GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Josephine County is joining a growing list of Oregon counties gearing up to battle federal agencies over management plans for forest and range lands. On Wednesday, county commissioners adopted a pair of documents they hope will put them at the planning table before the BLM or Forest Service adopt projects and plans affecting county residents and businesses.
After years of discussion, Josephine County Commissioners are following what Jackson and Baker counties have already done: adopt plans for working with federal agencies whose operating plans may not be in the counties interests. Board Chairman Simon Hare points to the BLM’s recent showcase timber sales that seem to conflict with the O&C Act.
“That would be one of the first places I’d go is talking about those pilot projects and how they don’t generate revenue for the counties,” Hare says. “They’re not consistent with what the plan with the county is for those O&C lands.”
Some in the audience during Wednesday’s meeting were leery of the county keeping language to co-operate, which they say should instead say “co-ordinate”.
“The plan may not be the best one we could come up with but I think as long as we’re there at the table and voicing our opinions, hopefully they’ll matter,” said Leonard Ford, who supports the board’s action.
Interim Commissioner Harold Haugen had this warning: “The real issue is going to, once we’ve passed this, is who on our board is going to be sitting at the table. And when they’re sitting at the table, are they gonna have the strength and the willingness to possibly disagree and be forceful in making sure our policy and our plan is really considered.”
The heart of the issue for Josephine, Jackson, Baker and many other Oregon counties is a strong distrust of the Forest Service, BLM and other Federal land management agencies. They say that they can’t count on those agencies to do what the counties feel is in their best interest.