Applications have been distributed for group that will advise, direct county on public lands decisions

Implementation of Crook County's Natural Resources Policy is moving forward once again with the formation of a new committee.

County leaders are now taking applicants following the hire of Tim Deboodt as natural resource policy coordinator this past April. His job focuses on several areas critical to the county such as responsible use of natural resources, access to public lands, economic implications for natural resources, and health and sustainability of public lands.

To that end, he is charged with forming a citizen committee that will help him achieve those and other objectives as well as partner with federal agencies and explore potential opportunities with state agencies.

The application asks for people to provide their education and any professional licenses, registrations and certifications. Applicants are prompted to provide relevant experience in federal land use planning, as well as any current or former affiliation with any boards or other organizations.

Committee applicants are asked to provide examples of past experiences that show the ability to work collaboratively with others, including people who have differing viewpoints, to achieve a good faith compromise.

"The primary criteria is that the applicant is a resident of Crook County, first and foremost, and that they have an interest in how the natural resources within the county — both private and public — are managed," Deboodt said. "We are looking for a diverse cross section of interests and expertise."

The committee will be comprised of nine people, and the deadline to apply is Aug. 31, although Deboodt points out that it is not a hard deadline.

Introduced to the Crook County Court in May 2016 and adopted in November 2017 following a change in county leadership, the Natural Resources Policy dictates how public lands should be managed locally and covered a variety of topics, including wildfire suppression, grazing, logging, wild horse policy and more.

A political action committee developed the document as a mechanism to invoke coordination, a process in which federal agencies are mandated to work with local government officials on public lands decisions.

Creation of the policy arose from public opposition to a Natural Recreation Area proposed by conservation organization Oregon Wild. The Prineville City Council and Crook County Court officially opposed the proposal, but a citizen-led political action committee moved forward with a natural resources policy with the intent of giving local leaders more control over federal land use decisions. Upon its approval, county officials have characterized the policy as another tool in the toolbox when dealing with federal land use issues.

Deboodt said he began meeting with different interest groups in early July that helped spur the development and adoption of the Natural Resources Policy. Such groups include the Central Oregon Patriots, the Natural Resources Policy PAC, and the local Citizens for Public Lands group.

"I am just trying to introduce myself and introduce what the county is trying to do," he explained, adding that he has also met with Forest Service representatives and learned what projects the agency is pursuing in Crook County. He has also gone on a couple of forest field tours.

More recently, Deboodt has been working with the county to decide how to move forward with the natural resources committee once it is formed. He pointed out that he and the group will try to be action-oriented and not "spend years discussing something."

However, that action will ultimately come in the form of advising the county court and providing direction on natural resource and public land issues.

"It is up to the court to accept it and do with it what they will," Deboodt said. "That is where the responsibility and decision-making will always lie."

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