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Oregon

Investments in Forest Health Will Benefit Local Economies

Together we can work to secure a dedicated funding stream that supports increasing the scale of restoration for the benefit of local economies and the environment.”

Mark Stern, Forest Initiative Lead for the Conservancy in Oregon

 

Dry-side forests in eastern and southern Oregon are in trouble, as are the people and wildlife they support.

That’s why Governor Kitzhaber and state legislative leaders recently studied whether more forest restoration might prevent future damage — and even incur long-term benefits. The report analyzed input from agencies, businesses, local communities and conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy.

The Problem

Decades of fire suppression have resulted in overcrowded forests in urgent need of thinning, controlled burns or other treatments to stave off invasive species, disease and unnaturally severe wildfire. This year alone, 1 million acres burned in Oregon, costing $100 million to fight.

“We must stop putting our nation’s firefighters in danger while important natural resources go up in smoke,” said Mark Stern, Forest Initiative Lead for the Conservancy in Oregon. “It’s time to put the wood in these overstocked forests to work for our nation and local communities in ways that will also benefit the unique wildlife found in Oregon’s forests.”

The Bottom Line

The report’s findings are clear: increased funding to double the number of acres treated annually (from 129,000 to 250,000) will likely yield high returns.

Specifically, while the cost would be double — twice the $40.8 million currently spent on restoration by the U.S. Forest Service each year in Oregon — the healthier forests would generate $5.7 million in economic returns for every $1 million spent. And, in addition to minimizing the occurrence of large and devastating wildfires, increased investments will: 

  • Create more than 2,300 jobs in an area where 1 in 5 people live in poverty.
  • Generate and $7.2 million in annual state tax revenue (from $3.6 million).
  • Attract tourists who support local businesses.
  • Generate a predictable supply of raw materials required by local mills.
  • Supply cleaner air and water to local communities
  • Provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Next Steps

The Nature Conservancy and its partners hope this study bolsters efforts  across the state to restore forest and economic health. “Together, we can work to secure a dedicated funding stream that supports increasing the scale of restoration,” said Stern, “for the benefit of local economies and the environment.”

You can find out more by downloading the Full Report and the Executive Summary

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