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Tim Freeman: Impact of Archie Creek Fire to be felt forever

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MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review

Tim Freeman stands in a section of forest that was burned during the Archie Creek Fire.

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman was one of the first people at the scene of the Archie Creek Fire as it swept through the area.

There are times in history where the government has stepped up and done some amazing things. You know after the Oxbow Fire, after the Columbus Day Storm, after the Tillamook Fire, people stepped in and reset those land bases. They removed the dead wood, they planted new trees, created new wood, and created a recovery from these fires so the next generation would have amazingly beautiful forests again. I believe we are in one of those times.

With the amount of fire in Oregon recently, with the devastation of the North Umpqua River, up the Rock Creek drainage — it seems really like an opportunity for our generation to do what’s right and reset this land, take the dead wood off, plant new timber and a new forest, and watch it grow so that the next generation will have a beautiful forest we’ll all be able to enjoy.

The management of forest land is a science-based thing, it’s not a political thing. The fact is that here in Douglas County, we grow wood better than most places in the world and this wood’s going to grow whether we manage it or not. The wood can grow and be used in two ways — it can be used in a sustainable way of growing and managing forests, harvesting, replanting, and growing again, or it can be grown and burned up.

I think people need to understand they live in a fire-prone area and they need to take some responsibility for creating defensible space and making sure that they can protect their home from fire. There is opportunity to put in large firebreaks. I think there’s a need to introduce some fire back to the landscape at times when it makes sense and can be controlled and reduce extra fuel load. All of this is important, but it has to be done in a way that is meaningful and covers a significant area. The small treatments we’ve been doing are not even close to what needs to happen.

The impact of the Archie Creek Fire up the North Umpqua river is going to be felt for the rest of our lives. Back a very long time ago when I mountain biked, I had the chance to ride a mountain bike on every section of the North Umpqua Trail. Several of those sections are now destroyed and will take quite a while to recover. The waterfall areas, Fall Creek Falls and other areas up there are devastated. Rock Creek and the fish hatchery and all of those things that are really a part of many people’s lives here in Douglas County, they’ll forever be changed.

It’s going to take generations for that area to recover. That’s why I am so adamant about taking some bold and epic and aggressive actions and seeing what we can do quickly to start the recovery process and not just wait for mother nature to do it. As we all know, hundreds or thousands of years from now it will recover, but there’s no reason to wait. We have the ability, we have the milling capacity, we have the demand for timber, we have the incredible assets of the best foresters in the world here to figure out how to recover that part of our county and we should be working hard every single day until we’ve done all that we can to recover it.

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