The Blueprint Behind the Blueprint

Yesterday, Congressmen Greg Walden and Earl Blumenauer unveiled a joint plan to simultaneously protect Mt. Hood and open it up to more recreation.  The plan

would put 75,000 new acres of wilderness permanently off limits to development. It also seeks to improve recreation and transportation options on the mountain, and cull overcrowded forests that are turning more and more flammable.

It would expand wilderness protections on Mount Hood across roughly 40 percent more acres. While it's less than many environmental groups have pushed for, the congressmen said it offers a better chance at success in a Congress cautious about new land protections.

Blumenauer and Walden are poster pols for their respective parties--a civic-minded urbanite and a rugged, rural individualist.  Their sole overlapping purview--both metaphorically and geographically--is towering Hood-san, which is a paradise for the vegan and logger alike. The proposal they have produced is a genuine compromise--constituencies of neither man will call this a home run.  Yet particularly when Democrats have so little influence in Washington, this will advance serious protections for the environment. 

Does this kind of bipartisan compromise represent the future for liberal legislation, or its death-knell?


  • Coho (unverified)

    At 75,000 acres, this isn't a plan to protect Mt. Hood, it is a "help Greg Walden hide his awful environmental record so he can run for Governor/Senator" plan.

    Sen. Wyden had legislation last year to protect nearly 180,000 acres of wild forest on Mt. Hood, and it had some pretty big compromises with development interests. Perhaps we should just pave over all the pristine land left on the mountain and call it the "Greg Walden Wilderness Area."

  • Duke (unverified)

    75,000 acres? I have to admit to being underwhelmed. Republican leaders like Hatfield and Packwood managed to protect over 100,000 acres in 1984 and that was when they were in the minority. Like Coho says, even Wyden, who's not exactly a ragin' greenie, introduced a bill that would have protected more than twice the Walden/Blumenauer proposal-why didn't they build upon that platform rather than coming up with this bare bones idea?

    Walden seems pretty capable of passing legislation when he wants to. He may just not want this very badly.

    Just my two cents.

  • John Bromley (unverified)

    Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. If Blumenauer and Walden can pass their plan to add 75,000 acres to the protected wilderness on Mt. Hood with the current administration, it is an outstanding gift. More acres can always be added later. We should all strongly support this effort.

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    I agree with John on this one. It's a classic political dilemma--go for incremental change, or the whole kielbasa. A classic example of this contrast were Oregon and Vermont in the 1990s. In Oregon, we had a liberal governor whose baby was health care. He managed to get OHP through, but watched as it was chipped away over the course of his tenure. In Vermont, Dean pursued incremental change--what good liberals probably decried as a sellout at every step along the way. Yet by the time his tenure was done, those increments had resulted in impressive decreases in uninsured rates.

    We can hold out for 180k or more and watch it die as quickly as Wyden's did. Or we can take 75k now, in the middle of the most dominant GOP regime in decades. Seems like an easy call to me.

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    I agree. We can add 75,000 acres now and protect those acres. And then we can keep fighting to add more as well as fighting to put Dems back in the majority in Congress.

    Protecting those 75,000 acres now means that they're safe-- I'm all for protecting a piece at a time if that's the only way we can do it. And as long as it's a beginning, not an end.

  • Jackie Altaco (unverified)

    "Sen. Wyden had legislation last year to protect nearly 180,000 acres of wild forest on Mt. Hood..."

    And where did Senator Wyden's bill go? Nowhere. It died a quick death with almost no fanfare in the last Congress. If Blumenauer and Walden can produce a plan that will increase wilderness on the mountain by 40 percent and that can actually be legislated in this political climate, count me in.

  • Chad (unverified)

    I'd have to disagree with John and Jeff on the "gift horse" analogy. The Sierra Club, OSPIRG, ORNC and Audubon have been working on Oregon wilderness legislation for decades now, so if it's a horse, it's one Oregonians have earned through their letter writing, ground work and organizing.

    By some counts there are almost 5 million acres of Oregon's national forests that qualify for wilderness. At 75,000 acres every 10 years it will only take us another 665 years to save what's left.

    Of course, that's assuming no one's paving over or cutting down any of the remaining 5 million acres during that time-a somewhat optimistic view given recent trends.

    I believe in and understand the appeal of incremental change, but the increments need to be substantial.

