Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional Connection
Your Direct Link to the News and Events in the Nation's Capital
December 22, 2005
Dear Fellow Oregonian:
I would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a wonderful New Year. It's hard to believe 2006 is nearly upon us! The House of Representatives concluded its business for the first session of the 109th Congress early Monday morning after a long weekend of votes (we finally wrapped up around 6:00 AM on Monday). It has certainly been an eventful year, and I'm looking forward to spending some time at home in Hood River with my family for the holidays before gearing back up after the first of the year for another busy session throughout the Second District and in Congress.
The last few weeks in the nation's capital brought much activity. As always, it was great to meet many Oregonians visiting D.C. for work or vacation. I met with folks from Hood River, La Pine, Jacksonville, Bend, Ashland, Wallowa County and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation about a variety of issues. Between these meetings and the committee hearings I attended, I discussed a wide range of issues affecting the people of central, southern and eastern Oregon, including transportation, Medicare, energy, meth, immigration, forest recovery and health, energy, telecommunications, homeland security, Indian affairs, agriculture, trade and the cattle industry. There is never a shortage of important issues facing Oregon's Second District!
On Saturday, December 3, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (from Portland) and I held two additional summits to discuss our ideas for a long-term stewardship plan for Mt. Hood - one of Oregon's most diverse natural treasures. The Mountain provides wilderness, drinking water, recreation, timber, habitat, history and natural beauty for millions to enjoy each year. To sustain the activity we have grown to love and appreciate on the Mountain and preserve the health of its environment and forested areas, we have to create a comprehensive management plan that can last for generations to come. Congressman Blumenauer and I have been working closely on this issue for the past three years, holding public summits in 2003 and 2004, round-table discussions early this year with more than fifty key stakeholders, and even hiking all the way around the Mountain for four days on the 41-mile Timberline Trail, meeting with scientists, conservationists, tribal representatives, tribal representatives, hydrologists, biologists, botanists, recreationists and many other environment and wilderness experts along the way. All of this work has culminated in a plan that has taken into account years of feedback from hundreds of individuals. Our legislative concepts include management ideas for recreation, transportation, wilderness designation, wild and scenic rivers, forest health and innovative solutions to keep more of the revenue generated on the mountain for stewardship of the mountain. We unveiled these plans at our "Legacy for Mt. Hood" summits on Dec. 3rd in Portland and Hood River, and we have now begun turning these ideas into legislation we will introduce after Congress reconvenes in 2006. We look forward to working with the entire Oregon delegation to advance these ideas, which we firmly believe will benefit Mt. Hood and the millions of individuals it impacts every year.
The House Committee on Agriculture held a hearing this month to discuss the bipartisan Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act (HR 4200), which I introduced last month with Congressman Brian Baird, a Democrat out of southwest Washington. HR 4200 would give federal land managers the tools and resources necessary - when appropriate - to more quickly evaluate and restore federal forests damaged by catastrophic events such as wildfire, hurricane, ice storm or bug infestation. All too often our forests are left to rot after such an event, threatening environmental health, water quality, habitat and safety while squandering any potential economic value that could have been realized through harvesting the dead and dying timber and planting live, green trees in its place. When not harvested, dead timber simply acts as fuel for future fires, provides ideal situations for bug infestation and greatly hinders a forest's ability to naturally regenerate itself. Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), both original cosponsors of this legislation, invited me to testify before the Committee on the importance of this bill, which has earned broad support from many local, state and federal organizations. We currently have 141 bipartisan cosponsors and are gaining additional support each week.
Early supporters of the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act include Dr. Hal Salwasser (Dean, OSU College of Forestry), Associated Oregon Counties, the National Association of State Foresters, the Society of American Foresters, Jim Brown (Oregon State Forester from 1986-2003 & Governor Kulongoski's natural resource policy advisor from 2003-2004), Max Peterson (Chief of the US Forest Service under President Carter), US Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth, the Department of the Interior, the Oregon Home Builders Association, the Evergreen Foundation, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. A more comprehensive list of supporters can be found on the "Recovering America's Forests" page of my website.
As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, I have heard time and again how critical this legislation is to the long-term health and vitality of our federal forests. We have very talented individuals working on the ground for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and it's time we gave them the tools needed to become the best possible stewards of our public lands.
