11 Nov 2007, 6:47pm
Cultural Landscapes
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America’s Ancient Forests

Bonnicksen, Thomas M., America’s Ancient Forests–From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery. 2000. John Wiley and Sons.

Review by Mike Dubrasich

Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Forest Science and former department head at Texas A&M University, Visiting Scholar at The Forest Foundation, and the author of the greatest book ever written about our forests, America’s Ancient Forests – From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery.

Dr. Bonnicksen holds a bachelor’s degree in forestry, and master’s and doctorate degrees in wild land resource science. He studied under Drs. A. Starker Leopold, Edward C.Stone, and Harold Biswell at UC Berkeley, and later worked with them conducting research and teaching about the history and restoration of historic native forests. Dr. Bonnicksen named the field “restoration forestry.” He has published more than 100 scientific and technical papers, articles, textbook chapters, and other publications, six computer programs and four multimedia CDs.

Dr. Bonnicksen also is a U.S. Navy veteran, former U. S. National Park Service ranger, and in 2002 received the Bush Excellence in Public Service Award for Texas A&M University Faculty for his lifetime work on the protection and restoration of native North American landscapes. The Bush Presidential Library Foundation established the award to annually recognize a Texas A&M faculty member who makes outstanding contributions to public service. From the Texas A&M press release on that occasion:

“What I care about most, after my family and country, is the restoration of America’s native forests and the security and welfare of the people who live and work in them,” Bonnicksen said.

Bonnicksen is a renowned public speaker, published author and legislation writer. His model for decision making provides a basis for strategic planning and insight into the relationship between fire and the structure and dynamics of native forests.

He wrote “America’s Ancient Forests,” published in 2000 by John Wiley & Sons. The book documents the existence of more than 20 North American ancient forests and details how the findings should be a model for maintaining today’s threatened forest lands across the nation…

“I aim at restoring forests’ historic beauty and diversity while maintaining the jobs and economies of local communities in and around them,” he said.

From briefing staff members of the U.S. House of Representatives in testifying before the U.S. Senate Forest and Public Land management Committee on Resources, Bonnicksen continues to serve as a bridge between academic and research endeavors. He has served as the sole expert intervener witness in Federal Court cases affecting all national forests in Texas, and encouraged the practical and useful application of knowledge that led to improved policy developed with active participation of the public.

In America’s Ancient Forests Dr. Bonnicksen discusses all of North America’s forests, their histories, anthropogenic fire, and much, much more, and does it with the style of an accomplished educator and professional writer. His easy, almost chatty cadence belies tremendous experience and scholarship (the bibliography is 75 pages long).

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11 Nov 2007, 12:53am
Cultural Landscapes
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Tending the Wild

Anderson, M. Kat. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources. 2005. Univ. Calif. Press.

Review by Mike Dubrasich

M. Kat Anderson is a Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California, Davis; Associate Ecologist at the Agricultural Experimental Station at the University of California, Davis; and a faculty member in the Graduate Group in Ecology at the University of California, Davis. She is coeditor, with T. C. Blackburn, of Before the Wilderness: Native Californians as Environmental Managers (1993) and coeditor, with Henry T. Lewis, of Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by Omer C. Stewart (2002).

Tending the Wild was winner of the 2007 Mary W. Klinger Book Award from the Society for Economic Botany.

Tending the Wild focuses on the many uses the pre-Columbian California Indians made of native plants, and the methods the Indians used to perpetuate those plants. Contrary to some modern myths, California Indians were extensive agriculturalists who planted, tilled, pruned, and especially burned to manage desirable plants and animals.

Kat Anderson imparts a humanitarian undercurrent to her studies and writing. Indian burning may have had landscape-level effects, but the practices were also individualized and localized. They were personal. The real people who lived in California and across the West managed their properties for the greatest survival/sustenance values.

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7 Nov 2007, 3:42pm
Fire History
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Anthropological and Archaeological Perspectives on Native Fire Management of the Willamette Valley

by Dr. Thomas J. Connolly, PhD, Research Division Director, Museum of Anthropology, University of Oregon.

This paper was originally presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division, (Symposium: Fire History in the Pacific Northwest: Human and Climatic Influences), June 11-14, 2000, Ashland, Oregon. 12p.

Full text [here] 64KB

Selected excerpts:

In contrast to popular myth, the hardy Mountain Men of the American West did not venture into an uncharted and untamed wilderness. They frequently followed well worn trails, connecting generations-old villages and camps of a considerable population of Natives that they encountered in every valley they entered. Likewise, when Euroamerican trappers and settlers entered the Willamette Valley in the early 1800s, it was not a pristine wilderness they entered; but an anthropogenic landscape, maintained–and to a real extent created–by the valley’s Natives with the use of fire…

Many anthropologists, among them Omer Stewart (1956), Henry Lewis (1973, 1976), Richard Gould (1971), and others, have documented deliberate burning of vegetation by hundreds of Native groups worldwide, for the purpose of managing plant and animals resources. The practice of burning in connection with subsistence activities has been recently explored by Lawrence Keeley (1995), who examined 96 ethnographic groups worldwide–characterized by anthropologists as hunter-gatherers–to assess the strength of correlations between plant exploitation practices, and ecological, demographic, and social variables. He found particularly strong correlations between fire-setting and the use of nuts and seeds as staple foods. Further, he found that the most intensive uses of plants–involving the sowing of seed–usually occurs only if the foraging group is also using fire for vegetation management. Based on his findings, he suggests (cf. Lewis 1972) that burning may be more strongly associated with the development of agriculture than variables such as population pressure, increasing social complexity, or other conditions seen as classic drivers of agricultural development. He does not suggest that burning causes agriculture, but that it is one of a set of tools–including sowing, planting, cultivating, weeding and other practices–used by hunter-gatherer groups worldwide who actively manipulate plants in their environment for the purpose of enhancing their productivity and reliability…

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