by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

The goats spend about 18 months at the ranch and on the range before being sent to market. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

The goats spend about 18 months at the ranch and on the range before being sent to market. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

While much of the high desert range is grazed by cattle, Scott and Sandy Campbell, owners of the Silvies Valley Ranch, have determined that the land is also an excellent environment to raise meat goats.

With that in mind, the Campbells are in the process of developing a goat that will thrive in Eastern Oregon, fill a void in the ever-increasing demand for goat meat in America and in the future, provide additional economic opportunities for other ranchers,

The goat-raising operation, located at the far northern end of Harney County, the south end of the ranch, currently houses about 320 bucks and does, and an ever-increasing number of kids.

The Campbell’s goal is to have 1,000 breeding does, in two years time, to supply the market with a consistent product, as well as provide breeding stock for someone who might want to begin their own operation.

 

The beginning

Sandy said that a couple of years ago, she and Scott were looking for additional ways to increase ranch productivity, as well as improve riparian areas and control weeds and brush, and they found raising goats would meet those needs.

She explained that the goats have an appetite for the unwanted rabbit brush and juniper. They also have an aversion to mud, so using herders, goat browsing through riparian areas can be used to remove young conifers, thistles and weeds, while steering clear of the creek banks.  Another plus in raising goats is that they can feed five or six on the same amount of land that would it would take to feed one cow.

The herd is expected to grow exponentially, as the does typically give birth to twins, sometimes triplets, and occasionally quadruplets.  Sandy said they are working on cross-breeding Boer goats with the Kalahari Red breed to produce a larger carcass animal, as well as other preferred characteristics.

With a consistent product that is certified organic, the meat is sold to a variety of customers, including white-table-cloth restaurants and natural food stores.  The desired result is a lean meat, high in vitamin E loaded with good cholesterol and low in the bad cholesterol.

Sandy noted that demand for goat meat is growing in the Unites States in many different population segments.  Currently, 75 percent of the goat meat is imported from Australia, which could be from a number of sources, including wild feral goats. This means that the American consumer isn’t assured of the high quality meat they have become accustomed to.

 

The herd

The goats have a liking for the juniper tree needles and will strip the branches bare. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

The goats have a liking for the juniper tree needles and will strip the branches bare. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

To get the herd started, Sandy and her sister, Sheryl Miller of John Day, toured Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other Western states in search of Boer does and proven-sire bucks. They selected 200 breeding does with which to start, and their first kidding season rolled around in the spring of 2013.

The majority of the breeding is done by artificial insemination and the rest by live cover. Statistics are kept for every doe and kid, so the Campbells can track the progression and results of breeding.

The does are split into two groups and bred to give birth at two different intervals, about a week apart, in the spring, around the same time as the Campbell’s cattle herd.

“It’s easier to deal with it all at once,” said Sandy with a laugh. It also allows the goats to be put out on the range by the end of May.

When the kids are born, they, and the doe, are taken inside a barn, and put into “kidding jugs,” or pens, where the kids are identified, weighed and tagged (blue for boys, pink for girls), and vaccinated. A chart is also started on every kidding doe to track birthing information and animal health statistics, and information which will be used for future herd management decisions.

The kids also have access to heat lamps in the pen, and a close eye is kept on the doe to make sure she’s being a good mom.

Two days later, the doe and kids are transferred to a small family pen, along with four other does and kids, to begin the process of “mothering up”.

After two days in the small family pen, the does and kids are let out into a larger area, with 10 to 20 does total, to ensure that the kids can find their mother in a crowd, and learn to get along with others.

The kids are especially attracted to the “kid condos,” or wooden boxes with an open front. Sandy explained that the young goats like to stay in covered areas, which may be an inherent trait to avoid raptors or other attacks from predators.

Sandy added that the goats operate in a matriarchal manner, determined by the butting of heads to show dominance. Once the lead doe is established, they then battle for second-in-command, and on down the line.

After about a week’s time in the first barn, the families are then ushered into the “winter barn” and paddock area until it’s time to take them out to the open range.

 

The range

After doing research on herders, the Campbells went through the Western Range Association, and hired a pair of herders that hail from Peru.

Jesus arrived in Harney County August 2012, and Cresencio joined the staff  in January.

Along with the herders, the Campbells have three guard dogs, two Pyrenees and an Akbash cross, to keep the animals safe. Border collies are a herders best friend in keeping the large herds gathered and browsing across the landscape.

In the late spring or early summer, before the herd is taken out to  range, just like a cattle operation, does and kids are weighed and vaccinated using “goat-sized” corrals and chutes.

Once turned out, the herd is tended to 24 hours a day by the two herders.  Due to the increasing number of predators, like wolves, at night the goats are penned with the guardian dogs to keep them safer.

One benefit that the Campbells have discovered in having goats on the range is that they can come in to range areas after the cattle, and will clean up the weeds that have been left behind, helping prepare the pasture for the fall season.

Sandy said cattle and goats also don’t share the same parasites, so one species can inadvertently eat the other’s parasites, and not get sick.

