MEDFORD, Ore.- State Senator Alan DeBoer is hosting two town hall meetings in late November. The first will be Monday, November 27 in room 132 of the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center at 101 South Bartlett Road in Medford from 6 to 8 p.m. The second town hall meeting will take place Tuesday, November 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, located at 87 4th Street in Ashland.
DeBoer's legislative agenda reads as follows:
Oregon’s devastating 2017 fire season may be fading into memory with the onset of seasonal rains, but efforts are underway to try and prevent such catastrophes in the future.
I spent most of this week in Salem for the latest round of interim committee meetings taking place before the start of the next legislative session in February. Among the meetings I attended was one for the recently formed Fire Caucus, which consists of Senators and Representatives from both major political parties whose districts collectively cover much of the state.
We learned that there were 11 fires of 10,000 acres or more this last summer. This had obvious impacts on public health, as well as the economies of many communities.
The Fire Caucus and its members talked about the need to reforest the areas that burned as quickly as possible to restore the health of those forests. There is also recognition of the need to develop plans to keep these scenarios from reoccurring, as they seem to be doing more and more often.
In a previous newsletter, I discussed the success of the Ashland Forest Resilience Stewardship Project and how that could be used as a model for further collaborations to reduce the risk of wildfires. Selective thinning can be a key component of eliminating fuels for these fires and limit their intensity. This approach also removes the profit motive for timber companies to cut larger, older trees.
Another topic of the Fire Caucus meeting was the desire for the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to be the first responders for these fires. That agency, and its officials and personnel, has a good understanding of prevention policies and tends to have a faster response than the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). However, the USFS can still play a vital role in backing up ODF firefighters when they undertake these dangerous and difficult tasks.
The Fire Caucus will hold its next meeting in January, when the Legislature and its various committees is scheduled to meet again. I will continue to attend these meetings and working towards creating and developing policies that will keep our skies clear of the smoke that was so prevalent in the Rogue Valley and elsewhere in the state this last summer.