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Forest management can help prevent dangerous wildfires. And a California-based group is putting communities at the center of this work.

Niko Alexandre (they/them) is with Shelterwood Collective, a nonprofit led by Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ people. The group owns 900 acres of land north of the Bay area.

“Indigenous communities … have been telling us as a society for quite some time now that people are not separate from land and that the best way to keep land healthy is to have communities that are in deep and intimate and long-term relationship with land,” Alexandre says.

So Shelterwood staff and interns live on the land. And with a new $4.5 million grant from the state, they will manage the forest with Indigenous methods. For example, they’ll use controlled burns to reduce flammable material in the forest.

Alexandre says the group plans to engage others in their efforts — for example through workshops tailored for Black, Indigenous, and Queer people.

“What we are trying to do at Shelterwood is model how we need to bring together these communities that have traditionally been excluded from the environmental space,” they say, “and showcase how these community-driven approaches to land care are long-term climate solutions that really need to be foregrounded in the climate conversation.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media