County seeks wolf advocates

Posted on March 28th in News

Two members required to fulfill ODA requirements

By Jennifer Jenks
Burns Times-Herald

The Harney County Court is seeking two wolf advocates in the community who would be willing to come forward and serve on the local wolf compensation committee, to fulfill the requirement of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).

The ODA requires two people to serve on the committee who either advocate for wolves or support compatibility with living with wolves.

Anyone interested in serving on the committee can contact Commissioner Dan Nichols at 541-493-2440.

Nichols made the request at the Harney County Court meeting last Wednesday, March 21. He also updated the court on a planning meeting he recently attended regarding juniper utilization and management.

A lot of headway is being made on juniper use and management statewide, he noted. However, he noticed that curiosity was expressed several times throughout the meeting as to where the restoration should occur with the limited amount of funds available. “It raised red flags with me,” he said. “This is something we need to keep an eye on.”

On a positive note, Nichols noted there were six juniper businesses interviewed in this process, with 13 to 15 full-time jobs in manufacturing and sales of juniper in Oregon beyond firewood and restoration, and six of those full-time jobs are in Harney County.

The industry statewide exceeded $1 million in 2011 and is expected to double that in 2012, and Harney County has half of that money, Nichols said, because of the county court pushing very hard and because of the entrepreneurs in this community.

The juniper industry is not just about creating jobs, Nichols stressed. It is also extremely beneficial and necessary environmentally. The Burns Bureau of Land Management, Southeast Oregon Regional Alliance, grazing permittees, landowners, Harney County Soil and Water Conservation District and local businesses have helped immensely in getting the juniper industry off the ground in this area, Nichols said.

“It’s a win-win,” Nichols stated. “It puts people to work and helps the environment, and private individuals can do the work for a lot less than it would cost the government.”

A landowner recently reported to the court that he had put a lot of money into controlling medusahead on his property. An organic landowner adjacent to his property, however, has let his property become completely overgrown with the weed. What can he do?

Harney County Weed Control Coordinator Jesse Barnes addressed this issue at the meeting. She stated the weed board had a policy in place for incidents such as this. The coordinators first send letters asking the landowner to address the issues. If they don’t respond to the letters, the coordinators meet with them in person. If they still don’t respond, the weed control office can issue them a $720 ticket for every day they don’t comply.

Fortunately, Barnes said, they have never had to resort to that. “Most of the time we say, ‘Hey, we’ve got all this money to help you out’ and they say, ‘Really? How do I get that?’ ” There is a lot of funding available to help landowners with weed control.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said he noticed many instances when landowners decided to “go organic” and in a couple of years, it becomes a noxious weed patch. He felt this is a problem the weed board needs to try to stay on top of.

Barnes additionally requested the initiation and adoption of a Material Site Weed Certification and Inspection Program. She said they had outside requests for the board to certify properties and material sites and to certify them as “weed-free.” The intent, she said, is for educational purposes and as a “buyer beware” program.
Someone would not want to put rocks infested with a specific noxious weed under a bridge, for example, that would ruin the stream, she explained.

The board approved a motion to approve Barnes’ request to initiate the process contingent on legal review from District Attorney Tim Colahan for liability issues.

The court received a surprise visit from Roy Elicker, director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and Chip Dale, also with ODFW, who had been visiting ODFW property in Harney and Malheur counties.

The two talked to the court about the 65 volunteers the local BLM office has lined up from all over the state to participate in sage grouse lek surveys. They were impressed with the number of volunteers the Hines BLM was able to get, as the lek surveyors have to visit the lek three times to get an average and have a limited opportunity to view the leks, which occur first thing in the morning for a brief period of time.

Elicker noted they are on the third year of cougar control on Steens Mountain and should have some measurable deer count results this year to see if it’s made a difference. He noted some studies in other areas have shown a lot of deer losses are from car accidents and poaching, so they are very curious to see what results they will get from the Steens.

In other business:

• Judge Grasty noted the public will only be allowed to speak at county court meetings during the public comment period and discussion on any other agenda items is limited to county court members, unless someone else in attendance is invited to comment on a specific agenda topic;

• Harney County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jen Hoke was in attendance to update the court on chamber of commerce statistics and activities. She would like to see more entities such as the refuge, BLM and the Paiute Tribe involved in getting the word out about Harney County at Oregon State Fair booth. The chamber will continue with the Business Beautification Award they presented for the first time at the annual Chamber Awards Banquet this year. The chamber is looking to lay a solid foundation for a downtown revitalization;

• Road Supervisor Eric Drushella updated the court on a Fund Exchange Agreement between the Oregon Department of Transportation and Harney County. Drushella noted they can let the funds sit for a couple of years to build up and then put toward a project. Some counties, he noted, were actually purchasing equipment with the funds. Everything the road crew did last year in their budget cycle, not counting regular maintenance, was reimbursed or funded, including chip seals, road widening and paving. Most of next year’s work should be, as well;

• Fred Flippence presented the board with an annual report of the library foundation. He noted they had received a grant from the Meyer Memorial Foundation for the new Teen Room at the library, which is almost complete. They also authorized a storage building to be built at the back edge of the library for storing tables and chairs. He noted Debbie Ausmus had resigned as president of the board, and Flippence had been appointed to fill that position. The foundation has collected $5,531 in restitution on their embezzlement out of the $30,000 owed, Flippence noted. He said when the embezzlement first occurred, their bank account was almost completely wiped out and they could hardly even afford to buy what was necessary just to put on a fund raiser, but they are doing better now;

• the board approved Resolution 2012-03 regarding Rural Address Fees. GIS Coordinator Bryce Mertz and Planning Director Brandon McMullen were in attendance to explain the resolution, which they said was an attempt to more clearly define these fees, how the process is initiated and who pays for replacement stakes and road naming. Basically, if there are only one or two addresses on a road and they want to name a road or propose an access way, they can pay a fee and do it, and it is completely voluntary. However, if there are more than two homes, the county initiates the process and pays for it.

Because of scheduling conflicts, the next county court meeting will be split up into two abbreviated meetings. They will meet Wednesday, April 4, and Wednesday, April 11, from 10 a.m. until about noon each day in Judge Grasty’s office at the Harney County Courthouse, 420 N. Buena Vista in Burns.

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