This bill allows lands designated as “croplands” to join Rangeland Protection Associations nonprofit groups of landowners trained and authorized by state law to respond to wildfires.
Given the federal and state government’s total failure to aggressively fight potentially devastating fires to property and persons, this bill is absolutely essential for the future of our state.
Over one million acres of the state are referred to as “under or unprotected lands” that lack immediate access to statewide severity resources under the Conflagration Act, as well as systems for mutual aid agreements in the event of fire. These under or unprotected lands include wheat fields and other land for crop cultivation. Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPA) are all-volunteer crews of ranchers with training and legal authority to respond to fires on private and state “rangeland” in remote landscapes where there is no existing state or local fire protection. However, RFPAs are currently restricted from responding on land used for cultivating crops because “rangeland” is defined in statute as land located east of the Cascade Mountains that contains isolated tracts of forestland not classified as Class 1, 2, or 3 forestland and not within a forest protection district, and/or that is primarily rangeland or undeveloped land, characterized by sagebrush, juniper, and related vegetation.
The ability to join or partner with an RPA grants those protecting croplands key financial assistance to acquire heavy equipment, radios, and personal protective equipment. We must give rural Oregonians the tools they need to effectively fight fires as safely and efficiently as possible.