Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 908, I call up the bill (H.R. 2781) to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of the Molalla River in Oregon, as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and for other purposes, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2781, introduced by our friend and colleague, a new Member of this House, Representative Kurt Schrader of Oregon. H.R. 2781 would add just over 21 miles of the Molalla River in northwestern Oregon to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This beautiful mountain river rises in the Cascade Range east of Salem. It flows through old-growth forests and deep-rock canyons until it meets the Willamette River near the town of Canby, Oregon.
More than 20,000 people in the towns of Canby and Molalla draw drinking water from the river. The Molalla is a short drive from Portland and is a popular destination for thousands of people who recreate along the river every year. Steelhead, salmon, and cutthroat trout rely on the river for crucial spawning and nursery habitat.
The river corridor served as a trail for indigenous tribes long before European settlers reached its banks, and early pioneers found the river a vital source of drinking water for homesteading, as well as an important trade route.
In more recent times, however, the river was the victim of neglect, with illegal dumping and other activities degrading the water quality. This degradation prompted creation of a broad-based coalition of more than 45 nonprofit, civic and conservation groups; local, regional, State, and Federal agencies; numerous waters users; and property owners dedicated to protecting and preserving the Molalla River.
The alliance is a leading supporter of Representative Schrader's bill, as well as the city of Molalla and Clackamas County. They believe the designation will help keep the Molalla clean and free-flowing, while attracting more visitors to the river corridor. More visitors, more fishermen, more kayakers, more campers, and more hikers mean more meals at local restaurants, more stays at local hotels, more customers for outfitters and guides, and more economic development for the local communities.
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today designates two segments of the Molalla River: 15.1 miles on the main stem and 6.2 miles on the Table Rock Floor. These designations are consistent with recommendations from the Bureau of Land Management, and the administration supports this legislation.
When Representative Schrader testified before the Natural Resources Committee on this bill, he asked the committee to consider whether this ``wild and scenic'' designation would have any impact on roughly 400 acres of timberland included in the corridor. As my colleagues are well aware, this is a significant issue in Oregon because the revenue generated by harvesting Federal timber is used to fund public education in the State.
Since the hearing, both Representative Schrader and the committee have clarified two important points: the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act does not prohibit logging, and there are no logging contracts in place or planned for the river corridor anyway. We were pleased to be able to resolve the concerns of the bill's sponsor.
Mr. Speaker, Congress created the Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968 to preserve rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in their free-flowing state. The Molalla is a worthy addition to that system. I commend Congressman Schrader for his hard work in crafting the bill and helping the committee prepare the bill for consideration by the House today.
I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 2781.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly rise to oppose this legislation, and I do so with a degree of conflicting views. Let me explain. On the one hand, I have fundamental concern with the impacts that wild and scenic river designations can have on surrounding property owners, river users, either upstream or downstream, and the restrictions that such designations can have on private citizens. Most importantly, such designations preclude the ability to make future decisions without--I
say, Mr. Speaker--without an act of Congress. There are many ways to protect and manage our rivers without imposing such absolute, permanent, and inflexible mandates that do not allow us to adapt to new circumstances, evolving environmental science, and changing public needs and views.
On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, I am sympathetic when a Member of the House proposes legislation that directly affects the district that he represents. I believe that we must be respectful of the views of those who are elected to represent a district, and this, Mr. Speaker, is a two-way street. It means affording a level of deference when a Member has a proposal that affects just his district, and it means an even stronger degree of respect and deference when a Member opposes an action that is
proposed in the district he was elected to represent.
It is very troubling to me, Mr. Speaker, to see bills introduced and referred to the Natural Resources Committee, as an example, that would have extensive and often drastic negative impacts on the economic livelihoods of local communities, workers, and their families in the Western part of the United States, but that are authored and sponsored by Members from the east coast and the Nation's biggest cities.
Mr. Speaker, this lack of respect on these issues is very troubling to me. Therefore, while I generally do not support such inflexible and restrictive river designations, I do have respect for the fact that Mr. Schrader of Oregon is a sponsor of this bill, and it directly affects his district.
At the same time, I must agree with the position clearly stated by Mr. Schrader during his testimony at the subcommittee hearing on this bill. At that hearing, Mr. Schrader said that he was sensitive to the fact that this river designation would impact over 400 acres of timber matrix lands. When timber is responsibly and sustainably harvested on these matrix lands, funds that come from these harvestings are provided directly to the local schools and communities in that area.
