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Citizens question Walden on wildfire policy, fearing more smoke is just months away

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Congressman Greg Walden was in southern Oregon Friday, holding town halls in Medford, Grants Pass, and Klamath Falls. The purpose was to identify some of his priorities for the new legislative term and take questions from audience members.

The room was packed with people eager to ask the Congressman the hard questions that mattered to them.

By now, beginning his eleventh term serving Oregon's 2nd congressional district, hard questions are nothing new, but he has seen the district grow and new problems arise in recent years.

One topic that got a lot of attention was wildfires. Rep. Walden cited the health impacts of wildfires, as well as the burden smoke brings the local economy. He acknowledged climate change as a driver, but focused on the action that can be taken to manage dense forests.

One citizen prompted him about what he will do to tackle the smoke issue we saw last summer.

Rep. Walden responded, saying, "as we have longer fire seasons and the climate changes and all that, you better reduce the fuel load, or the alternative is these conflagrations."

He cited the work being done in the Ashland watershed to thin forests, and threw his support behind controlled burns in off season. But, he stated his firm opposition to policies that allow fire to burn in the summer. Walden said this approach, used more by the US Forest Service than by the Oregon Department of Forestry, could be why we see more damage on federal lands.

Another topic of note at the Medford town hall was the government shutdown.

Walden says he supports opening parts of the government immediately, but threw his support behind some form of border security measures as well.

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