By Bill Harvey

The River Democracy Act is not democracy at all. It is a small group of people trying to impose their will on all of Oregon.

The Law of Coordination states that the Forest Service and BLM shall coordinate with local county government in all public land natural resource plans and revisions. With this proposal, there has been no communication directly with Baker County.

32 CFR §219.1(b) states:

“(9) Coordination with the land and resource planning efforts of other federal agencies, state and local governments and Indian Tribes;

“(10) Use of systematic, interdisciplinary approach to ensure coordination and integration of planning activities for multiple use management.”

There is only approximately 30% of general forest remaining for multiple use in Baker County. The County and the citizens cannot afford any additional loss of public lands, including waterways, riparian areas, and forestlands. Any further reductions in the rightful use of public lands will constrict access and use of natural resources for the health, safety, general welfare, and economic viability of our County’s citizens.

The River Democracy Act not only removes more waterways from multiple use, it also adds greatly to the potential of wildfires by removing another ½ mile of forest from management and fire protection along each side of designated waterways. By doing this, it creates an additional fire hazard/threat by making the riparian area 1-mile wide that can no longer be accessed for fuels control or firefighting.

Baker County’s economy is strongly based on access to natural resource areas on public lands. The use of resources such as timber, grazing, mining, firewood gathering, hunting, fishing, camping, and just riding on motorized vehicles is curtailed through reduced access. Every activity provides for the local economy which is vital for the stability and sustainability of Baker County communities.

Enough is enough! We are very tired of having to defend our County from attacks from outside entities, government agencies, or private environmental groups. They all want to restrict the use of public lands, even after taking control of more than 70% of the public land already.

When Congress wrote and passed the Law of Coordination in 1976, it was to protect the local government from being overrun by regulations and restrictions imposed against our counties’ needs and economic viability.

The current attempt is another effort to bypass statutory mandates that force federal agencies to work directly with the local governments. Baker County is the local government and we have established Coordination within the County since 2001 by ordinance. By not involving Baker County with any action on public lands, the proposal is in violation of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act, both from 1976.

Baker County strongly encourages that this effort to remove multiple use from wide swatches of public lands be stopped, then restarted by following the Law of Coordination, working with each affected County directly.

When Coordination is used through the proper process, it works for all the citizens not just a select few.

Bill Harvey is chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners.

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