Senators urge funding for wildlife and drought prevention

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are working alongside colleagues from western states to urge the Senate Committee chairs tasked with drafting the upcoming budget reconciliation legislation to include funding for wildfire and drought prevention, mitigation, and relief measures in their respective sections of the bill.

The senators said, “In the West, climate change has increased the severity and frequency of wildfires and caused record high temperatures and drought conditions”. They said in order to adequately address the climate crisis and support Western communities, the reconciliation legislation must build on the success of the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure bill and expand investments in wildfire and drought programs. The statement said, “as you know, wildfires continue to worsen each year and pose a threat to human health, personal property, wildlife and our public lands. In 2020, nearly 60,000 wildfires burned more than 10.3 million acres and destroyed more than 17,000 structures”.

The release said over 90 percent of the west is currently experiencing drought, with the majority of areas subject to significantly below-average precipitation and extended dry periods. The senators said, “Unfortunately, this means that this wildfire season will likely once again be catastrophic”.

The release said the letter comes on the heels of the unveiling of five bills introduced by Merkley and supported by Wyden, to battle wildfires, protect workers and help the public, businesses, and agricultural operators combat the effects of extreme heat and wildfire smoke.

In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the letter was signed by five other Democratic Senators.