This is a way of partially compensating areas of the West that are home to high percentages of Federal land for Federal policies that limit economic development. These timber matrix lands are a commitment that's been made, and they're critical to the ability of hundreds of schools to properly educate their children and for the communities in these areas to provide essential services.
Mr. Schrader, to his credit, said he was sensitive to this harm that his bill would have on these lands and the schools and communities that depend on these lands. In his October 1 testimony, Mr. Schrader specifically stated, ``I would ask the chairman and ranking member to work with me and my staff to ensure there will be no net loss of the acres available for timber management as a result of this legislation.'' [Page: H13283]
Mr. Speaker, no such provision or protection or offset has been included in this bill despite the honest recognition and explicit request from Mr. Schrader that action needed to be taken to protect the lands important to the schools and communities in his district. Several efforts to amend the bill to simply provide that the lands be identified elsewhere to replace the 400-plus acres locked up under this river designation bill have been blocked.
The first blockage was in the Natural Resources Committee markup. On Tuesday, it was blocked by a Democrat majority on the Rules Committee. So it's been blocked two times. The need to address the loss of these timber matrix lands and the schools that depend on such lands was clearly identified and then ignored.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we learned on Tuesday, the day before yesterday, that 7 days earlier, on November 10, Mr. Schrader had sent a letter to the Natural Resources Committee chairman that appears to shift away from his subcommittee testimony that clearly asked for help in ensuring that the loss of timber lands be addressed in this legislation. This letter states, ``I am satisfied that this designation will not remove trees from the timber stock: there are no timber contracts in that area,
and no timber sales are planned.''
Mr. Schrader's letter further states that on the question of offsetting logging acreage, which he alluded to in his statement before the subcommittee, he says, ``I see no need to add such language to H.R. 2781 at this time.'' This letter of November 10 appears to directly contradict the gentleman from Oregon's public testimony on October 1.
Was the statement made in his testimony a mistake made in understanding the bill that he authored? Or is the position taken in his letter a reversal of his request for help on fixing the timber matrix land issue? When he states that language is not needed at this time, does he mean that his view on the need for offsetting the acreage may change in the future?
Mr. Schrader later implies that there is no reason to offset these lands because no current timber contract exists, nor are there logging plans at the current time. So this begs the question, Mr. Speaker: is the concern for school funding only today and not what will happen tomorrow or in the future?
Of course there are no logging jobs at this moment. It is well-known throughout the Northwest that timber harvest is at a standstill due to the struggling economy and the sharp drop in housing starts. In fact, just yesterday the Natural Resources Committee approved a bill to allow for existing Federal logging contracts to be extended due to the poor economic conditions. I think that's a good idea.
So yesterday, just to put this into perspective, the bad timber market is used to push legislation to ensure
existing contracts can be carried forward, but today the bad market is used as an excuse for legislation that will lock up hundreds of acres, not just until the market turns around but forever.
Mr. Speaker, these are not insignificant questions, and I think that there needs to be some clarification of that. So I hope very much that we have an opportunity to resolve this apparent discrepancy as this debate continues.
Again and again, this Congress acts to remove more and more land from the West from active, sustainable timber management. It is our schoolchildren that are paying the highest price, as school budgets are squeezed even tighter due to the actions of the Federal budget. You can't advocate for these schools and for wiser timber and forest management to ensure jobs in towns across the Northwest while at the same time advancing legislation that makes the problem permanently worse, and that's exactly
what this bill does.
Some may say, well, it's only 400 acres. Yet if that was such a small amount, then why the resistance to offsetting these lands? The offset ought to be easy if this issue is just a small acreage. The fact of the matter is is that this 400 acres comes on top of thousands and thousands of acres that have been locked up in recent years. Excusing these 400 acres today feeds the notion that tomorrow or next week perhaps we can excuse taking another 6,000 acres away from helping schools and rural communities.
I believe that Congress must take responsibility for its actions and the impact that it's having. It's time to demand that schoolchildren in small towns don't pay the price for the unwillingness of those in Congress to provide offsets for their actions. So it's for these reasons, Mr. Speaker--again, with deference to the gentleman who sponsored this bill, affecting only his district--that I must oppose this bill.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, I will yield as much time as he may consume to the sponsor of the legislation, Congressman Schrader, who did a magnificent job and had a collaborative effort with communities and agencies in bringing this legislation forward.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I thank very much the gentleman yielding.
