, and fire caused by both natural and human ignitions can be either beneficial or harmful depending on habitat needs and conditions prior to disturbance (Karuk 2010). Species diversity is a significant concern with fire management, as the loss of just one species within an ecosystem can create a chain reaction with significant impacts on other species. The Karuk Tribe relies on a multitude of native species for ceremonial, subsistence, and utilitarian purposes. According to the Eco-Cultural Resource Management Plan, “Fire affects the plants, which affect the water, which affects the fish, which affect terrestrial plants and animals, all of which the Karuk rely on for cultural perpetuity.”


Huckleberries are managed with fire. Photo: Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative

Climate change in Karuk Aboriginal Territory is expected to pose a threat of increased fire frequency and severity. This is based on predictions for increased lightning activity, increased fuel loading due to fire exclusion, and single resource management (rather than a holistic approach), and other factors (Karuk 2012). Future predicted increases in fire intensity and severity are due to a combination of past fire suppression and climate factors. Recent research indicates that fire behavior over the past three decades is more a product of fire suppression than of climate change.

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