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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ashland Forestry Resiliency Stewardship Project

The Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project

Ashland’s Chamber maps out its greatest resource

Story by Cheri Hammons

The Ashland watershed is abundant with natural beauty and resources. It’s the source for the city’s drinking water as well as a favorite outdoor recreation spot for locals and visitors alike. Every year wildfire threatens these resources, along with surrounding homes and wildlife.

As a way to reduce the threat of severe wildfire and to protect water quality and other natural resources in the watershed, the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project (AFR) was established in 2010. The City of Ashland, U.S. Forest Service, Lomakatsi Restoration Project and the Nature Conservancy collaborated to form the stewardship project. Their goal is to cover 7,600 acres of land over 10 years to support, preserve and restore wildlife habitat, water quality and a healthy forest ecosystem, all while reducing the threat of wildfire.

For over 100 years the Ashland Chamber of Commerce has played a role in helping protect the resources in the watershed as well. “Throughout the decades our citizens of Ashland have been stewards of the land and helped to manage the health of the watershed,” explains Katharine Flanagan of the Ashland Chamber. “They’re doing a number of different things up there in terms of protecting habitat and measuring the health of our creeks and the water there, as well as reducing the threat of wildfire,” she says.

Through ongoing public input the community is helping to design the implementation of the project. It’s funded by stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and works to provide a variety of jobs and educational training.

To date the project has put in about $6 million worth of work. In order to finish adequately and be able to maintain in the coming years, it would need to acquire another $4 million.

Flanagan says the Chamber not only saw the need to help create awareness about the stewardship project, but also to educate visitors and residents on how they can take part. “Our project is essentially a collaborative map project that showcases the AFR project effort,” she says. “We’re creating an educational piece to create awareness about the project for mountain bikers, trail runners—for all the people that love to use the watershed recreationally.”

Flanagan also says the fact that the watershed is a natural precious resource is all the more reason to educate those who use the area recreationally. “It’s not just about the trails, it’s about the story surrounding that, the story of how we interact with the watershed,” she says.

One side of the map will feature the entire watershed, with beautiful local photography and content talking about the history of fire and all the great recreational opportunities the watershed has to offer. The other side will include the city of Ashland, Lithia Park and other outdoor areas.

Flanagan says Ashland welcomes about 300,000 visitors a year who are attracted to the area not only by the world-renowned Shakespeare plays and unique culinary experiences, but also by the many recreational opportunities the watershed and surrounding areas provide.

“There’s a lot of different reasons people come to Ashland,” she says. “We’re trying to showcase our outdoors with this map project.”

The map is expected to go to print late June and will be free with donations going to help fund the future of the AFR.   

 

Ashland, Oregon Chamber of Commerce

110 E. Main St., Ashland

541-482-3486

www.ashlandchamber.com

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