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Scientists, Walden weigh in on climate debate amid massive Oregon wildfires

BEND,Ore (KTVZ)-- The current wildfire devastation in Oregon might be the worst many in the state will see in their lifetimes.

With many homes lost, businesses destroyed and devastating loss of life, now many across the state are asking why this happened, and how to keep it from happening again.

Leading the topic of discussion -- and a long-time subject of intense debate -- is climate change.

Gov. Kate Brown recently touched on the matter, expressing her concerns: "I think there's no question that the changing climate is exacerbating what we see on the ground."

However, some say otherwise, like Dr. Bob Zybach, a forest scientist with a PhD in environmental studies. He's been observing the situation for years, and said Monday these fires were the result of poor forest management, and had little to do with climate change at all.

"Fuel buildups are what caused these fires. They've been predicted for several decades. It's not climate change -- it's management. The lands were actively managed by Native Americans, Oregon Indians for thousands of years with prescribed burning.

"We use logging, road-building, prescribed burning -- and for 35 years, from 1952 to 1986, we only had one major fire in Western Oregon. Right now, we've got four or five catastrophic scale fires going on at the same time. And this has been happening a lot since 1987."

However, research climatologist and Linfield University professor Greg Jones said climate was a factor in leading to the conditions that fueled these fires.

"The whole issue is that our ramping up of warming atmosphere over the past 100-plus years, and especially the past 30, 40 years has really put us in a situation in which the temperatures in the year are much warmer, were typically having more wide variability within our rainfall patterns," Jones said.

"And so all of this has been really driven or eventuated by the fact that we have climate change."

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., was with President Trump during his visit to Sacramento on Monday.

Walden touched on the issues in an exclusive NewsChannel 21 interview as well, taking a two-sided approach.

"Part of it is we have a changing climate, we have drier conditions," the congressman said. "Part of it is we've had 100 years of suppressing fire and 50 years of not managing forests, so we have enormous fuel build-ups in the forest."

Walden also weighed in on possible congressional action to curb wildfires.

"There's a lot of work we've done -- there's a lot more to do," he said. "The Healthy Forest Restoration Act I helped write more than a decade ago is law. It's being used in and around our wildland-urban interfaces, doing a lot of the thinning you see around the highways and the critical infrastructure."

Fire Alert / Government-politics / News / Top Stories
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Blake Allen

Blake Allen is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.



  1. Ya see how Walden managed to get through the interviews without blaming- finger-pointing- calling out the Democrats- who’ve had a choke-hold on the state for forty years ! In contrast- here’s what Brown said to a national audience on Sunday when interviewed by Deface the Nation-

    MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor, I understand that’s your conviction. I know four former Oregon lawmakers have written an op-ed in The Washington Post, though, saying you can’t blame climate change. Instead, it’s a failure of your state government to prepare and that warnings were ignored regarding mismanagement of Oregon’s forests. What is your response to that?

    GOV. BROWN: Well, I stood up a fire council about two and a half years ago. Folks came together, Republicans, Democrats, to tackle the issues. The council had an extensive report and called for extensive investments in our communities, harvesting and thinning. Unfortunately, the Republicans walked away from the legislative session and we were unable to get that done. But I would say this, it’s both. It’s decades of mismanagement of our forests in this country, and it is the failure to tackle climate change. We need to do both. And we can.

    Kate Brown couldn’t blame other’s fast enough- and that is exactly why she is a complete failure- no sense of accountability- only in Salem and todays liberal lost society is this acceptable.

    If yer chokin’ on the smoke- don’t come a whinin to me !

    1. This is a serious question:

      I read that Oregon is 47% covered by forests.
      The Federal Gov’t is in control of 60% of those forests.
      34% is privately owned.
      2% is tribal owned.
      The State controls/owns onlhy 3% of the forests in the state.

      Why do you put ALL of the blame on our governor? Where is the federal gov’t responsibility in this? I believe that both the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires started on Federal land.

      1. The mismanagement predates Hatefull Kate and her ilk. She is the latest inept leader who just happens to be holding the bag. Just because it’s federal land, doesn’t mean the feds operate in a vacuum. Plenty of feds to blame as well. Both Rs and Ds.

      2. I put ALL of the blame on the preservationist groups who always sue or threaten to sue any time the forest service trys to manage anything other than make it a wilderness area.

      3. This is a serious answer that requires one to stop and think about it- so good luck with that.

        “for 35 years, from 1952 to 1986, we only had one major fire in Western Oregon. Right now, we’ve got four or five catastrophic scale fires going on at the same time. And this has been happening a lot since 1987.”

        In addition- the data don’t lie- since 2015- under Kate Brown’s administration- the state has suffered more than 17 of these devastating wildfires- from the Chetco Bar Fire (170,000 acres) to the Boxcar fire (100,000 acres) just outside of Maupin- the amount of negligence and incompetence from her Salem has been historically bad !

        The fact is- Kate Brown is not an effective politician- her record demonstrates that she lacks the ability to get people around her to “work together”… now stay with me- this has nothing to do with the feds or the US President- because Brown was failing even under Obama !

        I’d ask you all to read her statement again- as she backs everyone into a corner with her pointy fingers and blame game rhetoric… how exactly does that out dated boomer style of management work in todays multi-generational world… it doesn’t ! And that’s the problem in a neat and tidy package- all wrapped up and ready to go- curbside delivery !

    2. Yeah RINO Greg said the same as Late Kate trying to shmooze both sides and trying to claim credit for ineffective, symbolic rules that provide cover for the swamp and achieve nothing.
      Tiny Tim Knopp will likely get my vote but seems to be same as Walden that is muzzling support for Trump and not a discouraging word about dems or Brown. Where is your voice Timbo?

