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Natural Resources

Congressman DeFazio is committed to the responsible management of our nation's natural resources. DeFazio has worked tirelessly for the economic security and sustainability of rural communities in Oregon, working across the aisle in support of common-sense solutions to promote forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. An avid outdoorsman, DeFazio has been successful in protecting some of Oregon’s most unique natural and ecologically diverse treasures and several of his conservation bills have become law. DeFazio knows that investing in proper forest management that provides good jobs in rural communities and permanently protecting old growth, salmon habit, and our natural wonders are not and should not be mutually exclusive.

Protecting Natural Treasures for Generations to Come

DeFazio is a long-time champion of protecting Oregon’s most unique and spectacular places for the enjoyment of current and future generations.  Over his time in Congress, he has helped protect hundreds of thousands of acres in the state of Oregon.

His latest successes came in 2019, when three of DeFazio’s bills were included in one of the most bipartisan comprehensive public lands protection bills in the last decade were signed into law. These bills protect some of the most beautiful, pristine, and ecologically diverse areas in Oregon. These areas include: 30,500 acres of Devil’s Staircase, a remote, unspoiled area in the Coast Range, segments of the Chetco River, which provides clean drinking water to thousands of citizens in Southwest Oregon and contains critical salmon habitat; and 100,000 acres of the Steamboat Creek Watershed of Umpqua National Forest vital to salmon and steelhead survival.   

One of his proudest achievements is expanding the Oregon Caves National Monument. The expansion, which was proposed and supported by NPS more than 75 years ago, ensures that the caves and surrounding watershed are adequately protected from water contamination and pollution from grazing. Management by the Park Service also emphasizes wildfire prevention and forest restoration.   

DeFazio’s leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives was also crucial to securing protections for Mt. Hood, the Cascade-Siskiyous, Elk River, and the Copper Salmon area. Working across the aisle, DeFazio joined with Rep. Greg Walden to enact the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area.

DeFazio’s conservation priorities extend outside of Oregon’s borders. Before he became Chair of the Transportation Committee, he was Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee. While there, one of his focuses was mining reform. He authored a bill to update the 1872 mining law to ensure mining companies paid their fair share of royalties when mining on public lands and made sure those companies, not taxpayers, paid clean-up costs.

DeFazio is a long-time opponent of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed, which would be the largest open pit mine in the North America.  As Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair, he held two investigative hearings as to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the mine. His work was noticed: In August 2020, President Trump ended his support of the mine, and killed its approval.

Investing in Rural Communities

Congressman DeFazio knows our forests have been mismanaged for decades, and that our district has some of the most productive public timberlands in the entire world. DeFazio’s work in Congress is focused on policies that seek a middle ground, common sense approach to national forest policy. He believes that having a healthy timber industry, good paying jobs in rural communities, and permanent protection for our old growth, wildlife habitat and support for our recreation industry are not and should not be mutually exclusive.

Oregon has been experiencing increasingly destructive wildland fire seasons.  The devastating 2020 fire season is one of the worst in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District.  The Holiday Farm, Archie Creek, and Slater fires destroyed hundreds of residences and dozens of businesses.  Communities suffered for days with air quality that was the worst in the world.  The loss of harvestable timber and wildlife habitat was immense. Sadly, the fires were also deadly.

DeFazio’s work in Congress is focused on quickly suppressing wildfires when they occur and supporting policies that prevent them from starting in the first place. There are many reasons forest fires are burning more severely than in the past, and poor forest management and climate change are main causes. Mismanagement of our forests has left them unnaturally dense, dying from disease and drought, and prone to catastrophic fire. This is only exacerbated by climate change, as it creates warmer, drier conditions, increases drought and lengthens wildfire seasons. 

Increased Funding for Forest Management 

DeFazio knows that we need the resources and investments to properly manage our public lands.  The United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are tasked with managing and protecting millions of acres in the District. There are laws on the books that provide tools to improve forest health – but the agencies lack the funding to use those tools successfully.

DeFazio strongly supports increased budgets for land management agencies. More funding is needed to improve forest health, such as performing fuel reduction treatments, and completing forest projects, repairing forest roads, and quickly suppressing wildfires when they occur, by focusing on robust initial attack.  More resources and personnel are needed to successfully execute their multi-use management missions. 

