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Program aims to bring local cattle, grass together

Landowners and livestock producers might get a chance to help each other.

The latter need food for their cattle.

The former sometimes need their grass mowed.

Since cattle’s affinity for grass is well-established, the potential, should the two situations coincide, is obvious.

But the problem in the past has been managing leases between the grass owners and the ranchers.

Ken Anderson from the Baker Valley Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts is planting the seeds of a solution with local ranchers and landowners.

Man accused of murdering his wife

Authorities expect to charge a Baker City man with murder today in connection with the Thursday morning shooting death of his wife.

Kevin Michael Blankenship, 41, of 3500 Auburn Ave., was taken into custody shortly after his wife, Christina Dawn Blankenship, 38, was shot at the couple’s home in southwest Baker City, District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said today.

“He is alleged to have shot his wife in an act of domestic violence,” Shirtcliff said.

None of the couple’s children was at home at the time of the shooting, Shirtcliff said.

Still time to ripen those tomatoes

The weather has stunted some crops, but there are tricks

A Baker City garden still displays a mix of green and ripening tomatoes in late August. (Baker City Herald/S.John Collins)
You can blame the weather, not your gardening skills, for all those green tomatoes that seem stubborn to turn red.

“Tomatoes don’t do well under 50 degrees,” said Jimmy Roberts, Master Gardener coordinator for the OSU Extension Office, who included a note about ripening green tomatoes in September’s gardening newsletter.

In other words, nights that drop to the 30s don’t do these plants any favors.

Roberts said Sept. 26 is, on average, the first day of frost in Baker City.

That’s average, remember.

“Fifty percent of the time we get a freeze before Labor Day,” he said.

Forest road plan not likely out till spring

The thousands who have been wondering for more than three years which roads on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest will remain open to motor vehicles will have to continue to exercise their patience.

The final environmental impact statement for the forest’s Travel Management Plan is scheduled to be finished in March 2011, Wallowa-Whitman Supervisor Steve Ellis said this week.

But he doubts any roads will be officially closed to motor vehicles (the plan doesn’t affect snowmobiles) until 2012.

In January of this year Ellis, who has the final say on the plan, said he expected to make a decision by late summer.

But then severe flooding in early June damaged several forest roads, including the Wallowa Mountain Loop, an important recreation route linking Baker and Wallowa counties.

Coordinating repairs temporarily replaced the travel management plan as a priority.

Which was fine with some people, Ellis said.

A group of friends that has it made in the shade



Baker City Herald


Laurene Chapman sits cross-legged on a thick pillow as she methodically weaves a Navajo-inspired design.

Beyond her loom, just a few yards away, pristine Eagle Creek rushes over rocks, creating that soft background noise so familiar to the woods.

Scattered around Chapman are other weavers who have claimed a shady spot for this annual event they call “Weaving in the Woods.”

These are the Threadbenders, a guild of artists who specialize in fiber arts. Members live in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.

Council OKs contract with Kee

Baker City Herald

The Baker City Council approved an employment contract with incoming City Manager Mike Kee on Tuesday evening that includes a starting annual salary of $90,000.

Councilors voted unanimously on Aug. 10 to hire Kee, who’s worked as the Ontario Police chief since 1998.

Tuesday’s vote on the contract was 6-0; Councilor Milo Pope was absent.

Kee will replace Steve Bogart, who announced in late June that he will resign Sept. 23.

Bogart’s salary is the same as Kee’s (although Bogart, who was hired in January, will not work a full year).

Kee will start work in Baker City on Sept. 7. Bogart will assist Kee with the transition.

Three incumbents, Coles qualify for Council ballot

Baker City Herald

Baker City voters will have four candidates, not five, to choose from in the Nov. 2 City Council election.

Although five people had gathered signatures to qualify as candidates before the filing deadline at 5 p.m. Tuesday, it turns out that incumbent Gail Duman, who was appointed by the Council to replace Andrew Bryan after he resigned in late May, is not eligible for this year’s election.

The Nov. 2 ballot will include four candidates for the four openings on the seven-member council: Incumbents Dennis Dorrah, Beverly Calder and Clair Button, along with Roger Coles.

Coles is a member of the city’s budget board.

Forest Service fire in Enterprise wasn't arson, officials say

Fire investigators said Monday that spontaneous combustion of materials used to apply sealant to a U.S. Forest Service visitors center in Enterprise is the probable cause of the July 11 fire that destroyed the 20-year-old building.

No criminal charges are pending, according to a press release from the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The fire destroyed the Wallowa Mountains Visitor Center, a prominent log structure on a hill just west of Enterprise. No one was hurt in the fire, which happened on a Sunday.

Sea Side Associates of Chelan, Wash., owned the 20,500-square-foot building and leased it to the Forest Service.

On the day the fire started, workers hired by the owners were applying a sealant to the building's exterior.

The Wallowa-Whitman has set up a temporary visitors center in the Chamber of Commerce office in Enterprise. Forest Service workers are housed in a former elementary school in Joseph, five miles south of Enterprise. 

Workers from two other federal agencies that used the former visitors center -- the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Services Agency -- are using the former Wallowa Memorial Hospital in Enterprise.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was the lead agency in the fire investigation. The FBI, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, Oregon State Police, Oregon State Fire Marshal and Wallowa County Sheriff's Department were also involved.

Doing the heavy lifting in the fight against fires


Pilot Darrel Folkvord examines the bucket that can drop thousands of gallons of water on wildfires. Folkvord pilots the Boeing Chinook helicopter, in background.


Baker City Herald

The U.S. Forest Service has enlisted some heavy-lifting help in the campaign to douse wildfires in Northeastern Oregon.

A Boeing 234 Chinook helicopter has been on standby at the Baker City Municipal Airport for about the past month.

The twin-rotor aircraft can dump more than 1,700 gallons of water on a blaze.

And that’s only one load.

The Forest Service usually contracts with a private company to supply a helicopter for firefighting work on the Wallowa-Whitman, but the aircraft typically is stationed at the La Grande Airport, said Judy Wing, public information officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Police to Wyden: Pot farms a growing problem


Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner, left, talks with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Wednesday in Baker City.


Baker City Herald

Gun-toting members of foreign drug cartels are endangering Americans and polluting forests and wilderness areas with chemical-intensive marijuana-growing operations, local police officials told Sen. Ron Wyden during a meeting Wednesday in Baker City.

County sheriffs, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials from across Eastern Oregon told Wyden, Oregon’s senior senator, that they’re worried about the growing threat posed by pot farms in the region’s remote forests and rangelands.

The officials invited Wyden to attend the meeting.

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