Sen. Merkley’s new bill meant to address ‘catastrophic wildfires’

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley is introducing legislation to reduce wildfire risk in Oregon and across the country. He says this new act will help the U.S. Forest Service get a better jump on forest management and fuels reduction efforts.

The Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act’s main objective will be to reduce the amount of catastrophic wildfires, smoke and economic losses the state and even the country at large have faced over the years.

In a statement Sen. Merkley said, “As we saw this summer in Oregon, even communities not directly impacted by flames were inundated with smoke. We need a dramatic increase in the resources that make our forests—and our timber economies—healthier.”

The bill, if passed, would provide one billion dollars a year to help fund more fuels reductions and incentives for communities to maintain their forests. Sen. Merkley also says that this act can help create better economic opportunities for forest-dependent communities.

“This is a win-win because not only do you fight the fires by making the forest withstand the fires,” he said in an interview. “You proceed to produce jobs, you produce saw logs, you produce certainly a better ecosystem and a better timber stand.”

Sen. Merkley also pointed out some other opportunities the Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act would create:

  • Empowering federal agencies to work with local communities to plan and prepare for wildfires.
  • Permanently reauthorizing the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, allowing more projects to receive funding in a given fiscal year.
  • Creating a County Stewardship Fund that would provide payments to counties equal to 25% of stewardship contract receipts on federal land within their counties

“Let’s be smart on prevention and it has all these wonderful additional features of creating jobs and producing saw logs for our mill,” said Sen. Merkley. “Let’s do more on our front end and this is what this bill is all about.”

Ultimately, the bill will address concerns by those communities struggling with the number of fires and smoke inundating them. The bill is set to be introduced to Congress soon after which it will have to be appropriated by the White House before implementation can begin.

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