Wildfire prevention programs sit atop priority lists for Forest Service

Wildfire prevention programs sit atop priority lists for Forest Service

27 April 2011

published by www.currycountyreporter.com

USA — Alan Vandiver, Rogue-Siskiyou Forest Ranger in Gold Beach, made a profound statement at a Board of Commissioners workshop on April 18. “It’s not whether or not we’ll have another fire, it’s when we’ll have another fire,” referring to the Biscuit Fire. The Personal Services Agreement between Curry County and Curry Soil & Water Conservation District for facilitator services provided to the Curry Wildfire Preparation Team has expired, according to Vandiver. The Curry Wildfire Preparation Team (CWPT) supports a renewal of the agreement and a rate increase for facilitator services to compensate for additional duties and responsibilities the facilitator will assume since the initial agreement was finalized and align the rate of reimbursement with the facilitator’s current salary at the Curry Soil & Water Conservation District. The current rate for professional facilitation services in the area is often more than $100 hourly. An increase in the facilitator’s hourly rate would be $30.75 per hour ($26 to the facilitator plus $4.75 for employee costs) and bring the rate to one-third of the current value of service.

Facilitator services were originally limited to facilitation of wildland fire planning meetings and preparation/processing of agendas and meetings. Once the CWPP was finalized in 2008 and the Team progressed toward planning and implementing on-the-ground projects outlined in the CWPP, the role of facilitator expanded to include composing progress reports for the National Fire Program (NFP grant), coordinating and documenting CWPP revisions and updates, and writing funding proposals for submission on behalf of the CWPT. During 2009 and 2010, the facilitator was largely responsible for writing a total of six grant proposals that were funded for a total of $291,050. All projects focus on wildfire and hazardous fuel reductions in Curry County. “We need this facilitator,” Vandiver emphasized. “Our programs will not succeed without this individual.” Vandiver outlined a program in progress that includes vegetation eradication on 89,000 acres of the Lower Rogue River. “Conifers are causing us the most trouble as they are choking out the black oak,” Vandiver said. Gorse, witch’s broom, and some other evasive plants not native to Oregon, are clogging up the fire break systems along with dead tree growth. Sudden Oak Death (SOD) has infested trees in the Siskiyou National Forest to a degree of alarm among foresters. Slash and burn has been a model of success as the biomass of fire fuels is eliminated.

Hazardous fuel reduction progress updates include eliminating gorse infestation along Cedar Terrace in the Harris Beach area, Title III grant monies for joint public/private lands fuel reductions (Curry County), Title III grant secured to do Firewise education, prevention education at the County Fair, brush eradication near water holes and roads, and prepare burn piles at reduction sites. Also, a Title II grant has been secured to create shaded fuels break and restore access on public lands adjacent to residential areas and wildernesses, and recently placing a fire break around the communication tower on Grizzly Mountain. Vandiver said he has a fine working agreement with Sheriff John Bishop. This is important, both Vandiver and Bishop agreed, when emergency procedures need collaborative responses to ensure safety and a prevention of property losses. Six goals of the Curry Wildfire Preparation team include: Foster partnerships and collaboration; conduct a comprehensive risk assessment; support emergency services; conduct hazardous fuels reduction on public and private lands; address wildfire risk reduction in planning and development; and increase public education. In regards to the U.S. Forestry Services Recreational Program, Vandiver stated that permitting for outfitters and fishing guides has been minimized. Commissioner David Itzen asked about the mining permits. “The four-inch dredge mining permits can be filed now, for instance,” Vandiver answered, “and receive utilization permits before the summer months. Those miners wanting to use eight-inch dredges will have to go through a more intensive permitting stage.” Commissioner Bill Waddle asked in the roundtable discussion a question concerning Sudden Oak Death, wondering why the U.S. Forestry Department doesn’t perform some experimentation on a small growth of infested trees, using some laboratory fungus eradicators. He felt the problem has grown to the point where the federal government must take some major steps in finding a chemical agent to rid our forests of this monster. Vandiver said that was out of his jurisdiction of authority, but he concurred on the premise that SOD must be a top priority for eradication.

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