Several private timberland owners and managers in Western Oregon have agreed to close their land to public access starting Monday.
With a combined timberland acreage of around 600,000 acres, Seneca, Lone Rock Resources, Giustina Resources, Campbell Global, and Giustina Land & Timber Company will close public access to their lands in Benton, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Linn, and Polk counties.
Due to drought conditions, and above-average temperatures, agencies are predicting a bad fire season in Oregon.
According to the Department of Forestry, the state has recorded 521 fires that burned 15,135 acres so far this year.
Humans started 93% of those fires.
Landowners have been monitoring fuel conditions this spring, as well as reviewing snowpack, weather forecasts, and drought impacts.
The limited precipitation across the region this spring has significantly affected the moisture content of woody debris, as well as the condition of live vegetation fuels and their susceptibility to fire ignition and spread.
More than one million acres in Oregon burned last year as the state was gripped by a historic wildfire season.
Looking ahead at this fire season, officials are worried given how dry conditions were this spring.
Whereas public lands often have the infrastructure to help keep people safe like trails for people to hike on, or fire rings in campgrounds to contain campfires, private timberlands do not have the infrastructure to handle public visits safely.
Since most of Oregon’s wildfires are started by people, public visits to private land have the potential to be dangerous for both the public visitors as well as the timberlands.
To compound the issue, since the beginning of the pandemic, more people are choosing to spend time outdoors.
“We think it is great that people are spending more time outdoors, we just want them to do it safely,” said Todd Payne, CEO of Seneca.
Oregonians can check Oregon’s recreation site map status to plan visits to public land.
“Oregonians and landowners alike cannot afford another devastating year like 2020,” said Brennan Garrelts with Lone Rock Resources. “Given the risks we face this year, we are choosing to be proactive in order to limit danger to the public, firefighters, and the forests.”