April 08, 2004

Forest Service accepts Wydens proposal to create a Prineville forest health research center

Central Oregon research center will help reduce fire risks, boost local economy

Washington, DC U.S. Senator Ron Wydens proposal to create a forest health research center at the headquarters of the Ochoco National Forest in Prineville has been accepted by the Administration. The Prineville center will be established under existing authority and could begin operations as soon as late 2005.After all the twists and turns of working to get this facility established, Im extremely pleased the Forest Service accepted my proposal to create a forest health research center in Prineville, Wyden said. This is a very promising step forward, and I will continue to monitor and work with the Forest Service as they implement this important facility.During last Novembers debates over a forest health bill, Wyden, while leading efforts in the U.S. Senate to pass a balanced wildfire bill, was able to attach his Prineville provision to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. During final negotiations on the bill, all projects were stripped out despite a coordinated effort by Wyden and U.S. Representative Greg Walden to preserve the Prineville center language in the final wildfire bill.At that time, Wyden spoke with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman about the need for a forest health research facility in the West and received assurances that the Administration would work with him to locate a facility in Prineville. Wyden and Walden also introduced legislation to create the Prineville facility, which was to be charged with carrying out a major requirement of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act: to inventory and assess forest stands on federal forest land and, with the consent of owners, private forest land.The Forest Service policy announcement today establishes the Prineville center to meet the goals of the proposed legislation. As such, the Prineville facility will focus on assessment, monitoring, and evaluation of fire risks and other forest health threats in the West.According to the Forest Service, the Prineville center will begin development, equipment acquisition and staffing in FY2005 with operations beginning in late 2005 or early 2006. Initial staffing estimates are for approximately five FTEs. Administrative support will come from the Ochoco National Forest. Initial budget estimates range from $2.5-$3.5 million.This facility, if properly implemented, will not only help us prevent and fight forest fires, but it will also provide a boost to the local economy, Wyden said. I want to thank my colleague, Congressman Greg Walden, for his bipartisan cooperation in getting the job done.