By TESS NOVOTNY H&N Staff Reporter Apr 26, 2019

A Klamath County nonprofit working to eradicate Chiloquin-area fire hazards received a $537,000 grant from the state Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to thin trees and clear dry underbrush.

The Klamath Watershed Partnership, recipient of the grant, is a member of the Klamath Lake Forest Health Partnership. KLFHP is a collaborative network of local, state and federal fire and restoration entities to improve safety and health of private and government-owned forest land.

Leigh Ann Vradenburg, KWP project manager, said the state grant will go toward KLFHP’s specific “Chiloquin Community Forest and Fire Project” which aims to clean up and fire-protect 184,000 acres of land. This includes about 32,000 acres of private land, Vradenburg said, which is where much of KWP’s state grant money will go.

Vradenburg said other KLFHP organizations like the Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service received various grants for Chiloquin fire protection efforts totaling nearly $3 million.

Highest risk

She said Chiloquin had the highest fire risk in Klamath County in a recent county-wide fire report which accounts for structure vulnerability, wildland fire history and predicted fire behavior.

As temperatures and precipitation fluctuates with climate change, and especially coming off last summer’s brutal Paradise Fire, Vradenburg said fire preparedness work is essential.

“Each place and situation is different but it’s some level of one of those things,” Vradenburg said. “Either thinning trees out to reduce risk, or clearing brush — brush around Chiloquin is a huge problem. It’s able to carry fire really fast, and then up into the trees.”

Private landowners

Vradenburg said KWP is primarily working with private landowners who might not have knowledge, time or resources to clear hazards from their properties. At the same time, Vradenburg said they work with fire agencies like Chiloquin Fire and Rescue, U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry to make sure their goals and tactics align.

Their tight collaboration, she said, echoes a common phrase in the wildfire community: “Fire knows no owner.”

“It takes this collaboration — federal and state and nonprofit local entities to really get the money, make the connections and move things forward,” Vradenburg said. “You have to have all those different partners who can bring things to the table.”

KLFHP member and Oregon State University Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center Forest Agent Daniel Leavell said the partnership encouraged solutions, not blame-shoveling, between partners.

“It has become the round table around which all of these representatives from all of these agencies and entities sit around,” Leavell said. “They do not defend their own agencies, but identify how to overcome barriers and accomplish things together.”

Local jobs

Vradenburg said the $537,000 would account for about 750 acres of cleanup. She said they will contract locally to get the job done.

Leavell said this focus on local employment was a key part of their strategy.

“We want to provide jobs, we want to provide volume to mills, and we want to put people to work and benefit the economy, benefit the local ecosystem,” he said.

To Vradenburg, any bit of help KWP can give to Chiloquin residents could not only keep them safer in the event of a fire; it could save lives.

“We want to be talking with these people, we want to be aware,” Vradenburg said. “Even giving giving them information on what they can do to reduce risk is really important. We can only do so much. Hopefully that will help the community as a whole.”

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Join us for a workshop geared at private forest landowners. We will discuss:

+ what trees need to be healthy

+ stressed out trees- invitations to insects and disease

+ ways to manage your forest

+ looking at your forest from a wildfire risk perspective

The workshop will be at Chiloquin Fire Station #3, 9201 Sprague River Rd. (8.3 mi. east of Chiloquin). The workshop and lunch are FREE. Instruction will involve indoor and outdoor activities. Dress for the weather, with proper clothing and footwear.

RSVP to Leigh Ann at 541-850-1717 or by April 16.

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Klamath Watershed Partnership is Looking for New Board Members!


We are offering the opportunity to be more directly involved with the Klamath Watershed Partnership and our conservation efforts.  This year we are looking at filling volunteer Board positions. • You are already involved in the conservation in the Klamath Basin; we want you to be an active part of our Team. • We need diverse talents in order to meet the challenges of the future: the more willing hands, the greater our opportunities for success. • There are no prerequisites other than a willingness to join the team and provide your time at our quarterly 2-3 hour board meetings.  • Whatever your background, this is your chance to have a direct and lasting impact on the water resources of the Klamath Basin.

WHAT IS THE BOARD? • The Board directs the activities of the Klamath Watershed Partnership, establishes priorities, organizes fundraising efforts, and leads by example. • The Board meets once a quarter/4 times a year and we often conduct business or convey information by phone and e-mail.  • Information and operations manuals are available for background. New Board members will be mentored by current members. HOW WOULD THIS WORK? • Board members are elected (and serve) for two-year terms. • We are in the process of expanding the number of Board positions and find volunteers to help on Klamath Watershed Partnership projects. • You don't have to live in Klamath Falls. Board members have come from communities throughout the Klamath Basin.

CAN WE COUNT ON YOU? • Would you like more information? • Would it help to talk to a Board member or one of our Staff? • Would you like to visit us at the office?

Contact us by mail, phone or email.  Thank you!

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