Funding sought for Goal 5 process
by Samantha White
During its regularly-scheduled meeting on Sept. 16, the Harney County Court unanimously approved Resolution 2015-11, opposing the designation of the national conservation area, as proposed in the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal, as well as the establishment or designation of any additional national monument, national conservation area, scenic river, or wilderness area on public lands within Southeastern Oregon, including Harney County.
The Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal (also known as the Owyhee Canyonlands Monument) seeks to protect 2.5 million acres of public land in Malheur County through a combination of national conservation area, wilderness, and wild and scenic river designations. Advocates of the conservation proposal hope to designate these lands under the American Antiquities, Wilderness, and Wild and Scenic Rivers acts.
However, the resolution argues that special interest groups have used these acts “to advance their economic and political agendas to the detriment of the local communities,” resulting in “disparate social, cultural, environmental, and economic impacts on the local communities within Harney County.”
Some of examples of the impacts listed in the resolution include increased risk of wildfire, invasive species, adverse impacts to farming and grazing units, loss of tax revenues, and increased cost to operate local and federal government.
The resolution also asserts that the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal — which would designate 2,579,032 acres as a national conservation area (with 2,012,350 acres as wilderness and more than 50 river miles as wild and scenic rivers) — would not be “confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected,” which is a requirement for national monuments under the American Antiquities Act of 1906.
The resolution also points out that, in land area, the proposed 2.5 million acre monument would be greater than the entire states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.
“Any of the special use designations on the 2,579,032 acres within the Owyhee Canyonlands Conservation Proposal is not in the best interest of Harney County and will have a detrimental effect on the vitality of our rural communities,” the resolution asserts.
The court agreed to direct Harney County Planning Director Brandon McMullen to seek funding to start the Goal 5 process.
Originally adopted in 1974, Goal 5 and related Oregon Administrative Rules describe how cities and counties are to plan and zone land to conserve resources listed in the goal.
As part of the Goal 5 planning process, the court hopes to list Harney County’s people among its resources.
During the public comment period, Barbara Cannady asked the court to hold off on Goal 5 planning, arguing that Harney County Judge Steve Grasty will not be seeking another term, and there may be additional changes to the court.
Grasty replied that he will continue to do his job as judge as thoroughly and as well as he can until his term ends.
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols added, “For us to just back off and not do anything is totally irresponsible. We’ve got to start and do the research and go from there.”
Nichols added that it may be an expensive, long, and drawn out effort, but it may have some benefit in the future.
Grasty agreed, stating, “If at the end of this, the federal agencies pay attention to the county comprehensive plan, we may have a nail to hang our hat on.”
Cannady asked that the public be included in the Goal 5 process. Grasty replied that this is required by law.
Oregon Employment Department Director Lisa Nisenfeld and Jim Pfarrer, business and employment services director, attended the meeting to discuss employment, training, and economic development in Harney County.
Nisenfeld said, “We are working on trying to bring in a distance learning portal that will allow us to have some programs here for credit that haven’t been here before.”
She said, “People can stay here and train, rather than having to go to other locations,” adding that, “When people have to go away to train, they are more likely not to come back, and that’s not what we want.”
Grasty said, “Sadly, most of our efforts have been training people to leave.”
He explained that this is not the intent, but many people have had to move out of the area to seek employment opportunities once they completed their training.
However, Grasty said he remains “really optimistic and hopeful” about the possibility of new industry coming into the area.
During the public comment period, Herb Vloedman addressed the court regarding economic development in Harney County. He asked the court to name two things that Harney County can offer employees looking to move to the area.
Grasty said he could name 50, but he emphasized the county’s “great medical facilities,” “proactive schools,” “wide-open spaces,” and “great land.” He added, “I happen to think we have the best people.”
Grasty encouraged Vloedman and Cannady to participate in community efforts such as the Harney County Community Response Team.
In other business, the court:
• agreed to seek funding from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development for a consistency review regarding Bureau of Land Management sage grouse habitat plans;
• briefly discussed Oregon Revised Statutes and Administrative Rules for Local Government Liquor License Issuance and Renewal. The county renewal fee will remain $15;
• agreed to sign and send a letter to Dave Leland, program manager for the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Program, regarding the county’s decision to return its drinking water program back to the state;
• discussed the Oregon Department of Transportation Canyon Creek Fire Damage Assessment;
• reviewed an invoice from the Eastern Oregon Counties Association for 2015-2016 dues in the amount of $15,800. The court will pay the budgeted amount of $7,500.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Harney County Court will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.