Over the years, I have been critical of how federal agencies manage public land in Eastern Washington. Yesterday, a representative of the Bureau of Land Management contacted me to suggest I put my money where my mouth is.
I’m going to take him up on that. I’m suggesting you, too, toss your hat in the ring.
The reconstituted Eastern Washington Resource Advisory Council is looking for members. The council provides recommendations on public lands managed by the BLM’s Spokane District Office, as well as the federally managed Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.
The Eastern Washington council comprises 15 members — five each from commercial, conservation/environmental and community interests. So, if you work or recreate on public lands, there should be a seat at the table for you or someone with similar interests at heart.
I admit I’ve been very critical of public land management on our side of the state over the years.
In 2014 and 2015, I spent countless hours covering wildfires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests, watching them burn because of failed management practices implemented in the name of environmentalism. As a member of search and rescue, I also helped evacuate residents, many of whom lost their homes to those massive fires. Those heartbreaking losses didn’t have to happen.
I’ve also been critical of the ever-increasing regulations on the recreational and commercial use of our forests and publicly owned land.
Towns like Conconully are being strangled by the U.S. Forest Service’s abysmal travel plans, which attempt to force all motorized vehicles into small areas and onto maintained roads and trails. Agencies’ ridiculous and continued gating of long-established forest routes are also hurting the economy and recreational opportunities in Conconully and elsewhere.
Then there are the ever-growing public-access restrictions and the levying of increased fees.
And as a rural resident, I find it easy to take issue with governmental policies that are destroying our rural economy, lifestyle and culture.
Those policies are making it financially unfeasible to conduct exploratory drilling for minerals. Many prohibit the salvage of downed timber or all-but eliminate commercial thinnng of overgrown forests. Without being able to access and use our publicly owned resources, rural areas are losing the last of their living-wage jobs.
Farming and ranching, too, are taking a hit. Grazing restrictions and federal depredation rules are even eroding the ability of farmers and ranchers to survive economically.
For too long, extreme environmentalists and tribal agencies have had too much input into federal land management policies. And when President Trump shuttered the advisory councils, I was optimistic any reconstituted board would more accurately reflect the people who live, work and recreate in rural areas. At the very least, I was happy that the undue influence of non-ruralites would be halted, at least temporarily.
With the Eastern Washington Resource Advisory Council springing back to life, this is our chance to make a difference in how our land is managed.
The five commercial interest board members can be from grazing rights holders, timber and mining representatives, off-road vehicle/transportation groups and others.
Conservation interests can represent environmental, historical, culture, recreational and other groups.
And public interests can include elected officials, tribal representatives, biologists and the public-at-large.
Getting a true cross-section of Eastern Washingtonians on the board won’t necessarily change things, as its only provides recommendations. Furthermore, the BLM and U.S. Forest Service will still likely pack meetings with a dozen or more of their own employees, all of whom have a vested personal financial interest in seeing decisions go a certain direction.
But, maybe, if enough vocal ruralites take a seat at the table, some of our concerns and objections will be heard.
If you’re interested in trying to make a difference in how federal agencies manage our public land, apply online at https://go.usa.gov/xQRA3 by June 4.
— Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Daily Sun. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.