County shelves habitat program

Hood River County has opted out of a state program to expand wildlife habitat until it has been fine tuned enough to generate more local interest.

On Monday, the County Commission decided to take advantage of the window to voluntarily pull out of the Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Management Program that will close on Jan. 1.

They made that move after learning that only two property owners had even inquired about signing up since the county came onboard in 1997.

“It doesn’t appear that Hood River County has too many people wanting to apply,” Sandra Berry, director of Records and Assessments, told the commissioners.

Since the Legislature will be working to clear up ambiguities in the program guidelines early next year, county officials decided it would make better business sense to save staff time and costs by joining at a later date instead of being obligated at this time.

They arrived at that decision after Berry said there were no biologists on her staff to meet the administrative rules for monitoring.

In addition, she said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was experiencing personnel and funding challenges that would also make it difficult for that agency to provide oversight.

She said Curry County recently completed a survey on the conservation plan and learned that eight of the participating 22 counties were opting out while they could, five were planning to become locked into the program, and nine had not yet made a decision.

In 1993 the Oregon Legislature set up the pilot WHCMP in Polk and Marion counties to provide landowners with a tax reduction for establishing more wildlife habitat.

In order to qualify, properties had to be zoned exclusive farm use or mixed farm and forest use. In 1997 the program was opened to counties statewide so citizens could develop plans that met a set list of criteria.

Berry said one advantage to participating in the program is that landowners no longer wanting to farm properties can retain their tax break by converting the grounds into a wildlife habitat.

For example, Berry said a property owner with a qualifying 10-acre parcel would gain a $370 tax break this year from setting up a wildlife habitat.

However, she said that savings could be offset by maintenance costs and fees to design a conservation plan that could include hiring a professional biologist.

In counties where the plan is adopted, a landowners submits a management plan to the district ODFW office and the county planning department.

The county then has 15 working days to provide the state agency with comments and approval or denial follows within 90 days. If implemented, the property holder may apply to the county assessor for open space use assessment of the parcel.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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