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County Court members to review document and conduct more research before considering adoption of plan

After disappearing from the spotlight for several months, the Crook County Natural Resources Plan has once again surfaced.

Members of a political action committee that help draft the document more than a year ago have resubmitted the plan in hopes that new county leadership will adopt it.

Introduced to the Crook County Court in May 2016, the 63-page plan dictated how public lands should be managed locally and covered a variety of topics, including wildfire suppression, grazing, logging, wild horse policy and more.

The Natural Resources Plan became a source of controversy throughout the summer and early fall as the PAC tried unsuccessfully to convince county leaders to adopt it. The document was ultimately rejected, pending the scrutiny of the Crook County Planning Commission, an effort that commissioners estimated would take more than a year. Former County Judge Mike McCabe and former County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren voted against adopting the plan while then-Commissioner Seth Crawford voted in favor of the plan.

The PAC consequently opted to pull back and revamp the document and present it again once a new group of county leaders took over after the 2016 general election. McCabe was set to retire at the end of year, and Fahlgren and Crawford were competing for the position he would vacate.

Crawford prevailed and took over as judge in January. Meanwhile, Jerry Brummer won the commissioner seat that Fahlgren vacated, and Brian Barney was later appointed to fill the commissioner position left open by Crawford.

Feeling confident the new leadership is more likely to support the Natural Resources Plan, the PAC recently resubmitted the improved version of the document to the Crook County Court in late June.

PAC Chair Jodie Fleck said the county received the plan but did not accept it as a policy or plan at that time. While that is the case, the committee is not yet concerned about the future of document.

"They want to do their own research on it," Fleck said of the County Court. "We do know that this County Court has done their due diligence and are educating themselves very well on coordination. We are ecstatic about that."

Coordination is the key term in development of the plan. A term established in federal statute, coordination requires federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service or BLM to work with local jurisdictions when considering land use decisions that will affect public lands within local boundaries.

However, invoking coordination requires adoption of a natural resources plan, a document that federal agencies can reference that officially outlines how the county wants its resources managed.

Interest in pursuing coordination, and ultimately a natural resources plan, emerged about a year earlier when attempts by Oregon Wild to create a natural recreation area on the Ochoco National Forest drew the ire of numerous local residents.

"It is a tool to keep Oregon Wild from creating that recreational area without the consent and the blessing of the citizens of Crook County," Fleck said. "There are so many things that can be done through coordination to stop them from moving forward … So it is imperative that we get something into place so that we, the citizens of Crook County, can have a voice in what's happening."

Fleck said the primary content of the natural resources plan has not changed following the revisions made during the past few months, but PAC members focused on improving its clarity.

"We did a lot more research on what plans should look like. We restructured it so it reads a lot easier," she said. "Every single section was looked at, so every section has some changes, but the gist of what we said originally is still there."

The PAC also sought the assistance of Andy Rieber, of Adel, Oregon, in Lake County. She has worked with other communities on other natural resources plans, Fleck said.

Now that the PAC has presented the new version of the plan to the County Court, they plan to familiarize local residents with what it entails.

"We will be doing presentations to people in the county to educate them to the plan," Fleck said. "Those who agree with it will go on the endorsement list, and we will keep coming back to the County Court with the additional list."

While no timeline is known regarding adoption of the plan, the PAC hopes to see action taken on it soon to stop Oregon Wild and other organizations from limiting activities on local public lands.

"The sooner the county can adopt a plan and be ready to sit at the table with some of these other agencies, the sooner they can put a stop to some of the things that are going on," Fleck concluded.

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