Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., applauded the House Rules Committee on Wednesday for sending the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526) to the full U.S. House for debate and passage. But an aide expressed disappointment about President Obama's threat to veto the legislation.
“This is a big step forward towards making federal forest policy work for rural communities, in Oregon and across our nation," Walden said.
"A green light from the Rules Committee is the final step before consideration by the full House, a process that could begin as soon as tomorrow (Thursday)," the congressman said. "I look forward to passing this plan out of the House as soon as possible. Rural communities can’t wait any longer. Now is the time to get this done for Oregon.”
But the White House is threatening to veto the bill to boost logging on national forests, including a provision aimed at producing more money for Oregon's timber counties.
The "statement of administration policy" issued Wednesday says if the bill were presented to President Obama, his senior advisers would recommend a veto.
It says the bill would harm national forests and the government's obligations to manage them by sidestepping environmental laws, which would lead to more conflict and delay.
The bill includes a provision developed by members of the Oregon delegation to turn over half the so-called O&C lands in Western Oregon to a state-appointed trust that would manage them for timber production.
The administration says that would harm habitat for endangered species, and increase the chance of lawsuits.
But Walden said the bill renews the federal government’s commitment to actively manage federal forests to create jobs in the woods, improve forest health, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, and provide revenue for local communities to provide essential local services like schools and law enforcement.
The bill contains the O&C Trust, Conservation, and Jobs plan written by Walden and two of his colleagues from Oregon, Reps. Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. He said their proposal would create or save thousands of jobs in Oregon, provide revenues to failing Oregon counties, help sustain the local manufacturing base, and end the status quo of gridlock litigation.
As for the president's stance, Walden aide Andrew Malcolm said, "The veto threat is very disappointing and shows a clear disconnect from reality."
"The White House fails to understand what's happening in rural communities in Oregon and throughout the West," Malcolm said. "Mills are closing, counties are literally going broke, and wildfire season seems to get worse and worse every year."
"The status quo isn't working. This broken system has to change. The O&C plan has broad support in Oregon, from communities to county sheriffs and DAs to business leaders to labor unions. We are proud of that support, and we look forward to the forestry bill passing with bipartisan support in the House in the coming days."