by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Vandalism is on the rise in the Radar Hill Off Highway Vehicle area. Some have used the area as a trash dump. (Submitted photo)

Vandalism is on the rise in the Radar Hill Off Highway Vehicle area. Some have used the area as a trash dump. (Submitted photo)

Harney County has a valuable asset in the Radar Hill OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) area, but unfortunately, the area is being used as a trash dump, an avenue to trespass on neighboring private land, a place to squeeze off a few rounds of ammunition, and a spot to commit vandalism.

The Radar Hill Fire, which occurred on the Fourth of July, was started by individuals in the OHV area playing with modified fireworks, and it burned 900 acres of private land and more than 130 acres of public land.

With the problems seeming to escalate every year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who manages the land, is now taking steps to develop a management plan to mitigate the problems.

BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Eric Haakenson said a 1992 Resource Management Plan called for analyzing the 220-acre OHV area, and since that time, there has been a significant increase in the amount of people using it. As the number of visitors to the area has risen, so has the frequency of abuse, and the BLM has begun a scoping process to get public input on solving the problems.

Tara McLain, BLM realty specialist, said portions of the OHV area, including what is known as “Suicide Hill,” are on private land, and some of the trails pass through private land. In the past, visitors to the OHV area respected private property, but recently, there have been signs stolen, water holes used as mud bogs, ground disturbance, and trash dumped, including household garbage, furniture and appliances.

“The private landowners are tired of their land being abused,” McLain said.

One suggestion was to fence off the private land, but that would create liability issues, and the land is in the middle of a grazing allotment, meaning a fence would reduce the amount of pasture available. Another solution being analyzed is having the BLM acquire the land by sale or trade.

“People are dumping trash, trespassing, and the latest, starting a wildfire. Some people just don’t care,” Three Rivers Resource Area Field Manager Rick Roy said. “People are even dumping motor oil up there after they change the oil in their vehicle. We want to make the area an asset to the community because, right now, it’s a liability.”

As the use of the area increased, BLM responded by improving trails, installing a vault toilet, and making other improvements.

“Everything we put up there though gets damaged,” Tara Thissell, public affairs officer, said, pointing out that the toilet had been shot up.

“It was shot by a shotgun and a rifle,” Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said. “So you know it was deliberate damage.”

The BLM and the sheriff’s office are working together to reduce the amount of abuse and trespassing, but they also need the public’s help.

“One alternative is to just shut the whole area down. If you can’t administer a site, and do it right, what do you do?” asked Roy. “It’s just a few abusing the area, yet everyone is affected. Locals who use the area can help police it. It’s a unique area, not a dump, and it’s a community issue, not just a BLM problem.”

Sheriff Ward said in his discussions with BLM officials, other solutions suggested have ranged from installing cameras to random surveillance.

“The public has a right, a Constitutional right, to use public land, but it needs to be respected. It can be taken away,” Ward said. “And private land is just that, private. Just because it’s not fenced doesn’t mean you have the right to trespass. Just like if a door to a home isn’t locked, you don’t have the right to enter.”

Ward stated his office and the BLM want to foster a good relationship between OHV enthusiasts and private land owners, and that means weeding out those who abuse the area.

He said offenders can be cited for criminal trespass, offensive littering, criminal mischief, destruction of private property, and other violations.

“We want to send a strong message to those abusing the area,” Ward said.

He added that driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) laws apply on public lands, and parents may be cited for the actions of their children.

Along with the sheriff’s office, the BLM has also had conversations with the county court, the chamber of commerce, OHV groups, snowmobile clubs, mountain bike groups, equestrian groups, and high school students to see what they have to offer in the way of solutions and suggestions for the area.

“We’ve talked about creating a mud bog to keep the offenders out of the private springs,” Roy said. “There could be a ‘Tough Mudder’ type of event, mountain bike races, all kinds of events.”

The BLM tentatively plans to hold public comment meetings this winter and next spring to hear how the community thinks the area should be managed, and Haakenson said they hope to have a management plan ready in about 18 months.


by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

During its regularly-scheduled meeting held Wednesday, July 22, the Burns City Council approved Resolution  No. 15-611, setting fees for airport services.

Airport Manager Jeff Cotton explained that he had worked with airport managers around the state to establish standardized pricing. This was done in order to not discourage anyone with a general aviation aircraft from choosing an airport based on price, said Cotton.

The resolution sets prices for de-icing, fueling, and ground power. The council voted unanimously to approve it.

