Helping the Forest Service Find Better Relationships With Local Governments
by Art Goodtimes
Dec 13, 2010 | 988 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COLLABORATING … is a big fancy Latinate for the more straightforward Anglo-Saxon “working with” (hopefully not the enemy) ... Gateway communities like Telluride and Norwood, Ridgway and Rico, understand the full weight of the West’s pervasive federal presence. More than two-thirds of San Miguel County’s 1,288 square miles are publicly-owned, most of that federally controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (Interior Dept.) or the U.S. Forest Service (Agriculture Dept.) … As chair of National Association of Counties Gateway Communities Subcommittee, I have a small say in one of D.C.’s bigger lobbying groups, which represents over 3,000 counties in the U.S. So, it made sense when I teamed up with savvy private consultant Dr. Lisa Warnecke and the equally savvy Lyle Lafferty of the National Association of Gateway Communities, to host a local government/forest service brainstorming session on collaboration up at Capella’s in the Mountain Village (we had marvelous service from Cherié and all the staff!). Attending were a couple USFS bigwigs from DC (Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard, who used to head up Colorado’s State Forest Service – an old friend – and a Assistant Deputy Chief Jim Peña) … The Forest Service is about to put the finishing touches on a draft planning rule that will guide new forest plans for the next decade or so, and collaboration is a big piece of that new rule … As you may recall, our own Uncompahgre National Forest has put out several draft plans only to have them pulled back or annulled. It’s been one of the more frustrating sagas for our local forest … The USFS draft planning rule is full of good ideas. The federal agency will soon review and consider state and county planning regs when making decisions – which is a whole new level of consultation and coordination. As is allowing agency personnel permission to participate in local and state planning efforts … So, at Hubbard’s direction, we convened from all across the West a representative sampling of local county and municipal governments, regional metro district directors, and a sprinkling of USFS line officers and DC wonks to discuss what collaboration meant from various perspectives and to come up with possible structural changes, big and small, that the agency might get more local buy-in for federal decisions in rural communities. Things like founding a Public Lands Academy to train line officers, permitting Resource Advisory Councils to advise individual forests or regions, finding a way to provide some administrative funding to community collaborative groups (like our own Public Land Partnership) … Personally, I got to meet some wonderful people, establish new connections, and plan some exciting new collaborations, as well as provide some “out-of-the-box” thinking for the agency bigwigs to ponder. And of course everyone loved Telluride.

AG EXEMPTION … My friend, Dano Rosen of Fruita, sent me a clip from a recent article in Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel about the “ag exemption for small farms, hobby farms, and undeserving residences”... According to a person quoted in the paper, “The greatest outcry of abuse that I was hearing is in San Miguel County, where ranchers are selling off 35-acre parcels to very wealthy people who would put very costly homes on them. These are well-to-do people who are building a second home, so obviously the purpose was not agricultural, yet they have the designation” … That’s not the argument that I’ve been hearing in San Miguel County. We have a problem with rich or poor leasing land to ranchers at a heavily discounted (subsidized) rate – the kind of federal incentivization that drives Tea Partyers batty but is (I think) a legitimate function of federal policy in this union of equal states … No, what we want in San Miguel County is the land envelope under the house and its landscaped environs assessed as residential, and the rest can stay ag, and draw a very favorable assessment rate. And that’s great, because rural ranchers need inexpensive grazing land – if only to survive capitalism’s boom/bust market adjustments … Ranches and ranchers who run livestock for a living should get their multi-acre spreads and homes assessed at the ag rate. But folks who lease out 35 or 40 acres of hay four days a year to a neighbor should get their home envelope assessed residential (29 percent) and only the remainder classified as ag … A bill to possibly do something like that I heard was being proposed for the upcoming Colorado legislative session after the start of the new year.

WORDS … I remember the first federal program I ever got involved in back in the Sixties: Vista – Volunteers In Service To America. What is now part of Americorps. It was the first time I came face to face with a government euphemism, deselection. In training for Vista up in Wisconsin, we all came to dread being “deselected” (i.e., getting kicked out of the program as several kids did) … It seems the government continues to invent euphemisms for unpleasant concepts. And the latest doozy I heard, coming through County Social Services, is the term, negative supplemental, which is, apparently, not a supplement to one’s budget but a budget cut – in this case, money the state promised counties at the beginning of the year but by the middle can no longer afford to pay).

PARIS JAPONICA … And you thought humans were complicated assemblages of DNA? Researchers at London’s Kew Gardens have discovered that this ordinary-looking white flower from Japan has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being?


Make War On Poverty

I still bank on a line I learned

from Dolores Lachapelle

about a Crow tribal member

(having lived myself

back in the pre-hippie Sixties

among the Montana Absaroka)

a warrior who told some

startled Yankee scribe,

"I was poor.

I had no friends.”

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December 13, 2010
Oops, a mistake in the column above.

In the "Ag Exemption" section, i forgot a "do not" several sentences in.

It now reads:

That’s not the argument that I’ve been hearing in San Miguel County. We have a problem with rich or poor leasing land to ranchers at a heavily discounted (subsidized) rate...

And should read:

That’s not the argument that I’ve been hearing in San Miguel County. We do not have a problem with rich or poor leasing land to ranchers at a heavily discounted (subsidized) rate...