  • Carolyn (unverified)

    Per Chad's point about the Sierra Club, OSPIRG, ONRC, and Audubon working on wilderness legislation for decades now, tell me how successful their effort has been? How many acres of wilderness have been protected in the past 20 years? None. The fact that there's a chance that a 75,000 acre wilderness bill - 40% more than is currently there - could pass this Congressional session is HUGE! Let's start with 75,000 and come back for more when the Democrats take back the House next year!

  • RJ (unverified)

    I'm so sick of enviros and other liberals who would rather be right then get things done. If we can get something (and 75,000 acres seemes like something) that is better than getting nothing!

    Sure, I'd rather have more but to take action to stop something good to fight for something better (that doesn't have a chance in hell of passing in this Administration) seems stupid.

    Let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Oh and by the way, I still haven't forgiven Ron for voting to take away Habeas Corpus!

  • Coho (unverified)

    How many acres of Wilderness have been protected in the last 20 years? Let's see...

    Mark Hatfield's Oregon-wide Wilderness bill in the mid 1980's protected 900,000 (a REPUBLICAN bill signed into law by Ronald Reagan!)

    Mark Hatfield's Opal Creek bill in 1996 protected nearly 30,000 acres.

    Steens Mountain Wilderness in 2000 protected 170,000 acres.

    Adding 75,000 acres of Wilderness on Mt. Hood is certainly a good thing... but what about the other 200,000 acres? Coming back for another bill in a decade or two sounds great... except for that fact that in the meantime much of that land will have been logged, turned into condominiums, or converted into new resorts.

    Walden and Blumenauer deserve praise for joining with Wilderness supporters and backing something, even if it is small. But this isn't a visionary plan. It is a tiny peice of legislation that protects a handful of the places on Mt. Hood that deserve Wilderness designation.

    Greg Walden is the guy who has spent the last decade trying to gut the Endangered Species Act, salmon restoration efforts, and forest protection. It would be unfortunate if a tiny Wilderness bill becomes his shield behind which to hide his real environmental record when he runs for Governor or US Senate.

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    Chad and Coho,

    Another way to think about this is Lakoff's "framing." Coho, you mentioned that Hatfield protected forests, and indeed, he was not alone in the Republican party. Do you think he could do that now? In the 60s and 70s, as the environment was emerging as a policy issue, Republicans were keen to back protections. It was popular. But a funny thing happened in 1980--Reagan was elected. Through very careful language management, protecting the environment has now come to be seen by a large part of the country as a radical, fringe thing.

    I have no crystal ball, but the context in seeing this proposal become law is instructive: a GOP congressman endorsing environmental protection. This "reframes" the discussion so that it's not the radicals versus the commonsensicals. By endorsing this plan, environmental protection again becomes something rural Oregonians will consider outside the context of fanatic enviros in Portland. This can lay the foundation for future deals, as what becomes "common sense" changes in the mind of the public.

    Or anyway it's one theory.

  • rosa (unverified)

    I've actually attended all of Blumenauer and Walden's summits, and one thing that struck me is that in hearing hundreds of people talk, every person, whether they are a wilderness lover, a timber harvest advocate, a mountain biker, Native American, a ski resort owner, or just someone who likes to go out and drive around up there, identifies Mt. Hood as "their" icon. It seems very short sighted to me to say that it should all be wilderness, or it will all be logged or developed, etc. Hood River successfully stopped development on the north side of the mountain and has come up with an interesting solution for protecting it from future development.

    I think we shouldn't sell Oregonians short in crafting local solutions to problems. Thousands of acres of federally designated Wilderness is not the only answer. Blumenauer and Walden have put up an interesting framework that addresses the needs of the entire mountain. Let's listen to what they have to say.

  • Carolyn (unverified)

    Coho - I meant wilderness on Mt. Hood, sorry for the confusion. And I was talking about coming back for more in two years, not two decades.

    But seriously, what do you want them to do - introduce a 180,000 wilderness bill that Resources Committee Chairman Pombo will just laugh at? If Senator Wyden can get his 180,000 acre wilderness bill passed through the Senate, more power to him! But that could never get through the House. Blumenauer has brought Walden a long ways on wilderness - has Wyden gotten anywhere with Smith?

    Why does this have to be a competition between the two approaches? Why can't the House work on a bill and the Senate work on a bill and then they come together in Conference? I think we should applaud both Blumenauer and Wyden for their hard work.

  • Wy'East (unverified)

    Why is protecting 180,000 acres of Mt. Hood and the Gorge pie in the sky?

