This paper focuses on the 2013 Carpenter One Fire in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) to understand how linked social and ecological factors affect fire regimes in ecosystems that exist in close proximity to human settlement and places culturally significant to Indigenous peoples. Ignited in July, this fire ultimately spread to 11,283 ha and cost USD $18.5 million to contain and extinguish. Priority was placed on protecting various private landholdings within the National Forest and on its periphery, which included several seasonal, high-value vacation homes. Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) consider the Spring Mountains landscape in Nevada to be their creation place and the center of their ancestral territory. Their oral history states that the Creator charged them with balancing the land, which is sentient and considered a close relative, at different points in time. This relationship includes a fire management model that creates small-scale landscape disturbances such as patch burns and fuels reduction, and protects fire-resilient trees. Assembling together ethnographic and United States Census data and literature, we argue that a decrease in indigenous fire management and a concurrent increase in fire suppression through Forest Service policy, old growth timber harvest, grazing, the introduction of nonnative invasive species, and private landholdings facilitated the unprecedented size and intensity of this wildfire. These circumstances are generalizable to many contexts in the American West. We conclude with recommendations for a Nuwuvi/Forest Service collaborative stewardship framework to conduct consultation on mutually compatible outcomes, including fuels reduction and controlled burns.
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Vol. 35 • No. 1