Six years have passed since Wallowa-Whitman National Forest officials announced they were planning to ban motor vehicles on some forest roads.
And for almost the whole of that time, officials have urged forest users who have an interest in the Travel Management Plan (TMP) to be as specific as possible in commenting on the proposal.
Some critics of the TMP have been reluctant to do so, citing the reasonable concern that to list the roads they want to remain open is tantamount to sacrificing all the other roads when, in truth, they don’t want motor vehicles prohibited on any road where such vehicles can go now.
In 2007, more than 6,000 people signed a petition opposed to any road closures.
No doubt that remains a popular idea among local residents.
But it’s also clear, thanks to the Wallowa-Whitman’s recent release of a detailed study of written comments about the TMP that the forest received last spring, that many people who oppose road closures in general also heeded the advice to be specific in advocating for their position.
People who support restrictions on motor vehicles, by contrast, were, with relatively few exceptions, content to sign one of two form letters, both of which read rather like a press release from an environmental group.
Those two letters accounted for 76 percent of the 3,340 comments the Wallowa-Whitman received between March 16, 2012, when a version of the TMP was released to the public, and June 14, 2012.
That TMP, which would have banned motor vehicles from more than 3,000 miles of roads — roughly half the mileage open now — was withdrawn a month after it was unveiled.
Letters from opponents of the TMP, though small in numbers compared with proponents’ form letters, were rich both in passion for the topic and in detailed knowledge about the role roads play in the public’s use of the Wallowa-Whitman.
TMP opponents wrote about gathering firewood, picking huckleberries, exploring on ATVs, hunting with elderly companions who can no longer hike long distances over rough terrain but still like to go after a buck.
To put it simply, these letters constitute perhaps the most vivid description we’re likely to ever read about how this 2-million-acre swath of public property is actually used by the people who go there most often.
Of course the Wallowa-Whitman is not their exclusive domain. Public land belongs to every American. We’re not suggesting that a form letter advocating for road closures, signed by someone who’s never visited the Wallowa-Whitman, should be ignored.
Still and all, we hope forest officials, as they work on a new version of the TMP over the next few years, understand that a proposal which might seem like a reasonable compromise, based on road mileages and percentages laid out in a chart, doesn’t necessarily address how people are actually using the forest.
Forest officials have said repeatedly over the years that they want people to submit specific comments about the TMP. The people who worry about the effects of restrictions on motor vehicle access have done precisely that. The next TMP won’t fully satisfy all of those people, but it should at least show that forest officials were as diligent in reading the comments as forest users were in writing them.
Benghazi failure leaves black mark on U.S. leadership
Currently the news on the disaster at Benghazi is mostly involved with chronic windbags arguing about what caused this disaster. The blame shifts from an anti-Muslim mob about a movie to an organized terrorist group. This has involved a great deal of rhetoric but fails to answer a key question in my mind. What was done to save these people at the embassy?
It was a no-brainer. Something would have to be done very quickly but it appears to me that nothing was ever done. Why not? One leader turned off the TV, went to bed and left town the next day. Anther important leader did the same but left the country the next day. The fact is that help was nearby but no one ordered them to help.
The US had forces on two bases that were one hour away from Benghazi by air. What could have been done? Fighters should have been standing by ready in such a volatile area. Jet fighters could have been scrambled and sent to Benghazi at top speed. They could have been ordered to begin harassing the threatening mob at low level, even producing some sonic booms, and looking for targets of opportunity. I believe such action could very well have slowed the mob and even could have turned them away long enough for more air support to arrive and even for some troops to arrive by air.
To have done nothing is completely inexcusable and constitutes a huge black mark on American leadership and their leadership ability.
City should use sidewalk fees for ... sidewalks
In regards to the question of the Baker City sidewalk fees: As a homeowner and resident I do not mind the small amount paid. After walking around town, it is most apparent that the sidewalks in general very much need de-weeding and repair. Please use the sidewalk maintenance fees for that purpose. It is important both for safety and appearance.
We had a great time at Regional Theatre music revue
Wow! The “Here’s To Broadway” musical revue we experienced on Friday was a real treat. The Eastern Oregon Regional Theatre performance was heartwarming and authentic. The new mini auditorium, now upstairs in Basche-Sage Place, is still a delicious, up close and personal experience. A big thank you to all involved. Well done! We had a blast and went away with a song in our hearts and on our lips!
Jack and Susan Hatfield
Travel Plan is done; but a bigger forest plan still coming
The Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has become a red herring. In reality the plan is dead in the water. Unlawful. It’d be on the ground right now if it had been within the law to carry out such a plan. As proposed the plan violated private property rights and constitutional law. Violated county law too, not that the commissioners respected local law and instead signed a cooperative agreement limiting local government involvement to that of a secondary agency working under the lead agency Forest Service. Red herring.
