JOHN DAY – Restoration efforts on the Malheur National Forest are getting a vote of confidence from the top.
Leslie Weldon, deputy chief of national forest systems for the Forest Service, recently approved an expansion of the Southern Blues Restoration Coalition’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) boundaries.
The revision was requested last September by the Malheur Forest staff and the forest’s two collaborative groups, the Blue Mountains Forest Partners and the Harney County Restoration Collaborative.
The slate of CFLR work currently receives $2.5 million, per year, above normal funding to help pay up to 50 percent of the cost of carrying out and monitoring ecological restoration treatments on the Malheur Forest.
The approved changes will allow modification of the original project boundary, supporting a focus on additional high-need areas.
Current projects being completed through Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration include Soda Bear, Starr, Dads, Upper Pine, Marshall Devine and Jane. The expansion allows the inclusion of projects in the Headwaters of the John Day River and the Middle Fork of the John Day River, such as Galena and Big Mosquito projects.
Collaborative representatives welcomed the news.
“Blue Mountains Forest Partners is excited by the expansion,” said Mark Webb, newly appointed executive director of the group. “It demonstrates national respect and support for local efforts undertaken by community members, local collaboratives, and the Forest Service to move public land management ahead in a positive, productive manner.
“It also promises to provide significant new opportunities to improve forest health, support local industries, and strengthen area communities through ongoing collaborative work.”
Jack Southworth, facilitator for the Harney collaborative, agreed.
He said the group looks forward “to continuing working with conservationists, industry, agencies, recreationists and the Forest Service in our efforts to bring about healthy, fire-tolerant forests that provide forest products, wildlife habitat, local jobs and great recreational opportunities on the southern Malheur National Forest.”
The collaborative groups also requested additional funding to help accelerate the restoration work in the expanded area. While those funds aren’t available now, the request is approved if the money becomes available.
Steve Beverlin, Malheur supervisor, called the approval an example of the strong commitment the national and regional Forest Service offices have for the ongoing restoration work on the Malheur and across Eastern Oregon.
“The approved expansion is a testament to our exceptional partnerships with our public, communities and collaboratives,” Beverlin said. “As we expand our efforts, we’ll continue to seek common ground and promote active public and partner involvement.”