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Cities on ‘Endangered’ List Duck, Embrace Designation

October 29, 1990

Undated (AP) _ A county commissioner was more than a little embarrassed when Williston, N.D., showed up on a list of 10 Western cities threatened with extinction. But officials in some of the other cities reluctantly agreed the description fits.

Marlene Eide helped get Williston, a town of 13,000, on the list of cities with economic problems related to federal policies. When the National Association of Counties recently issued the list, it said the cities ″are in danger of becoming extinct because of restrictions on the use of public lands.″

″I saw that and I about died,″ said Eide, a Williams County commissioner. ″I’m going to have to leave town. Everybody will be so mad at me but I didn’t even do anything.″

Williston’s tourism industry has been hurt during recent droughts by falling water levels on Lake Sakakawea, part of the Missouri River Reservoir system managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. But extinction never crossed Eide’s mind.

Others acknowledged their towns belonged on the list.

″We are in trouble,″ said Audrie Clifford, mayor of Reserve, N.M. ″The traditional means of livelihood in Catron County are cattle and timber, and both are severely threatened.″

The county association said limitations on public land uses in recent years have hurt the communities’ economies and severely strained their ability to provide needed services.

″These communities, and there may be hundreds of others like them, are suffering,″ said Michael Stewart, president of the Washington-based group and a commissioner in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Also on the list are Weed and Cima, Calif.; Jarbridge, Nev.; Escalante, Utah; Walden, Colo.; Horseshoe Bend, Idaho; Columbia Falls, Mont., and Mill City, Ore.

Larry Naake, executive director of the County Supervisors Association of California, said the list is meant to get the attention of the Bush administration and Congress.

″There needs to be more balance between state and federal policies ... between environmental and human concerns,″ he said.

Like many of the cities, Weed, a town of 3,000 on the slopes of Mount Shasta volcano in northern California, depends on the timber industry.

″No one wants to come to the city if they have no guarantee they will make a living there. We are just trying to make it, hold on to our city in a beautiful area,″ said Mayor Kalvin Vanderhoof.

Mill City was established in 1947, when the timber industry began expanding rapidly in Oregon to build houses for the postwar baby boom. About 50 miles southeast of Portland, Mill City has 1,500 residents.

″People here are frightened,″ said Mayor Mary Smith, who is a secretary for Frank Lumber Co. ″There are more and more reports of mills cutting back, laying people off. If it continues, they’re going to panic.″

″We’re a timber town,″ she said. ″There’s nothing else here for us.″

Two environmental groups took issue with the inclusion of Horseshoe Bend on the list. The Wilderness Society and Idaho Conservation League officials deny that environmental restrictions on timber cutting in Idaho have hurt the logging town 30 miles north of Boise.

″In 1989 the timber harvested in Idaho was at the highest level in the past 10 years,″ said Mike Medberry of the Idaho Conservation League. ″If Horseshoe Bend is an endangered town, it’s not due to lack of timber.″

In Reserve, with fewer than 400 residents, the mayor said the city won’t ″dry up and blow away.″

″I feel the people of Reserve will find a way to exist somehow,″ Clifford said. ″We’re tough and stubborn people - survivors.″

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