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2020 Oregon Wildfire Recovery – Natural and Cultural Resources

What’s next for Oregon’s public lands, natural and cultural resources?

The impact from the 2020 wildfires to the state’s natural resources, cultural resources and beloved natural areas were devastating. Recovery efforts quickly organized, and many state, federal and local agencies and tribes started to assess the impact and severity of damages to these resources. As initial assessments of damages are completed, the state and its partners are developing plans for recovery and rebuilding and analyzing potential costs of the recovery are analyzed and evaluated as the first step. As these plans form, the state’s recovery progress will depend on available funding and resources.

What is the State’s Recovery Function 7: Natural and Cultural Resources Task Force?

Following the 2020 fires, the state established a task force to address natural and cultural resources. The Natural and Cultural Resources Recovery Task Force (NCRRTF) is designed to provide coordination and implementation for the State’s recovery response to catastrophic wildfires in September 2020, with a focus on natural and cultural resources.

The mission is “to integrate state assets and capabilities to help local governments, tribal governments, and impacted communities address long-term environmental and cultural resource recovery needs after large-scale and catastrophic incidents.”

The scope is to provide “guidance to state departments in aiding local and tribal partners in preserving, protecting, conserving, rehabilitating, and restoring natural and cultural resources.”

The objectives are to:

Wildfire Impact Assessments

Conduct necessary assessments, compile information and data from studies by individual land managers, collaborate and share resources to carry out necessary assessments and share. Assessments such as the Erosion Threat Assessment and Reduction Team (ETART) will look at the impacts across the board.

Final ETART Reports

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Full ReportFull ReportFull ReportFull Report
Other Docs.

The NCRRTF will work with local partners in each of the fire-affected areas to assess priority actions to address wildfire impacts and investments needed to support these.

Tribal Resource Impacts

Following formation of the NCRRTF, it was clear that a more focused conversation about natural and cultural resources needed to occur with Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes. Each tribe was invited to participate in the NCRRTF. In addition, a Tribal Work Group of the NCRRTF was formed. This work group will:

Cultural Resource Impacts

The statewide heritage recovery efforts are coordinated with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office and partners from the local, state, federal and tribal levels. This subgroup is supporting heritage sites and the organizations that support them, including museums, historical societies, historic cemeteries, historic downtowns and archaeology sites.

Funding Opportunities

Within NCRRTF, a funding focused subgroup has been tasked with connecting assessment recommendations to potential funding sources, including both FEMA and non-FEMA funding sources. The team has brought together multiple state and federal agencies with funding authority in hopes of maximizing the benefit from each dollar spent. To this end, the funding group is attempting to fill gaps in funding to ensure that recommendations from the reports are able to be implemented on the ground. As these connections are made, the group is working to communicate information about available funding sources to communities across the state in an effort to make this stage of post-fire recovery easier to navigate.

As the group makes resources available, they will be found here. One of those resources will be a spreadsheet collection of funding sources available that includes detailed information about the application process. Additionally, resources for funding guidance will also be made available in the coming days.

Recreation Impacts

The 2020 fire season had devastating impacts on our natural resources that support outdoor recreation opportunities. Right now, state and federal land management agencies are working to assess the on-the-ground impacts from fire to recreation. We are in the early stages of making plans on how to help communities recover, and ways for Oregonians to reconnect with their favorite places when it is safe to do so. For now, we need your help by continuing to recreate responsibly by respecting closures, which are there both for the safety of the public and to protect resources. 

Recovery. Recovery efforts focus on repairing and rebuilding damaged and lost infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, and supporting economic recovery of local business and affected communities. Right now, many public lands that burned in 2020 are still closed to public access. This is necessary to protect natural and cultural resources, as well as to protect the public, staff, and first responders.

Reconnection. For areas that were damaged by the fires and have since reopened, visitors should expect a changed experience out on the landscape. This could include hard-to-navigate stands of burned trees or eroded slopes that lack signage or missing sections of trail.

Plan ahead to ensure the area you want to go to is open. Play it safe by choosing activities that are within your comfort zone. As fire damaged areas reopen, they may have unmarked hazards and may be more challenging in rescue situations. Lastly, please be patient - recovery will take a long time. Keep an eye open for opportunities to volunteer on stewardship projects in recovering areas.

Resilience. Wildfires are a natural occurrence on the landscape, but natural areas impacted by the 2020 wildfires may take decades to recover due to severity and size. Agency partners are assessing the impacts and integrating long-term resilience into the recovery efforts.

Reimagining. We’ll have the opportunity to reimagine the connections between communities and their public lands and waterways in the months, weeks, and years to come. Some places may not come back exactly the way they were - either because rebuilding is not possible, or we can envision something better.

Frequently asked questions

Cherished family heirlooms that survive a fire are often covered with soot and ash, requiring prompt and gentle attention to avoid further damage. Visit the Heritage Emergency National Task Force for important considerations when looking to protect your family findings.