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Watered down wolf bill

As we expected, the Oregon Legislature has watered down a bill that would give landowners much more authority to kill wolves on their property.

The amended version of House Bill 3452 is a slight improvement over the current situation, but it’s not likely to benefit ranchers in Northeastern Oregon, where all of the state’s known wolf packs live and where all confirmed wolf attacks on livestock have happened.

The original version of the bill would have allowed landowners, on their property, to kill any wolf that is “reasonably believed by the person to have attacked or harassed, livestock or working dogs.”

That’s an attractive standard for ranchers, to be sure, but it’s too subjective to pass muster in the Democrat-controlled Capitol.

Besides which, that word “reasonably,” so beloved by lawyers, would likely lead to prolonged court battles that would more than offset any advantages the law might afford ranchers.

On the one hand, since wolves have proved that they will attack livestock in Oregon, a rancher could argue that any wolf he sees near livestock has at least “harassed” livestock, another less-than-concrete term.

On the other hand, were a rancher to shoot a wolf and then be unable to prove the animal had harassed livestock — offer up a calf with claw marks, for instance — odds are high that pro-wolf groups would complain despite the law.

The amended version attempts to strike a balance, albeit one which does little to help ranchers.

The main change from the current situation is this: A landowner who sees a wolf attacking livestock or working dogs could, if the bill becomes law, kill the attacking wolf without getting a permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

This isn’t likely.

Although ODFW has issued kill permits to many landowners in Wallowa County over the past several years, none has caught a wolf attacking livestock.

But as rare as such an episode might be, it makes more sense to allow the rancher to act at that instant to protect his animals than to require that he obtain a permit that he might never have occasion to use.


Letters to the Editor for April 26, 2013

I’m supporting Richard McKim for school board

The election for school board position 4 is upon us.  There are several candidates. I believe Richard McKim is the most outstanding candidate and deserves my vote and yours. Richard is highly qualified and comes from a family line of school board members.  Please mark your ballot for Richard McKim.

Virginia Kostol

Baker City

Two votes for Cassidy, McKim for school board

Kevin Cassidy and Richard McKim will get our votes for Baker School District 5J board of directors.

They each have a child in the Baker schools. They are very concerned with the quality of education for our students. They have no hidden agendas. We are very pleased that they will devote their time and energy to improve and enrich the education of our young people.

John and Frances Burgess

Baker City

U.S. action on climate change is essential

On April 10 the idea that “If the U.S. shows leadership (on climate change) other nations will follow” was scoffed at because the majority of the poor world will not be able to act and it is expensive. Apparently since big poor nations can’t act, we should dismiss the issue too. The idea that the United States should not spend money on solving a global issue we created is terribly myopic.

I offer one reason why U.S. leadership can make a difference. Publicly funded American research provides affordable and often life-saving tools the entire world enjoys routinely. In fact, publicly funded research and engineering projects are a hallmark of American prosperity. Examples include the Panama Canal, modern hydroelectric and nuclear electricity, the space program, the Internet, and the human genome project. These assets paid for by the American taxpayer, continue to pay dividends today the world over. Even the extraction of the very oil that causes climate change is subsidized! 

Public funding for renewable energy is an essential investment that already offers exportable technology poorer nations cannot replicate. Technological solutions researched by America will become cheaper and more enticing once the legwork has been done. We are still known as an innovation economy. There are riches to be made and a planet to be saved in this endeavor. In this ever-changing society, I find it odd that the technologies that threaten our long-term prosperity are the same technologies that we hold so dear.

When ecosystems can no longer provide the necessary water and air filtration, food and natural resources we are accustomed to, we will see economic collapse. I urge the reader to trust the science which has long been in. Energy and emission solutions are a responsibility that comes with the privilege to exhaust an entire planet’s worth of cheap energy in 200 years. This is not a political issue, but one of equity. We are right to be concerned about our children and grandchildren. But their economic problems will stem from ecological and environmental deficits, not simply monetary ones.

