Eagles and Neighbors Benefit from Fuels Reduction

Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge - 2001 (ongoing)

Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge and its subdivision neighbors in Worden and Keno, Oregon are working together to reduce the risk of wildfire that could threaten homes as well as one of the largest concentrations of winter-roosting bald eagles in the United States.

The 4,200-acre refuge, which straddles Southern Oregon and Northern California, contains a dense mix of pine, fir, juniper and brushy areas that have overwhelmed eagle roosting areas and created a wildfire threat. For the past several years refuge employees and contract crews have cleared or burned about 700 acres of flammable vegetation on the refuge. Neighbors have been doing the same, protecting their homes by removing excess brush and trees that are too close to buildings.

"One of the big successes of our project has been the reaction from adjacent landowners," said David Goheen, fire management officer at the refuge. "Several private landowners adjacent to the refuge have hired the same contractor that we've used to treat their side of the fence. Not only have we greatly reduce fire hazards on the refuge, but the clearing we've done benefits bald eagle habitat by protecting preferred tree species and tree characteristics."

Crews use a machine called a slash buster to grind up thick stands of tangled trees and vegetation. Another 300 acres of brush was cleared using chain saws. By late 2005 refuge crews will have treated an additional 400 acres using both methods. In addition, timber sales were held on the refuge in 1999 and 2004 to selectively thin 1,200 acres of overgrown forests, lessening the likelihood that a wildfire could destroy the larger trees that eagles prefer for roosting. In the fall of 2004, fire managers ignited nearly 130 acres of debris piles from the thinning operations and plan to burn an additional 205 acres of understory litter in spring 2005.

The Keno Rural Fire District has applied for and received federal grants through the Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase a chipper and hire a crew to remove flammable vegetation from high fire-risk subdivision lots next to the refuge. The Oregon Department of Forestry has also received grants to treat some of the 400 acres it owns nearby.

Bear Valley refuge is part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which manages three refuges in southern Oregon and three in northern California.

For more information, visit klamathbasinrefuges.fws.gov/fire/

back to headlines

Back to News Archives

Last Updated: