CROOKED RIVER RANCH, OR -- Crooked River Ranch is looking to adjust the lines of the nearby Wilderness Study Area to include 832 acres of BLM land in an attempt to facilitate fire prevention and suppression activities that are currently prohibited. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR2) met Wednesday with first responders and residents to discuss the proposal.
CRR Fire Chief Harry Ward explained to Walden that homes along the rim face obvious fire risks. "Tall trees, tall straw brush, limbs to the ground on the juniper - It's to the point that, if a fire came through, there would be no way for us to stop it. And, as far as a fire hazard, pulling in Federal resources, and air resources and stuff like that, and having them available, right now, could be a huge problem for us."
Crooked River Ranch Fire & Rescue works closely with BLM to fight wildfire in the area, but due to jurisdictional issues, the ranch can't work on the land in question unless its classification as a 'Wilderness Study Area' is lifted. Congressman Walden says, "The WSAs are easily created by the agency, they can just say 'this is a study area.' But, the only way you can change one, or eliminate it, is through an act of Congress, so it's kind of an interesting process that maybe should be flipped the other way; but it's not. So, we have to make our case that there's a reason to move this back, and I think the reason is pretty clear that it's fire safety in a community that's fire prone." Walden hopes his House Resolution 2075 will get to the House floor when Congress is back in session in September.
He told the group the area would benefit from clean up and maintenance the adjustment would allow, "We live in a high fire danger environment. And, it seems to me, the most responsible tact we could take is to allow active fuels reduction to prevent catastrophic fire. And so, we were very judicious in working with the community to try and find a balance here that moves the line back to an appropriate area to prevent what could be a devastating and deadly fire." Walden also commended efforts to create a secondary access road through the Ranch to increase options for residents in the event of an emergency.