Wednesday, February 6, 2002
The arcane regulations of the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area have come down heavier on Cherry Trautwein's shoulders than on any other single individual in the 15-year history of the Scenic Area.
Trautwein found some Native American artifacts on her property (the location being a poorly kept secret) and as a result has everyone short of the dogcatcher telling her what she can do with her land. (The full story is on page A1.)
Ironically, Trautwein might need to cut down trees as the only way to preserve artifacts elsewhere on the land.
The Trautwein case is not exactly the monolithic or complex land use question on the order of a superstore or a casino, but like those issues it comes down to how far bureaucracy goes in directing how a piece of land is used.
In Trautwein's case, there's been plenty of meddling by government entities. The U.S. Forest Service, Columbia Gorge Commission, Hood River County, and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have all compelled her to go to great lengths to protect potential Native American resources.
The preservation of cultural resources is truly an important goal of the Scenic Area Act. But now that the potential cultural site has been identified, it is possible to find a way to ascertain if more artifacts exist on Trautwein's property and allow her to either sell or develop the land in a reasonable manner of her choosing.
The four agencies listed above have demonstrated a keen regard for the cultural significance of Trautwein's property. Let them split the cost, four ways, of hiring a couple of archaeologists to do an extensive study of the site.
We're talking about six acres -- and the location of the artifacts is fairly well understood by those who've had access to the property.
Trautwein has already been forced to pay an archaeologist to study her land; the agencies can take their turn. It's a small price to pay for preserving resources and demonstrating sincerity regarding that mission.
This is not to suggest that archaelogy is an exact science. Nor, however, should science be excluded from the solution for what to do about a specific piece of property.
Trautwein has acted on good faith, and weathered bureaucratic threats to prosecute her for revealing to a reporter the location of the land. Representatives of the county and the Gorge Commission attempted to discourage Trautwein from exercising her right to speak publicly on the situation. One county official went so far as to suggest that Trautwein not confirm the location of the property to a reporter. That was going too far; at last report, Trautwein was still the owner.
The powers that be should take a step back and realize they have a cooperative client -- not an adversary -- and then take a step forward and pony up sufficient resources to determine what's on the land and protect it appropriately. Then, if no other artifacts are found, leave it alone for Trautwein to do as she long wanted.
They can have it both ways.