Every $1 million spent on restoration will generate $5.7 million in economic returns, according to a recent economic assessment prepared for Governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon’s Legislative Leaders. Click here for the PDF of the full 84-page report.
Some restoration is already taking place, but it isn’t enough to make a long-term difference. Doubling the number of treated, dry-side acres from 129,000 to 250,000 would require about $82 million annually, although much of it can be offset by increased tax revenues, reduced fire suppression costs for wildfires, and less strain on social services.
The lack of active forest management has decreased timber supply and hurt many families in eastern and south central Oregon where one in five people live in poverty. Between 2006 and 2011, food stamp use and welfare payments tripled, and as of September 2012, the average unemployment rate in the area was nearly 11%. Doubling restoration would create or protect some 2,300 jobs.
Mill owners depend on a predictable flow of timber to keep mills running and people employed. Dependability is vital to future investment. Restoration activities can provide the predictable supply that mills need. Doubling the scale and pace of forest restoration on USFS-managed forests in eastern Oregon to 250,000 acres annually and sustaining this pace over the next 20 years will allow businesses to invest, restoration contractors to hire more workers, and mills to maintain their operations and employees.
Industrial output will increase from $231.5 to $463 million, alongside commercial production expansion, because more product sales will occur, and more goods and services will be traded among economic sectors. Additionally healthy, beautiful forests attract tourist and recreational users who also contribute to the local economy.
“It is undeniably true that an increase in forest restoration and overall timber harvest will provide a firmer foundation for current jobs and help the region to grow economically in the future.” - Dr.Tom Potiowsky, Director, Northwest Economic Research Center, Portland State University
The goal of restoration is to return Ponderosa pine forests to resilience against catastrophic fire, insects, disease and other disturbances by creating a forest structure like what existed before modern fire suppression policy and methods. A healthy forest is capable of maximizing the benefits society receives from it - clean water and air, recreational opportunity, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, along with economic goods and services.
Restoration activities include thinning trees, removing merchantable timber, and reintroducing prescribed fire where appropriate. In addition to these activities, restoration can also improve the overall condition of forest watersheds by upgrading stream crossing structures, improving and reducing road networks, stabilizing stream banks, and reintroducing native plant species.
“Doubling restoration activities can have a positive, lasting impact on the health of dry-side forests and rural communities. Now is the time to act.” - John Kitzhaber,Oregon Governor
Dry-side forests are now overly dense and unhealthy. As a result, U.S. Forest Service-managed forests are experiencing more frequent and more severe fires than in the past. Forests, that historically might have withstood low intensity surface fires, are now at risk of devastating crown fires.
Restoration can reduce fire suppression costs because a treated forest is less likely to experience severe fire. The government can save millions of dollars by investing in restoration, while also protecting clean air and water, and keeping firefighters out of harm’s way.
“Unhealthy forests increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires and compromise water quality, wildlife habitat, and the socio-economic vitality of rural communities. We need to restore our forests to healthy conditions.” - Mark Webb, Grant County Judge
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