Originally from South Africa, the Boer and Kalahir Red goats are desert animals, and adapt well to the high desert. They like the climate, rocks and brush, and have less health problems in the high desert climate rather than a wet environment.

Sandy said that in recent years, the Boer goats have been used more as show goats, and in the process, have lost some of their innate ability to fight disease and the “good feet” characteristic, so those are traits they are trying to re-establish with breeding techniques, and introduction of the Kalahir Red genes.

 

Market time

After 18 months, usually in October, the market goats are processed and sorted to go to market.

The does, and maybe a few bucks, are kept for breeding stock, and the reminder of the males are shipped out.

While there is a growing market for goat meat, Sandy said goat meat has gotten a bad rap because of the inconsistent quality of the meat available to consumers, but that can change with the Campbell herd. “Our livestock team has integrated the goats into the cattle operation, and are excited about the opportunities to use them for weed control and improving the riparian areas.  They have also learned much about how to care for another class of livestock. Something that all livestock professionals love to do.

“We’re going to end up with our own breed, and Scott is in charge of the marketing” Sandy said,

“There is an unmet need in a growing market, and we can get in on the ground floor, and provide the product. Eastern Oregon could be the premier goat meat region of the West by breeding a bigger carcass animal in drought areas. You can have less animals, but more poundage, and it will be a consistent quality product.”

 

The lighter side

The two sisters, who act as the overseers of the goat operation, agreed that kidding season is a fun time.

The young kids often end up with names, which can make sending them off to market 18 months later an emotional time.

They are also grateful they can handle the kids and not have to worry about being run down by a protective mother.

“It’s also fun seeing the difference in the offspring from the selected  breeding, pairing of the bucks and does,” Sandy said. To give the operation a bit of its own identity, Sandy pointed out that “Chevon” is the French word for goat meat, so the goat headquarters is named “Chevon Creek.”

 

The future

With the current breeding program, building on successful processes, and good team work, the Campbell’s are developing an exciting range goat program that works for Harney County and all of Eastern Oregon. Goat meat from Chevon Creek will surely be one of the entree choices on your menu in the near future.

No “kidding.”


SMAC now down to just four members

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

U.S. Representative Greg Walden made a stop in Burns Friday, April 25, to visit with local ranchers and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) representatives about the agency’s decision that it is not their responsibility to put up fencing between public and private land on Steens Mountain.

The decision by the BLM came after Harney County rancher George Stroemple wanted to graze his cattle on his property on Steens Mountain, which happens to lie within the “No Livestock Grazing” area of the wilderness created by the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act, passed into law in 2000.

At the heart of the dispute is the question of who should build the fence to keep Stroemple’s cattle off the wilderness area.

The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act states, “The Secretary (of the Interior) shall be responsible for installing and maintaining any fencing required for resource protection within the designated no livestock grazing area.”

After the BLM interpreted the law does not require the agency to keep private livestock on private land, Stroemple appealed to the Department of the Interior.

Because of the appeal, Walden was unable to meet with the local ranchers and the BLM representatives at the same time, so he held separate meetings with each of the two entities.

Walden first met with local ranchers, and explained that in the 14 years since the Act was passed into law, this is the third time he has had to revisit the issue because of the way the law has been interpreted.

The first was a dispute over the summer running camp, the second was a dispute over road use, and the third is the fencing issue.

“I came pretty close to writing this entire law, and it says the federal government will fence out the cows,” Walden said.

He added that others in the Oregon delegation that helped write the law also remember it that way, and the BLM’s interpretation broke the trust that was built around the legislation.

Fred Otley, a rancher in Diamond, stated that part of the problem could stem from a change in BLM personnel, but there were specific discussion points during the drafting of the Act, and fencing was one of them.

Stacy Davies of Roaring Springs Ranch noted that it was clear that the BLM would build and maintain the fences.

One of the points of discussion during the Act’s negotiations was whether the BLM would be responsible for fencing between public and private land, as well as between two areas of public land.

“Everybody agreed this was something that needed to be done. It was not in dispute,” Walden said. He added that all the conservation groups at the table, as well as the Oregon delegation, were in agreement on the matter.

Scott Campbell of Silvies Valley Ranch, who also owns property on Steens Mountain, commented that the BLM’s interpretation of the law is a “symptom of a much larger problem.” He said he works with federal agencies on a daily basis, and they are changing the rules on a day-to-day basis.

Campbell said he received approval from the Steens Mountain Advisory Council (SMAC) for some work on two water holes on his property, and after cleaning one water hole, the BLM withdrew permission to take the equipment to the other water hole.

The ranchers said they would allow the fences on their property and work with the BLM to resolve the issue. It was also pointed out that several functional fences have been removed by the BLM, and the BLM’s wild horses are found on private land.

Davies said another point of contention is that the BLM has closed a number of roads on Steens Mountain in recent years, but has never opened one. And the new recreation plan being proposed by the BLM includes closing down another 93 miles of road.

