WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who serves as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, today announced that key legislation to fund the federal government until December and respond to recent natural disasters will include billions of dollars in funding for wildfire disaster response, drought relief, public lands restoration, and other critical needs for Western states that have been hit hard by record wildfires and drought in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Congress is aiming to pass this legislation before September 30th to avert a potential government shutdown.
After the White House’s Office of Management and Budget failed to request any funding to restore public lands and repair damage to trails, roads, and bridges from two back-to-back years of historic wildfires, as well as other Department of Interior and Forest Service lands and facilities damaged by hurricanes and other disasters, Merkley got to work. As the sole Oregonian sitting on the powerful Appropriations Committee, Merkley used his position and his subcommittee chairmanship to ensure that wildfire recovery would not be left behind.
“Between record droughts and raging megafires, Oregon and other Western states have been hit hard over the last couple of years,” said Merkley. “Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, these natural disasters have delivered a devastating triple punch to many of our rural economies. The federal government can and must do much more to help our communities recover and build back stronger, and today’s news is a big win in that process. I’ll keep fighting for the resources our communities need to make it through these disasters and prevent future megafires—and to address the climate chaos that is making these natural disasters more and more devastating each decade.”
Today’s news comes as catastrophic wildfire events are still occurring, with 51 uncontained large fires burning today, including seven in Oregon, driving additional damage that will require recovery assistance.
The funding included in today’s draft legislation addresses many areas of critical need, including:
- $1.775 billion for the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to address disaster recovery and prevent future catastrophic wildfires.
- This includes $1.545 billion for disaster recovery from wildfire and other natural disasters and $230 million for hazardous fuels reduction. Hazardous fuels reduction is critical to making forests more resilient to wildfire and preventing future wildfire disasters, and Merkley has made investing more in this work one of his key priorities on the Appropriations Committee.
- The Interior and USFS funding is badly needed for debris removal, hazardous materials clean-up, and recovery and restoration of natural resources, including invasive species management, revegetation, critical habitat protection, burned area recovery, and watershed restoration, all of which must occur for restoration of these public lands to their previous state, and to prevent further damage.
- Funding is also needed for the repair and rehabilitation of federal facilities, roads, bridges, trails, levees, and visitor areas.
- These funds specifically include $1.185 billion for the Forest Service, $229.5 million for the National Park Service, $58 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and $26 million for the U.S. Geological Survey.
- $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR), which is critical to covering ongoing recovery expenses from the devastating 2020 wildfire season.
- $200 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to assist with drought relief, including in the Klamath Basin and Central Oregon.
- $10 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide relief to agricultural producers impacted by drought, wildfire, smoke, and heat.