BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners are concerned with a new rule proposed for the state's Smoke Management Plan, which provides standards to help communities achieve and maintain clean air. The new proposal would prohibit prescribed burns that produce smoke for more than one hour, in areas near populated communities.
Commissioner Tammy Baney says 79% of Deschutes County land surrounding cities is mostly forested, which means fuels mitigation is especially important. She tells KBND News, "We need to be able to be allowed to do all the preventative work that's possible to be able to protect communities, and to protect our natural resources, which also, is critical to our economy." She acknowledges prescribed burns and other current practices aren't foolproof, but she says they do make a significant difference, "Will it make all forest fires go away? Absolutely not. But, do we know that areas that have been treated with prescribed burns or with other fuels management tools? Then the answer to that is 'absolutely yes,' we do know that that is an effective way to protect communities."
County Commissioners are drafting a letter to Oregon's Departments of Forestry and Environmental Quality, asking for the agencies to reconsider the proposed rule or allow an exemption so Deschutes County can continue thinning and prescribed burns in fire-prone areas, regardless of their proximity to communities. "The smoke management rules are, in some ways, restrictive in terms of our ability to do the types of management tools that we would like to do," says Baney, "Like introducing more smoke into the air where it is prescribed, but it is controlled, versus our forests burning up on their own." The letter is expected to be finalized and signed at the next County Commissioners meeting.