Fall is a time for a transition
Last updated 11/7/2023 at 1:02pm
“Another fall, another turned page…”
With frosty nights, some rain, and a wee bit of snow, we have indeed turned the page on another fire season; one marked by a paucity of dry lightning storms, quick detections, and aggressive initial attack. For the 2023 fire season, the Sisters Ranger District had 22 fires for a total of 2.8 acres burned, with only one of those fires caused by lightning. Of those human-caused fires, 13 were related to camp or bon/party fires. In 2023, the greater Central Oregon region was well below the 10-year average in number of ignitions and total acres burned.
Our fuels-reduction treatments in Sisters Country have paid dividends to help keep those human-caused fires small. To that end, we will be advertising a stewardship contract next year to expand our previous work in two former project areas: Sisters Area Fuels Reduction (SAFR) and Melvin Butte. The contract, called Space, will use funds from national Wildfire Crisis Strategy appropriations to accomplish additional thinning/logging, mowing, and prescribed burning close to Sisters. Forest products, such as saw timber, biomass, and firewood, will also be created from this contract. Once that contract is awarded, likely in mid-2024, expect to see log trucks and heavy equipment on the 16 road and other areas close to town.
Speaking of the 16 road, I couldn’t be prouder of the work our forest engineers and road crew performed this summer reconstructing a difficult section of Forest Service Road 16, aka the Three Creek Road. The gravel section had degraded to the point that it couldn’t be graded, and our skilled employees brought in thousands of yards of aggregate, replaced culverts, cleaned ditches, and restored the road surface—improving access for thousands of annual visitors to the Three Creek Lake area. If you have towed a camper, boat, or stock trailer up there this fall, you know what I am talking about. We plan on blading and brushing other popular road systems in the coming months using a mix of forest employees and contractors.
Last summer, our natural resource specialists in botany, fisheries, hydrology, soils, and wildlife continued the steady effort of restoring Black Butte Swamp through constructing beaver dam analogues, planting native vegetation, and treating invasive plants. If you haven’t checked it out yet, fall is a wonderful time to take a walk and explore as these wetlands come back to life.
We made excellent progress over the summer, with the aid of skilled contractors, on renovating the Sisters administrative site, with a new warehouse constructed and a new ranger station construction contract awarded. Look for a detailed follow-up on this project soon.
We also initiated the Sisters Trails Addition and Realignment (STAR) project over the summer that proposes to construct, reroute, adopt, or abandon a suite of non-motorized trails across the District. We received over 70 public comments on this project; many of them thoughtful, informative, and substantive. We will take those comments into consideration as we start laying out trail alignments on the ground and conducting environmental analysis. We expect to have a decision signed on this project in 2024.
And speaking of 2024, If you are interested in a temporary job with the Forest Service in Central Oregon or elsewhere next summer, November 8th is the last day to apply. Check out this link for types of jobs available and application tips: https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/deschutes/about-forest/jobs.
We have welcomed some excellent new permanent employees to the District since summer. We recently hired Madison Anderson as environmental planner, Kyland (Ky) Carlson as support services specialist, Ryan Gregg as battalion chief-operations, Lorelei Mariana as customer service representative, and Erik Taylor as special use permit administrator.
Fall gives us an opportunity to reset and take pause, the transition between light and darkness marked by our solstices. And if you haven’t yet cut all your firewood for the winter, please remember that season ends on November 30. Take care and be well.