Wildharvesting Cooperatives – California’s Solution to Prevent Wildfires and Create a New Clean Economy

    Kern River Wildharvesting Cooperative demonstrates a replicable business plan that:

  • revitalizes and restores native ecosystems;
  • improves local food supplies and economies;
  • protects infrastructure from wildfires and helps to prevent them.

A Lucrative,
Ecologically-Restorative Business:

           One of the most important products produced by KRWC is acorn flour.  Oak trees produce a whopping 4.5 tons of nuts per acre, making them a very prolific food source.

Acorns from Various Species of Oaks:

3 acorns

Acorn Bread:

Wildfire Prevention, Resource Production:

     By employing management techniques used by California native tribes for hundreds of years, dried underbrush can be raked into circles and safely burned in order to:

1.) replenish topsoil;
2.) remove the fire hazard imposed by dried leaves and deadwood from wilderness understory around the perimeter of urban areas in order to protect infrastructure from wildfires;
3.) make harvesting acorns easier.

     How California tribes safely control burned understory is explained in the following excerpt from Tending the Wild; Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson:

      “Fire was the primary land management tool of California Indians because it had many significant ecological effects.

1. Decreasing Detritus and Recycling Nutrients – many wild plant populations accumulate aging parts (dead branches and shoots, leaves, cones, and seed pods) that may reduce plant vigor and productivity over time.  Fires set by California Indians consumed this biomass and released some of the plant nutrients it contained.   Scientific studies have recently shown that nutrient movement can take a long time, relative to human life spans.  The turnover rates of many nutrients are slow.  In some ecosystems the nutrient storage compartment (e.g., the litter on the forest floor) can become a vault, locked against internal cycling.  Various ecosystems will not remain productive over time if dead material accumulates much faster than it decomposes.  Like soil. arthropods, bacteria, and fungi, fire is a mineralizing agent in forests and other vegetation types, but it works much faster than decaying organisms and thus speeds up nutrient recycling and
the return of sites to high productivity.  Although fire can accelerate nitrification and thus loss of nutrients, research is demonstrating that the leguminous, nitrogen-fixing forbs (such as lupines and clovers) often promoted by fire can rapidly provide nutrient replacement.

2. Controlling Insects and Pathogens – fire helped to control the pathogens and insects that would otherwise compete for the same resources used by native people.  Many Indian tribes in California burned in Oak (Quercus spp.) woodlands and Tan Oak (Lithocarpus densiflorus) stands to reduce insect pests that inhabit acorns and over winter the Oak leaf duff. According to Kathy Heffner (Wilaki, pers. comm. 1992), all of the tribes she interviewed in Northern California (Hupa, Hailaki, Tolowa, Yurok, & Karuk) burned under the California Black Oaks and other oak species to destroy insect pests: “They needed to eliminate that duff that was underneath the Oak trees because the oaks will drop their leaves & create a big pile of duff.  As long as all that duff stayed there, when the acorns dropped, the acorns could only be on the ground just a little while because that duff was home to a lot of bugs.  The minute they hit the ground, those bugs were into those acorns.  So if they burned it, that eliminated the duff and the insects that would get into the acorns.”

   In a 1916 letter to the California Fish & Game Commission, Klamath River jack from Del Norte County makes the link between eliminating wormy acorns and setting fires: “Fire burn up old acorn that fall on ground. old acorn on ground have lots worm; no burn old acorn, no burn old bark, old leaves, bugs and worms come more every year… Indian burn every year just same, so keep all ground clean, no bark, no dead leaf, no old wood on ground, no old wood on brush, so no bug can stay to eat leaf and no worm can stay to eat berry and acorn.  Not much on ground to make hot fire so never hurt big trees, where fire burn.”

     Arthropods in two major genera feed on acorns during their larval stage, causing severe damage or destruction.  These are the filbert worm (Cydia
latiferreana) and the filbert weevils (Curculio occidentalis, C. pardus, & C. aurvestis).  Studies of California Oak species have shown that individual trees can exhibit up to 80% acorn damage by the filbert worm and 20 percent to 75% destruction by filbert weevils.  Individual trees can exhibit up to 95% acorn damage from a combination of these pests.  The larvae tunnel throughout the inside of the acorn, leaving frass, destroying the embryo, and rendering the acorn inedible.