•••

In her report, City Manager (CM) Dauna Wensenk said that Pedro Zabala had been hired as the new public works director and will start Aug. 1. Interviews for a payroll clerk/accounts receivable position were held that day. CM Wensenk said they went well and that they should have someone in place by the next council meeting.

She said the buyer that had been interested in the abated properties on Johnson Street had backed out of the sale, and there will be a report at the next council meeting.

•••

Harney County Library Director Cheryl Hancock was present to request the closure of “D” Street between Broadway Avenue and Alvord Avenue on Thursday, Aug. 6 for the annual Library Block Party. The event will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The council approved Hancock’s request by consensus.

A request from Harney County Chamber of Commerce Director Chelsea Harrison to close Washington Street between Broadway Avenue and Alder Avenue on Aug. 6 was also approved. In a letter to the council, Harrison described a new event to be held on the first Thursday of each month, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Downtown businesses will stay open, and street vendors will set up.

•••

In other business, the council:

• Briefly discussed the city’s lien on the former bowling alley property, and voted to table it for the next meeting;

• Approved a switch to a new collection agency, Western Collection Bureau, Inc.;

• heard from Herb Vloedman, who expressed concerns about the general condition of city streets, and about fire danger on land along the nature trail.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, at city hall.


Medusahead

Medusahead rye is an invasive, noxious weed that can out-compete other grasses on ranch land. (Submitted photo)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Burns District, plans to implement approximately 40,000 acres of aerial spray treatments for Medusahead rye and cheatgrass on public land beginning the week of Aug. 3. Both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft will be used in the effort and there will be concurrent treatments on private lands in the same or nearby vicinities.

The treatment schedule for Harney County includes these dates and locations:

• Warms Springs Reservoir area: Aug. 3-7. (South boat launch and surrounding area closed to the public during this time).

• Crane/Venator/Riverside areas: Aug. 8-29.

• Riley area: Aug. 30-Sept. 19.

• West of Frenchglen/North of Rock Creek (Miller Homestead fire area): Sept. 20-30.

• East of Fields /Trout Creek Mountain (Holloway fire area): Sept. 20-26.

• East Steens near Mann Lake Ranch: Sept. 24-25.

Medusahead out-competes other grasses by extracting the majority of moisture well before perennial grasses have begun to grow. Once land is invaded by this species, it becomes almost worthless, supporting neither native animals, birds nor livestock. Cheatgrass is problematic as well. It can maintain superiority over native plants in part because it is a prolific seed producer able to germinate in the autumn, and it is tolerant of grazing and increases with frequent fire.

The Strategic Weed Attack Team (SWAT) – a joint venture between the BLM and Harney County – has been invaluable in managing rapid responses to new invasions of noxious weeds in the area, with Medusahead and cheatgrass as top priorities. With the SWAT’s help, small infestations are controlled quickly and economically, averting the potential spread and increase to unmanageable levels of obscure noxious weed populations.

There are many things an individual can do to help prevent the introduction and spread of noxious weeds. First and foremost, become familiar with the noxious weeds in your area and treat them to prevent their spread. Wash your vehicles and equipment before venturing into new areas to prevent tracking weeds into new areas, and report weed sitings on BLM-administered lands to the local BLM Weed coordinator.

For more information about weed treatments on public land, contact Lesley Richman at the BLM Burns District office at 541-573-4479. For more information about projects on private land, contact Steph Bonson at the Harney County Cooperative Weed Management Area office at 541-573-8397.


Proposed 25 percent utilization rate questioned

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

A meeting to review the livestock grazing portion of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision was held Tuesday, July 14, at the Harney County Community Center in Burns. A previous meeting held June 16 had focused on forest access in relation to the plan.

•••

Background

The process of revising the Forest Plans began in 2004, in compliance with the National Forest Management Act of 1976, which requires every national forest or grassland that’s managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) to develop and maintain an effective land management plan (also known as a forest plan) to guide future management of natural resources for a period of approximately 10 to 15 years. Plans for the Blue Mountains National Forests haven’t been revised since 1990.

According to the USFS website, “The Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests (collectively referred to as the Blue Mountains National Forests) have combined efforts and established the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision team to revise their land and resource management plans. The current plans are being revised to address substantial resource and social changes on the three national forests and to include new scientific information.”

On March 14, 2014, the Proposed Revised Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RLMP/DEIS) was released for a 90-day public comment period, which was extended an additional 60 days, ending on Aug. 15, 2014.

More than 1,000 letters were received during the comment period, with primary concerns being: access, the pace and scale of restoration, and grazing and other associated uses on the forest.

