Albion Monitor /News

[Editor's note: Oregon Republican Bob Smith was elected to the House of Representatives in November, resuming a long political career. Smith retired in November, 1993, having completed six terms in the house.

Taking the seat in 1994 was Republican Wes Cooley, who quickly became known as one of the farthest-right extremists in the 104th Congress. Cooley compared Fish and Wildlife to the Gestapo, and during a congressional hearing, warned an environmentalist to stay out of Oregon.

Although Cooley's wild statements didn't make national headlines, it was top news when it was revealed that he concealed his marriage so his wife could continue to collect veteran's benefits as a widow. Soon he also withdrew claims to have served in the Korean War and having belonged to Phi Beta Kappa.

Cooley dropped out of the 1996 race (after winning the Oregon primary) and Bob Smith won the November election, having told voters that House Speaker Newt Gingrich promised him the chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee.]

Anti-Enviro Oregon Rep Back in Congress

by Russell Sadler

Appoints timber industry lobbyist as "advisor"

(AR) ASHLAND -- Oregon's Once and Future Congressman Bob Smith appointed a timber industry lobbyist as the timber "advisor" to the House Agriculture Committee he will chair in January. Sharla Moffett will leave the Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association where she has been executive vice-president since 1992 to join Mr. Smith in Washington.

"Bob Smith has made it clear he is going to 'westernize' the Agriculture Committee. I think it will be an exciting time to be working in Washington and working for a committee chairman from Oregon," Moffett gushes gratefully. "Westernizing" the House Agriculture Committee raises the question which West will Smith represent -- the Old West or the New West?

Smith himself leases government grazing land, although the leases have been transferred to his wife's name

Bob Smith loves the Old West. This is the west of Ronald Reagan's mythology and Hollywood movies and aging American history textbooks. This is the West of rugged individuals manfully scratching a living from the dry, hostile land, the fertile forests, the fruited plains. This is the West of benevolent government irrigation projects, grazing leases, government timber sales and mining leases at 1872 prices.

Bob Smith's 2nd Congressional District is unquestionably the Old West. In the vast spaces of Eastern Oregon cattle alone produces hundreds of millions of dollars a year in agricultural sales despite a decline in beef consumption. Much of the region's cattle ranching depends on government grazing leases. Smith himself leases government grazing land, although the leases have been transferred to his wife's name as Smith tries to avoid conflicts of interest and the shadow of personal gain.

On the mid-Columbia Plateau, wheat farmers are among Oregon's most sophisticated and experienced international businessmen. Oregon's soft white wheat is exported to Japan where it is made in Ramen noodles, a staple of the Japanese diet. The surplus is exported to the United States where Ramen noodles are the steady diet of graduate students. Government-supplied irrigation water grows produce -- mostly potatoes -- for processing plants that provide vegetables and french fries to the world.

Eastern Oregon is the site of cyanide heap-leach mines offered to window-dressed American subsidiaries of foreign-owned mining corporations at bargain-basement prices under the 1872 mining law. These mines strip thousands of tons of soil off the earth, dump it in heaps, leach gold out with a cyanide-based solution and leave the overburden on the ground like the strip mines of Southern Ohio when the mineral is exhausted. No law requires restoration of the landscape to any productive use. That would make mining unprofitable, insist the mining companies.

This is the West of exhausted forests suffering ecological deterioration from forestry practices widely endorsed by industrial foresters of the time. This is the West that Bob Smith seeks to restore and perpetuate -- at least until the dwindling resources run out.

Bob Smith's West is colliding with the New West -- westerners in the ten Rocky Mountain states who are challenging the 19th Century Old West mentality of giving away vast tracts of land to homesteaders, ranchers railroads and encouraging the settlement of what Washington Post journalist Joel Garreau dubbed "The Empty Quarter" in his milestone book The Nine Nations of North American.

God, Guts and Guns did not win the American West, according to the New West Revisionists. The West was won by Grants, Graft and Greed. New Westerners are trying to put a stop to the exploitation of the last remnants Old West before it is gone. Garreau's Empty Quarter is so empty any more. The population of the 10 states in the Rocky Mountain West has double to nearly 25 million since 1970.

The much ballyhooed "War on the West" is a Civil War between Bob Smith's Old West and the New West of the Pacific Slope

Many newcomers are refugees from the Pacific Slope States -- Oregon, Washington and California west of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades. Some 75 percent of all the people who live west of Denver live in a strip about 100 miles wide along Interstate 5. The Rocky Mountain West has been stripped of water and coal to supply the West Coast and Southwest population centers inexhaustible appetite for More.

The New Westerners are not carpetbaggers from the South or the East. They may move up and down the coast. They may move from the Pacific Slope States to the Rocky Mountain States, but the much ballyhooed "War on the West" is a Civil War between Bob Smith's Old West and the New West of the Pacific Slope.

Oregon is in the New West camp despite the vast open spaces of Eastern Oregon. The reason is demographic; two-thirds of Oregon's population lives in the Willamette Valley. Almost half the state's population lives in the Portland metropolitan area. That is why Bob Smith is always so alone in the Oregon congressional delegation.

That is why Senator-elect Gordon Smith abandoned the Old West rhetoric that got him elected President of the Oregon Senate from Pendleton for the more moderate New West rhetoric that got him elected to a U.S. Senate seat after losing to Rep. Ron Wyden. Gordon Smith's change of heart must be more than symbolic if he wishes to remain a U.S. Senator from Oregon.

The symbols of the battle between the New West and the Old West are everywhere. Watch the dispute over restoring grizzly bears, wolves and coyotes in Yellowstone National Park in Montana. It is reflected in initiative petitions controlling the methods of hunting bear and cougar in California and Oregon. The question remains how effective Bob Smith can be representing the Old West in a New West state.

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Albion Monitor January 10, 1997 (

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