Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology would like to welcome its two newest Board Members, Bill Tripp and Taro Pusina.
Bill Tripp is a Karuk tribal member and Deputy Director of Eco-Cultural Revitalization for the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources. He is a specialist on forest management and has been a driving force behind the reintegration of fire into Karuk culture for the past several decades. Bill was co-PD on the USDA-NIFA AFRI Food Security project, and he has been instrumental in bringing the Karuk Tribe into the Nature Conservancy-organized Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and bringing operational prescribed burning to local private and tribal lands through the TREX program. This fall will be the sixth year year of the burn crews coming to this remote Klamath Mountain hideaway. Bill was the lead author on the Karuk Eco-cultural Resource Management Plan (ECRMP) and just co-authored the Karuk Tribe Climate Adaptation Plan with Dr. Kari Marie Norgaard from the University of Oregon.
“This effort is the culmination of multiple years of working with federal, tribal, state, NGO, and local partners in recognizing the impacts fire exclusion has had on the Karuk people, and the natural environment.”
Bill also co-chairs the Western Regional Strategy Committee for the Cohesive Strategy and exemplifies the tenants of that document, building wildland fire management local capacity using the all-lands approach.
Taro Pusina is the Interagency Fire Chief for the Inyo National Forest and Bishop BLM. Working on the East Side of the Sierras for the past five years, before that Taro spent over twenty years in Yosemite National Park conducting wildland fire management and operations. With a degree in Natural Resource Management with an emphasis in Forestry from UC Berkeley, Taro has been on countless prescribed fires and nurtured many naturally-started wildfires, all in the interest of protecting the giant Sequoias and other old-growth groves in Yosemite and now in the Southern Sierra.
As this video shows, Taro is using the most high-tech tools to reduce firefighter exposure to risk while returning fire as a much-needed ecosystem process. With fires in the U.S. and abroad capturing media attention, acting as a captivating marker for global climate change, it’s important to remember the futility of propagating the cult of fire suppression and exclusion in those ecosystems where fire has long fulfilled an important ecological niche. Fire was never a natural part of Amazon rain forests or the Arctic tundra. In the Sierra Nevada, however, fire is like rain – a vital feature of dry pine-dominant forests.
With fire conditions in California largely at or below average, for a change, the time is right for prescribed fire and using lightning strikes to reduce fuel loads – a difficult change of gears, after a season of widespread destruction last year. This is why we need to be cautious, as we hold up the obvious markers of climate change, that we not further demonize fire, feeding into the fire industrial complex and their war on nature. Sure, put the fires out in the Amazon, if something of that functional ecosystem can be salvaged, but remember far more carbon is released through logging than through wildfire. Taro is currently managing the Spring Fire in a stand of Jeffery Pine south of Mono Lake in a perfect area with lots of natural barriers to prevent the fire from ever impacting private residences, but with Mammoth becoming a year-round destination, some members of the local community have urged officials to pressure the Federal land management agencies to ban fires for resource benefit.
Taro has to jump through numerous hurdles regarding air quality to allow a fire like the Spring Fire to persist. The fire suppression apparatus, especially at the state and local level, are staffed largely by those believing they are in a “war” against fire – a war we’ve been fighting since trees became a commodity. Many would just as soon put the Spring Fire out. Thankfully, we have tireless public servants like Bill Tripp and Taro Pusina, who are willing to struggle against the dominant suppression paradigm to protect indigenous culture and intact, functional ecosystems. FUSEE welcomes them both to the Board of Directors.