OSWA develops fire policy, calls for action by members.

From Oregon Small Woodlands Association,
Governmental Action Committee, Woodlander Update 7/08

In response to our members growing concerns, the Governmental Action Committee has drafted an OSWA Fire Policy. OSWA is seeking members feedback before a final recommendation to the Executive Committee in August. Please send your comments by letter or email.
OSWA Draft Fire Policy

OSWA supports aggressive fire prevention and suppression action and shared funding for both private and public forest resources.

OSWA supports a shared cost structure that evenly splits payments between landowners and the State of Oregon for readiness at the district level, severity resources, securing an insurance policy to protect state general fund exposure and equitably meet deductible requirements of that policy.

Policy Background

Oregon is known for its forests and the multitude of values they provide. Fire creates devastating losses that go far beyond the uninsurable cost to private landowners of burned timber. The degradation of water quality, loss of wildlife habitat, and extreme carbon emissions caused by wildfire all destroy environmental benefits provided by healthy forests.

Many fires are caused by the public. Additionally, climate changes are increasingly exposing land to fire conditions, which combined with other uncontrollable events such as multiple lightening strikes, create extreme conditions beyond any ability to control. A significant risk factor for all private landowners is the mismanagement of federal forests. Neighboring landowners view their proximity to federal forests as a liability.

Oregon landowners have willingly maintained a proud tradition of paying significant land and harvest taxes to match the state’s fire suppression costs. States like California pay the entire cost of wildfire suppression and do not receive any landowner taxes.

These taxes, especially in Eastern Oregon, have escalated beyond the production value of the land for its resource use. In several counties, district fire assessments are larger than any other portion of a landowner’s property tax. This burden is no longer a balanced and fair allocation of cost.

Since 1991, district readiness costs have been shared 50-50 between landowners and the state. Significant in-kind resources, such as heavy equipment, water tankers and fire watch personnel are contributed every year by landowners. The historic contribution credit for these costs was removed during the 2007 Legislative Session. Equity must be restored to recognize the significant cost of in-kind resources provided by landowners.

Suppression costs for large fires and state insurance have been covered through a complicated mix of landowner taxes, and some state funds. These costs have not been allocated in an equitable manner. Since 1993, the cumulative total of landowner costs beyond their own district level totals $128,781,553. The state costs for the same period have totaled $20,909,985. This represents an 86-14% “cost share” that is broken, unbalanced and unsustainable.

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