Wyden holds press conference, town hall Thursday


   The aircraft used by the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires will be the topic for a press conference with Sen. Ron Wyden on Thursday, May 31, at noon at the Butler Aircraft hangar at the Madras Municipal Airport.
   Wyden, who is the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, will be joined by Clif Liedtke, Eastern Oregon director of the Oregon Department of Forestry.
   "As forest fires in the West are getting bigger and more destructive, the fleet of aircraft the U.S. Forest Service uses to fight those fires is getting smaller and older," according to Tom Towslee, state communications director for Wyden.
   "In 2006, the Forest Service had 44 large air tankers in their fleet," he noted. "Today, as we enter another fire season, they have just 12 large air tankers under contract and 11 of those average 50 years of age."
   Wyden and Liedtke will discuss the Forest Service's air tanker fleet, the importance of aircraft in fighting wildfires, and the upcoming fire season.
   Just prior to the press conference, beginning at 10 a.m. in the Madras High School gymnasium, Wyden will hold his annual town hall.
   Wyden, who pledged to hold a town hall in every county in the state every year when he was elected in 1996, has kept his promise. The Jefferson County Town Hall will be the senator's 636th town hall.