Funding will confront wildfire crisis

 

Last updated 4/19/2022 at Noon



A major infusion of cash will bolster local efforts to face down the annual crisis of wildfire in the West.

The Forest Service announced $131 million in funding last week to begin implementation of “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” including $29.1 million in funds directed to increasing treatments on two landscapes in the Pacific Northwest — in central Washington and here in Central Oregon.

According to an agency assessment, less than 10 percent of firesheds across the country are responsible for eighty percent of community exposure to wildfire. These landscapes are the first part of a large-scale, science-backed strategy designed to focus additional support to landscapes where treatments will have the most immediate and largest effect.

In Central Oregon, the selected landscape covers State, private, and Federal lands on the east side of the Cascades, including the Deschutes National Forest (DNF) and Crooked River National Grassland.

The funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide for 29,000 acres in fuels reduction treatments this year across these two landscapes (24,000 in Washington, and 5,000 in Oregon) and for around 174,000 acres in treatments between 2022 and 2024 across the two landscapes (124,000 in Washington, and 50,000 in Oregon).

Ian Reid, Sisters District Ranger, told The Nugget that the district leadership team will be meeting soon to figure out the details of how to use the National Wildfire Crisis Funding that was announced on Tuesday, April 12.

He assumes they will be looking at fire breaks and wildfire risk assessment. That would include tree thinning, commercial-sized thinning, prescribed burning, and mowing. There is some flexibility in how the money can be used, and some might go toward aquatic restoration.

In 2022, funding will allow foresters to treat 5,000 more acres than originally planned. To accomplish the work on the additional acreage, hiring of more personnel and contractors will be necessary, as well as relying on agreements with partner agencies.

Reid confirmed that being chosen to receive the funds was influenced by the fact the Deschutes National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland are a high-risk fireshed, considering how fire moves across the land and the location of the towns within the fireshed. They have a strong tradition of collaborative work with partners and a proven track record in implementing the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program. An application for the funds had to be submitted and Holly Jewkes, DNF supervisor, did several briefings with officials in Washington D.C.

 

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