In 2017 the USFS reported there were over 1.8 million acres of treatment projects in Oregon that were “shovel ready,” meaning all environmental analysis has been completed.  Yet acres remain fire-prone because the USFS doesn’t have the funds to complete them. Instead of harvesting timber and reducing the risk of fire, those acres remain a spark away from becoming devastating forest fires.

To help expedite forest health projects, in 2015, DeFazio led the House in passage of the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA). HFRA expedites the review process for hazardous fuel reduction and forest restoration projects on federal forest lands, with an emphasis on federal lands close to at-risk communities or significant infrastructure. Hazardous fuel reduction projects are intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire by removing or modifying the availability of vegetation (trees, grass, etc.) that fuel wildfires. HFRA is authorized to treat 20 million acres at high risk of wildfire.  HFRA has never come close to being fully funded, leaving communities at risk. Every year DeFazio requests increased funding for this and other fire protection programs. 

Funding for O&C Counties

There are 18 Western Oregon counties that contain O&C lands governed by the statutorily-unique O&C Grants Lands Act of 1937 (O&C Act) – no other state contains O&C lands. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the O&C Act uses a timber harvest payment formula that provides increased funding to O&C counties.  Every year DeFazio leads the Oregon delegation in urging robust funding of the BLM O&C Grant Lands account.  DeFazio has been successful over the years securing funding. In Fiscal Year 2020, he was successful in increasing funding by approximately twelve percent, allowing BLM to meet its Western Oregon timber targets.

Secure Rural Schools Act

DeFazio consistently works to help Oregon’s rural, timber dependent counties. One of DeFazio’s proudest accomplishments is his work in 2000 to break the legislative gridlock surrounding to passage of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act. SRS consistently provides timber-dependent counties with more funds that would be paid using the old county-payment formula. SRS is a lifeline to Oregon counties, providing tens of millions of dollars for Oregon schools, roads, and public safety. Because of DeFazio’s work, Oregon counties receive more SRS payments than any other state. The SRS program has come close to expiring several times since its implementation.  Working across the aisle, DeFazio has successfully led efforts to ensure it continues. 

Banning Raw Log Exports

Early in his congressional career DeFazio proposed legislation to ban the export of raw logs from federal lands, ensuring the logs are milled in the U.S. The bill remains law of the land, saving jobs that would have gone overseas.

More on Natural Resources

Oct 19, 2021 Press Release

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio and Suzanne Bonamici today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take all statutory eligibilities into account when distributing the $10 billion in aid to agricultural producers hit hard by extreme heat, drought, and wildfires this summer.

Aug 26, 2021 Press Release

Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04) yesterday met with representatives from the Port of Brookings Harbor and Pacific Seafoods to be briefed on the port’s plans for a new wastewater treatment facility. Congressman DeFazio recently secured $3.5 million in this year’s government funding bill to fund the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant owned and operated by the Port of Brookings.

Jul 27, 2021 Press Release

Today, Congressman Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04) joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort to secure more relief for farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture producers in the western United States affected by historic wildfires, droughts, and extreme heat. In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the lawmakers urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to open relief programs up to more producers that have lost crops and livestock to the ongoing droughts, extreme heat, and wildfires.

Jul 7, 2021 Press Release

Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04), alongside Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-01), today announced that the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the costs associated with debris removal and emergency protective measures following last year’s Labor Day fires.

Mar 11, 2021 Press Release

Today, Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Jared Huffman (CA-02), Chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan urging him to use his authorities granted by the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the disastrous proposed Pebble Mine project.

Feb 26, 2021 Press Release

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation authored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) to make permanent a ban on new mining projects in some of Southwest Oregon’s most fragile and critically important areas, home to pristine fish habitat, clean drinking water, rare plants, and a thriving recreation and tourism economy.

DeFazio’s legislation was included as part of H.R. 803, Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act

Feb 12, 2021 Press Release

Rep. Peter DeFazio yesterday re-introduced legislation to make permanent a twenty-year ban on new mining projects in the Pistol River and Rough and Ready Creek watersheds in southwest Oregon.

Nov 25, 2020 Press Release

Washington, DC - Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) released the following statement after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its decision on the Pebble Mine Project in Bristol Bay, Alaska, denying the permit.

Oct 27, 2020 Press Release

Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, expressing his concern with the Trump administration’s rule to roll back limits on discharges of toxic wastewater from coal-fired power plants.