Friday, June 19, 2015

All Hands, All Lands: Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative

The Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative (SOFRC) is a regional group combining agencies and stakeholders at the same table to institute a landscape assessment and management plan.  SOFRC includes members from the United State Forest Service (USFS), The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Oregon State University Extension (OSU Ex), Lomakatsi, small woodland owners, and community members.  It first began meeting in 2005 and since 2010 is a 501c3 recognized non-profit organization. The purpose is to incorporate a landscape scale management effort that incorporates the social, economic, and environmental concerns of Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest in Jackson and Josephine Counties.  The intention is to include both federal and private lands included in the Rogue River Basin.  SOFRC prides itself in taking an “All hands, all lands” approach to implementing a landscape management strategy (Myer, 2013).  
            Significant goals for SOFRC are to increase the forest and resource resiliency to climate change in the Rogue Basin.  This includes addressing the change in frequency and severity of wildfires, decreased snowpack, and biogeographic shift in species range.  A challenge for managers is to apply equal weight to the economic, social, and environmental goals while managing the landscape.  SOFRC is meant to play a significant role that incorporates a multi-party collaborative team to best integrate a forest restoration approach to the varied ecosystem services.  It is limited to meeting the USFS objectives with alternative recommendations.  Broadly the goals focus on fire management, water resiliency, and an economic rationale.  Then in turn should support clean water, abundant wildlife, and local economies in order to restore the role of fire in healthy forests that are more adaptable to disturbances (Myer, 2013). 

            The Rogue River Basin encompasses an incredible amount of ecosystem diversity, varied physical states, and community densities. From the headwaters of Crater Lake over 300,000 people live within a highly economically distressed region.  Since the 1990s the population composition has increased their retirement communities, increased unemployment, and decreased resource management positions.  The forest itself is widely spread as even-age dry coniferous made up of dense and overcrowded stands.  The conditions create competitive stresses that expose trees to infestation of pathogens, insects, and diseases.  Wildfires have seen a huge spike in intensity and size across the landscape causing increased mortality at unnatural rates.  Furthermore, climate change is demonstrated through decreased snowpack and biogeographic species range changes occurring throughout the area (Myer, 2013).  The SOFRC is challenged to meet the needs of both the struggling communities and ecological changes faced in the Southwest Oregon region.  
            On June 18, 2015, SOFRC personnel from the variety of interest groups and professionals met to discuss recent updates and learn about the current state of the regional fire risk analysis.  Oregon Department of Forestry presence was noted and willingness to contribute to strategies and resources with regards to the Cohesive Wildfire Strategy.  Reminders of the anticipated goal of proclaiming Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) in southwestern Oregon are to be applied locally with a more integrated approach to the utilization of resources.  In addition, that FAC issues are not unique and that throughout the country communities collaborate about techniques through shared project results and successful strategies.  It is most useful to communities that are often underserved. 
Through the hard work of dozens of people, SOFRC is making some headway on important resource analysis in the Rogue River Basin.  Led by The Nature Conservancy and team an extensive examination of the Basin is being analyzed in order to identify key areas that would most benefit from treatment for fire management.  The analysis is based on identified values compiled through surveys of community members in order to most strategically identify these priority areas.  Through wildfire risk assessment via LANDFIRE, Relative Importance Consensus, and the National Cohesive Wild Land Fire Management Strategy a more informed approach can be applied to treat the landscape.  In its whole the analysis will summarize the total area and volume requiring treatment over a defined time scale to achieve optimal results.  
In summary, SOFRC is best described as a landscape management planning team instrumental in the outcomes of federal lands in Southwestern Oregon.  The all hands, all lands approach is vital to its success to benefit the social, environmental, and economic objectives.

Works Cited

Myer, G.. (December 15, 2013).  The Rogue Basin Action Plan for Resilient Watersheds and Forests in a Changing Climate: Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative. Retrieved from