Residents of the Western United States are living in a time of change. The forest is stressed from high tree densities, drought, and insect and disease outbreaks. The forest landscape neither looks nor functions as it did before fire suppression efforts began more than a century ago.
In 2017, Oregon experienced one of the worst wildfire seasons on record with more than 700,000 acres burned across the State resulting in ecological, social and economic damage. These damages cost the state of Oregon millions of dollars each year and billions across the nation.
Our forests need help
Oregon State researchers and extension agents have emphasized the need for viable forest management practices to help mitigate the risks and impacts of high-intensity and high-severity fire events.
Enter Daniel Leavell, Klamath and Lake County extension agent and Carrier Berger, extension associate and program coordinator for the Northwest Fire Science Consortium.
Their goal is to affect change when it comes to the unique and complicated nature of wildfire.
The pair are planning a comprehensive way to address fire in Oregon. It’s called the Fire Program. The team believes a sound fire program uses science as a foundation to provide education and outreach to the public, leading to the promotion and strategic use of cross-boundary, landscape-scale restoration and wildfire riskreduction projects.
Getting the work done
A successful fire program works to achieve the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which encourages resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response.
Local partnerships are key, including one with the nonprofit group, Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership (KLFHP). KLFHP is working with the fire program to implement sound, science-based management across ownership boundaries in Klamath and Lake Counties.
“We collaborated across ownership boundaries to implement forest health treatments,” Leavell says.
“This creates seamless, healthy forest landscapes resilient to disturbance while working with partners to implement work on the ground across private and public lands to achieve objectives.”
Leavell hopes other individuals and communities use this as a model and modify it to meet the needs of their local circumstances.
Leavell and Berger are seeking funding to support the statewide Fire Program. “People are really grabbing onto the concept of this program and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Berger says. “Funding would bolster the program and help us get work done on the ground through our landscape efforts.”
Leavell agrees and believes that partnerships are key in successfully bringing the program to life.
“Oregon State University’s work in this area is critical,” Leavell says. “Together with homeowners, landowners, and land managers (public and private), we can make a real difference and affect management changes that impact the health of our forests and communities.”