Walden helps file bill to aid rural schools, communities


News staff writer

January 6, 2007

U.S. Reps. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., have filed a bill to extend the “county payments” law for seven more years.

Hood River County Administrator Dave Meriwether praised the two legislators for championing the program. He said the county stands to lose $1.7 million for road maintenance if the federal government does not reauthorize the funds.

Hood River County has also received $580,000 that goes into the state coffers and is divvied up among schools.

“We certainly do appreciate all the efforts that Congressmen Walden and DeFazio are making to continue this very necessary program,” said Meriwether.

Walden said the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2007 should rightfully be approved.

“Nearly 100 years ago, the federal government made a commitment to rural counties, and we intend to see that it maintains it,” said Walden. “Since first introducing this legislation together two years ago, we’ve successfully educated both sides of the aisle about the critical nature of this program to rural communities in Oregon and throughout the country.

“Awareness of this importance is now very high, and it’s time for members of Congress to unite behind a revenue stream to fully fund the program. There is no more important issue to the health of rural counties.”

He said federal laws of 1908 and 1937 specified that the government share harvest receipts from national forests with counties. The purpose was to offset the loss of taxes with a land-base that included federal property. Rural counties were allotted 25 percent of the U.S. Forest Service receipts and 50 percent of Bureau of Land Management receipts. These payments were dedicated primarily to schools and roads.

However, by the mid to late 1990s, environmental regulations had drastically reduced harvest levels. And payments dropped by more than 70 percent nationwide.

In 2000, Congress enacted legislation to correct this imbalance for six years.

Officials wanted to give timber-dependent communities time to make an economic adjustment. The formula for payments was established on harvest levels during three high years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Meriwether said 61 percent of the Hood River County’s land-base is comprised of national forest. Therefore, he said the transition to another type of industry is challenging and will take a long time.

Of Oregon’s 36 counties, 32 received payments through the program totaling more than $273 million last year.

“Organizations from the farthest ends of the spectrum have come together to support this program in a model partnership among local, state and federal interests,” said DeFazio. “Today, the biggest obstacles we face are ever-tightening budgets and growing federal deficits.

“So, we must now redouble our efforts in hand with this unique coalition to reauthorize this legislation. It is the lifeblood of rural counties across America, who serve everyday as stewards of our federal lands.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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