Most wildfires in montane (mountainous) forests and shrublands of the western United States are ecologically beneficial and needed for the proper function and maintenance of fire-dependent biota. Unfortunately, many decision-makers view fire as “catastrophic” and believe it to be increasing beyond historical bounds. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a deficit of wildfire acresin most western montane forests as compared to historical times due primarily to fire suppression. Although historical data using comparable tracking metrics are lacking on a subset of the very large fires (“mega-fires”), there has been no significant upward trend in these fires detected in the past 15 years, although longer timelines are needed for meaningful conclusions.
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Scientists released new findings on the importance of mature and old-growth forests in preparing the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon and northern California for global climate disruptions. Published in the January edition of The Natural Areas Journal (Volume 32: 65-74) by the Natural Areas Association, the study calls on regional land managers to protect mature and old-growth forests as an insurance policy for fish and wildlife facing mounting climate change pressures from rising temperatures, declining snow levels, and reductions in fog along the coast.
The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) shifted federal lands management from timber dominance to ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation on nearly 25 million acres within the range of the threatened Northern Spotted Owl. Several assessments have demonstrated that the scientific underpinnings of the plan remain sound and that it has met most of its ecosystem management goals, including:
- Greatly reduced logging of old-growth forests on federal lands;
- Slowed declines of the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet that would have been much worse;
- Provided a “safety net” for rare species outside the reserve network (so called “survey and manage” species);
- Vastly improved watershed conditions across over two-third of 193 watersheds managed under the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS);
- Provided indirect climate benefits in the form of carbon sequestration and carbon storage and high quality water;
- Provided a “soft landing” for the timber industry as it continues to consolidate and shift toward smaller logs;
- Decoupled Oregon counties from reliance on uncertain and unsustainable timber receipts; and
- Sustained quality of life benefits for regional economic diversification.
Shared Responsibility: The Conservation Community’s Recommendations to Equitably Resolve the O&C County Funding Controversy
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As Oregon county governments receive their last checks from federal taxpayers under the expired county payments program, a coalition of seven local, state, and national conservation organizations has unveiled a balanced strategy to resolve the county funding conundrum. Given the growing trend in Congress to end Oregon’s county payments program, the groups are promoting a shared responsibility approach, where county governments, the State of Oregon, and the federal government would each take responsibility for resolving a portion of the problem.