Regional News

Agriculture Secretary Announces Wildfire Protection Grants

PORTLAND, OR -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Oregon Monday, meeting with state leaders, including Gov. Tina Kotek, Sen. Ron Wyden, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Andrea Salinas, and a number of members of the U.S. Forest Service. 

During the roundtable discussion, he announced another round of funding for the Community Wildfire Defense Grant program. The first round sent $197 million to 99 projects, including 10 in Oregon, "To enable communities - small and mid-sized communities in these forested areas - to basically provide resources to those communities so they too can be resilient. So they can work with homeowners and business owners to make sure they’re doing what they need to do proactively, to reduce the risk of fire," Sec. Vilsack told reporters after the event. He said, "Folks have helped us to identify the priority firesheds that pose the greatest risk. And we’re focusing the resources that the Congresswoman [Suzanne Bonamici] and others have provided us under the Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to aggressively reduce the hazardous fuels build-up that’s occurred over many, many, many years." The Forest Service accepts applications and manages the program, in support of its 10-year strategy to treat 50-million acres over 10 years, to reduce wildfire risk, "And this, frankly, also frees up resources for us to be able to invest in the recreational opportunities, which is a critically important part of the economy, particularly in the Northwest."

Vilsack also praised Oregon’s collaborative efforts, specifically work between the state and Forest Service to manage forest health, "Everyone from small town mayors to governors, understanding and appreciating the significance of working together and leveraging resources."

He also took questions on the 2023 Farm Bill, noting an effort underway by some House members to redirect conservation and SNAP funds allocated in the Inflation Reduction Act, "I think that would be ill-advised. And I think, frankly, we’ve just begun to create some momentum in terms of sustainability, in terms of being able to put resources to improve soil health, water quality, as well as forest management. And now is not the time to take a step back. Now is the time to continue the aggressive work that’s being done."

Following the Forest Service event, Vilsack toured the mass timber project at the Portland Airport, calling Oregon a leader in the mass timber industry.

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