As in many parts of the rural West, life is changing in Northeast Oregon. Timber production from federal land has dropped precipitously in the last 20 years, upending the economic foundation of communities. Land values and property taxes have skyrocketed as ownership patterns have changed. And the forests themselves are changing. Grand and Douglas Fir now choke stands once dominated by Ponderosa Pine. Dense, water-stressed forests are more vulnerable to insect infestations. Uncharacteristically dense forests lead to a higher risk of severe fire. And fire itself has changed. Having shaped forests for millennia, fire seasons are growing longer, fires themselves are bigger and more difficult to manage, and firefighting costs are through the roof.
Invariably, action or inaction on one side of a property line has impacts on the other. And these impacts are particularly acute in this rugged country where almost half of the forest land isn’t owned by the federal government, but by individuals and families. Fire on poorly managed lands threatens not only residents’ homes and many forest landowners’ livelihoods, but also wildlife habitat and water quality. Formed in June 2014, My Blue Mountains Woodland is dedicated to helping family forest landowners protect the values they hold for their land.