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Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MOUNT HOOD STEWARDSHIP LEGACY ACT -- (House of Representatives - July 24, 2006)

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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present to the House the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act. I want to thank Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo for his support of this legislation and his assistance in our work to move it forward at this time. I also want to express my appreciation to my Oregon colleagues, EARL BLUMENAUER, PETER DEFAZIO and DARLENE HOOLEY for their work on the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act, H.R. 5025.

Together, we have crafted a bipartisan, locally written and widely supported plan to protect the special places on Mount Hood for future generations to enjoy, while working to improve access, recreation, forest health and watersheds. We have worked with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to fulfill treaty trust obligations and we have worked with local interests to resolve a nearly 30-year battle over development in the Upper Hood River Valley. This measure comes to the floor today in shape to become law at any time.

I want to thank EARL BLUMENAUER for his leadership in starting this process nearly 3 years ago when he suggested that he and I could work together to consider the issues and pressures facing Oregon's icon, Mount Hood. Perhaps because our history goes back to the 1970s, we were able to rekindle a little bit of that Oregon spirit and dream by working together to develop a shared vision for Mount Hood, using a very public and collaborative process.

I appreciate the detailed analysis that the Forest Service has put into carefully reviewing the Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act. Likewise, I appreciate the technical comments from groups like the American Forest Resource Council, the Campaign For America's Wilderness and American Rivers, the State of Oregon and the five county governments that are directly impacted by what takes place in the Mount Hood National Forest.

Colleagues, H.R. 5025 is a balanced plan that not only protects extraordinary places for future generations, but also will lead to improved forest health conditions across a broad region of a forest that, frankly, in some areas is in trouble. Our measure seeks to protect water quality and quantity, while enhancing recreational opportunities for an ever-growing population. We address transportation needs and encourage continued public collaboration.

The current version of the bill we will discuss here today is draft number 10 and was drafted from a concept paper presented to the public in two forums in December of 2005, one in Hood River, Oregon, and one in Portland, Oregon. The concept paper was drafted following two public summits which drew about 250 participants each. They specified or looked at challenges facing the Mount Hood National Forest conducted in August of 2003 and 2004. And we had a 2-day roundtable discussion at Timberline Lodge in July of 2005 where we had 50 key stakeholders. Then we followed that up with a 41-mile backpacking trip just about a year ago.

When approved by the Congress, this legislation will provide the largest addition of forest wilderness to America's inventory in the last 3 years, the first additional wilderness classification on Mount Hood in the last 22 years and a 40 percent increase over existing designations. It will resolve a 30-year-old land management dispute in the Hood River Valley, and it designates 26 miles of wild and scenic rivers. It also calls for improved forest health conditions across a landscape that is in trouble.

But let me be very clear about our intent for this legislation. We intend it to increase the amount of wilderness, but we intend that that adhere strictly to the 1964 Wilderness Act, increase the amount of Wild and Scenic Rivers on the Mount Hood National Forest, while in total agreement that these designations not reduce the amount of land that is specifically identified for timber emphasis harvest nor would they deliberately result in future land management conflicts.

If recreational activities, such as snowmobiling, were to take place within view or earshot of a wilderness, then that activity would still be allowed to continue.

Any landowners with private inholdings incorporated by the designations would be granted full access to their lands, although we don't believe there are any.

We require the Forest Service to develop and implement through existing authorities a 10-year assessment to address bug-infested, disease-ridden and heavily overstocked trees and to take action using site-specific, environmentally reviewed, and publicly noticed projects to improve these areas to the optimum condition class.

Where memorandums of understanding or legislative authorities do not currently exist between irrigation districts or municipalities and the Forest Service, the Forest Service would be directed to enter into MOUs that outline stewardship goals to manage watersheds for water quality and water quantity.

Existing development footprints are the best places to enhance recreational opportunities and maximize future potential. These areas could potentially include the footprints of Government Camp, Ski Bowl, Timberline, Mount Hood Meadows, and lands allocated A-11 under the approved forest plan. Also if there are roads slated to be closed, they should be considered for other recreational uses.

Establish a recreation working group comprised of local stakeholders to advise the Forest Service on planning for future recreational enhancements.

Develop an integrated transportation network that brings people to and from Mount Hood National Forest and safely transports people from place to place on the mountain.

We would require the Forest Service to enter into MOUs with Native American Tribes to provide for huckleberry picking and other customary and traditional harvesting of ``first foods'' to ensure healthy stands of huckleberries and other traditional plant species.

We encourage cooperation with Mount Hood's local communities, counties, the State, the Tribes, and Federal land agencies to identify common ground, coordinate planning efforts around the mountain and make the Federal Government a better partner in building cooperative and lasting solutions.

Last summer, EARL and I made history as probably the only bipartisan backpacking duo in the Congress to make the journey around Mount Hood. Over the course of 4 days and 3 nights, we hiked 41 miles, climbed and descended 9,000 feet, and along the way saw firsthand the mountain from every perspective, including the one my ancestors saw 161 years ago this fall when they completed their wagon train journey to the proposed land of Oregon.

It is in this spirit of promise for a better future, nurtured by an on-the-ground appreciation, that we bring you this legislation and ask for your support.

Finally, I will include for the Congressional Record an exchange between Congressman Pombo of the Resources Committee and Chairman Goodlatte of the Agriculture Committee. I thank Chairman Goodlatte for his cooperation in helping this bill be considered today.

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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I want to thank my colleague from Oregon especially, Congressman Blumenauer. We have had a great partnership over 3 years working on this legislation to bring it to this point, building it from the ground up. And we could not have done it without the very talented staff that he referenced in his remarks, Colby Marshall, Janine Benner and Hillary Barbour. They have just been terrific troopers, helping us every way, and went on the backpack trip with us, but let the record show clearly, we each carried our own packs along the trail. And my wife and son also accompanied us on that backpack trip.

It was a great way to learn about the mountain and see it firsthand. It is truly a remarkable place and great piece of America. I hope others will come and enjoy it as we have.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time and ask for your support for this very important and progressive legislation.

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