WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-Hood River) plan to protect Crooked River Ranch from wildfire advanced through the House Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan vote today. The Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act (H.R. 2075) adjusts the wilderness study areas adjacent to Crooked River Ranch to protect the local community from wildfire.
“Passage of the Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act through the Resources Committee is really important,” said Walden. “We all know what fire is like in our environment in central Oregon. What we’re trying to do is move a government boundary back so that teams can get in and thin out the excess fuels that could result in a catastrophe if fire ever came over the top into Crooked River Ranch.”
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 stand under the federally mandated and locally promulgated Jefferson County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. And the current WSA classification prevents mechanical fire prevention activities within these overstocked juniper stands.
Walden’s bill would adjust the boundaries of the WSAs in order to better facilitate fire prevention activities on public lands and the adjacent private property.
Local fire officials and first responders have praised Walden’s bill. “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. This bill will move the boundary away from private properties, eliminate wilderness restrictions and allow us to mitigate these fuels to defend properties and lives on Crooked River Ranch. From a firefighting standpoint, Congressman Walden’s bill is appreciated and is simply commonsense.” 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.
Current WSA restrictions makes it impossible for the fire crew to enter the area and fight the wildfire with modern techniques. The residents of Crooked River Ranch are most appreciative of Greg’s efforts to facilitate the protection of life and property through enactment of the Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act.” Jim Adkins, Sheriff of Jefferson County
The Crooked River Ranch Fire Protection Act advanced through the House Natural Resources Committee and now awaits a vote in the full House of Representatives before moving to the Senate. For a copy of Walden’s legislation, please click here.