By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
February 22, 2006
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., felt it was only fitting to kick off a re-election campaign in his hometown of Hood River on Monday.
He then departed on a week-long trip through seven counties in eastern and southern Oregon that will cover more than 1,800 miles.
Walden, 49, is asking residents of the Second Congressional District to support his bid for a fifth term in the federal office.
To protect national interests, he intends to advocate for more renewable energy projects that decrease America’s dependence on foreign fuels.
On the local front, Walden wants to ensure that a master plan is approved that blends recreational interests on Mount Hood with resource protection.
“I have a reputation of bringing people together from disparate viewpoints to find real solutions for today’s problems,” said Walden. “I’m willing to take on tough challenges and spend the time it takes to get results.”
He contends that an elected official should be willing to wade into deep political waters to serve his/her constituents. Since taking office in 1998, Walden has tackled many “hot button” issues involving natural resource use and protection.
He currently serves as chair of the House Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health. Walden also sits on the House Resource Committee and takes those oversight roles to heart.
“I’m not afraid to take on controversial issues because I think that’s why we’re elected. People want us to solve problems, not ignore them,” he said.
Walden believes that his ability to reach across partisan lines was demonstrated early in his public career. In 2000 he successfully introduced the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, setting aside 174,000 acres of desert Wilderness in southeastern Oregon. An added feature of that legislation was that 100,000 of those acres were designated as the nation’s first “cow-free” Wilderness.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., signed onto the Steens Mountain proposal and a working relationship developed between the two federal officials. By the end of March, Walden and Blumenauer will unveil their “multi-tiered” master plan for Mount Hood. That proposal will incorporate testimony given from four public summits and expert opinions delivered in a panel discussion.
In December, Walden and Blumenauer initially proposed 75,000 acres of new Mount Hood Wilderness, a 40 percent increase. That addition was largely accepted by the conservation community as a “starting point” for greater resource preservation. Also crafted into the “compromise” plan were 20.9 more miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers protection along three waterways, including the middle fork of the Hood River.
Walden said it has been no small feat to create regulations that not only protect resources but maximize recreational opportunities for the four million people that visit Mount Hood each year.
“There are some members who go to Congress with a partisan approach. To me that’s a waste of time and energy,” said Walden. “I would much rather spend my time trying to build consensus.”
Concern over the health of National Forest lands led Walden in 2005 to sponsor the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act.
He said he has gained broad support from members of Congress for the “common sense” plan to provide federal land managers with the tools needed to expedite recovery efforts following a catastrophic event.
“We need to clean up the dead and dying timber in our forests so that green trees can grow in their place,” he said.
Last year, Walden also began working with Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., to ensure that taxpayers were getting a good return from the billions spent to preserve endangered fish runs.
The Northwest officials want to determine if more than $2 billion poured annually into recovery programs is effective or if harvest levels needed to be lowered.
With all of that on his legislative plate, Walden still makes time to visit all 20 counties in his district at least twice each year — while maintaining his 99 percent voting attendance record in Washington, D.C.
He believes the trips “home” are necessary since hearing from his constituents keeps him on task. So, he has racked up 263 round trips flying between his native Oregon and the nation’s capital in the last seven years.
“I think communication is helpful and I always encourage it, even if it is critical of my efforts,” said Walden. “There’s nobody in Congress that knows everything and we tremendously benefit when people share their knowledge.”