SALEM, Ore. - Rep. Gene Whisnant , R-Ore., testified Tuesday on behalf of a bill he co-sponsored that would require the reporting of forest fire impacts on public health, fish and wildlife and river habitat.
A public hearing was held in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee regarding House Bill 3109, sponsored by Whisnant and Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie.
Whisnant said the bill was inspired by the Pole Creek Fire that started last September in the Deschutes National Forest and burned 27,000 acres before being contained.
"The town of Sisters was severely impacted by smoke quickly reaching ‘very unhealthy' and ‘hazardous' air quality levels," Whisnant said.
Following that fire, Whisnant requested data from Deschutes Public Health, Oregon Public Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding its impacts.
Whisnant said the intention of HB 3091 is to increase public awareness of those impacts. It would require the director of the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Forestry to present the report to an interim legislative committee no later than Oct. 1.
The report may include recommendations for legislation to prevent or reduce the impacts or improve state or local government responsiveness to wildfires, and would focus on the Pole Creek Fire.
"Since I've been doing this job, there have been too many fires in the U.S. Forest Sisters area," Whisnant said.