From the April 2000 Idaho Observer:


100 angry citizens discuss government policy, waste

Voices of civilians protesting federal war on west getting louder

COLVILLE -- Nearly 100 angry citizens met at Woody's restaurant here March 24 to discuss what is happening to timber sales in federal forests and water rights. People who attended the meeting organized by Addy resident Ken Scalf also heard six speakers from Okanogan county who discussed a variety of important issues that weigh heavily on the people here as a result of current government policy and waste.

Timber sales and school trust lands

Mary Lou Peterson had been researching the Loomis Forest Transfer and has discovered that Washington Public Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher has transferred at least $300 million worth of public lands out of the trust that was set aside for the operation of public schools. The lands are now being termed conservation areas that are not available to the public as a resource and have been so badly mismanaged that they are bug infested.

Peterson discussed several issues that point to state duplicity with federal policy that intends to wipe out the forest products industry in the area and thereby diminish the population. Once depopulated, the government can more easily implement its roadless area initiative and endangered species agenda and turn the entire resource-rich region into a wilderness that is off limits to public access and use.

“Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, we're all facing the same thing. Water issues, salmon issues, state forest land, federal road closures, dam breaching. We all live here and we should have a say. We need to network together. Our strongest tool is our vote. Our next strongest tool is that we have to stay united, to stand together. If we divide on any of these issues we are conquered. Just a handful of people can't fight this,” Peterson stated.

Mark Timmerman added to what Peterson had to say about redesignating 25,000 acres of the Loomis Forest as “protected” when timber sales could have been beneficial to both the forest and the economy of the region. Timmerman touched on the fact that the feds insisted upon adding the 25,000 acres to the existing 626,000 acres of existing wilderness area and the 382,000 acres of roadless area to protect the habitat of the “endangered” lynx.

Timmerman also performed some mathematical computations that indicate the government is playing around with figures of estimated values to justify its actions by undervaluing the Loomis Forest. Timmerman asked Belcher for a copy of her internal review and was told that “it doesn't exist.”

“The very next meeting of the Board of Natural Resources she told her board they had it. Senator Morton (R-Orient) accused her of fraud and asked her to step down.”

Forester Jerry Theis has an extensive background in timber cruising and appraisal and has spent most of his career in the Loomis. Theis has noted the deterioration of the forest under federal management, particularly where bug infestations are concerned. According to Theis, the mountain pine beetle infestation, which began in the early 90s went from 5,000 acres to over 50,000 acres in two years. “Most of the areas we are talking about are mountain pine beetle infestations. Some of it has as much as 50 percent of it dead. What's going to happen is that each of these epidemic centers will continue to grow and it will kill basically the six foot trees and up throughout these stands over a period of time,” Theis explained.

Theis supported Timmerman's claims that the government's assessment of the value and amount of timber in the Loomis is “way off.”

Water Rights in the Methow Valley

Dick Ewing from the Methow Valley discussed an issue that is uniting the people of the Okanogan against the policies of the federal government which intend to shut off people's access to water. Ewing, a chemist by training, cited his research into the water issue which has its roots in the Methow Basin plan which spun off into the Water Management Act of 1971. It appears that the Department of Ecology is attempting to manipulate the amount of water being used in the area as a means of population control. “They have failed to do their job in recording the transfer of water rights with the transfer of property. What we have are overlaying claims for the same water rights. So this is what we are being held accountable for. We are actually using less water today than we were in the 60s and 70s,” Ewing explained.

Ewing then described how government figures regarding water usage and how such usage affects fish populations are in stark contrast to figures that have been developed scientifically. Ewing summed his presentation up by saying, “So you can begin to see the conflict that's been evolving here with the amount of information. Here we have some real hard-core fish biologists that say irrigation actually helps fish productivity. And here you have the Ground Water Study that says we got tons of water in the Methow. And then you have the environmentalists saying, 'it doesn't matter about the fact that you have it, we just need to control population, even with the water.”

Ray Campbell, a third generation resident of the Methow Valley was on the water planning committee that had been set up to address future water needs in the area. Campbell described from a different angle how the federal government had been manipulating the acts and policies at its disposal to shut down water districts and control the water resource for the region. “Through the years of study, many years of study, we have seen that more and more regulations are coming out with less and less factual information being used to justify them,” Campbell said.

The National Marine Fisheries services told us that we had an endangered species of salmon and a threatened species called the bull trout and that we needed to address our water diversion because irrigation from our ditches was taking away the water and killing the fish, Campbell explained.

After awhile Campbell gave up on dealing intelligently with the government on the water issue because, “It was a stacked deck.”

“We have been attacked by the federal government, the department of fisheries and the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. We decided we had better get organized. It was an orchestrated attack. They were hitting people in every direction and everybody was trying to make their own deal. If the federal government is successful in imposing its regulations here its going to spread,” Campbell said.

Bonnie Lawrence from a group called OC3 was the final speaker. Lawrence explained that her group was formed six years ago in an effort to educate the public about government mismanagement issues and how they have an impact on the community. She explained that her group of 21 people is united around multiple use resource land management and constitutional government. “It seems pretty simple,” Lawrence said, “the government is out of control.”

Symptoms of a disease

Lawrence explained that the longer she and her group study the issues the more obvious it becomes that they are all, state and federal, interconnected in a plan to control the population of the area through resource mismanagement.

“They're all coming at us from just a little bit different angle and they're tearing us to death,” she said and added that, “It's been six years and none of these issues have gone away.”

The Okanogan and the Methow Valley is symptomatic of the rural western U.S. communities. Seventy-five percent of the area's acreage is under either local, state or federal control. Okanogan county alone has 3,392,000 acres, 518,000 acres of which are federally designated wilderness areas. The Loomis transfer took 25,000 acres out of production and Clinton's Roadless Areas Initiative, which is being enforced through executive order and not by the will of the people, intends to take another 50 million to 60 million acres of the Okanogan out of production. The same thing will happen in neighboring Chelan county where 533,000 acres are slated to be taken away from the people just because the federal government, without scientific basis, says so.

The Colville meeting was a sign that people out here in the west are becoming strangled by government mismanagement and nonscientific overregulation. Is this being enforced to get people to move off of their land so that it may gain control of the natural resources that abound here?