AGRICULTURAL DISASTER ASSISTANCE AND WESTERN STATES EMERGENCY UNFINISHED BUSINESS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2007
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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I thank the ranking member of the committee, my friend and colleague from California.
Mr. Speaker, tonight I must rise to strongly urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help us deal with a very real emergency in the West and across the country by supporting this measure to fund rural schools and roads, and to help make sure that our farmers and ranchers and those who fish get the disaster aid that they have needed for some time.
And I have to forcefully disagree with the statement of administration policy issued by this administration which threatens a Presidential veto. To say that the closing of jails and schools and libraries, as is occurring right now in my district and in others, is not somehow an emergency is to simply ignore the reality of what is happening in the rural West. It is outrageous. Enough is enough.
First, the Federal courts and the government shut down the timber industry and timber harvest on Federal lands and took away our jobs in rural communities. Then the Federal Government quit effectively managing those forests. And last year, we again paid the price with 10 million acres of Federal land that burned at a cost of a billion and a half for taxpayers to extinguish those fires. But it gets worse. The Federal Government has failed to replant a million acres of Federal forest lands, America's forest lands that have burned over the years. And now it has broken a hundred-year promise to the rural communities who used to depend on the revenues from these forests that now aren't even managed.
And now the President threatens to veto this emergency funding bill designed to pay for firefighting, designed to pay for fishermen whose season was shut down last year, and to pay for keeping schools open and jails open and roads open, and providing disaster aid to farmers and ranchers. If we don't do this advanced funding for firefighting, they will dip into the accounts of the Forest Service and they won't do the very kind of work that needs to be done in the forest to prevent these kind of catastrophic fires that we are seeing over and over and over again. It is the same process that we decry is occurring in the military if we don't properly fund our troops. They will rip into these accounts. They will cancel the contracts, and they will set us behind. That is what happened to the Forest Service.
Enough is enough. The President should not veto this bill, and this Congress should pass it.
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