After running on a platform touting small government, our county commissioners want to expand government by taking over our health district and making it a county health department.
Currently there are six members of the Board of Health comprised of the three commissioners and three members representing incorporated cities and towns. The commissioners want to reduce the board to five members to include themselves and two other members appointed by them. There will be no specific term of office for the commissioners.
If this happens, current employees of our health district will be laid off. If they are rehired, they will lose all seniority, current health benefits, and accrued vacation and sick leave. There is no guarantee they will be rehired.
The reason given by the commissioners for this shameful power grab is as follows: The health district “is in poor financial condition and … a change in the governing structure is necessary to streamline operations and restore financial stability.” Read “streamline” as “cutting programs.”
The county allocates $120,000 a year to the health district. That is the same as was allotted 20 years ago. Of that, $40,000 goes back to the county for computing support, audit fees, etc. Considering the under-funding of our county health district, it’s a wonder they do as well as they do.
In short, the commissioners are using county under-funding of the health district as the primary excuse to take it over. It would be a good idea to attend health district board meetings.
P. Stanton, Okanogan
Think about thinning
On Sept. 22, the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative (NCWFHC) and the National Forest Foundation (NFF) sponsored a public forum, “Thinning and the Future of the Forest.” All of the panelists and all of the tables in the back of the room with literature presented the exact same point of view: logging (thinning) our public lands on a massive scale is not only the answer to our wildfire and forest health woes, it is a slam dunk. Their proposal: thousands of acres of logging in the Libby Creek/Twisp River headwaters.
Not one panelist spoke to any concerns or possible negative impacts from large, landscape-level thinning, which is what the U.S. Forest Service and their advisory board, the NCWFHC, see as the answer to how to restore forest health. This completely one-sided presentation was yet another example of the pre-set agenda the collaborative is working from. Even lip service was not paid to an unbiased evaluation of thinning.
Thinning on private lands is a vital tool for structure protection, primarily within 200 feet of the buildings themselves. To assume that it would benefit thousands of acres of public land is irresponsible (numbers as high as a million acres to be thinned on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest were tossed out). Yet, this program is being accelerated. The public is being taken for a ride with the current hysteria over forest restoration and fire. What is really called for is a reassessment of our entire firefighting and prescribed burning program.
Rash management decisions pushed through in the wake of another traumatic fire season will not contribute to long-term sustainable forestry. Thousands of acres of landscape-scale thinning will have irreparable damage — a sad legacy for future generations.
Please stay informed about what the NCWFHC is doing and their recommendations to the Forest Service. Come decision-making time, let’s protect these Methow Valley drainages.
Donna Pema Bresnahan, Libby Creek Watershed Association
Seeing things as they are
Which color grass?
From what I can see, the grass is brown and dry, we had no useful rain in many months, though much too much in other parts of the country; the global temperature is rising to record levels; wildfires are raging and getting worse the last couple of years — in short, the climate and the atmosphere is totally out of whack. Globally environmental matters are deteriorating in a frightening way. What I see, and what Mr. Aspenwall (letters to the editor, Sept. 23) sees are quite different, to say the least.
It is fascinating to see how our human minds respond in such different ways to what happens around us. We all see or hear the same events, the same words, but our minds’ response tends to go in two separate directions. For one, we can see things as they, in fact, are. For another, we can see things the way we wish they were. The way we see and process things in our minds is easily swayed by our beliefs. And a fixed belief system, often called an ideology, often trumps pragmatism, which is a way of dealing with facts and actual occurrences. William F. Buckley, often considered the father of modern American conservatism, famously said: “Idealism is fine, but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive.”
If the worsening droughts, floods, heat, fires and storms don’t wake us up, if these actual events don’t tell us that we urgently need to become better stewards of our planet (a more exalted person spoke these words recently), then we, that is all of humanity and nature, deserve, sadly, what is coming. And even if we are not fully convinced of the threat that climate change poses, if we are inclined to think the likelihood of catastrophic future events is small, is it not prudent for us to at least take preventive measures? Let us see things as they indeed are, inconvenient though true as this may be, and remember the words of that sage American, Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Herbert Wimberger, Winthrop
I went to a meeting at the Twisp Valley Grange on Sept. 22 and heard from a panel of ICO enthusiasts. ICO stands for “individuals, clumps, and openings” which, according to the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, is the answer to the valley’s fire management problems. They propose to begin with the Libby Creek/Buttermilk watershed. Even though they were so very excited about this concept, I couldn’t share their gung-ho enthusiasm. It sounds to me like the forest will be all carved up by the highest bidder. I left with plenty of concerns.