In an attempt to address these concerns, the USFS decided to take a step back and reengage the public by encouraging meetings in affected communities throughout Oregon and Washington.

•••

Meeting introduction

The High Desert Partnership sponsored the July 14 meeting in Burns, with Seneca rancher Jack Southworth facilitating.

Attendees included Malheur National Forest grazing permittees, agency officials, elected officials and members of the general public.

The meeting began with a brief report by USFS Range Program Manager Maura Laverty.

Laverty started by clarifying the difference between standards and guidelines. She said a standard is a constraint.

“In this plan, we don’t have standards, we have guidelines,” Laverty explained.*

She said the guidelines are intents. For instance, in the plan, the grazing utilization guideline in bull trout habitat is at 25 percent. Laverty said the Forest Service has to demonstrate that it is meeting the intent of protecting the fish habitat in spawning areas.

“The guideline is an intent, and that’s what we have to show – that we’re making an improvement for the fish,” she said.

Laverty said that while the 25 percent grazing utilization rate is lower than the previous plan, grazing levels are already at that point.

“What our monitoring is showing is that, in most cases, we’re not even meeting the allowable use – we’re not taking as much forage as we can,” she added.

Nearly everyone in attendance had a comment or question. The following are a few highlights.

•••

Public comment

Kyle Jackson asked Laverty how utilization levels were determined.

She said the revision team was focused on “accelerated restoration,” and decided that less utilization would amount to faster restoration.

“So it’s not necessarily science-based, it’s just that we think if we use less, then we’re going to be in a better situation?” Jackson asked.

“That is exactly what happened,” said Laverty.

Jackson asked if there would be a way to confine the 25 percent utilization rate to specific time frames when the fish needed protection, rather than apply it for the whole season. Laverty said it’s about the habitat, and protecting the riparian vegetation.

“And that’s not based on physiology at all, it’s just ‘we want to use less,’ is that correct?” asked Jackson.

Laverty said she had come into the process after a team had written up the plan.

“So I’m going to say, from my interpretation, that I can’t find the science behind it,” she said.

•••

Colby Marshall made several suggestions for what should be included in the plan:

• Develop a cost share program for ranchers to hire additional riders to control cattle herds;

• With the restoration of riparian areas, create riparian pasturage;

• Develop more off-stream water resources;

• Allow opportunities to relocate Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) sites that aren’t working;

• Allow goat grazing. Marshall said they don’t like riparian areas;

• Move away from measuring in Animal Unit Months (AUMs) to “total use” measurement;

• Form a “grazing team” that meets at the end of the grazing season and does an overall evaluation of how things are going.

•••

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said that the economic and social impacts of the Forest Plan needed to be addressed, and said there is a “cumulative impact” of regulation on people’s lives.

He also said that the Forest Service needs to keep its employees around longer in order to build relationships with the community.

•••

Malheur National Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin commented:

“I’m concerned that the utilization standard of 25 percent for bull trout [habitat] is lower than what’s currently in the agreed-to biological opinion of the regulatory agencies. I don’t think that’s a good trend. In fact, it will not be that way. At least for Malheur [National Forest]. You’re not going to go against what the legal regulatory agencies’ already-low standards are…we’re already accelerating our pace of restoration.”

Laverty responded:

“So that will be a recommendation that Steve, as the forest supervisor, will take to the signing official, and I would like to see the other two forest supervisors get on board with that. The team just came up with the 25 percent for accelerated restoration, and this is exactly the feedback we’re looking for.”

•••

At the conclusion of the meeting, Laverty said she had received a lot of good ideas, and said she thought most of them would be implementable and that it seemed like they could be incorporated.

Laverty and Sabrina Stadler, revision team leader, noted that although the official comment period has past, comments are still welcome

If you would like more information about the revision process, or would like to be on the mailing list, please contact the revision team at bluemtnplanrevision@fs.fed.us or call 541-523-1264 or 541-523-1231, or visit the website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMtnsPlanRevision.

•••

*Clarification – July 30, 2015

In an article published July 22, “Livestock grazing portion of forest plan revision discussed,” United States Forest Service Range Program Manager Maura Laverty was quoted on the subject of the grazing portion of the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision as such:

“In this plan, we don’t have standards, we have guidelines.”

In order to clarify this statement, Laverty provided the following:

“We don’t have standards for the allowable forage utilization in riparian areas in bull trout habitat; we have guidelines.”

The group discussion that was reported on centered around the allowable forage use levels, and when Laverty stated that the plan didn’t have standards, she was referring to the riparian area allowable utilization levels specifically.


