The Congressman on the Mountain

Earl blumenauerLast week, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congressman Greg Walden took a four-day hike around Mt. Hood - and while there was plenty of press coverage, not many folks knew that Blumenauer was blogging from the mountain (via digital voice recording).

Some snippets from the first day...

I’d forgotten how much I really enjoy this, walking through this amazing landscape in superb weather and good company. ...

We’ve passed several groups of serious backpackers and I find myself annoyed to see larger parties on the trail, interrupting my reverie. I then realize that we too are one of those parties and wonder what they think of us. We get past them as soon as possible or they accelerate and leave us in their dust. We’ve worked hard to make sure that we stay under the 12-person wilderness limit.

Now we’re walking through a little valley and there’s a young golden eagle circling overhead. It’s hard to keep moving; I just want to watch the graceful arc to see if it will strike. Instead of striking, however, it's almost motionless, searching for a marmot or some such creature in the rocks.

Of course, being a Congressman, Earl can't help but ponder the policy questions:

Who should benefit from the sales of our natural resources? Should we continue to subsidize timber or mineral sales or, in some cases, give these resources away virtually free? Should we put teeth into enforcing existing environmental laws, in order to avoid the haunting specter of environmental degradation that is the legacy of coal extraction in Kentucky, West Virginia, Montana, and Pennsylvania? How do we calibrate the recreational and water quality of our mountain? Are there ways to subsidize clean water from better forestry practices? Part of the answer, it seems to me, is to stop giving away the nation's treasures and develop a much different philosophy about the patents and royalties and severance fees that we collect. Working more as partners, providing fewer gifts to specific industries, focusing more on providing a legacy to future generations, and mandating stronger environmental protections to eliminate the need for staggering recovery costs seems a much more common-sense approach.

Check out the rest of Earl's Mt. Hood blog - and then come back here to discuss.

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    [off-topic comment deleted. -Editor.]

  • Beth (unverified)

    Yes, Blumenauer is seeing it! Appropriate valuation of our resources in economic terms must include recognition of its function in our survival as a species. Learning how to design and implement policy based on actual value of form and function of our natural resources and the web of life in order to sustain and enhance our environment, high quality of life, and ability to live in the world indefinitely is the bottom-line in its purest form!

    Just how much does it cost to plan, build and maintain water purification and delivery systems to serve a populace presently served by a river, its intact and functional watershed, and its fully charged aquifer without loss of quality and quantity? How much would that cost in today's dollars? What if you add in multiple benefits such as food resource (fish), recreation, and spiritual nourishment? Could anyone afford to build such a system?

    Why would a sane society tolerate destructive grazing practices on wild lands for a fee of a couple of dollars per animal (undervalued public land/resources), or mining, timber removal, or oil drilling for pennies on the dollar for support of private industry (corporate welfare)? These extractive practices are not measured by any standard which includes the true costs of these practices to the American public.

    If we added in all the connected costs of going to war for oil such as maintaining and outfitting a military (even on the cheap),weapons, R & D, supplies,fuel, private contractors, mercenaries, public relations, lives, livelihoods - what do you think we're really paying for a gallon of gas? There are lots of hidden costs to the way we choose to do things in this country.

    Keep thinking and seeing, Mr. B! You're onto something!

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