Walden on TMP: Forest Service 'got it wrong'

<p>U.S. Rep. Greg Walden considers a question during his town hall visit to Enterprise Friday, March 23.</p>

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden added his voice to local opponents of the recently released Travel Management Plan during a town hall meeting in Enterprise last week.

“The Forest Service missed it and missed it badly,” Walden told about 70 county residents gathered for the evening meeting at Lear’s in Enterprise Friday, March 23. “They did not listen to the counties. … They got it wrong and we’re going to do everything we can to push back.”

Walden said that the main tool to do that pushing comes in appropriations– funding for the U.S. Forest. The Congressman distributed a letter he sent to the chairman and ranking member on the Interior subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, asking them to address the travel management issue in their 2013 appropriations report.

Walden said in the letter that “it’s becoming clear to many communities that their input was ignored to a great extent, if not entirely.”

Furthermore, he said, in an attempt to limit the scope of travel management planning, some forests, including the Wallowa-Whitman, decided not to include National Recreation Areas and Wilderness Areas in the planning process. This made it appear that a higher percentage of area was suitable for motorized recreation than was actually the case, “skewing the results against motorized travel over the entire forest.”

Walden noted, “if you can get an agency by its budget, you are sure to get its attention.”

In addressing the problems caused by wolves in Wallowa County, another hot button local issue, Walden talked about the history of wolves in Oregon, noting that the reason cattlemen first came together was to deal with a wolf problem in 1913. He noted that the Oregon State Game agency instituted a $30 bounty on wolves, and most of them were collected in western Oregon. “There will be a whole different attitude towards wolves when the west side is affected,” he said.

Walden distributed a second letter he had sent, addressed to the administrator of the Ag Research Service of USDA. In it he expressed concern about the ARS’s decision to stop Dr. Patrick Clark, a rangeland scientist, from taking part in the final year of a wolf-cattle interaction study in Oregon and Idaho. He identified Dr. Clark as the designer, installer and maintainer of the specialized tracking collars used in the study. Walden said Dr. Clark’s tracking collars are important to providing insight into how wolves impact cattle, and the aborted study promised to help producers to adapt to the threat posed by wolves.

Walden displayed a series of graphs related to the United States’ economic problems related to government spending, who owns the debt and comparing the U.S. to European economy, all showing the country in drastic financial straits.

“We are subsidizing the build up of the Chinese military, because we can’t control our debt,” Walden said at one point.

He also displayed a map that the downturn in forest product manufacturing since Baker, Grant, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties, where between 1980 and 2010, there were 19 mills closed with a loss of 1,172 mill jobs and 2,000 forest sector jobs.

“I’m not telling you anything, you don’t know,” said Walden.

He said he is working on bi-partisan legislation that would put some federal forest land into a trust, that would be managed like private forests are under the Oregon Forest Practices Act. “This can work,” he said, noting that it would benefit both forest health and the forest products industry.

He said that it’s a complex piece of legislation that would allow some additional wilderness, in trade for environmental groups not being allowed to sue to stop management of trust land, including timber harvest. He said that one of his Democratic counterpoints,Rep. Peter DeFazio, who represents southwestern Oregon, was already being attacked by environmental groups before the legislation was even written.

Walden also said the bill would extend the forest payments to counties for roads and schools for another two years, “but no more than that.”

Throughout the meeting Walden talked about the importance of the general election and, indirectly, the importance of electing Republican representatives. “This is the seminal election of our age,” he said. “It’s one of those elections that will determine the path of the country for the next 20 years.”

He talked about 30 jobs bills that had been sent from the U.S. House to the Democratic U.S. Senate, which had been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“That’s the world we live in as Republicans,” he said.

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