Wildfire prevention funds available for La Pine area

Wildfire prevention funds available for La Pine area

15 April 2016

published by www.bendbulletin.com

USA– A wide swath of southern Deschutes County and northern Klamath County has been targeted this year for forest restoration and wildfire prevention with about $1.2 million in federal funding.

The project funding, first announced in February, will go to private, state and federal landowners with the intention of making forested areas more resistant to fire, disease and insects while improving habitat for wildlife.

The techniques include thinning dense tree stands as well as removing invasive plants and shrubs that can cause wildfires to spread quickly.

The project is a joint endeavor by the U.S. Forest Service and the National Resources Conservation Service, agencies within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

About $250,000 is available to smaller woodland owners through the conservation service. Landowners have until May 20 to apply for the funding.

Tom Bennett, a district conservationist with the service in Redmond, said the funding is being dedicated to properties that are “larger than residential, but smaller than industrial” forestland — about 5 acres or more.

The Forest Service is using $952,125 of the total $1.2 million to primarily work on federal forestland in the Deschutes National Forest.

“The goal is to work seamlessly, so we can do work adjacent to each other and benefit a broad area,” said Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service.

The Greater La Pine Basin Cohesive Strategy Project is one of 11 new projects being funded jointly this year for restoration and fire prevention. The local project spans nearly 345,000 acres and will be carried out over the next three years with additional funding from the department of agriculture.

While other parts of Central Oregon are also prone to wildfire, the La Pine area was chosen in part because of ongoing Forest Service projects and willing local partners, Bennett said.

“I think we got the funding because there was such a strong demonstration of the various agencies working together across the ownership boundaries,” Bennett said.

Most of the area being targeted consists of lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees. The goal of the project will be to create “fuel breaks” and conditions that will keep flames at lower ground levels.

“If you have brush that’s too high and dead branches too low, then you have that ladder effect, and it carries up into the trees,” Bennett said.

“This was an area where we had worked together and there was an agreed-upon focus,” said Nelson-Dean.

Bennett said the conservation service will be looking to invest the full $250,000 this year in contracts to perform the thinning and other fuel-reduction techniques. The contracts could be spread out over multiple years. The conservation service expects to ask for more than $250,000 next year.

Some of the other partners in the La Pine project include Deschutes County, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, Project Wildfire, Klamath County and the Central Oregon Fire Chief’s Association.

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