Merkley: Economic Recovery Funds to Create Jobs in the Woods, Help Rural Communities

Washington, DC – Hundreds of Oregon jobs will be created through beefed up Forest Service programs as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley applauded the quick distribution of funds as a way to immediately put Oregonians back to work, while reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improving forest health.  Last month, Merkley was part of a bipartisan effort to include funding for wildfire prevention and forest thinning as part of the recovery package.


“Less than a month ago, Congress passed the economic recovery package to create jobs and get things moving right now.  With unemployment at 10% in Oregon, and much higher in our rural communities, we don’t have a moment to lose in helping families and ending the downward cycle,” said Merkley.


Yesterday, the Forest Service announced that $10 million will be released for forest health projects in six Oregon counties with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state – Curry, Crook, Deschutes, Douglas, Jefferson and Josephine.  The contracts for these projects must be awarded within a week to allow work to begin as soon as possible.  The news comes a week after the Forest Service announced that $3.25 million will be used to fund the second half of a $6.5 million Oregon Youth Employment Initiative that will put 1,500 youth to work in Oregon’s national forests doing natural resource conservation and restoration work on public and private lands.


Nationally, the Forest Service announced approximately $33 million for projects yesterday.  Of that, nearly a third was directed to Oregon.  The Forest Service also announced that more awards will be made in coming weeks.  In total, the Forest Service received $1.15 billion through the ARRA, including $500 million for catastrophic wildfire reduction and forest health programs.  Nearly all of that money, which is in addition to the Forest Service’s annual funding, should be distributed in 2009 and 2010.


“The projects announced by the Forest Service will not only create jobs, they will make our forests healthier and help communities at risk of wildfires.  This is work that desperately needs to be done in any circumstance,” said Merkley.  “These types of win-win situations are exactly why I supported the recovery package.”