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<BR>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;US Sen. Smith responds to Forest Service's plan to leave Prineville


   Since the battle to retain the present Forest Service presence in Prineville was taken up by local official, assistance has been sought from officials in Washington, D.C. Former Congressman Bob Smith is presently working on President George W. Bush's transition staff and reportedly has the ear of the president. He has indicated he would do all he could. Staff members representing both Congressman Greg Walden and Senator Ron Wyden have also shown interest and have indicated their bosses were being kept informed. Only US Senator Gordon Smith has been silent on the matter - until now.
   In a letter to County Judge Scott Cooper, dated April 6, Sen. Gordon Smith said he wanted to clear up some misconceptions about his position on the issue.
   Smith said as a native Oregonian and resident of Pendleton, he feels a special bond to rural Oregon communities. "I know that the presence of the Forest Service is very important to Crook County," his letter states, "and would certainly prefer that no action be taken that might harm the county's economic well-being."
   However, he also wanted to make clear that if the Forest Service can prove that a proposed transfer will result in better service to the people of central Oregon, then it is clearly within their authority to make such a decision.
   The Forest Service, like all governmental agencies, the letter said, is under great pressure to ensure that tax dollars are used wisely and efficiently. "I have told the Secretary of Agriculture and Forest Service officials that I will expect extensive documentation justifying any proposed transfer of employees from Prineville to other offices. If they can not provide that justification, then I will insist that other alternatives be considered."
   Smith closed by saying he is proud of his record of standing up for rural Oregon and will continue to do "all I can for Prineville and Crook County."