Action forfeits right to marijuana tax revenue

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Marijuana was a topic of discussion during the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court held July 15.

On July 6, the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) drafted an explanation of 2015 Enrolled Oregon Senate Bill 460, which allows medical marijuana dispensaries to sell certain limited marijuana retail products to persons at least 21 years of age, beginning Oct. 1. The limited products that can be sold at retail include seeds, dried leaves and flowers, and plants that are not flowering. However, legislation allows any county to prohibit those sales in the area subject to its jurisdiction.

The court agreed during its July 15 meeting to sign Ordinance 2015-74, prohibiting the sale of certain limited marijuana retail products through medical marijuana dispensaries in the area subject to the jurisdiction of Harney County.

The AOC also drafted an explanation of Sections 133 to 136 of 2015 Enrolled Oregon House Bill 3400, which provides two methods for a county or city to opt out of any one (or more) of the six categories of state-licensed or registered marijuana business. These businesses include medical marijuana processors, medical marijuana dispensaries, retail marijuana producers, retail marijuana processors, retail marijuana wholesalers, and retail marijuana retailers.

One of the methods can only be used by counties, and cities in those counties, that voted against Ballot Measure 91 by at least 55 percent. That method does not require referral for a local vote.

The other method, which can be used by any county or city, does require referral for a local vote at the next general election, with a moratorium in the meantime.

A county that opts out of any of the six categories of state-licensed or registered marijuana businesses forfeits its right to impose local marijuana taxes. The county also forfeits its right to a share of state marijuana tax revenue.

“This is not an issue to be generating revenues from,” Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said.

He added that employers are already having a hard time finding people who are employable because many are unable to pass a drug test.

If a county opts out of medical marijuana processing sites or medical marijuana dispensaries, existing sites or dispensaries may be grandfathered if they meet the requirements of sections 133 to 136 of the 2015 Enrolled Oregon House Bill 3400.

The court agreed to sign Ordinance 2015-75, prohibiting the six types of state-licensed or registered marijuana businesses in the area subject to the jurisdiction of Harney County.

Since 65 percent of Harney County voted against Measure 91, a local vote is not required.

District Attorney Tim Colahan explained that Ordinance 2015-75 is a permanent moratorium. He added that the ordinance will not impact the incorporated areas of Burns and Hines.

Chris Siegner, Symmetry Care Inc. director, said, “The cities will need to look at their own ordinances.”

He added, “As a treatment provider, we are thrilled you would take this action.”

Because both ordinances were considered “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety,” an emergency was declared, and they took effect on the date of their passage (July 15).

The text of both ordinances will be provided to the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

•••

Siegner, Jeannie Brown, and Aba Choate attended the meeting to discuss developmental disabilities contracts.

Siegner explained that Symmetry Care would like to provide developmental disabilities services in-house. He added that he hopes developmental disabilities services will have more of a presence in the community and local schools.

The court agreed to sign a contract between the state of Oregon and Harney County for developmental disability services. The court also agreed to sign a subcontract between the county and Symmetry Care for these services.

The court will review the mental health contract between Harney County and Symmetry Care during the next county court meeting.

•••

The court signed a court order in the matter of instituting a burning ban in Harney County.

Thus, effective immediately (July 15), all outdoor burning is prohibited, and the issuance of burning permits is temporarily suspended. However, cooking outdoors in approved propane or charcoal barbecues is allowed.

The ban, which is based on weather conditions and community fire safety needs, will remain in effect until weather and fire danger conditions improve.

Speaking of fire safety, Grasty expressed appreciation for the firefighters who battled the July 4 wildfire just outside of city limits.

“I could see a mile of flame out my window, but I could see almost as many red, flashing lights as I could see fire,” he said.

•••

Susan Christensen from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) discussed ongoing efforts to clean up dilapidated mobile homes within the county and cities of Burns and Hines.

Christensen explained that efforts have been complicated by the possible presence of asbestos, and she met with representatives from the county and two cities to discuss managing the mobile homes in a responsible way.

Grasty said he’d like to put together a committee to help identify nuisance properties in the county.

He said he’d also like to meet with Rodd Dinsmore, owner of C&B Sanitary Service, to discuss the process and costs associated with cleanup.

