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August 18, 2022
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State funding continues to accelerate forest restoration efforts on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest

MEDFORD, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has awarded $830,000 to the Wild Rivers Coast Forest Collaborative in partnership with Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development, Curry Watersheds Partnership and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (RRSNF). This grant is a big step in achieving additional collaborative forest restoration and fuel reduction on the RRSNF.

The grant comes through the Landscape Resiliency Program, which was established by Senate Bill 762, Section 18 (2021) to improve forest restoration and resiliency. It follows on the heels of an ODF $100,000 PACE grant to help complete survey work on the federal portion of the Big Butte Springs Municipal Watershed. The survey work is a necessary step prior to the overcrowded forestlands in the watershed being thinned. 

This new grant funds the Lower Rogue Oak Resiliency Project. The Project is located 20 miles northeast of Gold Beach near the community of Agness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Curry County. 

Jeff Burns, Landscape Resiliency Program Coordinator for ODF, said, “Landscape-scale projects like this are intended to reduce wildfire risk on public and private forestlands and rangelands, and in communities near homes and critical infrastructure, through reduction of hazardous fuels.” 

“This funding will greatly enhance our ability to protect several local communities that are vulnerable to the threat of wildland fire,” said Forest Supervisor Merv George, Jr. 

Planned project actions will treat approximately 750 acres of forest land near the communities of Agness, Oak Flat and Illahe. These communities have faced multiple evacuations in years past due to the Biscuit, Chetco Bar and Klondike fires.

Not only will this project help reduce hazardous fuels and the threat of wildfire to nearby communities, it will also help restore white and black oak habitats. These have changed significantly over time due to exclusion of regular, low-intensity fire.  Restoration activities will include forest thinning in the “wildland urban interface,” which lies between communities and the wilderness areas where wildfires have historically started. Treating these areas will help the Forest Service to continue reducing the hazardous fuel load with mechanical treatments, followed by periodic planned burns to keep fuel amounts low. 

“This project helps achieve key objectives in Oregon’s Forest Action Plan and the Curry County Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP),” said ODF’s Burns. “It will reduce hazardous fuels in pre-identified priority areas on both public and private lands, while improving ecosystem health and managing for fire-adapted landscapes.”

In total with recently completed project, matching funds and planned projects, the Lower Rogue Oak Resiliency Project will treat 1,450 acres of RRSNF land and 82 acres of private lands. Project actions will directly build on the priorities and objectives of the Rogue Basin Cohesive Forest Restoration Strategy, the Curry County CWPP, and the Wild Rivers Coast Forest Collaborative. 

Kyle Motley is Wild Rivers Coast Forest Collaborative Coordinator. “This project is a great opportunity to promote forest resiliency in Southwest Oregon while also helping to protect communities that are at risk of experiencing catastrophic wildfires. Development of this initiative has been a true team effort. I encourage anyone who is interested in this project or any issue involving our local forest ecosystems to get involved and attend one of our monthly collaborative meetings,” said Motley.

The proposed activities will reduce wildfire risks to resources that provide livelihood to rural residents (i.e., hunting, fishing, harvesting) in the National Forest. They will also provide safe places for the public to collect firewood from trees that have been felled. 

Habitats like oak savannas and woodlands have been historically used by Native American tribes to gather a variety of edible and culturally significant materials. Conifer encroachment on oak habitats due to fire suppression has drastically reduced the quantity, quality, and ease of access to these traditional cultural materials. Restoring the oak savannas will help bring back traditional gathering activities, offering tribes and their members more opportunities to use National Forest lands. 

Some local tribes are already involved in project planning and implementation. The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians are working with Curry Watershed Partnership on oak restoration projects and the Coquille Indian Tribe will be attending WRCFC meetings. Additionally, outreach will be conducted regarding fuels treatments and priority gathering/treatment locations with all tribes who have ancestral territory in the project area.

All goals and objectives of this grant will be completed by June 2023. Two public meetings (in April 2022 and January 2023) and monitoring will inform the implementation phase of this project. Post-implementation monitoring by citizen science volunteers, interested Native American tribes, USFS, and WRCFC is planned for the spring of 2023. Monitoring of this project will directly support adaptive management of oak restoration actions planned across the entire Shasta Agness Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) landscape-level project area.

If you are interested in learning more about the Wild Rivers Coast Forest Collaborative or want to be involved in this project, please email Kyle Motley at wrcfccoordinator@gmail.com

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