Congressman Greg Walden

November 6, 2003     FOR MP3 AUDIO CLICK HERE      

Walden Named Healthy Forests Restoration Act Conferee

Society of American Foresters urges swift conference negotiations with Senate, outlines recommendations for improvement to Senate version of Healthy Forests bill

WASHINGTON, DC – Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today designated Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) as a House conferee in negotiations with the Senate over the final version of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HR 1904).  At a Washington, D.C. news conference this afternoon, forest management reform proponents in the House, including Walden, Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA), and Congressman Scott McInnis (R-CO), pledged their willingness to begin conference discussions immediately with their Senate counterparts, which have thus far not been named.  

“We are nearing the end of a long effort to improve forest health and reduce the incidence of catastrophic wildfire.  I continue to be optimistic that we’ll be able to work out our differences with the Senate, but before that can happen we must have the opportunity to sit down with our Senate counterparts in formal discussions.  I am willing to meet anyplace and anytime with my Senate colleagues, and I hope they share my willingness to get a final bill passed soon.  The quick appointment of House conferees demonstrates our eagerness to work out our differences and send a bill to the President this fall.  The health of our forests and the safety of our communities depends on our ability to work together, and I'm hopeful that the Senate will respond in a like manner and appoint conferees immediately,” said Walden. 

Among the many organizations that have formally endorsed HR 1904, the Society of American Foresters has urged the “swift appointment of House and Senate conferees so both Houses can begin work to resolve differences in the legislation.”  In a November 3 letter to House Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the Society also outlined a number of recommendations to improve the Senate version of the Healthy Forests bill.  Among these were giving forest managers the tools to combat the threat of insect infestations, providing federal managers with latitude in interpreting old-growth restrictions, and ensuring that the Senate bill does not unnecessarily delay fuels reductions projects. 

Walden co-authored HR 1904, which the House passed on May 20 by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 256-170, including 42 Democrats.  The Senate approved its version of the bill last week, but has not yet appointed conferees to negotiate with the House over differences between the two bills. 

In addition to naming House conferees, today the House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion urging open meetings with Senate conferees to resolve differences between the House and Senate version of HR 1904 and to file a conference report no later than Thursday, November 13, 2003.  Walden and other forest management reform leaders in the House spoke in vigorous support of the resolution.  

Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes the 20 counties of central, southern and eastern Oregon.  He is a Deputy Whip and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Resources.