March 24, 2004

U.S. Senate committee approves Wyden's bill to establish Prineville forest health research center

Central Oregon Research Center Would Help Reduce Fire Risks, Boost Economy

Washington, DC U.S. Senator Ron Wyden's bill (S. 1910) to establish a forest health research center at the Ochoco National Forest headquarters in Prineville, Oregon today passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.The Prineville facility will be charged with carrying out an inventory and assessment of forest stands on federal land and, with the consent of owners, private forest land. The assessment will evaluate forest health conditions now and in the future, and consider the ecological impacts of insect, disease, invasive species, fire and weather-related events."Establishing a forest health research center in the heart of central Oregon, a place where people know firsthand the importance of protecting communities from catastrophic wildfires, makes obvious sense," said Wyden. "Prineville is ideally positioned for this facility, which will also provide a welcome boost to the local economy."The Prineville center will work in tandem with other science centers, like those at universities across the west, to make sure data is as accurate as possible in order to improve forest management.During last November's 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. Wyden and Walden then each introduced stand-alone legislation, in their respective chambers, to create the Prineville center. At a February 12, 2004 U.S. Senate hearing, the Administration stated its support for the bill.Following today's vote, the bill is now approved for consideration by the full U.S. Senate.