Active groups help safeguard environment

Most public meetings are boring.

There is no way to avoid it. Unless tempers are flaring, school boards and city councils usually deal with the nuts and bolts, the excrutiating minutia, of government.

Someone once said the fruits of democracy belong to those who can sit through long, boring meetings. Some public meetings are invigorating, but the liveliest public meeting will never be confused with the dullest basketball game.

You would think the Rickreall Watershed Council would be a recipe for tedium. Watershed issues? The very words stiffen the spine in preparation for a long, long evening.

Not so.

The Rickreall Watershed Council, and similar environmental groups throughout the county and state, are as sprightly as they come. These are not a bunch of people who sit around a table and talk until everyone wants to go screaming into the night.

They get involved.

A lot of their "meetings" are held outdoors. They plant trees. They clean up the creek. Members are involved in countless projects to ensure a healthy watershed. Few of the projects involved long hours of sitting.

The work done around the table, however, is extremely significant. It may not seem very glamorous, but council members' decisions and recommendations affect more than 4,000 county residents who depend on Rickreall Creek and its groundwater for everything from drinking water to waste disposal.

It is also an example of how local people can work together.

The 19 members of the council represent a diverse range of interests. There are loggers, miners, farmers, business owners, governmental officials and environmentalists. Few of these groups were accustomed to working together when the council formed four years ago.

Now the council exemplifies the kind of unity national leaders can only talk about.

The very concept of watershed councils reflect the spirit of democracy. Voluntary local watershed councils were created in 1993.

Until the early 1990s, water resources were managed by distant authorities. Action was taken based more on bureaucratic timetables than environmental need.

Council members share information to reduce duplication and address watershed issues. The basic goal is a healthy watershed.

The council's first big project was an assessment of the Rickreall Watershed. Future projects include working with fisheries students from Oregon State University and marking storm drains in the city.

The council meets every fourth Thursday. More information is available by calling Jackie Hastings at 503-623-9680, extension 100.

We encourage people to get involved, if only by recognzing and supporting the work of the council.

Although we happened to be spotlighting the Rickreall Watershed Council this week, it is not the only such group doing good work.

Other groups include:

♦ Ash Creek Water Control District.

Members meet at 7 a.m. at Farrol's Restaurant in Rickreall every first Thursday.

♦ Polk Soil and Water Conservation District.

Members meet at 6:30 p.m. at Farrol's Restaurant in Rickreall every fourth Tuesday.

♦ Glen and Gibson Creeks Watershed Council.

Members meet at 7 p.m. at West Salem Public Library every third Thursday.


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