Outside speakers at event that starts Thursday rub some the wrong way
It’s called a “Common Ground Symposium,” but a three-day conference that opens Thursday in Modoc County’s Surprise Valley has caused divided reactions.
The symposium, sponsored by the Modoc Forum, a nonprofit organization led by Ray and Barbara March, owners of the Modoc Independent News, continues through Saturday.
The gathering will feature Pulitzer Prize winning author Gary Snyder along with author Darryl Babe Wilson, publisher Malcolm Margolin, geologist Eldridge Moores and hydrologist Graham Fogg.
Several Surprise Valley people, along with the entire Modoc County Board of Supervisors, have criticized the gathering because outof-town speakers and panelists will be discussing local issues.
Ray Page, president of the Modoc County Cattlemen’s Association, previously sent a letter to supervisors characterizing the gathering as “out-of-town folks, zealous environmental types who will pay big bucks to come and listen to ideas from out-of-town, disingenuous, environmentally oriented experts.”
The Marches twice requested financial support for the forum from Modoc County supervisors, who have refused. Supervisor Patricia Cantrall of Likely said, “This is the Alamo.”
Dan Macsay, whose district includes Surprise Valley, led efforts against funding the symposium. He said the original agenda focused on water rights, but has since been changed. He also criticized the Marches for not involving valley people in the planning.
“Modoc County is very, very conservative and we have our set ways,” Macsay said. “When you see outsiders come in and want to talk about our country, I don’t think people like it. Why do we need these people? I think Modoc County’s done good by itself.”
Barbara March said she believes the concern about outsiders has eased, noting, “I think overall there’s a lot more interest in the community now in a positive way. I think people are realizing we have good intentions and that we have the interests of Surprise Valley in mind.”