IVFROG – stewards of the woodland

Nearly a decade ago, a public land decision to log Hope Mountain in Takilma hit a snag. Led by community-minded folk, namely the late John Meengs, neighbors went into action. They wanted to preserve the clean, clear and cool waters of nearby Page Creek which meanders through their forested properties before it meets the East Fork of the Illinois River.
As a result of working together, a unique partnership formed between residents, contractors, Grayback Forestry, Wilson BioChar and Wild Rivers Ranger District. That cooperative spirit led to a healthier, more fire-resistant landscape. The project was an example of how the best stewards of the woodlands are most often those already living in harmony with it.
Other experienced natural resource professionals and community liaison organizations such as the Illinois Valley Community Development Organization joined the effort, contributing to the project’s success.
“We strived to reach a point … where things weren’t so much ‘done to us’ as much as they were ‘done by, and with us,’” said Takilma resident Stacey Williams.
More recently, the Illinois Valley Watershed Council received grant funding and worked both with residents and the U.S.Forest Service on a project to help improve conditions for native fish in Page Creek.
Over time, and with support from multiple sources, the Takilma stewardship model has grown to encompass the entire Illinois Valley. The Illinois Valley Fire Resiliency Oversight Group, IVFROG as it is known today, addresses the Illinois Valley’s potential for catastrophic wildfire. Fire Risk Reduction strategies such as removing over-grown brush and ladder fuels on private woodlands is a primary goal of IVFROG.
From O’Brien to Selma and in between, all residences in the Illinois Valley are identified in a class of Wildland Urban Interface, as either moderate or extreme fire risk.
IVFROG utilizes cost-share programs through the USDA and other logistical means available for residents to be better prepared in the event of another wildfire.
“Citizens ready to take action to reduce their risk of wildfire and create defensible space are key stakeholders,” explained Cheryl Nelson, who serves the community as IVFROG’s Engagement Coordinator. “With an overabundance of fuels on private parcels, woodland owners play a huge role in helping reduce the potential of catastrophic wildfire.”
Nelson’s position is funded through a grant agreement between the Illinois Valley Soil & Water Conservation District and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s Stakeholder Engagement program.
Scott Blower, District Ranger of WRRD supports the IVFROG partnership’s fuels reduction projects in the Wildland Urban Interface as it provides mutual protection across boundaries.
Blower provides IVFROG with monthly updates and progress on Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest’s planned projects. “Wild Rivers RD continues to work aggressively with fuel reduction projects as well as clean-up from the Slater Fire by addressing the Roadside Danger Trees,” said Blower.
If you are interested in joining the IVFROG as a steward of your local forest and want more information on cost-share opportunities for woodland owners, contact IVFROG either via their Facebook page or by calling the IVSWCD at 541-592-3731.