November 01, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

A meeting scheduled next week to discuss ways to reduce the risk of fire near the forests edge appears to duplicate work that was done earlier in Union County.

The Vale District of the Bureau of Land Management has contracted with a private group, Dynamac Corporation, to survey residents of the Cove area about their ideas as to how to reduce fire risk along the public-private interface. The residents are asked to complete a questionnaire and mail it to the corporations Germantown, Md., office.

Dynamac, which has offices in Corvallis, has set a meeting for 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Ascension School Camp and Conference Center, Kimsey Commons Building, 1006 Church St.

Earlier this year several agencies, including the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon State University Extension Office, sponsored an information session that included printed material and a discussion about ways that landowners can use plantings and open spaces to reduce the risk of wild fire, especially during dry seasons.

A national fire plan was approved by Congress last year to help communities prepare for fires and find ways to reduce the risk of wild fires. Under the plan, state forestry has been charged with helping private landowners modify their property to reduce risk. J.R. Epps of the BLMs Vale District said the federal agency is working closely with the state agency.

But the La Grande office of state forestry had little advance knowledge of the BLM meeting, and state forester Mark Jacques said Thursday he has been trying to learn more about the meeting and how a BLM plan would fit with other plans.

During an interview Thursday, Epps said the objectives of the meeting are to produce a mitigation report.

What the BLM and the community can do is to start identifying projects (to reduce fire risk), he said.

Epps said that identification of high-risk properties may already have begun, and he agreed that the BLMs work might duplicate earlier work.

Theres a lot new to us, he said. State forestry and the U.S. Forest Service already have done a lot of footwork. We would meld this together with them.

Were not going to reinvent the wheel. We may come to the conclusion that theyve already taken care of this.

Although BLM administers a few pockets of land about eight or nine miles south of Cove, most publicly owned land near Cove is managed by the Forest Service.

Epps said he does not know the cost of the contract signed by the Vale District in an attempt to gather the information.

This is a base to start implementing projects, he said.

State forestrys Jacques said his agency has received a $49,000 national fire plan grant to begin working closely with the residents of Mount Emily near La Grande to map the area and help landowners begin work on the land to reduce fire risks.

Were looking for a couple of places to showcase this year, he said. Were looking for landowners who would like to work with us.

The federal grant will allow state forestry to provide some financial help to landowners who want to participate in fuel-reduction projects.

After we finish planning Mount Emily, we plan to go to Cove and Morgan Lake, Jacques said.

Plans to reduce fire risk on private lands near the forests began about five years ago, well before the National Fire Plan was approved, Jacques said.

Weve been involved with the rural fire districts, the Forest Service and the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, he said.