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Oregon Lawmakers Spearhead Bipartisan Wildfire Offensive

Republicans and Democrats from throughout Oregon and neighboring states are pursuing legislation that would better prepare the area for future wildfire seasons.

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 11:50 AM
Updated: Mar 23, 2018 9:24 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fighting wildfires should be about preparing for the future, not drawing from the past, according to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers hailing from Oregon and Idaho. That’s why they have fought to add funds for wildland firefighting into the newest government funding proposal in Washington, D.C.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and Congressmen Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) claim that past methods for funding wildland firefighting result in the pillaging of other vital government programs, sometimes only loosely related.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture is committed to finding a permanent solution to funding wildfire that restores balance between fire suppression and forest management activities. Wildfires are currently funded entirely within the Forest Service budget, based on a 10-year rolling average.  Over the last few years, wildfire suppression has become more costly and this method of funding has resulted in inadequate funding for wildfire suppression.  When funding is not enough, the Forest Service is forced to shift funds from other critical natural resource management programs to cover the cost of wildfire suppression.  The Administration and Congress supported legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded."

“It has been atrocious public policy to rob fire prevention funds to fight fires. This bill fixes that by treating bad fire years as the natural disasters they are, and funding the fight from a disaster fund,” said Merkley.

According to a statement from the coalition released Thursday, federal agencies currently base their wildland fire suppression budgets on the average cost of the prior 10 years.

Other agencies responding to natural disasters can draw from an emergency fund—but wildfires are treated differently. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have to live within the budgets granted them—or divert the money from elsewhere should they go over-budget.

“This long-overdue provision will enable agencies to fight forest fires like the disasters they truly are and stop the debilitating practice of fire borrowing,” said Crapo

The new funding for wildland firefighting is currently included in an “omnibus bill” to fund the U.S. government, which has now passed the House and will go before the Senate just prior to the expiration of government funding on March 23.

Meanwhile, Congressman Greg Walden (R-Hood River) announced Wednesday that he had won a victory in forest management reform, also included in the omnibus bill.

“This legislation marks significant progress to improve forest health, reform the way we pay to fight wildfires, and provide two years of Secure Rural Schools funding for essential county services,” said Walden. “This builds off of the reforms included in the landmark Healthy Forests Restoration Act.”

The Healthy Forests Initiative was initially proposed in 2002 by President George W. Bush, and portions of it became law in 2003. The legislation was intended to aid government agencies in removing hazardous fuels from U.S. forests and monitoring them for wildfire risk.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133205

Reported Deaths: 1800
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28337458
Washington18644171
Marion16172238
Clackamas11642138
Lane8272108
Jackson689285
Umatilla676568
Deschutes495236
Yamhill318245
Malheur313152
Linn310846
Polk244640
Klamath242838
Josephine173533
Jefferson170225
Benton169514
Douglas167743
Union111416
Wasco107123
Columbia104318
Lincoln99117
Hood River95121
Coos93715
Morrow93310
Clatsop6865
Crook61010
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2988326

Reported Deaths: 33589
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles101466213848
San Bernardino2512131560
Riverside2394122517
San Diego2117872103
Orange2108132367
Santa Clara926251065
Kern84644565
Fresno81294932
Sacramento791221080
Alameda66583757
Ventura60368412
San Joaquin56642748
Contra Costa51573446
Stanislaus42337739
Tulare40655501
Monterey35418250
San Mateo31805294
San Francisco28853254
Imperial25140463
Solano24732105
Santa Barbara24149231
Sonoma23607234
Merced23492296
Kings19125133
Placer16995173
San Luis Obispo15466128
Madera13193130
Santa Cruz12026113
Marin11482153
Yolo10406131
Shasta9594117
Butte9359121
El Dorado757544
Sutter756077
Napa735639
Lassen509413
San Benito488243
Yuba481827
Tehama397142
Tuolumne330438
Nevada314473
Mendocino307631
Amador298629
Lake250428
Humboldt229424
Glenn189419
Colusa16919
Calaveras159623
Siskiyou140813
Mono10834
Inyo92429
Del Norte8532
Plumas5735
Modoc3793
Mariposa3444
Trinity3024
Alpine730
Sierra700
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