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Three cougar kittens rescued

Photo by Shervin Hess/Courtesy of the Oregon Zoo Three 2-week-old cougar orphans from Baker County are examined at the Oregon Zoo’s veterinary medical center. The kittens will be taken to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, N.C., later this winter.

By Jayson Jacoby

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The mistake was unavoidable, but Todd Callaway didn’t stop to worry about his reputation as a hunter whose integrity is beyond reproach.

He just wanted to save the three cougar kittens.

And he did.

Callaway, 64, is both a hunter and a retired wildlife biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Baker City office.

When he realized that the cougar he shot and killed on Thursday was a lactating female, he immediately started following the animal’s tracks in the snow, hoping to find its den and, possibly, kittens.


Downtown property owners balk at tax plan

For the first time since Baker City’s downtown Economic Improvement District (EID) was started in the early 1990s, enough property owners are opposed to a special property tax assessment that the city can’t continue to collect that money and pass it on to Historic Baker City Inc.

Not, that is, unless some of those property owners change their minds before the City Council has a public hearing Tuesday evening.

Under EID rules, the city can charge the property tax assessment unless the owners of at least 33 percent of the total property value in the district don’t object.

The current EID expired at the end of 2013.

When the city surveyed property owners, objections totaled 34.74 percent of the total assessed value.


Missing plane found in Idaho: no survivors

BOISE (AP) — The wreckage of a small plane carrying five people, including a Silicon Valley executive, was found Friday after vanishing in the central Idaho mountains on Dec. 1, the Valley County sheriff’s office said. There were no survivors.

Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Smith said Friday that an incoming storm may delay recovery efforts.

The single-engine plane was occupied by 51-year-old pilot, Dale Smith, a software executive from San Jose, Calif.; his son, Daniel Smith and his wife, Sheree Smith; and daughter Amber Smith with her fiance, Jonathon Norton.

The plane was flying from Baker City, where the family had been spending the Thanksgiving holiday, to Montana, where Daniel and Sheree Smith live, on Dec. 1 when it disappeared in the mountains 150 miles northeast of Boise.

Dale Smith reported engine trouble and sought information about a backcountry landing strip where he hoped to put the plane down safely.

Authorities had suspended the search for the aircraft in mid-December.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Smith, an executive and co-founder of San Jose-based SerialTek, obtained his pilot’s license in 2005.


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.

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