Co-producing restorative fire: a transdisciplinary approach to indigenous fire stewardship and the restoration of forest resilience

Geoffrey Johnson and Dan Gavin
Geoffrey Johnson and Dan Gavin take a sediment core from a wet meadow on the Willamette National Forest. The core will be analyzed for sedimentary charcoal which can tell us about fire history of the area surrounding the meadow. Photo Credit, M. Coughlan.

Principal Investigator: Michael Coughlan (Institute for a Sustainable Environment)

Project Summary: The aim of this project is to develop new transdisciplinary and collaborative research on the role of Indigenous fire stewardship in the long-term socio-ecological resilience of Western Cascades. The project’s objectives include: (1) “proof of concept” paleoecological investigations, (2) collection and synthesis of data from previous paleoecological, historical, and archaeological research, (3) initiation of new partnerships and collaborations with Native American tribal communities and, (4) the development research proposals to continue and expand this work and to foster institutional linkages and opportunities for tribal participation in forest stewardship activities. We hypothesize that over the long term, millennia-spanning indigenous land management practices improved social and ecological resilience to wildfire, namely by expanding meadow patches and corridors while enhancing and protecting key subsistence resources. Consequently, the restoration of indigenous management practices presents a significant opportunity for improving forest resilience while pro-actively redressing significant social and environmental injustice related to the dispossession of Native Americans from their ancestral lands.