Federal forests in Oregon provide important resources for the state’s
economy, ecological benefit through fish and wildlife habitat, clean
air and water, and social benefit through recreation opportunities.
However some forests have grown unhealthy, unnaturally dense, and
urgently require restoration work to make them resilient to wildfire,
insects, and disease.
To address the need for increased restoration work, the Oregon
Legislature funded the Oregon Department of Forestry Federal Forest
Health Program in 2013-2015 with a modest investment of $2.88 million,
which was matched three to one by the federal government at just over $9
The success of the program over the past two years and broad support
from a diverse set of interested parties prompted the legislature to
increase the program’s funding to $5 million for the 2015-2017 biennium.
The state intends to seek additional federal funding to leverage this
second state investment with a target of $15 million. The additional
funding will allow the Department of Forestry to expand the Federal
Forest Health Program to support forest collaborative groups and forest
restoration activities statewide. The 2013-2015 program was focused only
on eastern and southwestern Oregon.
By expanding the program statewide, state and federal forest
management agencies can begin to invest in strategic opportunities in
western Oregon, and deliver scientifically supported collaborative
outcomes to areas that have lacked social agreement on forest
“Collaboration works,” said Dylan Kruse, policy director for Sustainable Northwest.
“The broad bipartisan support we have for this program is essential to
bringing desperately needed conservation attention to our national
forests and jobs to parts of Oregon that are lagging economically.”
“The intersection of local forest collaborative groups and shared,
informed science discussions has led to agreement and an acceleration of
restoration projects with ecological and economic benefits to both the
forest and local communities,” said Mark Stern, forest conservation director for The Nature Conservancy.
Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center,
shared support for the increased funding. “Collaboration is about
partnership – working together to achieve a common good. We are pleased
with the state legislature’s funding of the Federal Forest Health
Program, as it demonstrates Oregon’s partnership commitment to creating
healthy forests and communities, abundant wildlife habitat, clean water,
and recreational opportunities for all Oregonians.”
Tom Partin, President of American Forest Resource Council
said, “These additional state funds will enhance the ability of local
collaborative groups to identify and advocate for projects which provide
local employment while moving our forests toward resiliency. A large
percentage of our federal forestlands are currently in a fire prone
condition and sorely in need of restoration. This investment of state
revenues will help restore the health of our federal forests and
increase their productivity, which in turn will increase wood supply to
local mills, generating revenue in our hard-pressed rural communities.”
“The Forest Service looks forward to expanding our partnership with
the State of Oregon to further increase the pace and scale of
restoration. Our partnership is demonstrating that when diverse groups
of citizens work together, and with their government representatives, we
can make progress towards restoring resiliency for the land and
communities,” said Jim Peña, Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service.
“We recognize and appreciate the hard work of local collaborative
groups that has resulted in common ground, making our integrated
approach possible. We also sincerely thank the State Legislature for its
commitment to larger scale planning and to providing resources to help
projects get implemented more quickly.”
“We applaud the Oregon Legislature’s pioneering investment of state
funds to support local collaboratives, in turn reducing wildfire risk,
improving watershed health and supporting rural communities,” said Chad Davis, senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Forestry,
and program lead. “As a result of this work, jobs in eastern Oregon
have increased 16 percent because of increased stewardship in the Blue
Mountains in northeast Oregon. This session’s legislative action
reflects Oregon’s commitment to healthy forests across jurisdictions,
and the Oregon Department of Forestry looks forward to working with the
U.S. Forest Service and collaborative partners to increase the pace,
scale and quality of forest restoration.”
The dollars invested in The Federal Forest Health Program accomplish much:
- Boosts collaboration statewide by providing grants and contracts
for forest collaborative work to enhance capacity, provide technical
assistance, and provide new data for planning and on-the-ground
- Creates jobs in disadvantaged rural counties that are still lagging in economic recovery.
- Increases wood supply to local mills, which generates revenue and taxable income in areas of the state that need it most.
- Improves forest and watershed health, wildlife habitat, and decreases the risk of abnormal wildfire.
- Leverages significant federal contributions with the potential
to “unlock” even greater investments from the U.S. Forest Service and
- Builds new partnerships with the Forest Service, allowing the
agency to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration, and engage
in innovative and collaborative planning approaches.
Sustainable Northwest and The Nature Conservancy advocated for this
increased funding. To help the program succeed, Sustainable Northwest is
on contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry to provide technical
support to collaboratives through networking and meeting facilitation,
special requests for collaborative management, and mediation. The Nature
Conservancy, also on contract with the Oregon Department of Forestry,
has provided science support, development of research based projects
that inform restoration prescriptions and implementation, as well as new
technologies that expedite treatments on the ground.
The federal forest health issue rose to the forefront of the Oregon
Legislature’s attention with support from the Oregon Business Council,
Oregon Business Association, and with strong backing from the
Association of Oregon Counties.
Sustainable Northwest brings people together to find common ground to
build a regional economy based on land stewardship, and markets for
sustainable wood and clean energy. The organization is committed to
finding workable solutions to natural resource issues that benefit both
people and nature. For more information about Sustainable Northwest,
The Nature Conservancy is the world’s leading conservation
organization, working in all 50 United States and 35 countries across
the globe. In Oregon, with the support of 32,000 members, we own 44
preserves and have helped protect more than 511,000 acres of critical
habitat since our chapter began in 1961. We are guided by innovative
science and thrive because of effective partnerships. We bring people
together to find solutions that protect nature and promote the social
and economic vitality of the communities in which we work. We have
staff working and living in Medford, Klamath Falls, John Day, Bend and
Ashland that interact with local communities to build support for forest
restoration. To learn more, please visit us at Nature.org/Oregon.
Renee Magyar, Sustainable Northwest, (503) 221-6911 x116
Mitch Maxson, The Nature Conservancy, (503) 802-8137
Learn more about our Oregon collaborative forest work.