Weathering Wildfires and Climate Change

Senate President Rob Wagner

Doing Our Part to Stop Wildfires

Hello Senate District 19 and beyond,

As Oregon's wildfire season continues and summer temperatures and high winds bring red flag warnings to the state, I wanted to start this newsletter with some important information from our partners in the Oregon Department of Forestry. Humans have caused about half of Oregon's wildfires over the past three decades. That trend has continued this year, with ODF noting that there has been an increase in human-caused fires so far this year compared to recent past seasons.

If we can limit human-caused fires in the years to come, will we save lives, homes, and tens of thousands of acres of wildland. We will limit the smoke that blankets entire swaths of our state at a time and protect our outdoors for everyone. As avid hikers, my family and I want to be able to spend time in our beautiful wildlands for years to come, as I know so many of us do.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has identified that the most common human activities that lead to wildfires are debris burns, sparks from equipment and improper campfire management. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can all take to prevent accidental ignitions from these sources.

  1. Know before you go. Check local fire danger and campfire/debris burn restrictions beforehand.

  2. Never leave a campfire or debris burn unattended. Keep water and a shovel nearby, clear defensible space around the fire, keep the fire small and ensure the fire is dead out before moving on.

  3. Perform a vehicle safety test. Dragging tow chains or worn out automobile parts can cause sparks, which lead to wildfires.

Especially as our climate continues to change and the risks of severe wildfires increase, we all must do our part to keep Oregon green.

wildfire prevention

Climate Change Legislation Passed in 2023

As President of the Oregon Senate, I assist in setting the priorities of the Legislature, including delivering legislation that addresses the causes of climate change and protects Oregonians from its impacts. In the 2023 legislative session we passed a series of key bills to fight climate change.

The Drought and Water Security Budget and Policy Package: This package of bills — including House Bill 2010 — aimed to build sustainability within communities across our state with targeted investments in infrastructure. It will modernize irrigation systems; protect and restore sources of drinking water; and improve water-related data to better coordinate resource management. The Legislature committed $110 million to the effort. Senator Michael Dembrow, Senator Lynn Findley, Representative Ken Helm and Representative Mark Owens were essential to this package coming together.

House Bill 3215 and House Bill 3059These bills will improve the supports and assistance available to Oregonians who are impacted by wildfires and other natural disasters. HB 3215 established the Disaster Housing Recovery Fund to facilitate loans and grants to repair, replace or rebuild homes damaged or destroyed during a disaster. HB 3059 created new emergency management support programs to strengthen the state’s disaster response capabilities. It also established the Oregon Disaster Response Assistance Matching Fund for direct disaster response assistance to local communities. Many thanks to Representative Pam Marsh and Representative Paul Evans for chief sponsoring and leading on these bills.

Senate Bill 80Building upon work from the 2019 session, this bill strengthened the state's wildfire preparedness efforts by directing the creation of an advanced Wildfire Hazard Map to identify at-risk areas based on climate, weather, topography, and vegetation. This map will improve community resilience by guiding targeted investments. To ensure successful implementation, the bill established a robust community engagement process that emphasizes the involvement of county leaders. We could not have passed this bill without the efforts of Senator Jeff Golden.

House Bill 3409 and House Bill 3630These bills positioned the state of Oregon to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act, as well as made a number of important policy changes for the state. These bills will address the climate crisis and protect Oregon families from natural disasters while driving down costs and boosting the green energy economy. Investments will go toward reducing emissions, upgrading homes and buildings, initiating local disaster resilience projects and making the green energy economy more accessible for Oregon landowners. An incredible amount of credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Kate LieberSenator Jeff Golden, Representative Khanh Pham and Representative Pam Marsh for their tireless work on these vital bills.

Here are just a few of the specifics within HB 3409 and HB 3630:

  • Creates a navigation resource for consumers and businesses to help access federal and state energy efficiency grants and rebates.
  • Directs the Oregon Department of Energy to develop and update a comprehensive state energy strategy to help Oregon achieve our clean energy goals.
  • Sets a statewide heat pump installation goal of 500,000 by 2035.
  • Codifies greenhouse gas reduction standards for new buildings and funds a study on embodied carbon in construction materials.
  • Establishes a statewide performance standards for existing commercial buildings and creates a grant fund for early adopters.
  • Allocates $10 million in grants for Community Resilience Hubs to improve coordination and support ongoing work to build out emergency and natural disaster resilience.
  • Allocates $6.5 million to the Department of Land Conservation and Development for grants to plan and develop community green infrastructure projects and master plans and support native seed banks or plant nurseries.

