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FSA program to help rehabilitate nonindustrial timberland after recent severe weather

The 2018 drought, coupled with the February snowstorm, took a toll on forested lands in Douglas County, according to Phil Morton, executive director of the county Farm Service Agency.

The storm damaged or brought down a substantial amount of timber that was weakened by last year’s drought, covering the forest floor with debris. Forests full of dead and dying timber increase the risk of insect infestations and wildfires, Morton said.

But as of June 3, nonindustrial private forest landowners whose properties were impacted by the severe weather are eligible to apply for rehabilitation funding assistance through the FSA. The Emergency Forest Restoration Program can help landowners restore forest productivity and increase wildfire preparedness.

“With all the damaged timber, there’s a lot of fire danger out there,” Morton said. “There’s also insect infestations. If we don’t clean up our forests, they’re going to spread and we’re going to have more dead timber. It’s a forest health issue.”

Landowners who wish to remove debris and dead trees from timberland, replant timber and develop roads on lands deemed necessary by the Oregon Department of Forestry are eligible to apply for funding.

“The natural disaster must have resulted in damage that if untreated would impair or endanger the natural resources on the land and/or materially affect future use of the land,” read a FSA press release.

Practices not included in the program are building roads not located on nonindustrial private forestland, tree thinning for management purposes and planting ornamental, nursery or Christmas trees.

After the Aug. 1 application deadline, foresters with the Department of Forestry will inspect applicants’ land to assess the damage and estimate the cost of rehabilitation. Local officials will send in cost estimates from approved applications to state and federal FSA offices. Reimbursement can be up to 75% of rehabilitation costs.

Ahead of what is likely to be another heavy wildfire season, clearing forest debris is a crucial part of preventing the spread of fires and helping firefighters access forested areas during fires, according to Kyle Reed, spokesman for the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

“There was damage throughout the county, but really the Camas Valley area up through Kellogg, Tyee and Elkton was really hit,” Reed said. “There are places that really looked like they logged with as must stuff that broke and came, and it’s all storm damage.”

A power line brought down by a broken branch started a wildfire on one-third of an acre of forested land five miles west of Winston near Hidden Valley Lane on Saturday. While firefighters were able to contain the fire that evening, Reed said the fire, which was burning primarily storm debris, was a sign of what’s to come this summer.

“Especially since the storm, it’s just been nonstop phone calls from people trying to find resources and help to address” the effects of the storm on forested lands, Reed said.

Morton said more than 50 landowners have expressed interest in applying for the FSA program.

While the program will help fire suppression efforts, local fire crews are training to be more aware of the dangers of fighting fires in forests affected by severe weather, Reed said.

“Not only with the excess fuel on the ground but also with the standing snags from previous years and the stuff that’s hung up or partially broken,” Reed said. “It is a safety concern going forward. We’re going to make sure our guys and gals are briefed on these potential hazards.”

He added most of that hazard training happens every year, but “it’s just on steroids this year. There’s so much more of it out there than on a normal year.”


Education
Libraries throughout the county ready to serve students

Most students have free access to their local libraries, which also offer summer reading programs and educational events.

Over the past couple of months the Douglas Education Service District and Roseburg Public Library have been working together to get better library access for students throughout the county.

The library commission has suggested Roseburg City Council adopt a $20 per student fee for a library card distributed outside the Roseburg Public Schools’ district.

However, many of the local libraries in rural Douglas County don’t charge any fees for library services.

Elkton Library is part of the Elkton Community Education Center, which is located next to the elementary school and less than a mile form the high school. The library provides free access to all patrons including students.

Most schools do have access to their own libraries, but public libraries can often provide additional materials.

Canyonville Community Library, Glendale Community Library, Myrtle Creek Library, Oakland City Library, Riddle City Library and Winston Library worked together to form the Douglas Community Library Association.

Libraries within the association can borrow books from each other and a courier will deliver those books to the requesting libraries.

DCLA consists of “independent libraries working together to offer products and training to help maintain and expand access to library services for all residents of Douglas County,” according to its website.

Sutherlin’s C. Giles Hunt Memorial Library and Yoncalla Public Library have representatives on the DCLA board as well.

While no other libraries are delivering to the schools, they are often located in close proximity to a school.

In Riddle the library will be working with the school on a program called “Riddle Library and Rise,” which encourages families to spend time together with the hope to reduce abuse. Riddle City Library is set to host a few different events throughout the summer.

Riddle City Library director Rita Radford said she also works with local day cares and preschools to provide books and classes.

Myrtle Creek and Canyonville libraries also hosts classes when they come to the library.

While Myrtle Creek Library doesn’t have a fee, they do have a suggested donation of $6.

Myrtle Creek, Riddle, Winston, Canyonville, Drain and Glendale are also part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides books for children.

All libraries will have a summer reading program for students, with several also hosting special events and story times.

Representatives from Drain’s Mildred Whipple Library, Glendale Community Library, Winston Library and Yoncalla Public Library did not respond to questions inquiring about fees and student programs.

When the Douglas County Library System failed to get public support for a tax in November 2016, volunteers in many areas worked tirelessly to reopen libraries under local control in the following weeks and months.

Roseburg Public Library remained closed until late 2018. Control of the library shifted to Roseburg city government, which made a deal with Douglas Education Service District to house management offices in the building and contribute to the library’s operations.

Students who attend Roseburg Public Schools or live within its geographic boundaries were given free cards.


Glide
DeFazio, Merkley question overhaul that will impact Wolf Creek Job Corps

DeFazio

The Wolf Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Glide trains students, often those who don’t respond well to more traditional schooling or work training, to pass the GED or learn job skills like construction, forest conservation and firefighting.

But it, like the other 25 Job Corps CCCs across the country, faces a sea change in management at the federal level.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced in May that it would take over administration of the CCC program from the U.S. Forest Service. As part of the change, nine of the country’s 25 CCCs will close. Wolf Creek is one of 16 centers that will remain open, but be run by a private contractor or partnership, according to the Department of Labor.

According to the Department of Labor, the move will save money for taxpayers, modernize the program and shift students to higher performing centers.

But U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, led a bipartisan group of 18 senators and 33 representatives who urged the administration Wednesday to reverse its decision.

They said the change in management could have detrimental effects on the program, which they said provides valuable job training for youth in rural communities and offers critical wildfire and natural disaster response across the country.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the group wrote with hurricane and wildfire season approaching, it’s the wrong time to reduce capacity at CCCs.

“These centers not only help support these underserved youth and young adults with invaluable job training, but they also provide essential capacity for the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill its mission and provide economic opportunities in rural areas,” they wrote.

“Rural Development is a core USDA mission, and CCC students provide significant services to rural America,” they said.

The Forest Service is a USDA agency.

Across the country, the CCCs employ 1,100 people, operate in 17 national forests and grasslands across 16 states, and provide training to more than 3,000 young people, many of whom come from low-income communities in rural areas, DeFazio and Merkley said in a joint press release. They said 1,200 of those students provided the equivalent of 450,0000 hours of wildfire support in the 2017 fire season.

Oregon has two other CCCs. One, Angell CCC in Yachats, will be run by a contractor or partnership while the other, Timber Lake CCC in Estacada, will close.

The Trump administration said the changes will be made in a way that minimizes impact on students.

“Focusing on the best possible outcomes for students now and in the future, the Department will increase student access to Job Corps centers with the highest sustained student performance outcomes,” the Department of Labor said in a press release.

Read Wolf Creek Job Corps Director Gabe Wishart's comments on the local impact of the change in our followup story here.