Sunday, March 19, 2023
By: Nick Borden
MEDFORD, Ore. – The Secretary of the Interior was in the Rogue Valley on Sunday, joined by Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.
The two federal officials met with local, state, federal, and tribal leaders, to discuss investments in wildland fire preparedness and response.
They were also briefed on our region’s current fire conditions and expectations for the upcoming fire season.
“While we may have some good news with the snowpack and some upcoming predictions for the year, I do project that we will have another challenging fire season. All hands on deck are the approach we are taking, and all wildland agencies are working together,” said Mike Shaw, Chief of Fire Protection, with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Senator Jeff Merkley said there is an effort to get more boots on the ground to help prepare for fire season, with groups like the National Guard training to support firefighters when needed.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced in a press conference Sunday, that over $21 million in funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is coming to help wildfire risk reduction here in Oregon. Including fuel management work on over 170,000 acres this fiscal year.
“The reality is that these days fire seasons last for most of the year, we have fire years more than fire seasons anymore. Oregon, unfortunately, knows this all too well, with so little room for error, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to wildland fire preparedness mitigation and resilience,” said Secretary Haaland.
The $21 million in funding is in addition to the $50 million that was announced earlier this week, to further enhance wildland fire management in 2023.
“The funding will go towards specific mediation and response efforts including helping local communities across the country acquire slip-on tank units and expand remote sensing for wildfire detection. And increase federal and tribal firefighter pay, improve housing options, and expand the current number of permanent firefighters,” said Secretary Haaland.
The funds will also support wildland management on private lands. Announcing a pilot program that will support 24 fuel reduction projects in 13 states, including Oregon.
The Interior Department is investing $1.5 billion over the next five years. To increase the resilience of communities facing the threat of wildfires, like the Rogue Valley.
Secretary Haaland said these funds will help put our fire programs on more proactive footing, to not only manage fires as they happen but to help them from taking hold in the first place.
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