Wednesday, February 17, 2010
FALLS CITY -- An Oregon Department of Forestry review may make significant changes to what lands are considered forestland in the state.
In Falls City, reclassifications could affect up to two-thirds of properties within the city limits.
Owners of reclassified forestland will be charged a per-acre fee, used to fund protecting forestland throughout the state from fire. The 2010 minimum fee was $18.75 for properties with 23.8 acres or less of forest, more for those with more acreage. An additional surcharge of $47.50 is added to properties with structures, which add to the complexity of dousing a wildland fire.
These charges would be in addition to those already assessed to support the local fire department.
The Polk County Forest Classification Committee has been examining county lands that are part of the West Oregon Fire Protection District for more than a year.
The committee is set to unveil its work in two public meetings. The first will be today (Feb. 17) at 7 p.m. at the Buell Grange Hall, 5970 Mill Creek Road, the second in Falls City on Monday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. at the Falls City Fire Department, 320 N. Main St.
Under the current assessment, Falls City currently has no forestland, a unique situation considering that the city is essentially surrounded by forest, said Jeff Classen, the Department of Forestry's Dallas unit forester and member of the committee.
Based on the official state definition of forestland, the committee determined up to two-thirds of the city would be subject to the charge.
The upcoming public meeting will give the committee a chance to introduce themselves and present its case for changing classifications in the area. Citizens also will be able to respond.
"It could potentially lead to revisions of the draft work," Classen said.
Falls City Fire Chief Bob Young said at the Falls City's City Council meeting on Feb. 2 that having the Oregon Department of Forestry responsible for forestland in the city could add another layer of protection.
He said the number and availability of department volunteers is dropping, a pattern he doesn't see ending.
"The fire department would really like to have the Department of Forestry as a backup," Young said.
Classen said nothing is final until a public hearing on the final draft review is held. He said that meeting could be scheduled in the spring or summer of this year.