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Hazard tree felling helps remove threats as work to recover fire impacted lands continues
Salem, OR—The devastation from Oregon’s 2020 wildfires left more than a million burned acres across 9 counties. As communities and land managers look toward recovery and restoration, the first critical step is to remove remaining hazards, especially, weakened trees along roadways and popular recreation sites, threatening the safety of people, structures and infrastructure.

Oregon’s wildfire recovery goals continue to prioritize human life and safety while striving to restore and recover the state’s natural and cultural resources across a broad landscape. Hazard tree removal is a top priority – these dead, dying or fire-weakened trees are likely to fall onto roadways, properties and recreation areas where people travel, live, or gather. Regardless of the jurisdiction, removing this danger is paramount to Oregon’s safe and successful long-term recovery.

“The 2020 wildfires left behind a scope of damage unlike anything the state has experienced before,” said Andrew Phelps, Director of Oregon Office of Emergency Management. “Ensuring we stabilize the landscape and mitigate risk – both immediate and long-term – is imperative to getting Oregonians home safely, keeping our roadways secure for travel and removing barriers for infrastructure and emergency response functions. I continue to be impressed by the collaboration and partnership among federal, state, public and private partners striving to balance life safety with preserving our state’s natural landscape.”

The State’s Debris Management Task Force, led by the Oregon Department of Transportation, is primarily focused on removing hazard trees along state highways and public roads near private residences, parks, schools, utilities, and around destroyed home sites.

Federal and state land management agencies, including the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, are evaluating and removing hazard trees along roads, trails, parks and other popular recreation sites.

Certified arborists assess each tree, then mark weakened or dead trees posing a threat to human life and safety following strict criteria and referencing field guides developed by federal and state agencies. The stability and health of a tree is difficult to judge from external damage so every marked tree goes under several rounds of inspections and evaluations from different arborists to avoid conflicting determinations. The goal is to mitigate risk by removing only hazard trees while leaving up as many strong, living trees as possible within the million-acre fire perimeter.

Close collaboration with fish, wildlife and water quality experts help identify where felled trees can be left for protection of essential drinking water sources and native habitat restoration. Local agencies, communities and environmental partners also help define what recovery could entail, especially as it pertains to community safety and habitat restoration.

Once hazards are removed and the landscape is stabilized, other recovery and restoration work such as hand planting or aerial reseeding can get safely underway. Post-fire planting usually begins one to two years after a fire, but a national seedling shortage has private landowners struggling to find enough supply for replanting. ODF is working with nurseries and others to increase supplies and fulfill long-range demand as reforestation progresses.

The 2020 wildfires left behind damage unlike anything the state has experienced before. The road to recovery is long. It will be decades before forests grow back fully. Until then, land managers, communities, recreation enthusiasts and Oregonians will continue working together to restore natural areas and working forests while preserving Oregon’s landscape.

For general information on the state’s recovery efforts, contact fire.info@state.or.us or visit https://wildfire.oregon.gov/.

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Contact Information

Cory Grogan
503-378-3930
Public.info@oem.state.or.us
Paula Negele
503-378-3930
Public.info@oem.state.or.us

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