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Piecing together protection

Piece by piece, Southern Oregon must take action to protect its communities and its forests from catastrophic fire.

The Ashland Forest Resiliency Project, a national model for reducing the risk of large-scale wildfire, is one piece. That work continues.

A plan completed last year by the Southern Oregon Forest Restoration Collaborative that calls for targeted thinning and brush removal along with prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load in Rogue Basin forests is another piece. Implementing it would require large appropriations of federal money.

Proposed changes to state smoke management rules for prescribed burns, which will be the subject of a public hearing in Medford next week, is yet another piece. The Oregon Department of Forestry and Department of Environmental Quality are considering easing the rules to allow some smoke for limited time periods in the fall and spring to permit more burning of grass and underbrush to reduce the risk of summer wildfires.

Then there is the amended Ashland Wildfire Mitigation Ordinance, which won initial approval from the City Council this week. The new version expands the wildfire hazard zone to encompass the entire city, and imposes restrictions on building materials for new construction and major remodels, along with limits on the types of new vegetation that can be planted. A newly created subcommittee on prohibited plants should ensure the list is reasonable and kept up to date.

None of these precautions is a magic solution, but in combination, all represent positive steps to keep the community safe.