Frank Lake grew up learning traditional practices from the Karuk and Yurok Tribes. He developed an interest in science which led to his career choice as a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. As a young man, he didn’t realize how unusual the experience was of spending time in two parallel worlds.
The Megram Fire of 1999 was a turning point for Lake, and the Forest Service as well. It was one of California’s largest wildland fires ever and the agency grappled with how to restore salmon in the burned over watershed. Lake knew that local tribal elders considered “fire as medicine,” and an important part of the ecosystem. The link between fire and fish is through water, they told him, and “water is sacred to all life.” Fires could reduce the number of trees in overly dense forests and improve spring flow needed by rivers to support healthy fisheries.