Oregon’s New Wildfire Map Has Critics Fearing Greater Restrictions

After approving a statewide hazard rating that will incorporate up to 300,000 properties with elevated risk of wildfires, Oregon forestry official are anticipating some blowback—especially from rural residents.

Many of those rural tracts expect to face new defensible space and building code requirements under the scope of the “wildland-urban-interface” (WUI). As it stands, the criteria apply to areas with at least one structure larger than 400 square feet per 40 acres, if more than half the surrounding land consists of vegetative and “wildland” fuels.

The defensible space regulations require fire-prone fuels to be cleared from 50-100 feet around certain structures, depending on the hazard rating. It is not yet clear if cultivated cropland will be excluded from that requirement, with the matter currently being considered by Gov. Kate Brown. It is also unknown whether the requirement will apply to rural facilities, such as small hydroelectric plants.

The Oregon Department of Forestry received roughly twice as many comments opposed to the mapping regime than in favor of it, mostly because people thought the wildland-urban interface was too expansive, said Tim Holschbach, the agency’s fire prevention and policy manager.

The agency will send out written notices to 250,000-300,000 landowners affected by the rules. They can appeal their classifications if they’re subject to regulation, he said. Periodic audits will review the effectiveness of the rules, which can continue to be modified.

The Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is and has been a major critic of the legislation. The OFB remains concerned about the adverse impact to agriculture since lawmakers began negotiating comprehensive wildlife legislation last year.

The OFB notes that properties will be subject to regulation only if they’re both within the WUI and have a hazard rating of “high” or “extreme” wildfire risk. Roughly 250,000-300,000 properties fall into the “high” and “extreme” risk categories, but ODF doesn’t yet have an estimate of how many are also in the WUI. The OFB anticipated a great deal of overlap, which they believe will have a damaging effect on rural areas.

FEA compiles the Wood Markets News from various 3rd party sources to provide readers with the latest news impacting forest product markets. Opinions or views expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of FEA.
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Critics fear restrictions coming with new wildfire map