BLM planning to use aerial attack on invasive species
by Samantha White
Jim Campbell, Harney County Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) coordinator, attended the regular-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held Sept. 3) to discuss noxious weed eradication efforts.
Campbell explained that recent wildfires may provide an opportunity to gain control over Medusahead rye (Taeniatherum caput-medusae), as studies show the best control of the noxious weed was accomplished by treating infested acres with a pre-emergent herbicide during the fall immediately following a fire and prior to the emergence of annual grasses.
Campbell said the fires “set you up to do some good,” but he warned that Medusahead will “blow up on a much larger scale” if it is left unchecked after a fire. As a winter annual (a plant that germinates in the fall and lives through the winter), Medusahead is able to out compete perennials because it is the first plant species to take over after a fire.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty asked what a Medusahead infestation would mean for wildlife and “other critters.”
Campbell replied, “You might as well pave [infested land] and put a Walmart out there.”
He explained that Medusahead is both inedible and inhabitable.
Campbell said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning to treat thousands of acres with aerial herbicide spray using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
“If the BLM pulls this off, it’s going to be unprecedented,” Campbell said.
Private landowners and operators who were affected by the Buzzard Complex Fire are being encouraged to assess their ability to treat Medusahead this fall, as an opportunity exists for them to participate in a group aerial herbicide spray.
Interested landowners can contact CWMA staff at 541-589-4314.
District Attorney Tim Colahan attended the meeting to discuss an order in the matter of appointing the Harney County Supervising Authority, Harney County Local Parole Board, and a hearings officer for Harney County.
The order appoints Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup and Harney County Community Corrections as the Harney County Supervising Authority.
The order also appoints Glerup, along with John Copenhaver and Hilda Allison, to two-year terms on the Harney County Local Parole Board.
Under the order, Colahan will act as legal counsel to the board, which is responsible for the following functions:
• approval and signing of all parole orders;
• hearing and arbitration of appeals of decisions by the Harney County Hearings Officer;
• adjudication of all parole revocations where the intended sanction is 91 days or more in the Harney County Jail; and
• review of all sanctions imposed in local control cases.
Harney County Community Corrections will be responsible for all remaining parole board functions.
The order also appoints Lt. Will Benson of Baker County Community Corrections as the hearings officer for Harney County. Benson will hear appeals of sanctions imposed by the Harney County Community Corrections where the sanction or revocation is contested or the allegation is contested.
The order also continues placement of the Harney County Community Corrections Department under Glerup’s supervision.
Grasty said the court made the decision to place the department under the supervision of the county sheriff.
“That was our decision, and it could be rescinded,” he said. “There are no issues today whatsoever, but I want us all to recognize that we are not giving up the ability to take control.”
The court agreed to approve the signing of the order.
Discussion resumed regarding a letter from Brent Fenty, executive director of Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), regarding the Oregon Desert Trail.
Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said, “I read through it, and no where does it talk about our request for not designating the trail.”
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols added that, although the letter acknowledges the BLM’s multiple use mandate, it states that lands may be managed for livestock grazing.
“I thought it was kind of humorous that they were using the word ‘may’ in there,” Nichols said. “It leaves the door open and kind of shows you where they’re headed.”
Grasty said the letter failed to address county comprehensive land use. He added that he thinks ONDA should complete the full National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process at its own expense.
The court agreed to discuss the matter further in an afternoon work session.
Grasty added that he’d like to get other counties involved in drafting a response to ONDA.
In other business, the court:
• was addressed during the public comment period by Sharon N. Cairns-Chaddick concerning wild horses and burros.
She stated, “A lot of people back East need wild horses to sooth their souls and see the beauty of our public lands.”
She added, “We should welcome them with open arms because they bring money to our state;”
• received a letter from Barbara Cannady concerning the circuit court case of Gary Marshall et. al. vs. Barbara Cannady et. al.
In part, the letter stated that Howard Palmer testified that AE Brown Road “was never formally accepted by the Harney County Commissioners, which means it was never legalized.”
She added that this issue is “an element of dispute for the proposed road identification map for Harney County;”
• was addressed during the public comment period by Barbara Kull concerning United Nations Agenda 21;
• briefly discussed a map of roads within Harney County. Grasty said, other than the letter submitted by Cannady, he had not received any additional information on that issue;
• discussed the state’s Sage Grouse Conservation Partnership (SageCon). Grasty said SageCon has yet to provide a legal definition of “disturbance” or show what modeling will be used to determine the amount of disturbance that currently exists;
• discussed the road right-of-way reservation that the county holds on a piece of ground owned by Jeff and Sherri Hussey near East Steens Road.
The Husseys have elected to donate the parcel to the federal government and receive a tax deduction.
In a letter written to Grasty, Rhonda Karges, Andrews / Steens Field Manager for the Burns BLM, stated, “To ensure we can get approval from the solicitor on the preliminary title report, BLM is asking Harney County to release the road reservation record on the deed in 1955.”
Grasty recommended that Colahan prepare a quitclaim deed for the court to consider.
The court agreed to resume discussion concerning this issue during its next meeting;
• reviewed an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) speed zone investigation that was recently conducted on Egan Road.
Rich Heinemann, ODOT Region 5 Traffic Investigator, stated that his report recommends 35 mph in the north zone (from Grant Street to Culp Lane) and 45 mph in the south zone (from Culp Lane to the south boundary of the Harney County Fairgrounds).
“We’ve got an argument to make with them,” Grasty said, explaining that he believes the south zone should be 35 mph.
Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella agreed, stating that it should be 35 mph “at least until they get past the fairgrounds;”
• received a letter from the Vale BLM regarding renewal of grazing permits;
• received a letter from the Lakeview BLM concerning expanding its existing integrated weed management program to make ten additional herbicides available for treatment and allowing herbicides to be used to treat all non-native invasive plants across the resource area;
• learned from Grasty that Teresa Raaf announced her resignation from Forest Supervisor of the Malheur National Forest.
Raaf accepted the position as Director of State and Private Forestry for Regions 6 and 10 and will be reporting to Portland Nov. 2.
“I understand why she made this decision, but I’m sad to see her go,” Grasty said.
He added that the court will have to build a new relationship with the next forest supervisor;
• upon recommendation from Drushella, accepted a bid from McCallum Rock Drilling Inc. for a drilling and blasting project;
• discussed the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation’s economic strategy.
Grasty said he believes the strategy is completely focused on the northern counties, and he thinks there should be two strategies — one for the north and one for the south.
“I’m going to push back very hard that this has to be redone,” Grasty said.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.