Hearing comes following meeting with local business owners and community leaders in southern Oregon today

MEDFORD, OR — During a meeting with local business owners and community leaders in Medford today, Representative Greg Walden (R — Hood River) announced that the Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to examine the air quality impacts of wildfire smoke. Walden gathered members of the business community and local leaders in southern Oregon — where residents are experiencing the worst air quality in the nation — to discuss improvements to forest management to reduce the wildfires that have blanketed the region with smoke.

Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, called attention to the air quality, environmental, and health impacts of wildfire smoke during an October 2017 hearing on this issue. Walden said today that the upcoming hearing will serve as another opportunity to address needed changes to federal forest policy that will help prevent unnaturally catastrophic wildfires.

“Year after year, people in the West are suffering from the effects of catastrophic fire and the smoke that comes with it,” said Walden in a video message today. “People end up having to wear masks, stay inside, and events are canceled. It’s time for Congress to act. As Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, I’m announcing that we are going to hold a hearing this fall to look at the health consequences of the smoke from these catastrophic wildfires.”

Recent studies by the Nature Conservancy, Forest Service, and others have found that active management of fire fuels can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by up to 70 percent, and can reduce carbon emissions from wildfires by up to 85 percent. Walden is continuing his push for forest management reforms to prevent catastrophic wildfires in Oregon and across the West. 

Walden secured significant reforms to federal forest policy in the government funding measure that was signed into law in March, such as:

  • Streamlines authorities for rapid implementation for wildfire resiliency and hazardous fuels reduction projects;
  • Progress to fix fire borrowing, to help end the vicious cycle of depleting resources for fire prevention to pay for fire suppression, which increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires year after year;
  • Expands Healthy Forest Restoration Act authority for fuel and fire break projects;
  • Gives the Forest Service and BLM the ability to offer stewardship contracts with a 20-year term; and
  • Expands “Good Neighbor Policy” to allow states to help with road maintenance, culverts, and other similar projects on Forest Service land.

Walden also secured sweeping improvements to federal forest policy in the 2018 Farm Bill that recently passed the House, and this week urged for those needed changes to be included in the Senate passed version of the legislation. The additional reforms Walden secured in the Farm Bill that passed the House include:

  • Streamlined and expedited authorities for projects, including:
    • Critical response for insect and disease infestation, watershed protection, hazardous fuels reduction, and forest restoration projects;
    • Cleaning up after a fire and requiring replanting of our forests;
    • Early successional wildlife habitat development; and
    • Collaborative projects.

Today, Walden wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, to request needed relief for wheat farmers and ranchers who were impacted by wildfires across the state. For a copy of Walden’s letter, please click here.

More details on Walden’s upcoming hearing to examine air quality impacts of wildfire smoke will be posted on www.walden.house.gov as they become available.


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