Public Safety Legislation Signed

Improving the public safety of our state includes tackling challenges like gun violence, fentanyl overdose deaths and our public defense crisis. Targeting these goals, the Legislature acted in 2023 to pass timely legislation. Senate Judiciary Committee chair Senator Floyd Prozanski led on many of these efforts, which Governor Tina Kotek signed this week. Click on the graphic below for more information on our efforts to improve public safety in our state.

Public safety signing

Town hall meeting Sept. 14

I have two upcoming town halls in Senate District 19 in September, the first in Washington County and the second in Clackamas County. This is a great opportunity for me to hear directly from you about the issues that you care most about in our community and our state. Please come with plenty of questions and comments; I always have great conversations at my town halls.

The first town hall is September 14 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Tualatin Public Library. The second is September 20 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the West Linn Public Library Community Room. Check out the fliers below for more information.

Wash County Town Hall

Clackamas County town hall

Meeting with International Partners

This week I met with consul general Yuzo Yoshioka and consul Naoto Shigehisa of Portland's Consular Office of Japan. We spent an hour discussing the partnership between Japan and Oregon and how we can work together to benefit us all.

Thanks to the federal CHIPS and Science Act and the Oregon CHIPS Act, Oregon is primed to expand its semiconductor research, development and manufacturing in the coming years. Japanese high tech companies employ many Oregonians — particularly in the Portland region — and are a critical part of our semiconductor infrastructure.

Consul general Yoshioka is also new to Oregon, having just moved to Portland in March. We discussed ways to improve downtown Portland to make it more appealing and how offering education in Japanese language and culture in schools could strengthen the bonds between Oregon and Japan.

consul photo

Senate President Rob Wagner with Yuzo Yoshioka, consul general for Portland's Consular Office of Japan.

Touring the Oregon Holocaust Memorial

I spent some time last weekend with Senator Janeen Sollman on a guided tour of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, a solemn tribute to the millions of Jewish people targeted and killed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s. I was moved by the way it elevated the words of those who survived to educate us on the horrors they experienced. We must never forget the evils of the Holocaust, nor the events that precipitated it, and strive for a future free from “othering.”

Not long ago I had the opportunity to work with then-Rep. Sollman on requiring schools to teach about the Holocaust and genocide. There are troubling statistics that show many in the United States do not know the basic facts of the Holocaust, particularly our younger generations. The more we can do to educate our students and our neighbors about the past, the less likely we are to repeat it.

Thank you to Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education for facilitating this tour and everything you do. Visit to learn more about this organization. If you want to visit the memorial, it is located in Washington Park in Portland.

Holocaust memorial

Senate President Rob Wagner listening to tour guide Jackie Lesch at the Oregon Holocaust Memorial.

Headlines from your Capitol

The Lund Report: First Measure 110-funded detox opens, will focus on fentanyl and alcohol

Recovery Works Northwest cut the ribbon Friday on the first alcohol and drug withdrawal management facility made possible through Measure 110 funding. The 16-bed detox located near Southeast 122nd Avenue and Foster Road in Portland is expected to begin taking patients Sept. 1.

Oregon Public Broadcasting: Oregon now offers psilocybin therapy. Here’s what one of the first patients experienced

Oregon’s new psilocybin therapy program went live in January, but it’s taken months to train new facilitators. So people are only now beginning to take hallucinogenic mushrooms under the system.

KOIN: Paid Leave Oregon sees over 4K applicants in first days of program

Oregon’s employment department announced it has successfully enrolled its first applicants in Paid Leave Oregon after rolling out the program in early August, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

Oregon Capitol Chronicle: Updated COVID-19 vaccines expected to be available in September, federal officials say

The Biden administration is gearing up for a fall vaccination campaign that not only includes updated COVID-19 boosters, but the annual flu shot and the newly approved RSV vaccine.

If you would like to contact the Senate President's Office, send an email or call and either myself or a staff member will assist you. If you are a constituent coming to Salem and want to arrange a meeting, I'm always happy to meet, so please let us know well in advance as my schedule fills up quickly.

phone: 503-986-1600
address: 900 Court St NE, S-201, Salem, OR, 97301