Walden tells Ontario crowd he wants federal government to be fully open

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, makes a point during a town hall meeting at Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario Monday afternoon. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, touched on an array of subjects at a town hall meeting Monday afternoon at Four Rivers Cultural Center.

From border security to wolves, Walden delivered an update to about 60 people in the latest of a string of public sessions he has held in Oregon in recent days.

Recently, Walden broke from his party on a vote to reopen parts of the federal government that have been closed since Dec. 22. Walden joined six other Republicans in the House voting for a spending measure introduced by Democrats to fund seven agencies.

Funding for more border wall – which is at the heart of the dispute that shut down the government – would come through the Department of Homeland Security.

Walden explained that he supported border security but didn’t believe local federal workers should be caught in the political fight between President Trump and Democrats in Congress.

 “What does a Vale BLM employee have to do with this fight?” said Walden.

The BLM is the agency in Malheur County enduring the biggest impact of the month-long shutdown.

Walden said he would like to see wolves – which are registered as endangered under the Endangered Species Act – “delisted” and their management turned over to the states.

Walden said his support for broadband infrastructure in areas like Malheur County will continue. He pointed out that money for broadband in rural areas was part of the Farm Bill passed by Congress in December.

Walden also lauded congressional work on wildfire legislation, including solving what he called the “fire borrowing issue.” Because of a funding gap, for years the Forest Service raided its own budget to cover the cost of huge wildfires across the West. That meant the Forest Service ended up with less money for other programs such as forest management and restoration designed to cut down on forest fires.

As part of a spending bill approved last year, the Forest Service will get $2 billion a year to pay for wildfires. The new funding will kick in 2020.

“I think that will make a difference,” said Walden.

Walden also touched on efforts to fight the nationwide opioid epidemic and creating more health care options for veterans before taking questions from the audience.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.