The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, December 06, 2017, Page A3, Image 3

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Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Staff shortage impacting
local veterans program
can learn to manage the dis-
order, and the John Day pro-
gram had a positive impact
on its members.
learn to deal
with PTSD
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
Courtesy photo/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
A llama death in Union County has been ruled a ‘probable’ wolf depredation.
Dead llama ruled
‘probable’ wolf attack
Incident took
place on private
land in Union
By George Plaven
EO Media Group
Wolves may very well
be responsible for killing a
250-pound adult llama on a
private forested pasture in
Union County, though the Or-
egon Department of Fish &
Wildlife stopped short of con-
firming the incident as a wolf
Investigators instead ruled
it a “probable” wolf attack,
taking place just 10 miles
away from where wolves with
the Meacham pack preyed on
cattle at Cunningham Sheep
Company earlier this summer.
The landowner found the
dead llama Friday, Nov. 24,
about 200 yards from the resi-
dence. The carcass was most-
ly intact, except most of the
hide and muscle tissue along
the right rear leg above the
hock and around the anus had
been consumed.
ODFW arrived the next
day, and according to the
agency’s investigation report,
the llama likely died some-
time between late Wednes-
day, Nov. 22, and before dark
Thursday, Nov. 23. At least
two sets of wolf tracks were
seen in the mud about 20
yards away, which were one
to two days old. Investigators
also documented trail camera
photos taken about 300 yards
from the carcass, showing a
wolf moving toward the area
on Nov. 23.
However, wounds to the
llama were not consistent
with extensive wolf-caused
injuries, the report went on
to state. Taking all evidence
into consideration, the agen-
cy determined that “there was
sufficient evidence to confirm
predation on the llama by a
large predator, but not enough
evidence to confirm which
The same landowner also
reported another dead llama
earlier in the month, which
had been largely consumed
except for its neck, head and
left shoulder. ODFW inves-
tigated Nov. 14, and deter-
mined there was no evidence
of a predator attack at the
scene. The cause of death is
Ritter land group receives big grant
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
The Ritter Land Manage-
ment Team in Long Creek
recently received a $135,000
grant from the Meyer Memo-
rial Trust with the goal of re-
storing ecosystem health and
creating jobs in the John Day
Patti Hudson, the group’s
executive director, said the
money will be used for staffing,
maintaining a website and sus-
taining the group’s operations
for the next three years.
“It was a competitive grant,
and it was fantastic that we got
it,” she said, noting that the
trust sent people to look over
the group’s operation.
Formed in 2013 as a non-
profit, the Ritter Land Manage-
ment Team is a collaboration
between private landowners in
the Ritter and Lower Middle
Fork John Day River sub-ba-
sin. Hudson said 30 of the 60
landowners in the 105,653-acre
management area are active
members of the group.
Invasive juniper
Using $72,000 from Busi-
ness Oregon and $10,000 from
the Oregon Community Foun-
dation, the group acquired a
portable sawmill and a tele-
handler this fall to turn western
juniper trees into a marketable
The native trees have be-
come an invasive species as
they’ve spread across 9 million
acres of Eastern Oregon range-
lands, using up water in the dry
landscape and crowding out na-
tive plants needed by wildlife
and livestock.
Wood, which has a lumber
store in Portland, has already
purchased a truckload of 4-by-6
and 6-by-6 juniper timbers pro-
duced by the Ritter mill, Hud-
son said. Juniper is a popular
wood for landscaping timbers,
she said.
“We don’t have any em-
ployees at the sawmill yet, but
we expect to hire two in the
next six months and four to six
more in the next two to three
years,” she said.
