Oregon Representative wants more fire contractors and timber harvesting

Walden letter, fire and grazing

Greg Walden, the congressional Representative from Oregon’s second district, sent a letter to the Regional Forester for the USFS’ northwest region, and the BLM State Director for Oregon, dated Wednesday, encouraging the use of private contractors for suppression of wildfires. He also came out in favor of increased grazing and timber harvesting on federal lands. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

With the current national focus regarding the federal budget deficit, there is an important need to reduce federal spending, and private wildland firefighting businesses are providing important best-value resources for wildfire suppression activities. As I understand, private businesses are able to engage in suppression activities at a lower percentage of the cost as compared to other government resources when the total cost of those government resources are taken into account. In addition, private businesses have increased their coverage areas, cut response times, and arrive as self-contained emergency responders. As we work to be as efficient as possible with taxpayer dollars, I hope that you are taking greater advantage of these private businesses’ services both for initial and extended attack operations.

Representative Walden appears to be encouraging federal land management agencies to hire private contractors over government workers. It is common to use private firefighters on large fires, but having them take over the initial attack role in large numbers would be a significant change and would be resisted by many fire managers.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.