Thursday, December 10, 2015

Funding Available for Ashland-Area Landowners for Wildfire Mitigation and Forest Health Projects

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces funding available to help private non-industrial forest landowners in the Ashland watershed reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire and improve the overall health of their forests.

Eligible landowners may receive payments from NRCS to implement forestry practices on their land, such as pre-commercial thinning, tree and shrub pruning, slash treatments and more. To be considered for the next round of funding, landowners are encouraged to submit applications by Jan. 15 by contacting the USDA Service Center in Central Point at 89 Alder Street, or by calling 541-664-1070. An additional application cut-off date is set for April 15.

The funding is provided by USDA’s Chiefs’ Joint Landscape Restoration Partnership, an initiative by the chiefs of two USDA agencies—the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service—to improve the health and resilience of forest ecosystems across public and private boundaries in at-risk communities.

In 2015, NRCS awarded $1.1 million in funding to landowners in the Ashland area to perform pre-commercial thinning, slash treatment and other conservation practices on 1,213 acres of private forest lands. The Forest Service also invested $1.2 million to perform forest stand treatments on adjacent federal lands. The Joint Chiefs funding builds upon the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, an ongoing partnership launched in 2010 between the U.S. Forest Service, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, The Nature Conservancy, and The City of Ashland, and is supported by a number of other partners including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District.

“Jackson County consistently experiences one of the highest occurrences of wildfire in Oregon and has suffered devastating losses to quality of life, property, natural resources, and community infrastructure,” said Erin Kurtz, NRCS District Conservationist for Jackson County. “The Joint Chiefs funding allows us to expand current efforts in our community to reduce wildfire threats and restore ecosystem function in an all-lands approach.”

The Joint Chiefs funding—provided annually over three years—aims to implement fuels reduction activities on 4,200 acres of privately-owned forest land and 4,000 acres of Forest Service land. NRCS will continue to offer financial assistance to eligible private landowners through 2016 and 2017.

NRCS provides payments to landowners through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This is a voluntary financial assistance program in the Farm Bill that allows NRCS to work directly with private landowners to develop conservation plans and reimburse landowners for a portion of the expense. View EQIP eligibility criteria on the Oregon EQIP webpage.

For more information about this and other NRCS financial assistance programs, visit the Oregon NRCS website at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov.

For more information about the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, visit the project’s website at: www.ashlandwatershed.org

Monday, December 7, 2015

Committee Looks at State's Future Wildfire Suppression Challenges

Oregon experienced a significant increase in wildfires over the past several years. Not only have these fires increased damages and costs to Oregon’s forests, landowners, and local communities but they have stretched the state’s “complete and coordinated fire protection system.”

Seeking ideas to address these challenges, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) initiated a Fire Program Review Committee. This committee is made up of forest landowners, wildland fire professionals, elected officials, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office and other stakeholders to advise ODF in its effort to develop and implement a more sustainable fire organization, including large fire funding solutions.

"This review is an effort to inform our long-term strategic view and facilitate improvement of this highly valued and functioning wildland fire protection system," said Kenneth Cummings, Vice Chair of the committee. The committee will focus its efforts on providing recommendations for the 2016 fire season as well as long-term goals for wildfire management and budget development.

The committee began its work Dec. 1 and formed three working groups to help support the committee’s efforts. The Fire Program Review Committee is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 21 to discuss the working group’s findings, refine key issues, capture additional ideas and provide further guidance. Interested parties are welcome to attend.

Additional information about the committee can be found online at: www.oregon.gov/ODF/Board/Pages/FireProgramReview.aspx.