Science Policy

Cultural Burning: How Age-Old Practices Are Reshaping Wildfire Policy

06.05.23 | 8分钟阅读 | Text byJonathan Wilson& Liam Torpy

The Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission called for input from diverse stakeholders and FAS, along with partners保护X实验室(CXL),COMPASS, and the加利福尼亚科学技术委员会(CCST),接听电话。

Recruiting participants from academia, the private sector, national labs, and other nonprofits, theWildland Fire Policy Accelerator produced 24 ideasfor improving the way the country lives with wildland fire.

‘Cultural Burning’ is a phrase that is cropping up more and more in wildland fire policy discussions, but it’s still not widely understood or even consistently defined.

保护X实验室的Liam Torpy与FAS坐下来讨论为什么“文化燃烧”在缓解和管理的世界中引起了更多关注。

FAS:利亚姆 - 感谢您加入我们。首先,只需快速介绍保护X实验室及其任务即可。

LT: The founders of Conservation X Labs [Paul Bunje and Alex Dehgan] wanted to create a conservation technology organization that, you know, isn’t just doing the same traditional conservation methods of protected areas and command and control. CXL wants to find innovative solutions to these problems that can harness market forces or that develop new technologies that will allow for breakthroughs–because the problems have been increasing exponentially in the conservation field, but the solutions haven’t kept pace. We’re not, in a lot of these critical ecosystems like in the American West with wildfire, or the Amazon, were simply not doing enough. And the problem is getting worse as global forces, like climate change, worsen the problem.

FAS:CXL has been convening what you call “Little Think” events – roundtable discussions aimed at surfacing new ideas in the area of wildfire management – when you decided to partner with FAS on this Wildland Fire Policy Accelerator. Cultural burning became one of the big areas of focus for the recommendations coming out of this process. Some people may be familiar with the idea of “prescribed burning” – using fire to reduce the risk of uncontrolled megafires down the road – but ‘cultural burning’ is something quite different. Can you explain what’s different and why it’s important?

LT:您可以阅读很多报告,或者在法律上看到一些法规,ReportsReports这些法规通常不会引用文化燃烧。有些人这样做了 - 但这是一个脚注,被“处方燃烧”放在以上 - 许多出版物都以相同的方式对待它。金博宝更改账户但是,规定的燃烧通常只能由政府使用面积来衡量的是真正的生态益处:我们可以燃烧多少土地?

With cultural burning, there’s not a single definition, because each Tribe has their own version of it. But it’s often to cultivate natural resources or encourage new growth of a particularly important plant. So it’s much more targeted than prescribed burning – it’s suited to the land and the resources a Tribe has. It’s deeply rooted in place-based knowledge.

It’s also a very important method of intergenerational knowledge transfer as well. [Cultural fire practitioners] say sometimes that ‘when you burn together and you learn together’. It’s a way to teach the rest of your group of what resources there are, how to steward them, and how everybody is coming together to manage the land and take care of it.

FAS:So why is there a tension between traditional federal and state fire management methods and cultural burning?

我认为很多人并不真正意识到这一点:您认为,因为很多部落都有保留,部落信任的土地或自己的一些自由土地,所以他们可以按照自己的意愿去燃烧。但是,我们与之交谈的人,包括这个加速器中的一些参与者,说部落信托土地是最难燃烧的土地。它被印度事务局(BIA)管理的联邦土地几乎被认为。这几乎意味着每次您想在土地上燃烧时,您都必须制定烧伤计划,并将其提交给BIA,这通常是人手不足的。只有一个人可能正在查看这些文件。然后,BIA“烧伤老板”被认为是唯一有资格真正领导烧伤的人,这已经侵犯了部落本身的主权:由联邦政府内部的局外人领导自己的烧伤。通常,您必须经过NEPA(国家环境政策法案)允许过程,这是一个非常漫长而昂贵的过程,需要公众意见。有一些当地空气区调节烟雾。然后,您必须有一个批准的燃烧窗口,他们说,好的,条件很好。而且这常常很少发生。 And so a lot of tribes don’t even attempt to go through this whole process. It’s simply too much administrative burden on them.

FAS:And it’s not just the administrative burden, right? There seems to be some real hesitancy to allowing more cultural burning from the agencies who manage this land, and from communities nearby. Why is that?



LT: We talked with Nina Fontana, Chris Adlam, Ray Guttierez, and then [FAS’] Jessica Blackband worked with Kyle Trefny and Ryan Reed. Ryan and Ray are both members of Tribes, and the others non-Indigenous, but working in that sphere and trying to support cultural fire. These are already busy people, trying to kind of reestablish some of these traditions and fighting against these institutional barriers. Their first priority may not be to fly out to Washington to talk with federal policymakers or sit down at their computer and develop and research these recommendations. But they have a really deep on-the-ground perspective that a lot of people in Washington that don’t have, and that a lot of people the Commission don’t have.

FAS:Can you give us an example of what kinds of recommendations emerged from the process?

LT:一件事是重要的理解是that these recommendations are not the be all and end all of this issue. These are steps – often the most basic steps we can take to start to give cultural fire the respect and the place it deserves with fire management. Fire has been functionally banned from the land for over a century – over a century of extreme fire suppression tactics in the American West. A lot of these tribes that previously had been burning for centuries, or sometimes even millennia, weren’t allowed to continue that cycle. It was illegal – it was criminalized. And so that knowledge is just lost. And so some tribes are seeking to regain that knowledge.

There’s a Tribal Ranger Program recommended by Chris Adlam – which is modeled after Canada and Australia – creating permanent long term opportunities for Tribal members to exercise their traditions, to put fire on the land to build up that intergenerational knowledge. These would not be just short-term, one-summer, internship opportunities, but real employment opportunities that allow them to put fire on the land.

Another important recommendation, from Raymond Guttierez, is establishing a federal definition of ‘cultural fire’ and ‘cultural fire practitioner’. Right now, there’s not even really a legally recognized definition for the very practice itself – only for prescribed burning. And it wouldn’t just be one definition, it’d be regionally specific. And Tribes would help develop that in each area.

FAS:What part of the process was most rewarding for you, personally?


FAS:The Biden Administration has made a point ofincorporating Indigenous knowledge into federal decision-making. But guidance from the Executive Branch is one thing – real impact on the ground is another. Do you think Indigenous practices, like cultural burning, are actually gaining support in the communities affected by wildfire?

LT:我认为我们社会内部也有更广泛的运动,专注于多样性,公平与包容性。查看部落所面临的历史不公正现象,并在他们参与这些过程时试图给他们赔偿,并给出他们的意见并分享他们的传统知识 - 我们需要确保我们充分评价这一点。因此,我认为这也是另一个元素,它可以提高这一点。希望我们看到越来越多的人融入这些想法。实际上,这不仅仅是他们结合这些想法,而是允许部落领导这一运动并带领这些燃烧。其中一些只是避开了他们的路。其中一些正在为他们提供更多平台。但是,我们不想要的只是为了适当的系统,可以选择部落实践,并将文化消防从业者留在尘土中。

但我也认为,白宫做出statement about Indigenous knowledge is really significant. By getting encouragement from the top that [agencies] should look into cultural burning, or look into place-based knowledge and traditional ecological management, that kind of gives them more of a push to go and form these partnerships. And I think there’s been, there’s more and more attention on these issues. As we look at the wildland fire crisis right now, it’s going out of control. The amount of money that we’re spending on it – asking questions about whatever we’ve been doing for the last century or so is warranted. Before that century of suppression, tribes were getting more fire on the ground. People are looking at this more and more, trying to learn, and giving it the respect that it really deserves, and the attention that it deserves.