JACKSON COUNTY — Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.
In Jackson County, Oregon, they’ve taken this lesson to heart. Located just north of the California border, Jackson County experiences one of the highest occurrences of wildfire in Oregon. Its cities are especially vulnerable because they are often surrounded by densely forested areas. The same natural beauty that contributes to the livability of the region also means its most populated areas lie right next to material that can fuel devastating wildfires. This is especially true for the city of Ashland, whose municipal watershed lies within the adjacent forest.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), with the help of lottery dollars and in partnership with several partner agencies (as well as private landowners), is taking steps to prevent wildfire disasters while restoring sensitive habitats and watersheds. By working together across public and private land boundaries, the Ashland All Lands Forest Resiliency Project seeks to accomplish three goals:
- Reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to communities and landowners.
- Protect water quality and supply in the Ashland Municipal Watershed.
- Improve and protect wildlife habitat, especially for threatened species such as Pacific fishers, spotted owls, and Coho salmon.
In total, 8,500 acres of public and private land will be treated in the forests adjacent to Ashland. Trees will be thinned and flammable debris removed, sometimes with controlled burns. These steps keep the forest open and healthy, and the reduced fire risk will help preserve the forest itself, its human and animal inhabitants, as well as the city of Ashland’s drinking water.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. OWEB is a leader in the conservation of Oregon’s natural resources and enjoys strong public support for its contributions to community-based conservation, watershed health, and local economies.