Oregon Department of Forestry Forging Partnerships Across Boundaries

With support from the USDA Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) is achieving goals outlined in its Forest Action Plan.

Wildfire knows no boundaries, a reality that long has united wildland firefighters across jurisdictions.

Oregon has turned the threat of wildfire into a chance for new collaboration with partners and opportunities for restoration including a 70,000-acre restoration project across multiple land ownerships and technical assistance to more than 30 private landowners treating more than 3,000 acres.

An interagency team in the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon and southwest Washington has collaborated on forest restoration, fuels reduction and other work focused on landscapes rather than ownership lines.

Led by ODF, the team uses the framework of the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy, an outgrowth of the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement (FLAME) Act of 2009. The strategy, being piloted in just a few places nationally, seeks to enhance wildfire response, create fire-adapted communities and improve forest resiliency.

“We have a long history of working together on wildfires…That forms a great foundation for working together on restoring forest resiliency and reducing fuels, with the aim of treating larger landscapes,” said Mark Jacques, project coordinator with ODF.

That means working across ownerships—a true “all lands, all hands” approach. This concept drives a 70,000-acre restoration project along the eastern face of the Blue Mountains, which has received USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding through the Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership.

The East Face project aligns fuels reduction and restoration work from ridge top to valley floor.

In the project’s first year, ODF foresters have provided technical assistance to more than 30 private landowners treating more than 3,000 acres, using NRCS cost-share funds through the Joint Chiefs’ award. ODF is also administering a 200-acre timber harvest on Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife lands, reducing fuels and improving fire resiliency.

Across the boundary line, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest leads a complementary project. Ramping up restoration requires new approaches to investment and collaboration. In a pioneering step, Oregon state government has invested $2.88 million in federal forest restoration, supplemented with federal funds. Some of the state dollars help support local collaborative groups, including one involved in planning the 46,000-acre East Face Restoration Project on the Wallowa-Whitman. Implementation is set to begin in 2016.

Furthering the spirit of innovation, more than $170,000 in grants have helped local businesses, cities and other entities find uses for the smaller woody debris that flows from restoration projects. Robust markets for this biomass can help lower the cost of restoration and increase the acreage treated.

Through creative thinking and collaboration, the Blue Mountains project offers new opportunities and a brighter future for our forests and the communities that depend on them.

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