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Umatilla National Forest staff make introductions to county court

Richard Hanners

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on September 4, 2018 4:34PM

From left, Heppner District Ranger Brandon Houck, Umatilla National Forest Supervisor Eric Watrud and North Fork District Ranger Paula Guenther post outside a Grant County Court meeting Aug. 29. All three moved to the area this year.

The Eagle/Richard Hanners

From left, Heppner District Ranger Brandon Houck, Umatilla National Forest Supervisor Eric Watrud and North Fork District Ranger Paula Guenther post outside a Grant County Court meeting Aug. 29. All three moved to the area this year.

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Umatilla National Forest Supervisor Eric Watrud, Heppner District Ranger Brandon Houck and North Fork District Ranger Paula Guenther introduced themselves to the Grant County Court Aug. 29.

All three are new to their jobs at the Umatilla Forest. Watrud, who worked for a time as a regional silviculturist in Portland, expressed a strong interest in working together with local counties. Both Houck and Guenther moved to Eastern Oregon from Wyoming.

Guenther, who is based in Ukiah, explained that the large response to the 30-acre Harrison fire in the wilderness near Olive Lake resulted from its proximity to the community of Greenhorn and the availability of firefighting resources at that time. Otherwise, the Forest Service might have left the fire to “creep around” and reduce forest fuels that had been building up in the area, she said.

She also explained that the former ranger station in Dale was slated for demolition as funding became available to handle hazardous materials in 14 buildings at the site. The site had been scheduled for decommissioning for the past 15 years, she said.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers explained how the county had been interested in making use of the facility 10 years ago, before the buildings were overrun by packrats and started to decay.

Several members of the public joined the court in expressing interest in seeing the site converted into an RV park or a campground once demolition is completed and the site cleaned up.

The court also approved an ordinance that establishes a process to reduce the two-year redemption period for tax-foreclosed properties based on statutory criteria and procedures.

The court will use the process to take ownership of two properties in Long Creek and Prairie City that have become significant nuisances and hazards to neighbors and other residents.

The court’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 12.



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