The deal announced last week that will at least temporarily keep the saws spinning in Grant County’s last lumber mill could help Baker County, too.
But not necessarily in a purely economic sense.
We certainly hope that the template unveiled for the Malheur National Forest, which is mostly in Grant County and a vital source of logs for Ochoco Lumber Co.’s Malheur Lumber mill in John Day, can be replicated on our local Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
But we doubt that would resurrect Baker County’s lumber industry, which crumbled when Ellingson Lumber Co. closed its Baker City mill in 1996.
Although the Forest Service has pledged to increase the amount of timber cut on the Malheur, and to maintain a minimum supply over the next several years, the amounts, were they matched or even slightly exceeded on the larger Wallowa-Whitman, probably aren’t sufficient to justify the multimillion-dollar investment to open a new mill.
That said, we’re intrigued by the Forest Service’s newfound commitment to dealing more aggressively with the problems plaguing significant swathes of the Malheur.
Those problems, which include forests with too many trees per acre, and in some places firs growing where ponderosa pines and tamaracks used to predominate, exist on the Wallowa-Whitman as well.
Such forests are vulnerable to insects and diseases, and to the destructive wildfires that so often follow.
The Forest Service has been whittling away at this challenge for the past 20 years or so. On both national forests (as well as the Umatilla, the third of the Blue Mountain forests), much of the logging that has happened during that period has involved thinning overcrowded forests or removing encroaching firs.
The main obstacle to this effort has not been legal obfuscation by environmental groups, but Congress’ failure to give the Forest Service the money it needs. Unlike historic timber sales, when Forest Service offers were comparatively flush with receipts from auctioning valuable old growth ponderosa pines, these modern “commercial thinning” projects often require significant subsidies of public dollars to pencil out.
Regional Forester Kent Connaughton acknowledged as much in a recent letter he wrote to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Connaughton noted that although the Forest Service’s goals for the Malheur in 2015 include working on 30,000 acres, yielding 75 million board-feet of timber, the agency will need to allocate almost $4 million.
That money’s not in the bank.
The Forest Service has set aside $2.5 million for the Malheur, though.
That’s a good start.
If that money becomes, in effect, the bucketful that primes the federal pump, then public forests across the Blue Mountains and the thousands of people who use them every year, stand to benefit as their favorite places are less likely to burn.
Good health care ideas that have gone nowhere
Back in 2008, a number of good ideas were circulating designed to improve our health care system. One of these was to encourage more people to set up Health Maintenance Accounts. The idea is to have people squirrel away money to be used for their own health care down the road.
Another suggestion was to encourage people to purchase their own individual health care insurance. By owning their own policy, they would take it with them from job to job, as well as continue coverage between jobs. Currently, individual policies do not get the same tax break as those provided by employers, so the idea was to give individual policies the same tax break.
Another proposal was to allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines, something that currently is not legal. By broadening the market for health insurance policies, it becomes easier for individuals to find the policy that best fits their situation.
Note that each of these proposals allows each of us more choice in arranging for our health care insurance.
But none of these proposals were enacted into law. Instead, we got Obamacare. Under this plan, the government makes all of our health care decisions for us. We are told what coverage we will have. A government board decides which medical procedures will be used. Our employer must furnish us the government approved health care policy, or else we must purchase it ourselves.
Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the next decade, Obamacare will add another trillion dollars to the national debt, as well as permanently extinguishing 800,000 jobs.
Polls indicate that a majority of Americans don’t like Obamacare; what’s more, they want it repealed. But the president has decided that it is his signature achievement, and has vowed to veto any Obamacare repeal measure. Senate Democrats do not even allow repeal measures to come up for a vote.
As long as the Democrats control the White House and the Senate, we are stuck with Obamacare, whether we like it or not. Something to think about when you cast your vote in November.
Lots of work went into Community Connection sale
Thank you Ramona and John Creighton for your leadership and many hours of hard work in organizing and performing the garage sale for the Seniors. Also many thanks to the numerous volunteers who so graciously labored in helping to prepare and administer the sale. A special thanks to the inmate crew that moved the Bohn and Leuenberger-Coughlin donations to the sale site.
Major donors of merchandise was the family of Mary and John Bohn and the law firm of Coughlin, Leuenberger. Also thank you to the many contributors who graciously helped make our sale a big success. We also thank the many customers who purchased the merchandise that was donated.
Due to funding shortfalls from our funding sources, supplementing our meal site with local funding becomes a necessity. All funds from the sale are dedicated to the Community Connection of Baker County meal site.
We invited all seniors to come join us at Baker County Community Connection meal site, 2810 Cedar St.
Payton is president of Baker County Seniors Citizens Inc.
You might have noticed an unfamiliar sound in your home this week.
A sort of background hum, soft but consistent.
Your furnace, which has had quite a nice vacation,was awakened from its summer slumber by the first chilly mornings of impending autumn.
For many people, the welcome warmth of air exhaling from grates is tempered by the knowledge that heat isn’t cheap.
But for local residents who rely on natural gas to ward off winter’s chill, it is at least cheaper.
Or soon will be, anyway.
Cascade Natural Gas, which has several hundred customers in Baker City, has filed a request with the Oregon Public Utility Commission (PUC) to trim its rates by 17.42 percent for residential customers. Cascade proposes cuts of 20 percent to 22 percent for commercial and other customer groups.
The PUC, we’re confident in saying, won’t say no when it considers Cascade’s application in late October.
(The agency is more inclined to balk at requests to increase rates.)
The reduced rates will take effect Nov. 1.
We’re not talking about a windfall, of course.
Cascade estimates that a typical residential customer will save about 10 bucks a month.
Still and all, with gasoline pushing $4 a gallon, and food prices expected to rise substantially due to the Midwest drought, knowing that the next cold snap won’t siphon quite so much from your budget is not cold comfort.
Obama film was revealing and, potentially, scary
Last week, I had the experience of watching “2016.” I had had mixed expectations before I went, thinking there would be a certain amount of Obama- or Democrat-bashing. There was neither. Instead, I saw a portrayal of the ascent of a young politician with limited government experience and no business background to the highest office in the land. The purpose of the documentary was to find out what motivates this young man, Barack Hussein Obama, and I think it succeeded.
If the producers of this film were accurate in their theorizations, I just witnessed the scariest movie of my life! Before the film moves to other venues, you owe it to yourselves to spend a little time in a theater, currently the Eltrym in Baker City, and watch it.
Robert L. Heriza
Remembering a great hike, and a better friend
In reading your wonderful article in the Herald (Sept. 7) about your Eagle Cap Wilderness hike, I relived a four-day trip in 1977 — up Main Eagle, down Trail Creek to Minam River, over the pass to the Lakes Basin, Glacier Lake, Frazier Lake, up Polaris Pass, and down East Fork Wallowa to Wallowa Lake — which I took with former Baker County Librarian Ron Walrod and Frey, his big Malamute dog. Frey carried his own food.
Ron was one of the healthiest and most fit persons I have ever known. He was a vegetarian long before it became common. And every day of the week, he ran seven miles behind his dogsled (on wheels) pulled by his team of huskies and Frey. He introduced me to long-distance running and competing together in 10Ks and half-marathons. In the winter we cross-country skied high into the Elkhorns and camped on snow when the temperature was as low as 5 degrees.
Your trek over Polaris Pass brought back the special memory of our climb out of Frazier Lake, up the steep west side of Polaris Pass, and over to Aneroid Lake. By the time we reached the top of the pass, after hiking switchback after switchback up 3,000 vertical feet of sharp scree, Ron was suffering silently from huge blisters on both heals and Frey’s paws were bleeding.
Ron was very tough with a high tolerance for pain. When we reached Anaroid Lake the air temperature was a rare 80 degrees. Nevertheless, I dared do no more than soak my aching feet in the still-frigid water. Ron stripped down and swam for about 20 minutes.
Ron’s healthy living did not save him from a cancerous brain tumor that surgery was only able to partially remove. The county’s popular librarian died in 1982 at age 33.
Never mind what President Obama wants to do to your tax bill.
The man is up to something vastly more insidious than squandering your nest egg.
He has ruined thousands of little kids’ birthday parties across our fair land this summer.
And who knows what’ll happen with Halloween and Christmas coming up.
Kids are being turned into social pariahs because their soirees lack the necessary and expected accoutrements.
The culprit in this scandal is the federal government.
And we know who’s in charge of that.
Ranch owners say thanks for all who fought fire
The family of Justus Ranch Inc. would like to thank our neighbors, friends, and the agencies that assisted with the containment of the Sardine Creek fire in such a quick manner on Aug. 19. The fire could have easily spread to destroy thousands more acres of rangeland as well as livestock on neighboring properties. Friends and neighbors assisted each other by checking on the status of livestock in the area, assisting to removing livestock in immediate danger, and by bringing heavy equipment to assist with containing the fire.
We also appreciate the public agencies that assisted the private property owners by working side-by-side to contain this fire. While some property owners realized more loss than others, it is a blessing that no one was injured and there were no livestock lost due to this fire.
B. Kent Justus
Road closure fight is for the future of our children
Well, that same 5-year-old boy that got me and my two great-grandchildren, ages 12 and 13, tossed into the “Access For All Jail Wagon” during the Miners Jubilee parade got us thrown into it again for the Baker County Fair/Labor Day parade in Halfway Sept. 3. The first time he was apprehended on suspicion he was picking mushrooms without a Forest Service permit. This time he was caught red-handed on the wrong side of a Forest Service road berm on a motorized tricycle.
This is a joke, friends. But the road closures that face us are not.
The Jail Wagon represents the freedom we stand to lose with more road closures. There were seven children in the wagon with me, mine were the oldest. It is the future of these little people we must fight for. They deserve to inherit the freedom I have had to drive around the forest any time I want to, just enjoying everything I see.
They should not be forced to apply for a permit to drive a specific road, a specified measured distance, in a particular type or model of vehicle, on one particular day, or locked out altogether because the road has been obliterated.
When I first began working for the Forest Service in 1956, Ranger Harold Dahl on the Union District told me and other employees at Lily White: “Our national forests belong to everyone. Our primary purpose is to manage timber and protect the rights of other forest users.”
I don’t believe I know any Forest Service people who agree with Dahl any more.
The present uprising over road closures has led some people to believe that no roads have ever been closed. This is not true.
I have many friends that have been complaining that road closures made in the past have already closed them out of reach of favorite huckleberry patches and in many cases has stopped people from hunting elk.
Mining operations have been targeted for the worst abuse.
This is a case of losing so many roads we have had enough of it.
Turns out we needn’t have fretted about Baker City residents lacking interest in serving their community.
When the deadline to file as a City Council candidate passed on Aug. 27, the list of names was lengthy — gratifyingly so.
Nine people are vying for the four seats on the seven-member council that will be filled in the Nov. 6 election.
That number adds an element of competition to the election that would be absent were there, say, just four candidates. And competition, besides giving voters a true choice, tends to lead to more robust debates about which issues the City Council should concentrate on over the next few years.
The roster of candidates includes Milo Pope, one of the two incumbents eligible to run for re-election.
Incumbents Sam Bass and Beverly Calder are precluded from running due to the term limits clause in the city charter.
The fourth incumbent, Aletha Bonebrake, is eligible but she declined to run due to time commitments with her work as a library consultant.
The nine candidates offer voters a variety of choices.
There are, in addition to the incumbent, Pope, a pair of former Baker City Council members in Richard Langrell and Terry Schumacher.
Kyle Knight is a current member of the Baker School Board, and Mike Downing has served as an pro tem Justice of the Peace for Baker Justice Court.
Jack Turner is the former publisher of the Baker City Herald. Kimberley Mosier is a former deputy district attorney in Baker County. Barbara Johnson is a member of the group Concerned Citizens of Baker City, which successfully lobbied the City Council to pass a resolution supporting the overturning of the Citizens United case regarding political campaign contributions. R. Mack Augenfeld is a retired businessman who has a master’s degree from Fordham University.
An intriguing group, to be sure.
We expect to learn more about the candidates’ ideas for the city’s future over the next several weeks, including at the American Association of University Women-sponsored candidates forum set for Oct. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Baker High School Commons, 2500 E St.
Information about the candidates is available on the city’s website, www.bakercity.com, and the Herald will publish a voters guide next month.
School board recall is a vindictive, divisive waste
A statewide school assessment has designated Baker School District 5J as one of the top districts in Oregon. Brooklyn and Haines schools were among 27 high poverty schools to be designed as models for others to follow. Baker High School, South Baker School and Baker Middle School have been rated above standard. (School information from the Aug. 24 Baker City Herald.)
We should be very proud of our schools and of the administration that has worked so hard to make this possible.
So, why then is there a recall of the school board chairman and another member? It absolutely makes no sense. They have done their jobs well. We should be praising the administration for our quality schools. This recall is vindictive, divisive, a total waste of money and time. Vote no.
The flier that recently arrived in local mailboxes, bearing the headline “Meet your 5J School Board members,” probably confused more than a few recipients.
It had us a bit perplexed, at least initially.
Maybe it was the drawing of an archetypal school, complete with a belfry, that led us to believe the document was an official publication of the Baker School District.
The pamphlet certainly resembled, and more than superficially, other correspondence the district has mailed to its patrons in recent years.
Turns out we were mistaken.
