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Future of our farms

The news came in like an early frost or a summer hailstorm with stones the size of grapes.

The announcement that Baker Valley’s eight potato growers will have to find a new buyer soon if they are to plant about 3,000 acres in spuds reminds us that agriculture, Baker County’s most valuable industry, faces threats other than untimely weather, a risk that might well be increasing due to climate change.

In this case a corporation, Heinz, decided to change.

But farmers and ranchers are also potentially vulnerable to decisions by government agencies.

Botching block grants

We understand why Haines City Recorder Valerie Russell was surprised to learn that the Baker County town, in the span of a single year, had become rather affluent.

Haines had not, in fact, done anything of the sort.

We’d rather report otherwise, but the reality is that Haines, population 416, along with much of the rest of Baker County and indeed rural Oregon, has been slow to recover from the Great Recession.

No need to restrict snowmobiles

We were pleased to hear from Dan Ermovick, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest’s recreation planner, that a new Forest Service snowmobile policy won’t have any immediate effect on snowmobilers on the Wallowa-Whitman.

We’ll be happier still if it turns out there’s no significant long-term effect, either.

There shouldn’t be one.

Wolf news: Good for everyone

The return of wolves to Oregon over the past several years has been a polarizing issue, with a pro-wolf camp, an anti-wolf camp, and little room between for the ambivalent to pitch their tents.

But the latest wolf news gives people on both sides of the debate reasons to, if not celebrate, then at least applaud politely.

Now that biologists have confirmed at least seven pairs of wolves have produced pups — and at least four pairs have done so for three straight years in Northeastern Oregon — the state has moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2 in its wolf management plan.

Use chain saws or lose our trails

The 1964 Wilderness Act, for all its flowery language about the sanctity of nature, clearly expresses the notion that people are not only allowed to visit wilderness areas, but that such places should be managed to ensure we can enjoy their beauty.

We just have to get around on our feet or by horseback, since motor vehicles are prohibited.

That makes sense.

It’s difficult, certainly, to fulfill one of the Act’s goals — that in wilderness areas the “imprint of man’s work (is) substantially unnoticeable” — if there are rigs rolling along paved roads at 50 mph.

What doesn’t make sense is allowing hiking trails — some of which follow routes that Native Americans blazed thousands of years ago — to become impassable because workers can’t use chain saws to cut up trees that fall across the tread.

Freedom, fear and America

America hasn’t always embraced its satirists, and even the most renowned have generally been considered something other than first-rate artists.

But we don’t murder them.

Indeed, most of the fighting that results from satire in America is the bloodless sort practiced in a courtroom.

A good Samaritan, defined

In a moment when Markeith Reese had ample reason to be thinking only of himself, he instead focused on people he had never even met.

The 21-year-old Baker City man might have saved four lives as a result.

Reese was driving home about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 3.

He had just lost his job.

Police cameras: good idea

Americans have been acutely interested recently, in the wake of highly publicized cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City,  in the interactions between police officers and the public.

Thousands of words, many of dubious value, have been written and uttered by people who condemn police and by people who support police.

But what we need more than words from people who didn’t even see the events happen, are pictures.

Moving pictures, in particular, which is to say video.

Good news on groceries

We can’t predict the future of the grocery business in Baker City in detail, but it appears that the most important issue has been decided.

We’ll still have two stores.

Our biggest concern with the pending merger of Albertsons and Safeway is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would require the merged company to close either the Safeway or Albertsons store in Baker City to avoid a single company monopolizing the local market.

Freedom wins on the big screen

We figured the news had penetrated even the dimmest cracks of the world, where the cretins lurk who know how to threaten but who couldn’t create a coherent argument if you gave them a script.

In America, freedom is more than a word.

Yet some anonymous people apparently believed that threats of violence could keep a movie from showing up on American theater screens.

For a couple weeks the thugs seemed to be right.

But in the end, as it almost always does in America, freedom prevailed.

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