There was a discussion on the SMAC, created by the Act. The SMAC is supposed to be a 12-member body, but it is now down to just four members. Davies said the current administration has only made four appointments to the SMAC, and they don’t want to follow the advice of the council, which results in people not wanting to serve on the SMAC.

Following the meeting with the ranchers, Walden then met with BLM State Director Jerry Perez and Burns District Manager Brendan Cain.

Walden acknowledged that neither of the men were here when the Act was drafted, and told them, “We have a serious problem here.”

Walden said that back in 1999, when the Clinton presidency proposed a national monument designation for Steens Mountain, the Resource Advisory Committee said no designation was needed.

“Local ranchers came up with the idea of a cow-free wilderness, and it’s clear it’s the government’s responsibility to fence the cows out,” Walden said.

Walden said the fencing issue was one of the core issues in the Act, the BLM is in complete betrayal of the Act, and they never would have voted for it if the government wasn’t responsible for the fencing.

“Fourteen years later, to see what’s being proposed is wrong. It violates everything we agreed on,” Walden said.

Walden then explained that the SMAC is not getting full participation because their recommendations are not being followed, and stated that the BLM is a broken agency in that regard.

On the proposal to close another 93 miles of roads on Steens Mountain, Walden said a number of roads are legislated open, and asked, “What the heck is this?”

Perez said he is in the process of learning more about the Steens Mountain Act, and the intent of the law.

Walden asked Cain about the number of wild horses on Steens Mountain, and Cain said he didn’t have exact numbers, but there are more than 500 horses in the South Steens Herd Management Area when the appropriate management level is set around 250.

Walden asked, “What do you do if a rancher had more cows on his allotment than he was allowed?”

“We’d ask him to remove some,” Cain said.

Cain said the wild horses have access to the no-graze wilderness area, and they’re under no obligation to keep them off the no-graze area, just livestock.

Cain added that having the herd stay around a water hole, as they tend to do, can be problematic for the environment.

Perez explained that all the wild horse facilities are currently filled, and they are looking at both long- and short-term options.

The fencing issue is currently in litigation, so neither BLM representative spoke much about the topic.


County court revisits biomass heating proposal

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Symmetry Care Inc. Director Chris Siegner and Harney County Treatment Court (HCTC) provider Isobel Van Tassel attended the regular meeting of the Harney County Court (held April 23) to give an overview of the HCTC program.

HCTC helps participants rid their lives of alcohol and/or illegal, controlled substance use and abuse. To be eligible, program participants must have been arrested and charged with a crime. The program focuses on repeat offenders who have been arrested for one or more non-violent drug or alcohol offenses, and most HCTC participants are facing substantial jail or prison sentences.

Van Tassel described HCTC as an “intensive outpatient program,” explaining that participants get to stay in their homes while learning skills to stay clean and sober. Additionally, participants receive assistance with obtaining education, driver’s licenses, and employment. Van Tassel added that, as a result of the program, babies have been born drug free, and families have been reunited.

Treatment court participants are supported by a team made up of attorneys, addiction treatment counselors, probation officers, district attorneys, treatment court coordinators and circuit court judges. Locally, Symmetry Care provides participants with mental-health services.

Siegner said the team stresses accountability. He added that participants are rewarded for success and sanctioned for noncompliance.

Treatment court also tracks participants’ recidivism (repeat offenses), and Van Tassel said recidivism for HCTC participants is low. In fact, she said even participants who didn’t graduate from the program have not committed new crimes.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said there are different levels of success involved.

He added, “To hear that the people who didn’t go ahead and graduate did not reoffend — that’s a major win for them, as well as this community. That, in and of itself, seems to be worthwhile for the program.”

Four of the HCTC participants who did graduate attended the meeting to provide testimony regarding how the program changed their lives.

All of the graduates stressed that the program is extremely intensive and difficult to complete. One graduate even compared HCTC to boot camp.

Another graduate said, “You can’t fake it through this program…They are not going to graduate you unless you make a life change.”

Since successfully completing HCTC, the graduates said they have: improved their relationships, gained access to new career opportunities, begun taking pride in themselves and their homes, learned accountability and structure, gotten involved in other treatment programs, taken on mentoring roles, and learned how to live healthy lives.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty congratulated each of the graduates.

Nichols added, “You ought to be proud of yourselves for having the guts to do what you did. Congratulations to you for what you have done within and for yourselves.”

Siegner said he appreciated the support that the Harney County Court has provided HCTC, and he wants to continue working with the court to keep the program going.

Nichols said it is nice to hear that “the dollars going in [to HCTC] have been very worthwhile.”

Grasty said he has been “a huge advocate” for the program since it started, but said funding for the program is “just flat gone.”

Van Tassel said she has been applying for grants, and she is waiting to hear whether grant funding will be received.

•••

Siegner also attended the meeting to request the court’s consideration for returning developmental disabilities programming back to the county.

