Last week, the Okanogan County Farm Bureau called out 12th Legislative District Rep. Brad Hawkins for his vote to give away $3.1 million in taxpayer dollars for proposed land acquisitions and easements in Okanogan County.
Hawkins, of East Wenatchee, rightly deserved the chastising.
For years, Okanogan County has been fighting the ever-growing government acquisition of private land in the county. Ranchers, farmers and others, too, have taken the fight to the state — a fight that has resulted in state officials looking for back doors to continue amassing land ownership in Okanogan County.
As an elected official representing constituents here, Hawkins should’ve known better than to vote to give the money to the Recreation Conservation Office.
In its letter to Hawkins, the Farm Bureau writes: “We are terribly disappointed in your support of this measure and the Legislature’s decision to fund these projects.”
Specifically, the money will be used to take more land out of private ownership in the Similkameen and Okanogan rivers’ watersheds. That’s precisely what Okanogan County and its residents do not want.
Hawkins’ support of continued land grabs by agencies such as the Recreation Conservation Office only undermines local efforts to manage local resources and budgets.
According to a Farm Bureau report compiled in 2011, only 23 percent of the county remained in private ownership. Since that report, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, state Department of Natural Resources and other groups have further reduced private ownership.
Enough is enough.
Generally speaking, there is not any local support for these continued land grabs. And as a duly elected representative for much of this county, Hawkins should’ve known that.
Back door efforts to grab private land are destroying Okanogan County’s ability to pay for its own costs, keep residents employed and protect the land we work and live on.
Like the Farm Bureau, we are “terribly disappointed” in Hawkins’ decision to blindly kowtow to groups who do not truly have Okanogan County’s or North-Central Washington’s best interests in mind.