     Ted Swiecki, a plant pathologist who has studied California oak pests and diseases, on the habits, feeding, and life cycles of the filbert worm and filbert weevil:  ‘These insects invade acorns while on the tree, and the insects continue to develop as the acorns fall. In fact, insect-infested and diseased acorns tend to drop earlier than sound acorns. Eventually, the larvae exit the acorn and over winter as pupae in the duff beneath oak trees.  If you were to burn off the duff and old acorns in the fall, you would destroy most if not all of the infested acorns as well as pupae that are in the duff.  This would greatly reduce the number of filbert worm and filbert weevil adults that emerge in the following year, which would reduce the level of infestation in the acorn crop. If you were to do this every year, or even every couple of years, I would think that you would end up with a pretty clean crop of acorns, with relatively low losses due to insects.  Also, burning of plant debris beneath the trees would make harvesting easier whether you are knocking acorns out of the tree or simply waiting for them to fall.  It makes the acorns easier to find and pick up and eliminates an old acorns (with holes in them) that would need to be sorted out.’

     Wildharvesting cooperatives use the aforementioned knowledge throughout the outskirts of urban areas in order to create fuel-free zones which protect infrastructure from incoming wildfires.  Valuable resources are produced and protected.

Click to Enlarge:

Some Widely-Available Products Include:

     The Wild Living Skills Database & Smartphone App will soon enable communities everywhere to self-organize and create their own wildharvesting cooperatives and coordinate with Forest Officials to harvest and sell all sorts of products such as:

1.)  Buckeye Nut flour

  • Caution!  Although poisonous when eaten raw due to the chemical aesculin present throughout the tree, buckeye nuts may be quickly and efficiently processed into flour for use in bread making, etc.
  • Buckeye trees produce 4.4 tons of nuts per acre!
  • Much larger than most nuts currently sold on the U.S. market.

Buckeye nut

2.)  Pine nuts, pollen, & oil

  • Nuts currently shipped in from China and Russia for U.S. markets even though they grow coast-to-coast throughout the U.S.
  • Nuts edible raw or toasted, and can be pressed for oil.

Nuts:

Pine Nuts

Pollen:

  • The pollen from the catkins is high is 30% its weight in protein & contains a wide variety of minerals & nutrients.

Pine Pollen

3.)  Red Desert Rice aka Indian Rice Grass

     Rice that doesn’t require boatloads of water to grow!?!?!  Its a “save the world food”!!!

red desert rice

4.)  Golden Chia Seeds

  • high in protein, omega-3, and antioxidants.
  • grows in ~7  states! 
  • Golden Chia Seeds are currently not available in stores: Black Chia Seeds {Salvia hispanica} are imported from South America.

    Richard Lonewolf on Golden Chia Seeds:

5.)  Sycamore Syrup

  • similar to maple syrup, but tastes more like butterscotch or honey.

     Many more forest products will be mapped throughout the in-the-making Wild Living Skills Database & Smartphone App.  It is important to always use Positive-Impact Harvesting Techniques whenever harvesting!

A Temporary Setback:

    Unfortunately, in the spring of 2016 Kern River Wildharvesting Cooperative was robbed and forced to close.  Wild Willpower PAC is currently fundraising so we can open ASAP.  By gearing up, training, and documenting “the first wildharvesting cooperative in the country,” we will create a replicable model which can be implemented just about anywhere, especially as The Wild Living Skills Database & Smartphone App continues to be developed.  Please consider donating to help Wild Willpower PAC on our mission to create the database and app and model the first wildharvesting cooperative in the country.  We have a lot of work in front of us and really need some financial help to continue developing.

Please Donate

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References:

All images utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

Satellite photo in graphic from Google Maps (Sierra Mountains town):  https://www.google.com/maps

Cartoon house in graphic from “Window Cartoon Stock Photos and Images” by 123RF:  https://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/window_cartoon.html

Cartoon acorns in graphic from “wo Acorn With Oak Leaves Cartoon Illustrations. Illustration Isolated on white” by 123RF:  https://www.123rf.com/photo_32161027_two-acorn-with-oak-leaves-cartoon-illustrations-illustration-isolated-on-white.html

Cartoon cash from Dreamtime:  https://nl.dreamstime.com/royalty-vrije-stock-afbeeldingen-dollars-en-centen-image5535119

Cartoon eagle from Dreamtime:  https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-eagle-cartoon-image27330003

Learning from the Past to Prepare for the Future