Letter to Communities from the Pacific Northwest Forest Service Regional Forester - November 9, 2020

A letter from Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa to local impacted communities as we work interdependently on recovery after the unprecedented Oregon wildfires of Fall 2020 November 9, 2020


To our friends and neighbors,


In early September, smoke darkened our skies and ash rained on our homes as unprecedented wildfires erupted during a historic Labor Day windstorm. For two days, I watched as gusty winds drove a firestorm down the west slopes of five Oregon national forests and directly into our lives. Today, I write an open letter to this place I call home, to those I walk alongside this journey of recovery.


I've talked with thousands of my fellow Oregonians and residents of dozens of impacted communities, who are trying to piece together meals, homes, schooling kids, insurance, and the next paycheck. These heart-breaking stories have prompted me to ask what we as the Forest Service can do as land managers on the long road to recovery.


I heard about reducing wildfire risk, providing clean water, and restoring our connections with nature, particularly in places that we and our families have visited for generations. As Regional Forester, I've forwarded to our national office, a request for more than $3.3 million to stabilize critical roads, trails, and bridges on forests such as the Mt. Hood, Willamette and more. We have completed rapid assessments of burned areas to identify the risk of debris flows following heavy rains and helped ensure clean drinking water in our homes. We're working with everyone from soil scientists to recreation specialists to assess where and how we can safely reopen recreation areas over the coming weeks, months, and years. We'll continue to work across all land ownerships to increase defensible space and reduce fire risk including the potential of returning good, low-intensity fire to our landscapes in addition to sustainable thinning.


I am struck once again by how interdependent our communities have always been and will always be with our public lands. We stand together with our fellow citizens as we work to rebuild homes, support livelihoods, and restore cherished natural places for our kids and grandkids. Please know that like you, we are in it for as long as it takes. This marathon of recovery won't be easy – there will be disappointments, unexpected challenges, and unknown barriers. But there will also be amazing opportunities to reimagine investments in restoration and recreation as we look to the future. I'm honored to call Oregon home because I know we'll get through this together and be stronger on the other side.


Yours in service,


Glenn Casamassa Pacific Northwest Regional Forester