Dick Mason / The Observer Eastern Oregon students Sarah Palmer, left, and Emily Palmer talk with U.S. Congressman Greg Walden Wednesday before his presentation at Ackerman Hall. The Palmers are twin sisters. (DICK MASON/The Observer)
Addresses sage grouse, health care
The sage grouse is a small bird, but it is casting a large shadow over the cattle industry.
U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, R-Hood River, made this point emphatically Wednesday during a presentation at Eastern Oregon University. Walden said he is working hard to prevent the sage grouse from being listed as endangered or threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because of the impact a listing could have on things like the land available for livestock grazing.
“If we don’t stay ahead of the listing, the spotted owl will look like child’s play,” Walden said.
Walden was referring to the northern spotted owl which was listed as threatened in the early 1990s, a move which severely jolted Oregon’s lumber industry by further restricting the forest land available for timber harvests.
Walden touched on several topics during his speech, which was attended by nearly 40 people, most of them EOU students, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new health care law which the congressman has long been an opponent of. Walden is greatly disturbed by the well-documented problems of Cover Oregon, the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act. People have not been able to sign up for health care coverage through the Cover Oregon website until this week, about four months later than Oregon officials had said they would be able
Walden noted that Oregon received about $300 million from the federal government to set up Cover Oregon.
“It does not have much to show for it,” Walden said.
So upset is Walden that he and three other federal lawmakers are calling for a federal investigation into how the state spent the money it received for Cover Oregon.
Several students asked Walden about what he is doing to help students deal with increasing college tuition rates and student debt. Walden said that he is working in Congress to increase funding for federal Pell grants, which help college students from low-income families. He also said he is trying hard to increase funding for research at universities. This is a means of directing more federal money toward universities.