California Indians practiced resource management at four levels of biological organization: the organism, the population, the plant community, and the landscape, They used resource management techniques at each of these levels, or scales, to promote the persistence of individual plants, plant populations, animal populations, plant associations, and habitat relationships in many different vegetation types in California. The techniques in the Indians’ repertoire included burning, irrigating, coppicing, pruning, sowing, tilling, transplanting, and weeding. All of these techniques, especially burning, represented a disturbance; by applying them in various ecosystems, Indians became agents of controlled, culturally mediated disturbance, using it to maintain plant populations of special importance and habitat diversity.
Sowing a seed or putting a plant in the soil is just the beginning of a long relationship between the person and the plant.
California Indians embraced a different concept of ownership, one based on usufruct rights. Under this conception, if an area is used and tended, it becomes the domain of the gatherer. For example, throughout California, individuals or families repeatedly gathered from and cared for specific oak trees and groves, giving them usufruct rights to those resources. Under the usufruct system, each family had a combination of exclusive rights to certain resources, and communal rights to other resources
When the first Europeans visited California... they did not find in many places pristine, virtually uninhabited wilderness but rather a carefully tended “garden” that was the result of thousands of years of selective harvesting, tilling, burning, pruning, sowing, weeding, and transplanting.