Oregon Governor On Confronting Reality Of Longer And Hotter Fire Seasons NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown about the impact of the devastating fires and how they might become the state's new normal due to climate change.

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Oregon Governor On Confronting Reality Of Longer And Hotter Fire Seasons

Oregon Governor On Confronting Reality Of Longer And Hotter Fire Seasons

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NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown about the impact of the devastating fires and how they might become the state's new normal due to climate change.


Oregon's wildfires over the last few weeks were some of the worst the state has ever seen. Oregon's forestry department says about a million acres burned. Gov. Kate Brown has visited some of the blackened areas this week, and she's considering how climate change will force states to confront the reality of longer and hotter fire seasons.

Gov. Brown, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KATE BROWN: Thank you, Ari. It's good to be here.

SHAPIRO: To start, I understand that rains over the weekend helped get the worst of these fires in check. What is the situation right now?

BROWN: Things have calmed down considerably, but there is absolutely no question that the fires that have raged across the entire West are really a wake-up call. We absolutely have to address climate change. This is not a one-time event. This is certainly the bellwether for the future.

SHAPIRO: I want to ask in a moment about how you do that. But first, you have toured wildfire-damaged areas before. What stood out to you about what you saw on this visit?

BROWN: I was able to tour southern Oregon, Phoenix, Talent. Honestly, it looks like a bomb went off in that region. It's awful. Hundreds of Oregonians lost their homes. It's absolutely devastating.

SHAPIRO: And so as these years have been hotter than ever before, we may look back on them a decade from now and say they're the coolest year of the last decade. Things are only going to get worse. So how does a state like Oregon prepare for that?

BROWN: That's a really great question. I took action in February to issue a climate plan, an executive order. And on Day 1 of the legislative session, I put forward a comprehensive wildfire plan to prepare for these kinds of wildfires. Unfortunately, that legislation didn't pass. I am absolutely committed to tackling the issue of making sure that our public lands are healthy and can be more fire resilient, frankly.

SHAPIRO: This issue doesn't stop at state borders, and at the presidential debate on Tuesday night, President Trump suggested that huge wildfires like these are avoidable.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you had forest management, good forest management, you wouldn't be getting those calls.

SHAPIRO: Gov. Brown, what do you need from the federal government to be prepared for the future that climate change is likely to bring?

BROWN: Look; we need a couple of things. We need our federal government to recognize that climate change is real and begin the very necessary steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Obviously, that needs to happen at the state and local level, as well. But in Oregon, I've been really proud of the partnerships we've been able to forge working with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management to create healthier landscapes. That involves thinning harvests and prescriptive burning. We call them collaboratives here in Oregon. We work together. We work with environmentalists. We work with loggers. We work with federal and state and local jurisdictions. But we can create healthier landscapes. It's going to require everybody rolling up their sleeves and working collaboratively.

SHAPIRO: Governor, if I could shift you to another topic, I'd like to ask you about the demonstrations happening in Portland because over the spring and summer, you clashed with the Trump administration on the role of federal law enforcement. And now the Portland Police Bureau says local law enforcement will remain deputized as federal marshals through the end of the year. Critics have said this is a move to avoid accountability. What effect do you think this will have?

BROWN: Look; I want to be really clear. We welcome peaceful protests from all sides. But I will not tolerate violence, arson or property destruction on our streets. But I have to say, it's not a surprise after 3 1/2 years of our president stoking this type of violence and hate that we're seeing it in our streets, not only in Portland, but in cities around the country. As you are well aware, on the debate, President Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups and even told the Proud Boys to stand by. In America, there is only one answer when we are asked about white supremacy, and that is we condemn it, period.

SHAPIRO: That is Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat.

Thank you once again for speaking with us today.

BROWN: Thanks, Ari. Be safe out there.

SHAPIRO: Same to you.

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