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Focusing on the fires

I would like to thank everyone for the opportunity to complete Sen./Dr. Alan Bates’ term and the education that it has provided me. As my term comes to a close and I leave office Jan. 13, it is time to reflect on government and the many problems and opportunities that exist in our state. I had the pleasure to invite my replacement Jeff Golden to sit on the Senate floor with me as I cast the last vote as your senator and look forward to working with him.

The biggest problem we currently face in Southern Oregon is the harm that constant smoke is doing to our community. It threatens our health, economy and livability. During the past two weeks, articles in the local papers pointed out all the factors and outcomes that are prevalent to the smoke. I would urge that rather than rehashing the outcomes of the smoke, we all ask ourselves: what can we do to reduce the smoke?

Our forests are one of Oregon’s greatest assets and are growing every day. They are sequestering the carbon that we put in the air, cooling the forests, and providing outdoor opportunities for living creatures. We must do everything we can to protect this natural resource. We need to thin and harvest responsibly to prevent fuel buildup. We can sustainably revitalize our lumber industry for affordable housing, creating jobs to support our next generations. Quite frankly, it is what we do best, grow trees.

Fire is something that will always be with us, but we can be more proactive when it occurs. We must draw from all sources to put out the fires during the hot summer months by working with private, state and federal agencies. We must also do controlled burns when weather permits. Expanding year-round employment for managing the forests and looking at all other suggestions on how to reduce fuel loads and maximize this natural resource is a necessity for our health and children’s future.

For example, Ashland leads the way in how we all can work together and avoid court with their forest resiliency project. Suggestions of taking wild horses that BLM has a problem with and running a pilot project in our own Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument should be tried as a method of not only saving their lives, but also reducing fuel loads and creating something special. I do not think this idea should be discarded.

It is time for us all to come together and work to improve the lives of all Oregonians. Let’s work on solutions to fix the Public Employees Retirement System, health care, education, campaign finance reform and control our state budget. It has been an absolute honor to serve Senate District 3. This is now Jeff’s opportunity to lead and I am always here to help!

Sen. Alan DeBoer, R-Ashland, represents District 3 in the Oregon Senate.

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