This bill urges Congress to establish a program to give property owners redress having the federal government reimburse property owners for property damage that resulted from a fire that started on mismanaged federal forest-lands.
In 2020, wildfires in Oregon burned more than 1.2 million acres. More than 5,000 homes and commercial structures were destroyed. In 2020 alone, the cost to fight the fires was at least $354 million. The total cost was even higher. FEMA has estimated that the cost of wildfire/wind damage, response, and debris removal is about $1.15 billion. As of January, Oregon has only received $32.2 million in FEMA Individual Assistance payments to Oregonians.
The federal government manages 60% of Oregon’s forestland. From 2000 to 2019, 15 of the 16 megafires in Oregon started on federally managed lands. In the last decade, 86% of burned forestland acres have been federal land. United States Forest Service Lands burn at nearly five times the rate of private and state lands. Under state law, if a spark from your barbeque started a fire on your property and spread to federal land, you would be on the hook for the cost of the damage to federal land. If the fire starts on mismanaged federal forestland and destroys your property, there is no requirement for the federal government to compensate private landowners for damages. SJM 3 brings accountability to the federal government who currently has no incentive to manage forests in a way that will decrease wildfire.