Resource ChallengeOver thousands of years, native peoples learned to manage the land, using practices such as controlled burns to create a healthy landscape. The USDA Forest Service in California is consulting and collaborating with tribes on more than 50 projects. Several are government-to-government agreements, with both entities pledging to cooperatively protect and restore the ecological health of land. Restoring and sustaining culturally important plants and re-introducing fire as a tool for forest renewal are two of the primary objectives.
Examples of Key Partners
USDA Forest Service, Karuk Indigenous Weavers, California Indian Forest and Fire Management Council, Karuk Tribe of California, Maidu Tribe of California, California Department of Transportation, USDI, USDI Bureau of Land Management, California State Preservation Office, and others.
Results and Accomplishments
Two projects illustrate effective government-to-government programs:
Follow the Smoke Passport in Time Project is part of a USDA Forest Service program called "Passport in Time," which gives volunteers a chance to participate in historic preservation and cultural projects. Started seven years ago, the project is helping to sustain traditional basket weaving.
Participants camp with California Indian basket weavers for a week, helping them process materials and weave baskets. Besides working with weavers, volunteers manage forests for future basketry materials, thinning heavy fuels and building fire breaks to prepare for Forest Service controlled burns. More than 500 participants have volunteered 2,800 hours, saving $25,000 in taxpayer dollars. The National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Governor of California have both awarded the project for enhancing traditional forest management in California.
The Maidu Cultural Development Group Stewardship Project (MCDG) is integrating traditional land practices with modern resource management on 2,100 acres of the Plumas National Forest. Traditionally, Maidu Indians tended forests, cultivating oaks to produce acorns, farming camas bulbs for food, harvesting wormwood for medicines, and pruning willows and maples for basket materials. The project is transplanting brodiaea and camus, reintroducing basketry materials, pruning oaks, and conducting low intensity prescribed burns.
The Maidu Cultural and Development Center and the Forest Service signed a 10-year Stewardship Contract to use Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) across 1,500 acres of Plumas. The Center developed a Global Positioning System (GPS) inventory of the plants and wildlife habitat and has selected sites to monitor with other partners throughout the 10-year period. Maidu crews also transplanted gray willows, eradicated noxious weeds, and began long-term management of bear grass for basket making. The Maidu Group now issues contracts and subcontracts, and is running a successful business.