ASHLAND, Ore. — Officials are pleased with the way phase one of the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project went last fall and phase two is set to begin Wednesday morning.
The second phase will be very similar to the first only in a different location of the forest. The AFR has been years in the making and officials say the completion of phase two will mark the half way point.
“Ended up with a really nice looking forest, and something that I think people now see and feel good about,” said Chris Chambers with Ashland Fire.
The project has had opponents over the years, however some of the opponents are in favor of thinning some of the smaller brush and trees.
“I definitely agree that there are problems up there,” says Eric Navickas, “but they can be dealt with in non commercial means by cutting down the small trees, either leaving them laying, or piling and burning them.”
Citizen activist Eric Navickas says he’s unhappy with what he saw after hiking to the completed Phase One area. He says too many large trees were taken down.
“They have pushed the limits and they are getting into large diameter trees that are less fire prone and actually retain moisture and shading in the forest,” said Navickas.
AFR officials say large trees are not a part of the project and are only taken down if they are dead and creating a hazard.
“Our plans include thinning the smaller trees from around those big trees to keep the big trees in place. Every once and a while, for workers’ safety, a large snag, or dead tree, gets cut,” said Chambers.
Ashland Fire officials say some trails we begin to close starting on Wednesday. The heavy lifting of the marked trees however won’t begin until a few weeks later or possibly longer, depending on the weather.
“The helicopter is scheduled to arrive around the 25th of march and that’s kind of a flexible schedule, so once it gets here, we’re hoping another three to four weeks and the helicopter will be out of here before the first of May,” Chambers said.
Officials say the completion of Phase Two will mark the half way point with about three years of work remaining. Sources of funding, however, for the remaining portions is up in the air because the trees used for commercial reasons only cover a portion of the cost and federal funding is set to expire in September.