Time to tell pols what we want

When she visited the Willamette Valley last weekend, Hillary Clinton told journalists, during an interview with the Eugene Register-Guard, that she opposed “decimating law enforcement, health care (and) education” by discontinuing the recently expired federal “county payments” program.

She also said she believes thinning forests through “selective forestry” would result in healthier trees.

Most of the rest of Clinton’s comments on those subjects were laced with anti-George Bush political thrusts.

Her Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, has already made similar statements.

Bravo. It’s nice to know that some of our Beltline elite are finally paying attention.

The so-called management of Oregon’s timber resources have resulted in little but waste. There’s been much talk, much politicking, much posturing, and little action.

All this while the forests thicken to the point of being a ticking bomb, needing just a spark or two to trigger a catastrophe on the scale of the Biscuit or B&B Complex fires, which ruined thousands of acres of timber because judges, swayed by environmentalist extremists, made foolish rulings on how those forests could be used.

Sen. Ron Wyden has said he’s for thinning the forests. He’s also blamed the Bush Administration for failing to exercise the provisions of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which allows hazardous fuel reduction work on 20 million acres of federal forest land.

Since the act was signed by Bush in 2003, only 77,000 acres have been treated.

The problem is that government is poorly equipped to handle forest health. Many of the rank-and-file foresters know the truth but they aren’t in a position to lend any wise counsel to politicians who don’t really care that they’re ignorant.

But actual action on the part of government bureaucrats, actual pressure put on the judiciary to back off from trying to constantly make policy for our country that favors a select few activists, actual education of members of Congress and their aides (the ones who actually make most of the policy) would go a long way toward remedying a situation that not only threatens Linn County’s financial future but possibly our own physical existence.

What we need to do is hold our politicians accountable. Years ago, legislators came to Sweet Home because they realized the value of our forests. They realized that this town was an important cog in the flow of resources from those timberlands and they showed up en masse at chamber events and parades to let local residents know they cared.

Our last state senator, Roger Beyer, rarely made an appearance here. In fact, one of our staffers, who has been with The New Era for more than a decade and covers politics regularly, doesn’t remember ever meeting Beyer here in Sweet Home.

Now we have Frank Girod in the Senate and a quartet of Republicans jockeying for the primary votes to run against Democrat Dan Thackaberry for the 17th District House seat, which represents much of Sweet Home and the timberlands east. We have two candidates vying for a seat on the County Board of Commissioners.

Not only should our federal-level candidates need to be able to articulate their plans for remedying a situation that has caused nothing but damage to this town and much of the land east of us, but those who are running at the state and county levels need to do so too.

And we need to hold them accountable.

It’s easy to resign ourselves to the injustices that led to the current state of the forests, but nothing’s going to change if we don’t rouse ourselves and make noise – now.

Don’t wait for the Association of Oregon Loggers lobbyists to do it.

The people who may be able to change the picture are right in front of us, running for election or re-election. They’re listening because that’s what politicians do very well at this particular time.

We have their attention. It’s time to ask hard questions, do some hard thinking, vote, and then hold our representatives accountable.