State Sen. Golden proposes statewide task force, addresses wildfires and community safety

ASHLAND, Ore.– Rogue Valley State Senator Jeff Golden announced a proposal for a new statewide task force addressing wildfires and forest health on Saturday.

Using the Ashland-based Lomakatsi Restoration Project as an example of best practices, Senator Golden is hoping this task force will help protect communities while teaching the youth proper forest management.

“Our task, our challenge is a broader partnership than we’ve ever seen before,” said Golden.

Golden, a Jackson County state senator, is proposing a state-wide task force to help reduce the risk of wildfires to communities. It would be one of several new initiatives like Governor Kate Brown’s wildfire council but he says this would tackle the problem directly.

“They’re called authority agreements,” said Golden, discussing federal initiatives he hopes to bring to the state level. “That cuts a lot of red tape, let’s money flow where it’s needed without bureaucratic obstacles and involves the private sector who have a direct interest in this.”

The hope, if this proposal goes through, would create new jobs treating thousands of acres of forest. One group that Golden sees as a leader in this opportunity is Ashland’s Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

“Reducing a lot of this fire danger, they are providing work opportunities for younger people that could turn into career path work and it’s really their work that is part of what inspired me to go to Salem,” said Golden.

On a section of forest owned by the City of Ashland, on Saturday, Lomakatsi showcased work done through a youth program – something they hope to replicate through the task force.

“Also build resilient communities, healthy communities, social-economically sound communities through job development and workforce capacity development,” said Marko Bey, executive director of Lomakatsi.

In the end, Golden and Lomakatsi hope to bring this proposal to rural communities across the state, rejuvenating the economy for communities while also protecting themselves and the forest around them.

“We’re really engaged with our tribal partners, federally recognized tribes supporting tribal youth and employment programs to reduce fuels and restore forest health,” said Bey. “So that model is nationally recognized and it’s been expanded. This initiative could help a model like that across the state.”

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