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For tribes, 'good fire' a key to restoring nature and people

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Posted at 9:28 AM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 12:28:41-04

WEITCHPEC, Calif. (AP) — Native tribes in the U.S. West are making progress toward restoring their ancient practice of treating lands with fire.

For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples set fire to clear forest floors of undergrowth. It supported foods such as acorns and hazelwood used in baskets.

But starting in the early 1900s, federal policy made such activities illegal. That disrupted the tribes’ hunter-gatherer lifestyle. And it built up fuels that feed wildfires.

In recent years, federal and state officials have formed partnerships with Northern California tribes to allow limited burning, despite some opposition from a jittery public.

Native leaders say their fires are carefully planned and well-executed. They hope to burn larger areas in their historical territory.