April 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Sen. Jeff Golden shares a dire prediction after community wildfire funding cut 90%

2 min read
If we keep shortchanging community protection and instead cross our fingers and think happy thoughts, if our best informed professionals are right, then we are nearly certain to watch more Oregon communities burn to the ground.

As the 2024 legislative session drew to a close, a dire warning from the chair of the Senate’s Natural Resources and Wildfire committee. On March 7:

Sen. Jeff Golden: We’re ignoring one of the most sacred duties we have to Oregonians. In the ‘21-‘23 biennium, our general fund, guided by Senate Bill 762, invested some $200 million in wildfire programs. That $200 million dropped to about $87 million in the current biennium.

[00:00:30] The portion for community risk reduction—programs specifically crafted to protect our communities from destruction—dropped in that period from about $35 to $3 million.

[00:00:42] This session, to address that roughly 90% reduction, key stakeholders put forward a carefully crafted $28 million proposal to partially fill the hole.

[00:00:53] Modest when you consider the cut in general fund support for wildfire from $200 million last biennium to $87 million currently.

[00:01:02] The budget made public this week includes nothing for that proposal.

[00:01:07] This session saw the launch of an intense conversation about how to fund wildfire programs adequately and reliably going forward.

[00:01:15] It will be a steep, politically difficult climb. If we shirk from it, if we keep kicking this can down the road, if we keep shortchanging community protection and instead cross our fingers and think happy thoughts, if our best-informed professionals are right, then we are nearly certain to watch more Oregon communities burn to the ground.

[00:01:39] I used to worry that that sounded shrill or melodramatic. I don’t anymore. There is not an honest way to put it more gently. We have it in our hands to keep that from happening, or at least to tilt the odds much more in our favor. Let’s find the determination and political will to do that, and let’s find it soon.

[00:02:01] John Q: With community wildfire funding cut 90%, a dire warning from Sen. Jeff Golden: ‘We’re nearly certain to watch more Oregon communities burn to the ground.’

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