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Taking on Dr. No: John Day Wilderness moves forward, City Council race taking shape

The latest Central Oregon wilderness lands bill took a step forward today clearing Sen. Ron Wyden's public lands subcommittee in a development that could set the stage for another wilderness showdown with Sen. Tom Coburn.



The latest Central Oregon wilderness lands bill took a step forward today clearing Sen. Ron Wyden's public lands subcommittee in a development that could set the stage for another wilderness showdown with Sen. Tom Coburn, aka Dr. No, the Oklahoma Republican who had previously held up the Badlands designation and thrown up procedural roadblocks on all wilderness bills over what he says are unfunded costs, but looks to us just like more petty partisanship.

The Cathedral Rock/Horse Heaven Wilderness would create a pair of new federally designated wilderness areas along and adjacent to the John Day River, opening up thousands of acres of new lands to the public while moving other public parcels into the hands of private landowners. The move, if successful, would address the historic "checkerboard" ownership patterns in the John Day area where public and private lands are often intermingled, leading to conflicts between users, notably hunters who reportedly sometimes stray from public lands onto private parcels, including a Christian youth ranch located on the former Rajneesh Purim outside the tiny town of Antelope.

In all, about 16,000 acres would be included in the new wilderness area, including 9,000 acres along and immediately adjacent to the John Day River, which although accessible only by the river would open up additional camping and hiking options for boaters along the popular stretch of river.

While it's unlikely the proposal will come up for a vote of the full Senate because of Coburn's parliamentary maneuvering, it is likely to join other pending wilderness legislation in a yet-to-be-introduced omnibus public lands bill similar to the one that passed with the Badlands and Spring Basin wilderness areas.

"There's a couple of things that have happened in the last year that are building momentum for that (omnibus) package," said Aaron Kilgore, the John Day coordinator for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Bend-based conservation organization that helped broker the deal with the BLM and adjacent private landowners, including Bend's Bill Smith, of Old Mill fame, whose family owns a large ranch on the John Day.

City Council Race Adds Another Candidate

While most eyes are on the primary with the May 18 election fast approaching, there is already some preliminary jockeying for the three Bend City Council seats up for grabs in November. Local businessman and BendFilm board member Scott Ramsay was the latest to announce his intention to run. Ramsay said in a press release that he had filed preliminary paperwork with the state to run for the seat currently held by former mayor Oran Teater who recently announced that he would not be seeking re-election this fall.

Ramsay said he decided to run for council thanks in part to the encouragement of current City Councilor Jeff Eager, who is a family friend and has worked as an attorney representing Ramsay's businesses, which includes the Sun Mountain Fun Center and the variety shop Casarama. Ramsay describes himself as a fiscal conservative with an open mind who expects government to align itself with the same kind of responsibility and restraint that society expects of individuals.

However, he added, "I certainly wouldn't call myself a thundering conservative in all realms."

As far as a platform, Ramsay said he believes the city needs to do a better job of creating a positive environment for business that will help grow our local economy and sustain our tax base. Ramsay has a little bit of practical experience to draw upon when it comes to the city's business friendliness. His plan to redevelop the corner around Casarama at Division Street and Revere Avenue was stymied by the city, which, according to Ramsay, demanded $600,000 to $700,000 worth of adjacent road improvements just to break ground.

It's still a few months before candidates can officially file petitions to run for City Council, but Downtown Business Association Executive Director Chuck Arnold has already announced that he will be seeking the seat. Other seats in play in November include that held by Mayor Pro Tem Mark Capell and that of Jodie Barram.

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