Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a combination of wildfire fuel accumulation, droughts, and extreme weather conditions caused wildfire in Central Oregon to strike with more destructive power than in decades past. At the same time, the region began experiencing rapid rural development, putting more people and property in the path of wildfire, while also increasing the risk of accidental fire ignitions. In August of 2001, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) received a National Fire Plan grant to develop a strategy for increasing wildfire fuel removals and utilization in Central Oregon. Beyond simply addressing these issues on a technical basis, the COIC grant application committed the organization to work with a broad coalition of Central Oregon stakeholders in order to develop local capacity to implement the strategy.
Central Oregon Partnerships for Wildfire Risk Reduction (COPWRR) was a multi-stakeholder collaboration project aimed at reducing wildfire risk, enhancing ecosystem health, and providing community jobs and income in Central Oregon.
A key strategy for the COPWRR was the development of a stable, sustainable supply of small diameter timber. Research performed for the COPWRR project revealed two key findings: 1) small diameter timber supply within and among Central Oregon’s national forest ranger districts, BLM resource areas, and private woodlands had experienced dramatic fluctuations around the early 2000s; and 2) these fluctuations had contributed to a stall in technology and employment investment in the region’s wood products sector. Researchers noted that businesses needed to be able to look ahead three, five, and ten years for investment and planning purposes – as opposed to the status quo in which small diameter timber is not managed as a resource and it is very difficult to gather accurate data on future supply characteristics and volume. In response to these findings, the COPWRR advisory council proposed the development of a Coordinated Resource Offering Protocol (CROP) initiative. The CROP initiative was intended – through the development of a regional supply offering protocol – to help achieve the necessary predictability and stability of supply to enable businesses to invest in technologies and product development.
Investments were sought to help develop a Central Oregon market for local small diameter timber (the largest material volume component of fuel treatments), thus allowing land managers to stretch hazardous fuel treatment dollars over larger areas. Expanding fuel treatments would, in turn, reduce community wildfire risk, enhance ecosystem health, and provide community jobs and income.