The group identified the
need to ramp up the pace and
scale of juniper removal in the
area in an October 2015 Strate-
gic Action Plan. They then ob-
tained a grant from the state’s
Western Juniper Industry Fund
to pay for a feasibility study to
determine if sufficient supply
and demand existed to sustain a
Local veterans advocates
are encouraging the Veterans
Administration to restore a
counseling program for vet-
erans in Grant County with
post-traumatic stress disor-
Steve Bull, the former
director of the VA clinic in
Burns, traveled to John Day
on Wednesdays to meet with
about a dozen veterans suf-
fering from the mental disor-
der. The program ended after
about two years when Bull
retired. Veterans are now
expected to travel to Burns
or Boise, Idaho, for similar
Bob Van Voorhis, an ac-
tive supporter of local vet-
erans in the John Day area,
said he and Bull spent about
a year organizing the PTSD
meetings. He described Bull
as a “man of faith” who had
offered a “cowboy ministry”
in the past.
Bull wasn’t a vet, but he
had spent a long career work-
ing one-on-one with vets
and had maintained strong
relationships with the vets
he was helping. Generally a
PTSD counselor for veter-
ans should be a vet because
of trust issues — vets will
tell other vets some things
they would never tell close
friends or family members,
Van Voorhis said.
Contributed photo/Eric Sines
Caleb Morris, rancher and Ritter Land Management
Team board member, runs the first log through the new
mill in Ritter.
sawmill in Ritter.
According to the April 2017
report by TSS Consultants,
a renewable energy, natural
resource management and fi-
nancial consulting firm in Sac-
ramento, California, satellite
imagery work by Portland State
University was combined with
slope analysis to determine
that 66,871 green tons of saw
logs and 57,318 green tons of
harvest residuals could be eco-
nomically produced from the
area’s juniper trees.
Supply and
The report suggested a 12-
to 24-month harvest lead time
would be helpful, providing
time for the fallen logs to dry.
Hudson said area ranchers have
been dropping junipers that
are now ready to mill. Instead
of burning the entire tree, the
trunk will be milled and the re-
maining limbs will be burned,
Hudson said.
If 450 acres are treated an-
nually, 105 truckloads of saw
logs and 90 truckloads of fiber
could be produced annually for
the next 21 years, the report
TSS Consultants also as-
sessed the market for juniper
products. Juniper is harder than
ponderosa pine and has more
nail strength than Douglas fir
and ponderosa pine, and juni-
per “is considered splendid for
machining and bending and is
excellent for gluing and finish-
ing,” the report said.
With the closure of biomass
power plants at Heppner and
Prairie City, there is currently
no local market for western ju-
niper biomass chips, the report
said. But juniper’s resistance to
rotting is especially important.
A 1999 Oregon State Universi-
ty Forest Research Laboratory
report showed that an untreated
western juniper fencepost could
last more than 30 years — lon-
ger than any other western tree
“This characteristic makes
(western juniper) superb for
outdoor applications such as
posts, siding, decking and pa-
tio furniture,” TSS Consultants
For the Ritter group, as it
breaks into the wood-process-
ing business, producing land-
scape timbers is a good start.
But the report recommended
that the group should diversify
into two-inch boards, which
“are in high demand today.”
Hudson said rough-cut 2-by-6
juniper is sometimes installed
as flooring and finished in place
by sanding.
Established in 1982, the Me-
morial Meyer Trust is among
the largest private foundations
in Oregon, with assets totaling
about $750 million. The trust
has awarded grants and pro-
gram-related investments total-
ing more than $761 million to
more than 3,600 organizations
since it was founded. The trust
focuses its work in Oregon on
housing, education, the envi-
ronment and building commu-
Many people develop
PTSD after experiencing or
witnessing a life-threatening
event such as combat but also
natural disasters, motor-vehi-
cle accidents or sexual as-
saults. The experience can
result in upsetting memories,
feeling on edge and trouble
sleeping. It can also lead to
erratic or even violent behav-
ior — to oneself or others.
The VA estimates that 7
percent of Americans are
affected by PTSD at some
point in their lives, but it’s
more common among veter-
ans. According to the Wound-
ed Warrior Project website,
more than 540,000 vets have
been diagnosed with PTSD
— including one in five vet-
erans of the Iraqi War.