Eric Layton

Baker City


Blunders blemish media coverage of Boston

After watching, and reading, the journalistic blunders that blemished the otherwise commendable news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, I better understand why many people distrust reports which rely on anonymous sources.

It’s a whole lot easier to accept anonymity, it seems to me, when the nameless person is at least, you know, right.

But the anonymous sources were wrong when they told multiple media outlets, both print and electronic, that a suspect had been arrested last Wednesday, two days after the explosions that killed three people and injured more than 250.

We don’t as a rule use anonymous sources at the Herald.

This isn’t to say we never will.


No need for ban on tobacco

Sometimes good intentions don’t make good laws.

Such is the case with a proposed Baker City ordinance that would prohibit people from using tobacco products — including smokeless chewing tobacco — in city-owned parks and recreation areas, including the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway.

The City Council is considering the idea, which was suggested by Benjamin Foster, a student at Eastern Oregon University who’s also an intern for City Manager Mike Kee.

We don’t think there’s any compelling reason to impose such a restriction on an activity that’s already banned in most buildings except private homes.


Letters to the Editor for April 24, 2013

Rebuttal on background checks

I’m writing this because the editor of the Baker City Herald made a grievous mistake in his April 19 column: “Sad, perplexed watching Newtown’s survivors.” After saying he was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment he goes on to say that the right to keep and bear arms is not sacrosanct. I beg to differ.

A little information first. I’ve been writing to the local papers on the Second Amendment ever since Bill Clinton decided to go duck hunting. You see when a Democrat goes hunting or picks up a firearm you know as a gun owner you are in for it. John Kerry tried to show his love for guns on his wild goose chase and Mr. Obama was recently shown killing clay pigeons at Camp David.


We are far from powerless

As the nation sends it collective condolences to Boston, the city from which so much of America’s history derives, we’ve noticed that, besides the grief and the anger, there is a sense that such random attacks are beyond our ability to prevent.

Sadly, this is true.

No matter how robust our security, no matter how vigilant our citizens or dedicated and skillful our law enforcement officials, a certain number of the terrorists who are bent on killing the innocent will find a way.

Yet as terrible as the Boston Marathon bombings were, another tragedy happened just two days later that was both more deadly, but also one we might have had some control over.

The explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, Texas, killed at least 14 people.


Sad, perplexed watching Newtown’s survivors

By Jayson Jacoby

I felt a queer mix of emotions Wednesday as I watched relatives of the Newtown shooting massacre join President Obama to lament that the U.S. Senate had rejected a bill expanding background checks for gun sales.

I was sad, obviously.

It’s impossible to feel otherwise when I think of the tragedy these people endured so recently. I doubt anyone truly recovers from such a shock. The pain subsides, numbed by the inexorable and terrible passage of time, but this cuts both ways. 

Every year thickens the cushion against that initial, seemingly insurmountable grief. But each year also lacerates the old wounds with a series of milestones, of birthdays never celebrated, of graduations and weddings that will never happen.

I was also angry.

I understand that no one forced these people to become symbols of a divisive legislative debate, yet it seems to me that neither are these victims fully in control, as it were.

It’s a natural reaction, of course, for people who have suffered so much to try to spare others from a similar ordeal. I admire the Newtown survivors’ bravery and their commitment.

But it seems to me unnecessarily cruel that, just four months after they lost so much, these people should stand before the cameras and witness another defeat which in comparison means so little.

The implication, or so it seemed to me, is that the bill might have passed if only lawmakers could have brought the survivors to Washington, D.C., while their cheeks were still wet with tears.

“If we’d have gone to a bill like this immediately, boom,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who helped write the legislation which would expand background checks for gun sales to include online buys and transactions at gun shows.

I’m certain that neither Manchin nor any of the bill’s other supporters wanted to use grief to garner votes. There was a tingle of exploitation here but perhaps it could not have been avoided.

Anyway I don’t believe that grief, or anger, ought to override sober contemplation in creating laws.

