Greg Walden bill to protect Crooked River Ranch from wildfire passes House, now awaits President Trump’s signature

February 26, 2019
Press Release

Greg Walden bill to protect Crooked River Ranch from wildfire passes House, now awaits President Trump’s signature

Click here or on the image above to view Walden's speech on the House floor

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) to protect a central Oregon community from wildfire is one step closer to becoming law after passing the House of Representatives today. Walden’s Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act (H.R. 524) will allow for needed management of the fire fuels that surround Crooked River Ranch in Jefferson County, which will reduce the risk of wildfire for the approximately 5,500 residents living at the Ranch.

“The Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act is essential to saving lives in central Oregon. With another wildfire season just on the horizon, the people of Crooked River Ranch are deeply concerned that they could become the next Paradise, California. They are deeply concerned that their community could be turned into ash as wildfire feeds off the dense fuel loads that surround this community of 5,000 people," said Walden in a speech on the House floor today. “We do not want to see images like this, of homes turned to ash and lives destroyed, in central Oregon when we have a real opportunity to prevent that from happening thanks to this bipartisan legislation. I want to thank my senators, and Mr. Grijalva and Mr. Bishop for their work on this.”

Today's vote comes after Walden wrote to the leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee on February 15, calling for swift passage of the Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act.

Crooked River Ranch is an unincorporated community of about 5,500 residents in Jefferson County. The lands adjacent to the community are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are classified as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

These lands are in the highest risk category for exposure to devastating wildfire due to overstocked juniper stands under the federally mandated, and locally promulgated, Jefferson County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The current WSA classification prevents mechanical fire prevention activities within these overstocked juniper stands.

Walden’s bill would adjust the boundaries of the WSAs to allow much-needed management of the excess fire fuels that surround Crooked River Ranch, reducing the danger of wildfire for the community who lives there.

Representative Walden’s proposal also has broad support from fire officials and first responders in Jefferson County and throughout Oregon:

“This bill is long overdue and will be a welcome addition to all first responders responsible for protecting the life and property of Crooked River Ranch citizens. Additionally, it will allow local first responders and BLM managers to address the severe fire dangers that exist along the borders which abut private property.” -- Oregon Fire Chiefs Association

“This bill has the potential to save lives and property at Crooked River Ranch and I’m glad to see Congressman Walden continuing to move this plan forward. With the current wilderness study area (WSA) boundary, practical firefighting and fire prevention activities are unavailable. The lack of fuel mitigation around Crooked River Ranch, due to wilderness restrictions codified in law, has created a dangerous environment and continues to threaten the people that live here.” -- Harry Ward, Fire Chief of Crooked River Ranch Fire & Rescue

“As the elected Sheriff of Jefferson County, Oregon, this bill is extremely important to the life and property of an area under my protection. This bill will help mitigate wildfire from Crooked River Ranch by providing a defensible fire protection along the border of the Ranch which is presently contiguous with the WSAs.” -- Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins
Walden’s Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act passed the House and Senate by wide bipartisan votes, and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump. To read more about Representative Walden’s legislation, please click here.