Changes Are Coming To Northwest Natural Resource Policy

Feb 19, 2014

The Northwest is in for a shakeup when it comes to natural resources policy. That's because the region is losing two key chairman of congressional committees that set policy on forests, rivers, mining and energy.

Senator Ron Wyden (L) and Representative Doc Hastings (R) have brought Northwest natural resource issues to the national stage.
Credit Courtney Flatt

Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Doc Hastings have brought Northwest natural resource issues to the national stage. Everything from proposals before Congress about dam removal to forestry legislation.

The two lawmakers have both chaired natural resource committees. After 20 years in the House, Hastings recently announced his retirement. Wyden is taking a more powerful position as the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Pacific University political science professor Jim Moore says that means different issues will get priority treatment before the House and Senate natural resource committees.

“The main thing that we’ll see is that the Northwest is not going to be on the front burner on these committees.” Said Moore

For his part, Hastings has mostly drawn support from industry groups, like Northwest RiverPartners, which supports dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Terry Flores is the group’s executive director.

“He’s always been a staunch defender of the Snake River dams because he understand their value not just to the state of Washington, but to the region as a whole.” Said Flores

Environmental groups have criticized Hastings for his role in defending the hydroelectric dams. They said his retirement could be an opportunity to change the way dams are managed.

Wyden has received more support from environmental groups. Oregon Wild’s Steve Pedery praised his wilderness bills. That includes one bill that protected more than 100,000 acres near Mount Hood.

But Pedery said Wyden has not always fully supported the environment, at least not to his group’s liking.

“People had very high hopes for Ron when he took the gavel of the Energy and Natural Resources, given that background that he’d worked on wilderness, he’d worked on finding good compromise on forest management. I think the reality has been a mixed bag.” Said Pedery

Political scientists say Wyden will still be able to influence natural resource policy on the Finance Committee, just in a different way – through taxes and budget reform.

Copyright 2014 Northwest Public Radio