Lots of Burning Grass, and the Redwoods are OK – countering the false narrative about California wildfires

Dryness and heat, facilitated by human-caused climate change, are responsible for the large wildfires we are currently experiencing in California. It’s not about mature, native habitat.

Unfortunately, in news stories about the fires, you’ve probably heard someone repeating the same misguided claim made during nearly every fire, as if it explains everything: “The area hasn’t burned in years!” Other than being usually incorrect, the claim supports the false narrative that if we could just get rid of all this “fuel,” via prescribed burns or other habitat removal methods, these fires wouldn’t happen.

In fact, NPR had a story yesterday that said exactly that. They unfortunately also engaged in cultural appropriation of Native Americans to do so. We doubt the reporter even looked at what was actually burning.

A more accurate perspective on the use of fire by Native Americans can be found here.

What’s Really Happening – A lot had burned in the past 10 years

Our colleague, Bryant Baker, did an excellent job investigating the issue of blaming-habitat-for-fire and has assembled the following facts.

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Two mountains. Two opportunities to heal.

The mountain that is now called Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park holds a powerful place in the lives of the Kumeyaay. When the world was balanced, a fearsome beast once lurked within a granite overhang on the mountain’s western side.

Pine Mountain, above Ojai in the Los Padres National Forest, holds significant historic and cultural value for the Chumash, who consider it part of their homeland.

Both mountains have been stolen from Indigenous Peoples.
Both are threatened with harm by government agencies that act as if the mountains belong to them.
Both still possess the power to heal broken promises, but only if we speak up.

“We’re fighting for our sacred sites in the face of what is continued colonization and imperialism,” Maura Sullivan, a representative for the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, said, noting that clearing the landscape at Pine Mountain as proposed by the US Forest Service would be “an extreme blow to our spiritual and mental health as Chumash people.”

For Stonewall Peak, named by Confederate sympathizers for General Stonewall Jackson, California State Parks continues to destroy fragile, pyrogenic habitat with grinding machines, herbicides, and fire to plant artificial tree farms.

Now is the time for the US Forest Service, California State Parks, and Cal Fire to finally respect Nature and the Indigenous Peoples who cherished these two mountainous sentinels for generations.

Stonewall Peak: What You Can Do
Please sign our new petition (additional details below).

Pine Mountain: What You Can Do
Make a comment on the USFS project by August 14 (additional detail below).


Stonewall Peak

We call on California State Parks to:

1. Rename Stonewall Peak to reflect Kumeyaay values, not those of the Confederacy. In addition, collaborate with local Indigenous Peoples to replace all place names that dishonor civil rights, equality, and people of color with names that honor the legacies of the Indigenous cultures that have enriched the land with their presence.

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