U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, said Tuesday there are “no hard feelings” between her and the local GOP, even though the Clark County Republican Party considered formally rebuking her earlier this year.
“I was honest about who I was before I was elected. I have not changed … I stuck to the issues that the people elected me to work on and I beat every Republican I ran against in the primary,” Herrera Beutler said. “If I change that now, I think that would be dishonest.”
In the end, the local party voted not to consider censuring the congresswoman, but the discussion generated headlines and highlighted sharp divisions within the party.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Columbian’s editorial board on Tuesday, Herrera Beutler also touted a plan to better manage federal forests and touched upon whom she would likely support for Clark County council chair and what’s next for the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement efforts.
For two years, Herrera Beutler said she’s worked on legislation she hopes to introduce shortly that takes an “ecosystem approach,” rather than a “single species” approach, to managing the forests.
“If we manage to help the entire forest, we’ll benefit the (threatened Northern Spotted) owl and everything else,” she said, including humans.
“I’m not going to pretend my interest here is only to grow trees and have a beautiful forest. I want the families in our region to succeed,” she said. “It’s not just the species, it’s not just the elk, the critters, it’s not just the owls that are going to benefit. The families are going to benefit as well. Those are my most prized species.”
The plan, which her staff said is currently being drafted, would move away from measuring the amount of timber being removed from the forest and instead “strive to create a diverse landscape that is managed for the whole ecosystem by having different age classes of trees.”
Currently, she said, a near solid forest canopy caused by what she deemed a lack of forest management is blocking sunlight and preventing smaller trees and ground cover from flourishing.
Here’s what she said on other issues:
• On the Interstate 5 Bridge: Herrera Beutler said she’s pleased to see state lawmakers take the lead. Reps. Liz Pike, R-Camas, and Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, recently introduced a measure that would carve out $100,000 to create a bistate bridge coalition that would explore replacement options.
The congresswoman said her message to state lawmakers has been “we have to agree.” The federal government would get behind a project even if it didn’t include light rail, she said. “It wasn’t a federal requirement,” she said. “It was a preference.”
• On an east county bridge: Herrera Beutler said county Councilor David Madore’s proposal to build an east county bridge would not distract from efforts to ease congestion on the Interstate 5 Bridge. “I think you want me to hate on that bridge,” Herrera Beutler said during the meeting, but she declined to do so, calling herself “agnostic” on the subject.
• On the proposed oil terminal in Vancouver: The congresswoman said if all the safety concerns were addressed, she would not be against the idea of the proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. “I’m not anti-oil for the sake of being anti-oil. The safety piece is why I would be anti-oil. If I was satisfied with the safety piece, I would see it as an opportunity economically. That’s a big if … My issue is not with the commodity being moved.”
• On the Clark County council chair race: Currently, three Republicans are vying for the seat, current Councilors Tom Mielke and Chairman David Madore and former County Commissioner Marc Boldt. Herrera Beutler said she hasn’t talked to Boldt about the race, but she said, “You know I’ve supported Marc Boldt in the past.”