Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) on Tuesday spoke in southern Oregon – where communities have faced unhealthy air quality from surrounding wildfires – to call for forest management reforms in the upcoming Farm Bill.
Walden said he secured sweeping improvements to federal forest policy in the 2018 Farm Bill that passed the House in June and on Tuesday urged for those needed changes to be included in the Senate passed version of the legislation. Walden today sent a letter to the lawmakers who will negotiate the differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill, which reads:
“The West is burning,” he wrote. “Lives have been tragically lost. Homes and other property have been destroyed. Smoke is choking our skies, leaving residents of southern Oregon and elsewhere with the worst air quality in the nation. It does not have to be this way. As you finalize the Farm Bill in 2018, I urge you to include the important forest management tools included in the House bill to make needed steps toward preventing these fires into the future.”
Walden wrote that a recent study in California by The Nature Conservancy, Forest Service, and others found that fuels projects can reduce the size and intensity of fire up to 70 percent. He also said these projects also reduce carbon emissions from the fire by up to 85 percent.
“Unfortunately, red tape and litigation from outside special interest groups hampers land managers’ ability to implement these needed forest management projects,” he wrote. “The forestry title in the House passed Farm Bill builds on the forestry provisions we passed into law earlier this year and provides needed tools to reduce this red tape and streamline forest management projects to get more work done in the woods. When fire does strike, we ensure that the Forest Service and BLM can remove the burned, dead trees while they still have value and replant to restore our forests for the next generation. Just like what happens on private lands across Oregon.”