Breaking the ice and building relationships with the Indian reservations is not an easy task for most. Indigenous communities are protective and very selective of the individuals with whom they choose to partner with. This is in addition to the common misperception regarding forest maintenance and the belief that it is damaging to the forest, when it is, in fact, the opposite. “Most of these reservations had never allowed masticators before. We got wind that they were looking for help in their areas and we got a hold of them. My wife is native american, she is Umatilla Indian. When they found out, they took us in,” said Estey.
“The tribes and also the private sector are finally realizing the great advantages of mastication. They realize they need to protect their property, their homes, their assets and we are doing it with mastication. Back in their early history, the way they maintained their properties was by letting the fires go and they burnt out the underbrush and that's been stopped for many years. So now, we have lots of lateral fuels that they are trying to mitigate and get down. So, we go through and masticate. Then, they do an ultra low-intensity burn and then the grasses come back, the huckleberries come back and they don’t lose their trees, like they used to in the past. It's called pre-commercial thinning and we 're doing a lot of that for these tribes. In fact, we are about to start a job with the Umatilla tribe for a couple of hundred more acres of work.”
According to Estey, the tribes are working extremely hard and doing everything they possibly can to enhance their forest and maintain the land, investing lots of time, money and resources to get these fires to the ground and trying to prevent and mitigate the big fires that are happening. “The forest fires have been terrible for these tribes, it has been really devastating. Many of the tribes rely on their timber for their income and they're having hundreds of thousands of acres of their timber destroyed because of forest fires. So yes, they are doing all they can to prevent it from burning down and will continue to do so.”