Working closely with many tribal entities during his career allowed Jim to find deeper meaning in this work, “their view of fire has brought me to a place that I really love.” “The benefits of prescribed fire (date back) 15,000 years. As the ice margin retreated and the Wisconsin era glaciation drew back… tribal people followed that ice margin back for hunting… and when they started to settle in those areas, they used fire to manage the landscape.” “Native Americans (are) keen observers of the landscape … they knew that if they burned … that landscape would go from a dusky brown … to black and all of that sunlight would come down and it would warm the soil that much quicker and so they used fire in the spring in the fall to extend growing seasons.”
Introduced to prescribed fire as an observer of the KNC fen burn in the early 2000’s, Jim quickly realized he wanted to actively participate. Since then, Jim has completed many hours of training offered through KNC and the Lake States Fire Consortium and has worked along two leaders in the field that he praises for their expertise and guidance, KNC’s Ryan Koziatek, Stewardship Director and Michelle Richards, Natural Resource Manager for Fort Custer Training Center.
Witnessing both Ryan’s and Michelle’s expertise as burn bosses and working alongside the highly trained KNC crew is one of the reasons Jim loves doing this work. “I love to burn because of the relationships, we are like a family because we trust each other with our lives quite literally and so I do it because I love building really strong intense relationships with people I can trust.” Hear more about Jim’s story and others on the KNC’s podcast Off the Trail. Jim is featured in episode three: Bring your own Blowtorch.
Visit FIRE: Rekindling Land and People to learn more about stories like Jim’s and explore the role that fire disturbance plays in supporting healthy ecosystems. KNC is working along with local and regional tribes to include indigenous voices and allow visitors to learn about the relationship that humans have had with fire over millennia. On view June 24, 2023 through February 2024.