Arctic Council — As millions of acres burn in the Arctic, creating a common language around wildfire management is key

Edward Alexander: Part of EPPR’s Circumpolar Wildland Fire project is to learn how other Indigenous Permanent Participants in the Arctic Council have managed fires and taken steps to suppress fires in a way that is useful for them as a people.

One example is that Gwich’in burn grass during early springtime in the North, when the meadows have thawed but there is still snow around the timber line. This was traditionally important because it increased the biodiversity of plant species growing in that area, fertilized the soil so that plants were more nutritious and increased the land’s carrying capacity of animals. There would be an increase in rabbits, and moose would have two or three calves instead of just one. It is also a carbon-neutral practice to burn the land during that specific time due to the low amount of carbohydrates on the soil. It is important to understand that if that same fire was lit just a month later, it could be extraordinarily destructive and destroy the rich structures of those plants, interfere with migrating animals and more.

It is important to gather information like this to understand how people have worked with fire in the past to better manage what we have going forward. It is not enough to talk about management regimes without talking about Indigenous management and techniques that have been successful in the North for thousands of years.
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