WASHINGTON, D.C. - Representative Greg Walden today applauded H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (Farm Bill), but said that more work remains to improve forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfires in Oregon. Speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Walden said that while he intends to vote in support of the 2018 Farm Bill, he is disappointed that the legislation did not include the sweeping improvements to federal forest policy that he helped secure in the House-passed version of the bill.
“These fires are monsters when they light up. They kill. It’s unfortunate that the provisions that the House passed as part of the Farm Bill were rejected by the Democrats in the Senate. It’s unfortunate because after these catastrophic fires, we should be able to get in and remove the fuel load so the next fire does not burn even more intensely, which is what happens,” said Walden. “But Senate Democrats rejected that. And while we’re expanding categorical exclusion authorities in some forests, the House provisions said that we should expand the authority to all forests so that we can begin to catch up and remove the excess fuel load from our forests. Unfortunately, again, Senate Democrats rejected that.”
Walden applauded the 2018 Farm Bill’s inclusion of provisions that will help improve the management of federal forests by extending expedited management tools for insect and disease projects in eastern Oregon and expanding it to hazardous fuels reduction to reduce the threat of fire and smoke. The legislation also allows more local involvement from counties in forest management projects and extended funding for collaborative forest projects.
However, Walden said that Senate Democrats removed important provisions such as requiring cleanup projects after a fire and the replanting of a new healthy forest. And Democratic senators opposed providing tools that would help improve management of forests in western and southern Oregon, which have suffered the worst fires in the state in recent years.
“So we’re left with a bill that is pretty good, but when we’re losing towns, and people, and firefighters, and our communities are choked with smoke, we can do better,” said Walden.
Walden concluded by sharing the testimony of a father from southern Oregon, who detailed the impact wildfire smoke had on his family this summer at a public hearing on wildfires that took place before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners yesterday.
“Last night, in Medford, Oregon, the Jackson County Commissioners held a public meeting to talk about this fire situation we face. A dad from Jackson County recounted how his daughter with cystic fibrosis had to move away saying ‘it’s been devastating for us a family. We wish our daughter could live with us.’ But, as he went on to say, ‘When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.’
“So you want to talk about life, and health, and safety issues in America, we should have done better in the Senate,” said Walden. “But we’re doing okay with this bill and I intend to support it.”
Press release provided from Office of US House Representative Greg Walden of Oregon.