Mount Hood Expansion Blocked

An article in the Oregonian today describes the efforts of Senators Wyden and Smith to expand the Mount Hood wilderness area, and how those efforts have been brought to a halt by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK):

When it came to their grand ambition for expanding the Mount Hood wilderness area, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith understood the importance of finesse and patience.

They held hundreds of meetings with competing voices, including mountain bikers, watershed councils and property owners. They massaged concerns, altered boundaries and split differences into small, acceptable slices. It was slow, but eventually the bill expanding the Mount Hood wilderness by 128,400 acres earned wide support in Oregon. Last year, it sailed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by unanimous vote, a rarity in the polarized world of public lands.

Victory by the full Senate seemed assured.

Then, Sen. Tom Coburn stood up and the gears seized.

Coburn, the 59-year-old junior senator from Oklahoma, exercised his "hold," the Senate's one-person veto, a cherished tradition that allows a single senator to block a bill's passage until problems -- or egos -- are fixed.

Coburn's block is all about money:

Coburn is a Republican physician with many firm beliefs and almost as many enemies. Chief among his beliefs is that the U.S. government is spending itself into ruin and it's his job to restore fiscal order.

"What I'm trying to do, it doesn't have anything to do with being against what Oregonians want to do with their own land and their own money," Coburn said later, pointing out, "I have an Oregonian on my staff."

Rather, he said, "We can't do it. We don't have the money."

Even more ominous for Wyden and Smith and the Mount Hood wilderness, Coburn is no deal maker.

"I don't have any bill I'm trying to pass," Coburn said. "That's why it's such a rub, because the history up here is that people trade things out. Well, I don't want to trade. I want to fix what's wrong with our country in terms of the fiscal problems we have."

Coburn is infamous in the Senate for blocking bills:

Knowing that a vote could drain three or more days from the Senate's already tight schedule, Wyden and Smith had hoped to pass the bill by unanimous consent, a device commonly used for noncontroversial bills.

But the wilderness expansion would require $11 million in federal spending: tiny by Senate standards, but not offset by other cuts.

And that triggered Coburn.

Coburn is not shy or partisan in stopping bills. Tucked in his pocket are small pieces of paper listing more than 100 holds. The bills he has blocked or is currently blocking cover a wide variety of topics, from money for Washington's subway system to a program to make sure mentally unstable people can't buy guns to money for spinal cord research and traumatic brain injury.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Considering that Oregon is a net federal contributor state and Oklahoma is a net federal beneficiary, I wish that our Congressional delegation would write an open letter to Senator Coburn kindly asking for our money back.

    You know, since he's so concerned about spending and all.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    Coburn sucks. I would also like to ask him this question: "Sir, why do you suck so much?"

  • Tony (unverified)

    I do wonder why it would take $11 million to designate this area as wilderness. Is it currently national forest, or do private owners have to be reimbursed for some of the land? I'd love to see the mt hood wilderness expanded though. Looking down from the east side of the mountain you can't help but notice all the clear cut areas. It makes you realize how quickly we're loosing our wild places.

    BTW, a couple of notes on your website...

    Your return link to each article in your atom feed is broken: Your XML/RSS feed isn't really in RSS format btw. I'd be happy to answer any questions if you're having trouble setting it up correctly.

    You guys should also add a contact form, or if you have one make it easier to find.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Perhaps we should all call Senator Coburn's office and tell him that before Oklahoma excercizes veto over Oregon's affairs, it should stop using Oregon's (and the rest of the nation's) tax dollars to pay for its services.

    Washington DC: 202-224-5754 Tulsa: 918-581-7651 Oklahoma City: 405-231-4941

  • (Show?)

    OPB radio did a segment on this late last week. It included an audio clip of a clearly frustrated Senator Wyden right after this latest obstruction by Coburn. Other than that it covered the same ground as this Oregonian piece covers.

    That said, echo what JHL said above.

