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$100,000 awarded for wildfire mitigation around Medford watershed

 Spring overflow with gage
Spring overflow with gage

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest was awarded $100,000 this week to reduce damaging wildfire risk in the watershed that provides drinking water to Medford and surrounding communities.

The money will be used for cultural and archeological surveys on 2,000 acres of forest land in the Big Butte Springs watershed.

Eventually the program will include restoration work on 20,000 acres of forest, according to Craig Harper with the Medford Water Commission.

“To get the forest to a state where it is more ecologically healthy [and] includes better habitat for the native animal and plants that have lived there for forever and reestablish an equilibrium where catastrophic fire has less chance of coming through and wiping out entire forests,” Harper says.

After survey work is completed, forest managers will focus on thinning and habitat restoration with the goal of preventing damaging wildfires. The project is also intended to promote forest resilience against stressors such as drought and insects.

The Big Butte Springs watershed provides drinking water to 140,000 people in the Rogue Valley. The project has support from local partners such as the Medford Water Commission and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The money was awarded through the Oregon Department of Forestry’s federal forest restoration program. It falls under the Planning Assistance and Categorical Exclusion, or PACE funds, that are administered by ODF.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.