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Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership - Oregon


Thumbnail image of first page of OR brochure

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest © Sean Bagshaw

Protecting Home of Shakespeare with Wildfire Boundaries

A survey in 11 western states ranked Jackson County, Oregon second out of 417 counties for risk to homes and businesses in fire prone areas adjacent to public lands. The culture and tourism-based economy of the city of Ashland, located at the convergence of the Siskiyou and Cascade mountain ranges in Jackson County, is directly tied to the surrounding public and private forest lands. Historically, frequent, low-intensity fires maintained open, healthy pine and fir forests and reduced the risk of severe wildfire, as well as insects and disease infestation. To protect people and property, fires have been suppressed in recent decades, but those efforts only exacerbated the problem, leaving dense, unhealthy forests that burn hotter and longer when fire occurs.

Through this project, partners worked together to reduce excessive fuel loading and restore thousands of acres of forest for the city of Ashland, and the surrounding private and Federal land. Non-industrial private forest landowners in the Ashland Creek watershed took advantage of the technical assistance and funding from the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership to make their properties more prepared for wildfire. Municipal water sources are better protected. And the outlook has improved for beloved native wildlife, including the Pacific fisher, Coho salmon and northern spotted owl.

Ashland Forest All-Lands Restoration Project - Results

Reduced wildfire threats to communities and landowners:

Fourteen million board feet of timber was removed from Federal lands while generating $6 million, for the sale of by-product logs that supported other project goals. More than 3,000 log trucks delivered loads to local mills, sustaining jobs.

Protected water quality:

Wildfires can choke waterways with sediment and kill vegetation that filters water over time. By reducing wildfire risk, this project improved the health of the Ashland Creek watershed, which provides 90 percent of the community’s water.

Enhanced habitat for Pacific fishers:

The Pacific fisher is a species related to weasels and are found in old-growth areas of local forests. About 40 individual fishers were collared during this project, and their movements are tracked to assess their response to wildfire reduction efforts.

Project Impact: $175,000 in new funding each year

The residents of Ashland are committed to supporting high-quality lands and waters. Partnerships developed during the Joint Chiefs’ project supported a measure that allocates about $175,000 each year from water bills—about $16 per household—to improve the health of the surrounding Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Total awarded through the Joint Chiefs’ from 2015-17: $9.8 million

“One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin” is a line from William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida could be the motto of the collaboration between the local, Federal and non-profit partners working to protect and improve the natural environment in and around Ashland – home to the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“What you might call Ashland’s natural setting is really an integral part of what we are,” said John Stromberg, the city’s mayor. “The presence of nature in this community is what attracts the creative people who make our economy grow.” The Oregon Shakespeare Festival began in 1935 and today, 400,000 people travel to Ashland from July through October to experience diverse theatrical productions. The city’s 21,000 residents are proud of their cultural reputation — and understand that ensuring the safety of visitors and the health of the surrounding forests is critical to their way of life.

“These forests are at risk of wildfire that could harm both our city and our drinking water supply,” said Stromberg. “We take that risk seriously, which has led us to a long-term, nationally recognized, stewardship partnership.” Wildfires are a threat to homes, businesses, vegetation, ecological systems and wildlife habitat. And Jackson County has one of the highest wildfire occurrences in the state. So having a strong collaboration to protect Ashland Forest and surrounding communities is paramount to getting more conservation systems on the ground that will reduce critical risks of wildfire.

“USDA’s Forest Service has embraced the fact that it takes an ‘all lands, all hands’ approach,” said Don Boucher, stewardship coordinator for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Together, the partners have achieved a great deal. From removing dead plant material to applying controlled burns. More than 8,400 acres of land has also been treated. Funding for this project has supported seventeen full-time jobs. And dozens of private landowners came on board as the partners promoted the role of healthy fire.

Mountains in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest






Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre © T. Charles Erickson

Key Partners

City of Ashland

Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District

Lomakatsi Restoration Project

Oregon Department of Forestry

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

The Nature Conservancy

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Download PDF brochure (PDF, 695KB)

USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service are working together to improve the health of forests where public forests and grasslands connect to privately owned lands. Through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, the two USDA agencies are restoring landscapes by reducing wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protecting water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat.