Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FII Project R2003-186

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Indicators of indigenous fire management: learning from the trees themselves

Author(s): Aljam, Harold; Morrison, Jennifer; Gray, Robert W.
Imprint: Merritt, B.C. : Nicola Tribal Council, 2003
Subject: Indigenous peoples, Nlaka'pmx, Canada, Prescribed Burning, British Columbia, Fire management, History
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program


The use of fire for managing and protecting species habitat, including human settlement, has been and is an important activity for First Nations peoples globally (Mack 2001, Boyd 1999, Lewis 1986). The goal of this project was to identify when and why Nlaka’pmx ancestors applied fire in the Kentucky-Paradise Lake region of the Merritt TSA. The objectives were to complete a historical fire regime survey, interview elders regarding when and where the fire occurred and analyze the remaining fire-scars for characteristics that would indicate features unique to aboriginal fire management. Our results to date indicate that in the Pothole Creek Sampling area when seasonal information is matched against the intra-annual scar information patterns appear to show a high probability of fire-scars associated with middle earlywood to latewood as being lightning caused, while scars occurring in the early part of the growing season and the dormant season may be attributed to Nlaka’pmx fire management activity supported by oral testimony. The minimal data sets analyzed in the Paradise Lake area indicate an absence of fire-scars in the dormant season. However recent archaeological evidence and oral testimony indicates known fire management methods in the region. In the Paradise Lake area additional samples need to be gathered for further insight into aboriginal fire management methods. Based on the results at Pothole Creek, further work needs to be completed to determine the extent of stand departure from the historical mean fire intervals of 9.8 years. Research needs to be completed to determine how many fire intervals have been missed, what is the appropriate safe treatment to return to the historical stand structures that include fire and how have the plants adapted to timber stands without 5-13 fire cycles. There is 13x the fuel loading in the Pothole Creek area and most of the traditional use plants identified in interviews are being choked out. If a wildfire is to occur there, we predict it will be a stand replacing fire with intense heat. It is unknown how these plants will survive this heat. Treatments for fuel management systems include selective logging or tree spacing with prescribe burning for understory burn in the late fall season. Further examination of the volume of timber in the area would also provide more insight into management fuels as well.
Harold Aljam...[et al.]

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Updated August 02, 2006 

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