FEMA Grant aims to reduce wildfires on Powell Butte

With homes now ringing Powell Butte, wildfire management at this natural park is more critical then ever. See what officials are doing to reduce the danger, and to improve the natural habitat‚

Mart Hughes, Portland Parks and Recreation, shows Powell Butte neighbors Jim Kreipe and Tom Rush the plans to improve the native habitat and reduce the risk of wildfires on Powell Butte.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With its great views of downtown Portland, the Columbia River, and Mt. Hood, Powell Butte is a great place to hike, ride bikes, and to ride on horseback.

But when a fire gets started, the rugged terrain makes firefighting difficult‚ even for 4-wheel drive “brush rigs”.

“We’re here talking about the work we started September,” says Gay Greger, a public relations staff member of Portland Parks & Recreation. “This is part of a three-year FEMA grant that targets Powell Butte, the Willamette Escarpment (Willamette Bluffs and Oaks Bottom area), and Forest Park.”

This project, Greger continues, allows the bureau to consider the ecological health of Powell Butte. “At the same time, we’re reducing the risk of wildfire. This is for both the butte itself, and the natural resources it represents. We also take into account what this means for the neighbors that live adjacent to the butte.”

Along with the staff from the parks bureau, Portland Fire & Rescue representatives are also on hand at that April 21 open house.

The next step, Greger adds, is for the bureau to finalize its project list. “Based on the feedback we get today, others we receive through the comment period, we’ll start implementing these projects this summer.”

Tamra Dickinson, co-president, Friends of Powell Butte looks at both the progress and plans made for Powell Butte.

Butte ‘Friends’ enthusiastic
It’s great seeing so many people caring about Powell Butte, and coming to see what’s happening,” co-president of Friends of Powell Butte, Tamra Dickinson says.

“We’re concerned about wildfire. Beyond that, there are other important things to be accomplished, like removing non-native species of plants, and habitat management. It’s really important that we keep views open. It’s is really a great thing for Powell Butte.”

Details the plan
Mark Wilson, project manager for the FEMA Wildfire Hazard Reduction Project for the greater Portland area, is also on hand.

Wilson point out that the project has multiple goals:

  • Reduce wildfire hazards;
  • Reduce populating of non-native plants, focus on flammable plants;
  • Improve wildlife habitat;
  • Maintain scenic views; and,
  • Maintain grass over existing and proposed water facilities.

“Part of this work we’re doing is creating a project that is maintainable over time,” Wilson adds. “This is a 50-year project; we’re taking the first steps today.”

Join the Friends of Powell Butte. They meet every third Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the old Powell Valley Water building‚ now the home of Human Solutions‚ at 123rd and Powell Blvd.

Read more about the project online by going to: www.Portlandonline.com/wildfire.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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