•••

In other business, the court:

• received an update from Desiree Taylor and Darcy Ugalde concerning Farm Service Agency  (FSA) programs, including the Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Emergency Conservation Program. They also informed the court about the upcoming FSA county committee election;

• learned that Grasty requested training from the OLCC regarding the annual renewal of liquor licenses, as well as the county’s options and authorities;

• agreed to sign an order in the matter of conveying property not needed for public use to the Kids Club of Harney County. The court also agreed to sign the warranty deed;

• after a lengthy discussion with Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella, agreed to purchase a front end loader from Caterpillar for $250,836;

• approved and signed the agreement between Harney County and Harney County Deputy’s Association;

• briefly discussed sage grouse. Grasty thanked Barbara Cannady for her letter to the editor in the July 15 edition of the Burns Times-Herald, which encouraged the public to stand up against the proposed regulations.

He also encouraged the public to attend the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife meeting on Wednesday, July 22 and Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission meeting on Thursday, July 23;

• reviewed the Malheur National Forest Schedule of Proposed Actions for summer 2015;

• reviewed a letter from the Harney County 4-H Leaders Association regarding fairground maintenance;

• received a letter from the Department of Revenue Property Tax Division, stating that the mass appraisal review team completed its review of the 2015 Assessor Certified Ratio Study report and accepts its findings.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday,  Aug. 5, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

At the Burns Municipal Airport on Thursday, July 16, the Boise Smokejumpers performed a training exercise, jumping from 3,000 feet to a pre-marked area between the runways below. (Photo by STEVE HOWE)

At the Burns Municipal Airport on Thursday, July 16, the Boise Smokejumpers performed a training exercise, jumping from 3,000 feet to a pre-marked area between the runways below. (Photo by STEVE HOWE)

On Thursday, July 16, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Boise Smokejumpers came soaring in to the Burns Municipal Airport. Thankfully, these airborne firefighters were not there to fight a fire. The crew of 10 – eight jumpers, a spotter, and the pilot – were performing a routine training exercise.

According to the BLM website, the Boise Smokejumpers “provide wildland fire and hazardous fuels reduction services to the BLM and other land managers” and “assist with wildfire suppression, remote area fire monitoring, prescribed fire, thinning, and other fuels operations.”

•••

Suiting up

The smokejumper’s gear consists of a full suit made of Nomex® and Kevlar®, a main parachute worn on the back, a reserve parachute on the chest, and a helmet. All firefighting and survival gear is parachuted in a cargo box following the jumpers’ landing, and is meant to last them about 48 hours.

•••

In the air

Liaison Officer/Spotter Kurt Atkins said that when preparing to make a jump, the most important variables to monitor are topography and wind conditions. The plane carrying the crew first makes a low pass over the landing site at around 500 feet, to get a view of the ground conditions. Then, it flies to 1,500 feet, where weighted streamers are released to serve as an indicator of current wind direction and speed. Finally, the pilot climbs to 3,000 feet, and the crew members begin to jump. The spotter assists each person at the open aircraft door as they take the leap, and then stays with the plane.

In this exercise, crew members jumped one at a time, although Atkins said when they are on a fire, they will commonly jump in pairs. He said that airspace management is extremely important – the first jumper has to get out of the air fastest, and will manipulate the parachute to spiral down faster in order to make space for those following.

•••

Landing

For the training exercise, a target area was marked, and the jumpers aimed to get as close to it as possible. Atkins said the first thing they do after landing in a fire zone is to establish communication with dispatch, alerting them that they’ve arrived safely and are ready to fight the fire.


The purpose of this press release is to alert you, as a Harney County property owner or interested person, of proposed rules being proclaimed by the state of Oregon from both the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (LCDC) that may regulate development on private land to protect important sage grouse habitat.

If you own land, recreate, hunt, fish, have an interest in or simply visit the vast rural portions of this county, you may want to comment on these rules and better understand them. Below are the opportunities to do so in this community.

ODFW

The DRAFT administrative rule for mitigation of impacts to sage grouse habitat caused by development will be presented Wednesday, July 22, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the Harney County Senior Center, 17 S. Alder in Burns. This is a public hearing process, and the public is welcome to testify. The ODFW Commission will make a decision to consider adoption of this rule at its July 27 meeting in Salem.

LCDC

A presentation and decision to consider adoption of a DRAFT administrative rule regulating size, types and location of primarily large-scale commercial development on private land that may impact sage grouse habitat will be held Thursday, July 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Harney County Community Center, 484 N. Broadway in Burns. Note that agricultural use within Exclusive Farm Use (EFU) zoned land is exempt from this rule. There will be time allowed for the LCDC Commission to hear public comment prior to its decision.

Both rules are posted on the home page of the Harney County website: www.co.harney.or.us.


