A Model For Intentional Fire
Fire is an integral part of many environments, especially in California. One important way it has been able to do its work on the land is through intentional applications, like prescribed and cultural burning. CWI understands this relationship and is supporting intentional fire by facilitating a landmark burn in the Teakettle Experimental Forest in the Sierra National Forest, in collaboration with Dr. Malcolm North, a Research Scientist with the Forest Service and Professor in Plant Science at the University of California, Davis — and the visionary behind this project.
The Teakettle Prescribed Burn is a 3300-acre, landscape-scale prescribed fire The Teakettle is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, in the ancestral lands of the Western Mono peoples. Landscape-scale burning on the Teakettle will help accomplish a number of critical ecological objectives in the area, which by and large hasn’t burned since the 1860s. One major priority of the burn is to mitigate wildfire risk by burning some of the forest understory across the unit. This has a two-fold outcome in that it also reduces competition amongst the many old-growth Jeffrey and sugar pines that dot the unit.
Clearing some of this vegetation is critical in returning the Teakettle to some semblance of its pre-colonization makeup. Prior to colonization, the Teakettle area would have burned every 15-20 years, which are the conditions under which the old growth pines on the unit would have proliferated. Reducing density through prescribed fire results in more water resources for the remaining old growth in the unit, but also reduces potential “ladder fuels,” or vegetation that could contribute to wildfire climbing into the crowns of the larger old growth trees in the unit.
The Teakettle Prescribed Burn creates an incredible opportunity to model the planning, applying, and recovering from large-scale prescribed fire. We hope this project can be an example for future substantial burns, an opportunity for public education about their benefits, and a space to build relationships and partnerships between managers, organizations, and stakeholders.