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U.S. Reps plan hike in forest

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

August 6, 2005

U.S. Reps. Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer are heading into the wilderness of Mount Hood on Aug. 15 for some quiet time to discuss stewardship issues.

The two Oregon legislators plan to shoulder 35-pound packs of supplies — but their mental load could be even heavier. Somewhere along their 41-mike trek through the peaks and valleys of the Timberline Trail, the elected officials intend to frame a land-use plan. After enjoying a media conference at 8:30 a.m. that Monday, they will head off into the wild domain that has been their primary focus for the last two years. Walden’s wife, Mylene, and his son, Anthony, are also taking on the rugged route to enjoy the scenic vistas.

“This will really just give us a wonderful opportunity to look out across the mountain and how it transitions from east to west,” said Walden.

At pre-planned locations, Walden, a Republican who resides in Hood River, and his Democratic peer, Blumenauer, will meet with conservation groups and forestry experts. They are looking forward to getting professional answers to any questions that arise while they watch the rustic landscape unfold around them.

At the end of their four-day adventure, the bi-partisan duo plans to begin committing ideas to paper. They will be drawing not only on information gleaned along the trail, but a thorough review of citizen testimony and reams of correspondence.

Both men expect to unveil a preliminary concept sometime this fall — but warn that it will not address all of the outstanding issues. Their initial design is expected to herald the beginning of a very long and complex process to finalize a master plan. Both Walden and Blumenauer have committed to sketching out ideas in six key areas of concern: watershed protection, transportation challenges, forest health, recreational interests, economic concerns and cultural resource preservation.

“This mountain is something that we have enjoyed up close and personal and it is deeply important to the people that we represent,” said Blumenauer, who serves the Third Congressional District.

He and Walden, the Second Congressional District delegate, don’t often see eye-to-eye on political issues. But they are united in their belief that the natural resources of Mount Hood need to be protected in a way that balances other interests. In fact, the elected officials have taken time each week from their busy schedule in Washington, D.C., to meet over coffee and discuss forest issues.

For the past two years, they have also spent hours listening to polarized viewpoints over land-uses on the mountain. But Walden and Blumenauer believe there has been a common thread woven through these concerns — that the pristine qualities of the mountain be available for enjoyment by future generations of Oregonians. Sometimes that statement has heralded the call for more logging to stop fire danger from diseased and bug-infested trees. At other times it been expressed as an emphatic demand for greater Wilderness protection that restricts human access.

“We are going to contemplate what we have heard, consider what can be done and see where we can reach agreement. But, we’re not going to emerge with a final product — this will just be the beginning,” Walden said.

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