As I mentioned in my opening statement, I am very sensitive to Members of Congress who have projects or issues within their districts to be able to do them. I just, as I mentioned in the committee and as I mentioned on the floor, I just have a general problem with the wild and scenic designation. It is on that principle that I rise to oppose this.
But I do want a clarification because I spent extensive time in my opening statement talking about your testimony in front of the subcommittee on this issue where you said very specifically that you recognized this as timber matrix land, and you wanted to work with the chairman and the ranking member, myself and Mr. Rahall, so there would be no net loss, meaning you would be open to transfer of lands or whatever the case may be. We attempted to accommodate you with an amendment that
we had that unfortunately was ruled nongermane, and so we didn't get a chance to address that. The second chance we had at that was in the Rules Committee where they can waive the rules, and they decided not to.
I would like to ask the question, it appears to me that now you have reversed your position because you have said that there is no potential timber harvest, and I would like you to clarify what you mean by that.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I just wish the gentleman would have yielded to me because he did not acknowledge his change of view of his testimony where these matrix lands are potential revenue if in fact they are harvested. He just simply said there will be no harvesting. But by passing this bill, you will forever, you will forever, Mr. Speaker, take those 400 acres out of ever being harvested. So that begs the question, if there is no logging now, what about in the future if the market turns around and there is a higher
demand, how do we go back and get these 400 acres or potentially 6,000 acres in the future? That is the question, and that is always the fundamental question on these issues.
Keep in mind, our national forest lands and our Federal lands were designed to be for multiple purpose, and that means commercial purposes. On timberland, that obviously means logging activity which benefits local communities.
And in this bill, I acknowledged in my opening statement, it is a small sector of land. Nevertheless, it is the principle. And the gentleman, unfortunately, did not respond to that particular issue. He just simply said the government when he said the bureau, but he didn't talk about the impact it would potentially have on local communities because of the lack of potential harvesting in the future.
I think a land transfer and trade would have been very easy to do, and that could have been accomplished if we had adopted the amendments that we offered in committee, and the amendment that was denied to be even debated on this floor, which seems to be a pattern, but that is another story. So these potential 400 acres will now be gone forever if this bill were ever to become law. The drip, drip, drip of acreage being taken away leads to other issues.
So while I respect the gentleman, and he talked very clearly about the potential benefits, I suspect that there will be a time in the future, if this bill were to become law, that there will be an ensuing lawsuit that will probably tie up some of the activity that he hopes to preserve for future tourism. Why do I say that? Because that has been a pattern, unfortunately, in many parts of the West.
I have always felt that Federal lands ought to be multiple use, and when you put restrictions on them, you put restrictions not only on commercial activity but on recreational activity. That is where this goes. But this issue here is very simple. The communities [Page: H13285]
that depend on the revenue coming from commercial activities on these lands are, under this bill, denied forever in the future from getting any revenue from those lands.
With that, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. QUIGLEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Molalla River Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. I came to Congress, like many others, to continue work on conservation efforts with similar-minded legislators from across the country.
But today, we have heard concerns that increased regulation would negatively affect industry and private landowners. This is simply not true.
On November 5, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office reported, ``The affected segments, which total about 21 miles, are already protected for wilderness values, and the proposed designation would not significantly affect the way they are administered.''
We protect these beautiful, powerful, and spiritual landmarks for our children so they may know the great lands of our lifetime. Indeed, our legacy is what we leave behind for our children's children. If we dare disrupt these natural treasures, we will forget why we have protected them in the first place.
I want to thank the sponsor for his efforts to move this legislation forward.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.
In response to my friend from Arizona, the subcommittee chairman, he said that logging, or commercial activity, could happen on these lands, specifically logging. But there is a proviso in there, as long as there is, and I will paraphrase, nondegradation of the existing area.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have been around this business long enough to know that when there is a term like that and someone is opposed to some action or commercial activity, boom, you go to court right away, which means the costs go up, and, therefore, there are no contracts. And so you have de facto locked up these lands from any commercial activity. I think that is wrong.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the courtesy and the leadership of my friend from Arizona in permitting me to speak on this bill.
It is my honor to share the representation of Clackamas County, Oregon, with my friend and colleague, Congressman Schrader. While I don't represent this particular area, it is an area that is known to me and one that I am pleased that he has been able to assemble a broad coalition at home to have meaningful legislation literally within a few months of his joining this body.
