April 22, 2024

Merkley, Hoyle Lead Oregon Delegation in Urging Renewed Commitment to State’s Wildfire Response Ahead of Deadline

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Representative Val Hoyle today led U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Andrea Salinas, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, and Cliff Bentz in a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Tracy Stone-Manning calling for a renewed long-term commitment to the Western Oregon Operating Plan (WOOP). Set to expire on June 30th of this year, the WOOP serves as the agreement that governs fire response for BLM, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and Forest Protective Associations all over western Oregon.

“As you know, the checkerboard ownership pattern of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forest lands in western Oregon is unique and creates approximately 14,000 miles of jurisdictional boundaries between federal, tribal, state, county, and private timberlands,” wrote the lawmakers. “The complexity of managing fires throughout this area led to agreements to provide protection by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and non-profit Forest Protective Associations (FPAs) dating back to at least 1914.”

“This arrangement has been a model of success and continues to this day as the Western Oregon Operating Plan (WOOP) agreement,” they continued. “The current iteration of the WOOP is set to expire on June 30, 2024, and BLM, ODF, and the FPAs had been working to secure another agreement to continue their coordination and preparedness. The Fiscal Year 2024 Interior Appropriations bill provides clear direction to BLM to develop a new agreement that ‘maintains or enhances the current level of fire protection for western Oregon forestlands through the Western Oregon Operating Plan agreement.’”

Merkley serves as Chair of the U.S. Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and has direct oversight of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s budget, which includes BLM. He has secured federal resources for wildfire management and ensured language directing BLM to maintain or enhance the level of protection covered through the WOOP was included in government funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2024.

The full text of the Oregon delegation’s letter can be found here