  • BCM (unverified)

    It's payback for the 2006 UO v. Oklahoma Sooners football game.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Oklahoma City receptionist was very polite... Tulsa seemed annoyed. More calls to Tulsa!

  • Bean (unverified)

    Those trees on the East side of Mt Hood have all been cut and replanted 3 times. They grow back.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    You kinda gotta admire Tom Coburn. He's a Republican's Republican. Well, maybe not. After all, he tried to derail Ted Stevens' "bridge to nowhere", and, as a result, in a tit for tat fury, had his own problems with his (and Obama's) bill:

    One of the senators most criticized for his personal projects, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has a hold of his own on Coburn’s bill to make public the spending patterns of the government. Called the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, the legislation calls for the creation of a database open to the public where citizens can track government spending.

    “He’s the only senator blocking it,” Coburn said of Stevens.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    (And you kinda gotta admire Ted Stevens... what a ball-busting, blood-and-guts fighter... he gets what he wants for himself and his state, even it if screws everyone else up.

    And if someone stands in his way, he will take revenge, as he did against Coburn.

    Wish Wyden would take revenge and block Coburn's every move from now on... but Wyden his too "bipartisan" to do anything courageous like that!)

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Damn it to hell! I grew up in Oklahoma and Coburn screwed everyone over for his own agenda in that state and was still doing so when I moved to Oregon in 1990. My folks told me about his getting elected to DC (the popular opinion of the time was "at least he won't be in Oklahoma so much") Now, here we are in 2008, I'm in Oregon and Coburn is screwing with Oregon.

    Hey Tom....knock it the $*&$%$ off! I left Oklahoma partly to get away from right-wing Republican nut-jobs like you. Go screw over Oklahoma some more and leave my adopted state alone. Damn stupid redneck right-wing nutjob Okies, anyway. Okahoma has lousy schools, lousy roads (truly lousy---you think Oregon is bad? You can lose an axle on OK highways), the city and state government regularly blatantly rip off the populace, and there are more total nutjobs there than anywhere I've been in this country (and I've been in all but 3 states). Popular bumper sticker in OK---"Have fun tonight--beat the hell out of someone you love".

    The man is a TOTAL I-D-I-O-T. Call his offices repeatedly, email his offices repeatedly, send carrier pigeons. Bug the hell out him until he takes his nose out of Oregon's business. It's not like there isn't plenty to do in his own damn state. Moron.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Ms. Harmon, I think I have an idea:

    Perhaps Harry and David could get into the business of arranging "You Suck baskets" for people that thwart Oregon. The rule could be that they MUST be delivered outside of Oregon, and they could contain things like month-old salmon, moldy blackberries, and pinecone jam.

    Harry and David, if you're listening, I'll contribute $20 to send such a basket to Mr. Coburn. (It's not against the law to send someone bad food, right?)

  • (Show?)

    In order to get him out of the State House, they make him a US Senator? Oklahoma truly lives up to their reputation as a state populated by dufuses.

    You guys should also add a contact form, or if you have one make it easier to find. It is very cleverly hidden at the bottom the HOME menu. Takes about two seconds to find it.

  • (Show?)

    sigh....I don't know what really else to say...

  • Amos (unverified)

    Uh, Peter, perhaps you ought to read the actual Oregonian story before you say this:

    Wish Wyden would take revenge and block Coburn's every move from now on... but Wyden is too "bipartisan" to do anything courageous like that!)

    Coburn brags in the piece about not having anything Senators like Wyden can "hold" to gain leverage on him or get revenge. In other words, Coburn basically ran for office for the sole purpose of keeping legislation from passing.

    And besides, Wyden has put holds on some pretty important stuff over the years (assisted suicide ban, nominee for CIA Chief Counsel, various Interior Appointments).

  • Peter Bray (unverified)

    You might read my entire post before posting too! After all, I clearly citied an instance in which a bill Coburn sponsored was getting blocked... so he DOES sponsor some things!

  • Unrepentant Liberal (unverified)

    I'm sure Coburn doesn't mind spending trillions on a useless, counterproductive war. Let Oklahoma blow away the next tornado season. Too bad, help would 'cost money'.

