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Increased funding for federal forest health and support of rural economies in Oregon

Posted by Renee Magyar on July 27, 2015

Oregon will invest $5 million to increase the quality, pace, and scale of collaborative restoration of Oregon.

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For Immediate Release - July 27, 2015

Contact: Renee Magyar, Sustainable Northwest, (503) 221-6911 x116; Mitch Maxson, The Nature Conservancy, (503) 802-8137 

Increased funding for federal forest health and support of rural economies in Oregon

The State of Oregon will invest $5 million toward increasing the quality, pace, and scale of collaborative restoration of Oregon’s national forests over the next two years.

Federal forests in Oregon provide important resources for the state’s economy, ecological benefit through fish and wildlife habitat, clean air and water, and social benefit through recreation opportunities. However some forests have grown unhealthy, unnaturally dense, and urgently require restoration work to make them resilient to wildfire, insects, and disease.  

To address the need for increased restoration work, the Oregon Legislature funded the Oregon Department of Forestry Federal Forest Health Program in 2013-2015 with a modest investment of $2.88 million, which was matched three to one by the federal government at just over $9 million. 

The success of the program over the past two years and broad support from a diverse set of interested parties prompted the legislature to increase the program’s funding to $5 million for the 2015-2017 biennium. The state intends to seek additional federal funding to leverage this second state investment with a target of $15 million. The additional funding will allow the Department of Forestry to expand the Federal Forest Health Program to support forest collaborative groups and forest restoration activities statewide. The 2013-2015 program was focused only on eastern and southwestern Oregon. 

By expanding the program statewide, state and federal forest management agencies can begin to invest in strategic opportunities in western Oregon, and deliver scientifically supported collaborative outcomes to areas that have lacked social agreement on forest management.

“Collaboration works,” said Dylan Kruse, policy director for Sustainable Northwest. “The broad bipartisan support we have for this program is essential to bringing desperately needed conservation attention to our national forests and jobs to parts of Oregon that are lagging economically.”

 “The intersection of local forest collaborative groups and shared, informed science discussions has led to agreement and an acceleration of restoration projects with ecological and economic benefits to both the forest and local communities,” said Mark Stern, forest conservation director for The Nature Conservancy.

Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center, shared support for the increased funding. “Collaboration is about partnership – working together to achieve a common good. We are pleased with the state legislature’s funding of the Federal Forest Health Program, as it demonstrates Oregon’s partnership commitment to creating healthy forests and communities, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water, and recreational opportunities for all Oregonians.”

Tom Partin, President of American Forest Resource Council said, “These additional state funds will enhance the ability of local collaborative groups to identify and advocate for projects which provide local employment while moving our forests toward resiliency. A large percentage of our federal forestlands are currently in a fire prone condition and sorely in need of restoration. This investment of state revenues will help restore the health of our federal forests and increase their productivity, which in turn will increase wood supply to local mills, generating revenue in our hard-pressed rural communities.”

“The Forest Service looks forward to expanding our partnership with the State of Oregon to further increase the pace and scale of restoration. Our partnership is demonstrating that when diverse groups of citizens work together, and with their government representatives, we can make progress towards restoring resiliency for the land and communities,” said Jim Peña, Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service. “We recognize and appreciate the hard work of local collaborative groups that has resulted in common ground, making our integrated approach possible. We also sincerely thank the State Legislature for its commitment to larger scale planning and to providing resources to help projects get implemented more quickly.”

“We applaud the Oregon Legislature’s pioneering investment of state funds to support local collaboratives, in turn reducing wildfire risk, improving watershed health and supporting rural communities,” said Chad Davis, senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Forestry, and program lead. “As a result of this work, jobs in eastern Oregon have increased 16 percent because of increased stewardship in the Blue Mountains in northeast Oregon. This session’s legislative action reflects Oregon’s commitment to healthy forests across jurisdictions, and the Oregon Department of Forestry looks forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service and collaborative partners to increase the pace, scale and quality of forest restoration.”

The dollars invested in The Federal Forest Health Program accomplish much:

  • Boosts collaboration statewide by providing grants and contracts for forest collaborative work to enhance capacity, provide technical assistance, and provide new data for planning and on-the-ground projects.
  • Creates jobs in disadvantaged rural counties that are still lagging in economic recovery.
  • Increases wood supply to local mills, which generates revenue and taxable income in areas of the state that need it most.
  • Improves forest and watershed health, wildlife habitat, and decreases the risk of abnormal wildfire.
  • Leverages significant federal contributions with the potential to "unlock" even greater investments from the U.S. Forest Service and federal agencies.
  • Builds new partnerships with the Forest Service, allowing the agency to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration, and engage in innovative and collaborative planning approaches.

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Sustainable Northwest and The Nature Conservancy advocated for this increased funding. To help the program succeed, Sustainable Northwest is on contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry to provide technical support to collaboratives through networking and meeting facilitation, special requests for collaborative management, and mediation. The Nature Conservancy, also on contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry, has provided science support, development of research based projects that inform restoration prescriptions and implementation, as well as new technologies that expedite treatments on the ground.  

The federal forest health issue rose to the forefront of the Oregon Legislature’s attention with support from the Oregon Business Council, Oregon Business Association, and with strong backing from the Association of Oregon Counties. 

Sustainable Northwest brings people together to find common ground to build a regional economy based on land stewardship, and markets for sustainable wood and clean energy. The organization is committed to finding workable solutions to natural resource issues that benefit both people and nature. For more information about Sustainable Northwest, visit www.SustainableNorthwest.org

The Nature Conservancy is the world’s leading conservation organization, working in all 50 United States and 35 countries across the globe. In Oregon, with the support of 32,000 members, we own 44 preserves and have helped protect more than 511,000 acres of critical habitat since our chapter began in 1961. We are guided by innovative science and thrive because of effective partnerships. We bring people together to find solutions that protect nature and promote the social and economic vitality of the communities in which we work.  We have staff working and living in Medford, Klamath Falls, John Day, Bend and Ashland that interact with local communities to build support for forest restoration.  To learn more, please visit us at Nature.org/Oregon.

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