This is an area that should never be logged. That is one of the reasons he has been able to assemble a broad coalition of interests in our community to make sure that it is given the wild and scenic designation.
I have worked for years with the Clackamas County Commission, a group of men and women that is very sensitive to the dynamics of forest resources, agriculture, and industry. Clackamas County is a very diverse area that represents Oregon itself. I have worked with them on a number of wilderness provisions, and I will tell you that the agreement of the Clackamas County Commission does not come easily. They want to make sure that they know what they are getting into. They want to make sure that
they are protecting the economic resource base. They are well aware that some of the revenues that come from our national forest lands find their way into local communities, particularly education. That is why it took us years to work on legislation that President Obama signed into law in his first weeks in office with the National Wilderness Act.
The homework has been done here. This is an area, as the chairman mentioned, as the sponsor mentioned, that is not affecting any, any, land that will be harvested now or, frankly, into the future. You ask the people in that community whether they would like to, at some point, risk this precious resource and they will tell you no.
This is an area, however, that is going to generate a great deal of economic activity. The gentleman from Canby referenced the proximity to the metropolitan area, that people who are kayakers, hikers, fishermen, other recreationalists already flock to this year-round. The designation and the protection of the Wild and Scenic Act is going to enhance that.
Now ours is a State, unlike my friend from the State of Washington, that has protected far more of their forest resources. Oregon doesn't protect that much. In fact, that is why we are working to provide a greater array of protections for recreation, for water resources. This is an important step.
I would like to express my appreciation to the sponsor for zeroing in on this early, for assembling an unprecedented coalition in Clackamas County of people who understand this is important today and in the future. I appreciate his being clear that his county would not be at risk economically, raising the question and working with the committee and the administration to make sure that that is dealt with. And anybody who has watched the career of this gentleman over a decade in the State of Oregon
knows that he is in tune with the district and their needs. He has a long record of working with the natural resource industries, most particularly the timber industry. Whether or not they happen to agree on any particular item, he has enjoyed the support and respect from the timber industry because he does his job right.
And the committee and the sponsor have done their job right with this piece of legislation. It's going to make a difference for the county that we both represent and the State of Oregon for generations to come.
I salute his leadership, and look forward to supporting it and hope that this is another signing ceremony that we can share at the White House.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman would hang around, I will be more than happy to interact with him. He made a point I would like to elaborate on, and I will yield to him to follow up.
He said two things in his remarks. He said, I believe, that this is an area that should never be logged. Listen, I respect the fact that he has that position. He's very straightforward. I mean, I have no problem with that position. I may disagree with it, but I certainly have no problem with that position. But if that is the case and that is the argument and the fact is that this land is never going to be lost, then for goodness sakes why didn't we take into consideration the fact that there
are 400-plus acres that could have easily been transferred in a land transfer to someplace else to keep at least the economic viability in hand? That was not done. The gentleman from Oregon, the sponsor of this bill, asked for that. I was certainly willing to accommodate that, and we did that in our amendment.
Now, if the idea is that you're going to lock up these lands forever, at least that's being straightforward. But that certainly isn't how this has been talked about and debated here on the floor today.
Secondly, the gentleman from Oregon, again, the one from downtown Portland, made this observation: he said that Washington has more lands that are designated like this than Oregon, the implication meaning that maybe they want to catch up.
Let me offer maybe a little different twist on that because I stated, based on my experience in my State that when you have designations like this, you restrict the access to those areas. Now, hopefully that doesn't happen. Hope springs eternal. Every time we have this sort of activity in Washington State, this issue is brought up and don't worry, and then you look in the future and it happens. It happened with a particular part of my district, for example, that was designated a wilderness area
20-some years ago, and we're [Page: H13286]
having a dickens of a time just trying to get the road to that area opened. Why? Because of the restrictions.
So I will just tell my friends from Oregon that if they want to catch up with Washington, then you'd better watch out what you're trying to catch up to, because what you're catching up to is more restrictive activity.
Now, it's 10 minutes to 10 back in the Pacific time zone. I am sure there are a lot of interested folks that are affected by this. I hope that they would take that part into consideration, and I hope they would take that part into consideration that, yes, these lands could be potentially logged as long as there was no degradation. Look at that word ``degradation'' and connect the dots as to how that would end up in court if, in fact, there were a contract.
