Grant County, known for its fierce independence, displays this same trait when it comes to the question of whether voters should assert local control over federal lands.

While a May 21 ballot measure declaring "a right of citizens to participate in stewardship of natural resources on public lands" passed by a convincing margin of 1,512-745, many citizens will attest that they dislike these votes for local autonomy.

"I personally think that they go too far," said Tammy Bremner of Canyon City, who opposed two ballot measures this spring that defied national and international forces. "They're not correctly stated. You can make a statement and still be correct in stating it. Your statement needs to be based on the facts, and these are not."

The newest controversy surrounding self-government stems from a pair of newly certified ballot measures, one asking Congress to give public lands to the county, the other establishing a seven-member commission to oversee public lands. Both measures will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Wanda McHatton of Long Creek warned to beware of what you ask for; a citizens' group running public lands might be worse than a bureaucracy.

"I'm just afraid of people's agendas. They can't do any worse than what's being done right now, but I'm just nervous," McHatton said.

Bremner agreed that an unqualified commission of laypeople making management decisions is a nightmare scenario.

"We get rid of the Forest Service, BLM, ODFW and the National Park Service, and we let these laymen with no education manage everything?" she wondered.

On the other hand, critics of the ballot measures concede that the likelihood of implementation, assuming they pass, is slim to nil.

"Personally, I don't think that will ever happen," McHatton said.

Bremner added, "Really, they're both kind of pointless. But the part that upset me more than anything is they're thinking one thing and saying another. ... If you say timber and forests, that's one thing. When you say public lands and natural resources, you're going way beyond that."

A city employee, Bremner pointed out that she could find herself unemployed if all "public lands" in Grant County fell under county jurisdiction. She noted that the intent of the measures is to rein in bureaucratic problems on federal lands, but the language does not say that.

"Public lands are anything that is publicly owned," she said.

Dick Field of Prairie City said "negative publicity" from the the ballot measures could backfire on proponents.

"We are being heard by a new Republican administration and we should have some patience to let the system work. The Bush administration is obviously listening to the plight of resource-based economies," he said.

"There's a lot of positive things going on with private landowners and government agencies. I think we should emphasize can-do positive attitudes rather than negativism all of the time."

McHatton agreed, "We've got some good congressmen who really fight for us."

She added, "I think we have more important things like looking for jobs" to spend time on.

Citizens report that "Forest Service free in 2003" signs have sprouted in local business windows. However, Bremner said merchants could be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

"The Forest Service is one of our largest employers," she said. "How is that going to be good for economic development or the livelihood of Grant County," if voters spurn them?

While these residents were candid with their views, telephone calls to a variety of different citizens found plenty of other opponents of the ballot measures, but they declined to speak out.

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