HCCC announces grant awards
Due to scheduling conflicts, the regular meeting of the Harney County Court that was scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 19 was rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 18. The following is a summary of the unapproved minute notes, as well as input from Harney County Judge Steve Grasty:
The court reviewed comments provided by Harney County and the Eastern Oregon Counties Association in response to the sage grouse Resource Management Plan Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RMPA/DEIS).
The following is a list of bullet points that were used as the basis for the Harney County Court’s comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding its sage grouse RMPA/DEIS:
• The land use inventory, planning and management activities of the BLM should be coordinated with county plans.
• The BLM is to provide the public with an appropriate opportunity to knowingly review and comment on proposed actions. The public meetings were not recorded, nor verbal comments accepted.
• Harney County also notes that the BLM has not coordinated or considered county plans, policies and programs, as required under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
• Oregon’s local planning programs, including Harney County land use programs, were not taken into account when considering fragmentation.
• In addition to failing to act consistent with local plans and policies (as required by FLPMA), the BLM also failed to act consistent with the state of Oregon’s plans and policies.
• The BLM also failed to address whether it coordinated with the Crane Rural Fire Protection District; the Frenchglen Rural Fire Protection District; the Riley Rural Fire Protection District; or the Fields Rural Fire Protection District.
• The BLM failed to assess the economic impacts associated with the proposed alternatives within the Oregon Sub-Region.
• The full suite of regulatory mechanisms available to the BLM was not discussed or clarified.
•The BLM failed to address the May 2013 decision by the BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association to enter into a Candidate Conservation Agreement relative to sage grouse conservation.
• The BLM also failed to address the Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances, which was proposed by the Harney Soil and Water Conservation District and is presently out for comment and approval by the USFWS.
• “Inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms” was identified as a significant threat in the USFWS’s finding on the petition to list the Greater Sage-Grouse, but the BLM failed to adequately review and list available regulatory mechanisms, particularly those related to grazing.
• While the RMPA/DEIS acknowledges that feral horses have an impact on the sagebrush environment (RMPA/DEIS P. 4-15), none of the alternatives address this issue.
• Harney County requests that the BLM redefine its alternative to incorporate a more thorough analysis of West Nile virus impacts.
• BLM’s deference to the National Technical Team report is a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
• In reviewing the literature utilized by the USFWS in developing the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Comprehensive Plan, Harney County notes that, with respect to the management of its own lands, the USFWS reached significantly different management findings relative to sage grouse management than those being considered by the BLM in this RMPA/DEIS for very similar environments.
• The BLM simply dismisses this empirical evidence as lacking science-based methodologies.
• Harney County requests that the BLM incorporate strategies to experimentally evaluate grazing impacts on grouse abundance and productivity into all alternatives.
• The BLM has overlooked survey data from 1954 to 1993.
• The RMPA/DEIS references that predator control is outside the scope of the decision, and that such control is under the authority of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The BLM has taken an overly-narrow approach to predator control, overlooking that it is within its control.
• There is a lack of actions related to addressing juniper expansion into sage grouse habitat.
• There is an overarching statement in the RMPA/DEIS that no action will reduce impacts to threats.
• There are issues concerning road management.
• There are social and economic issues that have not been adequately addressed in the RMPA/DEIS.
• The proposed closure of 118,000 acres to grazing is cause for concern.
• The county opposes the relinquishment of grazing permits as an administrative decision.
This bullet list is not comprehensive or in a prioritized order. To view the court’s comments in detail, please visit the county’s website at: www.co.harney.or.us. (Click the link titled, “Final Comments on Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse RMPA/EIS Submitted by Harney County.”)
Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols moved to send the comments. Harney County Commissioner Pete Runnels seconded the motion, and it carried unanimously.
Comments regarding the RMPA/DEIS were due Thursday, Feb. 20 at midnight.
Nichols publicly and personally thanked Grasty for the thousands of hours that he contributed working diligently on this issue, and for taking on the leadership role in this arena. Nichols said he wholeheartedly feels that this warrants a “thank you” from the court and public. Runnels concurred.
Jason Kessling, natural resource director for the Burns Paiute Tribe, was present to discuss the Tribe’s proposal to transfer Burns Paiute Tribe Malheur Basin lands and BLM grazing allotments to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs in Trust.
The proposed land is in Malheur and Grant counties. Kessling explained that their intent is to keep utilizing livestock as a management tool. This will allow for more flexibility for the tribe to manage, without asking BLM.
A discussion ensued regarding access, payments in lieu of taxes, and economic benefit.
Kessling stated that, at some point, the tribe may ask for a letter of support.
Nichols stated that since these lands are in Malheur and Grant counties, it would be difficult to take a position until it is determined what the effect would be in Harney County.
The court deferred taking a position on this matter until additional information is gathered.
Kate Marsh-Copeland, Barbara Skillman and Karen Hendrickson of the Harney County Cultural Coalition were present to announce $6,000 in grant awards to different local groups.
Those receiving grant awards this year include the Burns Paiute Tribe for cradle boards projects with families; Crane Union High School for art display units; Harney County Arts and Crafts Association for banners and sign boards; Harney County Arts In Education Foundation (HCAEF) for music and maintenance on school band instruments; Kids Club of Harney County for a culinary cultural awareness program; and Western Reflections for an event sponsored by the 4-H writers group, which is a cowboy poetry and music group.
The Cultural Coalition’s website is www.harneycountyculture.org.
The court discussed a request from Andy Rieber to help fund a Wild Horse Collaborative meeting in Salem. Rieber requested $1,500 from Lake County and $1,500 from Harney County.
Nichols moved to contribute $1,500 to the Beaty’s Butte Wild Horse Collaborative, and Runnels seconded.
Grasty said he prefers that the check be made payable to Lake County, allowing them to distribute the funds accordingly. The motion carried unanimously.
Representing HCAEF, Terri Cain, Ken Peckham and Debby Peckham provided an update on the Performing Arts Center and presented a feasibility study.
Debby Peckham explained that the study is a working document, and said there are sections that still need some work.
Cain said there are more steps, including pursuing many grants and creating a paid development position.
Cain and the Peckhams asked the court for a resolution in support of the project, and the court was happy to oblige.
In other business, the court:
• reviewed Notices of Water Use Requests. There were no objections to any requests;
• received a report from Runnels concerning the town hall meeting on Feb. 15 with Sen. Jeff Merkley;
• learned from Nichols that the Frontier Hub was officially awarded the Early Learning Council Hub designation, and the funding request was accepted.
Grasty thanked Nichols for managing this effort on behalf of the court. He added that there is a bill in the legislature now that would allow for more flexibility in county youth development councils and stabilize the funding for juvenile departments;
• discussed the need for a change in the way all the federal draft EIS’s are developed nationally.
Grasty said this will be a topic of discussion when he meets with Neal Kornze, principal deputy director of the BLM, in Washington, D.C.
The commissioners said EIS’s used to be several hundred pages, but now they are thousands of pages, and there isn’t time to review them and provide a full analysis;
• learned from Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella that road department crews are still working on Double OO Road;
• was addressed by Barbara Cannady during the public comment period regarding communications tower sub-leasing and the related effects on landowners.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held, March 5 at 10 a.m. in Judge Steve Grasty’s office at the courthouse.