Wyden Statement on Biden Administration’s Announcement on Response Strategy For 2021 Wildfire Season
“With record-breaking heat here in Oregon and across the American West, the next catastrophic wildfire weighs heavily on the minds of every living soul in the West. Fortunately, we now have an administration taking this crisis seriously,” Wyden said. “At my request, the Biden administration has announced its comprehensive strategy for this year’s wildfire season, actions that are essential with the threat of multiple large fires burning at once. Westerners can now be assured the administration has an all-of-government strategy securely in place to make sure wildland firefighters, tankers and other wildland firefighting technologies are where they must be to protect lives and property when fires hit.”
“The administration is also crystal clear on the human toll of fighting these wildfires and has a plan to improve the conditions, needs, and availability of wildland firefighters. Congress can and should bolster these efforts, and I have legislation to lift the overtime pay cap, create a more permanent firefighting workforce and let wildland firefighters work in the winter months reducing hazardous fuels, so there is less fire risk in the summer. The ongoing infrastructure debate in Congress gives us an essential chance to get this and other wildfire prevention efforts, like hazardous fuels management, done. The time to prepare is now,” Wyden concluded.
The administration’s announcement of its 2021 wildfire strategy today follows Wyden’s request at a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing for the administration to provide its strategy for the expected catastrophic wildfire season ahead, including its plan for resource sharing when there are multiple severe fires across communities in the West. He has also separately 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.
Leading the West
After last year’s devastating wildfire season, Wyden convened Western senators with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the urgent need for major investments in public lands and wildfire and drought resiliency. Wyden has also pressed the FEMA director on the urgent need to get state and local officials the resources they need in advance of the upcoming wildfire season.
Wyden has introduced several pieces of legislation to prevent severe wildfire risks, including his legislation to establish a 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps to create a workforce to restore our public lands and bolster wildfire prevention and preparedness, an initiative that President Biden included in his American Jobs Plan. Wyden has 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.
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