Senator DeBoer offers “solutions to our smoky skies”

Open canopy ponderosa pine mixed conifer forests in the Ashland Watershed. (Photo via Lomakatsi Restoration Project)

Ashland, Ore. – Oregon State Senator Alan DeBoer said a model for forest management already at work in the Ashland Watershed can reduce wildfire risk state-wide.

“I was fortunate as Mayor of Ashland to implement the first phase of former Mayor Cathy Shaw’s Ashland Forest Resilience Stewardship Project,” wrote the Republican senator. “That inclusive process places an emphasis on collaboration between the community, government officials, non-governmental organizations, scientists and others.”

DeBoer said the ten-year stewardship project is a partnership between The City of Ashland, the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

It’s aimed at reducing wildfire risk to the watershed so residents have stable access to drinking water.

The project emphasizes the tree thinning to reduce crowding, thus reducing the chance of dangerous wildfires.

Low-intensity controlled burns are also a tool utilized in the watershed, reducing fuels that may have accumulated on the ground.

Oregon State Senator Alan DeBoer (R-Ashland)

According to DeBoer, this science-based approach to forest management has led to the creation of 17 permanent local forestry jobs and 150 seasonal jobs.

DeBoer said language included in the 2014 Federal Farm Bill can also be useful moving forward.

The Good Neighbor Authority included in the bill allows the U.S. Forest Service to enter into cooperative agreements for watershed restoration and forest management services on USFS-managed lands.

DeBoer write, “If done properly, the agreements can allow the state to help local officials address the growing backlog of deferred maintenance on the federal lands that surround their jurisdictions.”

He added while solutions are possible, they require people and entities to work together to achieve common goals.

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