By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin
Published: October 12. 2010 4:00AM PST
Speaking in front of a group of private forest owners and forest products manufacturers, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, said now is not the time for new regulations that would have a big financial impact on businesses.
The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule to limit the emissions from boilers, for example, would be so strict that even the newest biomass boilers might not pass the test.
"Tell me, how is this the right time to do that?" Walden said.
Walden, who addressed the annual Oregon Forest Industries Council meeting Monday in Sunriver, is up for re-election in November, running against Democrat Joyce Segers.
Walden said business owners are uncertain about what impact new or proposed rules would have on their expenses, and in some cases that is stopping them from expanding. "It's this uncertainty that I think is paralyzing our economy," he said.
He addressed issues related to forests, including spotted owl protections and forest health.
If Republicans have a majority of seats in the House during the next session, Walden said he would push for hearings on whether private forestland owners would have to set aside areas for spotted owl habitat, as well as a hearing for bipartisan forest health bills he co-sponsored. The bills would expand the area where forest managers could use tools for thinning projects allowed under the 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act, and give schools, hospitals and some other institutions loans for biomass projects.
Walden also talked about a rancher who was trying to improve the habitat along a creek that ran through his property. An engineer said the project would cost $160,000, but when government agencies got involved to see if they could help fund the project, the cost jumped up to $600,000, Walden said.
"There are better ways to solve our problems out there on the ground and in the streams than what we're seeing," he said.
He also suggested that there could be new ways of managing federal forests that should be considered, like conducting long-term environmental planning efforts for large areas. After an audience member mentioned efforts to create a new national monument in the Siskiyou Mountains in Southern Oregon, Walden said he wanted any new monument designation to be voted on, and that they need to have the support of the local community.
Many of the Oregon Forest Industries Council members are frustrated with the bureaucracy at the federal level, said Ray Wilkeson, the group's president, and agree with Walden's comments on new regulations
"I think (Walden's) view of what's going on is reflected in the membership," he said.
Walden will speak with members of the Central Oregon Veterans Council at 7 a.m. today at the VFW Hall, 1503 N.E. Fourth St. in Bend.