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Long-time U.S. senator takes questions from residents of Crook, other counties

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Sen. Ron WydenU.S. Sen. Ron Wyden continued his virtual town hall schedule this past Thursday afternoon with an event geared toward several Central and Eastern Oregon counties.

The live regional online event was hosted by People's Town Hall for residents of Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Sherman, Gilliam and Wheeler counties, and could be viewed via a Facebook livestream. The event was filmed at Crook County Open Campus, in Prineville.

"The 'Oregon Way' is all about these conversations in every nook and cranny of our state," Wyden said, "and I very much appreciate People's Town Hall for helping these discussions to continue online while precautions require a temporary hold on in-person town halls."

Wyden has held 970 in-person town halls statewide in fulfillment of his pledge to hold at least one town hall each year in each of Oregon's 36 counties. Wyden has postponed in-person town halls until there are clear-cut public health guidelines that a large open-to-all public meeting poses no unusual health risk for Oregonians.

Amidst an ongoing worldwide pandemic and other national issues, Wyden addressed a variety of topics, some of which were prompted by submitted questions during the live event.

Multiple questions and comments were voiced regarding the River Democracy Act, which would federally designate more than 4,600 miles of rivers and streams in Oregon as Wild and Scenic. Wyden was primarily asked how people could get the legislation passed. He reminded listeners that the legislation was built around more than 15,000 nominations from Oregonians regarding what streams they wish to protect. Consequently, he urged people to reach out to their friends throughout the state to help move the legislation forward.

"It's a big winner for the economy, a big winner for fish, and a big winner for recreation," he said.

A couple other questions revolved around forest policy. One town hall participant asked what actions Congress can take to better protect forests and stem climate change. Another participant wanted to hear Wyden's thoughts on how to more effectively thin forests and keep them free of wildfire fuels.

"What I am trying to do is build around prevention," Wyden said. He pointed to recently passed legislation he sponsored that ended fire borrowing, the act of taking money from the wildfire prevention fund and using it to put out existing wildfires. He added that he wants to promote prescribed burns and focus on other methods of improving forest management to reduce the prevalence of wildfires.

Another listener talked about their disdain for the continuation of Daylight Saving Time changes and wondered what was taking place to put an end to the twice-a-year need to change clocks. Wyden noted that he is working with Republican Sen. Mark Rubio of Florida on developing a national switch to end the annual time changes.

"We'd like to (end it) in one fell swoop nationwide," he remarked, adding that he considers the Oregon Legislature's actions on ending Daylight Saving Time changes a good model to follow.

Wyden also addressed a recent vote against creating a bipartisan Jan. 6 committee to investigate the attacks on the U.S. Capitol. He said he was very disappointed that Republicans voted against creating the committee.

"There needs to be some independent answers to that," he said.

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