The VA established a Na-
tional Center for PTSD in
1989 following a Congres-
sional mandate. According to
Options for vets
Bob Van
their website, scientific and
clinical interest in PTSD has
rapidly grown in the past 25
years. PTSD is recognized as
a major public health prob-
lem and behavioral health
problem for veterans and
active-duty personnel who
are subject to the traumat-
ic stress of war, dangerous
peacekeeping operations and
interpersonal violence.
Van Voorhis said he’s
contacted David Wood, the
director of the Boise VA
Medical Center since 2012,
and Rep. Greg Walden about
the need to restore the PTSD
counseling program in John
VA staff shortage
The problem stems from
a staff shortage at the Burns
facility that Wood is trying
to address, Van Voorhis said.
He said he’d give Wood to
mid-December, but if no
progress was evident toward
resolving the problem, he
would start up a letter-writ-
ing campaign.
Between 12 and 15 veter-
ans participated in the John
Day program, mostly Viet-
nam-era veterans but also
some young vets, Van Voorhis
said. Three had served as
combat medics, an assign-
ment that is particularly sus-
ceptible to PTSD because
combat medics tend to “be-
lieve they can save anyone,”
Van Voorhis said. Combat
infantrymen had a different
mindset because they were
trained to kill, he said.
Bull helped the vets iden-
tify things that might trigger
PTSD — such as sounds,
smells and certain kinds of
objects — and then learn
how to deal with those trig-
gers. Vets who “checked the
perimeter” before going to
bed at night would learn to
step back a second and take a
breath instead of immediate-
ly reacting to PTSD triggers,
Van Voorhis said.
Grant County has a high-
er percentage of vets than
most people might think,
Van Voorhis said. And many
of them “have testosterone
running out of their ears,”
so they aren’t likely to admit
they have PTSD — they are
functioning citizens, he said.
But the quality of life for
these people is not good —
they’re suffering even if it’s
not visible. There’s no cure
for PTSD, he said, but people
Katee Hoffman, the new
Grant County Veteran Services
Officer, told the Eagle she had
dropped in on the group and
was aware of the need to find
a counselor and get the local
program going again.
Hoffman said local veter-
ans had some other options,
including counseling over
the telephone. She noted that
some people prefer to be in
a physical group setting and
some did not.
Joshua Callihan, the pub-
lic affairs officer at the Boise
VA Medical Center, told the
Eagle that Bull had offered
the PTSD group counseling
in John Day on his own.
“Steve did this as a VA
employee, on VA time, but
the services he provided in
John Day were not services
that the Department of Vet-
erans Affairs had ever com-
mitted to providing in John
Day,” he said.
Callihan said the Boise
center was actively recruiting
a replacement for Bull at the
Burns VA clinic. “Until we
know who the replacement
is, we will not know if they
are willing or able to travel
to John Day to continue pro-
viding the same services that
Steve Bull did,” he said.
Callihan noted that Tri-
West Healthcare Alliance of-
fered a mental health provid-
er for veterans in John Day.
Under the Veterans Choice
Program, eligible veterans
in John Day can use the Tri-
West program because they
live more than 40 miles from
a VA facility with a full-time
medical doctor on staff.
“That would mean via the
VA’s Veterans Choice Pro-
gram, veterans could receive
mental health services in the
private sector in John Day,”
he said. “To schedule this
care, veterans would call the
phone number on their Veter-
ans Choice Card and ask to
be scheduled in that area.”
The Veterans Choice Pro-
gram was created by Con-
gress in 2014 to expand the
availability of medical ser-
vices for eligible veterans. As
one of two companies con-
tracted under the program,
TriWest offers mental health
services to veterans through a
network of 25,000 behavioral
healthcare providers.
Hoffman noted that vet-
erans could go to Commu-
nity Counseling Solutions in
John Day under the Veterans
Choice Program, but they
may not want to for fear of
being “branded.”