  • Chris (unverified)

    Thank goodness he has blocked this

    Does no one see the forest for the trees?

    I am all for designating areas that need protection but this contstant proclamation that we need to protect every bit of Public land is misguided. These areas that are adjacent to population are becoming overgrown and so we create Community Wildfire Protection plans so we can compete for federal dollars to create projects to do fuel reduction/treatment to protect the tree hugers that choose to comune with nature by living in the wildland-urban interface. Does this make fiscal sense???

    The same results could happen by doing select cutting/Thinning on these lands that can stimulate the economy by providing locally grown timber that is needed to keep up with the demand for housing for all the blue folks that are moving here. At the same time this material could be utilized for biomass in either co-generation plants (replacing hydro-electric power) or being used to create cellulose bio-fuel (which is 85% more efficient to make and use than basic corn based ethanol). For those of you who want to constantly say the USFS is purly in it for the money, do the research and you will see that any money that comes from federal forest projects goes 50% to the County the trees are harvested from and 50% to the US tresury (not into an account for the USFS, it doesnt matter who put the money there it is used for the total US budget)

    Instead of seeing everything in black or white (no cutting vs clear cutting) WHy cant you people see the gray area that is sustainable and makes sense.

    But then again some of you folks believe that every ticket a cop writes gets him a bonus. Sad...

  • Evan (unverified)

    doctor, heal thyself

    what an idiot

    Isn't a rebpublican doctor the ultimate irony???

    why are there so many of them?

  • Brian (unverified)

    Any idea what this proposed wilderness expansion would entail? I'm all for preserving nature, but the East slopes of Mt. Hood are one of my favorite places to get away from it all. If Wyden & Smith are looking to lock me out of the public lands where I currently enjoy recreating over crowded, highly developed campgrounds, I have to concur with Senator Coburn on this one.

  • Anonymous (unverified)

    All the brain power of Blue Oregon to command, and all we get is whining that Oregon doesn't get its way - nothing about the merits of the proposal, nothing about the merits of Coburn's objection.

    "When you have neither the facts nor the law on your side, abuse the plaintiff" - Cicero

    Old Cicero says you got nothin' - thanks for advertising the bankruptcy of your position. Now you can abuse me and demonstrate it all over again.

  • ws (unverified)

    Brian, you're not very specific in terms of what 'recreating' means for you personally. Unimproved campgrounds such as off LoLo Pass road towards the Ramona Falls trailhead where you can drive your car up to it and pitch a tent (westside Mt Hood)? I think this bill is written to expand wilderness that you can hike and backpack into, but not drive your car into, although I'm not sure about that.

    This bill has had a long convoluted journey to it's final state. I haven't had a chance to study the maps and such to find out what they include today. Maybe someone else will be able to answer your question. Sometime back, the deal was set to trade 750 acres of wilderness (bisected by some roads) on the NE flank of Hood for 125 acres in Gvt Camp to a company that wanted to build a ski resort on the 750 acres, the 750 becoming part of the wilderness.

    I hope that wouldn't keep you from supporting the bill.

  • (Show?)

    Wilderness means no cabins, no cars, no roads, no logging, no motorized vehicles, etc. Basically it keeps the forest the way it would be if man weren't around, except that you can still enjoy it for hiking and such.

    As Oregon Wild (formerly ONRC) puts it: "Wilderness is simply an area where nature is left to find its own path, without interference from logging, roads and dams."

    "In 1964 Congress passed the Wilderness Act to protect the unspoiled character of these wild areas in Oregon and across the United States. Wilderness designation preserves the public's ability to enjoy activities such as hiking, camping, whitewater boating, horseback riding, hunting and fishing in these natural areas while protecting land and the plants and animals that live there from destructive logging, mining, road building and other forms of development."

    You can read about wilderness here.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Interesting that nobody has mentioned one possible solution to this impasse -- namely, find $11M worth of budget cuts to offset the additional expense, and Coburn has no reason to continue his objection, right?

