Democrats split on charging public or timber industry for more of Oregon’s wildfire protection

Rising temperatures bring an increased risk of wildfire.

Alex Baumhardt, Oregon Capital Chronicle, February 6, 2024

Democratic lawmakers are split over whether a greater share of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to protect the state from wildfires should come from all Oregon taxpayers or from the private property and business owners whose valuable assets receive state protection.

During the five weeks of the Legislative session, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, D-Portland and Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth will both attempt to convince their peers to ask the public for more money, and Steiner also will propose reducing costs for the timber industry. Two of their colleagues — Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, and Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene — will make the case that the timber industry has been allowed for too long to contribute too little and needs to step up to fill funding gaps.

At stake is not only the ability for state agencies to prevent and fight wildfires, but also widely needed resources for communities and homeowners hoping for help to pay for metal roofs and landscaping to stop fires from spreading. Property and community investments could one day help slow sky-high insurance premiums some Oregonians have been paying since the 2020 Labor Day fires became the state’s most expensive natural disaster in history.

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