SEVERE WX : Winter Weather Advisory View Alerts

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.

Cases: 66333

Reported Deaths: 826
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah15240213
Washington903896
Marion8436130
Clackamas547276
Umatilla415648
Lane389037
Jackson343623
Malheur231839
Deschutes195514
Yamhill158216
Linn127518
Polk107615
Douglas82215
Jefferson77311
Benton7197
Union7172
Klamath6854
Morrow6257
Lincoln56513
Wasco47918
Josephine4434
Columbia4383
Coos3901
Hood River3661
Clatsop3350
Baker2593
Crook1986
Grant1231
Tillamook1120
Curry1052
Lake1010
Harney871
Wallowa702
Sherman230
Gilliam210
Wheeler30
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1128219

Reported Deaths: 18753
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles3706367446
San Bernardino851761129
Riverside815651413
San Diego72815968
Orange711161554
Kern38519445
Fresno36315471
Sacramento33421546
Santa Clara31103464
Alameda27622499
San Joaquin24649503
Contra Costa22482258
Stanislaus20658418
Tulare19818303
Ventura18105174
Imperial15257355
San Francisco14542158
Monterey13887114
San Mateo13334169
Sonoma11486155
Merced10986176
Santa Barbara10946133
Kings1011586
Solano936380
Marin7560128
Placer607167
Madera588580
San Luis Obispo566435
Yolo425775
Shasta410042
Santa Cruz389627
Butte371259
Napa277817
Sutter267713
El Dorado19304
San Benito174615
Yuba173210
Lassen14803
Tehama145723
Mendocino142422
Nevada10529
Lake83418
Glenn8326
Humboldt7849
Tuolumne7848
Colusa6426
Mono4993
Siskiyou4951
Amador45016
Calaveras43421
Inyo27916
Del Norte2731
Plumas1770
Modoc1140
Trinity1140
Mariposa1122
Alpine420
Sierra170
Unassigned00
Medford
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 44°
Brookings
Scattered Clouds
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 43°
Crater Lake
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 34°
Grants Pass
Broken Clouds
43° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Klamath Falls
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 34°
Rain & snow arrive this evening
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events