In July 2014, a lightning storm recorded thousands of strikes igniting several fires, which merged to create the Buzzard Complex Fire, about 45 miles southeast of Burns, OR. It left scorched earth and dead or injured cattle in its wake, burning a total of 396,017 acres. Just two years prior in 2012, the Miller Homestead Fire and the Long Draw Fire burned 160,801 acres and 557,648 respectively.
Living with the devastation of these and other wildfires in southeast Oregon, the folks who deal with wildfires in Harney County formed the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative in 2014, in partnership with Rangeland Fire Protection Association members, federal, state, and county employees, tribal members, conservationists, scientists, and local ranchers. A diverse group of stakeholders coming to the table to determine how to make sagebrush steppe landscapes more resistant and resilient to unexpected fire.
A recent project implemented by this working group, the Southeast Oregon Wildfire Resiliency Project completed this summer. In 2021, Oregon Senate Bill 762 passed, allocating $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness. Because of the groundwork laid by the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative since 2014, this Collaborative applied for and secured more than $5 million from Senate Bill 762 to address wildfire issues in the southeast corner of Oregon in Harney and Malheur counties. Named the Southeast Oregon Wildfire Resilience Project this project improved the wildfire resiliency of more than 80,000 acres. SEE THE WORK COMPLETED.