Engaging forest landowners in reducing fire danger
09.05.2018

With smoke from wildfires filling the air over much of Oregon for weeks this summer, many people are asking what can be done to prevent the large, intense forest fires we’ve seen this fire season and in previous years, across the state and throughout the western U.S. Part of the answer lies in active forest management to reduce the fuels for fires and improve the overall fire resiliency of our forests, especially those located in the drier region of the state east of the Cascades.

Since many of the individuals and families who own forestland in this part of Oregon lack the technical expertise needed to take steps that reduce the danger of a catastrophic wildfire on their properties, OFRI’s Landowner Education program is involved in a few collaborative projects that reach out to private landowners to engage them in active forest management.

Such “All-lands” projects, which involve multiple landowners, public agencies and partners representing a range of different forest ownerships, are increasingly common. My involvement in these types of projects came about through my association with the American Forest Foundation, an organization that helps family forest landowners care for their forests. AFF is coordinating several conservation projects throughout the West that focus on reaching out to private landowners to get them involved in active forest management.

My Blue Mountains Woodland website screencap

In Oregon, these include My Blue Mountains Woodland, the original AFF-coordinated western outreach project. MBMW focuses on the northeast Oregon counties of Baker, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa. Partners include AFF, OFRI, Wallowa Resources, Oregon State University Extension, the Oregon Department of Forestry, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This project began with funding forest restoration on private lands adjacent to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, but has since expanded to reach out to unengaged private landowners throughout northeast Oregon, to encourage them to actively manage their forests. Landowners are invited to receive publications, join networks and have a professional forester visit and assess their property.

Two other landowner outreach projects modeled after MBMW that have been launched in Oregon are My Southern Oregon Woodlands, which focuses on the unique landscape and landowners in Jackson, Josephine and southern Douglas counties, and the Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project, which  is based in Klamath County around the town of Chiloquin. OFRI’s role in these projects has been providing publications, helping fund development and mailing of outreach materials, supporting project coordination, and serving on the project advisory committees.

We are proud to be part of the teams that are making a difference on private forestlands in Oregon. With the state experiencing worsening fire seasons, collaborative programs like these will help make our forests more resilient to wildfire across the landscape.

For the forest,

Mike Cloughesy

Director of Forestry

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