This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Elizabeth Azzuz had already worked with fire three times during the week I spoke with her from her home at the confluence of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers in Northern California. Azzuz is a member of the Yurok Tribe, which has used fire for cultural and ecological reasons for hundreds of generations. She burns dense understory to cleanse conifer forests and promote the growth of hazel for basket weaving. At night, she ignites leaf litter and grasses; the resulting smoke discourages weevils and moths, which can infest the acorns used in traditional foods.
Azzuz’s grandfather introduced her to fire when she was only 4 years old. “He taught me what fire means to us, how important fire is to everything that lives here,” she said. And he taught her how to work with fire in ways that were safe, ecologically responsible, and respectful to Yurok cultural traditions. Now, she’s used fire for more than 50 years to encourage the growth of the plants used for traditional weaving and the production of certain traditional foods, as well as to open meadows f... Read more