Triangle Park’s irrigation project under way

by Steve Howe
Burns Times-Herald

At its regularly-scheduled meeting July 8, the Burns City Council heard from Cara Wilber, a certified public accountant with Oster Professional Group. Wilber presented a city audit report for fiscal year 2013-14. She provided an overview of the report for the council.

Wilber noted there was a positive change in net position, reporting that cash on hand and assets had increased by $654,000.

“The financial position of the city is looking up, based on that number,” said Wilber.

Wilber concluded by pointing out some recommendations that were made regarding internal controls over payroll, account adjustments, inventory, accounts receivable, cash, and the airport fund balance.

•••

In her report, City Manager (CM) Dauna Wensenk noted that the irrigation system project at Triangle Park had begun, and that a seasonal park maintenance position was set to close on Friday, July 10. Another position for payroll clerk and accounts receivable will be advertised, she reported.

In old business, CM Wensenk reported that interviews with five applicants for the public works director position were held that day. She said all were very qualified, but two stood out, and a decision will be made soon.

•••

Airport Manager Jeff Cotton reported that a lot of fuel had been pumped lately due to recent firefighting efforts. He said the new fuel truck would be up and running by next week.

Cotton said an inspection by the Oregon Department of Aviation was completed that day, and that there were some improvements recommended, but they “passed with flying colors.”

•••

The council voted to approve Resolution No. 15-609 and 15-610, ordering dangerous buildings located at 420 W. Johnson and 460 W. Johnson, respectively, to be removed, and ordering the nuisance at these properties to be abated.

Wensenk said there was someone interested in purchasing the properties and renovating them, in which case removal and abatement by the city wouldn’t be necessary, but said the city’s legal counsel had advised that the resolutions be passed in case the sale doesn’t go through.

•••

Mayor Craig LaFollette read a statement from City Attorney Jeremy Green regarding Enjoy LLC, a medical marijuana dispensary in the city:

“We have experienced difficulty with the medical marijuana application and related fee. We anticipate that this will be resolved at the end of next week.”

•••

LaFollette also read a letter from Green informing the council of Oregon House Bill 3400 that was signed into law June 30. The bill contains a “local option,” which allows local governments in counties where at least 55 percent of voters voted no on Measure 91 to ban retail sales of marijuana. The ban must be passed within 180 days of the law’s effective date, or Dec. 27, 2015.

•••

Councilor Jerry Woodfin thanked those who had worked on the cleanup of the nuisance property at 730 S. Egan.

Councilor Terri Presley echoed Woodfin’s sentiment, and also cautioned about the extremely dry conditions in the area.

•••

The next meeting of the Burns City Council will be held Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. at Burns City Hall.


by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The Radar Fire began on July 4, and was determined to have been human-caused. (Submitted photo)

The Radar Fire began on July 4, and was determined to have been human-caused. (Submitted photo)

Three individuals were placed under arrest on several charges after the fireworks they were setting off sparked a wildfire in the Radar Hill area on the Fourth of July.

Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, July 4, Harney County Dispatch and the Burns Interagency Communication Center received a report of a fire on public land in the Radar Hill OHV area.

Firefighting resources from the cities of Burns and Hines, Burns Interagency Fire Zone and Harney County were quick to respond and began direct attack efforts. Dozers made significant progress throughout the night, putting a dozer line around much of the perimeter, stopping the spread of the fire in several directions. Firefighters provided structure protection for residences in the vicinity, and managed no losses overnight.

On Sunday, July 5, the Radar Fire was well-managed by six single-engine air tankers, one helicopter, one dozer, 12 engines, three handcrews and three water tenders. Because of winds, the fire did show moderate activity on the far south end and in the northwest corner during the afternoon. By 8 p.m. Sunday, the fire was 80 percent contained.

Firefighters continued to work through the night, securing the fire’s perimeter and mopping up hot spots. There is quite a bit of unburned vegetation amidst the black, so flare-ups may be seen on occasion.

As of Monday morning, crews continued to give  attention to hot spots, but spread potential was essentially down to nothing. Containment lines were reinforced and firefighters expected minimal to no burning activity throughout the day.

The fire burned a total of 1,037 acres (900 acres private land, 137 acres BLM land).

The blaze was determined to have been human-caused (fireworks), and following an investigation, three individuals were taken into custody. Adam Michael Carleton, Lee William Carleton and Josh Garrett Huber were each charged with reckless burning, possession of a destructive  device, arson and criminal mischief and lodged at Harney County Jail.


by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Alan “Chip” Dale, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) High Desert Region manager, and SageCon Coordinator Jamie Damon attended the regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court (held July 1) to discuss the proposed Oregon Administrative Rules.

