Residents and environmental organizations throughout the region support public land management activities that will reduce fire risks to communities in Southwestern Oregon; however, we are concerned that the commercial logging activities proposed in the Bear Grub Timber Sale will increase fire risks to nearby communities, impact wildlife habitat, degrade scenic values and directly impact recreational values in the region.
Reducing Community Fire Risks
Wildfire is a natural and inevitable process in Southwestern Oregon. Due to our Mediterranean climate, rugged terrain and extended summer dry periods, wildfire is a process that communities in this region must prepare for and adapt to.
Given the inevitability of wildfire on this landscape land managers and local residents must implement activities that will reduce wildfire risks to our homes and communities. Activities should be focused first and foremost on public safety, including the protection of lives, homes and critical infrastructure during wildfire events.
In many cases, the most effective way to protect homes and communities is to implement home hardening activities that reduce the risk of ignition to structures themselves, by conducting defensible space thinning directly adjacent to homes and communities, and by maintaining adequate ingress and egress for wildfire evacuation routes. These activities are often most effective when implemented on private residential lands, in close proximity to homes and communities.
On federal lands, activities should be focused on reducing fire risks in strategic locations and directly adjacent to communities at risk. This could entail non-commercial fuel reduction thinning and the use of prescribed fire within 1/4 mile of communities. These activities should be implemented with strong ecological sideboards to protect ecological values and to ensure that fuel reduction goals are met in both the long and the short term.
Unfortunately, the Bear Grub Timber Sale does not achieve these goals and will, in fact, threaten nearby communities with increased fire risks. This outcome must be avoided and will be better achieved through non-commercial fire risk reduction activities.
The Applegate Valley community has a long history of supporting non-commercial fuel reduction and prescribed fire on the public lands that surround our homes, farms, and businesses. For over twenty years residents in the Applegate have worked with agencies to address fire risks near homes and communities, and we encourage the BLM to collaboratively focus on non-commercial fuel reduction and prescribed fire in a way that supports both ecological community values.
The Rogue and Applegate River Valleys currently support a thriving outdoor recreation and amenities-based economy. This economic base provides for our communities while increasing the quality of life in the region. Individuals and businesses of all sizes are moving to southern Oregon for its quality of life and for the beautiful public lands that surround our communities.
In fact, research done throughout the West demonstrates that communities adjacent to protected public lands are economically more stable than those communities that rely on resource extraction (Rasker 2006., Rasker 2013, Headwaters Economics 2012).
The recreational opportunities in the Bear Grub planning area are cherished by local residents and provide an attraction for visitors of the region. Real estate values, local vineyards, bed and breakfasts, music festivals, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other tourism and recreation-based industries benefit greatly from the beautiful public lands in the Rogue River Basin. These lands and their scenic beauty provide additional reasons for visitors to come and stay in our region.
Economic values associated with amenities and recreation provide far more to the local economy than the timber industry. These same values also support a high quality of life for local residents. These values should be protected and enhanced when implementing public land management activities. Unfortunately, the proposed Bear Grub Timber Sale will degrade these important economic values and our quality of life in Southwestern Oregon.
Headwaters Economics 2012. The West is Best. How public lands in the West create a competitive economic advantage. A Report by Headwaters Economic November 2012. http://headwaterseconomics.org/land/west-is-best-value-of-public-lands
Rasker 2006. An Exploration into the Economic Impact of Industrial Development Versus Conservation on Western Public Lands. Society & Natural Resources 19(3): 191–207.
Rasker, Gude, and Delorey 2013. The Effect of Protected Federal Lands on Economic Prosperity in the Non-Metropolitan West. Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy.