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Waylaid again by those garden catalogs

Along about the middle of December they begin barging in, mocking the snow and upsetting the tranquility of our winter household.

Garden catalogs.

These thin pamphlets, crammed with glossy color photos of plants that are almost obscenely healthy, can distract me for as long as an hour from more worthwhile pursuits, such as napping or watching football.

After even a brief bit of browsing I can become overwhelmed by the compulsion to go dig a hole and plant a hybrid poplar, or perhaps a paper birch. That such a task is impractical — even if I scraped away the snow the frozen ground would be no more receptive to a shovel blade than asphalt — seems not to matter.

The photographs alone, showing trees in full leaf against backdrops of blue sky, affect me much as a balmy afternoon in March does. I can feel the  warmth of sunshine bathing my neck, the soft grit of fecund soil clinging to my fingers.

But the writing is powerful, too, in spite of its flowery tone and over-reliance on adjectives and exclamation points.

My natural skepticism, which is usually quite keen when it comes to detecting, and dismissing, outlandish claims that come by mail, dissolves when I read about the clever tricks the horticulturists have been up to with their gene-splicing and grafting.

A good idea — but no veto power

We favor any reasonable effort to give Baker County officials, and their constituents, a louder voice in the discussion about how to manage the public lands that make up half of our county’s 2 million acres.

And so we were intrigued by the presentation that Nampa attorney Fred Kelly Grant made last week in Baker City.

Grant encourages county officials to write a “coordination plan.” (Baker County has not done so). Those plans lay out what’s important to the county — a steady supply of timber from national forests, for instance, or public land grazing permits for local ranchers.

Federal law requires the Forest Service and BLM to strive to manage public lands in a manner consistent with county plans.

Letter to the editor for January 22, 2009

Legislature needs to act on wolf plan

Somebody needs to remind Oregon’s Legislature that wolves have come to the state, and apparently they’re staying.

We understand that lawmakers have bigger problems to deal with — a budget shortfall that could exceed $2 billion over the next 2fi years, for instance.

But Oregon’s wolves are real, too. And the animals have proved, in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, that they’re not averse to snacking on calves and lambs.

Unfortunately, the Legislature has yet to make the changes in state law needed to ensure that provisions in Oregon’s wolf management plan that are vital to ranchers can take effect.

Letters to the editor for January 21, 2009

It’s soggy out, but the state’s sluggish

The budget news from Salem is bad, and getting worse.

But what worries us as much as the ever-increasing estimate of the state’s budget shortfall is what seems to be a reluctance among lawmakers and elected officials to make the hard choices that managers of private companies have had to make for months now.

That is, to lay off workers.

State officials say Oregon’s budget deficit, by the end of the fiscal year June 30, could total from $650 million to as much as $1 billion.

Yet according to his spokesperson, Gov. Ted Kulongoski will not try to trim the state’s 45,000-employee payroll.

Contrast the governor’s response with what’s been happening in the private sector in Oregon and nationwide.

Almost every day since late summer another company has announced that it was cutting hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of jobs.

Letter to the editor for January 20, 2009

Two boys from Baker

Barack Obama, as most of the world knows, took a historic oath today and became the 44th president of the United States.

Neither Bill Tebeau nor Bruce Klunder is anything close to as widely known and revered as is Obama.

Yet Tebeau and Klunder — Baker boys, both of them — each contributed something significant to the crusade for true equality in American, a quest for which President Obama’s inauguration is, in a sense, the culmination.

Tebeau, who is 83, graduated from Baker High School in 1943.

Tebeau wanted to be an engineer, so he went west, to Oregon State College (now University) in Corvallis.

He had been accepted to the school, which then, as now, was renowned for its engineering program.

Letters to the editor for January 19, 2009

Earning the money

For anyone who wondered why airline pilots make more money than most of us, the answer splashed down into the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey on Thursday afternoon.

The dilemma that confronted US Airways pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III is one few of us can comprehend.

Less than one minute after Sullenberger guided the Airbus A320 jet into the sky, with 154 passengers and crew members aboard, he radioed to LaGuardia Airport that the plane had struck a flock of birds and that both of the plane’s engines were disabled.

For a pilot, altitude is time. Sullenberger had very little of either.

And with both engines ailing, he also lacked options.

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