Umpqua Watersheds has participated in numerous forest collaboratives over the last decade and a half that have served several purposes. Our fundamental purpose is to “restore the rest.” From its inception UW has held restoration ecology as a fundamental principle guiding our desire to find some modicum of common ground for watershed management. Most of these collaboratives have come and gone for one reason or another. The unfortunate utilization of time and limited resources on this lengthy experiments has not dissuaded us from trying again and again.
It hasn’t been a total loss. Each experience we encounter adds to the repertoire of documentation, science and pitfalls that we have experienced to help us further the purpose of our restoration efforts. Over the years we have gleaned meaningful lessons that have fined tuned our approach to the collaborative process.
One insightful metric has been our awareness of misinformation regarding our intentions and motives. Indeed, Umpqua Watersheds has been besmirched time and again as a group of environmental extremists. UW was not organizationally involved in the Home Rule Charter campaign at all, yet we were depicted as a devious political motivator Even so, before and after that, very few have respected UW. They have instead ascribed some misplaced political agenda derived from some subculture of miscreants as our real motive for our conservation work. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am amazed at the broad spectrum of social and political paradigms that make up our membership and Board. Nevertheless, we live under the onerous burden of alienation from members of our community in many respects as a result of these projected ideas about our mission and vision.
I want to reiterate that our singular intention is to live in a healthy world in a healthy way. Let me state it clearly and succinctly that we really are concerned about conservation and restoration. Why should I wade through all of this history in the context of Umpqua Watersheds restoration report? We feel it is important for you to understand the repercussions of those political agendas conscientiously working to undermine our strident efforts.
Foremost in my mind is the millions of dollars that would most likely have been saved as a result of our support of the Elk Creek South Umpqua Restoration Project. We’ve been involved with this collaborative project for years. Long hours of meetings, reviews of project goals and objectives, along with a consistent commitment to do the right thing has led to some clear points of agreement with stakeholders and successful project designs. As your local conservation organization, we have done due diligence and given a “thumbs up” to see more than 7500 acres of the watershed treated for fire resilience based on holistic ecological restoration. We’re grateful to our partners and sister organizations for their careful consideration of all the perspectives involved in the decision making process, whether they sat at the collaborative table or not. The project is moving forward.
There has been one significant downside to the almost decade long process. To accomplish our ecological, we needed funding for certain aspects of the project that wouldn’t pay for itself. The original design of the project would require a substantial utilization of *Stewardship Contracting.” This was one of the tools in the “tool box” of agency mechanisms to provide for a successful completion of the work. Dept. of Agriculture stewardship contracting has been successfully utilized throughout the State of Oregon on both the east and west side of the cascades. It was a major barrier in moving the Elk Creek project forward. Because of these concerns actual implementation of the project was significantly delayed. This summer the Miles Fire of the South Umpqua Fire Complex started right in the middle of the project area! If we had we received approval to proceed with the work a few years ago, large segments of mortality in the roadless area of the project would have been spared. The long season of drought and annual fire activity also delayed the work. Forest Service staff are almost always immersed in fire response mode under these conditions. Nonetheless, had collaborative projects been implemented, the area of the Miles fire would have been treated first at a cost of 1.2 million dollars. It sounds as if it is a substantial cost. Take into consideration that the estimated effort to suppress the fire in that part of the project area was estimated to be $25 million of taxpayer money.
Terrestrial restoration work, particularly associated with public lands, isn’t easy to achieve. What is important is that we listen, speak to those who will listen and act when there is a common good to be achieved. Even among potential allies, there is rarely agreement. UW is very actively engaged with other deeply committed stakeholders in establishing a standard of action when it comes to terrestrial treatments as part of restoration projects and fire resilience. We agreed upon basic principles for defensible space around home and infrastructure. If you are interested in the principles, contact me.
More information available at the following websites.