The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District, which provides wildfire protection on 1.8 million acres of land in Jackson and Josephine counties, begins the Forestland Classification process this winter. This process identifies the lands that pay, through property taxes, for wildland fire protection.
The Forestland Classification process is conducted by a five-member committee comprised of three members appointed by the County Board of Commissioners, one member appointed by the Oregon State University Extension Service, and one member appointed by the Oregon State Forester. In addition, one member appointed by the Oregon State Fire Marshal will be added to the committee for forestland-urban interface classification portion of the process.
This committee will also identify residential urban-fringe and rural properties under the Oregon Forestland-Urban Interface Fire Protection Act.
The core classification process the committee follows is described in Oregon Revised Statutes 526.305 through 526.350, and Oregon Administrative Rules 629-045-0020 through 0065. All working meetings of the committee are public meetings, and the process concludes with a public hearing and the filing of an order with the County Clerk.
The Forestland Classification process is repeated in five-year intervals. The ODF District monitors and updates classified lands when the committee isn’t convened.
Forestland Classification focuses on two primary forestland types, timberlands (Class 1) or grazing lands (Class 3). Most of the classified lands are privately owned, but also include state, county and city public lands that meet the state definition of “forestland” –- lands on which potentially flammable vegetation exists.
The owners of classified forestlands pay a “Forest Patrol Assessment” that provides for forestland fire protection within the ODF district and access to the Oregon Forest Landowners Protection Fund (OFLPF). This protection fund provides the revenue that pays for large costly fires in addition to the district’s annual protection budget. As part of the district’s annual assessed rate, landowners pay $0.10/acre for Class 1 lands and $0.075/acre for Class 3 lands. All classified lands are charged a minimum assessment of $18.75 per lot ($3.75 to the OFLPF and $15 toward the district’s approved protection budget). If a structure is present, there an additional assessment of $47.50 per lot that goes directly into the OFLPF.
Classification of forestlands will not increase or decrease the district’s set budgeted rate for fire protection.
Forestland Classification timeline: The ODF Southwest Oregon District plans to begin committee meetings in March 2017 and conclude the process in April 2018.