RESTOR task force facilitates solutions for Oregon
While Colorado spent a good part of spring and early summer in a flaming inferno, now, the flames have moved west with wildfires burning through sagebrush, grass and beetle-kill in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Idaho.
Tuesday of last week, the U.S. Forest Service was reporting 62 fires, including 16 new large fires, in the five states.
In response to these growing and devastating wildfires in Oregon, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) President Curtis Martin announced the creation of RESTOR in late July, a task force within OCA dedicated to providing assistance and education, building understanding and awareness, and facilitating improvements regarding current and future wildfires in the state.
RESTOR (Restore Everything Strategically Through Organized Response) will be led by Colby Marshall, a Burns native who spent eight years managing natural resource and energy issues on the staff of Republican Greg Walden, and who currently helps manages his family’s ranch near Burns. Also on the RESTOR task force: Bob Skinner, former OCA president and livestock producer from Jordan Valley; Kay Teisl, executive director of OCA; Jeff Rose, associate Burns district manager of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); Chad Karges, deputy manager of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; and Tony Svejcar, rangeland scientist and research leader at the Agricultural Research Service in Burns.
“The problem of wildfires is so enormously devastating that we felt the creation of a dedicated resource was the only way to provide the focus and attention this issue requires,” said OCA President Curtis Martin, a rancher from Baker City. “With his policy experience and deep knowledge of ranching, Colby is the right person to drive this process and to help us channel our resources to their highest and best use.”
RESTOR will work within OCA and the Oregon cattle community to: • Interface with BLM, other federal agencies, the state of Oregon, local governments, and the Oregon congressional delegation to channel resources and assistance to Oregon’s livestock communities affected by current wildfires, and to improve federal response to future fires. • Enhance public understanding of these crises by commissioning an economic study to examine the direct and indirect economic and societal costs of wildfires in Oregon. • Convene a Restoration Roundtable discussion in the fall of 2012 to explore improvements at the federal, state and local levels to reduce the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and to improve government and community responses when they occur. • Serve as a primary point of contact for the media and other information seekers regarding current and future wildfire disasters in the state.
The first order of business for RESTOR was conducting community meetings to gather impact information from those affected. Meetings were held in Jordan Valley on July 24 and 25.
Next, the RESTOR group met with Walden in early August to provide an update on the southeast Oregon wildfires and to discuss various options for federal relief for affected families, businesses and communities.
Walden’s efforts to extend lapsed disaster relief for ranchers by extending key elements of the 2008 Farm Bill that expired in 2011 are supporting the needs expressed at the community meetings. If extended, disaster assistance programs, including Livestock Indemnity Payments, Livestock Forage Disaster Programs, and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, would provide financial relief for losses incurred from Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012, as a result of disaster, adverse weather, or other environmental circumstances. RE- STOR plans similar meetings with Oregon’s Sens.
Merkley and Wyden.
Martin said, “We sincerely appreciate the tireless effort of our congressional delegation to provide relief for our ranching community and will pledge our support to get this critical legislation to the president’s desk.”
The conversation was timely given Oregon’s latest large rangeland fire, the Holloway Fire, which is burning on the Oregon-Nevada board near Denio. The fire has reportedly grown to more than 123,000 acres, resulting in the loss of large tracks of high desert habitat very important to wildlife and livestock operations.
In other activities, RE- STOR worked to directly contact all fire-affected individuals to again ask if other types of immediate assistance are needed or if they have identified extended term needs. As part of this outreach, RESTOR has facilitated deliveries of hay and donated trucking to those operations most significantly impacted by the Long Draw and Miller Homestead fires. Four hundred tons of hay were delivered to affected operations in Jordan Valley and Frenchglen on Aug. 15.
Marshall, RESTOR task force chairman, said “We welcome the opportunity to partner with many generous individuals and business to provide assistance to affected families and the important business that make up Oregon’s livestock communities. Assuring this assistance gets to those impacted is a top priority of RESTOR.”
Charitable donations of cash or in-kind contributions (including hay, supplies, transportation and livestock relocation options) are being accepted online, via phone, or in person at the OCA office. To make a charitable contribution to the Fire Victims Relief Fund, or to offer in-kind or relocation assistance, please contact Kay Teisl, executive director of OCA, at 503/361- 8941 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions can also be made online at http://www.orcattle.com/makea-donation-ocsf.html. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor