CROOKED RIVER RANCH, OR -- Congressman Greg Walden met with fire and law enforcement officials in Crooked River Ranch Friday to celebrate the upcoming vote on his Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act. The Oregon Republican has been working on the proposal for over a year, "With Crooked River Ranch and more than 5,000 people living here, there's one way in and one way out, and it's the same way. And so, if a fire takes off, and you have a strong wind, which, by the way, we get here, it could be just devastating."
HR 2075 would change the status of an 832-acre area from a "wilderness study area," which Walden says prevents some fire prevention activities, "How do we get in and do the mechanical treatment we all know needs to be done? What you do on the Ranch today, what homeowners all across Oregon do, is to thin out, clean out, brush out, create safe zones, and that's what this legislation will allow us to do mechanically on these BLM lands, once it becomes law." He tells KBND News, "We're trying to create a safe zone around Crooked River Ranch - an area that needs it. Now, you're not going to go in and clear-cut everything down. But, at least you could go in and thin it out and get it back down like we do everywhere else; and you could do it with mechanical equipment, and make it a safe, manageable, but still pristine area."
Walden says he understands not everyone who lives in the area is on board with the plan, "Life and safety issues override the visual, in this case, because we know, in talking to professional firefighters that they are really worried about what happens if fire breaks out, and their ability to even go fight it." Crooked River Ranch Fire & Rescue works closely with BLM to fight wildfire in the area. But, due to jurisdictional issues, local crews aren't allowed to work on the 832-acres in question unless its classification as a "study area" is lifted.
The resolution is expected to receive a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, and Walden hopes the Senate will fast track it so experts can work this fire season on reducing the risk to CRR residents.