A Success Story from the City of Ashland

A Success Story from the City of Ashland

1/4/2019

 

Over the last several months, ACES has highlighted excessive and wasteful spending on the part of our elected city officials. We’ve emphasized the importance of prudent fiscal stewardship, prioritizing and funding essential city services that are justifiable, value based and in line with stated city goals and objectives. As an example, there is a service that is commendable, merits a high priority and has been extremely well managed by city staff – Ashland’s Forest Resiliency Stewardship (AFR).

 

AFR is a 10 year project designed to reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the watershed and beyond, protecting us, our water supply, older forests and wildlife.  With west coast wildfires in mind, particularly the Paradise tragedy, we are indeed fortunate that our city leaders had the foresight to prioritize the managing of our forests.

 

While planning began in 1994, AFR on US Forest Service land started with the community coming together in 2004 to submit a plan.  In 2010, the actual work began with a grant of $6.2M from the federal government to address 7600 acres, the bulk of our watershed and its flanks.  Since then, Ashland has received an additional $15M from federal and state agencies and has worked closely with two important non-profit partners, The Nature Conservancy and Lomakatsi Restoration Project.  The City of Ashland in turn has invested $375,000 per biennium and will continue to do so in order to maintain work already done.

 

In addition to the 7600 acres managed by the AFR Partnership, another 7,000 acres of privately held land has fallen under the scope of the project.  By the year 2023, the city expects to achieve its goals of managing 25% of the 52,000 acres of forest surrounding Ashland that would most directly affect our community and watershed.  Obviously, this is an important, cost effective and high priority objective, one that contributes to the safety and security of all Ashland citizens.

 

While Ashland is at high risk for forest fires and therefore eligible for funding grants, this wouldn’t have happened without a huge effort and commitment from Ashland city leaders.  Only a handful of communities are engaged at this level.  Mayor Stromberg was instrumental in seeking funding and Chris Chambers who heads up the Ashland Fire and Rescue Forest Division has provided outstanding leadership.

 

Even now, our city continues to seek new funding.  For example, FEMA has $3M “pre-disaster mitigation” grants available for optimizing individual home safety in wildfire areas and the fire department is making application in January.  The AFR has captured an additional $6M in revenue for the program over the years by sending excess cleared trees to the local mills.  And, the logistics of forest management are a huge challenge…we encourage you to go to the website www.ashlandwatershed.org to learn more and appreciate how effectively the city is working to protect us through AFR.

 

As we approach the upcoming 2019-2021 budget process, we call on our elected officials to do the hard work of formally prioritizing and limiting how and where they spend our money. Unfortunately, we have yet to adopt value based budgeting or put metrics in place against which to evaluate the merits of a program or measure the benefits of an investment.  We have a hodge-podge of wants and needs and everything ends up being funded.  AFR is an obvious win. It is a model of what we would hope for from our elected officials.

 

Our elected city officials must understand that hard earned taxpayer funds are not an unlimited bounty but a precious resource just like our forests. If we don’t better limit and manage how we allocate those resources, we won’t have the funds needed to protect our town and its future.

 

Susan T. Wilson

Ashland Citizens for Economic Sustainability

A Success Story from the City of Ashland

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