BEND, OR -- Forest collaboratives bring together federal, local and environmental groups to agree on areas where timber can be thinned. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) was in Bend Wednesday to announce he's sponsoring a bill that officially recognizes these groups. "It would permanently authorize the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program," he told the group gathered at the Cascade Lakes Welcome Center. Bend Mayor Sally Russell says the collaboratives keep timber harvesting out of the courts, "And the work that the collaborative has done helps allow safer communities in that urban-wildland interface."
In Oregon, the three collaboratives have identified two-million acres were thinning can occur. But, it can't start until the federal government finishes the background work, "These several million acres have not actually had the work done because of a shortage of funding," says Merkley. The Wildfire Resilient Communities Act would fund the program with a billion dollars. Deschutes County Forester Ed Keith says it's critical to get the job done, "Increase the pace of work, which - we really need to continue to increase that pace because there's thousands and thousands of acres out there, in and around our communities, that still pose a risk to our communities."
Merkley says thinning forests would create jobs for timber workers, a steady supply of logs for mills and reduce the size of wildfires.
Photo: (L-R) Deschutes National Forest Supervisor John Allen, Bend Mayor Sally Russell, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Deschutes County Forester Ed Keith