I used to write off registered voters who don’t vote as lazy, but my antipathy for their apathy is increasingly being shoved aside by sympathy for their plight.
Three recent examples from Oregon show that sometimes when you win at the ballot box the victory is fleeting.
I’m not referring to cases in which the electorate, fickle group that it is, changes its mind at a subsequent election.
That can be frustrating, to be sure, but it is at least consistent with democratic principles.
I’m much more troubled, though, when voters are in effect betrayed by the very people we elect to represent us.
During the past few years Oregon voters have had their will thwarted, to varying degrees, on three issues:
• Whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the state
• Whether condemned criminals should be executed
• Whether the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages will be defended against legal challenges
Where’s common sense in BLM’s sage grouse plan?
As an active participant in protecting a precious commodity, our beautiful Baker Valley and the forests, rivers, and high desert around us, I wish to ask why the BLM is proposing a plan for protecting sage grouse habitat in Oregon, which directly harms our ranchers, communities and the sage grouse eco-system they support.
It appears those of us who live here are at the mercy of vocal, well-funded special interest groups that not only don’t live or work here, but whose goals are the elimination of all public grazing practices. I am confident these special interest groups have other hidden agendas that further their own interests. The sage grouse appears to be only a pawn in a larger scheme of keeping legitimate ranchers, miners, recreational users, hunters, fishermen and others off public lands, including our beloved forests. The BLM sets short comment periods, thus making it difficult to comment or respond.
Is the sage grouse plan helping pave the way for the Boardman to Hemingway line, proposed by Idaho Power Company, to be placed in front of the Interpretive Center in plain view of one of Oregon’s most scenic highways? Former Governor Tom McCall, who I knew, set in place a “utility corridor” from Boardman to Idaho, which affects no one and is the common sense route for this transmission line.
As for the cattle industry, these stewards of the land support our schools and communities through tax revenue and employment. Yet, according to the BLM, their preferred plan would result in job loss across five counties.
In 1990, the spotted owl was listed as an endangered species, and logging was stopped by court order on all federal lands. Baker County came to a standstill. Middle-income jobs were lost, stores closed, schools closed and people moved away. Now we find the spotted owl’s predator was another owl species, not logging. We cannot let this craziness happen again. A listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act will damage Oregon, especially Eastern Oregon. This should not happen. Where is the common sense in all of this?
What will happen if the forests are closed?
How do I start this letter? Good question, but here goes ... Yesterday at the local library I was informed by an employee of the U.S. Forest Service that our president of these United States intends to close all forest lands in the whole of this country in the next two years. Now that’s quite a statement, making me wonder how many thousands of Americans and companies will be suddenly out of work. I wonder what then will houses be built out of — plastic two-by-fours? steel framework? rubber roofs? Wouldn’t that mean no more paper bags, no more cardboard boxes, no more paper products, no more woodstoves? Fireplaces? Or no more campsites? Locked out of hunting, hiking, trail rides on horseback to high mountain lakes. Gee, that sounds like a good idea! The American public should take that right in stride. I’m getting mad already.
So how do we heat our homes and small businesses with gas or electric. Few of the middle and low class could ever afford it, and hopefully no one will stand still and let this come to be.
Do we have anything to say about bad rumors or are we just supposed to stand by and let it happen? People, you’d better get together and ask some hard questions to our state and U.S. Forest Services; sounds to me that they won’t have a job either, so who’ll put out the fires. All good questions, but where are the answers? I’d be writing serious letters to our governor and high-ranking government officials and demand a sensible reply, or better yet call and raise some questions about who is running America and Oregon.
We can’t let this go unchecked. If we do it’s only the beginning of total government rule and we’ll truly lose what freedoms we have left. And of course if they take our guns, too, I don’t have to tell you what that means, do I?
Think real hard about all this. Do something, please.
Merkley does the Potomac two-step
Senator Merkley’s town hall meeting the other day made one wonder how our country has survived so long with leaders like him in charge. All but a very few questions asked by his constituents were not answered, mostly by analogies of what he thought we wanted to hear.
I patiently listened to the senator do a Potomac two-step around issues of concern to this part of Oregon. At least 15 minutes was devoted to that nasty carbon footprint we have been leaving, and “global warming” or “climate change.” By telling us how important it is to cut back on emissions, no matter what the cost to the consumer. By trying to make a case to curb coal-fired electric generation plants, and get in tune with the president and the EPA, curbing carbon emissions with voodoo science.
I do so love facts, don’t you, senator? I get so confused with the half-truths and the people of this world that spin the facts to fit their own pocketbook or their green agenda.
