The Oregon National Guard is scheduled to hold a number of public meetings around the state to showcase proposed changes to training areas currently utilized by the Oregon Air National Guard.

The meetings are part of the public hearing process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulatory guidance.

The changes to the training areas will provide adequately sized and configured airspace within close proximity to Oregon Air National Guard flying units to support advanced 21st-century air-to-air tactical fighter technologies and training mission requirements.

According to Oregon Air National Guard Lt. Col. Alaric Michaelis, the airspace is needed to fulfill the missions of both of Oregon’s fighter wings; the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, and the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field, in Klamath Falls.

“This training airspace will help us produce the best air-to-air combat pilots, and serve our state and nation in times of peace and war,” Michaelis said. “It also serves the mission of the 142nd Fighter Wing, as it provides unequaled, mission-ready aerospace superiority.”

The proposed changes include modifications and additions to military training airspace located over northwestern, north-central and south-central Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. In addition, minor portions of the proposed action would be located above a small area of northwestern Nevada and the southwestern-most corner of Washington.

The changes apply only to the airspace, and not the ground or water under the training area borders.

The Portland unit is responsible for the Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) mission, which extends from the Canadian border to northern California and comprises the entire states of Oregon and Washington, out into the Pacific ocean. The Klamath Falls unit is the only F-15 training school in the entire Air Force, training pilots from the Air Force, Reserve and Air National Guard.

Meetings are scheduled for various locations and dates, including Aug. 15, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.,  at the Harney County Community Center, 484 N. Broadway Ave., Burns.

For more details on the proposed changes to the training areas, please visit or

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Sage Grouse MapThe Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) adopted amended administrative rules that will require mitigation actions to offset impacts of large-scale and other developments on sage grouse habitat.

Public hearings were held in Harney County prior to the adoption of the rules, and numerous community members and stakeholders offered extensive public testimony. Many of those who commented during the hearings urged ODFW and LCDC not to adopt the rules.


After receiving multiple petitions to list sage grouse under the federal endangered species act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined in April 2010 that protecting the species was warranted, but decided to focus on species that were facing greater risk of extinction first. However, the decision will soon be revisited, as USFWS is expected to determine whether sage grouse should be proposed for an ESA listing or removed from the candidate list in September 2015.

SageCon Coordinator Jamie Damon said the USFWS basically has three choices: not to list the species, list the species without exceptions, or list the species with exceptions in states that have developed their own plans.

The administrative rules of ODFW and LCDC, which work together to address the lack of regulatory certainty in protecting sage grouse habitat (one of the identified threats to the species), are part of a larger state action plan that will be presented to the USFWS in an effort to avoid the listing in Oregon. Other threats will be addressed in the state action plan, as well.

ODFW rules

Part of the Oregon Administrative Rules, the Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Strategy for Oregon establishes ODFW’s policy for the protection and enhancement of sage grouse in Oregon and declares 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.)

The rules also outline ODFW’s habitat management goals, which include avoiding or limiting the extent, location, and negative impacts of development actions over time within sage grouse core, low-density, and general habitats.

“Development actions” are defined as any human-caused activities subject to regulation by local, state, or federal agencies that could result in the loss of significant sage grouse habitat.

“Core areas” are mapped sagebrush types or other habitats that meet all life history needs necessary to conserve 90 percent of Oregon’s sage grouse population. They contain very high, high, and moderate lek density. A lek is an area where male sage grouse display during the breeding season to attract females. In Oregon, core areas are also called Priority Areas for Conservation (PACs).

“Low-density” areas contain low lek density, but provide breeding, summer and migratory habitat. “General habitat” is occupied (seasonal or year-round) habitat outside of core and low-density habitats.

Core area approach 

In core areas, the goal is to limit direct impacts from human-caused disturbance to no more than 3 percent of any PAC and at a rate of less than 1 percent during a 10-year period.

Thus, a PAC/core area that’s comprised of 100,000 acres would only be eligible for 1,000 acres of large-scale development in a 10-year period and 3,000 acres overall. The percentages will be counted across the PACs/core areas regardless of land ownership.

