WASHINGTON D.C. — It’s not even mid-May and the weather in southern Oregon is already getting hot, dry and windy prompting southern Oregon’s Washington D.C. legislators to have wildfire season at the top of their agendas.
“These fires have become an enormous business. They’re enormously expensive to taxpayers, they’re deadly to people,” said U.S. Representative Greg Walden.
Representative Walden says he’s pushing for significant reforms to reduce the risk of wildfires across the West. His new bill, the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2019, advocates for active forest management.
He wants to rely on studies from The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service with regards to employing strategies which he says can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by 70 percent.
“We shouldn’t have the worst air quality short of Beijing, literally, in the Rogue Valley every summer,” he said.
Some of his ideas include making the U.S. Forest Service and BLM remove burned, dead trees after wildfires as well as requiring those same agencies to replant 75 percent of trees in an area affected by wildfires.
“In the past, there has been a difference of philosophy,” said Senator Jeff Merkley.
Senator Merkley isn’t introducing a new bill but says he’s bringing back an old one that didn’t get through Congress last fall.
In an interview back in 2018, Senator Merkley commented on the bill:
“I’m hoping we can for well weeding our forests, thinning them on the front end, making them more fire resilient. That’s my hope. We have an opportunity we’re gonna need help on the house and senate side to do it.”
In the meantime, the senator says he hopes the million dollars Oregon got last year to train National Guard members to fight wildfires will help this fire season.
“That’s 355 members of the Oregon guard helping take on the challenges we are going to see in the months ahead,” he said.
Although both legislators have differing political views, they both agree we cannot let catastrophic fires every fire season become the new norm.
For more information about U.S. Representative Greg Walden’s new bill, click here.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia. She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.