Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Thursday he has written to the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, outlining his concerns about the upcoming wildfire season in Oregon and stressing the need for the agencies to learn from last year’s historic wildfires.
Walden personally handed the letter to USFS Regional Forester Kent Connaughton Thursday and to BLM Oregon/Washington Director Jerry Perez last week.
Walden will travel to Eastern Oregon later Thursday and will receive further input from citizens about wildfire prevention. Click here for a copy of the letter.
“With over 1.2 million acres of range and forest land burned last year, Oregon experienced some of the worst wildfires in its history. Affected rural communities struggle to recover as they face drought and the likelihood of yet another active fire season. I am asking you to build on the lessons learned last year,” Walden wrote in the letter.
He then listed suggestions for a better response from federal agencies he has heard from Oregon communities. These suggestions include:
- With only 1.4 percent of 9.2 million acres in the National Forest Service system (just 129,000 acres) being managed each year in central, eastern, and southern Oregon, take more aggressive management actions to avoid losing forests to catastrophic wildfire.
- When drought conditions exist, extinguish wildfires as quickly as possible to minimize loss of timber and range.
- Establish local community liaisons now that could be brought in as a resource to enhance communication between the agency, the communities, and private land owners.
- Define and establish additional grazing opportunities now for livestock impacted by wildfire.
- Take greater advantage of private wildland firefighting businesses which are providing important best-value resources both for initial and extended suppression operations.
Walden concluded the letter by stressing the need to take action on these recommendations now, before the height of wildfire season.
“With what is likely to be a very active fire season approaching, I trust your federal agencies will consider my thoughts and seek input now and throughout fire session from local communities on improving the effectiveness of fire suppression efforts,” the congressman wrote.