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Oregon senators bring DEI, ‘social justice’ to brush clearing

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(The Center Square) – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion principles are being applied to the use and management of wood chippers.

It will cost taxpayers $2.7 million from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law to give Oregon forestry a “social justice mindset.”

According to a news release from the two Democratic senators, the grant will go to the Walker Range Forest Protection Association which will “complete mitigation efforts adjacent to disadvantaged communities utilizing specialized mastication equipment … (to) enhance defensible space while providing job training and hands-on learning not only in fuels reduction but in forest management using diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice mindsets.”

“Specialized mastication equipment” is another way of saying large, turbo-charged wood chippers designed for clearing underbrush in forests.

“Oregonians know all too well the threat severe wildfires pose to our homes, businesses, and way of life,” said Merkley, “As climate chaos fuels hotter, more dangerous fires, the threat to livelihoods, health, and natural treasures grows in Oregon and in communities across the West. Thanks to the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the USFS is investing in our state by fortifying our forests, timber industries, and communities — enhancing their health and resilience. I’ll always fight to secure the federal funding Oregon needs to take on the threat of wildfires in every corner of our state.”

“These significant federal resources toughening Oregon communities’ defenses against wildfire are especially welcome as the calendar turns to the hotter summer months,” said Wyden. “I’m glad the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I worked to pass fully recognizes smart infrastructure investment in 2024 demands strong protection against the growing threat of wildfires from the climate crisis. And I’ll keep battling to provide similar wildfire funds for families, small businesses and communities throughout Oregon.”

The DEI effort is part of a package of 13 fire resilience projects to be undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service that will cost about $24 million.

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