Federal employees are back doing controlled burns

ASHLAND, Ore. — Federal agencies are getting ready to get back to work in the forests next week doing controlled burns.

Because of the government shutdown, controlled burns weren’t able to take place on forest service and BLM lands.

But some federal workers here in southern Oregon were brought back this week, to help conduct burns in the Ashland watershed.

“Oh it’s hugely concerning,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D).

Southern Oregon’s federal legislators on both sides of the aisle agree, the partial government shutdown came at a terrible time for our federal forests.

“For us, this is a really critical time,” said U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R).

Conditions were right, but controlled burns on federal land were on hold.

“This is when we reduce the fuel loads in the forest,” Rep. Walden said.

“We both have thinning work that has ground to a halt, and that can make the forest much more fire resilient,” said Sen. Merkley.

But late this week, some furloughed employees actually came  back to work, where they were welcomed with open arms.

“We’re glad that they were able to figure out how to get some of these key personnel back on the ground to get some of this important work done that helps protect the community,” said Shane Jimerfield, Project director of the Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

The Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project said they were able to burn 60 acres on Forest Service lands in the last two days.

“This lets us get back to that before wildfire season hits, and so it helps reduce the risk of severe wildfire threat to the watershed, to the community,” Jimerfield said.

The project said they’re looking to get more burning done early to mid next week.

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