Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection
Dear Fellow Oregonian:
Greetings from our nation's capital. The past several weeks have been hot ones in Washington, D.C., not just because of the perennial summer heat, but because of major developments in legislation important to Oregonians. But before I review my latest activities, I want to take a moment to wish everyone in the Sisters and Tollgate area in central Oregon and the Halfway area in eastern Oregon safe keeping as they deal with the Black Crater and Foster Gulch wildfires. At the time of this writing, the people in these areas have wildfire quickly coming their way, and everyone in Oregon knows how destructive such fires can quickly become. Please take a moment to keep everyone in these areas in your thoughts.
Last weekend I began my 279th trip from Oregon to Washington, D.C. since first being elected, and while the air travel and airline snack isn't my favorite routine, it was well worth it this week as the result of some great news I had hoped for.
On Monday, we achieved a monumental step toward a long-term stewardship and preservation plan for one of Oregon's great icons, Mt. Hood, when H.R. 5025, The Mount Hood Stewardship Legacy Act, was approved by the full U.S. House of Representative by unanimous vote. I couldn't have been more pleased with how a long-developed legislative plan was received by my fellow members of the House.
I was proud to introduce this bill with my colleague, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, D-Portland, and our bill enjoyed the co-sponsorship of our colleagues from Oregon, Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, and Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, D-West Linn. Together over three years, we crafted a bipartisan, locally written and widely supported plan to protect the special places on Mt. Hood for future generations to enjoy, while working to improve access, recreation, forest health and watersheds. We worked with The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs to fulfill our Treaty Trust obligations and we worked with local interests to resolve a nearly 30-year battle over development in the upper Hood River Valley. We also backpacked 41 miles all the way around Mt. Hood together last summer and met with numerous stakeholders along the way. This measure stands ready to become law very soon if our senators and the Senate take action on it.
The bill we passed in the House was the 10th draft and was crafted from a concept paper presented to the public in two forums in December 2005, one in Hood River and one in Portland. The concept paper was drafted following two public summits, drawing over 250 participants each, regarding challenges facing the Mt. Hood National Forest conducted in August 2003 and 2004, and a two-day roundtable discussion in July 2005 with 50 key stakeholders. If approved by the Senate, this legislation will provide the largest addition of forest wilderness to America's inventory in the last three years, and the first additional wilderness classification on Mt. Hood in the last 22 years - a 40% increase over existing designations. It not only protects extraordinary spaces for future generations, but will also lead to improved forest health conditions across a road region of a forest that is in trouble.
While the final passage of our Mt. Hood bill required a lot of my focus the past week, many other issues are keeping me busy .read on!
July is always a hectic month in Washington, D.C. The House spends much discussion time on the annual federal funding bills which keep federal services and programs running, and committees are very busy amending and voting on bills that have been developed the past year as the bills get ready for consideration by the full House. These processes take a lot of time, but I also manage to spend a lot of time meeting with people from Oregon who make the long trek to Washington, D.C. to discuss their priorities and see how I can help.
Over the past few weeks since my last newsletter, I have met in D.C. with individuals and families from Merlin, Pendleton, Medford, Bend, The Dalles, Hermiston, Talent, Baker City, Mosier, Ashland, Warm Springs, Klamath Falls, Eagle Point, Athena, Midland, Jacksonville, Burns, Halfway, Joseph, Union, Enterprise, Chiloquin, Lakeview, Prairie City, Adel, White City, Butte Falls and Pilot Rock. The meeting topics have ranged from mental health programs, to rural education needs, to the critical county payments program, to agriculture and rural health care and many others. Summer also brings many tourists to our nation's capital and it's a lot of fun to see kids from Oregon excited about the history of and important issues being discussed in our nation's capital.
On other issue fronts, on July 14th I sent a letter to several key cabinet members of the Bush administration, urging them to organize a summit in southern Oregon in the near future to focus on the critical issues facing the Klamath River basin. From the Klamath Basin to the ocean, there's a lot that needs to and can be done on the local, state and federal level to enhance conditions for fish, farmers and waterfowl (and the communities that rely on and enjoy them). I have been deeply involved in Klamath Basin issues since farmers' water was unjustly shut off by the government for the first time in nearly a century on April 6, 2001, and more recently the coastal fishing communities in Oregon and California have experienced much strife from which they need relief. Much has been done in recent years to improve conditions in the Klamath River system, but much work remains. The cabinet members I've called on can effectively lead a summit and bring all stakeholders to the table to collectively discuss, develop and implement a long-term plan to improve the system for everyone's benefit. Early response from the administration to my inquiry has been favorable, and I look forward to working with them to bring a bipartisan summit together.
