WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) announced key legislation that contains funds for Oregon wildfire disaster response and relief. It’s part of a bill that Congress is debating now and must pass in the next week.
The funding includes almost $2 billion for the U.S. Forest Service to prevent future fires. That includes over $1.5 billion for disaster recovery and over $200 million for hazardous fuel reduction. $200 million will go to the Bureau of Reclamation to help with drought relief in the Klamath Basin and Central Oregon. And the Department of Agriculture will get $10 billion to provide relief to farmers hit by smoke, heat and wildfire.
Merkley is the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee and the only Oregonian on the committee.
He says when he came in, there was no funding planned for restoring damaged lands. He said, “So it was really important to jump in and say, ‘No. Everything that burned needs to be fixed.’ And we need to make our forest more resilient at the same time.”
The funding is attached to legislation that must be passed by Congress by September 30 to avoid a potential government shutdown.