Projects and Stories

Working together for forest health

The communities of John Day and Burns, Oregon are taking an active role in strengthening their local economies by working together on forest restoration projects.

Collaborative decision making helps prevent conflict over forest management practices

"Collaboration is really the only way to work through the legal and legislative frameworks that are currently in place. And it is the best way for rural communities like mine to have a meaningful say and role in public lands management and decision making."

- Mark Webb, former Grant County Judge

Two collaborative groups of local residents and interested stakeholders are working with the US Forest Service to ensure that the Malheur National Forest is being managed to restore ecological resiliency in a socially acceptable manner that provides economic benefit to these communities.

The Blue Mountain Forest Partners operates on the north end of the Malheur National Forest in Grant County, and the Harney County Restoration Collaborative, operates on the south end of the forest in Harney County. Both collaborative groups are comprised of individuals representing conservationists, forest contractors, timber company representatives,ranchers, and city and county representatives.

The work of these collaborative groups, individually and together, is accelerating landscape scale planning and implementation, is creating local jobs, and is supporting the development of a local renewable energy sector. Since 2006 we have seen:

  • No appeals or lawsuits since 2006: Since the 1990's, timber harvest volume from federal public lands in the Pacific Northwest has significantly decreased. As a result of the collaborative work in these communities there has not been an appeal or lawsuit on the Malheur National Forest since the collaboratives have been in operation.
  • Project size has grown to landscape scale: The first project in 2006 totaled 7,200 acres, the second was 19,000 acres, the third was 20,000 and the fourth, is 42,000 acres. These restoration projects are designed to protect lives and property within the adjacent wildland-urban interface from uncharacteristic wildfire, as well as to increase forest health by thinning timber stands, and to utilize prescribed burning to reduce fire hazard, insect and disease risk, and enhance old-growth.
  • Local wood energy sector is developing: The local economy is benefiting from these projects as the timber industry adapts to handle small diameter wood for use in local woody biomass heat boiler systems. There are currently four boilers within the region generating heat for local schools, hospitals and the airport, providing a local market for restoration by-products.

Looking ahead, to ensure an ongoing practice of adaptive management and to increase trust and understanding, both collaboratives are developing a multiparty monitoring program, in consultation with Malheur National Forest staff. The monitoring program will increase understanding of the direct impacts that restoration projects have on the land and on the local economy. The results of the monitoring will help inform and shape future land management decisions to achieve ecological, social and economic goals for the region.