Reflections from Board member Aya from the Fire Mimicry Workshop with Eco Restoration Camp she attended with Executive Director Jessica Alvarez-Parfrey. During the weekend workshop, they learned how to mimic fires to restore oak groves.
Many of our oak trees are sick from drought, beetle infestation, and vectors like Sudden Oak Death. The uncontrolled, high-intensity fires that devastate forests and ecosystems have increased.
The original stewards of these lands would have done cultural burns to maintain the health of the forests. Smokey the Bear was a very effective campaigner; he taught us that we should always put fires out. But the indigenous traditional practice was to do controlled or prescribed burns during February when the fires can’t get out of control. They would wait for the ideal day to burn the underbrush – the smaller vegetation that can act as fire ladders and cause catastrophic fires that result in the burning of the taller canopy of trees we wish to protect. The smoke would, in turn, get rid of the lichen and the moss, which many people believe are benign to the trees. However, research has shown that lichen and moss help acidify the soil. The acidification of soil over time creates inhospitable environments for the trees we wish to protect. Burning creates an alkaline cover of ash that slows the aging of the forests.
In order to mimic the fires, we were literally scrubbing lichen and moss off of tree trunks, spreading volcanic ash and minerals onto the soil, and applying a thick coat of poultice, a mix of minerals, to the injured trees, like a bandaid. After a fire mimicry treatment, the trees were shown to have a much better survival rate from uncontrolled fires.
Protecting the oak trees is really about tribal food sovereignty and food justice – just like we, as permaculturalists, have been stewarding our community gardens and saving our seeds. We can learn a lot by integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into our practices of restoring ecosystems. As transitioners, we have to have essential conversations on how to integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge and become communities of practice and skill shares.
So in 2023, as part of the California Pilot, we want to combine the infrastructure from festivities like Burning Man and Lucidity to bring resources to restoration camps and layer this with holistic wellness and music. We’re inviting others from the various regions we represent to pilot these ideas and restorative relationship-building efforts with a full recognition that regenerative work will mean different things in different places.
I appreciate your patience as we navigated these unchartered waters. We can’t do this work without you.Being a part of the Transition movement feeds me with the good news I need to feel hopeful about the World. I hope that this holiday season, this work fills you with hope and wellness as well. We do critically need funding to make our vision a reality in 2023.
PLEASE GIVE TO HOPE.