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Oregon service alerts public about nearby forestry work

The FERNS interface.
Oregon Department of Forestry
Users can subscribe to receive notification in their county or a custom area of interest.

Oregon residents can sign up to be notified about timber activity and pesticide use in their local area.

Under The Oregon Forest Practices Act, foresters working on non-federal land in the state must disclose when they plan to do pesticide sprays, logging, road building or other forestry operations.

Those rules apply to a recent, controversial plan to spray herbicide by helicopter in Lincoln County.

A notification system called FERNSdisplays those plans online and sends alerts to subscribers. Users can also choose to only be warned about imminent aerial sprays within a mile of their home.

“Some people just want to know what's going on in their neighborhood,” said Scott Swearingen with the Oregon Department of Forestry, which manages FERNS. “They want to know where the log trucks are coming from.”

Casey Miller is a Lincoln County Commissioner. He said the public can use the service to evaluate Oregon's forestry practices.

“If you have the bandwidth, sign up and get those notifications. This will tell you a lot about what's happening around you,” he said. “Explore this. Take some of your time and think about what it means to be an Oregonian.”

Additionally, FERNS notifies users when a forestry application has opened for public comment. Swearingen said community input can reveal that an operation would violate the law.

“That's a 14-day period for folks to comment in case we miss something,” said Swearingen, “if they know something about that resource, or they know another resource there that should be protected.”

Swearingen said those with questions about FERNS should contact their local ODF Stewardship Forester.

Nathan Wilk is a freelance reporter, a former reporting intern and a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. He began in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.
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