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Support the Proposed Wildland Urban Interface Definition

Public Hearings Sept. 22, 23 and 24

Date: September 16, 2021 To: All League Members From: Rebecca Gladstone, LWVOR President Peggy Lynch, Natural Resources Coordinator The League of Women Voters of Oregon supported SB 762, the omnibus wildfire bill. Now agencies are writing the rules to implement the bill. The Board of Forestry has opened a public comment period, from now through October 1, on whether the state should adopt the WUI definition that is most commonly used throughout the United States, especially in the West, and by the federal government - the “International Wildfire Urban Interface Code” definition: “that geographical area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland or vegetative fuels”. As a reminder: on the final day of the 2021 session, the legislature passed Oregon’s first comprehensive, forward-looking wildfire preparedness and resiliency bill, Senate Bill 762. This bill is a critical step for Oregon to increase community preparedness, reduce future wildfire risk, and build resiliency to withstand the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires in Oregon. Now it is time to implement SB 762 – the bill requires several state agencies to take actions and make investments towards achieving that wildfire resiliency. The Oregon Board of Forestry is currently in the process of adopting a definition of “wildland urban interface” (WUI) – this is the foundational definition on which much of the state’s wildfire preparedness investments, regulations, and guidance will be based. The Board needs to hear from you – how have Oregon’s recent wildfires impacted your life, and what do you expect from the state to better prepare Oregon & all Oregonians for the future? Right now, the Board especially needs to hear that:

  • Oregon should adopt the International WUI Code Definition: “that geographical area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland or vegetative fuels”.

  • Adopting a scientifically sound, comprehensive, and nationally recognized WUI definition based on best practices is essential to protect life, property, and firefighter safety in the wake of increasingly extreme and dangerous wildfire conditions.

  • The International WUI Code definition is nationally recognized and used in professional applications at the local, state, and federal level. Nearly every western state, and many states across the nation, have already adopted all or part of the International WUI Code.

  • The International WUI definition is recognized by the Council of Western State Foresters, federal agencies, fire managers, and other government and professional bodies.

  • The 2020 wildfire season in Oregon burned over 1 million acres and destroyed more than 4000 homes. One-sixth of Oregonians were under evacuation orders! Oregon must improve our wildfire response systems, and the status quo of unfunded and inconsistent WUI approaches is no longer acceptable.

  • IN 2021, over 850,000 acres and over 160 residences have already burned in Oregon, and the fire season is not yet over.

  • Oregon needs a consistent and clear definition that is recognized by scientists, fire managers, and government bodies, not a one-off definition that risks unintended consequences and could allow interests to game the process.

  • Having a nationally recognized WUI definition is important to ensure Oregon is eligible to secure federal funds for programs related to the WUI.

  • Customized issues will be addressed in the extensive WUI criteria development process that will follow the adoption of the WUI definition, to account for unique local circumstances and features. Adopting this definition is simply the foundational starting point, which will be detailed and refined in additional public processes over the next 5 months.

This rule is the first step in implementing SB 762. Another rulemaking committee is developing the set of specific maps identifying which properties are most at risk. Look for opportunities to comment on those maps in the coming months. For now, we support this foundational definition as work continues to refine the work specifically for a diverse Oregon. Send your experiences and comments to the Board of Forestry at: sb762.rulemaking@oregon.gov You can also speak at one of three public hearings by logging into the below zoom links and indicating you want to testify: Sept. 22, 2021, 2 p.m., Zoom meeting Sept. 23, 2021, 7 p.m., Zoom meeting Sept. 24, 2021, 9 a.m., Zoom meeting To learn more about this WUI rulemaking process, go to: https://www.oregon.gov/odf/board/Pages/rac.aspx

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