Following Merkley Push, Senate Democrats Join Call for Additional Wildfire Disaster Funding

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a push from Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, all 48 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are calling for additional resources to help recover from this year’s wildfires that devastated communities across the western United States.

In a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, the Senators outlined what is needed in a comprehensive package to help communities recover and rebuild from this year’s natural disasters, which included record-breaking hurricanes and the most expensive wildfire season in U.S. history. The Senators called for the administration to support increased investment to rebuild damaged roads, trails, bridges and other infrastructure on Forest Service land, and to fund thinning and other forest management techniques that reduce the risk of large, difficult to control fires.

“This disastrous fire year should be a wakeup call to all of us,” Merkley said. “It’s time to get serious about fixing broken wildfire policies and investing in fire prevention. We need to stop robbing from other programs to pay for fire suppression, repair the scorched infrastructure from this year’s fires, and step up our commitment to preventing huge, out-of-control blazes in future years.”

Last week, Merkley led a group of 10 western Senators urging Senate leaders and the Trump administration to prioritize these recovery programs in the next disaster relief package. Merkley is the first Oregon member in either the House or the Senate to serve on the powerful Appropriations Committee since Senator Mark Hatfield, and is fighting on the Appropriations Committee to make sure that Oregon has the resources it needs to recover from 2017 fires and step up fire prevention efforts. 

The letter also calls for a permanent end to the practice of “fire borrowing,” in which the Forest Service has to pull from other programs to pay for the cost of fire suppression in bad fire years. Merkley has long supported ending fire borrowing, along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who has led the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.

The full text of the letter is available here.