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Intended to develop county-based policies on management of forest, rangeland, recreation and more



For the past several weeks, hundreds of local residents have spoken out against Ochoco Wild’s Ochoco Mountains National Recreation Plan.

During town halls on the subject, multiple individuals have emphatically stated that the Crook County community can achieve the same recreation and forest health-related goals on its own.

Now, an effort has emerged to put that belief into practice. Former Central Oregon Patriots Chair Craig Brookhart has launched plans to develop the Crook County Natural Resources Political Action Committee. An introductory meeting on the PAC is scheduled for this coming Tuesday at the Bowman Museum.

Brookhart recently wrote about the potential formation of a PAC in response to the Oregon Wild proposal, calling the group “a very well-funded, well-organized and experienced opponent.”

“They are used to getting their way and will draft legislation whether they are shouted down at every public forum or not,” he added. “This battle will NOT be won in a town hall! It would not be surprising if the legislation for the OMNRA was done by April.”

However, as work begins on the PAC, Brookhart stressed that it will not have such a singular focus on Oregon Wild or the local forest.

“What we are really trying to do is create a natural resource management plan and that has to do with how the county manages the assets for the benefit of the county,” he explained. “That involves everything from timber management to rangeland management to addressing the needs of recreation and wildlife. It is really a broad-based plan that allows the county to state its policies regarding the use of the resources that lie within the county.”

While the focus remains broad, the current effort by Oregon Wild to pass a national recreation area for the Ochocos has heightened the sense of urgency in developing the new PAC. Local Brett Nelson, who is championing the PAC on his “Prineville, Crook County – Your Voice Our Community” Facebook page, said “this group is going to move fast and establish a get-it-done approach from the kickoff.”

“Our goal is to get done in two to three months what has taken others a year,” Brookhart added. “Without a plan, funding, legal support and a way to get us all united, it’s very possible we will get the OMNRA handed to us on a platter.”

Brookhart has reached out to people he knows who have experience with creating a PAC to help get the ball rolling, and the upcoming meeting is intended to help supporters further refine the natural resources management plan and how it will move forward.

Stressing that the organization will not follow a top down approach, and that community participation will be key, he is inviting local residents to not only join the effort, but speak up if they have a better strategy.

“It’s not nearly as important who does it,” he said, “just that we get it done in the fastest, most effective way possible. The future of the Ochocos is our common goal.”

Should these efforts succeed, Crook County would not be the first to develop and adopt such a plan. Baker County adopted a natural resources plan in 2015 that addresses a host of public lands policies from access to recreation to wildfire and more.

“If the county doesn’t state these policies clearly and then start to work on them by using coordination with other agencies, then some group – whoever it is, Oregon Wild or somebody else – will always want to tell you how to manage the resources you should be managing yourself,” Brookhart concluded.

A public meeting on the newly formed Crook County Natural Resources Political Action Committee will be held at Bowman Museum, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

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