    If $11M is such a piddly little amount, it shouldn't be too hard to find a place to shift it from. Particularly for something as important as protecting wilderness areas.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Budget cuts? No way! The Oregon Lottery has the capacity to bond much more than $11 million this year, and isn't it supposed to be into wilderness protection and junk?

  • edison (unverified)

    I watched Coburn on the Senate floor (on CSPAN) yesterday as he talked about earmarks and the debts of our children and grandchildren. Very nice. He reiterated his position that he will not back down when it comes to holding bills he considers wasteful. Very noble. He might want to look into this Iraq thing and see if there's any way we could spend the dollars we're spending there any wiser. Just sayin' ... Nice Coburn link:

  • Thersites D. Scott (unverified)

    I called Coburn's office this morning, and asked the young man who answered whether Coburn had voted aye or nay on the various Iraq War funding bills. When he said that he had, I explained that the amount of money this would cost Oregon was equivalent to one hour of the Iraq War, and said that if he could support that kind of unnecessary, wasteful spending, he had no business using "cost" as an excuse to stick his nose into a bipartisan effort by Oregon's Democratic and Republican Senators to protect Oregon's own land. The response was "we support our troops, sir!" and a hang-up (before I could explain that I do, too).

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)


    The only time the words "merit" and "Coburn" should appear in the same sentence are "Tom Coburn merits a kick in the ass for his latest stunt". Neither the man nor his lame ass ideas, in or out of Oklahoma, deserve any consideration, since his SOLE purpose is always to screw with other people and assuage his own ego. Period.

  • Scott (unverified)

    I guess what they say about Oregonians being liberal tree huggers is pretty accurate if the comments above are any indication of the general populice.

    If Coburn's main job is to prevent new laws from passing, as Amos points out, then I will praise his efforts. If Oregon wants to expand a wilderness area and it costs money to do it, why aren't they asking their own state taxpayers to pay for it?

    more laws = bigger gov't bigger gov't = more taxes more taxes = more gov't dependence more gov't dependence = nanny state

    (BTW, Coburn also criticizes DoD contracts / funding when it's wasteful)

  • JHL (unverified)

    why aren't [Oregonians] asking their own state taxpayers to pay for it?

    Scott, considering that Oregon gets less back in federal dollars than what we contribute in federal taxes... and Oklahoma gets more in federal dollars than what it contribues in federal taxes...

    Seems to me that Oklahoma is the one using other states' money to pay for their services: Medicaid, education grants, transportation dollars, etc.

    This $11 million is a small portion of what Oregon taxpayers end up forking over to states like Oklahoma every year (via our federal taxes). And as far as I'm concerned, if Tom Coburn doesn't like it, Oklahoma can just find itself a job and get off this interstate welfare system it's been feeding off of since statehood.

    So I've got a question for you: If Oklahoma wants roads, education, Medicaid, and all those other federally-supported services that it enjoys... why isn't Tom Coburn asking his own state taxpayers to pay for those things?

  • Scott (unverified)

    If Oklahoma wants roads, education, Medicaid, and all those other federally-supported services that it enjoys... why isn't Tom Coburn asking his own state taxpayers to pay for those things?

    JHL, I actually have no major problem with this. Of course, our progressive federal tax structure rewards states (such as Oklahoma) that have a low cost of living. A 30k salary goes pretty far in Oklahoma, and a family of 4 making 40k / year has no federal income tax liability.

    One problem: If federal benefits received were a function of how much you pay in on an individual (rather than state) basis, we wouldn't even need Medicaid anymore. The poorest Americans would get nothing because they pay nothing.

    Here's the problem I see: the federal gov't is just too big. An 11 trillion dollar GDP with a 3 trillion dollar federal budget makes no sense to me. Medicare fraud is 80 billion a year. Medicaid fraud, another 30 billion. We (the fed gov't) are spending way too much $ wastefully. We spend too much on entitlements, which actually hurt the poor in my opinion.

