Collaborators must stand on equal ground

  Dear HCN,

Ed Marston's "Squishy-soft processes - hard results' leaves the false impression that the Hells Canyon Preservation Council is opposed to collaboration (HCN, 8/28/00: Squishy-soft processes - hard results). His misrepresentation is an affront to the collaborative processes the group has founded, including discussions on resource issues with local eastern Oregon ranchers, hunters, tribes and others. To support his off-base contention that I "attack(ed)" collaboration in a recent editorial, Marston concealed the context of the article, which simply expressed that ongoing local consensus processes would not be good forums for arbitrating the Clinton roadless area policy. It was not a repudiation of collaborative process in general. Moreover, the article directly recognizes the value of inclusive collaborative processes: "... local consensus groups can serve a viable purpose by getting antagonists to sit down together and explore common ground."

HCPC supports and encourages a collaborative process that is democratic. We oppose a process in which important elements are excluded, an occurrence with which we are directly acquainted. Collaboration is less risky for those who have already devoured nine of the 10 slices of the resource pie than for those who attempt to prevent consumption of the last slice.

Collaboration can be fruitful and is certainly more pleasant and less expensive than the alternatives. But realistically, it is hardly a panacea. And, if collaboration means that any party should or must refrain from holding federal agencies accountable to the law, or that any party would lose standing when challenging irreversible land-management activities as the discussions proceed, count us out. If it means that all interests can sit down as equals, retaining their basic rights as Americans, we would be pleased to participate. In the meantime, we suggest that Ed Marston, the great collaborator, at least accurately represent his political targets.

Ric Bailey
LaGrande, Oregon

Ric Bailey is executive director of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council.