Many people are unaware that redwoods have a superpower, they're fire resistant! Tannic acid is chemically infused in their thick, fibrous bark and it keeps them relatively safe from harm. I say relatively because that superpower is being put to the test. For thousands of years, Indigenous nations throughout California used, and still use, fire as a tool to steward the land. The Sinkyone people lived on the land in California for thousands of years, traveling, hunting and fishing throughout their territory.
According to the National Park Service “Fire scars tell the story of Indigenous cultural burns set by the first stewards of Muir Woods, the Coast Miwok. Cultural burns are a form of traditional fire management passed down through generations. They benefit both land and people. Burning has many benefits for creating a healthy and resilient landscape. Some are that it improves soil quality, and spurs growth of certain plant species. European colonizers in California violently forced Indigenous tribes from their land. They tried to stop Indigenous people from practicing their culture and traditions. They suppressed fires and logged old-growth forests. Without cultural burns, organic matter built up, putting forests at risk of devastating fire. When fire reaches an area that hasn't burned in centuries, it can permanently disrupt plant and wildlife diversity and threaten humans.”
In just a few years, California has survived several record breaking fire seasons. Wildfires, which have burned more than 3 million acres, and continue to impact the state due to the ongoing historic drought, and heat waves, caused by climate change, have increased temperatures and impacted ecosystems throughout California. Not to mention the entire southwest
Even though coastal redwoods are fire resistant, severe fires can destroy redwood ecosystems and it can take years for their crowns to redevelop. Redwoods die when they fall over, which repeated fires can indirectly cause. As they burn at a redwood's base over hundreds of years, fires can create cavities called basal hollows. The tallest trees continue to stand even with basal hollows large enough to fit a group of people, but over time a hollow can grow too big. These mega-fires can also impact the habitat for other species, especially, endangered bird species such as the spotted owl and coho salmon.In California, 523 acres of redwood forest have been returned to a group of Native American tribes whose ancestors were forcibly removed from the land generations ago, per a statement from SavetheRedwoods.org.
The league, a nonprofit that works to protect and restore redwood forests, purchased the property back in 2020 and donated it to the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, a collective of ten northern California tribal nations. In turn, the league was given a conservation easement, which prohibits commercial timbering, fragmentation, development or public access. Many believe this return to the stewardship of the native tribes should continue, so that future generations can enjoy these forests. The land, formerly named Andersonia West, will again be called by its rightful name Tc’ih-Léh-Dûñ, which means "Fish Run Place” in the Sinkyone language.
The people of northwestern California form a vital, changing community, whether Yurok, Hupa, Tolowa, or Karuk. Yurok and Tolowa ancestral territories include land and resources now contained within Redwood National and State Parks. The irony is that the lands were taken away from these tribes and because of that thousands are losing property, homes and lives.