A new petition to establish a new Grant County Public Forest Commission was struck down for failing to meet state constitutional requirements.
Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy made the determination Feb. 10 after she and county counsel Ron Yockim reviewed a prospective initiative filed by chief petitioners Jim Sproul and Dave Traylor Feb. 7.
When a prospective petition for a local initiative is filed, the county clerk has five days to make a determination if the petition meets requirements of the Oregon Constitution and state statutes to concern only one subject, to include the full text and to be legislative, not administrative, in nature.
“After thorough review, I have determined that the prospective petition does not include the full text ...,” Percy said in her determination. “Further, with the information that is included in the prospective petition, I have determined that the measure is administrative in nature and is therefore not a matter that can be addressed through the constitutional initiative process.”
The new petition came after Grant County Circuit Court Judge William D. Cramer Jr. ruled in 2016 the measure approved by county voters in 2002 to create a forest commission should not have been placed on the ballot because it conflicted with paramount federal and state law by asserting authority to manage all public lands within the county. Residents can form a commission “to develop plans for future management” or “to provide advisory information” to the Grant County Court, Cramer said in the ruling, “but any such measure should clearly state the commissions (sic) limits, must meet the procedural requirements in its inception and validation, and must not violate other superior or paramount laws.”
Traylor was also the chief petitioner for the 2002 measure. Except for a slight change from “shall assume the responsibility to manage public lands within Grant County” in the 2002 initiative to “shall assume the responsibility to manage any and all public lands ceded to the County at any point in the future,” the initiatives are very similar.
The initiative sought to establish a publicly elected seven-member board with the responsibility of managing land and resources ceded to the county, allowing hiring of personnel, distribution of revenue, purchase, trade and sale of public lands and reallocation of any federal firefighting funds to the commission.
Traylor said he was not surprised by the decision. He said he plans to try to meet with Yockim to establish a clear criteria for a petition.
“We got set back, but we’re not done yet,” Traylor said.