REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Wildfire Council Meeting Remarks
September 26, 2019
Good afternoon, everyone.
I want to take a moment to thank the Wildfire Council for the tremendous amount of work you’ve put into this plan. I particularly want to thank Matt Donegan for your dedication and determination. You all deserve more than a hand, but we’ll start there!
We got a bye this fire season. The 2019 fire season is winding down quickly. We’ve had a mild one, but we might not get so lucky next year or the year after that. The time is now and the need is great. We need to take action. We can’t afford to take our beautiful state for granted.
Earlier, I had the opportunity to meet with Jana Peterson and Levi Hopkins, amazing firefighters and foresters who did incredible work on the Milepost 97 fire.
Both Levi and Jana wear multiple hats just like many of their colleagues who work in fire, because wildfires are more complex, as you all know, than just spark to flame.
Levi not only fights fire, but he works with community members and loggers to ensure that forest practice regulations are being followed. Jana collaborates with land-owners to mitigate wildfire-causing fuels on their land.
They both help keep our communities safe, in and out of their NOMAX suits.
But they both know that there isn’t really a “fire season” anymore. Year-round wildfire threat is increasing around the globe as our planet continues to warm. But no region is exactly alike, so to keep Oregonians safe and our landscape healthy, we can’t run plays from last century’s playbook.
That’s why I asked you to come together to write a plan tailored to Oregon and the current challenges that we face.
I look forward to reading the final report next month. But even without seeing the 70+ pages of data, history, and analysis, I know we must do things differently. We need different tools and we clearly need additional resources.
You are recommending that we make significant investments in mitigation and fire suppression, as well as substantive policy changes for helping communities adapt and recover from fire. All of this is critical.
Over the next couple of decades, this is a $4 billion problem, and while this feels a tad overwhelming, it’s imperative that we bite off a significant chunk of it right now.
These recommendations will allow us to do just that.
It is my hope that this report will provide guidance and direction.
It’s a jumpstart to encourage Oregonians across the state to work together collaboratively to make our forests healthier and our communities safer.
Though the graphs and statistics presented to the council may seem impersonal, nothing could be more personal to Oregonians.
With your recommendations, I see boots on the ground. I see real people doing real work right now.
Like Jana in eastern Oregon working with local landowners to thin overgrown tree stands. Partnering with her peers from federal agencies to cover as much ground as she can.
She knows the science, she knows the land, she’s making our forests healthier and more fire-resilient—one acre at a time.
I see a forester like Levi working with his team in the woods outside of Medford, doing prescribed burns. He’s done the research, he knows the conditions, and he has safety plans in place.
These prescribed burns will treat acres of forest land, preventing larger, uncontrolled wildfires. It will create defensible space for our communities in the wildland-urban interface. And it will improve air quality in the long run.
I see landowners, local governments, tribal governments, and state agencies working together to protect people from wildfire smoke. Specifically our vulnerable populations – young kids, the elderly, people with asthma, and more.
I see more helicopters and air tankers getting to wildfires faster, supporting the brave men and women fighting fire on the ground with hoses and tools in hand.
I see more firefighters going home safely to their families because they had the resources and training to do their jobs.
The time to act is now.
We have the momentum and soon the Council’s finished product. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
But this is not a report I want sitting on a shelf. It is imperative to Oregon’s future to act on these recommendations and procure the funding to do so. And we can’t do this without you.
I look forward to working with you as we take bold actions now to ensure a healthier and more vibrant Oregon for generations to come.
So let’s get to work.