By Roz Brown
PORTLAND, Ore. — As the Bootleg fire burns in southern Oregon, the U.S. Senate is considering an infrastructure package that environmental scientists say contains misguided provisions.
The infrastructure bill would include billions in funding for the U.S. Forest Service in the name of wildfire prevention.
Dr. Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist for Wild Heritage and an evacuee of last year’s wildfire in Talent, Oregon, said increasingly the term “wildfires” is a misnomer, because they become urban fires that destroy unprepared communities.
“Every dollar spent in the backcountry logging forests is a dollar that is not being spent assisting communities in hardening their homes for our new climate/fire reality,” DellaSala asserted.
DellaSala argued efforts to protect communities should be pursued rather than adding money to the infrastructure bill for logging activities and vegetation clearing.
The bill, which includes the logging provisions, was introduced by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
Laura Haight, U.S. policy director at the Partnership for Policy Integrity, contended the Manchin provisions to allow more commercial logging activities would make the fire situation in the West worse, not better.
She urged Congress to listen to scientists, not logging companies, about prevention.
“And what science has shown, over and over and over again, is that the areas where they do more logging are thinner and drier and much more prone to catastrophic wildfire,” Haight emphasized.
DellaSala noted drought, heat waves and high winds brought on by deforestation and fossil-fuel emissions could make 2021 the worst fire season ever. He believes policymakers need to be doing more to keep communities safe as fires caused by climate change increase.
“And that’s not what we’re seeing in this bill in Congress right now,” DellaSala remarked. “Which is going to put billions of dollars into additional logging in the backcountry that’s only going to feed back into more, future fires.”
He added disaster aid, relocation assistance, and proper planning should be the focus of lawmakers to make sure other communities are not destroyed when wildfires burn structures in a domino effect ignited by embers cast for miles ahead of the flames.
Raised in South Dakota, Roz Brown is a journalist with 30 years of experience. She started at KGNU community radio while a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is now a board member. After stints as reporter and News Director at KBOL, where she was the recipient of several Associated Press awards, Roz raised two children and then worked Denver’s 850KOA for more than a decade. In 2017, she joined Public News Service and returned to her roots, covering local news.
This article was published on July 22 by Public News Service.