BEND, Ore. -

Central Oregon residents’ main concern for the Deschutes National Forest is to manage forests to reduce wildfire risk, according to a new poll commissioned by the Oregon Forest Resources Institute, a state agency charged with public education about forest management.

OFRI contracted with DHM Research in Portland for the phone survey, which polled 300 Deschutes County residents in early November to determine public awareness and attitudes about forestry issues. OFRI worked with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, a Bend-based community group, to design the survey.

On a scale of 1-10, those polled gave “manage forests to reduce high-severity wildfire risk” a mean score of 8.1, making it their top priority.

Respondents were asked to rate their preference for various forest management methods.

The top three, all with about 90 percent agreement, included tools such as thinning dense forests to make them more fire-resilient, using prescribed fire to remove underbrush and small trees when conditions are appropriate, and using controlled burns to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire.

“The survey results confirmed for us that there is a high degree of public support for active management of our national forestland, primarily to reduce the risk of wildfire and improve overall forest health,” said Alan Unger, Deschutes County commissioner and chair of the collaborative. 

According to Paul Barnum, OFRI executive director, the agency undertook the survey to benchmark public attitudes in an area where federal forests dominate the forested landscape (87 percent in Deschutes County) and help the collaborative direct its educational efforts.

“The results show that the DCFP has done a remarkable job of public education,” Barnum said. “The public is knowledgeable and supportive of active forest management.

“It is critical,” he added, “to sustain the education effort because Central Oregon will continue to draw new visitors and residents, many of whom will be unfamiliar with these forest management activities, which are ongoing. We need to get the word out and earn their trust.”

Respondents were contacted randomly by phone between Nov. 7 and 9. The survey has a margin of error of approximately +/-5.7 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.

Barnum said the results, especially with such high levels of agreement, are comparable to surveying the entire population.

Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project: The DCFP is breaking through historic gridlock to forge new agreements and create a shared vision for stewardship that will sustain our federal forests into the future. www.deschutescollaborativeforest.org

Oregon Forest Resources Institute: OFRI was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1991 to advance public and landowner education about the importance of forests, forest management and forest products. It is governed by a 13-member board and funded by a dedicated forest products harvest tax. OFRI commissioned this research, working with the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, to better understand public perceptions of forest management in central Oregon. www.oregonforests.org

DHM Research: DHM Research has been providing opinion research and consultation throughout the Pacific Northwest and other regions of the United States for over three decades. The firm is non-partisan and independent and specializes in research projects to support public policy-making. www.dhmresearch.com