By Yuxing Zheng
Gov. John Kitzhaber joined other western governors in a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday to talk about wildfire funding, droughts and climate change.
"The meeting was productive and a good next step for interagency coordination as we face the effects of the historic drought in southern Oregon," Kitzhaber said in a statement Monday evening. Eight governors, including Kitzhaber, participated in the meeting with Obama, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and other officials, according to a White House statement.
Obama's administration announced on Monday a major shift in the way it plans to pay for wildfire suppression. The president proposes that wildfire money come from the same type of emergency funding that pays other natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. The proposal embraces legislation supported by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.
In the meeting with western governors, Obama pledged to continue providing support as they worked through water use and drought issues. Obama and his advisers also discussed the role of climate change in extreme weather events as well as the president's Climate Action Plan, the statement said.
Kitzhaber two weeks ago declared drought emergencies in Harney, Lake, Klamath and Malheur counties and warned that other counties may follow. Meanwhile, legislators are expected to soon approve $40 million in general fund money to pay for last year's record-setting wildfire season.
Governors from Washington, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada also participated in Monday's meeting.
(c)2014 The Oregonian