Developing Cultural Fire Regime Models to Inform Landscape-Scale Wildfire and Climate Adaptation Strategies in Northern California

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Western Klamath Restoration Partnership
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Mid Klamath Watershed Council
In Progress

In the Klamath Mountains of Northern California, Indigenous burning practices strongly influenced historical fire regimes, biodiversity, resources and forest structure across the landscape. In this region, fire exclusion, Euro-American colonization and climate change have dramatically increased ecosystem and community vulnerability to novel wildfire regimes and environmental change. As these vulnerabilities increase, land management agencies increasingly use landscape-scale fire modeling to inform wildland fire and climate adaptation management and policy. While these models are useful to understand large-scale patterns and promote safe and efficient wildfire response, they typically do not incorporate the fire knowledge, practices and history that Indigenous peoples have developed for millennia. Since these models do not include cultural burning practices, they often inaccurately represent eco-cultural processes and do not describe how management decisions or climate change will affect cultural resources.  

For this project, Skye will work with a team of Tribal knowledge keepers, resource managers and scientists to better understand how eco-cultural fire regimes drove historical landscape dynamics in the Western Klamath Mountains. Skye will 1) develop an understanding of how Indigenous and lightning ignitions interact across the landscape and 2) produce a culturally-informed State and Transition Model, which will integrate Tribal and Western knowledge to describe vegetation change through time and disturbances. This work will augment a larger landscape restoration modeling project to create a shared understanding of historical forest conditions, awareness of current management trade-offs and a holistic vision for future climate- and wildfire-adapted ecosystems and communities in the Klamath mountains of Northern California. This project will provide agencies, Tribes and non-profits with knowledge and tools to assess climate and wildfire adaptation measures and inform decisions to maintain forest resilience in a changing climate.