    Last November George W. Bush (!) signed legislation creating 768,000 acres of new Wilderness in Nevada. Nevada. Not exactly a bastion of environmentalism. And the bill sailed through Pombo's committee because it had Republican backing.

    Surely Oregon can do better than 1/10th of a Nevada bill. Especially for the most beloved icon in the state.

    Have Oregonian’s sunk so low that “its better than nothing” is our rallying cry?

  • Johnson (unverified)

    To those who aren't happy - you don't think Earl would have gone for more, if he could have gotten Walden's support? Don't give examples from other states, its about what's possible in Oregon. And rosa's right, this blueprint is about a vision for the mountain, more than just wilderness.

  • Duke (unverified)

    Johnson wrote: "Don't give examples from other states, its about what's possible in Oregon".

    Maybe we should change our state slogan. "Welcome to Oregon, where not much is possible, and apparently, we're ok with that."

  • Klickitat (unverified)

    If 180,000 is possible, then how come Senator Wyden hasn't passed his bill through the Senate yet?

  • Coho (unverified)

    Klickitat wrote: " come Senator Wyden hasn't passed his bill through the Senate yet?"

    Because Gordon Smith didn't need a green vote to cover his record on the environment (until now).

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    Some of us believe that 75-200k acres of wilderness, in conjunction with a national park designation would be a bold suggestion, worthy of bi-partisan support. This is a watered-down sellout of Wyden's version & BTW, Jeff, methinks "incrementalism" worked in Vermont primarily because the Green Mountain state is getting more and more liberal with each passing year (there's also ZERO wilderness there). Look at the numbers other commenters have already provided here. We can do better. Earl should know better!

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    I'd love to see us add more-- like 200K acres.

    However, I also have to be realistic about the fact that we're the minority party in Congress. A good number of those R's are those the Christian Coalition has put in over the past 15 years or so. They're also ones who don't believe in doing anything to protect the environment.

    I think 75K is a good start. But at the same time we need to fight across the country to become the majority party. Then we can add even more acres onto the protected area.

    Wyden tried to get more acres and what did it get us-- nothing. If Earl's plan passes, then that's 75K acres that weren't protected yesterday.

    It's great and all to be optimistic and shoot for the sky. However, sometimes you have to realize your boundaries and do the most you can within those constraints.

    That's something that Dems in Congress haven't been doing for the last decade. Over that time they could have incrementally made improvements to many things. However, they go for the gold and get nothing.

    At the same time, Republicans have been doing the incremental thing-- slowly they're chipping away at Roe, welfare/food stamps, Medicare, and more and getting more religion into the government.

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    Activist Kaza, the comparison with Vermont was, to be fair, a health care to health care example. I question that Vermont was getting more liberal in the 90s--I believe no state was. But all that's academic.

    I think the facts are these: we have the most fiercely anti-environment Congress in US history in session now, and they'll likely stay in session for three more years. This means no sustantive improvements on Mt Hood will come during that period, save for the 75k proposal. The calculation, then, is this: after 2008, the Congress will be sufficiently lefty to go for something better than the 75k, so we should hold off until we can get a better deal.

    Fair enough. But my response is: why not take the 75k now, and in 2009, you can push for another 100k? A bird in the hand ... and this case, that's a more literal cliche.

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    Jeff: On what basis do you think it's likely that Ds have greater control of Congress after '08 as opposed to '06 - a reversal of redistricting in Texas? The "ebb" in the WH popularity, traditional mid-term voting patterns etc. suggest any big swing happens next year, according to many experts who are beginning to liken this to 1994.

    Also, Vermont absolutely DID get more liberal during the '90s, at least according to my flesh and blood. My rock-ribbed Republican brother has unhappily testified to this fact many times as well as my uber-liberal college prof sister (both long-time residents).

    Or maybe we should ask Thom Hartmann?

    The arguments for taking a little acreage now are, frankly flimsy. You don't usually get a second bite at the cherry (in fact, I'd challenge anybody reading this at blueOR to name a recent example where this has happened). Instead, politicians lose interest and move's a great cause du jour for Blumenauer and Walden, whatever their motivations. I don't believe anybody would want to do more in 20 years' time, much less two years' time, if this were to pass next year.

    People really ought to re-consider the proposal to make Mount Hood a national park. It's bold but much more comprehensive (potentially) than these few thousand acres - and in pushing for it, any watered-down compromise would still yield far greater protections.

    With the electoral security of the 3rd district, Earl could have championed this (in fact, he still could). Instead, he's doing Walden a favor and Ds, Greens and enviro-friendly Is and Rs shouldn't stop asking the question: why???

