June 17, 2021

Wyden Sounds Alarm on Wildfire Season at ENR Committee Hearing on Forest Service Budget

Sen. Wyden asks Forest Service chief for written plan on how the agency will prepare and respond to another expected catastrophic wildfire season in the West

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sounded the alarm during today's U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the U.S. Forest Service annual budget on what every person living in the West knows is coming: another catastrophic wildfire season.

This year in the West we could be looking at the prospect of multiple fires, big ones, at the same time,” Wyden said.

Wyden asked U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen for the agency's plan for resource sharing when there are multiple severe fires across communities in the West.

“We need a 21st Century workforce and equipment and technology. Thanks to the work with this Committee, we are making some progress. We have a modernized air tanker fleet. We are making some steps forward with our limited capacity of resources, with advancing technology. We need a more of year-round workforce, but … our system is at a breaking point,” Chief Christiansen said.

Wyden requested a written statement from the Forest Service on its plans to cover all the dangers associated with another expected catastrophic wildfire season in the West, as well as the USFS plans for wildfire resiliency efforts like hazardous fuels reduction.

Wyden, along with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., yesterday in a letter pressed federal land managers on Oregon's preparedness needs for the 2021 wildfire season as intense drought conditions persist and are expected to worsen in the state.

Wyden’s 21st Century Conservation Corps Act would provide critical funds to support a natural resource management and conservation workforce and bolster wildfire prevention and preparedness to protect the health and safety of communities from threats posed by wildfire season. Wyden also reintroduced his National Prescribed Fire Act to support pre-fire season controlled burns as an essential, science-based strategy for reducing hazardous fuels to mitigate the worst effects of severe wildfire. Wyden has introduced the Disaster Safe Power Grid Act to ensure that power companies reduce the risks of wildland fires through power system upgrades, fire and disaster safety equipment installation and proper vegetation management.

Video of the full exchange is available here.