REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Forest Fire Summit
March 2, 2018
Good afternoon. Thank you all for attending the 2018 Fire Summit.
I also want to say thanks to everyone who assisted with organizing this event. A huge thanks to OSU School of forestry for their leadership.
This has been a great opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges our region has faced and the challenges to come. To share best practices, exchange data and research, and discuss insights we learn from fighting wildfires.
I hope that today was also an opportunity to strengthen the relationships we rely on during fire season.
In settings like these, and through the Western Governors Association, we are able to work collaboratively to tackle the most significant issues facing the West.
Although he could not join us today, I want to specifically thank Governor Bullock. Thanks to Governor Bullock’s vision and leadership, the Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative serves as a forum for greater collaboration between our states.
This initiative provides an important platform to discuss policy options and share best practices for forest and rangeland management.
Today, wildfires burn twice as much land each year now as they did two decades ago.
Family homes and livelihoods are at risk. The health of our people and of our states’ natural habitats are at risk. And drought and wildfires increasingly threaten our state and regional economies.
Last summer, Oregon experienced an extremely challenging fire season. Between the Chetco Bar Fire in southern Oregon and the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, over a quarter million acres of Oregon’s forests burned.
For me this fire season was unlike any other.
On three occasions I went to the City of Brookings to provide assistance, including once with Tony Tooke, Chief of the US Forest Service.
I anxiously watched, along with many other Oregonians, as structural fire crews fought overnight to save the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. Thankfully they were successful. And today, we’re focused on long-term recovery.
There are stories like these in nearly every Western state. We’re seeing more fires than ever. And, they are burning hotter and faster than ever too.
We certainly learn new lessons after every fire season. Armed with more and more data, we’re learning to better manage our forestlands.
We’re learning new ways to manage and reduce fuels. And we’re learning how to better respond to wildfires, and take aggressive actions as when condition demand we do so.
Each lesson learned reinforces what we already know:
Collaboration is key.
As states, on the local level, and with our private partners, it is the forest collaboratives and regional relationships we’ve developed that are proving to be one of the best ways to reduce risk and combat wildfires.
But there’s only so much local and regional collaboration can accomplish alone.
-- Ultimately, we need action at the federal level.
-- We need a commitment from congress to take action on a wildfire funding fix.
By providing more funding to reduce hazardous fuel loads in our nation’s forests, we can get ahead of these wildfires, reduce their intensity, and minimize their impact on our economy.
As we look to the future of firefighting, we must be driven by data-informed decision making. We must continue working across jurisdictional boundaries.
We must strengthen our forest collaboratives and work toward a shared vision of sustainable forest management--
● One which preserves our natural wonders and protects diverse habitats and species.
● An approach to forest management that starts locally, supports healthy, resilient forests, and also contributes to a thriving economy.
Like most western states, Oregon’s economy was born from our natural resource-based industries -- timber in particular.
Our forests are still a tried and true resource providing economic stability for many rural Oregon communities.
In fact, for every one million dollars we invest in restoration contracting, we create 16 to 24 jobs. That’s an incredible return on our investment.
As science and shared best practices guide us toward more effective, collaborative strategies, we know our natural resource-based industries will continue to be a mainstay of Oregon’s economy.
Advanced wood manufacturing presents a new opportunity for Oregon, an opportunity we are perfectly suited to take on.
As these products continue to catch on as a building material—it presents a new and exciting opportunity for Oregon.
I want to grow this industry to spur economic growth and expand jobs in our timber industries and rural communities.
I’ve worked with Oregon State University and the University of Oregon to create the National Center for Advanced Wood Products Manufacturing and Design.
And Oregon is home to the first, certified commercial producer for Cross Laminated Timber in the United States-- thanks to a 250-thousand-dollar state investment in a family-owned, rural Oregon company – D-R Johnson.
Advance wood manufacturing is taking off in Oregon. This is not only good for rural Oregon-- it’s helping to build more sustainable and resilient skylines right here in Portland.
Additionally, I also announced an exciting new opportunity with Oregon’s public universities earlier this year.
It’s my hope we’ll see cross laminated timber in the new, state-of-the-art facilities on the campuses of:
● University of Oregon-- at their new Knight Science Lab
● Oregon State University-Cascades’ academic building, and
● A new athletic fieldhouse on the campus of Eastern Oregon University.
Oregon has the raw material, the industry infrastructure, and the know-how to lead in wood innovation. Our success in this endeavor would not be possible without the commitment of Oregon’s timber industry to propel the development of advanced wood manufacturing.
By taking an “all-lands, all-hands” approach and committing to working together across jurisdictional boundaries, we can sustain robust rural economies and preserve our natural resources for future generations.
This work is not easy.
Because our challenges are great. But, I am confident our resolve is greater.