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Federal money will support Native American burn practices in Oregon’s oak habitats

Firefighters setting forestland on fire with drip torches.
Brian Bull
In this Oct. 2021 photo, a Native American firefighter uses a drip torch to set a parcel of land outside Eugene, OR on fire, as a burn boss watches on. The cultural burn was done following a week of training in traditional and modern fire suppression techniques.
Woman in fire-retardant apparel.
Brian Bull
Ka-Voka Jackson, at a cultural burn outside Dallas, OR in late June.

A project incorporating traditional Native American management practices for oak habitat restoration in Oregon has been awarded $9.23 million. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the money, which will go to the Oregon Agricultural Trust and its partners.

The traditional management practices include setting fire to the landscape in order to rejuvenate certain plants, eradicate pests, and reduce slash and debris, commonly known as “cultural burns.”

Ka-Voka Jackson is a program manager for the EcoStudies Institute, one of the partners. She’s done controlled fire operations based on how Indigenous people did theirs for ages, blending ancient practice with modern methods.

“Use of cultural fire, traditional fire, on the landscape, which usually entails people who are trained or have the wildfire qualifications,” explained Jackson. “That usually entails fire trucks or water resources, the use of drip torches, other hand tools.”

The project also seeks to permanently protect designated oak savannas and woodlands, and give Native Americans access to them for cultural use and environmental stewardship.

Jackson – who is of Hualapi, Wabanaki, and Oglala Lakota heritage – told KLCC that’s she’s excited for the funding and looks forward to working with regional tribes going forward.

The priority area for this project are Lane and Linn Counties.

Cultural (prescribed) burn training, Oct. 16, 2021

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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