The Grant County Court should publicly address two matters as it readies its “coordination ordinance.”
First, the court should clearly describe how this ordinance falls within the “matters of county concern” state law permits it to exercise authority over (ORS 203.035). This will include making county counsel’s opinion about the matter public. Chances are that as drafted the ordinance is legally invalid because federal law preempts it. Or legally useless because it doesn’t add anything new to existing law to avoid federal preemption. Hence the court should explain how the ordinance is legally valid and useful.
Second, as required by state law, the court should explicitly address county ordinances that pertain to the subject matter under consideration. Measures 10 and 12-38 are two such measures.
Measure 10 was approved by voters in 1995. It refuses “to recognize federal authority over any land not listed in Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution.” U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands are not listed therein. Therefore, the proposed ordinance cannot legally “establish coordination between the county and federal agencies” until the court recognizes the authority of these agencies to manage Forest Service and BLM lands within Grant County. The court will have to invalidate or otherwise amend Measure 10 to permit this.
Measure 12-38 was approved by voters in 2002. It authorizes citizens to “participate in stewardship of natural resources on public lands within the county” per Grant County’s Custom and Culture document. As described therein, this “participation” is not subject to county court, USFS, or BLM authority. Therefore, the proposed ordinance cannot legally “establish coordination between the county and federal agencies” until our stewardship rights have been extinguished or modified by the county court. It will have to invalidate or otherwise amend Measure 12-38 to permit this.
Addressing these matters responsibly will put the county court in a better position to approve the proposed coordination ordinance. It will also instill greater confidence among the public that it is putting county resources to good use rather than catering to a misinformed and vocal minority.