By Randy Parks
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden paid a visit to Harney County Sunday, April 1, to visit with residents about a number of topics affecting the county, state and country.
Walden opened the town hall meeting by talking about an appropriations bill he and other legislators are working on to improve grazing issues on Bureau of Land Management lands.
He then moved on to forest issues and how the federal forests could be better managed. Using a series of charts, Walden showed that 60 percent of Oregon forestland is owned by the federal government, yet it makes up just 12 percent of the timber harvest.
In contrast, the state and other public entities own just 4 percent of Oregon forestland, but still account for 10 percent of the total harvest.
There is currently a bill in the works dealing with federal forests meant to create jobs, allow for permanent timber production primarily on lands that have been previously harvested and bring financial stability to rural Oregon counties. "The lands would be managed like they're managed under state law," Walden said. "The federal government is the only owner of timberland that loses money. There are too many regulations, too much litigation and too many appeals."
Upon opening the meeting to questions from those in attendance, Walden fielded questions ranging from funding veterans services and credit card practices, to sage grouse listing and military spending.
Regarding the military, Walden stated that the U.S. is seeing reductions in force and military spending, but "we are still at war and there are still bad guys out there." He explained that other countries are drastically reducing their military, and we need to maintain a visible military force. "I'd rather carry a big stick and walk softly than have no stick," Walden said.
Walden explained that there are also unconventional wars that the U.S. faces, such as terrorists and cyber attacks. He referred to a recent comment by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who warned that the United States will soon suffer a catastrophic cyberattack if it doesn't act now to prevent it. Walden cautioned that a cyberattack is a threat to the whole country, including financial institutions and infrastructure.
As the meeting ended, the audience thanked Walden for his time and service.