STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

New Bill in Senate Aims to Thin Forests, Stem Wildfires

After a summer wildfire season that blanketed much of the West in smoke, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at reducing the severity of wildfires.

Posted: Sep 26, 2018 4:38 PM

By ANDREW SELSKY , Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — After a summer wildfire season that blanketed much of the West in smoke, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Wednesday that would reduce the severity of wildfire by thinning forests that are crowded with too many trees and have become fuel for megafires.

The bill would create a $1 billion fund to allow the Forest Service to increase the pace and scale of wildfire reduction projects, empower federal agencies to work with local communities to plan and prepare for wildfires, and permanently reauthorize a collaborative forest restoration program that brings stakeholders together to thin forests.

"I'm hoping it'll become a bipartisan vision. Everybody who pays any attention to the forest sees these benefits," Merkley said, speaking from Washington in a conference call with reporters.

As an example of how thinning can save communities, the Oregon Democrat cited a fire that was ignited by lightning one August afternoon in 2017 near the Oregon tourist town of Sisters. It spread fast. Residents in outlying areas fled as flames marched toward their homes.

Just a few months earlier, the U.S. Forest Service and a group of locals representing forest stakeholders arranged to thin part of the overgrown forest, creating a buffer zone around Sisters.

That effort saved homes, and perhaps the community of 2,500, by slowing the fire's progress and allowing firefighters to corral it.

The work was done by the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project, composed of loggers, environmentalists, local officials, recreation outfitters and others. It was one of 23 projects in the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, created in 2009 by Congress and that Merkley seeks permanent support for.

His bill would allow more projects to receive funding in a given fiscal year.

"It's way past time to do a lot more on the front end to make our forests more fire resilient," Merkley said.

He hopes the Senate will take up the bill after the November elections.

Last year, 71,500 wildfires burned 10 million acres nationwide, the second-largest figure on record.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 4399

Reported Deaths: 159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah119462
Marion99926
Washington75218
Clackamas32412
Deschutes1280
Umatilla1233
Linn1199
Polk10112
Lane773
Yamhill747
Jackson680
Benton575
Jefferson450
Clatsop450
Klamath440
Malheur320
Coos310
Douglas280
Wasco281
Hood River280
Josephine231
Lincoln180
Columbia160
Morrow120
Curry70
Union60
Tillamook60
Crook60
Wallowa20
Lake20
Sherman10
Harney10
Grant10
Baker10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 119348

Reported Deaths: 4374
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles582612489
Riverside8155342
San Diego7674276
Orange6678158
San Bernardino5650209
Alameda354897
Santa Clara2832144
San Francisco261343
Kern241840
San Mateo221284
Tulare202690
Imperial202529
Fresno191437
Santa Barbara169714
Contra Costa151338
Sacramento146358
Kings11686
Ventura116434
San Joaquin108035
Stanislaus76730
Monterey58610
Sonoma5794
Solano54722
Marin50617
Merced3107
San Luis Obispo2791
Placer2409
Santa Cruz2192
Yolo21324
Napa1243
Madera1173
Humboldt1034
El Dorado960
San Benito902
Butte551
Nevada481
Del Norte470
Sutter462
Shasta404
Mono371
Yuba311
Mendocino300
Lake300
Inyo201
Glenn170
Mariposa161
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou90
Colusa70
Tehama61
Lassen50
Plumas40
Tuolumne40
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 68°
Brookings
Clear
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 52°
Crater Lake
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 59°
Grants Pass
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 66°
Klamath Falls
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 59°
Warm & dry Thursday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events