On Dec. 12th, I was pleased to hear that Japan had finally lifted its unfair and prolonged ban on American beef and beef products. Originally imposed after the first case of BSE ("mad cow" disease) was found in the U.S. two years ago, the Japanese government was slow to lift the ban and resume normal trade of America's high-quality and incredibly safe beef. The ban cost our economy and American cattle producers - including many hard working men and women in the Second District - more than $6 billion in lost economic activity. The beef industry in Oregon alone is valued at more than a half-billion dollars and is our state's second largest agriculture industry. The Japanese playing politics with trade was not something cattle ranchers throughout Oregon and the U.S. could withstand any longer. After repeated pressure from myself, many of my colleagues in the Congress, President Bush, Agriculture Secretary Johanns, U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and many other Administration officials, the Japanese government has finally lifted its ban and normal trade is resuming. You can read my most recent letter to Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato on this important issue and my statement after the announcement on the 12th here.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed key provisions advancing the fight against methamphetamine, an insidious poison that affects both large and small communities as I learned during the seven town halls I held earlier this year in communities throughout central, southern and eastern Oregon. Last Tuesday, we passed HR 798 calling for federal guidelines to help with the clean-up of meth labs, which are essentially toxic waste sites. I was proud to cosponsor this legislation, which is now in the Senate for its consideration. The bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish voluntary guidelines to assist state and local governments in the remediation of former meth lab sites while also calling for various research programs aimed at increasing our knowledge of environmental and property contamination. It is estimated that five to six pounds of toxic waste are produced for each pound of meth manufactured, and taxpayers are forced to pay thousands for the clean-up of these labs - hundreds of which are found in Oregon each year. You can read more about HR 798 here.
Last Wednesday night, the House passed comprehensive and collaborative provisions to combat meth in our communities through enhanced retail sales provisions for precursor ingredients, stiffened penalties for those manufacturing meth and endangering children, increased diplomatic efforts to fight international production and trafficking, and authorized grant programs for meth-endangered children. You can read my announcement on the passage of these key provisions and more details about what they accomplish here. Unfortunately, the Senate has thus far not acted on these provisions and another route for their passage may need to be found. The scourge of methamphetamine is far too costly to both lives and communities to be left unaddressed. It is my hope that we will be able to take up these provisions quickly after the first of the year. I'm honored to be a member of the Speaker's Task Force for a Drug Free America and the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamine, and I will remain diligent in my efforts in the Congress to advance the fight against meth.
Another key issue the House of Representatives addressed last week was that of illegal immigration. No one can argue the value of legal immigration to the United States - we are a nation founded by immigrants. But the burden placed on society by those who choose to blatantly disregard our laws is becoming greater every day and we have to get a handle on our borders. I hear regularly from schools, hospital administrators, law enforcement, government officials and a host of other citizens throughout the Second District about the need to enhance border patrol and crack down on illegal immigration. The costs to our education, health care and criminal justice systems are overwhelming. In addition to supporting legislation earlier this year that allowed construction of the San Diego border fence to resume (which has already resulted in drastic decreases in illegal crossings), the legislation passed by the House last Friday included the construction of a fence along the southern border between Texas and Mexico. Other key provisions would enhance penalties for smuggling illegal aliens, support local law enforcement in their efforts to curb illegal immigration and establish a worker identification program, which is the first step toward creating a legitimate and successful program to allow citizens of other countries to legally enter the United States for the purpose of temporary employment. The Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (HR 4437) passed the House with bipartisan support and is now headed to the Senate for its consideration.
On Saturday, the House voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA has been instrumental in raising awareness of violent crimes against women and combating domestic violence since its enactment in 1994 and first reauthorization in 2000. By looking beyond domestic violence and taking into consideration crimes against men and many other egregious offenses including stalking, dating violence and sexual assault, we continue to educate the public, provide services to victims and help law enforcement identify and capture the perpetrators of these terrible crimes.
Each year, a group of experienced and talented military retirees helps me nominate outstanding young adults for acceptance to one of the U.S. military academies. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to this team - led by Commander John Howard, USN Ret., of my Medford staff - for their time and dedication to the nomination process. This year's advisory committee included: Colonel Mery McConnel, USA Ret; Colonel Linda Sindt, USAF Ret; Major General Dave Tump, MD USAF Ret; Captain Harriet Harris, USN Ret; and Colonel Tom Foster, USA Ret. The candidates I have nominated this year are exceptional high school students; their parents, teachers and friends should be very proud. You can read more about the nominees here. I wish them all the best of luck and know that they'll be successful in whatever the future holds.
I would like to congratulate Grace Kalista in my Medford district office on her recent wedding! I wish all the best to her and her husband as they embark on a new adventure together. I'd also like to welcome Blair Larkins, whose mother and brother live in southern Oregon, to my staff in Washington, D.C. Blair joins us as a staff assistant after graduating from Portland State University earlier this year. Not only will she manage a variety of special projects for the office, she's here to help anyone planning a trip to Washington, D.C. with tours and ideas for their vacation. Blair replaces Nathan Rea, who has become my legislative correspondent in the D.C. office, helping me manage the thousands of letters, emails and faxes I receive and send.
I look forward to updating you further on legislation and activities in Congress. You can always visit www.house.gov to see what is happening on the Floor of the House of Representatives on any given day. You can also find information on my website at www.walden.house.gov. If you have any questions or comments about this e-newsletter or anything else taking place in Congress and our nation's capital, please visit the "Contact Me" portion of my website to send me an email; or, you can also call my Medford office toll free from any phone in the 541 area code at 1-800-533-3303 or my Bend office at 541-389-4408.
Your thoughts are most important to me as the help keep my "to do" list updated. My staff and I look forward to hearing from you.
I hope you find this edition of the Oregon Congressional Connection helpful and informative.
Congressman Greg Walden