Things are heating up around the state as preservationists want Obama, who has declared 24 National Monuments - more than any other president in US history - to declare the Owyhee Canyonlands in eastern Oregon to be yet another. Residents, who pride themselves on their stewardship of the area and just basically want to be left alone after five generations of living out there, are not enthused.
They don't mind not having cell service, and when it comes to light, the Owyhee is perhaps the darkest area in the West, as this shot of the Milky Way illustrates.
“A lot of people think of a desert Canyonlands as not much, but I’ve taken many people out there and they’re just in awe,” said Tim Davis, with the conservation group Friends of the Owyhee. “The scenic beauty of it, the remoteness, some of the unknown history that’s out there – it’s something completely different.”
Davis is hoping that in the next two months, President Barack Obama will use his authority to designate the Owyhee Canyonlands a national monument, permanently protecting a swath of land larger than Yellowstone Park from destructive activities that could irreparably change the region. He has support from powerful environmental advocacy groups and the Portland-based company KEEN Footwear, but around the Owyhee region Davis is outnumbered nine to one by residents who oppose what they see as a federal takeover of their land.
While KEEN, the Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Sierra Club and other conservation groups have banded together to lobby for the Owyhee Canyonlands monument, a litany of ranching, hunting, farming, realty and investment groups oppose it.
Oregon already has two national monuments: Oregon Caves at Cave Junction and Cascade-Siskiyou, west of Ashland, established by Clinton in 2000.
The proposed monument is not just an expansive recreational area for camping, hiking and fishing. Ranchers graze cattle on the land. Depending on their grazing permits, ranchers graze either year-round or six months a year. The ranchers maintain fences and water supplies in the region. They fight fires when lightning strikes.
And it's the campers who do the most damage out there; folks from the cities manage to pack full bottles and cans of stuff out there, but are remarkably unable to pack their garbage out. That's for somebody else to do; often the ranchers and others who live in the area. They do a pretty good job of protecting the lands, recognizing that what's good for the lands is good for them as well. Their resentment is understandable.
At the other end of the state, near the southwest coast, lies Elliott State Forest, which by law is supposed to be managed in such a way as to provide revenue to the Common School Fund. Preservationists have been litigating for three decades to block logging and re-planting because scenery - despite tight regulations involving stream buffers, continued recreational activities, leaving snags for wildlife, and other measures. For the preservationists, it all comes down to aesthetics.
Rather than continuing to engage in litigation with the malcontents, the state has decided to sell a portion of the forest for $220.8 million in order to fulfill its obligations to the Common School Fund, and the preservationists are none too happy about that.
It gets a little wet there.
In 62 years living near flood-prone Johnson Creek, Chris Taylor has never had to evacuate or seen any flood waters approach her house.
But the 77-year-old widow worries about being forced out of her home — by the spiking cost of flood insurance.
Insurance claims filed after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina put the nation’s flood insurance fund in the hole. So Congress mandated, in 2012 and 2014, that homeowners across the country pay yearly rate hikes of up to 18 percent.
Once again, the Democratics demonstrate their great concern for the "little people". You know - the ones who can't afford to contribute to their political campaigns. In this are of southeast Portland alone, residents are sending an estimated $1.3 million annually out of the local economy to buy flood insurance, even though like Ms. Taylor, many have never filed a claim because there's never been any need to do so. They're just sending money out because it's required.
So the city's looking to spend around $100 million to eliminate flooding in the area, although the flooding that occurs is a direct result of municipal "planners" in the first place:
Johnson Creek in East Portland’s Lents neighborhood probably has been flooding for 10,000 years, says Marie Walkiewicz, environmental program coordinator for Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services.
That wasn’t so much of a problem when the creek was lined with farms and mills, which took advantage of the water for power and irrigation.
But those applications were moved out over time as "planners" decided that they wasted land that could be used to construct lower-income housing and related developments. We could probably save a lot of money by eliminating "planners" in government; they generally cause more problems than they resolve.