Fire as Medicine

Traditionally, Karuk and other Tribes in this area use fire to manage the landscape. Our traditional management practices prevent the build-up of fuels that could lead to catastrophic fire events as well as manage for healthy stands of acorn bearing oaks, forage for large ungulates, and for other foods, fibers, and medicinal plants.

[Photos: Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources and Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative]

Due in part to these thousands of years of purposeful fire management, the forests of this region are ecologically dependent on fires that are low in heat production, or “cooler” fires. Yet paradoxically large scale impacts from climate change are exempt from regulation, while the potential solutions in the form of traditional management have imposed regulatory barriers (Wiedinmyer and Hurteau 2010). Achieving balance in the human interacted natural fire regime by restoring and managing landscape resilience to change with time tested TEK is a priority in Karuk country.

Over three-quarters of Karuk traditional food and cultural use species are enhanced by fire (Personal communication, Tripp 2013 intergenerational TEK, Norgaard 2013). The exclusion of fire has led to radical ecological changes including high fuel loads, decreased habitat for large game such as elk and deer, reduction in the quantity and quality of acorns, and alteration of growth patterns of basketry materials such as hazel and willow, to name but a few examples.


Acorns in basket. Photo: Klamath-Salmon Media Collaborative

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