Tribes Combat Climate Change - Going Back to the Burn

Authors: Linda Moon Stumpff

Disciplines: Environmental Studies, Native American Studies, Political Science and Public Administration

Themes: Activism, Climate Change, Environmental Restoration, Indigenous Science, Leadership

This case explores ways that Tribes can proceed on all fronts to benefit American forest management not only for tribal lands, but for federal land management and related agencies that deal with health, economics, clean air, and water. Tribes used prescribed burning as a means of ensuring a resilient and healthy relationship to the forest ecosystems of North America centuries before European colonization largely stopped the practice. Today, Tribes seek increased authority to conduct prescribed burns on tribal lands, authority made critical with  climate change and the resulting increase in forest acreage lost to wildfire. Tribes have concerns about fire strategies on federal lands like long-term fire suppression and lack of controlled burns on lands adjacent to Indian land that result in escaped fires on Indian lands. Federal agencies carry a trust responsibility to Tribes, especially on ceded lands now incorporated as federal lands, where cultural needs such as gathering forest materials for health, food and cultural needs are met. Forests also provide habitat for wildlife and clean water.