JOSEPHINE COUNTY, OREGON
October 30, 2007
Disclaimer: "The 'Facts' I present in this Report are based upon the written Minutes of the Public Meetings attended by two or more Commissioners where decisions are made or official action is taken. Those Minutes, are paraphrases of what was said, not actual translations of the verbatim statements of any person. The words in both sections of this Report are my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of my fellow Commissioners."
To review the actual Minutes of any meeting, they are available from the Commissioner's Office, located in the County Courthouse, 500 NW 6th Street, Grants Pass. Ask for the "The Monthly Meeting Summary." You can review the Office copy or purchase your own copy for a nominal charge.
To bypass the October Report and go straight to Commissioner Jim Raffenburg's comments click here.
In September, 2007, No Ordinances, four Orders, six Resolutions, two Inter-governmental Agreements, nine Contracts/Amendments/Grants/Understandings, eight Provider Agreements and one Right-of-Ways Agreement were approved by the Board of Commissioners:
Pass YMCA= $190,522
Passed 9/12/07 by a vote of 2-0. Commissioner Raffenburg was in Washington, D.C.
County Administration Meeting Actions
Board of Commissioner General Discussion and Actions:
The Board meets each Monday at 8:30 A.M. for general discussion and possible action on noticed issues. This month, the record of Minutes reflect that the Board met for General Discussion only twice, on 9/5 and again on 9/24.
Legal Counsel Meetings
The Board of Commissioners meets with County Legal Counsel on Thursdays at 9:00 A.M. I do not include summaries of these meetings in this report, but the minutes are included in “The Monthly Meeting Summary.”
The month of September was significant for me personally. I traveled to Washington, D.C. for the third time in the last 12 months seeking yet again to convince the Congress to honor their long standing obligation to western Oregon and to Josephine County to either harvest timber from the O&C timber resource lands or to continue paying the Safety-Net payments.
I spent the first day in Washington working with other Oregon Commissioners and with Association of Oregon Counties Staff and then meeting with Congressman Greg Walden about the realities of getting the needed legislation passed. The next two days were spent walking the halls of the Senate, calling on twelve different Senate Offices. All but one Senator agreed to support the four year reauthorization legislation.
On the afternoon of my third day in Washington, I met for one hour with the top leadership of the Bureau of Land Management, including the Chiefs of Staff for Director Caswell and the Secretary of the Interior, as well as BLM’s Oregon State Director Ed Shepard and other top level staffers.
We discussed the Western Oregon Plan Revision and I presented a request for the Secretary of the Interior to look into using his lawful discretion under Endangered Species Act to exempt the O&C Lands from the Critical Habitat requirements of that Act, since timber harvesting on these lands meets the two exemption requirements needed for said exemption.
First, these lands represent less than 10 percent of the total lands set aside for said critical habitat and would not have any significant, negative impact any endangered species in western Oregon. Second, the harvesting of timber is a lawful activity, as the O&C Lands are set aside by Law as timber resource lands that are required to be harvested under the Law.
BLM Oregon State Director Ed Shepard confirmed that this has been done before, both in Oregon and in California. I was informed that due to the political climate in Washington, D.C. (because of environmentalist influence), this would be a very difficult proposition at this time, but I was assured it would at least be considered.
The general discussion with these top government leaders included further clarification for me that no matter what happens with the BLM’s WOPR, the Environmentalist Industry will sue to stop any timber harvest put forward by the BLM under that Plan. That was a “Tipping Point” moment for me. I left that meeting with no doubt in my mind that there was no hope for any real compromise with the Environmentalist Industry on this matter, since there is no interest on their part to compromise in any way. Their bottom line is “No more harvesting of timber. Period”.
The hard truth is, you can’t negotiate with people who will not negotiate in good faith.
When I came back from Washington I found out that Commissioner Toler had already decided not to support Alternative Two of the WOPR, meaning he also would not support any future timber harvests proposed under Alternative Two. That realization just added to my sense that the time to talk was over.
Even though I included some of this information in last months Report, I believe it is very important, quite revealing and deserving of a second look. Of particular importance, Commissioner Toler had already published two different versions of what his stance was on the WOPR, before I had released my report on the Washington, D.C. trip. His first version was published as a feature article in “The Oregonian” newspaper on September 16th, where he said nothing about supporting any version of the WOPR’s Alternative One. In that “Oregonian” article, he made it quite clear that he was against the WOPR in total. That in turn means he is against any harvesting of timber on the O&C Lands.
In a self-contradicting Guest Opinion, published in “The Grants Pass Daily Courier” newspaper on September 19th, he said he would support some version of the WOPR’s Alternative One.
He was clearly catering to a different audience in each article. How can you be opposed to something in total, but then claim to still support it?
