Challenge road closures
Notice to all residents of Okanogan County who like to fish, hunt, picnic or use your recreational vehicles. Your right to access public lands is being eliminated one road at a time. In fact, right now in the south county, 6,000 to 10,000 acres of public access is being lost due to road closures.
Currently, every Tuesday the Okanogan County Commissioners have on their agenda to eliminate (primitive) roads that the county seldom maintains, if ever. They now want them “off the books” so they can budget monies in another direction — monies that were rarely, if ever, used for maintenance on the same said roads. Our commissioners have been voting to vacate public roads for the benefit of large private landowners/corporation in spite of public input.
Existing roads are important to all of us, and never more so since the Carlton Complex Fire in 2014 and Okanogan Complex Fire of 2015. Roads are most importantly used for fire suppression for firemen and residents living within the area. Most primitive roads are maintained by the people who use them. It is not usually the county that is there to clear the roads, but the users.
The commissioners indeed have short memories, or they have their priorities confused by putting their highest priority on money, instead of the people of Okanogan County they were elected to represent.
As a Chiliwist Valley resident for over 34 years, I have witnessed first-hand where closures of our roads exclude us from two small lakes, and alternate routes to Methow Valley and forest lands. Most important for my family, friends and neighbors is the Three Devils Road. If closed, it would severely cut our safety net for fire evacuation.
Residents of Methow Valley, Okanogan Valley, and Tonasket areas need to voice your opinion now or give up that right to access your favorite areas as you have been doing for years and had hoped to pass that privilege on to future generations.
Three Devils Road is now in litigation and we are awaiting the process of the Supreme Court. If you would like help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nora L. Rappe, Malott
Support Carbon Fee
The 2015 wildfire season was the most expensive and devastating ever recorded. We spent $2 billion fighting fires across the United States. In addition to the tragic loss of life, that’s our tax dollars literally going up in smoke, along with the trees and wildlife, our houses, animals, fences and cattle. About 10 million acres burned across the United States.
Expect to see more wildfires in our state due to continued and worsening drought and dry conditions.
The good news is we have a solution to effectively reduce the atmospheric greenhouse gases from our burning of fossil fuels that trap the earth’s heat, causing the dry conditions, drought and record temperatures that increase the risks of wildfires.
The Carbon Fee and Dividend (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-fee-and-dividend) is a fee placed on fossil fuels at the source: coal mine, oil/gas well, or port of entry, that rises gradually over time and returns 100 percent of the revenues collected from the fossil fuel industry to us, the public, as a monthly dividend. It does not grow government. It spurs economic development and investment in low/no carbon energy sources, and creates millions of jobs. The monthly dividend increases yearly, enabling us to meet the rising costs of goods and fuel. Market forces drive the badly needed innovations in low-emissions technologies and help us all transition to noncarbon-based goods and services.
Please urge our Congressional representatives Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dave Reichert to enact the Carbon Fee and Dividend to help us return to a stable climate regime, get a clean energy future, and save our forests for all of us.
Alexandra Amonette, Washington State Farm Bureau, Richland
Keep juvenile facility here
The Okanogan County commissioners are considering the closure of our local Juvenile Detention Center and subsequent move of these youth to Martin Hall in Medical Lake. Martin Hall is operated by a Montana corporation.
If this proposed move is news to you, you aren’t alone. The commissioners discussed the move during an open session on Oct. 27, 2015; however, the issue was not included on the agenda and there were no notes of the discussion in the board minutes. The Juvenile Court Administration was not advised the detention center would be discussed. After learning about the October meeting, the Superior Court presiding judge and juvenile administrator contacted the commissioners’ office and requested to be informed before further discussions took place on the topic. However, the juvenile court administration was not informed by the commissioners prior to the next two meetings that discussed this proposed move.
The commissioners are conducting a cost/benefit analysis of the proposal. The analysis will examine four considerations: authority, capital facility cost, personnel cost and collateral impacts.
• Authority: Is it legal for the commissioners to outsource the facility? State law is clear that “juvenile court shall be administered by the Superior Court.”
• Capital facility cost: The commissioners will consider operating and maintenance costs of maintaining the current facility or out-sourcing to a Montana corporation.
• Personnel costs: The move would result in the loss of approximately eight full-time jobs in our county.
• Collateral impacts: The county law enforcement agencies that use the juvenile facility will be required to transport youth to Medical Lake for processing, court appearances, etc., increasing costs to these agencies.
The impact on the youth and their families must also be taken into consideration. Families of these youth will not be as likely to visit their children or work with the court system on ways to reduce recidivism because of the time and cost to travel to Medical Lake. Research shows that juvenile offenders whose families participate in the rehabilitation of their children while incarcerated have reduced recidivism rates.
I encourage the commissioners to retain our juvenile facility in our county.
Denise Varner, Okanogan
A government agency is using its powers to increase its landholdings around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. When private property owners around the refuge refused to sell, the government diverted water, causing lakes to flood homes, corrals, barns and grazing land. It then stepped in to buy the land when the owners were going broke.
The Hammond ranch was one of the few left. The government began barricading roads and revoking grazing permits and then filed suit against the Hammonds in 2010, charging them with two arsons in 2001 and 2006 which began on Hammond land but spread to the refuge. The trial judge found the 2001 fire damaged juniper trees and sagebrush valued at around $100, and the 2006 fire burned about an acre of public land. The Hammonds were charged using the Federal Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, requiring a five-year prison term.
The Hammonds entered into a plea agreement with the government, accepting the jury’s verdict and waiving their appeal rights in order to end the case. The trial judge refused to apply the mandatory five-year sentence, finding it did not fit the crime and was cruel and unusual punishment. The Hammonds (son and father) served their sentences of one year and three months, respectively.
The U.S. attorney appealed the trial judge’s sentencing decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against the Hammonds and they were ordered back to prison to serve five-year terms. The Hammonds were already struggling to pay a $400,000 federal government civil settlement, which gave the government the right of first refusal to purchase the Hammond property if they couldn’t pay the money.
The ultimate price of the damage done to federal land in no way equates to what the federal government has demanded as its revenge on the Hammonds.
How many government employees have gone to jail for allowing fires on government land to spread to private property? We in the Methow Valley are all too familiar with that “act of terrorism.”
Chrystal Perrow, Winthrop
What the air quality signs mean
As many people here know, new signage has gone up in Twisp across from Hank’s Harvest Foods and at the Mazama Store, with color-coded notifications on air quality and the presence or absence of burn bans. The Methow Valley Clean Air project, which sponsors these signs, has been getting questions about what the colors indicate one should do, and what the burn ban means. There is a website to refer to on the sign, but here is a recap:
• Burn ban: Level one is what we have had several times this year. It is a ban that covers the entire county, so is not triggered only by air quality in our valley. Level one bans outside burning and allows indoor burning only if you have a certified stove, or if it is your only source of adequate heat.
• Sign colors: Green means good air quality. Yellow means moderate air quality, so be aware that the air quality is deteriorating. Even if there is not burn ban, you can limit outdoor burning and use alternative heat sources if you don’t have a certified stove. Orange (which Twisp gets to on some nights) means unhealthy air for sensitive groups such as those with lung disease, asthma, or lung problems requiring oxygen.
Our suggestion is to do no outdoor burning even if there is no burn ban, to limit outdoor exercise if you have a lung condition, and to limit indoor burning if you can, if you do not have a certified stove. The people most affected by wood smoke are the people who are burning in their homes or yards — but also remember, your smoke is all our smoke.
For more information got to www.ecy.wa.gov.
Raleigh Bowden, Methow Valley Clean Air Project