Dear fellow Oregonian,
The end of a busy summer of work both in the
nation’s capital and throughout central, southern and
eastern Oregon is approaching, but I’m still packing
in many public meetings before the district work
period ends and Congress reconvenes next week—in fact
right now I’m in the middle of a seven-day swing
covering 1,831 miles to attend 30 meetings and public
I held a televised town hall in central Oregon on
Friday hosted by BendBroadband’s “Talk of the Town.”
As with so many other town meetings, this one drew a
capacity crowd, and we had a real good and productive
community discussion largely focused on the health of
our federal forests and the bipartisan desire to once
again do environmentally responsible work in the
It will air beginning Monday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. on
BendBroadband’s COTV channel 11 and each Monday at 7
p.m. through the month of September. Once it airs on
Sept. 7, it will also be available on COTV On Demand.
At a time of fierce partisanship in Congress,
several of us who care deeply about America's forests
and the people and communities near them have gotten
together to form a bipartisan caucus to work on public
policy improvements to reduce wildfires and create
renewable resource jobs.
The fire outside Mosier and the blazes in southern
California’s national forests are a reminder to the
rest of the country of the disruptive and dangerous
power of catastrophic wildfire—and that our federal
forests are dangerously out of balance with nature.
Those who live in rural America know this all too
Because of this, I and three of my Democratic
colleagues — Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Brian Baird
(D-Wash.), and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) —
have agreed on a set of principles to expand the very
bipartisan and successful Healthy Forests Restoration
Act (HFRA), signed into law in 2003.
HFRA was supported by wide bipartisan margins in
both the House and Senate, including garnering the
support of Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden and Reps. Peter
DeFazio, David Wu, and Darlene Hooley.
Without waiving any existing environmental laws,
HFRA streamlined burdensome federal regulations to cut
through red tape and frivolous lawsuits to allow
management of overgrown federal forests. Where
implemented in the areas immediately surrounding rural
forested communities, it has succeeded in helping curb
catastrophic wildfire and improve forest health.
But since HFRA took effect in 2003, over 40 million
acres have burned in the United States, an area larger
than North Dakota. A recent study from the Western
Institute for Study of the Environment found that, to
offset to greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires in
California from 2001 to 2007, you’d have to lock up
all 14 million of the state’s cars for 3.5 years.
Federal scientists and foresters have asked to be
able to use the bipartisan HFRA tools in the areas
away from communities where forest health is assessed
as poor and catastrophic fires begin.
So, again without waiving any environmental laws,
our new bipartisan proposal would give federal
scientists and foresters the tools to manage our
forests to reduce catastrophic fire from choked,
diseased, and beetle-infested forests.
The debris we would take out of the forest is small
check out the piece of debris I’m holding in my left
hand in this photo. Once fuel like that is taken
out of the forests, it’s usually just piled up and
What our bipartisan proposal would do is help
encourage the emergence of the renewable biomass
energy industry. The stuff in the photo above could be
turned into energy,
like this biomass brick I’m holding in this photo.
The potential for new jobs is really exciting.
Yesterday morning I toured a potential new biomass
site in Josephine County. But a glitch in federal law
puts this new industry at a disadvantage when
competing for critical private investments and holding
its rightful place in America’s smarter energy future.
Our bipartisan proposal would give renewable
biomass energy the same incentives available to other
renewable energy technologies, and put rural Oregon on
an equal playing field with the rest of the country
when it comes to attracting the clean energy jobs that
will play such an important role in America’s smarter
We would also help jumpstart the industry by
encouraging schools, hospitals, and Forest Service and
BLM offices to switch over to biomass energy sources.
As The Bulletin reported, Harney District Hospital in
Burns “opted for a pellet heating
system for the new hospital, which opened in 2007. Hot
water and heating for the 55,000-square-foot facility
costs $10,000 a year…a savings of $60,000 to $100,000
relative to natural gas or heating oil.”
I’ll keep you posted as the process
moves forward. The bipartisan team plans to introduce
the legislation this month, since Congress reconvenes
on September 8.
Until then, I’ll be busy with
public meetings and events in Josephine, Jackson,
Klamath, and Lake counties for the rest of the week,
talking healthcare, forest health, and ways to
stimulate local economies back into job production.
Then it’ll be time to start my
377th round trip between Oregon and the nation’s
That’s all for now. Remember to join me on YouTube,
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