Northwest congressional delegation not satisfied with status quo for federal forests


The Pacific Northwest congressional delegation is obviously not happy with the status quo when it comes to federal forest management and environmental regulations, and that is very good to see.

Just in the past week, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said there should be “big changes” in forest management, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) proposed a revamped Western Oregon forest plan, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) criticized the EPA’s recent behavior and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) “perplexed” environmentalists with several proposals supported by the timber industry.

Rep. McMorris Rodgers told the Capital Press that her time on the House Energy and Commerce Committee has shown her that Congress is far too defensive when it comes to EPA regulations. Rather than reacting to the Obama administration, Congress should be setting policy itself.

“Unfortunately, I see an agenda being driven by the Environmental Protection Agency that too often means it’s a hands-off approach,” she said, citing a pending update of dust regulations.

“If you’re on the land, you’re going to be stirring up some dust and it just seems the EPA doesn’t always understand that,” she said.

Rep. Walden spoke last week at a shuttered timber mill in Grant County, Ore, and “decried the lack of active management on the forests in recent years,” according to the Blue Mountain Eagle.

“The forests don’t stay static, even when our management does,” he said, noting that the trees continue to mature, die and burn up.

Walden displayed charts showing the management of the federal lands lagging far behind that on private and state forests.

He said he and some like-minded colleagues are working to draft legislation that could reverse the trend by offering new ways to manage the federal lands, strengthen rural communities and put people back to work. The proposal, still in the formative stages, is focusing on concepts such as public lands trusts to take over forest management.

The Northwest congressional delegation’s sensitivity to timber industry concerns can be complicated for Democratic lawmakers because environmental groups often think that the Dems should walk lockstep with their interests without question. But the Northwest is much more complex than the concerns of environmental groups.

Sen. Wyden is worrying environmentalists with some of his recent proposals, but that’s sometimes par for the course in a state as varied as Oregon, according to Greenwire.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who represents a western Oregon district that combines the liberal bastion of Eugene with more conservative towns and timber communities, said that part of Wyden’s challenge is that he represents a very diverse state where it is very difficult to please everybody all of the time.

“We have people who love to stake out the extremes and just fight as opposed to work in resolution,” DeFazio said. “I have at times been called a ‘timber beast’ by environmentalists throwing sawdust on me, and I’ve been called an ‘environmental radical’ when I go to the southern part of my district. So I wouldn’t find it anything new that Senator Wyden has gotten in some trouble for probably proposing something pragmatic.”