On March 21, 2002 the Gorge Commission released a press release entitled "Plan Review Roundup: Commission to look at land uses". Allen Bell was quoted as saying "More than 200 people submitted comments stating mining threatens scenic vistas, wildlife and plant habitat, water resources and other sensitive resources."
There were actually 124 comments (one person had submitted two post cards) and all but one of these were mailed from Portland. Eighteen of these people live within the scenic area boundaries and most of them are in the urban growth areas or within the city limits, unaffected by the Scenic Area rules.
We received copies of these documents. They were 1/4-sheet pre-printed post cards all with the same message on them. The message read "The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a national treasure, and Management Plan Review is a matter of both regional and national significance. I urge you to incorporated into the Plan Review process: 1) A complete "build-out" analysis of the impacts of full development as allowed under the current Management Plan; 2) Stronger protections for farmland, forestland, open spaces, rare plants, wildlife habitat, cultural and scenic resources, and a ban on new mines or mine expansion in the Scenic Area; 3) Public meetings throughout the region, including Portland, Vancouver and Seattle, to ensure broad public participation."
It is interesting to note that when we submitted the 915 letters individually signed to the Gorge Commission office requesting that an independent party be commissioned to do the review of the management plan, they dismissed them stating that they were form letters.
Recently we asked for complete copies of the tapes of three of the Gorge Commission meeting minutes, we received instead, edited copies. Two of these sets of tapes had been altered leaving off several sections of what was discussed in the printed copies of the minutes. The third set was edited leaving off a statement made that apparently they did not want public.
Who is it that will keep this agency honest?