Allow Indigenous Practice of Controlled Burns to Prevent Wildfires

Target: Gavin Newsom, Governor of California

Goal: Allow and encourage indigenous tribes to steward Californian land to prevent wildfires.

For many decades, the Californian government banned the ancient indigenous practice of controlled burns. Now, California is suffering from its worst season of wildfires in recent history, resulting in evacuations and the worst air quality in the world. In recent years, the fire that has always been a part of California’s landscape has gotten out of hand and resulted in catastrophic blazes. however, long before these modern out-of-control wildfires, Native American tribes held annual controlled burns. These ceremonies targeted the clearing out of underbrush and the encouragement of new plant growth, two things that help to slow the burn of wildfires when they do break out.

Ron Goode, tribal chairman of the North Fork Mono, spoke about controlled burns, saying: “We don’t put fire on the ground and not know how it’s going to turn out. That’s what makes it cultural burning, because we cultivate.” This practice largely disappeared when Western settlers forced tribes off their land and banned religious ceremonies. At this point, federal authorities focus on swiftly extinguishing fires, as opposed to cultivating them like the indigenous controlled burns aim to do.

By suppressing fire, the risk of wildfire becomes worse as the landscape grows thick with vegetation that dries out each summer, resulting in the kindling that fires need to burn wildly. Sign this petition to urge the Californian government to allow and encourage indigenous controlled burns.


Dear Governor Newsom,

For years before Western settlers arrived in California, Native American tribes were stewards to the land. They had a unique understanding of the landscape and were able to prevent rampant wildfires by doing controlled burns. This cultivation of fire cleared out dried out underbrush and vegetation that serves as kindling for wildfires. The controlled burns also promoted fresh growth that does not serve to feed wildfires. By considering fire a part of the landscape as opposed to a tragedy that needed to be immediately extinguished, the indigenous people were able to live without the fear of huge wildfires like the ones we are currently experiencing.

Western governments and authority have ended ancient practices like the controlled burns. I urge you to allow and encourage these ceremonies. By allowing Native Americans to care for the land and to consider them experts on the landscape, you will prevent future wildfires from being so disastrous and widespread.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Carl Osbourn


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204 Signatures

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