After reading Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice’s response to a very well-written opinion piece published in The News-Review on Jan. 10, “Spotted Owls are not to blame,” by wildlife biologist Janice Reid, I felt concerned about the discouragement of public input on matters that are very serious and affect all of us.
Reid supports a very logical argument — it is evident that her ideals for Douglas County’s forest management come from her background in environmental sciences. So, we can understand that her expert opinion on the matter comes (at least in part) from her educational background — subjects that are backed with in-depth scientific and statistical studies, and evidence from what we, as humans, are able to observe, learn from, and understand at least a glimmer of the complex systems of nature.
As individuals, each of us see things with our own ideological perception; when we interact and converse with one another, our backgrounds shape the way we interpret the others’ messages. There are many groups of people who view things similarly, so you could say that the individuals within such groups have similar ideals. I’m sure we can all think of at least a handful of groups of people in the county who are bonded together for a similar belief, cause, goal, or ideal — in fact, we probably each resonate with several. Diversity of all sorts, including opinions, is intricate to the civilized world that we live in today, and this quality should be encouraged, not stifled.
Commissioner Boice’s Courthouse Corner announcement discredited the information put forth by Reid, and portrayed himself as an attacked victim; Reid mentions his name once in the beginning of her piece and then moves on to her argument and stance on forest management. After Boice’s opening defenses, he initially agrees that “Reid is correct on one thing: It is not the northern spotted owl’s fault,” yet later reiterates his well-known public opinion that the underlying problem in Douglas County is “the management strategy of federal lands,” “the lack of trees being cut on federal lands,” and also “the many layers of regulation that governs these lands, including the listing of the northern spotted owl as an endangered species.”
Perhaps his intent was to start out with the stance that the spotted owl placement on the endangered species lists was not the entire problem. If so, then here he is right — there is no single element that has brought our county into financial crisis.
Commissioner Boice is entirely entitled to his opinions and to have his visions for the county, just like every other individual. However, when a position is used to ultimate an opinion or way of looking at things and to completely discredit a valid viewpoint, like that of Reid’s, it shows that the structure of our local political system needs evaluating. Further, to, “suggest that Reid and others sit down with commissioners and make an attempt to understand the complexities of the issue through the eyes of those of us who are living it every day,” — well this my-side-is-right tone is discouraging the opportunity for civic engagement. I mean, hey, We live with those decisions every day, too.
I don’t doubt that our commissioners have a good understanding of finances — as a “numbers guy,” Chris Boice has the skills to make budgets and take part in financial decision making. But, when it comes to our resources (both naturally and economically speaking), the understanding of numbers doesn’t qualify an individual, nor a small, concentrated group of people to make all decisions.
Ultimately, my point is that “Reid and others” do want to sit down to talk out differences, like one of our commissioner suggests, and what a perfect opportunity for a citizen in a high leadership position to undertake and organize this meeting — similar to the small library task force groups that our newest commissioner, Gary Leif, is putting together. The near closure of our libraries has brought forth several important viewpoints. Now we need to have our ideas talked about on a larger and more integrative scale.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Proverbs 29:18
Civic Engagement is the process and belief system that individual community members should be present in the process of developing public policy (Repko, 55) — I feel confident that the majority of Douglas County’s citizens can see the merit in this philosophy. When we are told that there are no alternate, workable solutions, and that according to Boice, “county government’s financial benefits from logging on public land far outweigh any and all potential revenues from any other source,” does this allow an open discussion, a fundamental right of the community?
The founders of our country envisioned a government that worked for the people and by the people — an ideal that resonates with many of Douglas County’s citizens within our spread-out communities. Because county services are funded in part by taxpayer dollars, it can only be fitting that a collaboration of opinions, ideas, visions and expertise from all segments of our economic and societal systems is stimulated and that input from all disciplines and individual points of view are considered to help us find viable solutions.
Boice, Chris. Commissioner Boice’s Courthouse Corner. Rev of “The Spotted Owl is Not to Blame” by Janice Reid. The News-Review 10 Jan. 2017. Review accessed 21 Jan. 2017 from http://us13.campaign-archive2.com/?u=ab2cbd38715bc0d05934f8128&id=1d14cedf98
Repko, Allen F., Rick Szostak, and Michelle Phillips Buchberger. Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2014. Print.
Reid, Janice. “The Spotted Owl is Not to Blame.” The News-Review. 10 Jan. 2017. Web.