Washington DC – Today, Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded over $2 million to reduce hazardous fuels and create jobs through the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project (AFR). The AFR works to reduce the threat of severe wildfires, improve the health of the forest, and ensure water quality in the community.
“This is remarkable news for the Ashland community and its efforts to create a safer and healthier forest,” Senator Merkley said. “These funds will allow for a safer future, better health, and an improved economy for the people of Ashland and its surrounding areas.”
“It’s always a great day when Southern Oregon residents receive such fantastic news for their economy and environment,” Senator Wyden said. “Working together is in our DNA as Oregonians, and this collaborative project to reduce the risks of wildfires in the Ashland Forest perfectly exemplifies our can-do spirit.”
As part of a ten year stewardship agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, the collaborative effort of the AFR received $6.2 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, when funding ended in 2013 the project was roughly $4 million away from completion. The City of Ashland has been committing $175,000 per year for three years to treat and maintain federal forests. In recognizing this local financial investment, Senator Merkley and Senator Wyden asked that the US Forest Service commit to completing the AFR project as soon as possible.
The USDA announced today that it is awarding $1 million for private lands thinning and $1.2 million for U.S. Forest Service lands. The AFR has recently worked to protect the community and surrounding environment through reducing hazardous fuels by conducting prescribed burns and forest thinning. Their efforts to complete hazardous fuel reduction within these critical areas will help to decrease the risk of this catastrophic wildfire, which would result in a public health emergency and cause severe economic impacts to the community. This funding helps AFR get closer to completion.