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July 09, 2008

Oregon Congressman Greg Walden PRESS RELEASE


Click on the link above to watch Congressman Walden’s floor statement on the bill

House passes Walden-backed wildfire fund bill

Walden Calls for Expanded Treatment Authority

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives today passed legislation that will create a separate fund for catastrophic, emergency wildfire costs. The measure would allow the agency to better fulfill their other forest-related missions. The bill, called the FLAME Act (H.R. 5541), was cosponsored by Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and passed by voice vote. Following the vote, Congressman Walden released the following statement.

“Too often during fire season the Forest Service has to stop work on fuel reduction projects and take funds from other efforts because it needs the money to pay for fire fighting. That means too often we fall behind in efforts to bring the forests back into balance with nature and reduce the overgrown stands. Setting up a separate fire fighting account will solve this problem.  Our federal forests are going up in smoke at historic levels each summer. Today, 47 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget is spent fighting fire. Fires 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. This bill is a step toward addressing the serious budget issues resulting form battling huge catastrophic wildfires every summer. 

“That said, this bill treats only the symptom, not the cause, of catastrophic wildfire. Congress still needs to address the main issue leading to catastrophic wildfire every summer — the egregious amount of fuel built up on our federal lands. That’s why I am leading a legislative effort that would allow federal forest managers to use the tools given to them in the bipartisan and successful Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) on a wider, landscape scale.  We know how well the collaborative HFRA process has worked to reduce fuel loads and wildfire around our communities, now we need to let our professional foresters use these same tools out where most of the fires originate.

“Forest managers tell me that where they’ve been able to utilize HFRA, it has been effective in reducing fuel and protecting homes and habitat. But since HFRA passed, 40 million acres of federal land have burned. That’s an area larger than the state of North Dakota. Simply put, we have a lot of work left to do and it’s time for Congress to take meaningful action, again.”

The FLAME Act would establish a fire-fighting account that would be funded based on the average costs incurred fighting fires over the last 10 years.  The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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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