March 31, 2009

Amendment Would Increase Funding for Forest Health Projects in Oregon

Washington, D.C. - Pursuing long-promised tools to help prevent wildfires, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to introduce an amendment to the FY 10 Budget Resolution in the Senate today to fully fund the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA) for the first time since its implementation. The amendment will authorize an additional $200 million in funding for Hazardous Fuel Reduction on Federal land, in order to fully fund the HFRA, which would also provide jobs thinning overstocked forests in rural communities and reduce the threat of wildfires.

"Because the Healthy Forests Restoration Act was never fully funded by the Bush administration, it has never really had the chance to work," said Wyden, one of the authors of HFRA. "If our amendment survives, rural communities will finally get the resources they were promised. These funds will put these communities on a path to preventing wildfires and bringing jobs back to the forest."

"Healthier forests aren't just good for wildlife, they are good for our rural communities. We should be doing much more to prevent wildfire and disease while putting Oregonians back to work in the woods," said Merkley. "With Oregon's unemployment rate nearing 11 percent, it's more important than ever that we fund programs proven to create jobs. I applaud Senator Wyden and Senator Barrasso for their leadership on this important issue."

Funding for the Hazardous Fuel Reduction Program has historically been provided at less than half the authorized amount of $760 million. Due to limited funding, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have been unable to adequately fund hazardous fuels reduction projects and tackle the ever-increasing threat of severe wildfires. Full funding of the HFRA would allow for a range of methods to improve forest health, such as the implementation of "community wildfire protection plans" developed in communities that are considered "wildland urban interface."