Oregon’s private forestlands provide critical environmental, social and economic benefits that are destroyed by fire for a generation.
Out-of-control wildfires can be devastating to the protection of fish by wiping out shade and woody debris essential for cool water temperature and spawning grounds. It can wipe out tree canopies needed for birds and vegetation for food to sustain other wildlife. While healthy forests clean our air by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, wildfires create enormous emissions of CO2 and destroy the very resources needed to remove it.
The media often defines the “cost” of wildfires by what resources it takes to control them. The true costs are infinitely more burdensome: lost fish and wildlife habitat, destroyed homes and valuable timber resources, and massive emissions of carbon dioxide. That’s why Oregon’s private forestland owners provide substantial resources to prepare for and fight wildfires.
Oregon is the only state funding structure that includes forestland owner payments to support both base preparedness and emergency fire suppression costs. It is the only state that has an insurance policy to protect its general fund exposure from extreme wildfire costs. Since 1972, landowners have borne the majority of the costs of this insurance policy (premium and deductible), yet the policy applies exclusively to the state General Fund. It does not cover landowner fire losses or forest restoration.
Today, forestland owners are required to pay additional taxes and assessments in order to carry a minimum $22.5 million balance in the Oregon Forest Land Protection Fund, which is used to help the state fight wildfires. While the loss of property, wildlife habitat, and, tragically sometimes, life affects only certain parts of Oregon, fighting wildfires is a burden we all share.