Restoration effort to limit fire danger begins in Upper Applegate Watershed

JACKSONVILLE, Ore. —A collaboration of local groups are working together to mitigate fire danger, for the upcoming fire season and seasons to come. They’re working in the Applegate Watershed this week, to take advantage of cooler conditions.

It incorporates both BLM and U.S. Forest Service managed land. The project, years in the making, now coming to life.

“We’re doing ecosystem restoration with a lens toward reducing the risk of fire to not only the ecosystem but the community itself,” said Shane Jimerfield with the Lomakatski Restoration Project.

Ashland-based Lomakatski, the forest service, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the nature conservancy, and other partners call themselves the Rouge Forest Partners.

“Lots of community and collaborative input from tribes, organizations, local organizations, community members providing input into this project to try to set the stage for what’s happening out here,” said Jimerfield.

The project aims to protect communities at risk of wildfire. A variety of treatments will take place, from prescribed burning to fuels reduction through cutting down trees.

“Reduce the fuel load to try to get the forest back into a more resilient state so that it can handle fire, reduce the threat of fire, we’re never going to eliminate the threat of fire but we can certainly do some work to reduce it,” said Jimerfield.

About 2 thirds of the land is slated for treatment. The area was picked because of its fire-adapted ecosystem.

“Historically fire affected this landscape out here probably about every 7-15 years down here in the valley so to bring it back to something similar to historic nature, we’re going to have to be pretty aggressive and treat it over and over,” said Robert Marshall, the Fire Management officer with the  Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District.

Marshall says a sense of urgency comes with the project after the Almeda and South Obenchain Fire.

“The recent fires affecting communities just drive that point home, it’s really important to try and treat communities, fires are going to be happening out here on the landscape and we don’t have a lot of resources here on the Rogue Siskiyou to fight fire,” said Marshall.

This is one of six fuels reductions projects on public and state lands in the Rogue Valley that are being implemented over the course of several years by the Rogue Forest Partners. The Upper Applegate Watershed is the largest project.

“We’re going to keep going with this project until fire season comes and we have to shut down the saws,” said Jimmerfield.

Fire season hasn’t been declared yet on Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest land.

It plans to treat about 273 acres.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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