ODFW will develop and maintain maps that identify core and low-density habitats using aerial imagery, local knowledge of sage grouse and sage grouse habitat, best available science, and county governing bodies (or their designees) to provide input regarding changes to local land use.

Mitigation hierarchy

The rules also state that developers must mitigate adverse impacts (both direct and indirect) to sage grouse and their habitats in core, low-density, and general habitat. “Direct impacts” are adverse effects upon significant sage grouse habitat that are close to the development action in time and place, while “indirect impacts” occur later in time or are removed in distance.

Mitigation is comprised, in hierarchal order, of avoidance, minimization, and compensatory mitigation.

Avoidance is the first step in the mitigation hierarchy, and it’s accomplished by not taking a certain development action or parts of that action. Avoidance tests are used to determine whether the proposed development can occur in another location. Avoidance requirements are strictest for core habitat and least strict for general habitat.

If the permitting entity determines that a proposed development action can’t be moved, the next step will be to minimize the direct and indirect impacts. Minimization is accomplished by limiting the degree or magnitude of a development action and its implementation.

If avoidance and minimization efforts have been exhausted, compensatory mitigation will be used to replace the lost functionality of the impacted habitat to a level capable of supporting an even greater number of sage grouse.

The mitigation hierarchy is required for both direct and indirect impacts when the proposed development action requires a county permit, meets the LCDC definition of large-scale development, and would impact core and low-density habitat (or general habitat that’s within 3.1 miles of a lek in a manner that would reduce functional sage grouse habitat or sage grouse use of that habitat).

LCDC defines “large-scale development” as uses that are either over 50 feet in height, have a direct impact in excess of five acres, generate more than 50 vehicle trips per day, or create noise levels of at least 70 decibels at zero meters for sustained periods of time.

If the use requires a county permit but doesn’t fit the LCDC definition of “large-scale development,” ODFW will determine whether to require mitigation for proposed development actions that are within 4 miles of a lek in core habitat or 3.1 miles of a lek in low-density or general habitat. If it’s required, the appropriate level of mitigation will be based on the nature of the impact and the risk to sage grouse.

Public comment

A public hearing regarding the ODFW administrative rules was held Wednesday, July 22 at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center in Burns. Damon and Alan “Chip” Dale, ODFW High Desert Region manager, provided an overview of the rules before accepting questions and comments from the audience.

Jerry Miller, a rancher from Crane, asked why the focus has been on preserving sage grouse habitat, instead of addressing their predators.

Dale replied that the people who petitioned for the sage grouse listing identified habitat impacts as one of the threats to the species.

He said, “We know that predators are an issue, but in order to deal with the criteria put forward for the listing, we had to deal with the habitat component of it first.”

Brett Brownscombe, ODFW acting deputy director for fish and wildlife programs, added that predation is addressed in the state action plan.

However, Harney County Judge Steve Grasty discouraged single-species management and making decisions under the threat of a listing.

Another audience member asked why the ODFW rules were necessary, considering that many landowners have voluntarily entered into Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) programs.

CCAAs are formal agreements between landowners and the USFWS to address the conservation needs of a proposed or candidate species before it’s listed. Landowners voluntarily commit to conservation actions that will help stabilize or restore the species in an effort to prevent the listing.

Brownscombe said the rules are not meant to detract from CCAAs, but to fill in regulatory gaps regarding large-scale development.

Grasty encouraged ODFW (and later LCDC) to boldly state that CCAA members will be exempt from these rules.

Marty Suter-Goold asked how lek attendance was being calculated and by whom.

Brownscombe and Dale explained that lek attendance was calculated by ODFW biologists.

Suter-Goold asked whether the rules apply to abandoned leks, and Dale replied that they apply to any mapped leks.

Another audience member questioned the integrity of the data that’s being used.

“We’re not claiming to have it perfect,” Brownscombe replied. “There may be areas within core areas that are not core.”

