Ep. 66Fire in the Southwest Series, Ep. 3: Integrating Indigenous Knowledge into Western Fire Management with Jon Martin

Welcome to our third episode of our Fire in the Southwest series! In this episode, we spoke with Jon Martin, who is the Director of Native American Forest and Rangeland Management Programming at the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University. Jon spent three decades working in forestry before retiring, and now uses his extensive interagency background to find pathways that can help tribes achieve their management goals within a Western fire management framework.

This topic is especially prescient right now, as the Wildfire Commission Report was explicit in its recommendations to incorporate more Indigenous knowledge into land management (see: recommendations 12, 15, 16). However, while this directive is a step in the right direction, actually accomplishing it will require overcoming significant workforce and budget constraints at the ground level, especially within tribal communities.

Jon and Amanda spoke about what this integration of different management practices can look like, how to overcome those barriers, the differences between cultural and agency fire, as well as the fundamental question of whether or not the differences between cultural and agency fire can be meaningfully reconciled. Jon also provided a great example of this integration working (the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s use of Crisis Strategy/Infrastructure Bill funding). Finally, we wrapped the episode up with a discussion about the nature of federal land agency employment, which all but requires employees to move locations every 3-5 years to move up in their careers. Jon spoke about how the collaborative/shared stewardship pathway that is needed to meaningfully integrate Indigenous management into Western management requires a wholesale commitment to developing interagency relationships, and how this should be a major priority moving forward. 

“It’s not about going out and managing forests, silvicultural prescription or even forest management,” Jon said in our conversation. “It’s become all about people management, almost a social science. I think people are starting to realize that. It’s a softer approach but it’s very real.”

This conversation and the rest of our Fire in the Southwest series is supported by the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, as well as the Arizona Wildfire Initiative. We’re so grateful for their support!

Time stamps: 

06:23 – Jon’s Background and Navajo Upbringing 

09:42 – Northern Arizona University And Its Programs 

11:51 – Native American Forest And Rangeland Management Program 

13:00 – San Carlos Apache Tribe

14:12 – Western Land Management Agencies Working With Tribes 

15:38 – Opportunities And Funding Becoming Available To Bolster Tribal Management

18:45 – Fire History and Research in the Piñon Juniper Ecosystems of the Southwest

20:38 – Indigenous Fire History In Piñon Juniper Ecosystems 

22:41 – Culturally Informed Management In Higher Elevation Forests 

25:56 – Increasing Acknowledgement Of Cultural Burning 

26:33 – Wildland Fire Management And Mitigation Report Directives for Indigenous Burning

28:10 – San Carlos Apache Tribe—Wildfire Crisis Strategy Funding Leading to Tribal Management Success Story

29:34 – Collaborative Efforts Require Long-Term Commitments and Relationship Building

33:50 – Tribal Management Is Inherently Collaborative 

34:20 – Jon’s Career Wins 

37:32 – End 

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