The rules establish ODFW’s policy for the protection and enhancement of greater sage grouse in Oregon. They also incorporate and supplement portions of the 2011 Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy for Oregon, which sets population and habitat management objectives, and defines and governs ODFW’s core area strategy. Additionally, the rules advance sage grouse population and habitat protection through a mitigation hierarchy and establish a mitigation standard for impacts of development actions in sage grouse habitat.

Population management

The proposed rules state that sage grouse must be managed statewide to maintain or enhance their abundance and distribution at the 2003 spring breeding population level (approximately 30,000 birds during the next 50 years.) Regionally, the Burns District Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is to maintain or enhance sage grouse abundance and distribution at approximately 4,300 birds.

Habitat management

ODFW’s habitat management goals include:

• maintaining or enhancing the distribution of sagebrush habitats within greater sage grouse range in Oregon;

• managing those habitats in a variety of structural stages to benefit greater sage grouse, while reducing threats and promoting resilience;

• avoiding development actions in sage grouse core, low-density, and general habitats that adversely impact sage grouse habitat or sage grouse use of those habitats.

“Development action” is defined as any human-caused activity subject to regulation by local, state, or federal agencies that could result in the loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

Containing very high, high, or moderate lek density, “core areas” are mapped sagebrush types or other habitats that support greater sage grouse. “Low-density” areas contain low lek density, and “general habitat” is occupied (seasonal or year-round) habitat outside of core and low-density habitats;

• limit the extent, location, and negative impacts of development actions over time within sage grouse core, low-density, and general habitats. In core areas, direct impacts from human-caused disturbance will be limited to no more than 3 percent of any Priority Area for Conservation (PAC) and at a rate of less than 1 percent during a 10-year period.

“PACs” are key habitats defined by state sage grouse conservation plans or through other sage grouse conservation efforts. In Oregon, core area habitats are PACs;

• require compensatory mitigation for direct and indirect impacts from developments within sage grouse core, low-density, and general habitats. Ensure that such mitigation provides a net conservation benefit to sage grouse and their habitat by providing an increase in the functionality of their habitat.

The habitat management objective is to manage at least 70 percent of greater sage grouse range for sagebrush habitat in advanced structural stages. The approximately 30 percent remaining (which includes areas of juniper encroachment, non-sagebrush shrub land, and grasslands) should be managed to increase available habitat within greater sage grouse range.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty said he didn’t like the rules’ use of the word “disturbance” in this instance, especially considering that there’s a 3 percent disturbance cap.

“Aspen groves are not a disturbance,” he said.

Dale replied that the 3 percent disturbance cap relates to human development.

Grasty asked, “What development? What are we screwing up?”

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said percentages are difficult to define, adding that the “no net loss” parameter is much more measurable, definable, and acceptable.

Core area approach to conservation

ODFW’s core area approach addresses greater sage grouse management from a conservation biology perspective that identifies the most productive populations and habitats. The department will develop and maintain maps that identify core area habitats necessary to conserve 90 percent of Oregon’s greater sage grouse population. ODFW will also develop and maintain maps identifying low-density habitat.

Mitigation hierarchy

The rules state that developers must mitigate adverse impacts (both direct and indirect) to sage grouse and their habitats in sage grouse core, low-density, and general habitat. Mitigation is comprised, in hierarchal order, of avoidance, minimization, and compensatory mitigation.

Barbara Cannady commented that the mitigation hierarchy “prices people out of doing anything.”

“The ordinary person is just dead in the water,” she said, adding that private landowners will be unable to develop their own property. “It’s not about the bird,” she said. “It’s about taking private property rights.”

Community impact

Several others expressed concern regarding the potential implications of the proposed rules.

Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen asked how often lek statuses will be updated.

Dale replied that he doesn’t believe core areas will change, as the attributes that make up a core area aren’t expected to change.

Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels said, “You try to avoid core. You try to avoid low-density. You look at the map of Harney County, and what’s left? Really, what’s left? People look at it and say, ‘I’m not going to Harney County. I’m not going through the process.’”

Nichols said, “This whole deal has taken motivation out of anyone doing basically anything. It’s so restrictive.”

He added that the consequences are dire for the community.

“The message here is don’t come to Southeast Oregon. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for us to survive this,” Grasty said.

“Oregon has had the strictest land use laws for decades,” Nichols added. “This is again about land control and further restricting what people of this community can do. End of story.”