However, he added that ODFW has made a “clear commitment” to work with counties and planning commissions to revisit the data every five years.

Andrew Shields, wildlife biologist at Roaring Springs Ranch, said the 3 percent disturbance cap was based on data that isn’t applicable to Oregon, and he urged ODFW (and later LCDC) to analyze Oregon’s leks to gather more applicable data.

Grasty agreed, stating, “If we are going to do disturbance calculation, I want to now exactly what it is and how it’s done.”

Shields also asked whether the public was engaged in mapping areas of high population richness (mapped areas of breeding and nesting habitat within core habitat that support the 75th percentile of breeding bird densities). Brownscombe replied that the rules advisory committee (RAC) was involved in this process.

But Grasty said he saw the areas of high population richness map for the first time that day, and there’s no way to verify it or understand what it means.

“When you set a map or change a map, I want that going through the county,” Grasty said, explaining that county officials need this information in order to keep local landowners apprised of changes that could affect their properties.

Brent Beverly, operations manager of Harney Electric Cooperative Inc., said he didn’t see how ODFW intends to increase sage grouse numbers “other than tying up habitat.” He added that one way to increase the population would be to ban sage grouse hunting.

Grasty agreed with Beverly, asserting that ODFW should focus more on increasing sage grouse populations and less on preserving habitat. He added that the department lost its focus on core and is now talking about all sage grouse habitat, which consumes most of Harney County. He also expressed concern about how mitigation planning will be enforced, explaining that additional money, resource and staff will be needed.

Fred Flippence said he’s been trying to help bring development and jobs to Harney County for the last 15 years and asked whether ODFW had a map showing how much commercial development occurred when sage grouse populations declined. Flippence also asked why wildfires, which destroy sage grouse habitat, are not included on ODFW’s maps.

“We are not keepers of that data,” Dale replied.

Grasty said government agencies need to stop saying, “It’s not my job.” He added that protecting sage grouse habitat is not his job, but it’s occupied his time for the last several years.

He also commented both ODFW and LCDC’s fiscal impact statements, which are required by statute, are “to say the least, laughable.” He said, “Nothing in [these rules] talks about how we help the economy and help communities.”

Grasty concluded by urging ODFW (and later LCDC) to postpone adoption of the rules.

Brownscombe said he would take the testimony to the Fish and Wildlife Commission to be heard prior to the rules’ adoption.

ODFW decision

The Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted amended administrative rules for sage grouse management in Oregon at its meeting in Salem Monday, July 27.

LCDC rule

LCDC took on the task of adopting amendments to Oregon Administrative Rule 660-023-0115. LCDC’s proposed amendments were developed in coordination with the aforementioned ODFW amendments and use nearly all of the same definitions. The LCDC rule (which applies to portions of Harney, Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Lake, Malheur, and Union counties) establishes a procedure for considering development proposals on lands identified as significant sage grouse habitat.

Significant habitat consists of core areas, low density areas, and general habitat within 3.1 miles of an occupied or occupied-pending lek when those lands are planned and zoned for exclusive farm use. An “occupied lek” is a lek that has been regularly visited by ODFW and has had one or more male sage grouse counted in one or more of the last seven years. An “occupied-pending lek” is a lek that has not been counted regularly by ODFW in the last seven years, but sage grouse were present at ODFW’s last visit. The exact location of a sage grouse habitat may be refined during consideration of a specific project, but it must be done through consultation with ODFW.

Activities that do not require government approval, including farm use as defined in Oregon Revised Statute 215.203 (2), are exempt from the rule. State agency permits necessary to facilitate a farm use, including new water right permits, are also exempt from this rule. Jon Jinings, community services specialist with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, said farm dwellings will also be exempted from this rule.

Additionally, any energy facility that submitted a preliminary application for site certificate on or before the effective date of this rule is exempt from its provisions.

Uses identified in CCAA agreements are also relieved from the provisions of this rule. However, conflicting uses will be subject to the rule’s regulations in all instances, regardless of enrollment status.

