Last Tuesday was the second in a series of presentations about employing different methods of forest management to mitigate the impacts of wild fires in our region. Our speaker was Darren Borgias, who has worked for 30 years with the Nature Conservancy and is currently the Southwest Oregon Forest Project Director for the Conservancy. He also serves on the board of the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative.
With longer and hotter summers, and growing wildfire risk, the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative and local partners have teamed up with the Oregon Department of Forestry and federal land managers in a strategy to thin out overly dense dry forest of the Rogue Basin, and return mild fire through controlled burns to restore healthy forests. This proactive forest work promotes safe and effective wildfire response, reduces wildfire risks to people and nature, and provides an opportunity to safely return beneficial fire to the forests.
Today, our forests are overcrowded with small trees and brush, which lead to catastrophic fires. Fuels reduction, thinning, and controlled burns are viewed as critical to adapting forests to climate change. The work sustains skilled jobs in the woods and mills, and selling the byproduct small logs can return millions of dollars to help defray costs while avoiding future costs associated with fighting and recovering from severe fires of the future.
The goal of the program is to provide a balanced approach to forest management, which retains old timber, maintains natural habitat and riparian buffers, with a 20 year outcome to reduce fires overall by 70%. At the same time, thinning, controlled burns and logging of small trees supports the timber industry while minimizing the risk of catastrophic wild fires. So far, the program has thinned 3,500 log loads and sold 14 million board feet of timber for $5.5 million. This money helps support the program’s ongoing efforts. The challenge, of course, is that there are millions of acres either off limits or inaccessible.
The last in the series is this coming Tuesday, November 20. Our speaker will be Merv George, Jr., Forest Supervisor of the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest.