All blog posts created by Communications Office
  • As Wildfires Ravage Oregon, Support Grows for Ron's Plan to Fix Fire Funding

    The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed, and so too have growing concerns over the current system of wildfire funding. The current cycle of underfunding fire suppression has created a system that forces federal agencies to dip into fire prevention funding just to fight this year's fires.

    The practice of borrowing fire prevention funds to pay for fire suppression means the Forest Service has been unable to pay for projects that will prevent more frequent and severe wildfires in the future.

    To combat this, Ron proposed a wildfire funding bill with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo to end the dangerous cycle of raiding fire prevention accounts to fight fires by funding the largest wildfires like other natural disasters.

    Ron, Sen. Crapo and nine other senators have pledged to work for a real solution to wildfire funding when the Senate returns next week.

    • OPB: USFS Spends $10M Per Day On Wildfires In Oregon

     “Nationwide, the agencies spend $150 million per week on fire suppression. The cost of fighting wildfires has soared. It’s now 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget, Vilsack said. ‘(It’s) the first time in the history of the Forest Service that we’re spending more money for fire suppression than anything else,’ he said.”

    Here's a roundup of recent stories on the growing fire funding problem, and the need to pass Ron's solution:

     “Congress should waste no time passing this legislation, which comes amid predictions of a catastrophic fire season. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently warned that wildfire-fighting costs could run hundreds of millions over budget.”

    • KATU News: Federal and state firefighting coordinators hear dire forecast

    “’ We will take action; we always have taken action. It will affect some other program delivery though,’ said Jim Peña, the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Forester.  

    That can mean taking the ax to forest fire prevention programs.”

    • Portland Tribune: Wyden, U.S. agriculture secretary to get update on Western wildfires

     “Unless Congress acts, Americans will continue gradually losing the benefits of our forests — fewer available campgrounds, erosion polluting our streams and rivers, lost jobs as timber projects stall, and most ironically and worryingly, more frequent and more severe wildfires as we loot fire prevention to pay for the fires burning right now.”

    • LA Times: As wildfires rage and budgets dwindle, more federal funds sought for firefighting

     “We have a national treasure here, and we want to do a better job of preserving and protecting that national treasure. We just simply have to have the resources and the flexibility to do so, and Sen. Wyden's bill will give us that opportunity.”

    • Capital Press: Wyden seeks change in Forest Service wildfire budgeting

    “Forest and rangeland officials have counted 3,382 fires in Oregon and Washington since June 1, with 1.4 million acres burned. Three firefighters died in Washington, and dozens of homes and outbuildings have been destroyed in the two states. To date, the fires have cost an estimated $370 million to fight, with nearly 11,000 firefighters deployed. Fire managers have counted nearly 60,000 lightning strikes this summer.”

    • Coloradoan: U.S. spending $150 million per week on wildfires

    “Wyden has introduced legislation that would treat the most severe fires as natural disasters and use disaster relief funds to fight them. This should prevent the need to shift money from other uses.”

    • Spokesman-Review: As wildfire costs continue to rise, Crapo, Wyden, Risch say it’s time to change how firefighting is funded

     “The bill, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, has 16 Senate cosponsors from both parties and support from 250 organizations; an identical version in the House, sponsored by Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, has 124 co-sponsors from both parties, including lead co-sponsor Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.”

    • KTVZ: Wyden secures backing for wildfire funding fix

     “’We know that wildfires are going to continue to be a threat, and we can better prepare for the increasing costs of wildland fire management by making needed changes that will support the preparation of firefighters and land managers,’ Crapo said in a statement for the record. ‘That is why I partnered with Senator Ron Wyden in introducing legislation, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, to provide for more efficient and effective fire management.’”

  • Ron: How to set the temperature right for statewide economic growth in Oregon

    Ron recently met with people around Oregon to discuss his plan to create good-paying jobs in every part of the state.

    He spoke at the Coastal Economic Summit in Grand Ronde, the Westside Economic Alliance in Hillsboro and a gathering in Eugene spotlighting the “app economy.”

    Throughout his conversations, Ron highlighted the following pieces of his plan:

    • Trade done right– a must in a state where one in five jobs depends on exports and a top priority for Ron, who succeeded in his work to improve transparency, congressional oversight and stronger enforcement of human rights as well as labor and environmental protections in new trade agreements 
    • Boosting Oregon’s growing travel and tourism sector, which is responsible for an estimated 101,000 jobs statewide.
    • Technology – and the need to protect the creativity that fostered the explosion of e-commerce and the free flow of information on the Internet.
    • Education, including his work to boost high school graduation rates.
    • Modernizing our transportation and infrastructure through tools like greater use of municipal bonds to attract more private investment and a multi-year plan for the federal Highway Trust Fund.
    • Uniting brewers, vintners, cidermakers and distillers on a comprehensive craft beverage bill that would cut taxes and modernize outdated regulations for those industries.
    • And getting Oregonians back to work in the woods by doubling the harvest in a sustainable way.

    Last week was all about what we can do to build on our strengths to continue creating middle-class jobs in every corner of our state,” Ron said. “All these pieces of the economic puzzle add up to a robust economy that can support a diverse statewide economy.”  

    While in Eugene, Ron also had the opportunity to drop off books from the Library of Congress to the children at the Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley. He did have help in that regard from a “very special guest.”

  • Ron gets firefighting briefings that reinforce the need to fix wildfire funding

    Oregon’s record-breaking fire season this year is being worsened by severe drought and the current system of wildfire funding that shortchanges fire prevention and suppression work. To combat this problem, Ron has introduced a bipartisan bill to make sure there are enough resources to fight fires like the natural disasters they are by fixing the nation’s broken system of wildfire funding.

    In addition to working with the U.S. Forest Service and the state to ensure all available firefighting resources are deployed as quickly as possible, Ron will make his wildfire funding bill his top priority when Congress reconvenes in September.

    “These infernos are threatening lives and burning up Oregon’s forests and homes,” Ron said after recent briefings in Medford and Boise about the wildfires ravaging southern Oregon and eastern Oregon.

    “My first order of business is to finally end the terrible trifecta that makes these fires worse,” he said, “underfunding firefighting budgets, stealing money from fire prevention to make up the shortfall and letting hazardous fuels build up as a result.”

    View in full screen

    Ron received his first fire briefing of the year in March, which was the earliest fire briefing he’d ever had to receive.The most recent fire briefings in Medford and Boise follow updates firefighting officials gave Ron last month in Portland and Bend. The bottom line in all those briefings was that firefighters are doing extraordinary work under extraordinary circumstances and that it’s imperative they get the resources they need.

    To read more about Ron’s bipartisan bill with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo to reform  the system of wildfire funding, go here.

    And to keep up with all the incredible work firefighters are doing across Oregon, go here.