4 Apr 2010, 1:24pm
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Watershed thinning to start in spring - Project to employ 50 people

By Vickie Aldous, The Ashland Daily Tidings, April 3, 2010 [here]

Thinning to reduce wildfire danger in the Ashland Watershed could start as soon as mid-May and ultimately provide employment for 50 people, according to officials involved in the project.

After years of planning and community input, the U.S. Forest Service approved the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project in October 2009. It calls for thinning trees and conducting prescribed burns on 7,600 acres in the Ashland Watershed and adjacent watersheds over the next decade.

Siskiyou Mountains District Ranger Donna Mickley said the Forest Service hopes to start work in mid to late-May, or possibly as late as early June.

“This is what all this hard work and collaboration has been about — being able to begin implementation,” she said.

On March 15, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, the city of Ashland, the Lomakatsi Restoration Project and The Nature Conservancy signed a $5.1 million stewardship agreement to carry out the first phase of the thinning project, Mickley said.

Funding from the project comes from $4.5 million in federal economic stimulus dollars meant to put people to work, plus $640,000 in cash and in-kind donations from the city of Ashland, Lomakatsi and The Nature Conservancy.

City of Ashland Forest Resources Specialist Chris Chambers said the city government’s contribution comes mainly in the form of city staff time that was already budgeted. The city is also hoping to get a $47,000 federal timber payments grant that could come through Jackson County.

City officials will find out on May 4 if Jackson County Commissioners award Ashland the grant, Chambers said.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor Scott Conroy said the thinning project will create jobs, help restore the watershed and reduce wildfire risk for residents in Ashland and surrounding communities.

Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns said reducing the risk of large-scale wildfire will help protect homes and the city’s clean water supply, which originates in the watershed.

Crews will start work close to Ashland in the wildlands-urban interface where homes are most at risk from wildfires. Over the 10-year life of the project, crews will gradually work up into the watershed, officials said.

Lomakatsi, a local nonprofit group that does hands-on work to rehabilitate watersheds, will thin small brush and trees, conduct controlled burns and train a workforce in forest restoration, officials said. …

Thinning work can proceed despite a lawsuit filed over parts of the project by Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas and Arizona ecologist Jay Lininger… [more]

See also:

City won’t join suit on watershed - U.S. Forest Service had sought council’s support [here]

USFS cuts $2 million from Ashland project [here]

City leaders urge thinning of watershed despite lawsuit threats [here]

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