Traditional Burning

SW CASC Traditional Burning Activities

Traditional burning, also known as cultural burning, is a form of under burning that has been used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years to increase water runoff into streams, create habitats for plants and animals, recycle nutrients, and promote other ecosystem benefits. The approach emphasizes people’s connection to the land and respect for fire as a life-sustaining process. The SW CASC has been working with partners including Ron Goode (North Fork Mono Tribe) in California, to plan and participate in traditional burning workshops, and to learn more about this traditional technique.

February 2020 Workshop

In February 2020, SW CASC PI, Beth Rose Middleton (UC-Davis) and Ron Goode of the North Fork Mono Tribe and his family hosted a Resource Restoration Traditional Burn in Mariposa, CA. The goal of the workshop was to introduce participants to the principles of traditional burning, which involve the targeted use of fire as a tool for ecosystem conservation and restoration. Over 100 people attended, including students from multiple universities, community members from several tribes, representatives of conservation organizations (TNC, Foothills Conservancy), local community members, state (e.g., CALFIRE, Associate State Archeologist, and the UC Fresno Cooperative Extension) and federal (USFS) agencies. Students in the “Keepers of the Flame” course at UC Davis also participated in the workshop, creating a transformative experiential learning for students. Read the report below for a larger discussion of the course and workshops.

To learn more about Tribal Activities and projects see our Tribal Projects page here.

Additional Resources

You can also find more on our blog, these articles:

and through our Cultural Burning Brief. Also check out this NPR Interview with Ron Goode, Dr. Beth Rose Middleton, and others.

  • Adlam, C, M Adams, D Martinez, BR Middleton. 2020. Keepers of the Flame: Native American Cultural Burning in California, Winter 2020 Report. UC Davis.
  • Aldern, J, and R Goode. 2014. These Stories Hold Water: Learning and Burning in North Fork Mono Homelands. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society 3(3)
  • Anderson, M.K., (1993). Indian fire-based management in the sequoia mixed conifer forests of the central and southern Sierra Nevada. Yosemite Research Center, Yosemite National Park.           Cooperative Agreement Order Number 8027-2-002. Manuscript on file, Yosemite Research Center
  • Eisenberg C, Anderson CL, Collingwood A, Sissons R, Dunn CJ, Meigs GW, Hibbs DE, Murphy S, Kuiper SD, SpearChief-Morris J, Little Bear L, Johnston B and Edson CB (2019) Out of the Ashes: Ecological Resilience to Extreme Wildfire, Prescribed Burns, and Indigenous Burning in Ecosystems. Front. Ecol. Evol. 7:436. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00436
  • Finney, M. A. (2020). The wildland fire system and challenges for engineering. Fire Safety Journal, 103085. doi:10.1016/j.firesaf.2020.103085
  • Goode, RW, et al. 2018. “Summary Report from Tribal and Indigenous Communities within California” California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment
  • Hankins, D. 2017. Restoring Indigenous Prescribed Fire to California Oak Woodlands. General Technical Report PSW-GTR-251, pp. 123-129.
  • Huffman, M. R. (2013). The Many Elements of Traditional Fire Knowledge: Synthesis, Classification, and Aids to Cross-cultural Problem Solving in Fire-dependent Systems Around the World. Ecology and Society, 18(4). doi:10.5751/es-05843-180403
  • Kay, Charles E. (2000). Native Burning in Western North America: Implications for Hardwood Forest Management. In: Yaussy, Daniel A., comp. 2000. Proceedings: workshop on fire, people, and the central hardwoods landscape; 2000 March 12-14; Richmond, KY. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-274. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 19-27.
  • Lake F.K., Christianson A.C. (2019) Indigenous Fire Stewardship. In: Manzello S. (eds) Encyclopedia of Wildfires and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fires. Springer, Cham.
  • Lake, F. K., Wright, V., Morgan, P., Mcfadzen, M., Mcwethy, D., & Stevens-Rumann, C. (2017). Returning Fire to the Land: Celebrating Traditional Knowledge and Fire. Journal of Forestry, 115(5), 343-353. doi:10.5849/jof.2016-043r2
  • Lam, D., et al. 2020. Indigenous and local knowledge in sustainability transformations research: a literature review. Ecology and Society 25(1):3.
  • Long, J and F Lake. 2018. Escaping social-ecological traps through tribal stewardship on national forest lands in the Pacific Northwest, United States of America. Ecology and Society 23(2).
  • Long, Jonathan W.; Anderson, M. Kat; Quinn-Davidson, Lenya; Goode, Ron W.; Lake, Frank K.; Skinner, Carl N. 2016. Restoring California black oak ecosystems to promote tribal values and wildlife. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-252.
  • Marks-Block T, F Lake, L Curran. 2019. Effects of understory fire management treatments on California Hazelnut, an ecocultural resource of the Karuk and Yurok Indians in the Pacific Northwest. Forest Ecology and Management 450.
  • Middleton BR, K Reed. 2019. Returning the Yurok Forest to the Yurok Tribe: California’s First Tribal Carbon Credit Project, 39 Stan. Envtl. L. Rev.
  • Mistry J and A Berardi. 2016. Bridging indigenous and scientific knowledge. Science 352 (6291): 1274-1275.
  • Norton-Smith K, et al. 2016. Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples: A Synthesis of Current Impacts and Experiences. USDA PNW Research Station, GTR 944.
  • Robbins, M. 2019. Yurok TREX: Cultural Fire Management Council-Yurok Cultural Burn Training Exchange. Fire Learning Network, Notes from the Field
  • Roos, C. I., Zedeño, M. N., Hollenback, K. L., & Erlick, M. M. (2018). Indigenous impacts on North American Great Plains fire regimes of the past millennium. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(32), 8143-8148. doi:10.1073/pnas.1805259115
  • Ruffner, C. M., and J. W. Groninger. (2006). Making the case for fire in southern Illinois forests. Journal of Forestry, v. 104, no. 2, p. 78-83.
  • Shinn, D. A. (1980). Historical Perspectives on Range Burning in the Inland Pacific Northwest. Journal of Range Management, 33(6), 415. doi:10.2307/3898574
  • Williams (2002a, b) and Pyne (1982, 1995) have reviewed extensively Native American use of fire and support the view that burning by Indigenous groups has modified landscapes across the continent.