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Karuk Tribe, Department of Natural Resources


Karuk Tribe, Department of Natural Resources

PO Box 282 Orleans, CA 95556

PO Box 282
CA 95556
  • Cultural burning
  • Forest/ecosystem management
  • Fuels treatment / Prescribed fire
  • Local workforce capacity building
  • Watershed protection/management

In 1979, the United States federal government recognized the Karuk Tribe as being a sovereign tribal nation, with a government-to-government relationship with the United States. The Karuk Aboriginal Territory was defined, along with the establishment of the Karuk Tribal Constitution. This recognition was without a conveyance of reservation and/or trust land, but did establish a unique jurisdiction for the Karuk people. The Tribe began to reacquire parcels of aboriginal lands, beginning with a 6.6-acre parcel in Orleans that was acquired in 1977. Currently, the Tribe has acquired many parcels totaling 1,660 acres. Land acquisition and fee-to-trust conversions continue to be a primary goal of the Tribe. Since the approval of the Tribe’s Constitution in 1985, the Karuk Tribe has grown from 2.5 employees and a $250,000 annual operating budget to becoming a complex governmental organization with ~231 employees and an annual operating budget of ~$37 million. In 1996, the Tribe became a selfgovernance Tribe, assuming fiduciary and administrative responsibility for implementing certain federal programs and/or functions. Today, the Karuk Tribe is the second largest federally recognized Tribe in California with 3,744 tribal members and 4,110 enrolled descendant tribal members.

The Karuk Department of Natural Resources (DNR or Department) is a Tribal department that has seen exceptional growth since it was established in 1989. Founded with a single employee after Congressional appropriations were allocated to support fisheries management and the restoration efforts of the Tribe, DNR has grown into a multi-program department that has included over one hundred (100) employees during fire events – all sharing the common mission of protecting, promoting and preserving the cultural/natural resources and ecological processes upon which the Karuk depend. A focus of the department is to integrate traditional management practices into the current management regime, which is based on certain principles and philosophy. This is noted in the Department’s Eco-Cultural Resources Management Plan (ECRMP):

“As guardians of our ancestral land, we are obligated to support practices that emphasize the interrelationships between the cultural and biophysical dimensions of ecosystems. The relationships we have with the land are guided by our elaborate religious traditional foundation. For thousands of years, we have continued to perform religious observances that help ensure the appropriate relationship between people, plants, the land, and the spirit world. We share our existence with plants, animals, fish, insects, and the land and waters. We are responsible for their well-being. Our ancestral landscapes overflow with stories and expressions from the past, which remind us of who we are and direct us to implement sound traditional management practices in a traditional and contemporary context.”

Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP)

The WKRP is a Multi-Organizational collaborative networking effort that aims to establish and maintain resilient ecosystems, communities, and economies guided by cultural and contemporary knowledge through a truly collaborative process that effectuates the revitalization of continual human relationships with our dynamic landscape. This partnership is helping to plan and implement restoration and maintenance of resilient landscapes, while building the social liscence to increase the use of prescribed fire and managed wildfire, while building fire adapted community capacities to be the bridge beteween goal 1 and 3 of the Cohesive strategy.

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Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX)

This TREX includes local, regional, national and international participants. It is a grass roots collaborative systematically linked to the WKRP. It began in 2014 with limited application to small burns on private and tribal inholdings, but is planning on scaling up to restore historic fire regimes with increased pace and scale. The intent is that this program will spur expanded training opportunities for establishement of a well trained - multifunctional workforce while getting good fire on the ground. This activity is helping to enable communities to become fire adapted and form an effective bridge between the resilient landscapes and response goals of the Cohesive Strategy.

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Integrated Wildland Fire Management Response

This program area focuses on improved intergovernmental coordination and community coordination and engagement as a component of the Tribal consultation processes. It is intended to progress the response goal of the Cohesive Strategy to safley and effectivley respond to planned and unplanned ignitions. Enabling the use of recent fire and planned management activities to develop and carry out consistent wildland fire management response strategies and tactics will be critical to our long term success. Expanding upon agreement and compacting authorities and integrating sponsorship of NIMS/NWCG certifications for local, regional and national fire practitioners should help right size local response capacities. The idea is to use well trained - multifunctional local workforce concepts to grow the qualification base and expedite establishment of scalable Type 3 Incident Management Team(s) with Type 2 capabilities. The intent is that through time, we would be more reliant on sustainable local response resources, and reduce the need for resource drawdown during elevated National Preparedness Levels in a changing climate.

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