Monday, March 20, 2023

By:  Makenna Marks


CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland announced more than $21 million for wildfire risk reduction during a press conference with Senator Jeff Merkley at the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District headquarters on Sunday.

“Through these investments, we plan to complete fuel management work on more than 170 thousand acres in Oregon this fiscal year,” Haaland said. “This funding is all part of the massive investments from [President Biden’s] bipartisan infrastructure law that we’re working to get out to communities.”

The increase in federal funding comes as the Oregon Department of Forestry is predicting another tough fire season, despite a rather wet winter season.

“While we may have some good news with the snowpack and some upcoming predictions for the year, I do project that we’re going to have another challenging fire season,” said Mike Shaw, district forester with the Central Oregon District Department of Forestry. “All hands on deck is the approach that we’re taking and all wildland fire agencies are working together.”

Senator Jeff Merkley – who is the Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee chairman – joined Haaland and Shaw at Sunday’s conference and emphasized their collaboration on wildfire prevention in Oregon.

“We’re really focusing on the front end of forest treatment and on the back end of having the resources to fight the fires,” Merkley said. “The key word here is collaboration.”

Aside from the millions in federal funding allotted from his bipartisan infrastructure law, President Joe Biden is also calling for increased pay, better housing and more full-time job opportunities for firefighters, according to Haaland.

“We owe it to the brave women and men on the front lines to ensure we’re giving them all the tools and training they need to protect our families, our lands and our planet from the increasing threat of fire,” Haaland said.