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A Restoration Story Unfolds: The Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management Project

Western Klamath Restoration Partnership field learning exchange Fall Workshop 2015

The Somes Bar project on the Six Rivers National Forest is a demonstration of true collaboration. It is the first pilot project born from years of working together in the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP or Partnership), which includes the Karuk Tribe, local fire safe and watershed councils, the US Forest Service, local landowners, the Pacific Southwest Research Station, EPIC and other organizations. WKRP is working proactively on restoring fire, habitat and cultural practices within 1.2 million acres of the Mid Klamath River watersheds.

Development of the Somes Bar project is in alignment with the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and is providing a rare example of how to build local capacity for implementing controlled burns at larger scales. This approach to restoring the process and function of fire in the wildland urban interface will allow for the revitalization of cultural burning, will help to protect neighborhoods and will increase the ability of allowing wildfire to burn for ecosystem benefit.

The 5,500 acre project centers around four small communities and is almost entirely within the Katimiin Cultural Management Area. The use of high quality information, including LIDAR (high-resolution remote sensing method) and GIS and thoughtfulness stemming from Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and the communities sense of place has all been an integral part of making this planning unique. For the first time, Karuk Tribe employees participated in the development of land management treatments founded upon TEK. Tribal wildlife, archeology and food security crews were instrumental in gathering field data used to formulate treatment prescriptions. For millennia, the Karuk used fire to maintain cultural use plants, forage for elk, deer and other wildlife, managing insect infestations and providing periods of inversion cooling to enhance the survival of anadromous fish, providing abundant food sources, materials as tools, clothing and other pharmaceuticals. These human-fire relationships according to TEK are inseparable from the natural fire regime.

Consideration of treatments, which includes manual and mechanical actions, looked at main roads, ridges and water bodies as a way to define “firesheds” and shaded fuel breaks. Deliberation went to; slope, aspect, thermal radiation and current forest stand conditions. It included taking care of private property boundaries. Wildlife habitat needs, such as elk calving areas and wintering habitat and the needs of old growth dependant species are being taken into account. This is one of the only national forest projects in northern California to ever survey for the Pacific fisher, even a Humboldt marten was detected. Important cultural and ecological botanical species will be enhanced. Plantations will be restored to a more natural and diverse condition and natural stands will be treated lightly in order to prepare them for fire.

The Somes Bar Integrated project is also unique in that there is a strong research and monitoring component built in. The Partnership will maintain its long-term interest through contracting, implementation and beyond. So much on-the-ground site-specific information is being gathered and the process of learning and working together will continue in to the future.

Scoping for the project is open until March 23, 2017. Comments may be emailed to Corrine Black at or delivered to the Six Rivers Supervisors Office at 1330 Bayshore Way, Eureka, CA 95501-3834 or to the Orleans Ranger District at 1 Ishi Pishi Rd., Orleans, CA 95556.


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