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News Release
Oregon Department of Forestry is launching projects to reduce wildfire risk in northeast Oregon - 04/14/21

LA GRANDE, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Forestry is putting to work in northeast Oregon some of the $5 million it was granted in January by the Oregon Legislative Emergency Board (E-Board) for reducing wildfire risk. Of 37 total projects statewide, the agency has one in Wallowa County, one in Wheeler County, and one in multiple counties including the previous two and Umatilla, Union and Grant.  Total funding for the three projects is $427,000. The projects rely on partnerships to improve community resilience to wildfire and restore and maintain healthy, resilient forests.

The project in Wheeler County is on the Umatilla National Forest and is a continuation of a habitat improvement and wildfire reduction that involves the USDA Forest Service, Sustainable Northwest, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with Sustainable Northwest as the partner project lead.

Another project with the USDA Forest Service is on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. A third project is with My Blue Mountains Woodland Partnership, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the USDA Forest Service.

“The funds from the Emergency Board provide the state with an incredible opportunity to bring together public and private groups to complete some critical fuels mitigation work in advance of the 2021 fire season,” said Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty. “This is shared stewardship in action. When we work together, we can treat more acres across ownership boundaries and have a greater impact on fire resiliency in communities and forests throughout the state.”

Partners in the department’s efforts include forest collaboratives, watershed councils, the Northwest Youth Corps, OSU, private landowners, counties, federal agencies, and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.  

After receiving the funds in January, ODF put out a call for proposals and received 93 applications totaling over $20 million. The 37 projects were chosen from among those applications.

Some 35 projects involve direct treatments on the land. ODF and its partners will employ various fuel treatment methods ranging from ODF fuel crews, landowner cost shares and rebates and/or contracted equipment services.

ODF expects that the projects collectively will result in:

  • Over 7,000 acres being treated for fuel reduction, including use of prescribed fire
  • 1,400 hours of volunteer work
  • 750 trees felled during fuel reduction projects repurposed as logs for in-stream habitat restoration
  • 500 hours of young adult training
  • 20 miles of right-of-way fuel mitigation treatments
  • 10 miles of hiking trails repaired after being damaged by Labor Day wildfires
  • 1 post-fire effects study

In addition to funding fuel-treatment projects, ODF is directing investments to increase its organizational capacity, including equipment and full-time staff.

ODF Partnership and Planning Program Manager Jeff Burns said the funding will also allow ODF to increase its organizational capacity through equipment and adding a few full-time staff. “We’re hiring six field-based positions to address local capacity needs and two Salem administrative positions, which will support field operations. This is important given the increasing complexity of cross-boundary programs with multiple partners and funding sources.”

Burns said the field positions allow ODF to keep seasonal firefighters engaged outside of peak fire months. “That’s already paid off in eastern Oregon because we had trained firefighting staff doing fuels treatment work when a large wildfire was reported in late March. They were able to join the response, adding to our initial attack capability even as they reduce potential fire intensity with their fuels treatment.”

Burns added that ODF leverages significantly more federal funds than it receives in state general funds. Modest and consistent investment in forest restoration has resulted in considerable federal funding entering the state through grant programs, Good Neighbor Authority agreements and conservation partnerships.

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