All of these things are real, Mr. Speaker, and so I just bring them up.
Mr. WALDEN. I thank the gentleman, and I thank him for his leadership.
Mr. Speaker, I stand up today on this bill, and I actually intend to support it because I think I may differ with my colleague from Washington about some things. But the fundamental issue that I'm upset about is the notion that we can protect lands somehow by never doing anything again on them. And certainly there are areas and I've supported some of these new wilderness designations. I've tried to do it in a bipartisan way and tried to help. But doggone it, there are a whole bunch of other lands.
The majority of lands in our State are Federal forested lands that are completely out of balance with nature, that cry out for good stewardship and balanced management. And I hope Washington never has to catch up to Oregon when it comes to unemployment.
You get out in parts of my district in eastern Oregon, and we are pushing 20 percent unemployment in county after county. And all too often the biggest economic activity that occurs in the summer is not the harvesting of dead trees; it's the making of lunches for firefighters as catastrophic wildfire takes over.
Now, my colleague from Oregon, Mr. Schrader, and I are working on legislation with others, Mr. Hastings and others, that will allow us to go out into the forest and treat these lands. It is a crying shame and I think absolutely erroneous to argue that the only way you protect is to lock up and ignore.
This Congress, under Democrat leadership and with the good chairman who took the gavel I used to have when I chaired the Forestry Subcommittee, I hope will actually give us a hearing on our legislation after it's introduced and will actually give it due consideration, as in give us a hearing, give us a markup, let us put it into law.
Let's take the Healthy Forests Restoration Act that passed in an overwhelming bipartisan manner by both Houses of this Congress and was signed into law in 2003 that has been very successful around our urban interface areas and wildland urban interface, where we can go in and thin out the brush, work with the communities in collaboration and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Let's take those authorities that are now proven and workable and save taxpayer money because they're efficient
and expand those out so we can protect watersheds, so that we can get ahead of these bug infestations that are killing off enormous swaths of Federal forest.
And I don't sense that the chairman--and I'd love to know if he'll take this up--I don't know if he supported the Healthy Forests Restoration Act when it was before the House, but it just so frustrates the people I represent and others that we may argue over a river here or something there and meantime the whole forest is dying, not just in the Northwest and on the east side, pine forest, but you get in Colorado and look at the damage there.
Members of both sides of the aisle in Colorado have called for special initiatives to allow thinning there to get ahead of that bug infestation that's killing the pine. You look, frankly, at what has happened across the border in Canada. These are enormous infestations. And if you're concerned about climate change, then you have to have understood that if temperature is rising, the forests can't keep pace with the change.
So if you want to do something to protect the forests for the future, then you need to thin them out now to be able to get out of drought and further stress and further bug infestation. And in doing so, we can reduce the cost to the taxpayers because we will get the forests back into balance; and when they catch fire, it will burn naturally and actually be fine.
And, by the way, we can put people to work; and that's what this ought to be about. This House should be addressing how you actually use the resources we have in a manageable and responsible way to put people back to work, whether you're in John Day or you're in Prineville or you're in Baker City or out in Wallowa County.
It's amazing the policies that have been put in place that restrict our access to our own forests, that even are so tight, so restrictive, you can't even cut a burned dead tree while it still has value and run it through a mill and make a productive wood out of it, lumber out of it.
No, we'd rather have some other country do that and then we'll import it, while our stuff stands there and rots. Then, oh, by the way, that becomes the breeding ground for some next expansion of some bug infestation that will take the next healthy forest. You drive around Suttle Lake in central Oregon and tell me we couldn't have prevented the fire that destroyed things there.
I can show you where when the Forest Service was given the ability to thin before this enormous fire a couple of years ago, the trees that they thinned around lived. Where they were denied access to go in and do forest recovery work, it destroyed everything. Oh, it will recover. None of us will probably be alive to see it. We might be. But, you know, it shouldn't be that way. It doesn't have to be that way.
So while we debate this bill here today on the Molalla River and the Willamette Valley, there's a bigger issue we should be bringing to this floor, and it is about how we are entrusted with the stewardship of America's great forests, those reserved and set aside beginning in 1935 by Theodore Roosevelt, who, by the way, when he did that speech in Utah, said the great purpose of forest reserves is, first, water for agriculture and, second, home-building. Now most people don't attribute that to
Theodore Roosevelt, and you can go look up his speech in Utah, but that's what it was for.
