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Federal government allocates $38 million to parts of Oregon for wildfire funding

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Federal government allocates $38 million to parts of Oregon for wildfire funding

Feb 27, 2024 | 9:00 am ET
By Alex Baumhardt
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Federal government allocates $38 million to parts of Oregon for wildfire funding
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Firefighters undertake a prescribed burn at the Upper Applegate Watershed near Medford on Thursday, April 27, 2023. Such burns can help reduce the risk of large wildfires. (Kyle Sullivan, Bureau of Land Management/Flickr)

The federal government has allocated $38 million in wildfire funding to three areas of high risk in Oregon. 

The money, drawn from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help pay for wildfire prevention projects in central Oregon, the Klamath River Basin and around Mount Hood. The three regions are among 21 “priority landscapes” across the West made up of a mix of tribal, state, federal and private land that the U.S. Forest Service considers faces a high risk for wildfires. The areas include vulnerable communities and critical infrastructure.

Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats, announced the federal funding last week. Merkley fought for more federal resources tp prevent wildfires in Oregon as chair of the interior and environment subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, according to a news release.

“With extreme wildfire seasons showing no signs of ending, there is an urgent need to significantly boost investments aimed at fortifying our forests, timber industries and communities – enhancing their health and resilience,” he said in a statement.

Nearly half of the money, $18.2 million, will go to areas around central Oregon, particularly to prevent wildfire from spreading between the Deschutes National Forest and the Crooked River National Grassland to populated cities such as Sisters, Bend, Sunriver and La Pine. The money could fund prevention projects including prescribed burns, forest restoration, forest thinning and removal of vegetation that would easily burn and contribute to larger wildfires.

More than $15 million will go to the Klamath River Basin and nearly $5 million to an area around Mount Hood from Government Camp to Hood River. Wildfire prevention efforts around Mount Hood are focused on its watersheds that provide drinking water to more than one third of the state’s residents, including the Bull Run watershed, which supplies drinking water to nearly a million people in the Portland area.

“The importance of these preventative resources is evident as we head into what is expected to be another especially dry summer in the Pacific Northwest,” Wyden said in the release.