In a letter written to the court, Siegner explained that, “This program was returned to the state in 2002 due to lack of adequate funding, insufficient programming, and a large potential liability to the county.” However, he continued that, “The budget for this program is four times what it was in 2002, and we could now staff it well enough to ensure quality services for people with developmental disabilities.”

He added that, “People with developmental disabilities have been underserved in this state for years. Their issues are often intertwined with mental health difficulties, which make treatment planning complex and difficult. Bringing the program back would improve this greatly, as one agency would be responsible for their care.”

Siegner said he will collect more information concerning this option.

•••

Andrew Haden and Aaron Berg of Wisewood Inc. attended the meeting to continue discussion concerning the preliminary feasibility analysis for biomass energy.

The study explores the possibility of using a single, large biomass boiler system to transmit heat to connected facilities via thermal distribution lines (steam or hot water). The biomass boiler would use juniper and/or forest residuals, sourced from local forests.

Haden, Berg and the court engaged in a lengthy discussion concerning which buildings may be included in the proposed project, as well as options for funding assistance.

Grasty said he felt the Harney County Jail heating system needs to be replaced by this fall, and the Harney County Courthouse “ought to be included with the jail.” However, he also acknowledged that the jail will have to be replaced in the “foreseeable future,” so he suggested that the proposed project include an opportunity for expansion.

Haden and Berg said they felt these immediate needs could be met, but said they would need a letter of intent from the court in order to move forward.

Grasty said he will try to find out more information, and they will meet again to continue the discussion.

•••

The court and Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella discussed the bridge that was recently burned on Old Experiment Road.

An engineer inspected the remains of the bridge and determined that it needs to be replaced.

Grasty said the bridge disaster is an emergency, and the court has been advised by county counsel that, due to the circumstances, the replacement process is allowed to be outside of Oregon bidding law.

It is economically necessary to replace the bridge as soon as possible.

The bridge is not insured, as it is cost-prohibitive to insure bridges. And cost recovery options are still being researched.

•••

In other business, the court:

• was addressed by Barbara Cannady during the public comment period regarding alleged criminal mischief on her property;

• received an update from Grasty concerning a meeting that he attended in Bend to address ongoing issues concerning sage grouse;

• reviewed information about the National Flood Insurance Program’s compliance with the Endangered Species Act;

• discussed the possible implications of a dam that was recently constructed in the slough off of Newton Road. Drushella and the court will monitor the situation;

• discussed the Department of Environmental Quality annual recertification of financial assurance for permitted Harney County landfills. Grasty said the county is meeting current funding requirements;

• reviewed the Malheur National Forest Schedule of Proposed Actions for Spring 2014. Melissa Ward attended the meeting to answer questions;

• discussed the Warm Springs Hydroelectric Project. A public hearing will be held at the Harney County Community Center May 1 at 9 a.m.;

• will ask the planning department to put together an updated list of surplus tax foreclosed properties, so the court can review which parcels to put up for public auction;

• received an email from Gordon Foster, Oregon Department of Forestry rangeland fire protection coordinator, regarding the Rangeland Fire Protection Summit to be held May 28-29 in Burns.

The next regularly-scheduled meeting of the county court will be held Wednesday, May 7, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


OFB looking to distribute more than 10,000 pounds of produce

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Produce webOregon Food Bank, Southeast Oregon Services (OFB-SOS) will, once again, offer the Rural Harvest Share project  in Harney County.

The project provides fresh, healthy produce to Harney County residents at no charge. The first distribution of produce will be held Thursday, April 24. The produce will be available at the Catholic Church in Crane at 9:30 a.m., and at the Wadatika Health Center on the Burns Paiute Reservation at 10:45 a.m.

According to OFB-SOS Branch Services Manager Peter Lawson, original studies and surveys found that low-income households in remote, rural areas had extremely limited access to fresh, healthy produce within their local communities, and would often face driving dozens,  if not hundreds, of miles to grocers or farm stands to be able to supply themselves and their families.

Additionally, economic realities, like higher gas prices and lower sales, were negatively impacting vendor relationships, meaning that commercial produce trucks that once made the trip to remote areas were either terminating the services, or demanding that shop owners order much higher volumes, resulting in a higher probability of perishable waste on unsold goods.

From those initial studies, the Rural Harvest Share pilot program began in 2012 with deliveries to Arock and Jordan Valley, and then expanded to Harney County late in the 2012/13 fiscal year.

The program has a focus on “sharing the abundance” on what has already been donated to the Oregon Food Bank, while removing some of the stigmas many still seem to associate with more traditional forms of emergency and supplemental food assistance. With open air distributions, presumptive client eligibility, and a variety of products, the Rural Harvest Shares are a way to meet needs among the regions’ most vulnerable populations, improve overall community health, and engage folks in conversations around food security.

Also, Oregon Food Bank has identified a goal of doubling the amount of fresh produce moving through the system in the next five years.

In just fiscal year 2013/14, the Oregon Food Bank is looking to distribute more than 10,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables through the Rural Harvest Share efforts.


