Pilot story

and photos by Bill Lundquist

GOLD BEACH - The Curry County Soil and Water Conservation District celebrated 50 years of service Saturday with a feast to rival the best Hawaiian luau.

The surf and turf barbecue, served up in Buffington Park in Gold Beach, was symbolic of the soil and water conservation district's mission.

The Coos County beef and fresh Port Orford salmon and crab on the menu might not have been available if the district had been less successful.

During the past decade, the district has acted as the fiscal agent for the various watershed councils in Curry County that have worked to restore salmon habitat.

State and federal funds are funneled through the district to pay for habitat restoration projects, and to pay the salaries of the South Coast and Lower Rogue watershed council coordinators.

Curry County Commissioner Lucie La Bont, a former chair of the South Coast Watershed Council, said, andquot;I'm proud of these guys. It's been a wonderful partnership between the district and the watershed councils.andquot;

She said it is often held up around Oregon as an example of how conservation districts and watershed councils can work together to form productive partnerships with landowners.

andquot;It's really why we've had such success,andquot; she said.

La Bont credited John Wilson for forming many of the partnerships with landowners, and Cecil Ashdown for administering the funds for projects.

South Coast Watershed Council Coordinator Harry Hoogesteger also praised Ashdown's fiscal abilities when he awarded her with a jacket and plaque.

He said Ashdown had personally planted more than 100,000 trees along Curry County streams to provide shade for fish habitat.

andquot;It really makes a difference,andquot; said Wilson. andquot;When you walk around, you see all the trees.andquot;

Jackets and plaques were also presented to ranchers Don Smith, Earl Lang and Mike Knapp of Langlois, and Bob Pommarane of Pistol River, for their conservation efforts.

Walt Schroeder, the former state representative from Curry County, said, andquot;Bob is the district's longest lasting member.andquot;

Pommarane admitted he'd been a member for 25 years, but laughed off the compliment by saying, andquot;It just shows you how stupid I am.andquot;

Hoogesteger said, andquot;He's been so generous with visitors to his ranch.andquot;

Hoogesteger also awarded a jacket and plaque to Chetco River rancher Keith Smith for his efforts in planting trees along streams.

Smith was the district's conservationist of the year in 1993, following Gold Beach tree farmer Wayne Krieger in 1992. Krieger is Curry County's current state representative.

More recent conservationist of the year winners were Knute Andersson in 2002, Rick McKenzie in 2001, Scott Knox in 2000, and Scott McKenzie in 1999.

La Bont said the district has no tax base, and has achieved all its successes with outside funds.

Hoogesteger concluded the presentation with, andquot;Here's to the next 50 years.andquot;