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About The Observer. (La Grande, Or.) 1968-current | View Entire Issue (Oct. 15, 2020)
Thursday, October 15, 2020
ost would agree forest management is essential
to reducing heavy fuel loads that contribute to
unnaturally severe wildfires. Yet, anti-forestry
obstruction and litigation are keeping federal land man-
agers from reducing the risks to our national forests and
nearby communities. This year’s devastating wildfire
season is providing more examples of how timber proj-
ects are often delayed until it’s too late to save a forest.
The Crystal Clear Restoration Project was an effort
by the U.S.
vice to reduce
on the Mount
Forest, protect nearby communities and restore hab-
itat for the Northern Spotted Owl. It would have
treated over 11,000 acres of the forest by thinning
overstocked stands at risk of wildfire.
This effort was halted after activist groups filed a
lawsuit. In May, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
panel ordered the national forest to complete addi-
tional paperwork before the thinning could begin.
Unfortunately, portions of the project area have since
burned up in the White River Fire. Early infrared
information from the National Interagency Fire
Center indicates it burned at intense heat.
Would thinning and reducing fuels have reduced
the intensity of the White River Fire, and given fire-
fighters a better opportunity to contain the blaze
more quickly? Thanks to anti-forestry litigation, we’ll
never know for sure.
In its 208-page Environmental Assessment of the
project, the Forest Service determined current over-
stocked conditions would lead to uncharacteristi-
cally severe fires, including crown fires that destroy
forests. The agency determined forest management
activities, including logging, were needed to improve
the forest’s resiliency to wildfire, and even to create
quality habitat for Northern Spotted Owls that are
currently not found in the area.
The activist groups initially challenged the resto-
ration project in U.S. District Court, mischaracter-
izing the project as “commercially logging thousands
of acres of old growth” at the expense of the owl. The
district court rejected claims that there is scientific
controversy over thinning in order to reduce the risk
of wildfire, and the judge recognized that less than
1% of the project was in old-growth stands.
The district court judge had also denied a request
for an injunction against the project, finding that the
public interest favored action to decrease the risk of
catastrophic fire and to support the local economy
through the sale of timber.
The decision was appealed to the 9th Circuit,
which wrongly second-guessed the agency and the
expertise of professional land managers and scien-
tists, and indefinitely postponed the project. Attor-
neys for the activist groups submitted agenda-driven
research, and other information funded by anti-for-
estry groups, which criticized the effectiveness of
thinning overstocked and fire-prone forests. The
panel found the Forest Service didn’t properly weigh
this information, and ordered the agency to conduct
It is too late to save these forests from the White
Even more troubling, the 9th Circuit panel’s deci-
sion has negative implications for the use of forest
management activities, in this case thinning activi-
ties, that are based in real science and are proven to
protect public lands and communities from wildfire,
and provide true conservation benefits.
This story is all too common throughout Oregon
and the West, where our public lands agencies and
their experts have worked to reduce severe and dan-
gerous risks to our landscapes.
With millions of acres of federal lands at risk of
devastating wildfires, projects to reduce fuels and
promote our forests’ resiliency to wildfires have been
stymied by obstruction and litigation based on flawed
and agenda-driven science.
Only Congress can provide relief by providing
these agencies the tools and resources to implement
preventive forest management activities that spares
our forests and communities from this devastation.
— — —
Nick Smith is director of public affairs for the
American Forest Resource Council, a regional trade
association representing the forest products sector.
He also is executive director of Healthy Forests,
Healthy Communities, a nonpartisan grassroots
coalition that advocates for active management of
America’s federally owned forests.
Alf Rippee is a clearheaded
My wife and I strongly support
Kristine Alf Rippee for La Grande
City Council. We have known her for
more than 10 years, and from our first
meeting have been impressed with
the energy and organizational skills
she has brought to homeschooling
her four children. She has strong
roots in Eastern Oregon and directs
the same energy and commitment to
her work for the La Grande commu-
nity. She volunteers as the treasurer
of the La Grande Swim Club and as
an official for USA Swimming for
La Grande High School swim meets.
She volunteered for the Girl Scouts as
the regional event and travel coordi-
nator and is also director of the Wal-
lowa Fiddle Tunes Camp. Kristine is a
clearheaded problem solver. Her pres-
ence on the city council will benefit
the entire community.
Clements is only candidate
with the experience to lead
in difficult times
This is the time when experi-
enced leadership matters the most. I
proudly endorse Steve Clements to be
reelected as mayor of La Grande.
I admire and respect Mayor Clem-
ents for his intelligence, his generosity
of spirit and his dedication to the good
of the citizens of La Grande. Steve
has proven to be genuine, reliable and
willing to work the long hours needed
for the position of mayor.
Steve’s honest, pragmatic and
hopeful insight into our communi-
ty’s problems and needs come from
his years of leadership experience.
In public meetings, he examines the
issues and listens closely to the pub-
lic’s questions and concerns. He is
considerate of varying opinions.
I worked with Steve on local issues
and state housing matters. I found him
to be very knowledgeable about our
housing needs and very welcoming
of grant funds that brought housing
resources and extra dollars into our
community. He knew our city’s needs
and knew the problems of our com-
munity and of our state.
