June 13, 2019

Wyden Presses Forest Service on Misguided Policy Change, Backlog of Wildfire Prevention Projects in Oregon

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today raised serious concerns about a new U.S. Forest Service proposal to gut environmental rules for forest management projects at a time when there’s a serious backlog of wildfire prevention work.

At a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing Wyden questioned Forest Service Director of Fire Aviation and Management Shawna Legarza on the agency’s decision. A senior member of the Committee, Wyden noted that the changes will not result in more fuels and thinning projects completed, as the agency claims, but rather more litigation, less forest management and greater fire risks for rural communities as a backlog of ready-to-go projects only grows and becomes more delayed.

“I’m heading home to rural Oregon this weekend, and I can tell you the forests of Oregon—and in particular in rural Oregon—are once again a tinderbox,” Wyden said during the hearing. “We badly need good preventative management to make sure this tinderbox doesn’t completely devastate lives and put our communities at risk of breathing toxic wildfire smoke for weeks on end.”

“My home state alone has over two million acres of thinning and prescribed fire treatment on forest lands that have gone through environmental reviews. They are ready to go. Why wouldn’t you all focus on that so we can do something important to protect Oregon communities now rather than chase one of these ideological pipedreams of rolling back environmental laws while putting our communities at risk? Why would you propose gutting environmental laws when you’re not even going after the backlog of approved hazardous fuels and thinning projects?”

Wyden requested Legarza provide a written statement within a week on the new Forest Service policy and ways the agency is addressing the current backlog of wildfire prevention projects.

Watch the full exchange between Wyden and Legarza below.