Press release issued by Oregon Emergency Management April 14, 2021.
Efforts to stabilize Oregon’s landscape continue as land management
agencies work together toward fire recovery.
felling helps remove threats as work to recover fire impacted lands
Salem, OR – The devastation from Oregon’s 2020 wildfires
left more than a million burned acres across 9 counties. As communities and land
managers look toward recovery and restoration, the first critical step is to
remove remaining hazards, especially, weakened trees along roadways and popular
recreation sites, threatening the safety of people, structures and
Oregon’s wildfire recovery goals continue to prioritize human life and safety
while striving to restore and recover the state’s natural and cultural resources
across a broad landscape. Hazard tree removal is a top priority – these dead,
dying or fire-weakened trees are likely to fall onto roadways, properties and
recreation areas where people travel, live, or gather. Regardless of the
jurisdiction, removing this danger is paramount to Oregon’s safe and successful
“The 2020 wildfires left behind a scope of damage unlike anything the state
has experienced before,” said Andrew Phelps, Director of Oregon Office of
Emergency Management. “Ensuring we stabilize the landscape and mitigate risk –
both immediate and long-term – is imperative to getting Oregonians home safely,
keeping our roadways secure for travel and removing barriers for infrastructure
and emergency response functions. I continue to be impressed by the
collaboration and partnership among federal, state, public and private partners
striving to balance life safety with preserving our state’s natural landscape.”
The State’s Debris Management Task Force, led by the Oregon Department of
Transportation, is primarily focused on removing hazard trees along state
highways and public roads near private residences, parks, schools, utilities,
and around destroyed home sites.
Federal and state land management agencies, including the US Forest Service,
Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and Oregon Parks
and Recreation Department, are evaluating and removing hazard trees along roads,
trails, parks and other popular recreation sites.
Certified arborists assess each tree, then mark weakened or dead trees posing
a threat to human life and safety following strict criteria and referencing
field guides developed by federal and state agencies. The stability and health
of a tree is difficult to judge from external damage so every marked tree goes
under several rounds of inspections and evaluations from different arborists to
avoid conflicting determinations. The goal is to mitigate risk by removing only
hazard trees while leaving up as many strong, living trees as possible within
the million-acre fire perimeter.
Close collaboration with fish, wildlife and water quality experts help
identify where felled trees can be left for protection of essential drinking
water sources and native habitat restoration. Local agencies, communities and
environmental partners also help define what recovery could entail, especially
as it pertains to community safety and habitat restoration.
Once hazards are removed and the landscape is stabilized, other recovery and
restoration work such as hand planting or aerial reseeding can get safely
underway. Post-fire planting usually begins one to two years after a fire, but a
national seedling shortage has private landowners struggling to find enough
supply for replanting. ODF is working with nurseries and others to increase
supplies and fulfill long-range demand as reforestation progresses.
The 2020 wildfires left behind damage unlike anything the state has
experienced before. The road to recovery is long. It will be decades before
forests grow back fully. Until then, land managers, communities, recreation
enthusiasts and Oregonians will continue working together to restore natural
areas and working forests while preserving Oregon’s landscape.
For general information on the state’s recovery efforts, contact
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://wildfire.oregon.gov/.