The committees I serve on have been engaged in many hearings and "mark ups" the past few weeks - 29 of them to be exact. I serve on the Energy & Commerce Committee, and the Resources Committee and together the jurisdiction of these panels and their subcommittees covers natural resources, forestry, public lands, water, energy, telecommunications, the internet, healthcare, and hazardous waste to name a few. These issues are of direct importance to Oregonians, and I enjoy rolling up my sleeves to help produce better public policy. As the Vice-Chairman of the Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee, I've helped lead a series of hearings regarding children on the internet and the dangers posed to them by adult wrong-doers online. It's a very serious issue, and we can't do enough to protect our children from "online predators" and we're working in the House to develop bipartisan legislation that helps better ensure safety for youth as they surf and work on the internet.
On the Oregon Trail:
Today is my last day in Washington, D.C. for a month as we begin the annual August District Work Period. While I always look forward to returning home to Oregon each week from D.C., the longer stretches like we're upon are particularly enjoyable as I get to visit with residents in central, southern and eastern Oregon at greater length .and the beauty all around our district is hard to beat. I'll fill you in on my visits in my next newsletter.
Since my last newsletter, my weekend trips back to Oregon have been short due to the long legislative weeks in Washington, D.C. But I used the time I had to get to central and southern Oregon for some important events. On July 1, I spoke at the memorial service for Private First Class (Pfc.) Thomas Tucker of Madras. As you may know, Pfc. Tucker was kidnapped and suffered a terrible fate at the hands of insurgents in Iraq. I'm honored to have been given this opportunity to bring attention to Pfc. Tucker's service and courage, and spend time with his family. Pfc. Tucker was an outstanding individual, and we must always hold dear those who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
On July 15th, I traveled to Bend to honor another member of our military. Several days earlier, Oregon Army National Guard Specialist Tom Hoy saved a young girl from drowning in the Deschutes River. I was able to present him with a congressional commendation for his heroic effort and continued service to our nation. I also used this opportunity to meet with several other local guardsmen to hear their concerns and offer my assistance any time they need it.
That same weekend in central Oregon, I also attended the annual Sagebrush Classic in Bend. This annual charity event raises funds for the Deschutes Children's Foundation, and it's both very productive for many local charities and a lot of fun. The following morning I also was able to take part in a yearly traditionthe Crook County fair. I was able to help make breakfast for the attendees and catch up with many people in Prineville. It was a fun opportunity that also gave me an opportunity to meet the future of Oregon's agriculture industry at the 4-H awards ceremony. After that I headed to Redmond for the Central Oregon Draft Horse Show. Hundreds of people were in attendance, and it was like a big town hall meeting for me..
Last weekend, we got some fantastic news for our veterans who rely on the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinic (SORCC) in White City (formerly known as the White City "Dom"). After being slated for closure, and after a phenomenal push to reverse the closure by many in southern Oregon, the Department of Veteran's Affairs changed course and announced their commitment to a long-term investment in the SORCC. I traveled to Medford to meet VA Secretary Jim Nicholson and we proceeded to White City together for the announcement that the SORCC will be modernized into a state-of-the-art 21st century facility. It was my honor to join early in the fight to stop the closure of the SORCC, so it was gratifying to join so many dedicated individuals in southern Oregon to pop the cork on this victory. The SORCC is the only free-standing rehabilitation center in VA's national system. Nearly 400 veterans currently receive inpatient services to combat substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness, and the facility also provides primary care and vocational rehabilitation for veterans. I applaud the VA for this decision, and will continue to do everything in my power to see that our local veterans receive the best care possible.
I'll look forward to updating you on my visits around the vast Second Congressional District during the month of August, and be sure to let me know anytime I can be of assistance. All of my office contact information follows. Your opinion and thoughts helps me develop my "to do" list to take back to Washington, D.C. each week we're in session.
Member of Congress