Document to guide decisions for 15 years

The time to comment on the Blue Mountains National Forests Proposed Revised Land Management Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been extended by 60 days. The deadline for submitting comments is now Aug. 15. Regional Forester Kent Connaughton approved the extension in order for the public to have time to review the extensive document and submit comments.

The Proposed Revised Forest Plan (commonly known as a Forest Plan) and DEIS became available for review on March 14, for a minimum 90-day comment period. The 90-day comment period was originally set to end on June 16, as identified in the federal register (https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-05674). However, it is now extended to Aug. 15. The intent is to have the Extension of the Comment Period notice posted in the Federal Register on April 25.

The comment period is an opportunity for the public to be involved in the decision-making process, to offer thoughts on alternative ways the Forest Service can accomplish what is proposed, and to comment on the agency’s preferred alternative and analysis. Input provided by the public will help determine management direction for the final Forest Plans.

The Forest Plan and DEIS covers the Malheur, Umatilla, Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, and a portion of the Ochoco National Forest (Blue Mountains National Forests).

A Forest Plan is a document that guides land-management decisions (project or site-specific level planning) for a period of about 15 years. The Forest Plan is strategic in nature and does not approve projects or actions on National Forest System (NFS) lands. For example, it does not close specific roads, trails, or areas – further National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and public engagement are required on these types of site-specific level decisions.

Interested parties may submit comments in a variety of ways. However, the Forest Service encourages the public to use the electronic system for submitting comments, which is available at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMountainForestPlanRevisionComments. Comments may also be submitted in writing to: Blue Mountain Plan Revision Team, P.O. Box 907, Baker City, OR, 97814 or faxed to 541-523-6392. Comments received, including names and addresses of those who comment, will become part of the project record and are available for public review. It is the responsibility of the persons providing comments to submit them by the close of the comment period (Aug. 15) and ensure their comments have been received.

The Forest Plan and DEIS can be downloaded from the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/BlueMtnsPlanRevision. Printed copies and/or compact discs (CDs) are available upon request by emailing: bluemtnplanrevision@fs.fed.us, or by calling 541-523-1302 or 541-523-1246. Printed copies are also available to read at local libraries and Forest District Offices.


The find will help with county road records

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

County clerk Dag Robinson with the plat book that hadn’t been seen for more than 40 years. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

For a number of years, employees at the Harney County Courthouse had come across references to a “plat book” when dealing with county road legal issues.

Trouble was, none of the employees, or even former employees, had ever seen this supposed plat book.

Then, this spring, County Clerk Dag Robinson was organizing boxes in the vault, or storage area, when he spotted something behind a rack of shelves. He slid the remaining boxes off the shelves, and there, leaning up against the wall, was what looked like an over-sized, unmarked book.

The shelves were slid out as far as they would go in the crowded space, and Robinson wiggled the book out into the open. The edge of the book that had been resting on the ground was somewhat disfigured by moisture and the weight of all the years, and the pages a bit tattered, but otherwise, the book was in pretty good shape.

One look inside, and Robinson realized he had just found the plat book that had been missing for years.

How did the book get there? The best guess is that back in 1959, the courthouse was condemned, and all legal documents were moved over to the former Lincoln Junior High, so work could be done on the courthouse.

Two years later, after renovations, everything was moved back into the courthouse, and it’s speculated that the plat book was placed against a wall for what was expected to be just a “short while.” As more boxes were moved back into the courthouse, the shelves were filled, covering up the book, and the book was soon forgotten.

Further research revealed that former Harney County Surveyor C. E. Beery had been commissioned to complete the plat book in 1915, and was allowed the sum of $200 upon completion of the work.

Robinson said the discovery of the plat book is important because it shows where the county roads are supposed to be.

The county had been using the road record book in the plat book’s absence, but the accuracy of the road record book was somewhat skewed.

Howard Palmer and former county judge Dale White have been working for some time on getting an accurate account of county roads, but Palmer said there is a large margin for error in the road record book. He noted that at the time the records were recorded, the surveyors were using a compass and chains. If the compass was off just a few degrees, the road would end up in a different spot than what the legal record showed.

Robinson said the plat book will help verify the actual intent of the road, no matter where the actual road is now.

“The county has an obligation to know what the county road system includes legally,” Robinson said.

Now that the plat book has been discovered, plans are to have the pages scanned and then tie the images in to the county’s Geographic Information System (GIS) to produce an accurate account of the county road system.

If anyone is interested in preserving Harney County history and learning GIS technology, contact Bryce Mertz at 541-573-8195.


Musical duo to perform in Hines

Posted on April 16th in News

Concert to be held April 24

The Harney County Arts in Education Foundation will present the fifth of their annual recital series, An Evening to Celebrate the Arts, at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 24, at the Harney County Church of the Nazarene.

This year’s event will feature Kevin Lefohn on violin and Monica Ohuchi on piano.

Both musical artists are coming from Portland.

Violinist Lefohn maintains an international career as recital soloist, chamber musician and pedagogue. He was recently appointed as adjunct professor of violin at the University of Oregon, and master teacher at Talent Makers Music Academy in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

Pianist Ohuchi has been hailed as a pianist performing “brilliantly with clarity, nuance and natural musicality.” She has performed throughout the world, and served a four-year tenure at the Julliard School of Music teaching piano.

