WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the U.S. Forest Service—is leading an effort urging Senate leadership to prioritize investing in hazardous fuels reduction to lower the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
In the letter, signed by several Senate colleagues, Merkley highlighted the millions of acres of forest that were decimated by increasingly severe wildfires. Merkley urged Senate Leadership to provide funding to help meet the estimated $20 billion required to reduce wildfire risk across the National Forest System in any further infrastructure legislation. Senator Merkley also introduced legislation earlier this summer to provide $30 billion in mandatory funding to reduce thinning across all public lands.
“Mitigating wildfires across our forests and rangelands is critical to protecting public health, sustaining rural economies, and saving lives,” the letter reads. “Already this year, almost 45,000 fires have burned more than 5.5 million acres. Last year, almost 60,000 fires burned over 10 million acres, the most on record. Over 10 million acres also burned in 2017 and 2015. It is clear that focusing on putting out the fires is not solving the problem alone, and must be coupled with reducing the fuel loads on the landscape and providing land managers with the resources they need for maintaining healthy forests and rangelands once they have been treated.”
This is the latest effort from Merkley in the fight to prevent catastrophic wildfires from taking hold in numerous states. Earlier this year, as the Bootleg fire in Southern Oregon grew to the largest fire in the country, Merkley introduced a package of bills aimed at curbing the effects of wildfire smoke and its impact on communities.
Joining Merkley in the letter are U.S Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and John Hickenlooper (D-CO).
Full text of the letter is available here.