Obviously, you cannot. From what I have heard him say “behind the scenes”, his true position is the one he stated in the “Oregonian” article, which catered to the Environmentalist Industry.
That is why I have become so outspoken about this entire situation. I cannot trust what Commissioner Toler says anymore.
One thing is becoming crystal clear. Even if we get a few more years of Safety-Net revenue from Congress, they intend to end those payments altogether. It might be this year or some point in the next four years.
Once that happens, we Oregonians must decide if we intend to “surrender” to the failure of leadership in Washington, D.C. and accept the Environmentalist Industry’s vision of the future, where we all pay higher taxes forever, along with coping with increasingly catastrophic wildfires caused by that same “vision” of non-forest management.
Or, do we have the strength to oppose that negative future?
To do that, we will have to compel Washington, D.C. to do the right thing, because neither Congress or the Executive Branch will do so voluntarily. The right thing that Washington must do is very clear: “Honor their lawful obligation to the people of the O&C Counties of Western Oregon.”
Congress can do that by doing one of the following three things:
The many benefits to our region of once again harvesting timber are so tremendous, we cannot afford to surrender to the Environmentalist Industry’s vision of non-forest management and higher taxes. Another completely and deliberately false idea they promote is that “tourism jobs” are our best hope for the future. Tourism jobs provide primarily seasonal employment and require either low or unskilled persons to perform the work. For the most part, they pay at near minimum wage levels.
If timber harvesting were to resume, Oregon’s economy would boom, because the timber industry needs skilled workers, who are paid high wages that can support a family. There would be new investment in the industries infrastructure, local business would prosper as wages went up and our kids would not have to move to other areas to find meaningful work and they would be able to afford to buy a home right here.
That last paragraph represents a real nightmare scenario for the those who are committed to the Environmentalist Industry’s vision of the future. That is truly sad.
Recently, George Sexton, from Ashland’s Klamath-Wild, one of the Environmentalist Industry’s leading spokespersons and a prime litigant to stop all timber harvesting, was quoted in the newspaper as saying (about the people of Western Oregon), “We have to protect them from themselves.”
That type of total arrogance pervades throughout the Environmentalist Industry. That is the type of sentiment I would expect from a totalitarian government. It does not represent a philosophy that values personal liberty and freedom. It is a very bad indicator if that sentiment achieves real political power.
Earlier I said we would have to “compel” Washington, D.C. to do the right thing because they won’t do it on their own. That means we will have to go back into Federal Court and seek the return of the O&C Lands to the Counties. The only way to resolve the issue will be for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the original seizing of the lands in 1916. In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled the Federal government had no lawful right to seize these lands. Yet they did so in 1916 and it has not been challenged.
Regarding the O&C Act of 1937, I have been told by former environmentalists, the thing they fear the most is having the O&C Act heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even though the Federal Court in Eugene and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco have long histories of ruling in favor of the Environmentalist Industry, they know the O&C Act is very clear and their false claims will not stand up to Supreme Court review. Even the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the O&C Lands were set aside for timber production as a priority and were not Public Domain Lands, which require multiple uses under the law.
The Environmentalist Industry has a long history of trying to confuse average citizens with deliberately false and misleading emotional appeals like, “The courts have ruled that logging cannot occur anymore…” or “They are clear cutting our forests….”
The truth is, the courts have stopped individual sales but have never ruled that timber harvesting must stop. Regarding their claims of clear cutting, there is 1.2 billion board feet of new timber growing on the O&C Lands every year! There is more standing timber today than when the O&C Act was passed into Law in 1937! When you consider that between 500 and 800 million board feet were harvested from these lands every year, for fifty years, you begin to get the idea that while specific limited areas were clear-cut and then replanted for the future, the claim “they are clear cutting our forests” is specious.
What is happening right now, before your eyes, is a struggle for the future. It is about political power. The forces are lined up and you, the People, will have to decide very soon who prevails.
Does the special interest Environmentalist Industry control your future?
Or, do you?
It’s your money and your future. Please pay attention. Thank you.
© 2007 Jim Raffenburg - All Rights Reserved
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Commissioner Jim Raffenburg is serving in his first term as Josephine County Commissioner (Oregon). He was elected in November, 2004. He is married and lives with his wife in the North Valley area. Jim served eight years as either Chair or Vice-Chair of the Josephine County Rural Planning Commission and served two years as a Josephine County reserve Deputy Sheriff. He is a trained, Court mediator. Previous work experience is in both the private and public sectors. He has worked in heavy, commercial construction and construction management most of his life, including serving as Construction Administrator for NASA.
The general discussion with these top government leaders included further clarification for me that no matter what happens with the BLM’s WOPR, the Environmen-talist Industry will sue to stop any timber harvest put forward by the BLM under that Plan.