SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — With warmer temperatures and wildfire season around the corner, Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought in a handful of counties located in Southern and Eastern Oregon.

Brown declared a drought in Baker, Douglas, Wallowa and Wheeler counties through an executive order on Friday, and directed state agencies to coordinate and prioritize assistance to the region. Brown declared a drought emergency in four other counties in Oregon back in February.

“Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties are facing historic challenges from drought conditions that are creating hardships for the people, farms, ranches, communities, and ecosystems of the region,” Brown said. “I am committed to doing everything possible to make state resources available to provide immediate relief and assistance to water users throughout Baker, Douglas, Wallowa, and Wheeler Counties.”

She added that the state must look toward long-term solutions to the root cause of these drought conditions moving forward.

“There is too little water to go around, and as the climate changes we are experiencing hotter, drier summers,” she stated. “As we brace for another record-breaking drought year, collaborating with our federal partners will also be critical as we work towards locally supported, long-term solutions.”

As of May 9, the snow-water equivalent in those four counties was significantly lower than during a normal water year and forecasted water conditions are not expected to improve. Drought, severe weather conditions, and the upcoming fire season pose significant threats to the local economy, agriculture and livestock, natural resources and recreation in those regions, according to the announcement.

Brown’s declaration unlocks drought-related emergency tools for water users, including assistance to local water users.

Drought declarations also allow the Water Resources Department to expedite review processes and reduce fee schedules. Declarations are intended to be short-term emergency authorizations to address water supply challenges, Brown’s office stated.

As state and local officials coordinate with federal partners, they plan to closely monitor conditions by the state’s natural resource and public safety agencies, including the Oregon Water Resources Department and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Drought declarations typically go through a three-part process before securing a state drought declaration from the governor, explained the announcement. The Baker, Douglas, Wallowa and Wheeler county commissions first declared a drought emergency due to low snowpack, low precipitation, low stream flows and warmer than normal temperature, and a state drought declaration was requested.

State officials said they subsequently met, and the Oregon Drought Readiness Council ultimately recommended that Brown issue a drought declaration to provide critical resources to confront current water conditions and future climatic forecasts.

More information is available at Oregon Drought Watch.