Editor’s note: Today’s guest editorials originally appeared in The Columbian. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
For a state department with an annual budget of more than $370 million, the Department of Natural Resources is surprisingly anonymous. In coordinating Washington’s defense against wildfires, the agency receives attention during hot, smoky summers, yet otherwise is easily overlooked.
But as Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz explained to The Columbian’s Editorial Board last week, the department can not only protect Washington’s assets but can turn them into revenue generators.
“For so long, the environment and the economy have been butting heads,” said Franz, who is in her first four-year term and says she will seek re-election next year. With a legislative mandate for the state to move toward clean energy and with increased attention on the economic potential of sustainable energy, the Department of Natural Resources should play a role in a prosperous Washington.
To some extent, that long has been the case. The department manages 3 million acres of public lands and supports schools and local governments through timber sales and natural resource leases. As the DNR’s website explains: “The U.S. Congress granted Washington millions of acres of land to support public institutions such as funding the construction of public K-12 grade schools statewide, state universities, other state educational institutions, and prisons.”
Franz said the department generates about $325 million a year — roughly $125 million for schools and $200 million for counties. Much of that revenue supports often-struggling rural areas.
The department also is pursuing additional opportunities. It has approved 21 leases for wind farms on state-owned land along with two new leases for solar energy production. The land previously generated little revenue for taxpayers and, as Franz noted, one solar lease represents “a 98,000 percent increase in revenue.”
In the process, Washington steps into an ongoing discussion about the need for and the benefits from publicly owned land. Discussions for and against privatization represent one of the most heated arguments in the current political landscape, and Trump administration policies have worked in favor of privatization or extraction industries on public lands.
For most Washingtonians, we believe, such policy is anathema. The Northwest long has had an affinity for preserving the resources and the beauty of our vast landscapes, opting for wise management rather than degradation.
That process is imperfect. Poor forest management has contributed — along with climate change — to increasingly intense wildfires. Wise management should not mean no management.
Herrera Beutler puts party ahead of country
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Jaime Herrera Beutler’s characterization of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as a “farce” is shamefully partisan hyperbole that ignores her oath of office.
In joining all House Republicans by voting against rules for a formal impeachment hearing, the Battle Ground Republican has chosen party over country and obfuscation over transparency. With Democrats holding a majority in the House of Representatives, the measure passed anyway, setting up the next stage of hearings in the 5-week-old impeachment inquiry.
Herrera Beutler, in her fifth term in Congress, might be expected to follow party dogma in trying to halt the process. But her explanations on Facebook and Twitter fly in the face of logic and common sense, promoting Republican talking points designed to sow discord and doubt among the voting public.
Indeed, impeachment proceedings are inherently divisive. Herrera Beutler correctly notes the gravity of the situation and the weighty duty carried by all members of Congress. Talking about impeaching an American president and perhaps removing him from office — which would be up to the Senate — is not something to be taken lightly.
But it is there that we refer the congresswoman to her oath of office: “I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution ... and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
There is credible evidence that President Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine while seeking an investigation of a political rival. If true, that represents an effort to undermine an American election and to co-opt government for personal gain. Such evidence must be investigated; to suggest otherwise is to abdicate one’s duty to defend the Constitution.
During the initial impeachment inquiry, Republican lawmakers often have complained about a lack of transparency in the closed-door meetings, falsely giving the impression that they were not allowed to attend or to ask questions. Herrera Beutler joined many in her party by calling for open hearings, but when House Democrats took steps in that direction on Thursday, Republicans grasped a new canard to cloud the issue.
Herrera Beutler echoed claims that the procedures being voted upon are far different from the process for impeachment hearings in 1974 and 1998, and she said the president would not be allowed due process. In truth, the rules are similar to those of the past, and Trump’s lawyers will have an opportunity to mount a defense when the process moves to the Judiciary Committee.
It is telling that Herrera Beutler criticizes a provision allowing the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to remove cross-examination rights from the president’s counsel if Trump refuses to cooperate, but she has been silent regarding efforts to undermine subpoenas and breach the co-equal power of Congress. Throughout the proceedings, Trump has urged witnesses not to appear; demanding respect for the process from the Executive Branch is a reasonable expectation.
Rather than standing on ever-shrinking platforms to defend President Trump, Herrera Beutler should heed the words of Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, who left the Republican Party earlier this year: “This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name ... History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.”