Steve has been a three-term mayor.
He deserves to be reelected for a
fourth term. Steve is an experienced
public servant with a clear vision of
where he wants La Grande to go in
the future. Many residents share his
vision because it focuses on keeping
our city a beautiful, safe and pros-
perous place to live.
We need Steve. Steve needs you.
Join me in supporting the only candi-
date with the experience to lead us in
these difficult times. Reelect Mayor
La Grande would benefit
from Wheeler’s tenacity and
I am voting for Denise Wheeler
for Position 2 on the La Grande City
Council because she is community
minded, hardworking and service ori-
ented. After moving to La Grande in
2002, Ms. Wheeler helped originate
the first performances at the Elgin
Opera House with her husband, Kenn,
who teaches theater at Eastern Oregon
University. Wheeler directs musical
theater at La Grande High School and
works at a local retirement center as a
Contact your public officials
La Grande: City Manager Robert Strope, 541-
962-1309, fax 541-963-3333; RStrope@cityofla-
grande.org; P.O. Box 670, La Grande, OR 97850;
Mayor Steve Clements, mayor@cityoflagrande.
org; Councilors Gary Lillard (mayor pro tem),
email@example.com; Nicole Howard,
firstname.lastname@example.org; Corrine Dutto,
email@example.com; Mary Ann Miesner,
firstname.lastname@example.org; Justin Rock,
email@example.com; and through the city
Elgin: City Hall, 790 S. Eighth Ave., Elgin, OR,
97827; City Recorder/Administrator Brock
Eckstein, firstname.lastname@example.org; Mayor
Allan Duffy, 541-240-9763, mayor@cityofelgi-
nor.org; Councilors Mary West, 541-805-0443,
email@example.com; Kathy Warren,
Risa Hallgarth, 541-437-9462, councilor2@
cityofelginor.org; Rocky Burgess, 541-786-2417,
firstname.lastname@example.org; David Reed,541-
975-3306, email@example.com; and
Ryan Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cove: City Hall, 504 Alder St., P.O. Box 8 Cove,
OR 97824; City Recorder Donna Lewis, 541-568-
4566, email@example.com; Mayor Del
Union County: County Courthouse: 1106 K
Ave., La Grande, OR 97850; 541-963-1001; fax
541-963-1079; Commissioners Donna Beverage,
firstname.lastname@example.org, Matt Scarfo,
email@example.com, and Paul Anderes,
officer Shelley Burgess, sburgess@union-coun-
Wallowa County: Courthouse, 101 S. River St.,
Enterprise OR 97828, 541-426-4543 ext. 15; fax
541-426-0582; Commissioners Susan Roberts,
ext.133, firstname.lastname@example.org; Todd Nash,
ext.132, email@example.com; John Hillock,
Rep. Greg Barreto of Cove (58th District): Sa-
lem office: 900 Court St. N.E., H-384, Salem, OR
97301; 503-986-1458. Email: rep.gregbarreto@
life enrichment assistant.
I noticed her in action on behalf
of our community when she testified
at the La Grande City Council meet-
ings in 2018 to give input on a pro-
posal to add recreational marijuana to
the upcoming ballot. La Grande voters
had turned this measure down several
times and Ms.Wheeler felt the voters
had already spoken. She showed
tenacity and testified at two dif-
ferent meetings. The council reversed
its vote after input from concerned
Denise fully supports our police
and fire departments. She supports
peaceful protests. She supports the
functions of our library and recreation
department and, within the budget,
would like to improve them all to ben-
efit our community.
With regard to COVID-19, she told
me, “I do take it very seriously. My
daughter had COVID-19 and has since
recovered. I also work in an elder-care
facility and I know the importance of
protecting our residents and abiding
by all of the COVID-19 protocols. But
I have also seen the consequences of
the lockdown. Because of all that I
have seen and experienced, I think we
need to open up cautiously and start
rebuilding our community.”
Denise has shown tremendous
organizational skills, listening ability
and plain hard work as a leader in
women’s and youth groups. Now, she
has a desire to expand her service in
the community by serving on the La
Grande City Council. Please join me
in voting Denise Wheeler for Position
2 on the La Grande City Council.
Sen. William S. Hansell of Athena (29th
District): Salem office: 900 Court St. N.E., S-423,
Salem, OR 97301; 503-986-1729. Email:
Gov. Kate Brown: 254 State Capitol, Salem, OR
97310; 503-378-3111; www.governor.oregon.
United States officials
Rep. Greg Walden (2nd District): walden.
house.gov; D.C. office: 2182 Rayburn Office
Building, Washington, D.C., 20515; 202-225-
6730; fax 202-225-5774; La Grande office: 1211
Washington Ave., La Grande, OR 97850; 541-
624-2400; fax, 541-624-2402.
Sen. Jeff Merkley: merkley.senate.gov.; D.C.
office: 313 Hart Senate Office Building, U.S.
Senate, Washington, D.C., 20510; 202-224-
3753; fax 202-228-3997. Portland office: One
World Trade Center, 121 S.W. Salmon St., Suite
1250, Portland, OR 97204; 503-326-3386;
fax 503-326-2900. Pendleton office: 310 S.E.
Second St., Suite 105, Pendleton 97801; 541-