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Eat your fill, tiger muskies


We wish good hunting, and good eating, to the newest residents of Phillips Reservoir.

Tiger muskies.

These are the little fish — little for now, anyway; they can grow to 3 feet or more — with what Oregon fish biologists hope is a big appetite for yellow perch.

This latest tactic in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) anti-perch campaign is elegant in its simplicity.

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Cleaning up at Ash Grove


It wasn’t cheap, but a deal announced recently between Ash Grove Cement Co. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will greatly reduce the company’s pollution footprint, including from its Baker County factory near Durkee.

Ash Grove, which is based in Kansas, must pay a $2.5 million penalty, as well as spend $30 million in pollution controls at nine factories.

EPA officials said the changes will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

This agreement follows Ash Grove’s voluntary decision to spend about $20 million to install equipment that, since it started operating in July 2010, has cut the Durkee plant’s airborne mercury releases by about 90 percent.

Ash Grove has shown that it will take responsibility for the environmental effects of its business.

Now, with the nation’s economy beginning to improve, the company should be well-positioned to take advantage. And that would be good news for Baker County, because Ash Grove is one of the county’s largest private employers.

 

New way to gauge teachers


The Baker School District had no choice but to revamp the way it evaluates teachers.

A 2011 state law requires districts, starting July 1 and for the first time, to include students’ test scores among the criteria administrators use in measuring teachers’ performance.

This is a good idea.

Test scores should not be the only measuring stick, of course — and we’re not convinced that scores should even be among the more important criteria.

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Welcome, Oregon cattlemen

Gold was responsible for Baker County’s birth, but beef is truly the place’s most lasting economic legacy.

It’s wholly appropriate, then, that the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association was founded here, and most fitting that the organization will celebrate its centennial here this weekend.

The miners arrived in 1861, and, given the prodigious appetites miners tend to work up, and the utter absence of supermarkets, cattle herds soon followed.

Raising beef has been a mainstay of the county’s, and the region’s, economy every since.

Which is hardly surprising, because this is good cattle country.

There’s ample water, flat ground suitable for growing hay and alfalfa for winter feed, and hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland for spring, summer and fall grazing.

Baker County, with an inventory of 123,700 head in 2012, has the fourth-largest cattle herd among Oregon’s 36 counties, trailing Malheur (276,000), Klamath (187,000) and Harney (161,000).

Gross sales of beef cattle from the county totaled $53.6 million in 2012.

Ranching is, as always, a tough and tenuous business. But the past few years have been good ones, in general, and Oregon ranchers picked the right place to have their big celebratory bash.

 

Legislature needs to make deal


Compromise is a necessary ingredient in the messy business of making laws, but too often, it seems, legislators act as though that word is a synonym for capitulation.

This misses the reality of a true compromise, which is that each side gives up something, in exchange for gaining something else.

The Oregon Legislature has a chance to forge just such a compromise, but the opportunity seems to be slipping away in Salem.

This deal, which Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed this month, has the potential to achieve two goals vital to the state’s future.

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Action needed on drought


Oregon and federal officials need to respond quickly to the Baker County Board of Commissioners’ June 5 declaration of a drought emergency.

The need for state and federal aid, which the county’s declaration is intended to summon, becomes more likely with the passage of each dry day.

On Wednesday evening a range fire near Huntington forced the temporary closure of the westbound lanes of Interstate 84.

The blaze indicates how dry the county’s rangelands already are, a week before the solstice.

Those rangelands are a vital source of summer forage for the county’s beef cattle herd — a $53 million business in 2012 — but even places that don’t burn might be useless for grazing.

The county’s only commercial fruit-grower, Eagle Valley Orchard near Richland, has already suffered a major loss due to a hard freeze in April.

And a looming shortage of irrigation water could cause big problems for farmers and ranchers throughout the county.

It could well be, of course, that Baker County will get by without any assistance — we’ve certainly done so before during difficult circumstances.

But the commissioners were wise to take action before the situation turns into a crisis.

Now their counterparts at the state and federal levels need to do the same.

 

Widening the DNA dragnet


If the federal government thinks groups that toss around words such as “liberty” deserve extra scrutiny as to their tax-exempt status, just imagine what that gargantuan enterprise might do with a detailed map of you, at the sub-cellular level.

Recently, with nearly daily revelations about the feds’ efforts to find out what you’re saying, and to prevent you from finding out what they’re up to, even a staunch defender of the benevolence of an omnipotent government must wonder whether his trust has been misplaced.

Last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which validates the practice of having police take DNA samples from people who have been arrested, but not convicted, only thickens the Orwellian clouds of concern about our lack of privacy.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the renowned conservative who was joined in his dissent by the High Court’s most liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, neatly summarized the possible, and troubling, ramifications:

“Make no mistake about it: Because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” Scalia wrote in his dissent.

But happily, this prospect is not a certainty in Oregon.

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That's not Grant County


The portrait of Grant County sketched in a story in The Oregonian last week was far from a flattering portrayal of our neighbor to the southwest.

We’re skeptical, though, that that portrait, as outlined in the story about the possible release from prison of convicted murderer Sidney Dean Porter, is anything close to accurate, for Grant County or the many other places in Eastern Oregon with similar demographics.

On April 7, 1992, Porter used a piece of firewood to beat to death John Day Police officer Frank Ward.

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Legislating good sense


We’ll start with the obvious: Smoking inside a car when kids are there is dumb.

Among confined spaces, where secondhand smoke poses a health risk, few are more confined than a car.

Oregon legislators, as the makers of law are wont to do, believe this is an issue which requires government intervention.

We disagree.

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Scrutiny of city’s street plan


The proposed update to Baker City’s Transportation System Plan has some residents concerned, and we understand why.

Designed as a guide for how the city’s system of streets, sidewalks and paths develops over the next 20 years or so, the plan, not surprisingly, covers quite a lot of ground.

And although none of the myriad projects in the plan is set in stone (or, rather, in asphalt or concrete), any of them could become reality.

This could have major effects not only on residents’ property, but also on their pocketbooks.

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