      1. “Do you loathe Trump for this same reason”…

        Nope ! During this pandemic, the US President put money in my pocket- Kate Brown terminated people and made up excuses as to why “her” unemployment offices don’t work.

        The US President told me to get back to work after Easter weekend- Kate Brown insisted on continuing the hoax- altered terms and conditions of her EO’s moved the goalposts at will… and her covid numbers today are still two time (less than 100 new cases a day in June- More than 200 new cases a day since) worse than when her “order’s” went into effect… that’s some solution !

        The wildfires in Oregon have been increasing in size and number since 2015- the year Brown took over- during the Obama administration. Not a Trump to be seen anywhere !

        Kate Brown is in charge of a single state- not fifty- yet the largest city in Oregon is under attack nightly by riots- the economy is in complete shambles- she closed the schools- Oregons corona/covid/wuhan virus death rate per million is climbing- not falling !

        We don’t care how “Trump” acts- he’s not in charge of Oregon. Many of you seem distracted with this fact- using the same tactics as Brown to avoid personal responsibility- you had the opportunity to sign a recall petition- I doubt you did- Gee as I look outside of another day of breathing toxic air…. Thanks !

  2. Average rainfall and temperature hasn’t changed. Arson and other man causes way up. Forest management ignored due to excessive preservation laws. Human habitation expanding into fire prone areas.This has happened many times before.Look at the fire scars on 500 year old trees.climate change. We have been coming out of the ice age for 12000 years. This is happening regardless of man. And there will be another ice age. Man may not be around to see it.If he is, he will be cussing the ice.

    1. That’s not true. Rainfall us way down. How could you even say that? The rest of your post makes sense, but to deny our weather is changing it was a factor due to decreased rainfall is ignorant.

      1. You may not have been alive in the late 70’s, but you can still go back and read the records. That’s why he can “say” that.
        The weather is always changing. We are coming out of an ice age. Global warming is trending regardless of human causes…human causes are adding to it, but it would be happening anyway.
        Extrapolating short term data to predict long term results does not work. I would suggest you stay out of the stock market and study up on bell curves.

      2. Wait, I thought the warming climate caused excessive evaporation and downpours, now you claim it makes the weather drier. The enormous snowfall the other year was also blamed on climate change. So which one is it?

      3. Is it really down? or is it that we are in a dry part of the cycle and it really is about average over 10 years? And what is the average over the whole country? A fact of life is it is not the same everywhere – when we have drought someone else has floods and the reverse is true a few years later.

  3. Bad management not to mention nights of rioters and low life who have learbed to burn really well, ya see some of the little fire bomb devices the throw lately? Big flames, like the one where the portland soy kid lit himself fire. People not being prosecuted like todays fire bug guy who decided to light 6 more. Kate and the dnc wanted this to happen to preach her age old Al Gore BS global warming garbage. If this was trye we all would of been extinct by 2004 like the said. The people see the dnc BS Kate. More so now than ever before, Kate is worried Oregon might turn red in November?

  4. Everyone listened up! Its was the perfect storm! A 100 year event (look at 1933 Tillamook burn), mixed in with a bad forest mgmt., a expanding population growth. Everyone is to blame left, right, mother nature, all us!

  5. It’s both and if you don’t see it you’re blind! Drought, climate change and build up of fuel from fire suppression! Both sides are to blame so stop pointing fingers and find a solution!

    1. “Both sides” have not been controlling the bully pulpit in Salem for forty years- that is on the Democrats- your covid19-corona-wuhan fake response is on the Democrats- the failing economy- the Portland riots- the closed schools- the house arrest- the rising suicides alcoholism and drug use-these wildfires… all on the party in control- the one that refuses to cooperate- that group that represents “Valley Interests” has been at the helm for forty years now- the boat has finally capsized- it’s on them- stop blaming the cabin boy- he jumped ship a long time ago !

        1. Great ! But outside of that shallow ill advised personal attack… what do you have of substance concerning the topic at hand ? If nothing- as I suspect- then I’ll just chalk up another victory against those liberal left wing radicals who can’t debate-discuss-logically fathom how the State of Oregon has gotten to this point. And it’s really simple- forty years of Demokrat mismanagement in Salem- all roads lead there !

          So there ya go- another KO at the expense of Never-Dumper- bound up till he pops !

  6. I try to deal with facts, not magical thinking. When you have 99 out of 100 scientists agreeing that climate change is a driving factor in our natural disasters and only 1 speaks in opposition, guess which side this and any other rational person will fall. Apparently, being rational is one of those things you have to give up when you swear a loyalty oath to Trump.

    1. The data was just recently clarified- that 70-90 percent of Oregon’s fires are “man-made”- not “natural disasters”.

      The severity of these man made acts are amplified by poor housekeeping ! In short- to have a fire- you need four elements- not just one as you promote- it takes a fuel- Oxygen- an ignition source (heat) and a chemical reaction between the four… you remove “one” element- you have no fire !

      If leaders in Oregon cannot remove the ignition source for 70-90 percent of these fires- then Oregon leaders need to remove or reduce the fuel.

      It really is that simple !

  7. Kate Brown is full of crap about blaming on climate change. Blame all these fires on the environmentalists and the Democrat party who screwed up the timber industry with the total BS on the spotted owl. When I was working in the timber industry I went to Wash. DC with many of my fellow workers to try and stop this BS. Ron Wyden was among Patty Murray of Washington who basically told the timber industry to get lost. That farce about the spotted owl was BS like a fart in a whirlwind. I have lived in Oregon 82 years and we weren’t faced with all these fires until we started voting in these weak kneed liberals and allowing the environmentalists to destroy working people their lively hoods. Clean the damn forests of the fuel and start logging again and created thousands of jobs. Most of our lumber comes from Canada and ours is rotting and burning.

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