The new year finds me with much to be thankful for—from my exciting, new job with ACR as a Prescribed Fire Specialist to spending the holidays with friends and family.

I’m especially grateful for the experience of the 2018 Yurok TREX (Training Exchange), hosted by the Yurok Tribe. On the Klamath River in northernmost California, they shared their cultural fire and land management practices.

On our first morning on the reservation, Bouverie Resource Ecologist Jared Jacobs and I watched the mist on the mighty Klamath River. It drifted up to meet the light rain falling on the forest.

Beautiful, but not great for getting fire started on the ground. But these inauspicious conditions did not hamper the spirits of about 50 multi-agency “fire-lighters.” We came to learn the finer points of land restoration via prescribed burning from the original fire practitioners, the Yurok.

Along with most tribes in the West, the Yurok used fire as a primary land stewardship tool.

“Good fire” was employed to keep coastal prairies free of invasive brush and bountiful in game, seeds and bulbs. The use of controlled fire also promoted weevil-free, acorn-rich oak savannahs. Prescribed burns also cleared walking paths and protected villages from wildfires, as well as stimulated the desirable growth of basketry plants, such as California hazel.

Our next soggy days were filled with instruction, laughter, pile burning, river-caught salmon, and demonstrations on how to burn for cultural purposes. On the last day, after four days of unfortunate burning conditions (but forging new friendships and learning great skills), we had perfect weather for burning out invasive Douglas fir and Himalayan blackberry. Native Roosevelt elk will be reintroduced in the burn area.

To learn from and burn with the first carriers of fire in California was truly an honor. The ACR Fire Forward team is hoping that inspiring events such as the Yurok TREX will help us create a similarly exciting North Bay TREX soon.

See more at the Yurok Cultural Fire Management Council

Learn about the Indigenous Peoples Burning Network