    We should only spend $ at the federal level on protection (military, police, borders, etc.) and essential infrastructure. Our interstates, for example, should be paid for by gasoline taxes, use taxes (think truckers), etc. If our federal income tax dollars were only spent on protection, and there was sufficient oversight, this wouldn't be an issue.

    I know this has little to do with wildlife preservation, but does I think speak to the broader issue of federal spending.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Scott, you're right -- there IS a lot of wasteful spending out there... enormous waste and inefficiencies in the health care system alone. We can agree on that, even if we'll probably disagree on how to fix it.

    Oregon's economy is based in large part on key tourism destinations. Central Oregon ski destinations, the Columbia Gorge, and... yes... the Mt Hood Wilderness Area.

    We're a state that has, over the last few decades, shifted from a timber-based economy to one that's in large part based on services, tech production, and tourism. And though there have been winners and losers during that transition, it's been generally sucessful, since a lot of our money comes in from out of state consumers.

    So if, in a budget of several Trillion, Oregon is looking for $11 million to help expend that economy that ultimately sends its tax dollars back to DC, please think of that as an investment in our growing tourism economy.

    See, a lot of us hug trees because we see the money in them. (Yes, there are those few who hug trees because they empathize with the tree somehow... just smile and nod.)

  • Scott (unverified)

    JHL, If this $11 million is seen as an investment, why are we asking the federal government to fund it? I'm sure that every tourist area in the country would like the government to fund improvements to their capital infrastructure, but the gov't is broke already. If my brother was in debt up to his eyeballs, I certainly wouldn't encourage him to finance a new flat-screen TV.

  • JHL (unverified)

    If my brother was in debt up to his eyeballs, I certainly wouldn't encourage him to finance a new flat-screen TV.

    Well, duh!
    1) A flat-screen TV isn't generally an investment. 2) Oregon's not in debt. (We've actually got a fully-funded PERF... more than most states!)

    I'm sure that every tourist area in the country would like the government to fund improvements to their capital infrastructure

    Yeah... Except there really aren't that many tourist areas in the country that can actually show a solid return-on-investment pattern.

    why are we asking the federal government to fund it?

    Because when Oregon makes money, it sends more to the federal government than it gets back... so this whole endeavor is actually a net gain to the federal government. ... Which will use Oregon's money to fund services in moocher states like Oklahoma.

    Frankly, if Oregon's going to have to handle all of its infrastructure on its own, there's really no incentive to be a part of the Union, is there? Or to rephrase the question:

    Why are we asking the federal government to fund Oklahoma's education, transportation, and health care?

    Answer: Because they're part of the Union, and that's what we do.

  • Scott (unverified)

    JHL: a few comments ...

    1) I wasn't talking about Oregon being in debt ... I was referring to the federal gov't, which is where the funding would come from.

    2) Regarding Oregon getting a solid return on investment, of course it's a solid return when the investment is paid for by everyone, not just the stakeholders.

    3) If Oregon leaves the union, they lose the main role of the federal gov't, protection.

    Honestly, I still can't figure out why in the world some people in this country say the federal gov't should be involved in state and local affairs.

    Let me give you an example, Social Security. Mandating that all working Americans (except a few counties in South Texas) give 13% of their income to a "retirement plan" with little to no return is a case where the federal gov't has taken enormous power from the states and kept it for themselves. They are collecting hundreds of billions of dollars in payroll taxes with no guarantee that it will be spent in the way it was intended.

    A limited federal gov't allows the states to basically handle affairs in the way they see fit. If one doesn't like the way things are going in his state because of their laws, he can move to another state. Incredibly high state and local taxes inevitably force people to leave places like New York and California. Texas recently passed a law that limits the amount that medical practitioners can be sued for malpractice. Now their medical board is flooded with applications from doctors who want to practice medicine in Texas.

    <h2>This year's presidential election is so very important, and the sad thing is that it doesn't have to be.</h2>
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