Letters to the Editor 10/1/20 | Letters to the Editor | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Letters to the Editor 10/1/20 

Guest Opinions: On Wildfire & Phil Chang for Deschutes County Commissioner

Editor's note:

We've long known—perhaps intuitively, perhaps more tangibly—that Oregon is a special place when it comes to the arts.

On Sept. 27, local photographer Scott Nelson took his drone to Wickiup Reservoir—where water from the Deschutes River is stored for irrigation—to capture this shot. As he put it, "Amazing what 200,000 acre feet of air looks like with the original river channel exposed." Amid yet another year of extreme drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports that Wickiup is at about 1% capacity. See more of Nelson's work at vimeo.com/scottnelson. - SCOTT NELSON
  • Scott Nelson
  • On Sept. 27, local photographer Scott Nelson took his drone to Wickiup Reservoir—where water from the Deschutes River is stored for irrigation—to capture this shot. As he put it, "Amazing what 200,000 acre feet of air looks like with the original river channel exposed." Amid yet another year of extreme drought, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports that Wickiup is at about 1% capacity. See more of Nelson's work at vimeo.com/scottnelson.

But this week, the investment our state puts into supporting and promoting its arts and culture organizations was on full display, when the state became one of just a few to put real funding toward supporting arts organizations as they grapple with the fallout from the pandemic.

Also in this issue: We begin to excerpt some of the interviews we've done with local political candidates for our "My View" video series, in which we invite candidates to choose a location with a view they enjoy. After seeing the videos, a reader suggested we also put them in print. While a series of 30-minute interviews would take up more space than any issue would allow, we've excerpted some of the highlights.

Catch all our "My View" videos at bendsource.com/bend/elections.

In the Sept. 17 issue, the story, "The Tables Have Turned" incorrectly stated that Bend's Stereo Planet was now closed. It is open, and is approaching its 40th anniversary. We regret the error.

Guest Opinion: On Wildfire

The recent large blazes that charred the Cascades' western slope have killed people, destroyed many homes, and choked everyone with smoke.

The take-home message from these blazes and all other large fires across the West is that extreme fire weather, exacerbated by a warming climate, is the main culprit behind all uncontrollable blazes. 

When you have drought, high temperatures, low humidity, and, most importantly, high winds, such wildfires are virtually impossible to stop until the weather changes. 

Logging the forest will not preclude such blazes. The Cascades' west slope is the most heavily logged and actively managed forests in the West, and it did not slow the wind-driven flames.

And since no one can predict where a fire might occur, the probability a blaze will encounter a logged stand is minuscule.  

The idea that logging will save us from such blazes is delusional. 

Ultimately, we need to reduce GHG emissions as massive wildfires are only one cost of a warming climate.

However, we can do much to reduce the human consequences of large fires. 

What causes homes to burn is seldom a "wall of flames." Instead, wind-blown embers, often carried miles ahead of a fire front, ignites homes. Thus, reducing the house's flammability and immediate surroundings is the most cost-effective and efficient means of reducing the human impacts of wildfire.

Retrofitting homes with non-flammable roofing materials, replacing single-pane windows with thermal windows, covering roof vents with screens, and other modifications can reduce homes' ignition. 

An amendment to the Energy Bill introduced by Oregon Congressman Schrader would offer $500 million in financial assistance to homeowners. But much more funding is needed. We should redirect federal funding from logging forests to assisting communities.  

Homeowners can also remove flammable vegetation around the base of homes, from gutters, and maintain green lawns. Thinning the forest near homes can help, but research by Forest Service fire researcher Jack Cohen has concluded that tree removal further than a hundred feet from a structure provides no additional value. 

Third, bury all power lines (fallen power lines started many of the recent fires on the mountains' western slope). 

We must plan for orderly evacuation in the event of a fire and where to house displaced people. 

In Bend, there are only six bridges across the Deschutes River. If suddenly the entire western side of Bend had to evacuate, how would you get all those people to safety?  Many residents of Talent and Phoenix communities that burned to the ground were given less than 15 minutes' warning of the approaching fire. It does not take much imagination to see how vulnerable Bend is to a potentially enormous death toll in the event of a fast-approaching fire.  

Massive wildfires are like hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural events—they are inevitable. We cannot prevent them, but we can do much to minimize their effects upon our communities.

— George Wuerthner has published two books and numerous articles on wildfire ecology. He has traveled extensively across the West to view dozens of large fires to understand why and how they burned. 

Guest Opinion: Phil Chang for Deschutes County Commissioner

Before attending the excellent Deschutes County College program last fall, I had no idea of what a County Commissioner does beyond vague thoughts of property taxes, dog licenses and the county jail.

During the program, I learned that the Commissioners wield surprisingly broad powers, overseeing county services that range from solid waste (Knott Landfill), roads and public health to the Fair & Expo, land use planning and elections.

The Commissioners (we have three) are the buck-stops-here people for our county. Among other responsibilities, they collect our property taxes and oversee a budget of $500 million; address our county's astronomical growth through long range planning; and, critically, are accountable for the county's public health and COVID-19 response.

At its most fundamental level, however, the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners exists to serve as the public's elected advocate. Its duty is to support all county residents, not just select favored groups.

Commissioner Phil Henderson has failed at this responsibility and should not be reelected this November.

Take his response to COVID-19, which he has called the "China virus." In April, Mr. Henderson attended an anti-mask rally in Redmond, expressing support for the protestors. In May, he defied the governor's stay at home orders and supported the reopening of churches, claiming that it was his job to protect the rights of the minority that wanted to attend large gatherings. After a flood of emails from concerned residents, which he called "vitriolic," he reversed his position. A classic example of the people showing a leader how to lead.

There is also a stark disconnect between Mr. Henderson's actions and the needs of our community in his approach to affordable housing. Mr. Henderson, a real estate developer, seems more concerned with rezoning rural land to allow development of large homes than identifying ways to build affordable housing. Under his direction, the Board has sought to systematically rezone rural agricultural parcels as "non-prime" land, which can be built upon. There's also the recently approved thousand-homes-golf-courses-artificial-lakes Thornburgh destination resort outside of Redmond. That's not exactly affordable housing.

Deschutes County residents deserve a leader who represents the interests of all 200,000 residents. That person is Phil Chang. A longtime Bend resident with deep expertise in forestry, water and renewable energy, Mr. Chang has a track record of bringing together people with different backgrounds and interests in an inclusive way and getting great results.

Phil Chang was instrumental in creating the Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project (DCFP) which brought together firefighters, community leaders and environmentalists to develop a plan to restore 250,000 acres of the Deschutes National Forest. The DCFP has restored wildlife habitats, ensured the viability of the forest industry, created new jobs and made our forests safer, healthier and more resilient.

Phil Chang has been endorsed by dozens of local and state leaders, including Senator Merkley. Plus, he's a nice guy who loves backpacking with his son in our beautiful forests.

Join me in voting for Phil Chang this November!

—Angelique Loscar was a 2019 participant in Deschutes County College, a free, 10-week program aimed at helping locals understand how their local government works. Due to COVID-19, the next class is scheduled for Fall 2021.

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