Greg Walden secures forest management reform, resources for Oregon counties in government funding measure

March 21, 2018
Press Release

Greg Walden secures forest management reform, resources for Oregon counties in government funding measure 

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) issued the following statement after securing forest management reform and resources for Oregon’s rural counties in the government funding measure released today: 

“This legislation marks significant progress to improve forest health, reform the way we pay to fight wildfires, and provide two years of Secure Rural Schools funding for essential county services that our communities in Oregon rely on every day. I worked hard to ensure this plan provides additional tools for better forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfires that choke our skies with smoke and threaten our communities year after year. This builds off of the reforms included in the landmark Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which I was proud to help pass through Congress and see signed into law to reduce the fuel loads that build up in our forests and create a tinderbox waiting to ignite.  

“Importantly, this legislation fixes the way we pay to fight wildfires. Rather than requiring the Forest Service and BLM to rob the accounts used for forest management and fire prevention, we provide funds that will be used specifically for fire fighting. This will help end the vicious cycle of depleting resources for fire prevention to pay for fire suppression, which increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires year after year. 

“We also provide funding for essential local services like schools, roads, and law enforcement in Oregon’s rural forested communities, which continues to be a priority of mine in Congress.  

“While there is much more work to be done, this marks an important step forward on key solutions to reform federal forest policy, improve forest health, and support Oregon’s rural communities. I look forward to continue working alongside my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to further achieve that goal." 

Crook County Judge Seth Crawford said, “These funds are vital to ensuring we have the resources for essential public safety services, roads and schools in our community. We greatly appreciate Congressman Walden’s efforts to get these needed funds included in this legislation.”

Hood River County Sheriff Matt English said, "This bill includes a fix that has positive and immediate public safety implications, amending current restrictive Forest Service policy regarding SRS Search and Rescue funds.  Currently, sheriffs can only utilize these funds during an active search and rescue event.  This bill will now allow for the funds to be expended for training and acquisition of search and rescue equipment before these events occur.  It is imperative that our responders are properly equipped and trained when they respond in the field. The expectation that we could obtain needed equipment in the middle of the night, when a call comes in, wasn’t realistic. This fix will end an issue that sheriffs have worked on passionately for over five years. I know I speak for not only myself and Hood River County but all sheriffs in the Western United States affected by this positive change, in thanking Congressman Walden for working with us to make these much needed changes reality."

Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash said, "This legislation will provide critical funds for our roads, schools and local law enforcement. Congressman Walden worked closely with us to move forward this important safety net, provide some fixes to forest management and how we pay for fire. This bill will be most helpful as we continue to provide important services to our community."

Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said, "These resources are key to supporting fundamental services our rural county depends upon. Two years of SRS funding will go a long way to help us maintain our roads, bridges, as well as public safety services, all of which have been hurt from a lack of timber receipts. We appreciate Congressman Walden’s efforts for our community to secure these vital funds, along with needed changes to forest management and the fire borrowing problem."