Congressman Greg Walden included Lakeview among his stops throughout the region on Thursday, Aug. 8, meeting with the Lake County Chamber of Commerce board to discuss a number of topics.
After addressing forestry-related discussions at the legislative level, Walden shared thoughts on the post-Barry Point Fire assessment and the importance of increasing forest management practices for prevention of similar events in the future. He said the cost of fire suppression is 4.5 times that of implementing prevention practices through effective forest management.
“We just need to make sure we never repeat (the Barry Point fire),” he said.
Lake County Commissioner Brad Winters commented on the importance of base funding for county road departments and schools, particularly as management on public lands begins and timber receipts as a result are generated.
Walden noted the need to get ahead of the curve once that begins on management priorities in order to ensure funding stability.
“I appreciate you working on it,” Winters said.
A major hang-up in forest management practices is at the federal level, Walden said, where extensive litigation puts progress effectively to a halt by environmental groups.
“It’s just kind of a cash machine,” he said, “and it just shuts down active management on our forests.”
A cyclical issue also exists in which limited funds for fuels reduction and preventative work due to most dollars being directed toward suppression.
Bills Walden voiced his support for included one that reigned in conferences at the federal level of government, which is primarily designed with accountability in mind. Another bill passed allows the public to record meetings with federal government officials, while yet another calls for a vote of Congress on any major legislation with a fiscal impact of $100 million or more.
On the economic front, Walden said the economy, at large, is showing improvements in spots, and a potential exists to bring stateside manufacturing back with the discovery of known natural gas and oil resources, which could reduce reliance on petroleum products from overseas.
Other discussion pertained to the importance of developing self-sufficiency in communities. Commissioner Winters noted the need for a return to partnerships with government agencies locally, in light of the vast amount of public land holdings in Lake County. Winters specifically asked for state dignitaries to speak on behalf of the rural communities to the federal agencies that previously served as active community partners. In more recent years, he said, they’ve been barred from doing so out of a conflict of interest.
Transportation infrastructure was also discussed, with Winters highlighting some of the improvement efforts to date on Hwy 140. He also voiced his belief of Lakeview’s potential as a transportation distribution center in the event that Hwy 97 were to become a major interstate freeway thoroughfare and U.S. 395 and Hwy 31 promoted as alternatives for easing congestion in that region.