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    I think he's right that it may take until after the 2008 elections before we have enough control over Congress. Sure we may be able to do a turn over of the House, but the Senate will take a bit longer since only 1/3 of its members are up each year.

    As far as the question regarding Texas' redistricting--

    I'm seeing discontent in Texas, where I'm from. People are increasingly unhappy with the governor and their legislators. Their schools almost didn't open this fall because they couldn't work out a budget. There's even been talk of a state property tax on top of the county, city, and school property taxes and sales tax (which has also seen increases). It's possible that changes may be coming.

    If change comes, you're going to see the redistricting in Texas overturned. It was illegal and should have never been allowed. However, that can't happen until 2007 since you can't beat out the R's in the legislature until November 2006. They could then make the changes in the 2007 session so that in the 2008 election they're back to working with the old non-jerrymandered districts.

    Problems come in with people like Nick Lampson, though, who have moved in order to run for office in a large chunk of their "old" district-- once their old district is back together again, they may not live in it.

    And it's not just the U.S. Congress seats that were badly redistricted-- it was the state legislative seats as well. Repubs re-did those seats as well so that they could put incumbent democrats in the same district, ensuring that one of them wouldn't be re-elected (such as Patty Grey & Craig Eiland).

    If they can get the maps returned to their old state, you'll see some big changes there.

    I just wish that they'd get smart to the fact that their two U.S. Senators don't do crap for them and vote the two of them out.

  • Clack (unverified)

    At the Portland hearing today both Blumenauer and Walden got a wake up call. Out of 40 or so people who gave testimony, no one spoke against adding Wilderness. In fact, 90% of the people who spoke urged them to protect more than 75,000 acres, with many suggesting very specific places they had left out of the bill.

    "What's possible" is what Greg Walden is willing to do, and the people who cared enough about the future of Mt. Hood to give up a Saturday afternoon to attend a public hearing told him very clearly they want more than 75,000 acres of Wilderness.

    For the folks saying we can get this now and get something better when the Democrats re-take Congress, that argument rings a little hollow to the conservation community. D's are certainly more sympathetic to conservation measures than R's these days, but as the Oregon Senate Leadership demonstrated this year, the environment isn't really a priority when push comes to shove.

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    I've been fairly involved in environmental and conservation issues since I was young. I was involved in actions through Greenpeace and the Sierra Club long before I could vote. I haven't been able to be as involved since moving to Oregon as I would like, but I try.

    To me what rings hollow is shooting for a large amount (as Wyden did) and nothing ever happening with it. I guess we could keep shooting for large amounts and nothing happening with it until we finally have the Dems in the majority again. And in that time who knows what will happen with those areas that would be protected under this bill.

    I just don't see something with a huge number of acres passing in this Congress. Wyden tried just last year to do so. Sometimes with issues like this it's not the protection of land that keeps Repubs from letting it go through-- it's the size of the land to be protected. Maybe by shooting for a smaller amount we can get some land protected.

    And not everyone is like the Oregon Senate Leadership. There are plenty of good dems out there who will fight to protect the environment, even when push comes to shove.

  • ian (unverified)

    Activist kaza..."Earl Blumenauer should know better." I think I just got something in the mail picturing a really young Earl Blumenuaer discussing transportation reform with Governor Tom McCall and saying that next year, he will have spent 1/3 of a century in office. That's 33 years of public service. Based on that job experience, I think Earl knows plenty. But isn't it cool that he doesn't take it for granted and holds meetings asking for public feedback on something that isn't even in bill form yet? Unlike some electeds. Give it up for the process on this one, even if you think the product needs work.

    As for turnign the mountain into a park...please Be for real. I'd like to see how many user fee loving Oregonians eagerly line up to pay those entrance fees.

  • rachel (unverified)
    <h2>I attended the meeting at Portland State on Saturday. Yeah, everyone wanted more wilderness unless they were bikers and then they don't want it all all. I think it's amazing that Blumenauer got Walden to go as far as he did. Now let's see what Walden is able to deliver with the creeps that he has to deal with on the R side. Is this the last word. No. Are we going to be pushing for more? Of course. Are we going to be waiting around for Wyden to do something? Forget it. He has been jerking around people for years with absolutely no results. Now that Blumenauer/Walden have something real going, maybe Wyden will get smart and actually try and make some progress with Smith rather than all this loose talk.</h2>
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