The evening will also include the popular art show featuring the works of Burns and Crane high school art students during the reception following the concert.

The young artists have been working on their art in conjunction with Lefohn and Ohuchi in a virtual studio-to-school project. The students will be treated to a personal visit by the music duo Wednesday, April 23.

The rural schools are invited to a recital by Lefohn and Ohuchi at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 23, at Frenchglen School.

The recital is free to the public, donations will be accepted for the continued work of the Harney County Arts in Education Foundation, dedicated to music education, performing arts, visual arts and theater arts for the schools and communities in Harney county.

For more information, contact Becky Thein at 541-573-7001 or Debby Peckham at 541-573-2427.


Trail would run from Badlands to Owyhee 

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

Brent Fenty, executive director of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), was present during the Community Response Team meeting (held April 2) to introduce a proposal to designate the Oregon Desert Trail as a National Recreation Trail (NRT).

Fenty began his presentation by providing a brief overview of ONDA.

 

About ONDA

Founded 25 years ago, ONDA is a Bend-based association with more than 4,000 members and supporters.

According to its website, ONDA “exists to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert.” The site states that the association’s “dream” is to “see millions of acres of beautiful and ecologically-vital public lands permanently protected.”

ONDA was instrumental in the creation of the Steens Mountain, Oregon Badlands, and Spring Basin wilderness areas. And, according to its website, ONDA maintains “diligent efforts to enforce conservation laws to protect sensitive wildlife.”

 

About the Oregon Desert Trail

After introducing ONDA, Fenty explained the association’s initiative to obtain NRT designation for the Oregon Desert Trail.

He said the trail, which spans from the Oregon Badlands Wilderness in Central Oregon to Lake Owyhee State Park near the Oregon/Idaho boarder, would be an asset to communities throughout Oregon’s High Desert, creating non-motorized recreation opportunities (such as hiking, boating, horseback riding, and biking) on public lands without disturbing sensitive wildlife areas or areas that are culturally-significant. Fenty said the trail would also incorporate “some of the most scenic and historic” sites in the area.

According to ONDA’s website, the Oregon Desert Trail “links existing trails, old Jeep tracks, historical wagon roads and cross-country navigation, and is accessible at different points by bicycle, horseback and raft, in addition to foot. Some sections offer easy walks along well-marked paths. Other areas require GPS  [Global Positioning System] skills, significant outdoor experience and serious preparation, particularly for water sources.”

Fenty said volunteers hiked the area in different seasons to help identify potential routes, as well as fence lines, water sources, and recreational activities.

ONDA’s website states that, “Thanks to thousands of volunteer and staff hours, the guide material, maps, GPS tracks and waypoints, and town information are now available for you to create your own Oregon Desert Trail adventure.”

Fenty said he hopes the people who hike the trail will serve as an asset to nearby communities by patronizing businesses in nearby towns. He added that he hopes the towns will also be an asset to hikers.

The trail transverses Deschutes, Lake, Harney and Malheur counties. Starting from the west, it begins in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness and meanders through Diablo Peak, Fremont National Forest, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Steens Mountain, the Pueblo Mountains, and the Trout Creek Mountains, before ending in Lake Owyhee State Park.

Fenty added that, although the trail was featured in The New York Times and Outside magazine, it’s still a “work in progress.”

 

National Recreation Trail designation sought

On Nov. 8, 2013, ONDA submitted a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, requesting NRT designation for the Oregon Desert Trail.

According to the BLM’s website, NRTs may be designated by the secretary of the interior or the secretary of agriculture “to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trial’s managing agency or organization.” Once trails are designated, they become part of America’s national system of trails.

Fenty said ONDA is reaching out to communities and businesses located along the trail’s route to better understand opportunities and challenges associated with the proposed NRT designation.

He then began accepting questions from the audience.

 

A rocky relationship

One member of the audience expressed suspicion regarding ONDA’s motivation for developing the trail.

“I think ONDA is taking on this whole project to recruit people to its legal work,” she said.

Fenty said ONDA’s goal for developing the trail is to “connect people to public lands.”

However, he acknowledged that the association has been involved in environmental litigation.

For example, ONDA pursued litigation that, ultimately, impeded the Echanis Wind Energy Project that Columbia Energy Partners proposed for Steens Mountain. During the delay, available tax credits expired, threatening the financial feasibility of the proposed project.

Another member of the audience asked, “Why do you think the community here should support an effort by ONDA?” He added, “I see your history as being obstructionist.”

Fenty said ONDA has been involved with projects in this community before. For example, he said ONDA assisted with the development of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

Regarding the trail, Fenty said, “I would hope that people could judge the project on its merits.” He added that, “It would have been easy to push [the trail project] off to another group,” but said he thinks the project could create an opportunity for cooperation.

