Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s new report calls for increased pace and scale of forest restoration to stem severe wildfire.
A night back-burn on the Government Flats Complex northeast of Mt Hood during 2013 fire season. Photo by J. Pritcher.
In a new report and video called “State of Fire,” Oregon Forest Resources Institute says that changing climate conditions, past forest management decisions, and thousands more people choosing to live closer to the forest’s edge are intensifying and complicating fire risks and firefighting in Oregon.
They report as of July 2014, wildfire on private and public forestland protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry had burned 36,888 acres – seven times the 10-year average. This count does not include acres burned on national forests in Oregon, which by August 19 has reached close to 845,000 acres, according to theNational Wildfire Coordinating Group. These statistics confirm trends we’ve been seeing of larger and more severe fires and longer fire seasons.
While state and federal governments must continue to keep fires in check to protect air and water quality, rural homes and businesses, as well as the state’s valuable timber and wood energy resources, and forest recreation opportunities, they are doing so by spending increasing larger fire suppression budgets.
OFRI’s report offers practical realities and hopeful solutions to help stem severe wildfire, namely by increasing the pace and scale of restoration in the dry forests in eastern Oregon, and ensuring firefighting capacity is in place to manage fires that start in the relatively wet forests of western Oregon.
We’ve seen evidence that forest restoration projects can help bring fire back to a natural behavior on dry forests – where it burns along the ground with little longterm damage – instead of in the forest crowns, which is deadly to mature trees. Increasing the pace and scale of restoration in our dry forests is our best tool currently for making forests resilient to severe wildfire, and the benefits extend to renewable wood energy products and climate change mitigation.