Monday, March 20, 2023

Medford, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley welcomed U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to Oregon to tour historic investments the Department is making to bolster wildfire resilience, the outdoor recreation economy, and the Klamath Basin.

Merkley serves as Chair of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, overseeing the budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI), which includes the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and several other federal agencies that manage America’s public lands, waters, wildlife, and tribal affairs.

“Oregon is the most scenic state in the nation, and I’m thrilled Secretary Haaland accepted my invitation to see it firsthand because the Department of the Interior plays a huge role in ensuring our beautiful public lands and waters stay accessible and protected for Oregonians and visitors alike,” Merkley said. “As Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I am in the driver’s seat to make sure funds are being invested in Oregon to protect communities across the state from wildfire threats, protect our iconic waters, and ensure we are meeting our trust responsibilities to tribes. I want to thank Secretary Haaland for visiting Oregon and meeting with key partners in the state, and for her whole staff’s exceptional attention to the needs of our public lands and communities.”

“With millions of acres of public lands in the state, the Department of the Interior recognizes how important Oregon’s outdoor spaces are. Investing in wildland fire preparedness, bolstering the outdoor recreation economy, and working with Tribal Nations are steadfast commitments of the Biden-Harris administration in our mission to protect and conserve our lands and waters,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “I thank Chairman Merkley for hosting us and sharing the striking beauty and history of Oregon.”

In recognition of the importance of the government-to-government relationships, Senator Merkley and Secretary Haaland convened a tribal listening session at the High Desert Museum as their first event of the tour to hear directly from the leaders of Oregon’s nine federally-recognized tribes.  

During their three-day tour, Merkley and Haaland discussed several critical issues to communities in Oregon, including building wildfire resiliency. They were briefed by fire officials from BLM, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the National Weather Service in Medford on the outlook for the 2023 wildfire season. Secretary Haaland announced that the Department is investing more than $21 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law this year to support wildfire management and preparedness efforts in Oregon. 

Merkley and Haaland convened outdoor recreation stakeholders in Bend to discuss federal investments in Oregon’s outdoor recreation economy made through the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA)and other key pieces of legislation. They saw some of these investments firsthand when they visited Crater Lake National Park, which received $45.2 million in GAOA funding to rehabilitate East Rim Drive, enabling more visitors to visit this stunning and underused national treasure. 

Senator Merkley and Secretary Haaland also spoke with several key stakeholders in the Klamath Basin to discuss the ongoing water crisis. This included a tour of ongoing habitat restoration efforts with The Klamath Tribes and USFWS during a visit to the Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge and meeting with irrigators from the Klamath Water Users Association, followed by a visit to A Canal to discuss potential infrastructure investments to improve water management within the Project. The two also toured the USFWS Klamath Falls National Fish Hatchery, which will be significantly expanded as a result of the $162 million for the Klamath Basin that Senator Merkley secured in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and is a critical piece of his efforts to save the C’waam and Koptu fish from extinction.