 

Motorized access

Another audience member asked how many roads  would be closed to motorized vehicles if the Oregon Desert Trail becomes designated.

Fenty said the trail uses roads that are not typically accessed by motorized vehicles.

However, the audience member said that he, and many other local people, drive vehicles that are capable of accessing these rugged roads.

 

Private property

Kate Marsh asked whether the trail crosses private land.

Fenty replied that some routes are on county roads that cross between private property, but said the trail sticks to public land.

 

Marking the trail

Marsh also asked whether signs will be posted along the trail.

Fenty suggested limiting signs to the trail’s various staring points, posting just enough to let hikers know they are on the right track.

 

Why designate?

Barbara Cannady said she didn’t understand the point of designating the trail.

“You can advertise that there is a trail,” Cannady said, “but why do you need to have a designation that can have negative impacts?”

Fenty said the NRT designation requires input from organizations and individuals outside of ONDA, adding that he thinks this input will improve the trail and make it more of an asset to nearby communities.

“Ultimately, the product will be better,” Fenty said, adding that, “They are everyone’s public lands, not just ONDA’s.”

 

Search and rescue

Fred Flippence asked whether ONDA has considered the resources that may be needed from rural communities, adding that increased hiking will put pressure on local search and rescue operations.

“We don’t call Salem to find someone who is lost,” Flippence said. “We call the local sheriff.”

Fenty said, “These are the kinds of questions we are working on.”

 

Economic impact

Another audience member expressed concern about how the trail could threaten economic development opportunities in the future.

“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said, explaining that, for example, highly-valuable, rare earth could be discovered along the trail’s route. He added that, once the trail is designated, he doubts ONDA would be willing to give it up.

Fenty said this is a legitimate point, but added that much of the trail passes through areas that already have special designations.

However, the audience member said he was concerned about the areas that will be newly-designated to “connect the dots” between established trails.

Another audience member said he has hiked several trails, and a lot of them really helped the communities that were close to them.

“By and large, hikers are good stewards of the land, and they spend money in the community,” he said.

But Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols disagreed.

Nichols said, in the 35 years that he has lived near a designated trail, he has only seen two hikers use it.

Fenty replied that the Oregon Desert Trail would connect these existing trails into a “cohesive view of Oregon’s High Desert.” He added, “I think there is evidence that this can be an asset.”

However, he admitted that he cannot know who will use the trail.

 

•••

Tonya Fox of Training and Employment Consortium (TEC) attended the meeting to announce that TEC offices in Harney and Grant counties will be offering classes to prepare participants for Microsoft® Word certification testing.

Fox said, once participants received certification, they can sign up on Microsoft’s website where employers can find them and offer them higher-paying jobs and positions in larger companies.

Classes are two days a week, for four weeks. The classes are free, but the certification test cost $100. Some test sites may also charge a testing fee.

Fox said TEC also offers self-paced classes for anyone who wants to learn Microsoft® Word, but doesn’t want to take the certification test.

She added that TEC hopes to add certification training classes for other Microsoft® Office programs in the future.

Participants must be 18 years or older and register with WorkSource Oregon.

 

•••

Christine Nelson of the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC) attended to discuss the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) update.

According to GEODC’s website, CEDS “is designed to bring together the private and public sector in the creation of an economic roadmap to strengthen and diversify regional economies.”

Harney County belongs to a seven-county region, which also includes Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla, Wheeler, Grant and Malheur counties.

Nelson encouraged everyone (community members, business owners, civic organizations, economic development organizations, etc.) to provide input regarding economic development in the region.

Anyone interested in providing input can complete a survey online at: http://www.geodc.net/ceds/2014-survey.


Several buildings considered in study

by Samantha White
Burns Times-Herald

During its regular meeting (held April 2), the Harney County Court discussed a feasibility study for biomass heat.

Prepared by Wisewood Inc., the study explores the possibility of using a single, large biomass boiler system to transmit heat to connected facilities via thermal distribution lines (steam or hot water). This concept is known as district heating. Because thermal energy can be metered at each facility, individual billing can be applied.

The Harney County Courthouse, Harney County Sheriff’s Office,  Harney County Jail, former Lincoln Jr. High School building, and Symmetry Care were all considered in the study.

Lori Cheek, a Harney County School District No. 3 board member, said Slater Elementary School is also exploring the possibility of heating its facility with  a biomass boiler, but because the school is located too far from the courthouse, it would require a separate system.

Cheek said Slater is seriously considering this option because its existing boiler system is outdated and broken, and the school has been paying thousands of dollars in repairs.

Instead of wood pellets, the biomass boilers would use juniper and/or forest residuals, sourced from local forests. These boilers are capable of processing fuels of varying moisture content.

In addition to being more affordable than wood pellets, biomass material could provide employment opportunities for local logging groups.

However, according to the feasibility study, “The upfront construction cost of building a biomass district energy system…is currently estimated at approximately $1,500,000.”

But Wisewood Inc. will be able to access the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) if the combined total of individual projects  (developed simultaneously) is approximately $4 million or greater.

