To the editor:

In a time when good news seems to be overshadowed by bad, I would like our Baker County community and especially the residents of the Eagle and Pine valleys to recognize the extraordinary performance of one of the local organizations. This past weekend, the Panhandle Snowmobile Club responded to a call from my office to assist in the search for and eventual rescue of two missing snowmobilers from Wallowa County.

In December, Snowmobile club members attended a four-hour course in winter search and rescue and were eager to apply their skills. They didn't have to wait long. They responded to the call, properly equipped with winter and survival equipment and were waiting at the snowmobile club headquarters for a search manager from Baker County Search and Rescue to arrive. This was a Sunday when I'm sure most members had other plans.

The members followed the search manager's instructions and conducted an organized, efficient, safe and most importantly, a successful search. Once the missing persons had been located, they assisted in transporting one snowmobiler to a waiting ambulance.

Both Wallowa and Union counties recognized the extraordinary performance of the Panhandle Snowmobile Club during this mission and have asked for training from Baker County for their snowmobile clubs.

From our western history, we can remember the sheriff's posse, a citizen group who were dispatched, usually to apprehend a criminal. There simply were insufficient resources available to the sheriffs to perform the law enforcement function without citizen involvement. In this 21st century, the county sheriffs are charged with law enforcement in the rural areas of the county and they still lack the necessary resources to fulfill all of the obligations of their office without citizen assistance.

Those who say we have lost the spirit of community should take this search and rescue as a textbook example of the response by its citizens when the sheriff called. The Panhandle Snowmobile Club didn't turn its back on two men who desperately needed assistance to survive. Without their unselfish, professional response, the outcome of this search and rescue could have been tragic.

Mitch Southwick

Baker County Sheriff