February 28, 2020

Merkley, Wyden Announce $6.4 Million in Wildfire Recovery and Resilience Funding for Ochoco, Mt. Hood Forests

Funds will help restore forest affected by wildfires, improve landscape resiliency

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced today that the Ochoco and Wasco Forest Collaboratives have secured $1.68 million and $4.78 million in grant funding, respectively, from the Forest Service and National Resource Conservation Service. The funds will help the forests recover damage from previous wildfires, and boost resilience to future blazes.

Senators Merkley and Wyden wrote letters to the Forest Service and National Resource Conservation Service in support of the projects.

“Oregon’s forests and grasslands have long been woven into the spirit and economy of our state,” said Merkley. “That’s why it couldn’t be more important for us to protect those natural treasures from uncharacteristic wildfires and disease. I’m glad to have been able to work with local leaders from the Ochoco and Wasco Forest Collaboratives to help support the health of the forests that Oregonians will continue to cherish for generations to come.”

“With wildfire season stretching longer and longer across Oregon, any funding and resources towards wildfire recovery and resiliency is a critical win in my book,” Wyden said. “These forests are key to Oregon’s recreational economy and provide clean drinking water and salmon and fish habitat. I’m proud to continue working with the Ochoco and Wasco Forest Collaboratives to ensure our special places are protected for generations to come.”

The grant funding allocated to the Ochoco Forest project will help restore old growth pine forests, wetlands and riparian zones, and habitat areas for sage grouse, mule deer, woodpeckers, butterflies, and bumble bees within the Upper Crooked River area. The funding will also support the project’s hazardous fuel reduction efforts on public and private land, which will help reduce the chance of severe damage from future wildfires.

The Wasco Forest project’s primary objectives are to improve landscape resilience and to restore ecological function.

"Wasco County Forest Collaborative members represent diverse interests - from the timber industry to environmental groups. These partners developed consensus recommendations that the Forest Service is now working hard to implement. The collaborative process resulted in no objections or litigation, which speaks to the broad support for this important project. Implementation began last year and are already resulting in reduced wildfire risk to nearby communities, restoration of wildlife habitat, and employment of local contractors and forest workers. USDA Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service investments through Joint Chiefs are critical to ensuring the project is fully implemented,” said Wasco County Forest Collaborative Facilitator Andrew Spaeth.

Each organization will receive one-third of their total funding allotment each year for three consecutive years.