I want to believe that every one of those folks had the greatest good in mind. But what if ICO isn’t the right treatment for our valley? Are engineered forests what we wish to see here? With all due respect to Dr. Churchill, ICO’s creator, what if this does no more good than the last best strategy applied — fire suppression — which has gotten us into the trouble we’re in now?
The collaborative’s aim is a healthy forest. No argument with that — but roads and ruts creating “moon dust” from heavy equipment is a fact. The microorganisms are killed, the earth turns to dust and then is susceptible to mudslides. How can our precious wildlife live in a clump of trees? What pleasure or soul renewal will be available to outdoor enthusiasts in this man-made environment?
ICO is pure science, it’s logical, neat and clean. This isn’t Mother Nature’s style. And I’m not convinced that this treatment/prescription doesn’t have too many contra-indications. Let’s not rush into this out of fear and desperation and be sorry later. Can’t we come up with a better strategy? Ask questions, do research, find alternatives.
Joanne Cooper, Carlton
I would like to share my gratitude for the Methow Valley sixth-grade campout.
This campout has been taking place for nearly 30 years. It was spearheaded by Steve Dixon, and many, many others that I do not know the names of, but would like to express my gratitude. Howard Sonnichsen has provided the most amazing kitchen setup all these years, with water truck, grills, pots, pans and I understand, actually did the cooking for many campouts.
This year there were so many people to thank: Thomson’s Meats donated all the meat. As always, Hank’s Harvest Foods generously gave us cases of good food, from pancake mix to hot chocolate. Local farmers Cammy Green and Eric Wittenbach of Willowbrook Farms gave us tomatoes, onions and potatoes. Watershine Woods at Okanogan Producers Market filled up boxes of fruit, and Elisa Jumars of Plow Horse Greens filled an entire cooler with gourmet salad greens. Katie Bristol from Cinnamon Twisp Bakery supplied us with the best granola in the valley and we ate garlic bread from the Mazama Store, baguettes that Missy and Rick Leduc donated. It was quite the week of feasting on amazing local foods.
The sixth-grade class learned about setting up a box tent, fire ecology, canoeing, archery and storytelling. They hiked the 7-mile loop of Maple Pass and completed a service project with the U.S. Forest Service at the Falls Creek campsite.
What a unique experience. I am grateful to the individuals who began this tradition some 30 years ago and am grateful to our teachers, administration and school board who continue to make it happen. I am especially grateful to the parents who showed up and worked long hours and to Jeff Monahan, who was our steady leader, but mostly, I am grateful for the experience to engage with this group of kids. I have never been so proud. To all those parents that were not able to attend: Wow, what a polite, hard-working, engaged and — above all — fun group of kids we have. You should be very proud.
Molly Patterson, Twisp, Camp cook/sixth-grade parent
Legacy of lies
I. F. Stone, one of the most famous journalists of the 20th century, observed that, “Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.” Most of us would agree that governments lie, but the more interesting fact is that we want to be lied to. We want to be told that we are the good guys, and that some other group is the bad guys. Somehow this seems to comfort us, even though it is a lie
The Vietnam War is the most glaring example, but there are many others. Ho Chi Minh read from the U.S. Declaration of Independence in proclaiming Vietnamese independence at the end of WW II. The United States ignored him and sent money and weapons to support the French effort to forcefully retake their colony of “Indochina.”
When the French were defeated in 1954, the United States divided Vietnam into North and South. Somehow all the “bad guys” ended up in the north and the “good guys” in the south. The United States flew in a dictator, Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been living in the west, to run South Vietnam. There was supposed to be a reunification election in 1956 but the United States blocked it because it was obvious that Ho Chi Minh would win. As a result, 58,000 American soldiers died fighting — for a lie.
There was no North and South Korea until the United States created them in August 1945. Again somehow all the “bad guys” ended up in the north and all the “good guys” in the south. The United States flew in a dictator, Syngman Rhee,who had been living in the west, to run South Korea. Anybody see a pattern here? Another 36,000 American soldiers died — for a lie.
We have been at war in Iraq since 1990. That country has been destroyed; 2 million Iraqis have died; 5 million are homeless; 5,000 Americans have been killed. For what? As Mark Twain noted, “It is much easier to fool people, than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
Dana Visalli, Twisp