State Officials Renew Agreement with Forest Service to Help with Forest Health and Wildfire Risk Reduction

Posted on October 17, 2022

SALEM, Ore.— Earlier this month the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) renewed their agreement allowing continued work across boundaries to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, improve forest and watershed health, and create jobs in rural, forest-dependent communities.

The cooperative work agreement was extended until 2032 under the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA). This is a provision of the 2014 federal Farm Bill that allows state agencies to do vital restoration work on national forestlands in Oregon. Those make up nearly half of Oregon’s 30 million forested acres.

Kyle Sullivan with the Oregon Department of Forestry is that agency’s Federal Forest Restoration Program Lead. “The Forest Service is the largest forestland manager in Oregon. 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.”

Sullivan said ODF, ODFW and the Forest Service have been working together for over six years under the current GNA agreement. “We’ve identified long-term projects that extend beyond the agreement’s original 2026 expiration date. The agreement signed this week now extends the work between state and federal agencies through 2032,” he said.

The three state and federal land management agencies are taking aim at the most pressing issues facing Oregon’s forests. At the top of the list is the over 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 are also issues the GNA agreement can help address.

This GNA agreement 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.

Despite the GNA agreement allowing states to help improve the health of federal forests, all applicable federal laws and environmental reviews are followed. Decision-making authority still rests with the Forest Service for restoration work.

Forest Service Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa said, “GNA is a powerful tool. It allows us to work together across boundaries, at the appropriate scale, to benefit Oregon communities through enhancing forest and watershed health conditions – and to do so proactively, not reactively.”

Since 2016, ODF and ODFW have worked across all 11 National Forests in Oregon under 30 Supplemental Project Agreements. Results of this work 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) Categorical Exclusions (CE) projects covering 30,000 acres
  • 440 acres of post-implementation monitoring work

In addition to the strong partnerships, the success of this work is also due to the Oregon Legislature’s forward-thinking investments in the Federal Forest Restoration Program. Under this program, state funds support forest collaboratives, environmental planning and analysis, and a state workforce dedicated to increasing the pace, scale and quality of restoration of federal forests.

“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 Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, said, “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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