WASHINGTON - As one might expect, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., cheered and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., booed a major move this week by the U.S. Forest Service to speed approval of logging and related forest management projects.
First, the news release Thursday from Walden's office:
Greg Walden Applauds Forest Service's Proposed Streamlining of Forest Management Projects
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) released the following statement applauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service for taking steps to improve the planning process for forest management projects ahead of the 2019 fire season:
"Fire season is upon us and is a reminder of how much work remains to reduce the threat of fire in our forests. I applaud the Forest Service for building on the tools that passed into law last year and taking steps to further reform broken federal forest policy. Refreshing the Forest Service's approach to developing projects will help protect our communities.
"Currently, upwards of 70 percent of forest project costs go into planning. Streamlining that process will extend resources to get more work done in the woods and reduce the threat of wildfire and smoke to our communities. The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Forest Service found that active forest management can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by 70 percent. It is time to follow the science and update policies to speed up forest management, and the Forest Service is taking important steps towards getting that done."
In an effort to help improve forest management policies in Oregon, Walden recently introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act. His bill builds and expands on proven forest policies to further streamline forest management project planning across all of Oregon. This legislation empowers forest managers at the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to efficiently implement science-based forest management projects and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
For more information on the Resilient Federal Forest Act, click here.
And the release from Wyden:
Wyden Presses Forest Service on Misguided Policy Change, Backlog of Wildfire Prevention Projects in Oregon
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today raised serious concerns about a new U.S. Forest Service proposal to gut environmental rules for forest management projects at a time when there's a serious backlog of wildfire prevention work.
At a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing Wyden questioned Forest Service Director of Fire Aviation and Management Shawna Legarza on the agency's decision. A senior member of the Committee, Wyden noted that the changes will not result in more fuels and thinning projects completed, as the agency claims, but rather more litigation, less forest management and greater fire risks for rural communities as a backlog of ready-to-go projects only grows and becomes more delayed.
"I'm heading home to rural Oregon this weekend, and I can tell you the forests of Oregon—and in particular in rural Oregon—are once again a tinderbox," Wyden said during the hearing. "We badly need good preventative management to make sure this tinderbox doesn't completely devastate lives and put our communities at risk of breathing toxic wildfire smoke for weeks on end."
"My home state alone has over two million acres of thinning and prescribed fire treatment on forest lands that have gone through environmental reviews. They are ready to go. Why wouldn't you all focus on that so we can do something important to protect Oregon communities now rather than chase one of these ideological pipe dreams of rolling back environmental laws while putting our communities at risk? Why would you propose gutting environmental laws when you're not even going after the backlog of approved hazardous fuels and thinning projects?"
Wyden requested Legarza provide a written statement within a week on the new Forest Service policy and ways the agency is addressing the current backlog of wildfire prevention projects.