U.S. Rep. Greg Walden talks to his town hall audience July 1 at the Vale Senior Citizens Center. Walden spoke to a crowd of about 50 people. The long-time Oregon lawmaker outlined several of his legislative priorities and then answered questions from the crowd. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – Oregon’s only Republican Congressman laid out his top priorities to a crowd of about 50 people last week at the Vale Senior Center.

The town hall session by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ontario) covered health care costs, recreation opportunities in nearby national forests, immigration robot calls and forest management. The longtime federal lawmaker, who represents Oregon’s sprawling 2nd Congressional District, said cleaning up forests to reduce fires is important. Wildfires not only destroy rich timberland but also created an environmental hazard.

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

Walden touted a new bill – the Resilient Federal Forest Act – introduced in May that he said would help  the West. Walden told the crowd the U.S. is “80 million acres behind the curve in terms of forest management.”

Walden said the bill, which he co-sponsored, would tackle an array of issues connected to federal forests. 

The bill accelerates clean-up efforts after wildfires and streamlines timber harvests. 

Walden told the crowd that robot calls continue to be a lingering problem as more than 17 billion scam calls are made into the U.S. each year. Walden said provisions in a House bill that reauthorizes the Federal Communications Commission – HR 4986, dubbed the Ray Baum Act of 2018 – are designed to cut down on the illegal calls. 

Walden said the bill gives the FCC “new authority” to tackle the problem. 

After his short presentation Walden opened the floor for questions.  

Questions ranged from country-of-origin labeling for beef, prescription drug prices, immigration reform and access to recreation in nearby national forests. Walden said the nation’s immigration system is “broken.”

“We have a crisis at the border,” said Walden.“It’s a huge problem,” he said.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.

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