Governor promotes rural jobs and health of forests at risk of Arizona-style wildfire
(SALEM, Ore.) — An estimated 65 timber jobs will be retained and the health of eastern Oregon forest lands will benefit as a result of Governor Kitzhaber’s approval of Strategic Reserve Funds. State financing will leverage local and federal resources for a unique collaborative partnership in Harney and Grant Counties designed to collect and supply much-needed forest wood to eastern Oregon wood products manufacturers. The wood from this effort will be removed from eastern Oregon forests that are currently at risk the same severe wildfire conditions playing out across the American southwest.
“We need more collaborative projects like this one to ensure the health of our forests and timber economy – and make sure what’s happened in Arizona does not occur here,” said Kitzhaber, referring to the loss over time of timber mill infrastructure in Arizona and the massive wildfire still burning to the detriment of homes and communities in the American southwest. “This project is a great opportunity to bring together those who seek work in Oregon forests with those who seek their restoration. It will supply much-need wood to eastern Oregon mills and help retain dozens of good, family-wage rural jobs by rewarding collaboration and advancing forest health.”
The Governor approved $125,000 in funding from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund to help finance this stewardship timber project in the Malheur National Forest, which will leverage an additional $300,000 from federal and local sources.
The project opportunity was identified by the Governor’s Federal Forest Implementation Working Group, which promotes community-based collaboration and addresses obstacles to achieving forest health and sustainable forest management. This includes the use of the Forest Service’s stewardship contracting authorities, which promote innovative approaches to addressing forest health comprehensively and more efficiently while reducing environmental conflict. The Working Group includes federal, state, and local government entities, as well as industry, community groups, and conservation organizations, and it is one of the Governor’s Oregon Solutions project. This investment brings the work of this innovative group to fruition on the ground in eastern Oregon.
Business Oregon, the Malheur National Forest, the Harney County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD), the Oregon Department of Forestry, and Harney County, now will prepare the 2011 Jane Project Area for stewardship contract work. Stewardship contracting is one of the tools available to the Forest Service and collaborative groups have found it useful in advancing. The project was collaboratively developed through the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition. The Soda Bear and Starr projects, collaboratively developed by the Blue Mountain Forest Partners on the Grant County portion of the Malheur National Forest, also stand to benefit from this effort. As a result of federal funding shortfalls addressed by the Governor’s action, this project was at risk of going unimplemented, putting local economic health further at risk despite the urging of collaborative efforts.
“Now is the time to incentivize the good collaborative work happening between the Forest Service and diverse interests in Oregon’s local communities. Forest restoration work is good for jobs, good for communities, and good for the environment,” Kitzhaber said.
The stewardship contract will allow the raw material to be moved quickly to wood processors and allow four contractors and an estimated 65 workers to harvest the material. In addition, the wood products manufacturers will retain or re-hire employees as production ramps up with the increased supply of raw materials from this project.
Christine Miles, 503-559-8795
Amy Wojcicki, 503-689-5324