PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon lawmakers are trying to figure out how to fix the wildfire risk assessment map that’s been rife with controversy since it was released last summer.

The map was rescinded and the Oregon Department of Forestry says it’s waiting on legislatures before making changes.

There’s bipartisan agreement that the map is needed, though what data is used for the map or who creates it is still up for debate — Republicans have introduced a bill to remove ODF from being involved with the map.

“We do need a map. We do need to include local folks, including the land owner, fire district, the county planners,” Sen. Lynn Findley (R-Vale), who represents Central, East and Southeastern Oregon.

Not all of Findley’s party is in agreement that a map is needed. Findley takes issue with how the map was created, from algorithms and satellite imagery, without crews checking and testing risk areas on the ground.

When the map was released, people were worried about insurance rates and home values. Some people were freaked out by letters they received that said their home was in a high-risk area for wildfire. Some of the people receiving those letters areas lived in deserts, had already mitigated fuels on their property, or lived on irrigated land– according to Sen. Findley.

Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) was also called out by “dozens” of property owners to survey their land. He says in many cases, he couldn’t see how the land could have been classified as high risk or extreme risk. Golden agrees the map should have been ground-tested.

“The agencies told us well, you know we had to meet the deadline that was in the bill. And we just didn’t have time. That was a little hard to hear. Because nobody said that to us,” Golden said.

Findley thinks, given what was being asked, the process was flawed from the start.

“I think we were ambitious when we gave Oregon Department of Forestry the original task, and they tried their best to meet the deadline, but you know, we didn’t give it adequate time to do the right thing,” Findley said.

Findley has introduced a bill to remove the requirement that the Oregon Department of Forestry takes part in issuing the map, preferring the aforementioned local stakeholders to take priority.

Another bill would prohibit insurers from considering the map in rate setting as Golden says, the map is meant to inform people about where they live and what steps they can take to protect their homes. He says the goal is so people have ‘affordable insurance. While lawmakers in California are considering the same steps, Golden admits it’s untested legal ground.

Golden has bipartisan cosponsors on a bill that would require ODF to study fire mitigation by banding together neighborhoods to create cooperatives to address fire mitigation with groups, rather than individual property owners.

“We have to undertake a program that’s going to cost money. That is going to be inconvenient and not wonderful for everybody. And I think anybody says, ‘I’m going to make sure I’m going to protect this state, and you’re not going to be regulated or required to do a damn thing,’ is fooling people. It is treating people like children instead of adults and we need to keep an adult conversation going,” Golden said.

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