By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 2, the Harney County Court signed a letter of agreement with The Nature Conservancy to “work together to accomplish mutually beneficial goals related to healthy forests and healthy communities.”

Before the court signed the agreement, Harney County resident Bob Morehead expressed some concern about the environmental group. “They buy private land and then sell it to the federal government at twice the price,” Morehead said.

Both Judge Steve Grasty and Commissioner Dan Nichols assured Morehead that they had several meetings with The Nature Conservancy and felt the two could work together for the betterment of the community and forest needs. “We’ll tread cautiously on this,” Grasty said. “But we need to try and work with these groups to get back to using our natural resources.”

“Environmental groups are changing,” Nichols said. “Collaboration is the key word for coming together for forest health and the benefits to the community. They realize they’ve made mistakes and dry pine forests need to be managed.”

When The Nature Conservancy’s past practices of conservation were brought up, Nichols said, “History needs to change. We’ll enter into this agreement, and I think we’ll be fine.”

Mary Ausmus was in attendance and presented the court with a list of questions regarding parolees being returned to Harney County after being released from the state prison system as mandated by state statute. Judge Grasty encouraged her to attend the upcoming meetings on Jan. 8 and Jan. 22 regarding this issue.

Sam Kaiser also expressed concern about parolees being returned to the county and the expenses associated with the program. “We can’t afford it and they don’t deserve first-class treatment,” Kaiser said. “They’re talking about a grant to build a house for the parolees. Well, grants are a one-time shot and the taxpayers end up paying after the grant runs out.” Kaiser was also encouraged to attend the meetings.

Wayne Baron and Bill Wilber presented the court with an update on 4R Recycling. Baron told the court community support has been tremendous since they opened and the number of customers that use the service seems to be increasing all the time.

Baron said that while the business is doing OK, they still need to increase their volume to make it profitable. He told the court he has had conversations with people in John Day and Prairie City about working with their cities to increase the volume.

The recycling center is also on the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) list as a possible site for an electronics dismantling center.

Baron added that they have talked about placing recycling drop-off sites in some of the outer-lying communities, such as Frenchglen, Drewsey and Riley, but there are concerns about people putting unrecyclable materials in the bins.

There was also concern about the furnace at the recycling center and the cost to run it with heating oil prices so high. The court agreed to look into other options to see what could be done.

Vern Brown and Chris Siegner from Harney Behavioral Health were in attendance to show their support for signing another six-month agreement with Lake County to help improve their mental health program. “We’ve helped Lake County, but they’re still about 18 months out,” Brown said. “As an element of pride, I want to finish the job and do it well.”

The court said they were supportive of signing the agreement, but there were still a couple of questions that needed to be answered before they did so.
In other business:

• the court signed court orders appointing Dr. Yazholi Kanikkannan as Harney County Health Officer, Sandra L. Richards and Stephen Finlayson as Harney County Justices of the Peace Pro Tempore, Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick as Harney County Medical Investigator and the Burns Times-Herald as the Harney County Newspaper for publication of county matters;

• the court approved Resolution #2008-01, which allows the county to collect the maximum fee allowed by law to fund the Law Library;

• Judge Grasty was appointed budget officer for fiscal year 2008-2009.
The court said there would be a special meeting at 10 a.m. Jan. 9 for the sole purpose of paying bills.

5 Responses to “Harney County Court pledges to work with environmental group”

  1. Noah Says:

    The Nature Conservancy is just one of the many organizations that have been campaigning to me through my mailbox. They sent me a sheet of flowery stickies and an impractical tote bag after I sent them a token donation. I only did it because they publish a quarterly that I thought would look nice on my coffee table before I throw the rag out.

    The Sierra Club is another that got my address. They were offering a fashionable little backpack in exchange for membership. I wrote back to say I was too old for a backpack and if they had any hand in the reintroduction of wolves, they were stupid. However, I like the pretty pictures of cuddly looking bears, panthers and eagles.

    I have no idea what the Nature Conservancy has on their mind. I only knew one desperate rancher in Idaho who leased a section of his land to them as wetland conservation for ducks. Seems like the rancher really won out on that deal while the Nature Conservancy squandered some of their resources. I mean, what else can you do with a swamp?

  2. Lane Johnson Says:

    Judge Grasty and Commissioner Nichols are incredibly naive if they think they can have an honest, mutual give-and-take with The Nature Conservancy. In all likelihood, they’ll find out the hard way that it’s all “give” on the part of the county and mostly “take” on the part of TNC. That’s typical of controversial environmental groups of this sort. For a bit of background on TNC, take a look at

  3. Bridget Says:

    Thank you for the link, Lane. Range magazine, ( ), has done a series of investigative pieces on this organization, which I urge anyone with an interest in this subject to read. TNC is one of the few environmental groups with money and patience. Seller beware.

  4. Lane Johnson Says:

    And thank you, Bridget, for the Range magazine link. Whoever in the county leadership was involved in signing the “letter of agreement” mentioned in the Times-Herald article shouldn’t “tread cautiously” even one more inch without reading every word presented in the above two links. Talk about shaking hands with the devil!

  5. BTH Reader Says:

    Dear Stephanie K. Meeks,

    I read your note urging me to renew my membership and to support the work of the Nature Conservancy. It all sounds like a noble ideal but while I have not taken care of my own needs first, I will be withholding my fiduciary support because your enterprise is out of focus.

    Why should I care about the African savannas or California underwater habitats when the village idiot resides as my next door neighbor? My money is worthless, if there was a way to get the bane of my life out of it, my world would look so much better. Day after day, week after week, he plods past my window to check in with his probation officer. I dare not even to step out for groceries because believe it or not, he’ll be in the path wandering around going from one of his baby sitters to another.

    It is uncanny, I can hardly believe my bad luck. Why must I carry this curse and be so unblessed? If I must endure and suffer my clown, I feel the rest of the world can join me in hell. To hell with painted toads, to hell with rain forests, Joshua trees, Saguaro cactus, and tide pools.

    Imagine, I don’t know what good to do with my discretionary funds so, I send it back to the US Treasury and they turn around to suckle my imbecile. And you won’t see me handing any gifts to the local food bank either, not when someone who doesn’t appreciate it is there to get a grab bag.

    Sorry Stephanie, You may have caught me during a bad mood but I can’t pretend anymore.

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