9. LandBack and Co-Management

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LandBack and Co-Management with Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Thursday, October 20 at 1:00-2:40 pm, Oak Room

Session Description: Colonization dispossessed indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands thus removing indigenous cultural and stewardship activities from occurring on the landscape. The conservation movement in California is well positioned to support indigenous peoples gaining free, unfettered and undisturbed access to their lands. This session will cover #LandBack efforts, where indigenous peoples are advocating for and gaining ownership and access to their ancestral lands to manage and co-manage ecosystems using traditional ecological knowledge. Learn about ways you can support and uplift the #LandBack movement.

Session Chairs: Álvaro Casanova (California Native Plant Society, Oakland, CA, USA) and Emily Moloney (Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians, Sacramento, CA, USA )

9.1 LandBack and the Jackson State Demonstration Forest

Tribal Chairman Michael Hunter of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (Redwood Valley, CA, USA)

Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF, also known as “the Jackson”) is a 48,652 acre Public Forest in Mendocino County, CA managed by Cal Fire. Under the Guise of Developing “Sustainable Forest Management” Policy and Practices, it is subjected to routine logging and land degradation. With the support of other California Tribes, The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians is calling for this forest to be returned to the Tribe for Co-Management, and an immediate moratorium be placed on all approved Timber Harvest Plans (THP) (“logging”).

9.2 TEK certification and workforce development for living cultural resource protection in tribal ancestral territories

Ali Meders-Knight (Chico Traditional Ecological Stewardship Program, Mechoopda Cultural Resource Preservation Enterprise)

The Chico Traditional Ecological Stewardship program (aka Mechoopda TEK Program) was founded shortly after the Camp Fire burned through Mechoopda Territory in 2018. Our program certifies Tribal and community members in Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) principles and culturally important plants in Mechoopda Territory. The program also manages a TEK forest stewardship crew working on fuels reduction, cultural fire, and ecosystem restoration contracts in the northern Sierra Nevada bioregion. Our approach is three-fold: 1) Community education on TEK principles and Indigenous sovereignty in resource protection; 2) Leveraging Tribal consultation requirements to write TEK principles and Tribal participation into local, state, and federal land management plans; and 3) Training and employing a Tribal workforce for land management contracts in order to access public and private lands and tend to cultural resources in our ancestral territory. This presentation will show how we have been able to build this program as a Tribal entity within THPO, using Federal policy and State cultural resource protection laws to expand Tribal protection over living cultural resources, such as keystone species. We will outline how Tribal consultation and engagement can expand the scope of work that is generally expected in environmental restoration and fuels management – integrating invasive species removal, converting degraded environments to native ecosystems, and providing habitat for native pollinators and ecological communities that are adapted to California’s fluctuating cycles of drought, fire, and flood. We provide lessons learned on the politics of plants, and how Tribes can leverage current openings for long-term land management opportunities.

9.3 Rising from the ashes: Culturally significant plants and fire resilience at Bushy Lake, Sacramento, CA

Michelle Stevens (CSU Sacramento, Bushy Lake Eco-Cultural Restoration Project, Sacramento, CA, USA), Alexandra von Ehrenkrook (CSU Sacramento graduate student, Bushy Lake Eco-Cultural Restoration Project, Sacramento, CA, USA)

Bushy Lake is located within the lower American River floodplain, Sacramento, CA, and is in the traditional territory of the Nissenan, Maidu and Miwok peoples. The Bushy Lake Eco-Cultural Restoration Project was initiated in 2015, incorporating culturally important plant species into project design. The Project goal is to establish a pilot eco-cultural restoration project through re-inhabiting culturally significant plants and animals, and the traditional tending practices within this novel ecosystem. Our hypothesis is that native plants, adapted to thousands of years of Traditional Fire Management, are resilient to wildfires. The site is highly disturbed within an urban corridor; key threats include homeless encampments, wildfire, pollution and invasive species. In June 2021 a wildfire burned the entire site to the ground, enabling us to test our hypothesis. We will present results of our post-fire monitoring of culturally significant plants and wildlife. Extensive data pre- and post- fire allowed us to determine the resiliency of white root (Carex barbarae), mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana), and creeping wild rye (Leymus triticoides); we also have a sacred pollinator/ pinole garden. Understanding and implementation of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is essential to successful eco-cultural restoration. While Western Ecological Knowledge (WEK) offers a strong foundation for restoration of species assemblages and ecosystems, TEK and Traditional Fire Management offer critical species tending and management practices that can help to restore both cultural and ecological integrity. “Fire resiliency” is evaluated using both Western Ecological Knowledge (WEK) and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), comparing 11 common attributes of WEK and TEK that aid ecological restoration. The Project demonstrates that WEK–TEK restoration can be linked to honor cultural integrity and nurture a “Sense of Place” and reciprocity for Native Californians and others.

9.4 Seeds of eco-cultural revitalization: The significance of tending and gathering gardens

Zachary Emerson (United Auburn Indian Community, Tribal Historic Preservation Department, Auburn,CA, USA)

Native, locally-sourced tending gardens provide a community-based model for implementing eco-cultural restoration/revitalization and shifting the regional fire management paradigm, which can be scaled to state-wide restoration and policy. Discussion will center around a contiguous framework for tending and gathering gardens. The presentation will focus on instilling the concept and significance of the tending garden and argues that the respectful integration of TEK is imperative for navigating the climate crisis, ensuring meaningful and successful restoration and land management, and supporting the spiritual, physical, and cultural integrity of native and non-native communities. The objective of the presentation is to not only inspire the audience to search for opportunities for collaborative eco-cultural revitalization through tending gardens in their own regions, but also to provide an initial awareness of how Tribal collaboration should be undertaken to ensure that the process is mutually beneficial and respectful of Tribal sovereignty and wisdom.

9.5 Mapping for Indigenous futures: How geospatial tools are being used to restore access, stewardship, and relationship with land.

Annalise Taylor (University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA; partnering with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and Land Trust, CA, USA), McKalee Steen (University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA, Member of the Cherokee Nation) 

Settler colonialism has led to a near total reduction of Indigenous lands in the United States, and today the land base of Tribes is only 2.6% the size of their estimated historical area (Farrell et al., 2021). Given the economic, ecological, and cultural disruptions caused by this dispossession, many tribes are focused on reclaiming land ownership or access. Maps and spatial analysis are increasingly crucial to tribes’ efforts to reclaim land rights and restore cultural connections to land. Therefore, this is a critical moment to reflect on the colonial history of mapping and the role it can play in shaping Indigenous Futures through the Landback Movement. We will discuss the possibilities for land access, as well as the broader scope of tribal land acquisitions taking place in California. Specific examples from our work with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band of California’s Central Coast will illustrate the breadth of possibilities for Indigenous mapping, which includes mapping of sacred sites, potential gathering areas, and access agreements. This work will highlight how we as ecological and geospatial scientists can be more accountable to the communities we work with, and how we are co-creating new applications of these powerful tools. Our goal is to reveal more of what has been made possible through these interdisciplinary partnerships and contribute to an ongoing conversation at the intersection of spatial science, ecology, and Indigenous environmental studies.

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Giant Sequoia


Valley Oak


Moulton Niguel Water District

White Sage

H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants
East Bay Municipal Utility District

Melo Gardens

California Poppy

Westervelt Ecological Services

Carol Witham

Jepson Herbarium
Helix Environmental Planning