Report from the field: "Cooperative Conservation" "Listening Tour"
(Note: This is authored by a Washington State Legislator; the one immediately following is authored by an Oregon State Senator. Both have considerable merit.)
August 10, 2006
By Joel Kretz 
Okanogan County, Washington
I traveled to Spokane yesterday to testify in the new Cooperative Conservation listening tour.
The panel included new Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a large collection of D.C. power brokers and a lot of Secret Service.
The “listening tour” was advertised as a way for D.C. policy makers to receive input from the public regarding the concept of cooperative conservation.
We heard first from everyone on the panel, followed by nearly every elected official in Spokane County, followed by a handpicked lineup of speakers from various backgrounds, providing lengthy dissertations on the virtues of cooperative conservation.
After a couple hours of listening to this gushing, self-congratulatory backslapping, many of us in the audience were wondering exactly who was going to be listening to who on this “listening tour.”
When the public finally got a chance to speak, the tone took a decidedly different turn.
Senator Morton pointed out the six consecutive years of record salmon runs on the Columbia and asked the critical question, “How much is enough?”
I introduced myself as being from Okanogan County -- Ground Zero for misguided land use practices and ESA experiments -- and pointed out that we're harvesting about 6% of the historic cut on the Okanogan Forest.
As a result of their unwillingness to manage that forest, we are now living in dense smoke from a 75,000-acre fire that’s expected to burn until October.
Now these same people want to help me co-manage my forest on my private land? I don't think so.
Folks, I can tell you that sort of message doesn't play too well in Spokane, Olympia, or Washington D.C.
I can tell you I didn't get any invitations to the cocktail parties in Spokane last night, and I wasn't one of those getting winks from the Secretary of the Interior.
That’s alright. I wasn't there to blow kisses.
Another report from another "Listening Session" in another western state
August 22nd U.S. Department of Interior “Listening Session” at Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Oregon

August 27, 2006

By  Senator Doug Whitsett, Oregon District 28 
Klamath Falls, Oregon
Gail and I traveled to Redmond last Tuesday to address the “listening session” hosted by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne regarding management of our nation’s natural resources.
I reminded Secretary Kempthorne and Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey that many generations of farmers, foresters, and fishers have used our natural resources wisely and productively to produce food and fiber for our people. I told them that in less than one generation of resource management by non-resource users those resources have become unsustainable. Our forests are burning out of control, our coastal salmon fishery has crashed, and the Biological opinions that the National Academy of Sciences discovered were not based on accurate and reproducible science five years ago continue to be enforced in the Klamath Basin with catastrophic economic and cultural consequences.
I told the Secretaries that resource users must be once again included in resource management if those resources are to be sustained for future generations.
That “listening session” was attended by more than 200 Oregon citizens including more than a dozen from the Upper Klamath Basin. Almost 150 of them stood at the microphone and spoke to the secretaries. Well over 90% of those speakers represented the natural resources dependent businesses and industries of Oregon.
The speakers were articulate and well informed. Their united message was loud and clear. That message was that current government management of our Nation’s natural resources is not working for us. It is not working for the forests, not working for the watersheds, not working for the endangered species, and certainly is not working for our people.
Gail and I were proud to be a part of that united effort.
Unfortunately, the print media coverage of the event was virtually non-existent. It has long been true that where ever two environmentalists meet there too shall be the press. Meanwhile, the more than 200 well-informed Oregon citizens who travel from all parts of our state to speak to these national policy makers were uniformly snubbed by our national, state and most local media.