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by Boyd Britton August 15, 2007  Blue Mt Eagle, Grant County's

Thorn meeting's worth our time

As a county commissioner, from time to time I'm asked to put together meetings of concerned parties on various issues. A couple of weeks ago I was asked to put together a meeting of the people and organizations that provided comments on the draft EIS of the proposed Thorn Salvage project.

I contacted the environmental community spokespersons, the industry representatives, and the public who submitted comments. The Forest Service compiled the pertinent information, maps and materials. The meeting was tentatively set for Aug. 7; however the Sierra Club representative, Asante Riverwind, let me know that the date was difficult for him and that Aug. 10 would work better. I rescheduled the meeting to accommodate him.

The purpose of the meeting was to address some of Mr. Riverwind's concerns. I had hoped that with this meeting, the County Court, concerned citizens, the timber industry and the Forest Service could resolve or mitigate his issues. However, while at our weekly court meeting on Aug. 8, my office received a call from Mr. Riverwind stating that he would not be attending the meeting, that it would be a waste of his time.

During the last three years, many of us in the county have engaged in the collaboration process as laid out in Congressman Walden's HFRA legislation. We had hoped that collaboration could take place on the Thorn salvage project. But Mr. Riverwind feels it is a waste of his time.

A major employer in Grant County has closed its doors for lack of timber and a declining lumber market. There will be many men and women and their families directly affected by this, but Mr. Riverwind feels that the meeting would be a waste of his time.

Bill Harrington of the Center for Human Development has reported that he and his staff are already dealing with depression and alcohol issues relating to the mill closure. Yet Mr. Riverwind thinks the meeting would be a waste of his time.

Several local businesses have experienced a reduction of work, and some of our local truck drivers have left our community to look for work. Yet Mr. Riverwind thinks the meeting would be a waste of his time.

Bob Houser, the CEO of the hospital is concerned that 45 families might lose their health insurance. Yet Mr. Riverwind feels that the meeting would be a waste of his time.

Mark Witty, principal of Grant Union High School, wonders if some of the new and tremendously qualified, enthusiastic educators that have come here to replace many of our retiring teachers will still have jobs in the face of declining enrollment and lack of timber-generated commerce. Yet Mr. Riverwind feels that the meeting would be a waste of his time.

Already this year, catastrophic wildfires have burned over 200,000 acres in our area. Our county has lost resources that in many cases will take generations to replace. Ranchers have lost permitted and private range and forest land, which could put family ranches on the auction block.

The opportunity to have an open and frank discussion about these issues was lost because Mr. Riverwind feels it would be a waste of his time.

Our community is in distressed times, as are our natural resources. We have engaged in the collaboration process with hope and much effort. Some of us have traveled many times to Portland, trying to resolve the issues relating to resource management.

Our community has welcomed with open arms Susan Jane Brown, of the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center at Lewis and Clark College and now with Congressman DeFazio's office; Emily Platt and Lisa Doolittle of the Gifford Pinchot Task Force; Tim Lillebo of Oregon Wild; Andy Kerr, Rick Brown, Karen Coulter of Blue Mountain Biodiversity; and Asante Riverwind of the Sierra Club.

We have been willing to consider and discuss accommodating Mr. Riverwind's ecological concerns, but alas, he considers it a waste of his time.

Boyd Britton is a Grant County Commissioner and a John Day businessman.

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