MERKLEY SECURES FUNDING TO PREVENT AND FIGHT WILDFIRES

MERKLEY SECURES FUNDING TO PREVENT AND FIGHT WILDFIRES


By:  Kyle Bailey

On Thursday, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley announced key provisions in the U.S. Department of Interior Appropriations bill that he said will provide what he called “critical investments” in earthquake preparedness, water infrastructure and wildfire suppression and recovery activities that are of particular importance to Oregon as wildfires become increasingly frequent and extreme.

A release from Merkley said the bill invests in both recovery and prevention efforts to save forests, communities, farms, ranches and others businesses from “devastating losses”. The release said it also “secures critical resources for water infrastructure that will create jobs while improving sanitation and drinking water across Oregon”.

According to Merkley, key elements of the appropriations bill that will impact Oregon include:

*Funding increases for several programs that reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires on public and private lands.

*The bill includes nearly $1.4 billion for fire suppression at the Forest Service and Department of the Interior.

*$7 million to support strategies to restore fish habitat and scale up ongoing efforts to restore healthy populations of shortnose and Lost River sucker fish in the Klamath Basin.

*The bill includes $500 million for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program to fund vital services for rural communities, including public safety, social services, transportation and housing. This funding goes to Oregon counties that have large tracts of federal lands, which doesn’t pay property taxes. This is a $35 million increase over the President’s request according to the release.

Those are just some of the investments cited by Merkley. The bill was voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. The next step for the bill is a full Senate vote and eventually merging with a counterpart bill from the House in order to be passed by both chambers and signed into law.