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Making the Rally better

The effort that local residents made starting last summer regarding the Hells Canyon Motorcycle Rally seems to have been worthwhile.

The proposed changes to the vendor location and motorcycle parking on Main Street, which were presented to the Baker City Council last week, look sensible.


Golden future, no TV needed

We’re excited about the economic benefits Baker County will realize from its exposure on “Gold Rush,” a highly rated reality TV series on the Discovery Channel.

As with “Ghost Mine,” the SyFy network series that filmed two seasons near Sumpter in 2013, “Gold Rush,” besides its direct monetary contributions, will give the county valuable publicity on a major cable network.

But we’d be happier still if the county could boast a mining boom that didn’t require the presence of TV cameras.

Baker’s reputation as Oregon’s top gold-producing county dates back to the Civil War.

But we were reminded just this week that you needn’t look that far back to find headlines touting the county’s rich deposits. With the announcement that the Cornucopia mines near Halfway are for sale, we dug through the vast troves of historical records on the state geology agency’s website. These include clips from this newspaper in the 1930s, when the Copia mines, despite the nation being mired in the Great Depression, employed 200 to 300 full-time miners and produced more gold than any other mine in Oregon.

We understand it’s farfetched to expect Baker County to replicate that era.

Even with gold hovering around $1,200 an ounce, the immense cost and labyrinth of government red tape required to start large-scale mining pose major obstacles to the industry.

But based on geologic reports there is little doubt that vast wealth still lies beneath the ground in parts of Baker County. And we’re confident that miners, if only they were allowed to do so, are ready to extract those treasures. Even if there are no cameras around.


What a winter for BHS sports

This has been quite a winter for two Baker High School athletic teams.

Wrestlers and swimmers don’t always get as much attention as they deserve, although they work as hard as other athletes.

The nature of their sports, of course, has much to do with this.


Itís still murky in Salem

A year has passed since John Kitzhaber resigned as Oregon governor, his once sterling reputation sullied by a scandal in which secrecy played no small part.

We were pleased, though not surprised, when Kitzhaber’s successor, Kate Brown, upon taking office emphasized the necessity, in the wake of one of Oregon’s ugliest political episodes, for “transparency and trust in government.”

We’re feeling gullible.


Cougar problem growing

Oregon lawmakers and Gov. Kate Brown have acknowledged the diversity of our state, and the unsuitability of one-size-fits-all public policy, with their support of a three-tiered minimum wage.

So what about hunting cougars with dogs?

The economic differences among Oregon’s regions that justify multiple minimum wages are mirrored, in a sense, by differences in cougar populations and the effects the big cats can have on deer and elk populations and local economies.


Expanding BTI has promise

The details remain to be decided, but the basic concept of the proposed expansion of the Baker Technical Institute (BTI) holds great promise for local residents and the economy.

BTI is one of the more valuable programs the Baker School District has created over the past decade.


A new focus on the forest?

Perhaps the key sentence in the U.S. Forest Service’s recent announcement of its Forest Resiliency Project for the Blue Mountains is this one: “We are shifting some of the work from planning to implementation.”

The words are from Bill Aney. He’s the agency’s eastside restoration coordinator for the Pacific Northwest region.


Grad rate going the right way

Baker High School is succeeding at one of its more important tasks.

Making sure students, when they shut their locker door for the last time, will have a diploma with their name on it waiting for them.


Insignia doesnít trump flag

We don’t begrudge the U.S. Forest Service taking pride in its symbols.

We like Smokey Bear, too.

Although we sometimes worry about the hydration of the person who has to wear that heavy, fuzzy costume during an August parade.

But we’re troubled by the possibility that a Forest Service employee would suggest to a citizen, whose legitimate and peaceful protest of one of the agency’s policies includes displaying the Forest Service insignia, that the protest might run afoul of a federal law.


Talking quiet zone

After more than a decade of relative silence, the issue of train whistles has returned to Baker City.

So far it’s more a whimper than a wail.

But we think the City Council was wise to take advantage of a free analysis by state and federal officials that will help councilors understand how much it would cost for the city to potentially qualify to silence whistles on Union Pacific trains passing through town.


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