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Big (Effects) Bird

More than 100 people attend a BLM forum about the sage grouse

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife A male sage grouse performs the species’ elaborate courting ritual, which includes inflating air sacs in his breast and fanning his tail feathers.

By Pat Caldwell

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They brought in the extra chairs even before the meeting began.

Even after the session kicked off Thursday night regarding a proposed management plan for sage grouse on BLM land in Eastern Oregon, people continued to filter into the Baker County Events Center, sending a clear signal that for many the small bird carries the potential to make a big impact on the local economy.

The focus of the meeting revolved around the chicken-size bird that occupies rangeland in 11 Western states, including much of Eastern Oregon, and is now the subject of a proposed federal management plan.

“It is the farmer’s and rancher’s spotted owl. It is of that magnitude,” said Tom Sharp, a Burns-area rancher and chairman of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s endangered species committee.

Sharp joined more than 100 other area residents and officials at Thursday’s meeting, which was put on by the BLM, the federal agency proposing to revise its management plans for about 12 million acres in Eastern Oregon.


Harvey, Fleming swap spots on ballot

Bill Harvey will run against incumbent Fred Warner Jr. for the Baker County Board of Commissioners chairman, and Dick Fleming will challenge Commissioner Mark Bennett 


By Chris Collins

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Bill Harvey says he believes he and Dick Fleming would make a great team as county commissioners and he’s willing to put his career on hold to devote his efforts to the full-time chairman’s seat.

Fleming, on the other hand, has some other projects he needs  to complete that would conflict with the full-time job, Harvey said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

That’s what led the two men to refile their candidacies Wednesday for county commission seats.

Harvey, who will try to unseat Fred Warner Jr. as commission chairman in the Republican primary in May, originally had filed for the position held by Mark Bennett, who was appointed to the commission in May 2013 after Carl Stiff resigned for health reasons.

Fleming, 63, who had filed to run against Warner originally, instead will challenge Bennett.



Wintry warning

Concern About Kids Walking On Frozen Powder River 

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald People have walked almost to the edge of the ice on sections of the Powder River in Baker City.

By Chris Collins

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The slick film of ice that coats the Powder River as it winds its way through much of Baker City has attracted the attention of youngsters looking for wintry entertainment.

The activity has caused alarm for some of the community’s adults.

Maybe it’s a recent holiday viewing of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” that causes them concern for the children who are participating in the risky sport.

Who can forget the sledding party in the movie when George Bailey’s younger brother, Harry, slides over the ice and breaks through to water at the end of the trail. Big brother, George, comes to the rescue, but in the process suffers from the cold of the icy waters and loses the hearing in his left ear.


Avoid the flu? You've got a shot

S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Registered nurse Sheila Orr administers a flu vaccine at the Baker County Health Department.

By Pat Caldwell

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There is one common, and simple, theme among health- care professionals regarding the best way to prevent acquiring influenza: Get a flu shot.

The vaccine mantra carries added significance every year when flu season descends on America but it might convey even more importance this winter as the state endures an escalation of hospitalizations in the Portland area connected to influenza.

The rapid and early upsurge in flu-connected hospitalizations signals this year’s edition of the influenza virus — in this case the H1N1 variant — trotted onstage earlier than normal.

“Typically it is February and early March in Oregon,” said Ann Thomas, a communicable disease physician with the Oregon Public Health Division.


Miners Jubilee will continue in 2014

The major events that comprise Baker City’s Miners Jubilee, including vendors in Geiser-Pollman Park, will continue as usual this July.

The Baker City Herald will schedule vendors to set up booths in the park during the annual festival that takes place the third weekend in July.

Last August the Jubilee’s main organizer, the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, announced that it would no longer serve in that role.

During a meeting Monday, 11 volunteers from several local groups decided to continue the Jubilee’s core events, including the parade and the Eastern Oregon Mining Association’s mining exhibits and contests.


Firefighters climbing for a cure

By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Local firefighters will use their lungs and legs to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society during the 23rd-annual Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle on March 9.

Travis Fields, Jason Jacobs, Ben Decker, Mike Downing, Ryan Downing, Derral Thomas and William Schlaich will race up the Columbia Center — 69 flights, 1,311 steps and 788 feet elevation gain — in full firefighter gear, including a breathing apparatus.

“It’s hard — we have an additional 50 pounds of gear,” said Fields, who participated in the event last year.

There will be 1,800 firefighters racing to the top this year — they take off in groups of about 20, Fields said.


Sage grouse plan: ‘mind-boggling’

Male sage grouse/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife photo

By Jayson Jacoby

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Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett has devoted the better part of four days to the BLM’s sage grouse study.

To describe his grasp of the document, the tip of the iceberg analogy seems appropriate.

“It’s just mind-boggling,” Bennett said of the 900-page draft environmental impact statement (EIS).

Bennett said he, along with fellow commissioners Fred Warner Jr. and Tim Kerns, and County Planner Holly Kerns, have strived to attain a “conversive grasp of the document, not a deep understanding.”

Bennett understands that his constituents have many questions about this chicken-size bird which has often been compared, in its potential to affect the way public lands are managed, to the spotted owl.


Fire destroys home near Huntington

By Chris Collins

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A Huntington-area home was destroyed by fire Sunday afternoon after an outdoor turkey fryer flared and sent flames lashing against the house.

The home of John and Lisa Miller at 28839 Langley Road, off Interstate 84 near Lime, was fully involved when Huntington firefighters arrived, said Fire Chief Eric Bronson. 

The Huntington Fire Department was dispatched at 3:15 p.m. and firefighters spent about seven hours at the scene.


Rep. Bentz lays out his agenda for 2014

By Pat Caldwell

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Oregon District 60 representative Cliff Bentz is going to be busy during the next nine months.

 Not only will the Oregon House of Representatives member work to address a number of critical issues for voters in Eastern Oregon but, as one of two GOP assistant minority leaders, Bentz, a Republican from Ontario, will also toil to help fellow Republicans secure or hold contested seats as election season dawns.

Bentz represents Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur and Lake counties in the Oregon Legislature. He is also a member of a number of key legislative commissions and is the vice-chairman of the Transportation and Economic Development Committee.

Bentz’s role as assistant minority leader is critical in terms of helping fellow Republicans get elected. During the next year, Bentz must juggle his responsibilities to his constituents while working to generate support for viable GOP candidates at the state level.


Analysis Of An Aircraft Tragedy

Ice likely culprit in Dec. 1 crash

By Pat Caldwell

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On the first day of December death hovered beyond the line of mountains at the edge of the Baker Valley.

There are a multitude of items that can spark an aircraft tragedy but on this day, over some of the most rugged and secluded timberland in the West, it was ice that killed.

And while ice is the primary suspect in the disappearance of a Beech Bonanza in the thick forests and deep snow of Idaho wilderness north of the town of Cascade, plain old bad luck also conspired to turn a routine flight into a tragedy. 

The story of pilot Dale Smith, 51, and the passengers in his Beech Bonanza is still very much a tale without a final ending. The conclusion to this saga, most likely tragic, may not arrive until spring when the snow melts.

Smith left Baker City and was on the way to Butte, Mont., with four other people in his plane. Smith’s children, Daniel and Amber, along with Daniel’s wife, Sheree, and Amber’s fiancé, Jonathan Norton, were on board when the plane disappeared.

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