Decision could take authority from local and state levels
By Randy Parks
Burns Bureau of Land Management (BLM) District Manager Kenny McDaniel attended the Harney County Court meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 16, to speak with the court about the secretarial order issued Dec. 23 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Secretarial Order 3310 directs the BLM, based on the input of the public and local communities through its existing land management planning process, to designate appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its jurisdiction as “Wild Lands” and to manage them to protect their wilderness values.
McDaniel said that wilderness characteristics include size, naturalness (unimpaired by man’s influence) and opportunity for solitude or unrefined recreation. He added that the order directs the BLM to protect lands of wilderness characteristics unless there’s a good reason not to. As an example, McDaniel used a juniper cutting project. The project would initially impair the wilderness characteristics, but the result would be the maintenance or enhancement of the habitat.
McDaniel stated there was some concern that the order takes a lot of authority from the local and state levels and gives it to the federal level. “We’re pushing back on that,” McDaniel said.
The court felt the order was a deliberate move to circumvent the congressional process of designating wilderness areas.
McDaniel stated that once the BLM does inventory an area, if it meets the criteria, they will have to go through a public process to do a project.
The court reviewed a letter from Don Slone asking that he, Zelley Campbell, Jim Kelley and Melodi Molt be appointed to the fair board to fill the vacancies.
The court agreed that because Slone is the fair manager he can’t serve on the board and appointed the three others.
County Treasurer Nellie Franklin told the court that the fair board is currently about $30,000 in the hole in this fiscal year.
Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stated that the court had already appropriated $79,000 to the fair in the budget and to have them go so far over the budget was unacceptable. He said the fair board’s projected revenues were down and expenses were higher than projected. “It’s just not run businesslike,” Grasty said.
Grasty said the court would continue to fund the caretaker and normal bills (power, water, etc.), and asked Franklin to not pay any more newly created bills until the fair board can show how they’re going to fill the $30,000 hole.
Judge Grasty reported he had attended an informal meeting with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) regarding the sage grouse strategy plan.
Grasty said that seven counties were represented at the meeting and they collectively showed frustration over the ODFW’s reluctance to include socio-economic impacts in the plan. Grasty added that he does hope to visit with the governor and legislature and have them ask ODFW to include community impact.
Grasty also expressed frustration that ODFW refers to the plan as “guidelines only,” yet conservation and environmental groups are already using them in litigation.
In other business:
• the court appointed Linda Johnson and Angie Ketscher to the Harney County Watershed Council and re-appointed Dustin Johnson, Fred Otley and Christine Bates;
• the court appointed Pat Sharp and Geoffrey Robinson to the Harney County Commission on Children and Families, and Grasty signed the commission’s re-application for the Drug Free Communities grant;
• Planning Director Brandon McMullen reported that since the first week in January, all building program activity has been an operation of the Planning Department and things were going well. He thanked Tony West of Lake County and Deschutes County inspectors for their help in covering inspection and plan review services, and stated that an advisory committee of local contractors had been set up to review those interested in providing inspection service and serving as the Building Official;
• the court approved Ordinance No. 2011-68 amending the Harney County zoning ordinance to update the review process within the airport vicinity overlay zone;
• the court voted to supply funding to make up the difference for Guy McKay to have a full-time position as Veterans Services Officer;
• George Clucas of the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC) was present to introduce himself and explain what services GEODC provides;
• the court briefly discussed the new proposed U.S. Forest Service Planning Rule released by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, noting the proposed rules give more authority to local supervisors working with the public to determine the best use of an individual forest.
The next county court meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 2, at the courthouse.