Walden discusses wildfire smoke impacts on local economy and health

Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) spoke with a group of local business leaders about the future of forest management on Saturday. (KTVL/Genevieve Grippo)

On Saturday, Rep. Greg Walden (R- Hood River) discussed the impacts that last year's wildfire smoke had on southern Oregon's health and economy.

He met with local business leaders to share progress for the future of forest management-- one he hopes will address the dangers of wildfire smoke more aggressively.

"You think about what it's doing to kids' lungs," he said. "We were told it's like a pack of cigarettes a day. Is that what you want for your preschooler all summer long-- to be sucking down this kind of smoke and the carcinogens that are in it?"

Rep. Walden said there is the possibility of forest management reform to be included in the next federal spending bill.

When it comes to reaching across the aisle to find common ground in forest management, he said democrats and republicans are "having good discussions and making progress."

A director with Travel Medford attended the meeting, and noted that last year's wildfire smoke lost the local economy millions of dollars in revenue.

She said that while it is encouraging that Walden is paying attention to the issue, she wishes a resolution could be reached before the community is impacted again.

"It's frustrating that things move so slowly at the top level. It's really frustrating," said Angela Wood, Director of Sales and Sports Development for Travel Medford. "But I heard the words, 'I'm hopeful,' come out of Greg Walden's mouth so that's good, and I know things are rolling. I just wish they were rolling a little quicker."

Angela Wood said she has clients who are cautious about booking events in Medford due to possible smoke hazards.

She named a list of events that cancelled last year for that exact reason, including Cycle Oregon, the Rogue Run and a senior softball tournament.

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