Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project gains 3 more years of federal funding

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) — Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Wednesday $11.67 million in federal funding headed to five collaborative forestry projects around Oregon, including a new project in the Rogue River basin and funding to keep the Deschutes Forest Collaborative Project’s decade of projects going for three more years.

Here’s the senators’ news release about the funding, in full:

These projects are designed by local timber and environmental stakeholders, selected by a Federal Advisory Committee and funded through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). Senator Merkley led a successful bipartisan effort with Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senator Wyden to reauthorize the program in the 2018 Farm Bill, and has used his position writing the funding bill for the Forest Service as Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to increase funding for the program.  

 “Oregon’s worsening wildfires seasons are a stark reminder of how important resilient forests are to protecting our communities,”?said Senator Merkley, who in the recently passed Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill dramatically increased funding for the CFLRP program and inserted language to allow the new Rogue River project to be funded. “We must invest in programs and projects that make our forests more resilient. These projects will help thin overgrown forests, support better ecosystems, reduce the threat of severe wildfires, and create more jobs. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure projects like these receive the funding they need to keep our communities safe.” 

“Rural Oregonians know both how wildfires can threaten their communities and how smart, targeted investments in forest resiliency can reduce the risk of devastation from these blazes,” said Senator Wyden. “These federal funds for timber and environmental groups teaming up in Eastern Oregon, Central Oregon and Southern Oregon will lessen those wildfire dangers, make forests healthier, improve watersheds and generate jobs. I’m gratified that rural Oregon has secured these federal investments, and will keep battling for our entire state to receive similar resources.” 

These five Oregon projects are part of 15 total projects among eight states funded through CFLRP and are intended to reduce the risk of severe wildfires, support local economies, create and sustain jobs, and enhance forest and watershed health. These projects are funded through a combination of federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure law and annual appropriations.?  

The five Oregon projects can be found below: 

·        Northern Blues Forest Restoration — $3 million: A 10.4-million-acre project to reduce wildfire risk and prepare the landscape to safely manage fire. The area has a strong history of successful cross-boundary, all-lands restoration collaboration. 

·        Southern Blues Restoration Coalition — $3 million: A project intended to restore a million acres that suffer from drastically changing wildfire patterns, species composition, and forest stand densities that threaten to destroy key habitat, old growth, important aquatic resources and private property due to uncharacteristic wildfires and effects of a changing climate. The overarching goal is restoration at a scale that will help native wildlife thrive, create forests that are resilient to climate change, and support the health, safety, and prosperity of local communities. 

·        Rogue Basin Landscape Restoration Project — $3 million: A 4.6-million-acre project intended to accelerate urgently needed restoration treatments to meet long-term, collaboratively developed strategic goals of wildfire risk reduction, landscape resiliency, improved wildlife habitat, watershed protection, adaptation, and social and economic resilience. 

·        Lakeview Stewardship — $2 million: An 859,000-acre project important to rural communities for recreation and forestry sector jobs. The goal is to create a healthy, resilient and functional forest landscape maintained with fire to mitigate the threat of high-severity wildfires to dry forests, habitat, water quality and communities.  

·       Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project — $673,000: A 258,000-acre project of high-value landscape with a broad array of collaborative support. Previously funded with $6.7 million, the additional funding will keep the project going for another five years. Efforts focus on reducing high-severity wildfire in the wildland-urban interface, protecting watersheds, preserving recreation areas, and providing jobs and wood products. 

“The Northern Blues Restoration Partnership unites diverse stakeholders in an ambitious all-lands shared stewardship effort across the federal, tribal and private lands of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington. This additional funding will accelerate the pace, scale and quality of forest restoration across this 10.4 million acre landscape, and support complementary workforce development, collaborative monitoring, and biomass utilization. It will benefit many under-resourced rural communities primed to put people back to work improving our forests, watersheds, and communities,” said Nils D. Christoffersen, Executive Director, Wallowa Resources – a member of the Northern Blues Restoration Partnership.

“We can’t thank Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden enough for his effort to secure this funding for our work: so timely, it is a crucial investment in key federal assets — our National Forests! — that will pay dividends for public landscapes and natural resource dependent communities for years to come,” said Mark R. Webb, Executive Director, Blue Mountains Forest Partners.

“We are grateful to Senator Merkley and his staff for their support and understanding of the extraordinary fire risk situation in southwest Oregon. The Rogue Basin CFLRP funding will enable the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the Rogue Forest Partners to continue their successful and ongoing collaboration on landscape restoration, protecting watersheds and reducing wildfire risk to our communities. We need to increase the pace of restoration in light of climate change and increasing wildfire risk. This funding and the shared vision and support from our partners and communities will ensure that substantial progress will be made on this important work,” said Terry Fairbanks, Executive Director, Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative.

“Lomakatsi is thrilled to see this level of investment in forest health at the landscape scale—the culmination of two decades of collaboration between agencies, tribes, non-profits, industry and communities—as we work to build resiliency and reduce wildfire risks for the people and ecosystems of Southwestern Oregon. As a non-profit partner, we look forward to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration as we layer in our training programs to further build local workforce capacity in the forestry sector and support the growing restoration economy,” said Marko Bey, Executive Director, Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

“The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) funding secured for the Lakeview Project will build off the successes of the Lakeview Collaborative by further cultivating healthy forests, reducing high-severity wildfire risk, and supporting collaboration that will result in cross-boundary restoration work. Although funding is contingent of annual budget appropriations, the Lakeview Project is set to receive approximately $2 million dollars per year for the next two years to complete restoration and biophysical monitoring work in critical areas across the Fremont-Winema National Forest. The Lakeview Collaborative and the Klamath-Lake Forest Health Partnership continue to rely on collaboration with partners such as the Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Oregon Department of Forestry get work done on the ground and maintain an innovative approach to enhancing forest and ecosystem health on a landscape scale. Our selection to receive CFLR funding is a testament to the ongoing hard work of our partners and the resulting benefits to our forests, communities, and landscapes,” said Nick Johnson, Executive Director of Lake County Resource Initiative.

“As Co-Chair of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, I recognize the huge importance of this additional funding to further the carefully informed work in our local forests, and appreciate Senators Merkley and Wyden for their continued support. Our focus on increasing the health and fire resiliency is one of our community’s highest priorities.  The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, with representation from environmental, forest product, tribal, recreation, researchers, community wildfire, wildlife biologists and others, has informed and supports this careful, increasingly important and impactful work in the face of climate change,” said Sally Russell, Mayor of Bend, and Co-Chair of the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project.