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Walden CRR wildfire bill clears Senate committee


(Update: Adding Wyden statement with concerns about bill)

Rep. Greg Walden’s plan to protect Crooked River Ranch from wildfire cleared a key Senate committee Tuesday, paving the way for an upcoming vote in the full Senate, his office said.

Walden’s Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act (H.R. 2075) aims to reduce the risk of wildfire for the approximately 5,500 residents living at Crooked River Ranch in Jefferson County, and passed unanimously through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Walden’s bill unanimously passed the House in July.

“I applaud the Senate for moving forward with this common-sense public safety measure,” said Walden. “With more than 5,000 people living at Crooked River Ranch, this legislation has the potential to save lives and prevent deadly wildfires from endangering the community.

“I was proud to work alongside Senator Wyden to find common ground on certain provisions to move this bill forward without undermining the key substance of this legislation. By allowing proper management of the surrounding fire fuels, we can protect people and property at Crooked River Ranch. I look forward to moving this bill across the finish line and signed into law.”

Crooked River Ranch is an unincorporated community of about 5,500 residents in Jefferson County. The lands adjacent to the community are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are classified as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

These lands are in the highest risk category for exposure to devastating wildfire due to overstocked juniper stands under the federally mandated, and locally promulgated, Jefferson County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The current WSA classification prevents mechanical fire prevention activities within these overstocked juniper stands.

Walden said his bill would adjust the boundaries of the WSAs to allow much-needed management of the excess fire fuels that surround Crooked River Ranch, reducing the danger of wildfire for the community.

Wyden issued this statement at NewsChannel 21’s request on the status of the bill:

“I am glad I was able to improve this bill by providing local land owners some certainty over how the 688 acres of released BLM lands will be managed and clarifying those lands will be managed in a way that improves fire resiliency and forest health, yet the legislation continues to be a piecemeal approach,” Wyden said.

“I am gratified the legislation deals with the urgent wildfire concerns facing Crooked River Ranch, but the bill could be further improved to get a comprehensive solution that includes providing certainty for local residents by resolving the future protection of the remaining 2,500-plus BLM acres of the Deschutes Canyon-Steelhead Falls Wilderness Study Area. I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to protecting communities from wildfire and am committed to working toward a comprehensive solution for the community.”

Walden said his proposal also has broad support from fire officials and first responders in Jefferson County and throughout Oregon:

“This bill is long overdue and will be a welcome addition to all first responders responsible for protecting the life and property of Crooked River Ranch citizens. Additionally, it will allow local first responders and BLM managers to address the severe fire dangers that exist along the borders which abut private property.” — Oregon Fire Chiefs Association “This bill has the potential to save lives and property at Crooked River Ranch and I’m glad to see Congressman Walden continuing to move this plan forward. With the current wilderness study area (WSA) boundary, practical firefighting and fire prevention activities are unavailable. The lack of fuel mitigation around Crooked River Ranch, due to wilderness restrictions codified in law, has created a dangerous environment and continues to threaten the people that live here.” — Harry Ward, Fire Chief of Crooked River Ranch Fire & Rescue “As the elected Sheriff of Jefferson County, Oregon, this bill is extremely important to the life and property of an area under my protection. This bill will help mitigate wildfire from Crooked River Ranch by providing a defensible fire protection along the border of the Ranch which is presently contiguous with the WSAs.” — Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins

The Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act now awaits action in the full Senate. To read more about Representative Walden’s legislation, click here.

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