WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. House passed legislation to deal with the continuing wildfire funding problem in the west. The bill, called "The Resilient Federal Forests Act," includes several parts that would help pay for prevention and allow for quicker reforestation.
Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) says this will modernize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Act, along with other past efforts. "The long and the short of it is, our communities are suffering. We have high poverty, our mills can't stay open, we have to fix this. We can't continue to search for obscure funding for Secure Rural Schools. We need sustainable forests to produce a sustainable resilient economy."
The bill could help solve the "fire borrowing" problem by allowing the Forest Service to request FEMA disaster funds during big wildfires, without dipping into prevention funds. "We see these catastrophic fires devouring our budgets, devouring our community and damaging our air quality. We're always going to have them, but if we can get our forests in decent shape, these wildfires won't be as destructive," Rep. Walden tells KBND.
He says it doesn't include everything he wanted, "This is different than what we did two years ago. It's not as expansive. We took half of the O&C Lands and put them in a trust. None of that is in there. It's not as far as I'd like, but it's what we think we can certainly pass and get through the Senate." The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.