Now, obviously there are things that we need to do in our forests for other purposes than those two; but, clearly, protecting watersheds is an essential stewardship obligation that this Congress for too long has not done enough to deal with. And part of it, sure, we can add more money here and more money there and that can be good and we can debate how much, but the real issue is the underlying law that needs to be fixed so that our forest managers who are trained professionals can go out to
do what they were trained to do.
Can you imagine, let's say, if you were a veterinarian, and I don't know if there are any on the floor, maybe Mr. Schrader, but if you were a veterinarian and you had to go through the process a forester has to go through to treat an animal, you might as well shoot it in the head because it's never going to survive long enough to get the treatment you know you need to prescribe.
So let's be reasonable about these things. We've done it before in a bipartisan way. We can do it again before America's great forest reserves go up in smoke and are destroyed. You go back to that Colorado example when the Hayman fire occurred and that whole watershed, the pictures of the mud coming into their drinking water and the dead fish. We don't have to live that way.
But simply making the argument, as one of my friends made, that, well, we're just behind the next State in terms how much we set aside and don't ever do anything with and ignore is the wrong argument in my book, and so I would respectfully disagree with my friend from Oregon who made that argument because I don't think that's the measurement of good stewardship.
The measurement of good stewardship is how you take care of it for the future, what you leave for the next generation, and that doesn't mean you never touch it again. It means active [Page: H13287]
management where it's appropriate. It means saving our watersheds and habitat for all God's creatures; and it means, by the way, in doing so, we can figure out a way to turn biomass into energy and turn our natural resources into jobs. That's what we need. And it can be
hand in hand, and it can be responsibly done.
Mr. SCHRADER. Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank my colleague from the eastern part of the great State of Oregon for supporting this bill. He's an acknowledged forest policy expert in his caucus; and if he thinks the bill has merit, I would hope that the rest of his colleagues would, too.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
I really appreciate my friend from Oregon, Mr. Walden, making his statement because this is just a very, very small part of the complex issues surrounding our national forest lands, and I thought he put it very much into perspective.
I too in my State in the last several years have suffered from a number of forest fires. And it gets very, very frustrating that after the fire is put out that the potential harvestable leftover there is subject to litigation and you can never harvest it, which simply means that that timber becomes fuel for the next fire, and yet that is our policy.
How that relates to this bill is that the focus, at least on my part, and I acknowledge that it is a very small portion and it's only 400 acres, but we are forever taking those 400 acres out of potential commercial activity.
And it just seems to me that this is one part of it that we ought to be at least working and dealing cautiously with, because it's symptomatic of the larger issue of timber management in this country, as so eloquently stated by the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden).
So, Mr. Speaker, I am going to reserve my time at this point.
Mr. WU. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this legislation to designate about 21 miles of the Molalla River in Clackamas County, Oregon, as ``wild and scenic.'' It is a Federal designation that will help preserve the Oregon character of this beautiful river. The Molalla is a prime example of accessible, valued natural settings that Oregonians cherish as an essential component of our living standard. Beyond the essential function of supplying water to communities in Clackamas County, each
year the river attracts thousands of boaters, hikers, and fishermen from up and down the Willamette Valley, from around Oregon, including eastern and central Oregon, and indeed, from around the country. I, myself, have floated this river, have fished this river, and appreciate its wild splendor, whether it's osprey fishing for trout themselves, or beaver and other animals swimming through the rivers.
It's also true that in these very tough economic times the protection of special natural spaces like the Molalla supports Oregon's vibrant and crucial outdoor recreation industry, an industry which supplies 73,000 jobs and injects $5.8 billion into Oregon's economy each year. That is why this bill has the support of diverse community leaders and groups, not just environmental groups, not just recreation groups, but economic leaders and community leaders, elected and appointed.
From cities to counties, neighborhood associations, to recreational groups, sportsmen groups to environmental organizations, we all appreciate the pragmatic protection of our rivers and natural areas in a comprehensive, inclusive and fair way. This bill will ensure that Oregonians will always be able to enjoy what the Molalla River has to offer.
I want to commend my good friend and colleague from Oregon, Congressman Schrader, for bringing this important bill before this body. I thank him, and ask for everyone to support this legislation.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I inquired a moment ago how much time. How much time again? And if I could inquire of my friend from Arizona again if there's any speakers. I noted that the gentleman from Oregon came down, and that's why I reserved. And I just wonder if the gentleman has any more speakers.
Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time.
Mr. Speaker, I made reference several times in my remarks of the unintended consequences, or alluded to unintended consequences, that happen with legislation like this. And let me give you a real-life example, and again, I alluded to it in my remarks.
I'm talking specifically about the Stehekin town at the end of Lake Chelan in my district. This is a town that has no roads going into it. The only way you can get there is by boat, up the Lake Chelan, or by an airplane that can land on the lake. This is a gateway to a wilderness area, and this wilderness designation was made some 20 years ago. There's a road that goes back about 20 miles to hit the wilderness area. This is an economic driver for the town of Stehekin.
Well, unfortunately, the road is in a wilderness area, and this is the unintended consequence, because you get a lot of snowfall in the Cascades, and this road gets washed out occasionally. It got completely washed out several years ago, and the obvious solution to that is to repair the road so that you can still have access to the wilderness area. But you have the one problem in this particular case, and that is, the road is in a wilderness area, which means there's no wiggle room. And so, it
is literally taking an act of Congress, Mr. Speaker, to rebuild a dirt road to give access to a wilderness area.
Now, I'm sure that that wasn't intended when this bill was passed by the Congress before I got here in the late 1980s. I'm sure that that was not the case, and yet, we passed the bill out of the House, I'm very pleased, in a bipartisan note. But just think about this principle. This is a road that gives you access to a wilderness area, but it happens to be on wilderness land. An act of nature washes out that land, and it takes an act of Congress, for goodness sakes, to make it whole again so
you have economic activity.
Several Members, several of my colleagues from Oregon have talked about the great economic activity that this designation is going to have. I hope they're right. But they should take into account a real life example in a small part of a State just north of them, namely, what's happened to the community of Stehekin at the top end of Lake Chelan in my district, because these are the real-life happenings and the unintended consequences that happen when you give total authority to the Federal Government.
I hope it doesn't happen on the Molalla River, I truly don't. But I suspect, as I said earlier in my remarks, that that very well may be the case. And so I think that story is worth retelling, Mr. Speaker, because it's not told enough. The town of Stehekin is a very small town, and the issue isn't done yet. That bill is in the Senate. I certainly hope it passes.
But I might mention one other irony. Those that are opposed, that were opposed to rebuilding that road, they don't live in Washington State. They live in other areas of the country. Why? Because you cannot damage wilderness. Even though this happens to be an economic lifeline, I'm sure it was the unintended consequences that they're talking about.
So, Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly rise, as I said in my opening remarks, to oppose this designation, not because the gentleman from Oregon, the sponsor of the bill, is doing what he thinks his constituents want. I respect that. I really do. I just have experienced firsthand enough in my time in Congress to [Page: H13288]
see that this leads to unintended consequences, and there are better ways to management and probably to provide economic activity surrounding the Molalla
River than going this far.
The second point is, we could have accommodated the gentleman from Oregon's concern about taking this timber matrix out with a simple land exchange. We're only talking about 400 acres. Yet, it was denied twice: once in committee and once by the Rules Committee. So those 400 acres, albeit small, are locked up forever. But, as I said, 400 acres today, maybe it will be 6,000 acres in the future. There's certainly been thousands of acres in the past.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I rise reluctantly to oppose this bill.
I yield back my time.
Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, during the course of this debate, we interchanged ``wilderness'' for ``wild and scenic river'' designations throughout. But I think the point that Mr. Hastings made was an important one. And all of us were happy to work with Mr. Hastings to address the wilderness road issue that it raised. It was in his district. He wanted it. He wanted to get it fixed, and so it was done.
This is Mr. Schrader's district, and he wants it so we should respect that as well. I want to also congratulate him on the fine work. This was a participatory process, stakeholders at the table. It was a process that everybody has an investment in, and the consequence of that process, and the fine work done by Mr. Schrader, is that we have buy-in, and we have tremendous support for it.
Part of what we were talking about today as well were the claims. First, it was claims that this would stop logging. We pointed out that there was no logging on the land due to a management prerogative by the Bush administration. Then it was claimed, well, this might stop logging in the future. We pointed out that the wild and scenic rivers designation and the act does not stop logging in the future. So, then it was claimed, well, litigation might stop logging. Well, as the claims and the discussion
changes, the argument keeps changing. I think this is a good piece of legislation. I urge all my colleagues to support it.
I yield back the balance of my time.