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Forestry by tape measure, not science

Environmental groups often chastise the Forest Service and other agencies for failing to use the “best science” when planning timber sales.

Yet some of these groups are employing a wholly arbitrary, and thus utterly unscientific, standard to thwart logging on public lands in Northeastern Oregon.

The dividing line is 21 inches.

Specifically, the width of a tree’s trunk about 4 feet above the ground.

About 20 years ago the Forest Service, to stave off a lawsuit from opponents of old growth logging, agreed to stop cutting live trees that exceed that 21-inch limit. This restriction was part of the so-called “eastside screens” that affect federal forests east of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington.

No torture, but killing is OK?

Torture is a nasty word, and deed.

It has a certain medieval flavor, conjuring images of thumbscrews and iron maidens and other barbaric practices.

The notion that America would resort to torture naturally troubles citizens, ourselves included.

Yet we’re also troubled by some of the statements Oregon’s U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, made last week after a Senate committee released its report regarding the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” of terrorists following 9/11.

What counties actually need

The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program was supposed to be a temporary source of money for counties, including Baker, that suffered when logging in federal forests plummeted starting in early 1990s.

Counties receive 25 percent of revenue from timber sales on federal land within their borders.

Fourteen years after it started, SRS still exists, but barely. A pending federal budget bill doesn’t include SRS payments for 2015.

Traffic signals & 10th Street

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s plan to remove the pedestrian-controlled traffic signal at 10th and C streets in Baker City makes sense.

The purpose for installing the signal in 1973 — students going to and from nearby North Baker Elementary — went away when the school was closed in 2009.

Indeed we wonder whether the signal isn’t more a threat than a safety measure. Considering how rarely the lights were activated, it would seem likely that drivers are accustomed to driving past that intersection on 10th Street without stopping.

That said, we’re not convinced that ODOT’s advice to pedestrians — to use the signal at Campbell Street, three blocks south of C — adequately deals with the public’s needs on that busy stretch of 10th Street.

In particular we’d like to see ODOT study traffic volumes at the intersection of 10th and D streets. D Street certainly has had more use since the city built a bridge across the Powder River several years ago, creating another cross-town route.

And with Baker High School just two blocks east of the intersection, there’s still considerable pedestrian traffic.

ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg said the agency will be “looking at” that intersection. That’s a good first step.

No secrets at City Hall

We don’t object to the Baker City Council giving City Manager Mike Kee a 2-percent pay raise.

He hasn’t had a pay hike since he was hired in September 2010. That hardly makes him unique in the current economic climate, of course, but 2 percent in four years is hardly exorbitant.

We agree with Councilor Kim Mosier that the city should make it clear that city managers can earn more money only through their performance, and that the city won’t automatically give them cost-of-living raises.

But we disagree with Mosier on another point she made during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Why we need more hunters

If you asked a dozen people in Baker County to list the popular local hobbies, we’d wager at least eight would mention hunting.

Baker County has more options for hunters than just about any of Oregon’s 35 other counties.

Besides large populations of deer and elk — the two most sought-after big game animals in the state — the county also boasts antelope, bear, cougar, coyotes, and a variety of upland game birds and waterfowl.

Baker County also is unique among Oregon counties in having hunting seasons for mountain goats as well as both of the state’s bighorn sheep species — California and Rocky Mountain.

But hunting is a lot more than a sport around here.

It’s also an integral part of the economy.

Insurance for sage grouse

The Endangered Species Act can be a frightening law if an animal that has the power of the federal government behind it happens to live on your property.

And no species has prompted more concern among Baker County landowners — cattle ranchers in particular — than the sage grouse.

But even as federal officials ponder whether to list the sage grouse as threatened or endangered — a final decision is due in September 2015 — local landowners can ease their fears by enrolling in what amounts to an insurance policy.

Keep the tax kicker

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber figures he and the state’s legislators know better than you do how to spend some of the money you earn.

The notion that the state might collect more money from income taxes than it needs to provide public services seems never to occur to many politicians.

Fortunately, Oregon’s unique income tax “kicker” law occasionally forces them to at least discuss the issue.

Manson married? At least it’s only on paper

So Charles Manson is engaged.

And you thought the Thanksgiving dinner conversation at your family’s table was awkward.

Fianceé: “I’ve decided to get married.”

Mother: “How exciting! And please pass the sweet potatoes. Do we know him?”

Fianceé: “Well, you might have heard of him, yes. Ever read “Helter Skelter?”

Father, after his wife nose dives into the gravy bowl: “Does anyone here know how to do the Heimlich maneuver?”

Manson, whose messianic visage once dominated the covers of such esteemed magazines as Life and Rolling Stone, hasn’t gotten much publicity this century.

But the announcement that a 26-year-old woman, Afton Elaine Burton, plans to marry Manson, who turned 80 earlier this month and has been in prison in California since 1969, sent TV producers scrambling to find the grainy news footage that’s familiar to anyone who has a passing knowledge of the Manson case.

Defining a protester

One thing we ought to do, in discussing the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, is define the word “protester.”

People who bust windows and burn and loot businesses are not protesters.

They’re criminals.

There is no legitimate reason to destroy or to steal someone else’s property to express your disgust at a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, who had no weapon, on Aug. 9.

The owners of those businesses didn’t kill Brown.

And they didn’t serve on the grand jury.

They’re innocent. And they’re victims, just as Brown is.

Real protesters, those who are truly aggrieved by the grand jury’s decision and who want to effect change, can also gather in the streets.

They can march and chant and they can even yell at the police officers whose job it is to preserve a semblance of order.

Indeed, protesters did all of those things in Ferguson.

We understand why they’re outraged.

No matter how legally sound the grand jury’s conclusion might be — a decision not to indict a police officer in a fatal shooting is, after all, the most common result — a reasonable person recognizes that something went wrong in Ferguson.

We’re certainly not satisfied with the notion that when a police officer has an altercation with an unarmed man — even a man who, like Brown, punches the officer and later charges at him — that the unarmed man must end up dead.

Nor can we dismiss the racial issues. Wilson is white, Brown black. A disproportionate number of fatal police shootings involve black victims.

No sane person wants these tragedies to continue.

But we’re less likely to make meaningful progress as a society if some people use the death of someone they didn’t even know as an excuse for causing mayhem.

That’s the act of a coward, not a protester.

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