Merkley, Wyden Announce $2.7 Million for Wildfire Resiliency, Conservation Efforts in the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that $2.7 million in federal funding is headed to the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests to implement a cross-boundary restoration project that will improve forest resiliency, reduce long term costs of fire management, and improve watershed conditions. 

This investment in the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests will support the execution of a strategically located series of controlled fuel breaks and specialized efforts to protect cultural sites, municipal watersheds, and animals recognized by the Endangered Species Act. In 2018, Senator Merkley successfully led the charge—which Senator Wyden joined—for a five year extension of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and is administering the funds.

“This year’s unprecedented wildfire season is a stark reminder of how important resilient forests are to protecting our communities,” said Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the USDA. “This investment in the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests will help restore forests in Eastern Oregon that have made invaluable contributions to the spirit and economy of our state. I’m going to keep doing everything I can to support similar win-win projects throughout each of Oregon’s forests.”

“These resources earned by everybody working hard for a collaborative success in the Umatilla and Wallowa Whitman National Forests provides a big vote of confidence in the ‘Oregon Way’ — coming together to find common ground on science-based wildfire resiliency and restoration of our treasured public lands,” Wyden said. “And today’s good news also provides a great foundation for bills I’ve introduced to create a 21st Century Conservation Corps and to help prevent wildfires with pre-fire season controlled burns.”

“I am very pleased the Northern Blues CFLRP has been selected for funding for multiple reasons: getting much needed fuels reduction implemented, creating strategic fuel breaks, as well as employing businesses across our region,” said Union County Commissioner Paul Anderes. “While the CFLRP implementation funds go only to Federal lands – the goal of this CFLRP proposal is to promote an all-lands, cross-boundary forest restoration strategy that spans public, private, state and tribal lands, including municipal watersheds. There has been significant work done on the private and tribal side of the line and this proposal will provide funding to allow similar successes on FS lands. I would also like to recognize the large number of diverse individuals who wrote and commented throughout the entire process to complete the application.”

“This is an exciting opportunity to increase the pace and scale of restoration in our area as well as provide economic benefits to our local communities.  I look forward to working with the Forest Service and using this funding to invest in our national forests by developing projects that are  truly beneficial and that meet the social, economic, and ecological needs of both our forests and the communities that depend on them,” said Lindsay Warness, Forest Policy and Environmental Manger, Woodgrain.

“Congratulations to the Northern Blues Forest Collaborative and a note of appreciation to Senators Merkley and Wyden for securing funding for the Northern Blues CFLRP project. This effort will conduct scientifically sound restoration treatments to reduce wildfire risk to communities, protect old growth forests and wildlife habitat, support local jobs, and bring together public, private, and tribal partners to create healthier forests for years to come. Northeast Oregon is in desperate need of increased forest management and investment to deliver values and services that all Oregonians appreciate, and the Northern Blues Forest Collaborative is the right group to get the job done,” said Dylan Kruse, Director of Government Affairs & Strategy, Sustainable Northwest.

“This award will be an enormous benefit to both the forest and the community that depends on it,” said Pam Hardy of the Western Environmental Law Center.  WELC has been a member of the local public lands forest collaborative that helped advocate for this award since its founding.  “It will help us improve conditions for old growth forests, and the native wildlife that depend on them, as well as enhance our ability to work collaboratively together to make sure the community continues to benefit from sustainable forest management.”

The Northern Blues Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) will implement active treatment on 223,800 acres of National Forest land, along with an anticipated 300,000 acres of passive treatment in the form of controlled fire. Additional 297,000 acres of active treatments and 800,000 acres of passive treatments on private and tribal lands completed by project partners will bring the total number of treated acres to 900,000.