Wisewood Inc. has already secured State of Oregon Energy Incentive Program Tax Credits, which are in addition to any NMTC financing.

Cheek said Slater doesn’t want to be the “guinea pig” and pay full price for its boiler system.

She added that Eastern Oregon Youth Correctional Facility may also be interested in participating.

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty stressed that this study is still in draft form, and nothing has been committed. He added that the next step will be to meet with Wisewood Inc. to discuss the study further.

•••

Randy Fulton, Harney County Economic Development director, attended the meeting to discuss Resolution 2014-02 in the matter of sponsoring an application for the designation of an enterprise zone within the cities of Burns and Hines.

According to the text of the resolution, the 6.84-square-mile-zone would “encourage new business investment, job creation, higher incomes for local residents and greater diversity of economic activity” by granting property tax exemptions to eligible businesses firms.

Fulton explained that these tax abatements would be granted on a case-by-case basis.

After some discussion, the court agreed to approve the resolution, which was signed by Grasty and became effective April 9.

•••

Harney County Roads Supervisor Eric Drushella reported that he submitted a Federal Lands Access Program application for maintenance funding. If received, the funding will  be used to chip seal Rattlesnake Road.

•••

The court also discussed ongoing efforts to prevent the proposed sage grouse listing, agreeing that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Resource Management Plan Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RMPA/DEIS) failed to adequately analyze the social and economic impacts of the proposed listing.

Harney County Commissioner Dan Nichols said, “They analyzed the bird and its habitat to the ‘nth degree,’ but they didn’t analyze the impact on humans.”

“We’ve just got to stay at the table until we get done,” Grasty said, regarding the court’s ongoing efforts.

•••

In other business, the court:

• scheduled its budget board meeting for May 14. The budget hearing is scheduled for June 4;

• discussed Early Learning Council Hubs. Nichols said he is interested to see how counties that have yet to receive a Hub designations will be included;

• received a letter from Stacy Davies announcing his resignation from the Harney County Planning Commission. In his letter, Davies stated that, over the past few years, he has been lax in filling out the Oregon Government Ethics form. As a result, he was fined $3,300. He added that he recently received the new form in the mail, and rather than fill it out, he decided to resign.

Grasty said that, although he understands the need to be ethical in government, there needs to be a better form. He added that he feels for Davies, and is sad to lose him from the commission;

• briefly discussed the Ochoco Summit Trail System Project;

• briefly discussed Taylor Grazing Proceeds distribution;

• held a work session after the meeting to discuss the BLM’s Steens Mountain Comprehensive Recreation Plan. No decisions were made.

Due to scheduling conflicts, the next county court meeting will be held Wednesday, April 23, at 10 a.m. in Judge Grasty’s office at the courthouse.


Bound for Boston

Posted on April 2nd in News

Journey expected to take seven months

 by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

Anna Harrington passed through Burns on her walk east to raise awareness for Shriners hospitals. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

Anna Harrington passed through Burns on her walk east to raise awareness for Shriners hospitals. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)

On March 1, Anna Harrington was in Astoria, which is where she took the first step of her journey that will end in Boston, Mass., in, presumably, seven months time.

Harrington’s walk across the country is to raise awareness for Shriners Hospitals for Children, and she “officially” arrived in Burns Saturday, March 29.

Harrington, 42, said her first experience with Shriners Hospitals was in 2005, when her nephew received treatment for scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, at the hospital in Sacramento, Calif. While at the Sacramento site, Harrington met other families whose lives had been impacted by the medical care at the hospital.

Then, just a few years ago, Harrington heard that there was the possibility of some Shriners hospitals closing because of a shrinking endowment, and she made the decision to walk across America to help them out.

Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., Harrington had a dream of walking across the country for an important cause, and making the trip to benefit Shriners hospitals was a good fit.

“While in Sacramento, I saw the wonderful things they do,” she said.

Harrington’s plan is to visit a number of Shriners hospitals across the country, and her first visit was to the hospital in Portland. From the Rose City, she trekked up Mount Hood, dropped down into Madras, and followed Highway 20 into Burns. Harrington, who now lives in Meridian, Idaho, said her route will take her to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she will visit another hospital, and eastward from there, passing through a total of 14 states.

Harrington is pushing a cart that carries the essentials for the trip, including a tent, sleeping gear, food, water and clothing. She plans to try walking 20 miles each day, and noted that, so far, she has been impressed by the beauty of the ever-changing terrain.

Walking alone along busy highways could be daunting, but Harrington is finding a lot of help along the way. She said people have invited her in to spend the night, motels have donated rooms, motorists have checked on her along the way, and businesses have donated tires for her buggy, and a cell phone and charger.

“Cars on the highway are the scariest,” she said.

When asked about obstacles she might encounter, Harrington answered, “You don’t know how to prepare for everything. There’s always a fear of the unknown, but you can’t let that fear dictate your actions. It’s scary out there sometimes, but it’s also exciting, and the reward outweighs the fear.”

To make a donation, visit: annaswalk.com


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