Greg Walden on bipartisan effort to reduce wildfires

Congressman Greg Walden Press Release,

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is once again helping lead a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to create a separate catastrophic wildfire fund so federal forest managers no longer have to rob other forest management budgets to pay for fighting fire.  The bipartisan Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (H.R. 1404) was reintroduced today in both the House and the Senate. Last year, the House passed the bipartisan FLAME Act by voice vote, but it received no action in the Senate.

Co-sponsors of the House measure include Walden, Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.V.), and Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). Co-sponsors of the Senate measure include Sens. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

“Nearly every year when catastrophic wildfire hits, the U.S. Forest Service breaks its bank to pay the firefighting costs. That means they end up canceling contracts to do thinning work and fuels reduction work, and maybe even shut down recreation facilities because they need to rob from every account they have to pay for the immediate firefighting costs. That doesn’t make sense. We never get ahead of the curve to make our forests healthier and less prone to wildfire,” Walden said.

“Today, 47 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget is spent fighting fire. Wildfires in the United States release an average of 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year which is equivalent to 4 to 6 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning,” Walden said.

“Enough is enough. Not another summer should pass without this commonsense law. Hopefully we can get over the hump this year with consideration in both the House and the Senate,” Walden said.

“The FLAME Act would give federal forest managers the resources to more actively manage our forests to reduce catastrophic fire, improve forest health, and help Oregon’s rural economy all at the same time,” Walden said.

The FLAME fund established by this legislation will be separate from budgeted and appropriated agency wildfire suppression funding for the Forest Service and the Interior Department, and is to be used only for the suppression of catastrophic, emergency wildfires. The annual agency budgets will continue to fund anticipated and predicted wildfire suppressions activities. Monies for the fund will be appropriated based on the average costs incurred by these agencies to suppress catastrophic, emergency wildfires over the preceding five years.

In the 110th Congress, the FLAME Act received the support of the five living former chiefs of the U.S. Forest Service, the Western Governors Association, the Wilderness Society, the American Forest and Paper Association, the National Association of State Foresters, the National Association of Counties, members of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and numerous other organizations.

Congressman Walden represents the people of Oregon’s Second District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

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