BEND, OR -- As Central Oregon recovers from wildfire season and persistent smoky conditions, local leaders work toward improving how the area manages public lands in an effort to reduce the risk of massive fires.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone says the State Department of Forestry has a smoke management plan in place that dictates when prescribed burns can be conducted. Those scheduled burns are designed to reduce underbrush and other fuels that can feed wildfires. "So, the big picture here is, we, the Central Oregon Collaborative Forest folks, we would like to advocate for more aggressive prescribed burns in the Spring and in the Fall, which makes us more safe when these uncontrolled fires happen in the Summertime."
DeBone tells KBND News that, along with additional off-season burns, proper forest management is essential to reducing the number of wildfires, and by extension, the amount of smoke that blows into the region. "The Deschutes County Collaborative Forest Project really has done a good job figuring out what a prescription might be for the forest, and then a sustainable yield; and then when is it appropriate to bring in people to do some of that fire reduction forest management, pull out some wood, and clean it up so it's fire resilient."
Wildfire season isn't over yet, and DeBone says the amount of smoke we endured this season proves that what we're currently doing to manage our forests isn't working. "What does it mean to be in trouble when there's smoke that comes from a prescribed burn in the Spring? And, can we relax those requirements so we can allow some more controlled smoke for a day or two in the Spring and it would really help reduce the threat of wildfire in the Summertime when it gets real dry?"
Bend City Councilors and Deschutes County Commissioners are writing letters of support to bolster the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project
's recommendations recently sent to the Oregon Smoke Management Review Committee.