Oregon Delegation Presses Secs. Zinke and Perdue for Additional Resources to Fight Wildfires

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, and Greg Walden today urged federal land management agencies to heed Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s request for additional fire suppression resources to address 17 large wildfires raging across the state, including two that have been designated as the highest national priority wildfire.

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Oregon lawmakers stressed the need to be creative and assertive in identifying additional resources to fight the fires, which will continue burning — threatening communities and treasured landscapes — until the rain begins to fall.

“Like Montana and other parts of the west, Oregon is enduring a severe fire season that has stretched resources thin. With those resource challenges in mind, we are writing in support of Governor Brown’s request for additional capacity on the ground to suppress these fires,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We know that fire suppression is currently the top priority for your departments, but it is clear that there simply are not enough suppression resources available to meet the needs of all of the fires currently burning. We support the governor’s request and encourage your agencies to be creative and assertive in expanding the pool of resources available to fight the fires, including advocating with other agencies and the White House as appropriate.”

Last week, Congress passed legislation that will make it possible, starting Oct. 1, for the Forest Service to quickly repay funds it will need to borrow in the coming weeks to continue fighting the nearly 1.5 million acres of land currently burning in nine western states. Almost one-third of those acres are in Oregon. The delegation continues to stress the importance of better forest management to prevent these fires, minimizing their cost and damage, in the first place.

Read the full letter here.