Oregon Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) listens to a local resident after a town hall session at the Vale Senior Center Monday afternoon. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – U.S. Rep. Greg Walden assured a group of about 50 people Monday he remains focused on natural resource issues, lowering health care costs and ending robo calls.

The longtime federal lawmaker held a town hall session at the Vale Senior Center as part of a tour through eastern Oregon.

Cleaning up forests to cut down on fires is important, Walden said, especially after last summer. Then, he said, wildfires not only destroyed rich timberland but also created an environmental hazard.

“As fires rip through forests they also choke people in our communities,” said Walden. “So, we need to go in and do the work and thin out debris and we need to get on those fires faster.”

Walden told the crowd the U.S. is “80 million acres behind the curve in terms of forest management.”

Walden said legislation introduced last May – the Resilient Federal Forest Act – would help forests across the West.

“It ends up colliding with good, sound science,” said Walden.

Walden co-sponsored the bill.

The bill, Walden said, would accelerate clean-up efforts after wildfires and streamline the amount of timber harvested annually.

After his short presentation Walden opened the floor for questions.

Questions from the audience ranged from country-of-origin labeling for beef, prescription drug prices, immigration reform and access to recreation outlets in nearby national forests.

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

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING -- For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.