Wildfires are a vital part of the natural environment of coastal California. Fire has many beneficial impacts on our ecosystems, including recycling nutrients, allowing some species of plants and animals to grow and thrive, and creating and enhancing diversity across the landscape.
Fires were quite common at Point Reyes for thousands of years before 1850. While fires in this area were—and still are—seldom sparked by lightning, the Coast Miwok intentionally ignited fires to manage vegetation. The Coast Miwok set fires in meadows on a regular basis to increase food availability and seed harvests, and to control scrub encroachment into grasslands in order to make hunting easier.
Over the last century, wildfires at Point Reyes have become much less common due to active suppression of natural and human-generated fires. But with growing awareness of the importance of wildfire to maintaining healthy, natural ecosystems, the National Park Service has been revising how it manages fire. The Fire Management Program at Point Reyes National Seashore now works to protect neighboring communities from the risk of wildfires while also using prescribed fire as a tool for natural resource management.