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Department Of The Interior, Environment, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, I'd just like to express my deep disappointment that we're not able to move forward on the gentleman's amendment from California, and the peril that it may put the next amendment in.

If you want to talk about cuts in crisis, you come out to rural Oregon, rural Washington, rural Northern California, the areas that my friend and colleague from Washington knows all too well.

The largest county in my district had 15 or 16 libraries, all of which are now shuttered and closed because this Congress and the last failed to reauthorize the Secure County Roads and Schools legislation that the Congress before, in 2000, put into law.

The effect of all that, and the effect of this not going forward is those counties have a 1-year stay of execution because in the emergency supplemental there was legislation that funded them for one more year.

But as the good gentleman from Washington State knows, with the decline in the timber industry, the decline in harvest on Federal lands, these rural counties have been devastated. They have no tax base in some cases, or very little; 70, 80 percent of land mass is Federal lands. There's been a commitment for 100 years by this Congress to share revenues, and then those revenues went away. Law enforcement is going away. Basic services. You all would throw a fit if they went away in Washington, D.C. or any other urban area.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I yield to the gentleman from Washington.

Mr. DICKS. The point I'd like to make, this is an authorization problem. This isn't supposed to be handled on the appropriations bill. We had an agreement that we would help you do this for 1 year, but then you would go back to the Natural Resources Committee and find the mandatory spending to offset this. This is not an appropriations matter.

Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Reclaiming my time, I understand, and I appreciate what the gentleman has done to assist us in the past. My frustration is the one I have to share, because when I go home, people don't understand why we can keep funding all these other things and can't take care of sort of an organic funding issue that affects them deeply.

The first bill I cosponsored in this Congress with my colleague from Oregon, Mr. DeFazio, and many others was to reauthorize this program. I believe the first letter I sent was to the new chairman of the Resources Committee begging for a hearing to reauthorize this program.

The folks at home don't understand this process, and sometimes neither do I. But if we have to bring down the House to try and get help to people who deserve it, then that's what we'll have to do.

It's really unfortunate that we would abrogate this commitment to these people in rural areas and not allow us at least to move forward, and certainly with the next amendment, which merely fixes a technical correction, allows the Resource advisory committees to go forward, but spends no money.


Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. OBEY. I yield to the gentleman from Oregon.

Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I thank the chairman, and I've commended him before for his work in our behalf in this very difficult problem we face in the rural areas. And you've been terrific to work with. You've been most generous, not only with your time, but with your assistance. And I supported you and that bill when it came before, in opposition to my own President, and would continue to do so, because I know who sent me here, and I know what they want. And you may have missed my earlier comments.

Mr. OBEY. No, I have been watching them on television.

Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. I'm sorry you've had to put up with me there. The point is, I've done everything I can to try and get the committee that I served on for 8 years to even hold a hearing to reauthorize this bill. When I was on that committee in 2005 and chaired the Forestry Subcommittee, we marked up a reauthorization in 2005 by March, and we passed it out of the committee by June.


Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank my colleague Mr. DeFazio for his work on this amendment with me.

I would like to point out that on page 182 of the committee report there is listed 30 different laws that have not been reauthorized and are being funded. Some of these laws were last reauthorized 28 years ago. So the fact that we have something before you that has just gone out of operation here in less than a year, and we are trying to do a technical correction here to reauthorize it, I don't think is deserving of a point of order.

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman will yield, I am prepared to accept the gentleman's amendment. I think this is a very positive amendment. It has nothing to do with what we were discussing earlier, and I am prepared to accept your amendment.

Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Well, I'm not sure everyone is, so if I may continue. There are over 4,500 projects that these resource advisory committees have worked on. They have leveraged $292 million to improve watersheds and wildlife habitats, and reduce the risk of catastrophic fire. No resource advisory committee has been disbanded or melted down. There are 70 of them in 13 States. No RAC-approved project has been appealed or litigated. No other active land management initiative in either the Departments of Agriculture or Interior can equal such a track record.

This has brought disparate individuals together to do good things for the land, habitat and watersheds in a comprehensive way that leverages local funds and support.

Today, as we debate this issue on the floor of this House, fires are raging at Lake Tahoe, destroying homes and habitats and watershed. Those sorts of efforts, where they tried to get in and thin in this watershed and protect it and reduce the threat of fire, might have been allowed to occur had there been a resource advisory committee like these, and I don't know what they have got there, but certainly they were not able to get the job done before the fire hit.

We are trying to do good things for our national forests, and I know others are trying to as well. I just hope we can approve this.


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