NRP approval is not the end, it is the beginning
It's not the end, it is only the beginning.
Among a plethora of clichés, this may be one of the most familiar to people, and right now, it seems to best apply to the recent passage of the new Crook County Natural Resources plan.
The winding pathway to adoption of the document last week started with a highly unpopular Oregon Wild proposal early last year. The plan then became a lightning rod during the 2016 election before lying dormant as new county leaders settled into office.
The document has been criticized by opponents who say it will open the county to legal challenges because it will contradict federal land use laws. They further argue that only people of specific political leanings were involved in writing the document, leaving out other valid viewpoints from Crook County citizens.
Meanwhile, proponents of the plan have praised the document as either the long-awaited resource for coordination and local control of natural resources within Crook County borders, or as a guideline that strengthens the county's position when federal projects are proposed on the county's federal lands.
Whatever view people hold, many people seem to view the passage, good or bad, as the end of the line. For people who wanted this plan to pass, it is that moment to proclaim a win for Crook County and to start making plans for invoking coordination and taking back some control of the natural resources we hold so dear. Those who didn't want it to pass might expect to see lawsuits or policies pushed that fail to line up with their views on forest management.
But this isn't how anybody should look at this document — especially when one considers the changes that the plan has already seen. The changes in question are not necessarily to the language of the plan itself, although it has undergone some revisions by the PAC that created it as well as by Karen Budd-Falen, the attorney and coordination expert the county asked to review it. The important changes in this case are the ones related to how the document is viewed and applied by the county.
The document that was presented as a "gift" to help regain local control and stop groups like Oregon Wild is now approved as "a guideline" and "another tool in the toolbox," as stated by County Commissioner Jerry Brummer. PAC member Teresa Rodriguez has called it "a living, breathing document" that "can and will be revised."
Nobody knows where this journey of approving a Natural Resources Plan will go next, but it would be a mistake to assume that it is over with the vote of the county court. Proponents and opponents alike should stay engaged, work to refine what is already in place, and hopefully avoid mirroring the increasing political division this country faces in the process.
Approval is not the end. It is only the beginning.