“We’re frustrated too,” Damon replied. “We’re trying to figure out what the best leg is Oregon can stand on. This is the best that we’ve come up with. We’re wrapped up with 11 western states with a [potential Endangered Species Act] listing.”

She said the Oregon Administrative Rules are part of what will be presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the agency that will make the listing decision), adding that the state can either put together a case or wait and see what happens with the listing.

Nichols replied, “People like you try, and I appreciate what you’re doing, but, bottom line, it’s not about the bird. It’s not going to be good for the bird because the right things are not being done, and it’s not going to  be good for our community. Single-species management is not good for ecology.”

Randy Whitaker of Harney Electric Cooperative Inc. pointed out that sage grouse can still legally be hunted.

Bill Wilber, a local rancher and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association representative, asked, “What the hell’s going on here? We’re going to be run off the range, and you’re still shooting sage grouse?”

Dale replied that it’s the most regulated and conservative hunt in Oregon.

Wilber added that predators are the greatest problem for sage grouse.

“You need to address it,” he said. “Do it.”

Both Dale and Damon admitted that there’s still some work to do on the rules.

A public hearing regarding the proposed Oregon Administrative Rules will be held July 22 in Burns

•••

The court also discussed a letter (dated May 7) that Grasty wrote to the BLM on behalf of Harney, Lake and Malheur counties regarding the Proposed Plan Amendment Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Greater Sage Grouse.

Grasty stated that substantial changes were made between the draft and this proposed final EIS without the input of the Oregon counties, and he requested that the BLM:

• provide the cooperating county agencies specific information on the changes, impacts and purpose that is sufficient enough for them to review and comment consistent with both their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) cooperating agency role and Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) consistency and coordination roles;

• extend the 30-day comment period to review the EIS before it’s issued; and

• write a formal letter to all affected counties requesting a start to FLPMA coordination and consistency reviews.

A response came in the form of a letter (dated June 25) that was signed by Deputy State Director Theresa M. Hanley on behalf of Oregon/Washington State Director Jerome E. Perez.

Hanley noted that the BLM provided a “track changes” version of the proposed plan, and she’s “confident that the BLM’s efforts since [Grasty] wrote [his] letter have helped to address this first request.”

She explained that the request to extend the cooperating agency review period was denied “because the schedule associated with this planning effort cannot accommodate such an extension.” However, she noted that the counties have an additional opportunity to provide input during the 60-day Governor’s Consistency Review, which ends July 29.

Regarding the request for formal letters, Hanley wrote, “All counties with sage grouse habitat were invited to participate as cooperating agencies in this effort and have been invited to participate several times in the process up through May of 2015. There is no formal ‘review’ requirement as you suggest during coordination under FLPMA…Therefore, the BLM will not be sending any correspondence out to the counties in addition to what has already been provided.”

Regarding Hanley’s letter, Grasty said, “I’m not going to belabor it because it makes me so angry.”

•••

In other business, the court:

• discussed the Harney County Deputy’s Association union contract during a special meeting on June 30. No decisions will be made until the final contract is presented to the court;

• decided during its June 30 special meeting to change from Citycounty Insurance Services to SAIF Corporation for its workers’ compensation coverage;

• discussed the memorandum of understanding  that Grasty signed with PARC Resources to prepare an analysis of the impact of the EIS for Greater Sage Grouse on the regulatory responsibilities of the county under Oregon land use law.

Grasty explained that the goal is to compare the EIS with land use plans to determine whether they’re consistent.

“If they are inconsistent and we determine we should be appealing the EIS, it also gives us a basis to do that,” Grasty said;

• reviewed and discussed the preliminary engineering report for the Juntura Cutoff Road with Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella;

• discussed the contract and auto lease agreement for Harney County Senior and Community Services Center for Dial-A-Ride transportation services with Director Angie Lamborn. Grasty signed both documents;

• received an update from Wilber concerning the Arrowhead Plaza project;

• discussed nuisance abatement properties. Grasty will meet with county counsel regarding this matter;

• received bids from Pape Machinery and Western States for a loader for the county road department. Drushella will provide his recommendations during the next county court meeting;

• received a notice from Malheur National Forest Supervisor Steve Beverlin stating that an oral auction for saw timber will take place July 22;

• discussed Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding;

• received a copy of a Linn County resolution in the matter of supporting Second Amendment rights. Nichols requested that the court make a declaration showing Harney County’s support for the Second Amendment. Grasty will ask county counsel to draft a statement or resolution to be presented to the court for consideration;

• briefly discussed the upcoming Association of Oregon Counties Summer Summit that will be held in Bend.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, July 15, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


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