Indigenous people across many California ecological communities have traditionally used fire to help maintain ecosystem health. As western forestry science catches up to these practices, they are being used to reduce fire risk and improve ecosystem health once more in national parks and forests. Controlled burning, cultural burning, and regenerative burning all describe practices that use low intensity but frequent fire to support healthy ecosystems and mitigate wildfire risk, save money, and improve ecosystem health.
There are other ways to manage fuel loads in fire prone areas, including manual thinning, pruning and mulching and using grazing animals like goats and sheep.
For any landowner in California wildfire should be a concern. Through fire resilience strategies like thinning, controlled burns, and grazing regimes in addition to soil moisture management using rainwater, greywater, soil building tools, California can become fire resilient.
Controlled burns have been proven to not only save lives and help restore plant communities that evolved with fire, they save a huge amount of money. At Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the cost of controlled burns at $9.08/acre compared to fire fighting at $191.68/acre. Researchers think that the refuge was able to save s $3.6 million overall by using controlled burning! Read more here.
Statistical modeling for the state of California confirms that the data from Merritt Island applies here too. For a detailed breakdown of how that conclusion compares to mechanical thinning in Northern and Southern California, read on here.
RESOURCES AND LINKS:
Fuel Reduction Guide for Sierra Nevada Landowners: A thorough how to guide explaining where, how, and why to reduce your fuel load and create defensible space around your homes and property.
Living Systems Agricultural Land Management: A San Joaquin Valley based business that uses sheep and goats to manage fuel loads, invasive species, and support ecological restoration work.