News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

State, feds renew forest cooperation deal

State agencies and the U.S. Forest Service have renewed an agreement that allows state and federal foresters to “work across boundaries.”

The agreement, which began in 2014 as a provision of a federal farm bill, now extends through 2032.  Projects that state and federal agencies have worked on include reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, improving forest and watershed health, and creating jobs in rural, forest-dependent communities. 

Signing on to the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) on behalf of the state of Oregon were the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Nearly half of Oregon’s 30 million forested acres are under U.S. Forest Service jurisdiction.

“The Forest Service is the largest forestland manager in Oregon,” said Kyle Sullivan, who leads the ODF’s federal forest restoration program. “We are seeing real benefit in leveraging the strengths, skills, and resources of state organizations tasked with stewarding Oregon’s forests, fish and wildlife. This Good Neighbor Authority agreement is a crucial tool to continue this cooperative work.”

The GNA agreement, state officials said, allows the Forest Service to take advantage of the additional capacity provided by ODF and ODFW, access streamlined state contracting processes, and leverage state funding dedicated to restoring federal forests. 

Key projects moving forward, state officials said, include dealing with the more than 7 million acres of federal forest in declining health and at elevated risk of large and destructive wildfire. Climate change mitigation and adaptation, wildlife species recovery, habitat connectivity, producing sustainable forest products, and supporting jobs also are issues the GNA agreement aims to address.

Since 2016, ODF and ODFW have worked on all 11 national forests in Oregon. Results include:

–52,000 acres of restoration project planning and project preparation;

–11,000 acres of non-commercial fuels reduction and thinning, prescribed fire preparation, noxious weed treatments, wildlife habitat improvement, and stream enhancement;

–14,000 acres of commercial restoration, producing 50 million board feet of timber volume

–7 contracted National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects covering 30,000 acres;

– 440 acres of post-implementation monitoring work.

“The renewal of this agreement maintains a crucial tool for the Oregon Department of Forestry to manage, protect and promote stewardship of all of Oregon’s forests,” said Oregon state forester Cal Mukumoto. “Because so much of Oregon’s forests are under federal ownership, working with our federal partners under GNA is key to fulfilling the mission of ODF.”

Curt Melcher, director of the ODFW, added, “As managers of Oregon’s fish and wildlife resources, we rely heavily on partnerships with public and private landowners to improve habitat. Formal agreements like this will further strengthen our partnership with the Forest Service and provide the flexible tools and resources needed to boost stewardship and bring rural communities together.”

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