Siskiyou Prescribed Burn Association

The Shasta Valley RCD is working with local partners to develop the Siskiyou Prescribed Burn Association. The mission of the Siskiyou PBA is to engage landowners, tribes, and local organizations and agencies to work together to safely conduct burns in the interest of restoring historic roles of fire, using fire as a management tool, and reducing wildfire hazard to our communities and watersheds throughout the diverse fire-adapted landscapes of Siskiyou County. The RCD has been collaborating with the Scott River Watershed Council, Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center, Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, and the Mid Klamath Watershed Council to form the Siskiyou PBA. We are coordinating with CALFIRE, local Fire Departments and Fire Safe Councils to plan some prescribed burns on private lands throughout the County. This project is part of the Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program, funded with California Climate Investments funds granted by the California Natural Resources Agency to the North Coast Resource Partnership.

Over thousands of years, just as the volcanoes erupted, blanketing mountain slopes and valley bottoms with lava and ash, and rivers carved canyons through the hills, frequent fires have shaped the landscapes of Siskiyou County. Our Ponderosa pines show us their affinity for these periodic, mild fires by how well their fallen needles burn, how they drop their lower branches as they grow taller so that fire won’t climb up into their canopy, how their bark thickens as they age to insulate themselves from flames, and how their little seedlings thrive in sunny, open patches of land. Many types of brush quickly resprout after mild burns, serving up a feast for our deer. Fire keeps the trees from closing in on our meadows and feeds nutrients back to the soil where our wildflowers flourish.

Throughout history, these fires were sparked by lightening in summer thunder storms and by the Native Peoples who lived with this land before colonizers arrived. Local tribes tended fire on these landscapes to cultivate their foods, medicines, and promote their hunting grounds, among many other uses. Even early settlers lit fires to maintain grazing lands and hunting grounds.

Over the past couple hundred years, fire has been stripped from the people. When Native Peoples were confined to reservations, their use of fire and connection to their homelands was taken away from them. At the same time, a handful of destructive fires burned in the United States, prompting the government to suppress all wildfires. Fire was painted as our enemy ever since. The Smokey Bear campaign was born and we were all raised to fear fire as an unacceptable threat to our forests. The exclusion of the historic fire cycle over the past century has resulted in a buildup of uncharacteristically high fuel loads, the decline of diverse fire-adapted and fire-dependent species, the degradation of our indigenous cultures, and a dramatic increase in cataclysmic wildfires.

Prescribed fire, sometimes referred to as controlled burning or broadcast burning, is a planned burn that can be used as a land management tool to meet a variety of benefits. Effective prescribed fire treatments have proven to limit wildfire size and intensity, which reduces the emissions of wildfire smoke, preserves critical wildlife habitat, and protects healthy forests and communities. Benefits of prescribed fire include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Improve forest health by promoting resiliency to impacts of high severity wildfire and reducing forest density that makes forests more susceptible to drought and insect infestations’
  • Reduce tree competition, promoting long-term growth rates and retention of older trees that maximized carbon sequestration and are more fire resistant;
  • Restore grasslands and meadows by removing or preventing encroaching conifers and brush;
  • Reduce invasive species and revitalize native species;
  • Increase water percolation and surface-groundwater interactions from thinning small trees and drought-intolerant species that take up large amounts of water, which protects salmonid habitat and improves overall stream health;
  • Protect streams from sedimentation that erodes after severe wildfires;
  • Restore cultural resources and values to local tribes;
  • Enhance community preparedness to wildfire events;
  • Improve economic viability of communities by reducing the economic impacts of high-intensity wildfires;
  • Provide training opportunities for local firefighters;
  • Promote outreach and education to the community about fire.

Now, more than ever, fire experts, researchers, and politicians alike are calling on prescribed fire to restore fire’s historic role on our landscapes and prevent the uncharacteristic wildfires that are threatening our communities and natural resources at an unprecedented scale.

Prescribed fire has been largely dominated by federal agencies. Agencies possess the trained fire professionals, equipment, and funding to use fire as a management tool. Wildfires do not respect political ownership boundaries, which is why the PBA aims to expand the use of prescribed fire to the private lands that have had little to no resources to implement this critical land management tool.

The PBA model is a well proven method of partners working together to bring healthy fire back to the landscape and reestablish more resilient ecosystem conditions. Successful PBA’s have been operating in the Southeastern U.S. and Great Plains States for years. Three years ago, the first PBA in California was established in Humboldt County. The model quickly spread throughout the State with 14 similar organizations forming over the past few years.

The Siskiyou PBA aims to be a community led, collaborative group that plans and implements prescribed burns to promote wildfire resiliency, sustainable forest and rangeland management, and watershed level ecological restoration. We are working to plan a couple of small demonstration burns to be completed before next summer to serve as the training ground for local residents to gain first-hand experience with prescribed fire application. With the efforts of the Siskiyou PBA we hope to empower our local community to safely use fire again, renewing a healthy relationship with fire and giving fire back to the people.

More information about California PBA’s can be found at calpba.org. If you are interested in learning more or joining the Siskiyou PBA, please contact Lyndsey Lascheck at LLascheck@SVRCD.org.

The Siskiyou County Collaborative Prescribed Burn Association and Demonstration Project is part of California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment– particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling, and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households across California. For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at: www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.