Forest Management Taking a Hit During Federal Shutdown

U.S. Forest Service - Controlled Burn

While 'burn days' have been limited due to high winds in southern Oregon since the turn of 2019, the partial government shutdown isn't helping those trying to get ahead of fire season.

The Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, which focuses on forest restoration in-and-around the Ashland Watershed, isn't able to execute any controlled burns on federal lands during the shutdown.

"Starting right around now, we are probably starting to lose some burn days on federal land, because of the shutdown, you know today might have been a day where they could have burned up there, especially in snow-covered areas where we weren't as worried as the wind blowing a burn pile around causing issues," Chris Chambers, Forestry Division Chief at Ashland Fire & Rescue said. "It hasn't been but as this thing continues, it will increasingly become one."

Controlled burns can be continued on private lands and 'thinning' projects can be continued on the public federal land.

However, since most U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees are furloughed due to the government shutdown, burns cannot take place without a federal burn boss on site.

The government shutdown began during the holiday season when most federal employees were off, therefore the resiliency project wasn't operating with a burn schedule until after the workers were to come back from break after the new year.

"This is our chance to get ahead of reducing fuel for the upcoming wildfire season and every day that we miss, there's days that we burn 75-100 acres of burn piles and that's going to possibly be that much fuel that is left over in wildfire season that we could have burned today," Chambers said.

Chambers estimates there is roughly 1,000 acres of federal land in-and-around the watershed area they would like to have burned before fire season begins.

Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, the necessary forest management practices and prevention of fire season might not happen before the temperature heats up and the region dries out.

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