Greg Walden: ‘These are steps in the right direction for forest management’
Walden discusses the impact of smoke with EPA Region 10 administrator, local leaders, and concerned citizens at a roundtable in Medford last year.
Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) released the following statement after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new guidelines on prescribed fire. The announcement comes a year after Walden brought EPA Region 10 administrator to Medford to meet with concerned citizens, community leaders, and business owners to discuss the impact of wildfire smoke on people’s health.
Prescribed fire, utilizing low-intensity fire in the spring and fall that produces less smoke, is an important tool for reducing the risk of large catastrophic fires in the summer when combined with thinning. A recent Stanford University study suggests that using prescribed fire to reduce forest fuels could help protect the health of people in nearby communities. However, air quality regulations overlook this benefit and often impede the use of this tool. Forest Service estimates suggest air quality rules prevented as much as 20 percent of acres planned for prescribed fire treatment in northeast Oregon last year from being done. The EPA’s new guidelines will provide more flexibility for the implementation of prescribed fire in forest management when and where it makes sense. The new resources also will promote state, local, and tribal air agencies and land managers to work together to improve the Smoke Management Program.
“The EPA’s new guidelines are small steps in the right direction for forest management and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire,” said Walden. “I’m encouraged to see that the discussions I held in Medford last year with local leaders, citizens, and the EPA’s Region 10 administrator about the impact of wildfire and the challenges we face in managing our forests were taken into consideration by the EPA. These guidelines will allow for more flexibility for land managers to use prescribed fires when necessary. We know prescribed fire is one tool in the toolbox for improving forest health and reducing the risk of larger, more dangerous wildfires that pour smoke into our communities. For it to be effective, however, it needs to follow sensible thinning and harvest projects, which is why I’ve included tools in my bill, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, to help forest managers expedite those projects as well. There is still lots of work to be done when it comes to forest management, but this is a welcomed piece of the puzzle.”
Walden remains committed to improving the management of forests and reducing the risk of wildfire and smoke on local communities. As Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he held multiple hearings to examine the health impacts of wildfire smoke and the need for changes to federal forest policy. You can learn more about his efforts to reform federal forest policy here.
“Decisions on how, when, and how aggressively we fight fires matter. They matter to our forests, to our habitats, to our watersheds, and to the air quality in our communities,” said Walden. “Let’s have less of this ash, less of this ruin, and better air quality.”