Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest restoration project gets $3 million in funding

A local forest landscape restoration program will get $3 million in federal infrastructure funding to reduce fuels and improve portions of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest across Southern Oregon.

The Rogue Basin Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project is among 15 landscape projects funded in eight states, according to news releases from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Combined, the projects in Oregon, California, Washington, Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma received a combined $31 million.

The local project focuses on a 300,000-acre portion of forestland “which are most relevant to reducing wildfire risks to nearby communities,” according to the National Forest.

The Rogue Basin Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project will use the federal funds largely from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund restoration projects in the Applegate and Illinois valleys, according to a statement from project Executive Director Terry Fairbanks.

“With this funding, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, in collaboration with partners, will be able to complete restoration and fuels reduction projects at the landscape scale in both the Applegate and the Illinois Valley first, and then around communities in Butte Falls/Prospect, as well as in Brookings/Agness and the Elk River watershed in the future,” Fairbanks stated.

The restoration project developed a 20-year strategic plan of land treatments such as fuels reduction involving 4.6 million acres. The project collaborates with nearby projects on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management-Medford District and private landowners. The joint effort will “create an all-lands strategy for risk reduction to local communities,” according to the Forest Service.

Other Oregon landscape projects funded by the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program using infrastructure funding include $2 million for the Lakeview Stewardship Project in Lake County, $3 million to the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition in Malheur National Forest, according to the USDA.

The Southern Oregon project is part of $11.6 million in federal funding for five collaborative forestry projects across the state, according to a joint release from Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration projects involve local timber industry and environmental stakeholders selected by a federal advisory committee.

According to Merkley’s office, Merkley worked with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho on the bipartisan Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program in the 2018 Farm Bill, and Merkley used his position as Chairman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to increase funding for the program this year, according to the release.

“Oregon’s worsening wildfires seasons are a stark reminder of how important resilient forests are to protecting our communities,” Merkley stated in the release, adding that CFLRP projects “help thin overgrown forest, support better ecosystems, reduce the threat of severe wildfires and create more jobs.”

Lomakatsi Restoration Project executive director Marko Bey also praised “this level of investment in forest health at the landscape scale” in Wyden and Merkley’s release, calling it “the culmination of two decades of collaboration between agencies, tribes, nonprofits, industry and communities.”

“As a nonprofit partner, we look forward to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration as we layor in our training programs to further build local workforce capacity in the forestry sector and support the growing restoration economy,” Bey added.