“Conflicting uses” are large-scale developments (and other activities that require review by county decision makers) that are proposed within 4 miles of an occupied or occupied-pending lek in core area or 3.1 miles of an occupied or occupied-pending lek in low-density or general habitat.

The rule states that, prior to accepting an application for a conflicting use in significant sage grouse habitat, a county should convene a pre-application conference with the applicant, county planning staff, and local ODFW staff. A county may consider a large-scale development in a core area upon applying disturbance thresholds (no more than 3 percent of any total core area and less than 1 percent during a 10-year period) and following the mitigation hierarchy, as specified. A county may also approve a conflicting use in core habitat after receiving confirmation from ODFW that the proposed use doesn’t pose a threat to significant sage grouse habitat or sage grouse use of that habitat, or by conditioning approval based on ODFW recommendations.

A county may approve a large-scale development in low-density habitat upon applying the mitigation hierarchy, as specified. In general habitat, county approval is contingent upon a consultation between the development proponent and ODFW and compensatory mitigation.

The rule also allows a county to approve a large-scale development that doesn’t meet the avoidance test if the county determines that the overall public benefits outweigh the damage to significant sage grouse habitat. However, requirements for minimization and compensatory mitigation continue to apply, and areas of high population richness should be avoided whenever possible. The proposed development must also provide a number of permanent, full-time jobs (not including construction activities) that pay at least 150 percent of average county wages. Each effected county will only be able to exercise this provision once during a 10-year period.

Local governments will have the opportunity to develop their own sage grouse programs, but the LCDC must determine that they comply with, and equivalent to, the rule with regard to protecting sage grouse habitat.

LCDC hearing

A two-day public hearing was held July 23-24 at the Harney County Community Center in Burns. The LCDC began receiving public comment after Damon and Jinings explained the rule and provided some background information.

Grasty asserted that human development has not been the problem in Harney County.

“The reason this place is so open, looks so good, and we have so much habitat is because of the folks behind me,” he said, indicating the local community members who came to testify. “They live on it everyday and take care of it, and they are going to be punished everyday if we are not careful.”

William J. Mulder submitted a letter on behalf of Tree Top Ranches LP that expressed a similar sentiment.

The last paragraph of the letter reads, “With all due respect, the proposed rule is disingenuous and fails totally to meet any measure of meaningful sage grouse protection. It is the very essence of a lose-lose scenario. If the [LCDC] sincerely desires to accomplish something for the greater sage grouse, we politely suggest you get away from the alphabet agencies and special interest groups and come out and talk with our neighbors who live on and truly care about these lands.”

Carol Dunten, chair of the Harney County Soil and Water Conservation District, said she owns a ranch in Drewsey that’s in a PAC/core area. Her property is also considered an area of high population richness.

“They say we have 90 percent of the birds in our PACs,” she said. “Maybe we are doing something right if we have 90 percent of the birds, but it seems like we have more regulations from all of the agencies.” She added, “These rules impact my livelihood and legacy. This is my 401(k). All we have is our ranch.”

Grasty stated the rule would take development rights away from Harney County, which is one of the most economically-disadvantaged counties in the state. He added that locking up 97 percent of the land is “not a good solution,” and it sends a message that, “Oregon is not open for business.” He also asked how the LCDC rule would be better than the regulations of an ESA listing, stating that, “Many have said this is worse.”

Rep. Cliff Bentz said, “ We need to hear why these rules are so much better than the listing. These rules sadly go a long way toward freezing this part of the world in place. Don’t take one third of Oregon off the economic table. Don’t do it. Our state is not rich enough to throw away assets.”

Grasty said some PACs/core areas span county lines and questioned how the 3 percent disturbance cap would be distributed.

He asked, “Are you going to let ODFW define an area and then put two or more counties into debate about who’s gong to to use the little bit of development that’s left?”

Bentz said it’s “super important” to get the mitigation piece right because it’s the only path for allowing development in significant sage grouse habitat.

Grasty added, “I think it’s time to say, ‘No!’ I think you [should] back up and do this right.”

However, representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Oregon Habitat Joint Venture, and Oregon Natural Desert Association encouraged LCDC to adopt the rule, asserting that the regulations will benefit sage grouse, while continuing to allow development.

But Bob Sallinger, conservation director of the Audubon Society of Portland, wrote a letter to the LCDC stating that the rules are “insufficient to ensure adequate protection for sage grouse and to provide the regulatory certainty required to avoid listing under the Endangered Species Act.” He argued that, instead of having the option of developing their own sage grouse programs, counties should be required to adopt the rule verbatim and without modification. He also stated that the Audubon Society doesn’t support exclusions for farm and ranch uses, and this development should be counted toward the established thresholds. Sallinger also asked that small-scale development be counted toward the thresholds and that LCDC nix the provision that allows for one especially unique local economic activity every decade. He also called for removal of the exclusion for energy facilities that have submitted applications for site certifications.

To the contrary, Todd Adams, engineering project leader for Idaho Power, wrote a letter in support of the energy facility exclusion. He explained that Idaho Power has an application pending for construction and maintenance of the Boardman to Hemingway transmission line project (B2H Project), which crosses about 298 miles of Eastern Oregon, including sage grouse habitat in Baker and Malheur counties. He added that Idaho Power began the B2H Project permitting process about eight years ago, and nearly 1,000 stakeholders have been consulted and 50 different routes in 11 different counties considered. The company has also invested tens of millions of dollars and many years in developing a project location and design that will avoid impacts to sage grouse habitat and minimize unavoidable impacts.

The CCAA exemption was also discussed during the hearing. Jinings said it’s an “expression of support” for the voluntary effort. However, Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett asserted that it’s “kind of a feel good thing,” adding that it won’t make a difference in the final analysis.

Shields encouraged the LCDC to remove the section stating that conflicting uses will be subject to the rule in all instances regardless of CCAA enrollment status. He explained that people enrolled in CCAAs are subject to a “no net loss mitigation plan,” and the CCAA will become void if habitat fragmentation occurs.

Regarding Shields’ proposal, LCDC Commissioner Sherman Lamb said, “I think it would be risky for us to base our rule on agreements that we haven’t even seen.” He added that he’d heard “pretty good testimony” about CCAAs, but thought the rule’s language concerning CCAAs should remain unchanged. The other members of the commission agreed.

LCDC decision

After extensive discussion and serval hours of public testimony, the LCDC unanimously agreed to adopt the rule on Friday, July 24, and it became directly applicable to local decisions on its effective date. The LCDC will review the rule no later than June 30, 2020. Also, should the sage grouse become listed, the commission must consider whether the rule is necessary. The necessity of the rule will also be considered if sage grouse become delisted.

Museum to host book signing

Posted on August 5th in News

Book signing WEBThe Harney County Historical Museum will be hosting author Rebecca Hess for a book signing event at the museum on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Hess will be introducing her new book, Second Chance: A Western Adventure, a historical novel set in 1896 on the Island Ranch in Harney County. Follow the experiences of young Rachel Carver on her journey west as she leaves behind a tragic past.  A pre-arranged employment position as cook on the Island Ranch introduces Rachel to the Preston family and their motley crew of ranch hands who welcome her as part of the family. During the next decade, the Prestons and the bunkhouse crew give Rachel an optimistic appreciation of life as she learns to live and trust again, her “second chance.”

Books can be purchased at the museum during the event, or can be pre-purchased from local retailers in Burns, including The Book Parlor and Moonrise Books. Additional details about the book can be found on the author’s website

The Harney County Historical Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Admission is $5/adult or $8/couple, $3/senior and .50/children 13-17. Admission is always free for children under 13 and for all Harney County Historical Society members.

If you would like more information about the museum, would like to volunteer, or if you have research questions, call 541-573-5618 or email

Find the Harney County Historical Museum on Facebook at

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 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.



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 or call 541-523-1264 or 541-523-1231, or visit the website at


*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.



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.


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.


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:

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