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Work to Begin Soon on Ashland Forest Resiliency Project

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the City of Ashland, Lomakatsi Restoration Project and The Nature Conservancy have signed a $5.1 million stewardship agreement to implement the first phase of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project.  Funding for the project includes $4.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create jobs in the local economy and begin forest restoration work within the Ashland Creek Watershed. 

The agreement, which includes an additional $640,000 in cash and in-kind contributions from the City and non-governmental partners, is the second such collaborative restoration project for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

            “We’re thrilled to get started on this project with our partners,” said Forest Supervisor Scott Conroy.  “The project will create jobs, help restore the watershed, and reduce fire risk for the citizens of Ashland and surrounding communities.”

             Ashland Fire Chief John Karns applauded the agreement and effort to reduce the risk of large- scale fire to the community, saying “protecting the watershed, our clean water supply, and nearby residences through this restoration work is a huge step forward.” 

Work to implement the collaborative, community-based project plan likely will commence this spring, and continue after summer fire season.  Crews will start work close to town in the “urban interface” zone where wildfires are most threatening to homes. Work is planned to continue over a 10-year timeframe, working up into the watershed and ultimately treating 7,600 acres. 

The City of Ashland will draw on experience managing 600 acres in the municipal watershed over 15 years.  As in the City’s 2004 forest health project, low impact helicopter operations will be used on the AFR project to remove overcrowded young trees, especially where they compete with large and old trees. The City will also lead effort to involve the public, provide access to the project areas, and post schedules and results of the work on a project website.

Marty Main of Small Woodland Services, Inc., who works with the City as a forestry consultant, said “The City demonstrated that on-the-ground forest restoration can be accomplished through a community based process, and we plan to continue that approach during Ashland Forest Resiliency.”

Lomakatsi Restoration Project, a local non-profit dedicated to rehabilitation of watersheds in southwestern Oregon, will thin small trees and brush, conduct controlled burns, and train a workforce in forest restoration.

 “We anticipate putting 50 people to work in living wage jobs on the project applying our ecologically sensitive approach to forest restoration,” said Marko Bey, co-director and co-founder of Lomakatsi,  “We are excited to be a partner in this project that will benefit this critically important community resource.”

The Nature Conservancy will coordinate multi-party monitoring and technical review for the project.   The non-profit group has been involved in the collaborative work to design the project since 2004.  Darren Borgias, local program manager and ecologist with the Conservancy helped secure a $43,000 grant from the National Forest Foundation to develop a collaborative monitoring strategy and community engagement plan for the project.

 “Our science and stakeholders call for thinning smaller trees to save the large, legacy pine and fir, and we’ll be out there with stakeholders to help hold our partnership accountable to make sure that’s what happens,” Borgias said, adding “someday soon, controlled burns and even natural fires will do the work, much as it once did, to maintain a healthy forest, wildlife habitat, and clean water.”   

 

Information on this and other U.S. Forest Service projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found at: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery.  For additional information on the partnership to restore and protect Ashland’s watershed visit: www.ashlandwatershed.org

 

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