Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden applauds wildfire funding request, call for forest management reform from administration

October 4, 2017
Press Release

Greg Walden applauds wildfire funding request, call for forest management reform from administration

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today applauded additional wildfire funds and a call to action on forest management reform from the administration. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) today included $576.5 million in wildfire funding in their supplemental budget request to Congress, as well as recommendations that active forest management and forestry reform be part of the solution to curb wildfire borrowing.

“I want to thank the Trump Administration for their request for funds to cover the costs of this fire season, as well as their call for Congress to reform our broken federal forest policy that hinders them from implementing much needed forest management.  Another fire season winds down and, once again, the Forest Service needed to rob money from important fire prevention work to pay for fighting wildfires. We must not only supplement those accounts to pay for the cost of this fire season, but it’s past time that we fix how we pay for fires and treat them like the natural disasters they are,” said Walden. “We also need to streamline our federal forest policy so forest managers can get the much needed fire prevention work done to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire that choke our skies and communities with smoke. I look forward to working with the administration and my colleagues in the House to improve forest management and prevent catastrophic wildfire.”

Walden led a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 31 lawmakers to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to ask that wildfires be treated like natural disasters, and that the administration work with Congress to pass forest management reforms.

“Mismanagement has left our forests vulnerable to insects and disease and ripe for catastrophic wildfires. The system is broken. We need forest management reforms, and we need them now,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that you work with us to help to fix the way we manage our forests and how we pay for wildfire disasters. Two goals we can all agree on are reducing the costs of these fires and breaking out of this destructive, nationwide wildfire cycle.”

Walden has spoken with the administration in recent weeks to call their attention to the severity of this year’s fire season in Oregon and throughout the West, and the need to improve forest management. The supplemental request issued by OMB this afternoon says that forest management reform must be part of any long-term solution to prevent catastrophic fires. 

“The Administration believes that the problem of wildfire ‘borrowing’ must be addressed in a more structured, long-term manner. However, additional funding alone will not reverse the worsening trend of catastrophic wildfires that threaten our forests, critical habitats, and communities that border public lands,” the request states. “Active forest management and other reforms must be part of the solution to curb the cost and destruction of wildfires.”

The administration’s announcement comes as Walden led a hearing today to examine the air quality impacts of catastrophic wildfires. During the hearing, Walden stressed the need to fix the wildfire funding problem cited in the administration’s request often referred to as “fire borrowing”.

“Every year we repeat this stupid, stupid cycle. Robbing the accounts that would do the forest thinning to pay for the firefighting while the fires are going on, so we don’t do the preventive work because we have to pay for the fire,” said Walden. “It makes no sense. It is four to five times more expensive to fight fires than to do the treatment.”

For more information on today’s hearing at the Energy and Commerce Committee, including a background memo, witness testimony, and full webcast, please click here.