Shoutin’ about Broughton

Tuesday’s decision by the Columbia River Gorge Commission to modify the National Scenic Area Management Plan concerning the former Broughton Lumber Company mill site does not mean we will see bulldozers ripping down the old buildings any time soon.

April 10, 2008
The Dalles Chronicle

Though the owners’ plans to redevelop the site as a destination resort passed a huge hurdle, the Battle of Broughton is far from over.

There’s plenty of process to go: in two or three weeks, the commission staff will complete a final order on the amendment, which will then go to the Regional Forester with a recommendation from Scenic Area Manager Dan Harkenrider, who sits as a nonvoting member of the gorge commission. The Regional Forester will then rule on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture whether the amendment is consistent with the purposes and standards of the National Scenic Act.

That decision, noted Friends of the Gorge counsel Gary Kahn, can be appealed in court.

And that’s likely to happen.

In fact, expect the watchdog group to challenge the decision at every step of the process.

The Friends website notes four legal actions currently pending on gorge commission issues — three against the commission for various decisions, and one against the Secretary of Agriculture for approving a previous management plan change.

And the group ended its press release following Tuesday’s decision with the ominous sentence, “The amendment is likely to be challenged in state court.”

That’s a shame, because there are far more productive issues facing all parties in the gorge, including the first attempts by cities in the gorge to expand their urban growth boundaries, which will have potentially far more consequence than Broughton.

The commission just does not have the resources it needs to deal with all the issues facing it. It lives on the largesse of the Washington and Oregon state legislatures, subject to the winds of political an economic change.

To its credit, the Friends group has always used its influence to push for greater funding for the commission.

But that good effort goes for naught when the Friends tie up commission staff time, budget and resources defending against Friends lawsuits.

A self-appointed watchdog group has to oppose, of course, and ask tough questions. That’s it’s whole function. And, frankly, a polarizing issue can be a good thing for fundraising and increasing membership.
Our political arena is already too polarized, positions too hardened, issues too characterized in absolute blacks and whites.

From a purely strategic position, it’s often better to concentrate resources on key conflicts, rather than fighting every battle full-tilt.

Compromise should not be a dirty word. It is how the real world works and lives and gets by. Advocacy organizations can often obtain more benefits for their position by accepting some half-loaves rather than insisting on a whole loaf and ending up with none.