January 21, 2022

Wyden, Merkley Urge Forest Service to Support Another Long-term Stewardship Contract on the Malheur National Forest

Senators: Current contract has provided huge economic benefit, reduced wildfire risks and more for Grant and Harney counties

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today urged the United States Forest Service to support another long-term stewardship contract on the Malheur National Forest. A new contract would build on the current contract’s proven successes, including saving the last mill in Grant County restoring wildlife habitat, and reducing wildfire risks to communities in both Grant and Harney counties.

Wyden and Merkley noted in their letter to Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester, Region 6 that long-term stewardship contracts are an effective and innovative tool to increase the pace, scale, and quality of large landscape restoration on national forests, reducing wildfire risks, improving forest health, and benefiting local economies.

“Given that the original 10-year stewardship contract on the Malheur National Forest is coming to a close, we are writing to express support for additional investment in a long-term stewardship agreement on the forest to ensure that the previous 10 years of investment is retained and built upon,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “This contract has by all accounts been a massive success – it enjoyed broad local support, saved the last mill in Grant County, reduced local unemployment by almost half, stabilized local school enrollment, reduced wildfire risks on more than 55,000 acres, and led to the restoration of nearly 140,000 acres of wildlife habitat. Because of these successes, local businesses have invested tens of millions of dollars in new equipment and infrastructure, further benefitting local payroll and economic opportunities in Grant County.”

The senators asked in their letter whether the Forest Service will support another long-term stewardship contract on the Malheur and what specific challenges or concerns might exist with executing another long-term contract.  

“In 2013 the Malheur National Forest implemented the 10-year stewardship contract and it's no exaggeration to say the 10-year contract has saved the timber industry in Grant County, created significant socioeconomic benefits for area communities, and enabled us to begin restoring the public landscape with federal investments by increasing landscape resilience and reducing wildfire risk in ecologically appropriate ways,” said Mark Webb, Executive Director, Blue Mountains Forest Partners. “Senator Wyden's and Senator Merkley’s efforts were absolutely critical in securing this agreement and we deeply appreciate their ongoing support for long-term stewardship contracting.”

 “Long-term stewardship contracts, along with collaboration support and funding through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, have been so important for us on the Malheur National Forest,” said Russ Young, Iron Triangle LLC. “The support from Senators Wyden and Merkley for the long-term nature of the 10-year stewardship contract and the sustainability associated with the long-term contract has increased pace and scale of restoration on the forest, which has allowed our company and others to invest long term in infrastructure, equipment, and increased employment which has meant everything to our rural communities.”

A copy of the letter is here.