Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden to examine air quality, health impacts of wildfire smoke

September 11, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden to examine air quality, health impacts of wildfire smoke

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced a hearing for this Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 10:00am PT. The hearing will be held before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the Environment, and is entitled, “Air Quality Impacts of Wildfires: Mitigation and Management Strategies.”

In light of the devastating wildfires ravaging Oregon and much of the West this summer, Walden will examine the impacts that wildfire smoke has on public health and local communities, and the air quality impacts from wildfire emissions. Walden will also look at how increasing forest management activities, such as prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, can reduce the severity and size of future wildfires.

“Oregonians and people across the West are suffering through yet another summer of air-choking smoke from wildfires,” said Walden. “As a result, families are trapped in their homes and breathing through masks, local businesses are taking a hit financially, and we have been robbed of the enjoyment of Oregon’s outdoors. I hear one message loud and clear from concerned citizens throughout my district whose communities have been blanketed with smoke: something needs to change. This hearing will call attention to the impact of wildfire smoke on our health, and examine improvements that can be made to the way we manage our forests to help prevent the unnaturally catastrophic wildfires season that we are battling once again.”

Walden has invited State Senator Herman Baertschiger from Grants Pass, Oregon to testify during the hearing on Thursday. Senator Baertschiger serves as the chair of the bipartisan fire caucus in the Oregon state legislature and has over 40 years of firsthand experience in wildland fire and forest management activities.

Walden called attention to the air quality, environmental, and health impacts of wildfire smoke during an October 2017 hearing on this issue. Studies by the Nature Conservancy, Forest Service, and others have found that active management of fire fuels can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by up to 70 percent, and can reduce carbon emissions from wildfires by up to 85 percent.

Walden is continuing his push for forest management reforms to prevent catastrophic wildfires in Oregon and across the West. To learn more about Walden’s efforts to reform federal forest policy, please click here.

More information on the hearing, including a background memo and live webcast, will be made available as they are posted on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website here.