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Compromise needed

The decades-old disagreement over managing America’s public forests has not been fertile ground for compromises.

But occasionally such a chance comes along, and we despair when the rare opportunity seems to be slipping through our grasp.

That appears to be the case, though, with the federal government’s campaign to reduce the risk of summer wildfires by  logging and lighting prescribed fires in overcrowded forests.

What frustrates us is that the basic idea behind that campaign appeals not only to the Forest Service and the timber industry, but also to many environmental groups that have vehemently opposed other types of timber sales.

Groups such as Oregon Wild and the La Grande-based Hells Canyon Preservation Council agree with Forest Service officials that millions of acres of national forests in the West are sickly and vulnerable.

There’s general concurrence, too, on research that shows historic logging of the biggest, healthiest trees, combined with the exclusion of lightning-caused fires, is largely responsible for the problem.

The Bush Administration’s and Congress’ chief strategy for solving that problem was to ease federal environmental laws so the Forest Service can get the trees cut and the fires lit sooner.

Bass Pro Shops gift runs into a minor snag

Bass Pro Shops sent me a Christmas gift, which struck me as a pretty thoughtful gesture considering it’s been at least a year since I hooked a bass.

And I landed that smallmouth without the assistance of any of Bass Pro Shops’ quality products.

They didn’t pay me to write that.

Truth be told, I’ve never bought anything from the company. Not even a little bag of those black rubber worms. I’ve heard bass go for those worms almost every time. Although I suppose if you’re a famished bass there is only one time, unless you come across an angler who believes in catch-and-release. That’s the bad thing about being a fish — the likelihood that your last meal is fake.

Well, that and all the swimming.

Anyway I felt guilty as soon as I opened the envelope and read the letter from Bass Pro Shops announcing, and here I’m quoting: “We are pleased to enclose your 2009 Bass Pro Shops Media Discount Card for catalog or retail purchases.”

With all those capital letters I knew right off this was a heck of a lot better present than a Chia Pet.

Except maybe for Chia Scooby Doo.

Bass Pro Shops even spelled my name right, both on the letter’s salutation line and on the discount card (I mean Discount Card). That’s a feat rare enough that it qualifies as its own little stocking-stuffer.

Letter to the editor for December 19, 2008

No more topping off

Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission has decided you shouldn’t be able to have your car’s fuel tank “topped off” at any service station in the state.

We agree.

Topping off, though a common practice, is a wholly unnecessary one.

Oregon’s a big state, sure, but it’s hardly the Gobi Desert.

The longest fuel-less stretch on Oregon’s highway system is about 70 miles — well within the range of the most voracious gas guzzler with a tank that’s been filled but not topped off.

That extra half-gallon that the attendant can cram in after the pump’s automatic flow shuts off equates to at most an extra 25 miles or so.

Letter to the editor for December 17, 2008

Federal grant is money well spent

Government has a reputation for spending millions of dollars to try to solve some social problem, only to have the problem persist.

Or get worse.

Sometimes that reputation is deserved.

The government’s lackluster progress over several decades of combating poverty and drug abuse, for instance, lend credence to the criticisms of cynics.

But in some cases the government’s habit of doling out dollars actually achieves results more valuable than spawning a bureaucracy and giving politicians fodder for campaign speeches.

The $2.5 million that the federal government will give to Baker, Union and Wallowa counties over five years certainly isn’t going to waste so far.

That’s no Sunday drive

The four-team Greater Oregon League is hardly an ideal situation for athletics.

But it’s far better than the idea that a committee from the Oregon School Activities Association might propose.

“Far” is the most relevant word in this case.

The committee has discussed doubling the GOL to eight teams starting in the 2010-11 school year. The current contingent of Baker, La Grande, Mac-Hi and Ontario would be joined by four schools from Central Oregon: Crook County, LaPine, Madras and Sisters.

Except it seems silly to describe as “joined” two quartets of schools that are at least 210 miles apart.

Distance is why the committee’s proposal won’t work, and shouldn’t happen.

More specifically, adding thousands of miles to GOL teams’ travels each year would cost  schools thousands of dollars. At a time when many districts, including Baker, are trying to trim costs, those extra dollars aren’t readily available.

Letter to the editor for December 15, 2008

Oregon cleans up on poker, and other matters involving hands

I’ve been aware for some years that the government harbors what seems to me an unhealthy fascination with my life.

And with yours.

(I mention this only to avoid implying that there’s anything special about my life that has attracted the government’s attention. There isn’t. My exploits are, in fact, rather routine.)

Still, I was taken aback to learn that the government’s curiosity about our habits extends even to the proper care of our hands.

This has got me a little worried.

I haven’t analyzed my lathering technique in a while, for instance.

And I’m pretty sure I don’t scrub with anything like the violence necessary to dislodge every germ.

Letter to the editor for December 12, 2008

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