Fact No. 1: The Icelandic eruption put more carbon dioxide in the air than man has removed with the Clean Air Act, gasohol, wind turbines, solar power and the shutting down of coal-fired plants. That isn’t including what Mount St. Helens or the almost weekly eruptions of the Asian fire chain has contributed to the carbon dioxide levels.
Fact No. 2: The three largest volcanic eruptions put more carbon dioxide into the air than man has since the start of the Industrial Revolution.
Fact. No. 3: Trees, including in our Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, absorb carbon dioxide and give off life supporting oxygen. But when a forest burns that tree gives back all of the carbon dioxide it has absorbed in its lifetime.
We have come a long way in cleaning up our air and water, including the smog covering our industrial belt. Nobody wants to go back to the way it was. It kind of makes one wonder what their climate change agenda is. It couldn’t be about control of the people and their lives. What do you think, senator?
We don’t mean to damn with faint praise by saying that Congressman Greg Walden’s call for a federal investigation in the Cover Oregon fiasco is an obvious political ploy.
Sometimes — and this is such a case — the obvious political ploy also happens to be necessary public policy.
And since the rest of Oregon’s congressional delegation hasn’t seemed eager to try to marshal the considerable resources of the Government Accounting Office (GAO), it was left to Walden, the only Republican among that group, to act.
We understand why U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., during his town hall meeting in Baker City last week, touted the $15 million he helped secure for the BLM’s sage grouse management plan.
The BLM’s goal — to avoid having the grouse listed as a threatened or endangered species — is one we share.
If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does decide next year to list the sage grouse, livestock grazing on public land — a mainstay of Baker County’s economy — could be severely curtailed, with the attendant local effects.
Yet when we pondered Merkley’s words we recognized that there was more to the senator’s statement than typical political posturing. And some of it is not worthy of boasting about.
We must stand up for our rights to access public land
What defines freedom? Is it an individual’s call to support the “greater good” or is it their ability to live as a sovereign being in the world?
You are going to be told over the next few months that “we are doing this for the greater good” or “we are only following orders.” This my friends is the how bad policy starts, and even worse things begin for the people of our region.
My almost-3-year-old son, Max, scampered across the slushy yard, whining that he had lost his plastic garden trowel in the pond. This plaintive claim struck me as curious because so far as I could remember we don’t have a pond.
Certainly we didn’t dig a pond or buy a pond or indeed even desire a pond.
But we got one anyway.
And it didn’t cost us anything except a few pairs of soggy boots.
(And Max’s missing trowel, which turned up not in the pond but hidden beneath a pail.)
When it comes to assessing the danger of winter travel in the Wallowa Mountains, we defer to experts such as Dave Clemens.
Clemens, who lives in Richland, has crossed the Wallowas on skis seven times during winter.
He understands avalanches.
Clemens told us this week that when he heard on Feb. 11 that an avalanche had killed two backcountry skiers near Cornucopia, he was of course saddened.
But unlike most people, Clemens had skied the same terrain.
Clemens emphasized that no matter how much experience and knowledge a backcountry traveler has — and he has prodigious amounts of both — there is an inherent risk in skiing, or snowmobiling, through the Wallowas.
Yet Clemens also noted that knowledge and experience can, to the extent possible, reduce that risk.
Fortunately, there are resources available to help travelers, even those who lack Clemens’ experience, increase their knowledge.
The Wallowa Avalanche Center in Joseph is the most important such source. This nonprofit group doesn’t make avalanche forecasts, but it does issue a weekly bulletin about local conditions, and it offers annual avalanche training.
We encourage all backcountry visitors to avail themselves of these services. Knowledge can not only save your life, but it help avoid the need for rescuers and others risking their own lives on your behalf.
In an era when frugality is reality for many people and businesses, the federal government stubbornly goes against the grain.
For the feds it seems that the concepts of scrimping and making do with what you have rarely impede with governmental bricks-and-mortar ambition.
Never mind budget deficits and sluggish economic recovery — when some ostensible need arises, it seems there’s always half a million tax dollars available to erect another building.
As a current, and local, example, consider the situation of the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM.
Employees from the two federal agencies had shared office space for several years in a complex of modular buildings on 11th Street, just east of the Forest Service’s vehicle compound.
The modulars were never intended to be permanent, and in early December the Forest Service employees who worked there moved across town to the David J. Wheeler Federal Building. That structure already houses the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest headquarters.
The modulars are slated to be removed in September. BLM workers will move across H Street to the former New Tribes Mission complex — itself a former federal property that housed Air Force workers more than half a century ago.
The Forest Service, meanwhile, plans to build a new office, where the modulars stand now, at an estimated cost of $500,000.
The building will have office space for Forest Service fire officials and seasonal employees, as well as rooms for public meetings.
Although the Forest Service issued a few press releases last year announcing the planned move to the Wheeler Building, none mentioned replacing the modulars with a new office.
Moreover, the agency’s workforce in Baker City has been shrinking, not growing, over the past two decades.
We don’t think it’s a stretch to assume we weren’t alone in expressing surprise, and disappointment, when we learned that more than 3 in 10 Baker High School students missed at least 10 percent of the school days — at least 15 days — during the 2012-13 school year.
A recent study published by The Oregonian no doubt caused similar consternation across the state.
After poring over school attendance reports, the newspaper found that 24 percent of Oregon high school students missed at least 10 percent of the total school days that year.
That BHS students are absent more often than most of their counterparts takes a bit of the luster off another recent report that showed the high school’s graduation rate was 80 percent last year — 13 percentage points higher than the Oregon average.
BLM’s sage grouse proposal devoid of common sense
Why is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposing a plan for protecting sage grouse habitat in Oregon that directly harms ranchers, the communities and sage-grouse ecosystems they support? It would be a plan that terminates grazing on 118,000 acres of public grazing land and imposes unnecessary regulations on approximately 600,000 acres of land that BLM has labeled “areas of critical environmental concern.” Moreover, this plan doesn’t take predator controls into consideration. Grouse predators are currently estimated at many times their historic level. Yet BLM has no authority over predator controls, therefore requiring ranchers to make major management changes while a major threat to the species goes unattended. All of this “planning” seems devoid of common sense.
In addition, successful cattle ranching operations support rural school and communities through increased tax revenue and employment opportunities. Yet according to BLM, implementing their preferred plan could result in a loss of jobs in five Oregon counties. Here in Baker County, a community supported by a strong ranching industry, our schools and businesses cannot afford losing such support.
As a fourth-generation rancher in Baker City, I have a vested interest in protecting the land that I and several animals, including sage grouse, live and work on. Much of my efforts directly benefit sage grouse by preserving, protecting and managing their habitat. In fact, multiple studies have shown that sage grouse are attracted to allotments grazed by cattle. BLM’s proposed plan to improve sage-grouse habitat by eliminating and restricting grazing is counter-intuitive and will fail.
There’s still time to be heard by submitting comments regarding this plan to BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse DEIS, 1220 SW Third Ave., Portland, OR 97204, or by email to
Comments and suggestions will be accepted through Feb. 20. Please support our ranchers, community and sage grouse with sensible alternatives to this plan.
President, Baker County Livestock Association
Conservative ideas have proven their worth
Progressives like to brag that they are the party of ideas, but some excellent conservative ideas do exist.
In 1990, New York City was just one more crime-ridden big city like Chicago and Detroit where it wasn’t safe to go out at night by yourself. Desperate, New Yorkers elected a Republican as their mayor, Rudy Giuliani. Drawing on conservative crime-fighting theories, the new mayor declared that the city police would no longer ignore petty crime, and the police began data-crunching, deploying officers to where they would be put to good use. Crime rates soon began plummeting, and continued to do so throughout the eight years of Giuliani’s administration. His successor, Republican William Bloomberg, added stop-and-frisk, and crime and crime rates continued to decline for the next 12 years.
In 1990, New York City had 2,262 murders; in 2012, there were 414, an 83 percent drop. During the same period, rape was down 55 percent, robbery was down 79 percent and burglary was down 83 percent. Progressive critics of these new police procedures claimed racism; indeed, they angrily screamed “racism” right in Mayor Giuliani’s face. Those critics ignored the fact that the great majority of crime victims were minorities. In 2012 alone, 1,848 people, mostly minorities, are alive who would have been murder victims had the 1990 murder rate continued unchanged! Meanwhile, Chicago and Detroit are still unsafe.
Welfare reform was passed by a Republican Congress in 1996, and signed into law by President Clinton. Welfare benefits were henceforth time-limited, and work requirements were implemented. Progressive critics of the new law claimed that millions of people would become homeless, huddling on heating grates to keep warm. Instead, millions of people got jobs and off welfare, and have the satisfaction of providing for their own needs instead of being on the government dole.
Obamacare is being implemented with snafus, increased health insurance costs and broken promises. Medicare will be bankrupt in a decade. More and more cities are going bankrupt. Progressive politicians, however, claim nothing is basically wrong here, and refuse to make any changes in their pet programs. How about trying some more conservative ideas?