That said, the third sense I had on Wednesday was surprise.

I was perplexed that just 54 of the 100 senators believe all gun sales should be treated the same. That was six fewer votes than was needed to pass the bill.

To be clear, I’m a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment. I find its wording admirably clear and its intent, as a result, equally obvious: U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to own guns.

But this right is not sacrosanct.

We have, for instance, as a society decided that people who commit certain felonies have forfeited their right to own a gun.

I think this is both a wise precaution, and a constitutionally sound one.

Even the National Rifle Association, which is, well, a trifle sensitive about matters related to gun ownership, doesn’t seem eager to give paroled murderers the run of their local gun shop.

Yet the organization, and nearly half of our senators, oppose the expansion of background checks, which is intended to make it more difficult for people who none of us wants to have a gun, to get one.

“Intended” is a key word, of course.

The bill the Senate turned down Wednesday is no panacea in our era of Newtown and Aurora.

Yet I refuse to concede that we are powerless. The notion that requiring background checks for all gun sales would foil some madman’s plans is statistically unlikely, of course, but it’s hardly implausible. If we prevented even one slaughter we would have reason to celebrate.

Moreover, I don’t consider background checks, whatever the sales venue, as an infringement.

A hassle, sure.

But that word, and in fact that concept, is conspicuously absent in the Second Amendment.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala, called the defeated background checks bill “the first step in the erosion of my rights under the Second Amendment.”

This “first step” conceit is a popular one, along with its alliterative cousin, the infamous “slippery slope.”

But where Sen. Shelby seems to envision a long ladder, and presumably the kind of steep one with tall steps you only find in old buildings, I see, in expanding background checks, a barely perceptible pimple atop the minor bump that already exists when you buy a gun in a store.

That’s because nothing in my background prevents me from buying any gun I take a liking to.

(Which I might well do. I have just a few long guns now, and one revolver, so there’s ample space in the gun safe my in-laws were kind enough to buy for me.)

And I’m not unique. The vast majority of American adults — surely the figure must exceed 99 percent — are equally unrestricted from buying and owning guns.

For all of us in that group, the bill the Senate rejected this week would mean nothing but maybe another form to fill out.

You have to do that just to get your mail stopped.

Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.


Letters to the Editor for April 17, 2013

The value of media attending executive sessions

The editorial that appeared in the April 12 issue, “Secrecy from Salem,” makes a reference to the presence of media members at executive sessions of public meetings — “who normally are allowed to attend executive sessions to gain valuable background for reporting...”

I believe this is not wholly accurate, and your readers should know just a little more.

A media member at such meetings may not share with other persons what they have heard, or report it.


Pull plug on water rights fee

The state of Oregon’s insatiable appetite for new sources of money might soon extend to charging a fee for documents which date, in some cases, to the Civil War.

Although “thirst” is more appropriate than “appetite” in the case of Senate Bill 217.

The bill, introduced by Gov. John Kitzhaber on behalf of the Oregon Water Resources Department, would impose a $100 yearly fee on each of the 85,000 water rights in the state. Each permit would be subject to the fee, although individual farms and ranches, many of whom have more than a dozen separate water rights, would pay a maximum of $1,000 per year.

According to the Water Resources Department, the new fee is needed because the department’s share of the state’s general fund has dropped.

The clear implication is that water rights holders should be paying more to the agency that oversees the distribution of water in Oregon.

Which sounds fair in a theoretical sense.

Except the actual connection between the state agency’s budget, and the administration of the approximately 3,700 water rights permits in Baker County, is in fact quite tenuous.


Revamp sidewalk program

Baker City’s sidewalk fee has made meaningful progress toward fixing the city’s dilapidated walkways, and at a modest price.

The fee, instituted in 2008, collects $1 per month from households, and $2 per month from businesses. This amounts to about $50,000 per year.

The city makes 75 percent of the money available to property owners to pay a portion of the cost to repair or replace sidewalks.


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