School Board Chair Lynne Burroughs, who along with board member Mark Henderson is featured in the flier (don’t be misled by that “meet your board members” — you only really meet two of the five), said she produced and paid for the publication.
Burroughs told the Herald that her three sons donated $2,000 for the project.
Trouble is, nothing in the pamphlet suggests that it was created completely independent of the school district.
It would be quite reasonable, in fact, for a patron to assume that either tax dollars, or school district employees’ time, or publicly owned equipment, or all three, were used to produce the flier.
A simple explanatory paragraph noting that the district was not involved in the publication, and that the opinions expressed were those of Burroughs and Henderson and not the board as a whole or the school district, would have answered those questions — indeed, would have largely prevented them from being asked.
The absence of such an explanation is unfortunate because some of the content in the pamphlet should not be associated, even mistakenly, with a public school district.
Burroughs, for instance, contends that board member Kyle Knight, whose censuring by the board this spring prompted the current campaign to try to recall Burroughs and Henderson, has broken state labor and ethics laws, and violated no fewer than four amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Were this cavalcade of claims completely true, we would think Knight would be facing more serious consequences than his current censure status.
Burroughs and Henderson both denied to the Herald that the pamphlet’s purpose is to convince voters not to back the recall campaign.
Burroughs said her goal was to explain why she supported the censure of Knight.
Henderson said he was responding to questions from patrons about what his goals are for the district.
We don’t doubt the veracity of either statement.
But it’s silly for the two to argue that the flier has nothing to do with the recall.
In the second paragraph of Burroughs’ statement she notes that she is “enduring a second attack by Kyle Knight to recall me...”
Henderson writes: “Quit playing politics” and urges patrons to “consider carefully the effect your signature and vote may have...”
The “signature” in question obviously refers to the petition sheets being circulated by proponents seeking to put a recall on the ballot.
We have yet to receive a satisfactory answer from the Oregon Elections Divisions about whether Burroughs or Henderson needs to form a political committee and keep track of monetary donations and expenditures related to the flier.
But even if such filings aren’t legally required, the pair have an obligation to their constituents to explain explicitly when they are acting as individual board members — which of course is their right — and when they are representing not only themselves but the school board, and district, as well.
By Jim Martin
The Forest Service is happy now, they have lots of fires. Let’s look at their policy and laws and see why they are so pleased with fire and at the same time uncover the reason they want to shut down the roads and deny the people access to the forests.
“Fuel load” is their term for dead, dying trees, brush and combustible litter that greatly accelerates and intensifies a forest fire. They used to have programs to reduce fuel load, and local wood cutters played a large part. Most programs were cut and severe restrictions were implemented over the years limiting the wood cutters’ ability to remove dead wood. There are way too many restrictions to list but here are a fewthat show their intent.
Some areas, so thick with dead trees and good wood, that are impossible to walk through have been posted “No Woodcutting — Old Growth Forest.” Each year it gets worse, just waiting for a spark.
Wood cutting is prohibited Dec. 1 through April 30. Why? Because our pickups caused erosion? Yet some logging contracts call for snow to prevent damage to soil and small trees.
Whyw is it illegal to cut dead, down or standing, ponderosa pine? It is a most volatile wood and makes great forest fires. There are tons of it out there. What good is it to the woodpecker when it all burns?
Look at the restrictions on cutting down snags. Yet they are the first thing cut on the fire line to protect workers and prevent flying burning embers. Remember, all of these restrictions carry severe penalties and fines.
There are pages of laws restricting anyone wanting to remove dead wood from the forest. Any thinking person can only conclude that the U. S. Forest Service does not want the fuel load reduced on the forest. And that is why they want to close thousands of miles of roads. It prevents the removal of dead wood. Each yearthe fuel load gets deeper and inevitably it will burn. A few big fires each year throughout the West is what they want.
Look at all the dollars they can demand from Congress at their budget hearings. All those hundreds of homes and thousands of acres of forest burned this summer will reap them millions. That means more and bigger offices, higher wages, more planes and equipment, more people to boss and more bosses. Plus more armed wood cops to force their will on the people.
Why can’t this road closure issue be put on the ballot this fall and let, “We the People” voice our desires, instead of some bureaucratic arm of the federal government?
I agree with Mike Ragsdale, we cannot let them shut down one mile, not even an inch of our roads. Let’s demand that they reopen closed roads so the fuel load can be reduced. Let’s get back to preventing fire, instead of fomenting it.
Also, let’s elect people that will reverse the insane policies of our government.
Jim Martin of Baker City is a retired Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee.