WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Rachael Taylor visited southern Oregon to highlight conservation efforts, survey wildland fire damage, and discuss the Department of the Interior’s support for rural and tribal communities. They were joined by Governor Kate Brown and Senator Jeff Merkley.
In Ashland, the group visited Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and met with local conservation partners. The Secretary committed to continuing to protect our public lands and waters to ensure they can be enjoyed by current and future generations.
While touring the site of the 2020 South Obenchain fire, which burned over 30,000 acres and destroyed nearly 100 structures, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Rachael Taylor discussed investments that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal would make to address wildland fires. Proposed funding includes nearly $1.5 billion for Interior’s wildland fire management programs to improve firefighter pay, reduce hazardous fuels on the landscape, and restore lands after the fire.
“Climate change is making fire seasons more intense as our firefighters deal with hotter, drier conditions and more extreme fire behavior,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Rachael Taylor. “The increased frequency of fires in urban areas is impacting more homes, businesses, and communities each year. With the help of partners, local communities, and our dedicated career staff and federal firefighters, we are putting our fire programs on a more proactive footing to not only manage wildfires as they occur but to help prevent them from taking hold.”
The Department leaders and Senator Merkley also traveled to Crater Lake National Park to highlight ongoing and future projects to make the park more accessible. These improvements will be supported by the Great American Outdoors Act’s (GAOA) National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund program.
Through GAOA, Interior will invest nearly $1.6 billion in Fiscal Year 2022 to address critical deferred maintenance projects and improve transportation and recreation infrastructure in national parks, national wildlife refuges and visitors centers, as well as dams, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures.
In Bend, Assistant Secretary Newland will meet with local tribal leaders this evening to highlight the Department’s work to strengthen the role of tribal consultation in federal decision-making, support Indigenous resilience to the pandemic, combat the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples, and address our country’s dark history with the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative.