ORLEANS, California, September 12, 2016 – Today, the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership (WKRP) launched a precedent-setting phase of the Orleans Community Restoration Project (OCFR) within the pilot project area for the Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management Project, which is aimed at restoring forests while keeping local communities safe from uncontrolled wildfire.

In recent years, wildfire has increased in frequency and severity in the Klamath Basin and throughout the west. Klamath communities have seized the initiative to take on the challenges of living in a rural area where fire is a natural part of ecosystem.

“Years of fire suppression and poor forest management practices have put our forest resources and our communities at risk. We can’t prevent wildfire, but we can manage it to the benefit of the forest and protect of our communities,” said Leaf Hillman, Director of the Karuk Tribe Department of Natural Resources.

The Somes Bar project is the first pilot project area on the Six Rivers National Forest that the WKRP collaborative developed to address dense stand conditions focused around the communities of Orleans, Somes Bar and Ti-Bar. This pilot project planning area is 6,500 acres and the southernmost part of the footprint overlaps with the OCFR Project.

Although the OCFR project to reduce fuel loading near the Orleans community has been ongoing since 2008, the Karuk Tribe recently gained substantial funding to continue thinning dense forest stands and preparing areas to see prescribed fire.

For millennia, the Karuk and many other Tribes in the west used fire as a management tool on a landscape scale. To a large degree, the federal agencies replaced this traditional management with a policy of fire suppression.

“It’s time we re-establish the human relationship with fire in these places and this project acknowledges that reality,” said says Bill Tripp, Karuk Tribe Eco-cultural Restoration Director.

According to Six Rivers Forest Supervisor Merv George Jr., “I couldn’t be more pleased with how this collaborative is moving forward. It’s not just about creating resilient forests; it’s also about building relationships and I look forward to the future working with our river communities and the Karuk Tribe.”

Klamath National Forest Supervisor Christine Frisbee agreed, “I am excited about the opportunities this provides for the Klamath National Forest to help our communities and the environment.”

After a brief ceremony and prayers from local spiritual leaders, a Karuk Tribal fuels crew was dispatched to initiate implementation of this important project. The project begins with building the firelines necessary for controlled burns this fall.

The WKRP is a collaborative effort between local communities and a diverse array of stakeholders, including the Karuk Tribe, Six Rivers and Klamath national forests, Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, local communities, other organizations, and federal and state agencies, merging traditional ecological knowledge and western science to restore fire regimes and re-create resilient biodiverse forests. The WKRP’s ultimate goal is to treat 55,000 acres to restore fire’s natural role in the ecosystem and to ensure fire events are safe for communities.

For more information about the Karuk Tribe, www.karuk.us

For more information about the Six Rivers National Forest, visit us at www.fs.usda.gov/srnf, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/USFSSixRiversNF, or “follow” us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SixRiversNF.