By Frank Lockwood

Staff writer

IONE — Environmental groups, with the state’s blessing, have agreed to allow RD Offutt Farms to plow native bunch-grass in return for protecting Washington ground squirrels, but the plan nixes a long sought road from Ione to north Morrow jobs.

The private agreement creates a 23,000-acre conservation area for Washington ground squirrels, but the plan, combined with the recent “endangered” listing of the ground squirrel, hinders Ione’s plans for a road to north-county jobs.

State lands manager Bill Nickelberry said that it “would make no sense” for the state to allow the road, and thus go against the advice of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendations. But ODFW’s biologist who did studies which led to the listing said changing the plan involved other environmental groups that were to help manage the conservation area..

Two groups forged the recent agreement: the “Conservation Parties” and the “Leaseholders.” (For the full story see the April 3, 2001, Hermiston Herald.)

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