Still the TMP gains all kinds of media coverage and ongoing attention. All this hullabaloo while the granddaddy of federal forest management plans, the Blue Mountain Forest Plan revision, plugs along under the radar. The TMP is old news other than one question and that is an accounting. How much has the agency spent on the TMP in the Wallowa-Whitman? It’s my opinion that the Forest Service threw the TMP out first to see where the agency would run into problems in the travel/access portion of the new forest plan revision. The agency experts had to know that whatever TMP it came up with had to tier to the guiding forest plan, in this case the 1990 Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan. Anyone familiar with the way the TMP came out can see that the Forest Service’s preferred plan did not tier to the user-friendly 1990 Forest Plan and in fact proposed a new “closed unless designated open policy,” which in effect would have enacted a blanket closure of the forest roads with a process of designating open roads to follow. Unlawful.
It’s important to follow the revision of the new Blue Mountain Forest Plan and to ask county commissioners, Forest Service officials, and the newspaper to start sharing the progress on the plan. One more thing to remember: Your county commissioners signed another cooperative agreement for the Blue Mountain Forest Plan Revision along with 10 other Blue Mountain region counties, which combines all 11 counties into one subordinate cooperating agency working under the lead agency Forest Service.
Teens’ ‘Fugitive’ game that got out of hand
On Saturday, May 11, at about 8:45 p.m., my property was overrun by what I believe were teenagers. A couple of vehicles were involved, but the intruders were on foot.
I first noticed them in the street in front my home ... and then I observed them running along the property perimeter toward by backyard. Finally they jumped the front fence to access my backyard.
At least five of them ran around in my backyard until they finally climbed the 6-foot wooden fence and hightailed it out of there.
I called the Baker City Police. All in all, it was a very unsettling experience and both the front and back fences sustained damage. Had my garden been planted already or my flower beds full of young plants — these intruders would have surely trampled them into oblivion. As it turned out, the blooming perennials were pretty badly trampled.
Since May 11, I have learned that this event is a game called “Fugitive” and apparently, according to the police, it happens every year. On the surface, it sounds like a really fun game — except for the criminal mischief resulting in property damage, trespassing, and the involuntary adrenalin rush — all of which occurred without provocation from my perspective.
So here I am now ... left with the property damage. My understanding is that this game is not supposed to include trespassing or damaging somebody’s property. I think that maybe the participants found themselves so caught up in the whole thing, no pun intended, that they became intrusive without really meaning to be intrusive. I forgive them the scare and the damage so long as it doesn’t happen again.
That being said, I wish our community could find a way to safely support this activity ... a way in which the participants could have fun but not damage property or otherwise frighten anybody. I remember what it was like to be a kid, although it was several decades ago. Had I known about the game, I probably would have enjoyed it myself.
Obamacare: Propping up the paper industry all by itself
When Liberals want to blacken the reputation of opponents, they often use the Tea Party as their tar brush. We’ve seen that here recently. But their “tea party” is a made-up strawman and bears little resemblance to the actual group.
It’s easy to see why the Tea Party is liberals’ favorite boogie man. It developed spontaneously in reaction to the excesses of the ultraliberal Congress of 2009-2010. First there was the hugely expensive stimulus act, which turned out to be hugely ineffective in its stated purpose: reversing the rising levels of unemployment. Our great-grandkids will still be paying for that fiasco. A year later, Obamacare was rammed through Congress on a strict party line vote, despite the opposition of a majority of Americans. Three years later, a majority still favors Obamacare’s repeal.
For a while, liberals were holding up the Occupy Wall Street movement as the Left’s counterpart to the Tea Party. But most Americans felt far more comfortable with the tactics and goals of the latter group. At Tea Party rallies, a well-behaved group listened attentively to their speaker, then quietly dispersed taking their own trash with them. The Occupy folks turned public parks into trash filled havens for drugs and crime, and routinely got into violent confrontations with the police. They railed against Wall Street with a childish “Life ain’t fair!” but their biggest demand seemed to be that the government should pay for their college educations.
President Obama has railed against Wall Street right along with them. However, Wall Street didn’t seem to mind the president’s seeming apostasy, and donated heavily to his re-election campaign. After all, he has staffed his administration with ex-Wall Street executives. He takes tax money collected from waitresses, plumbers and retired grandparents and uses it to shore up failed Wall Street institutions.
So take heart, you local folks who were branded as members of the Tea Party. Considering where the accusation comes from, it is a badge of honor, whether or not the label actually fits you. It makes you one of the good guys.
Local singers, musicians put on a great performance
We recently attended the Baker Community Choir spring concert and wanted to acknowledge them with a note of praise and appreciation.
Their performance was excellent, and the theme of patriotic songs was very inspirational, especially after the Boston tragedy.
It was also a pleasure to enjoy the Baker Community Orchestra’s performance. We missed the South Baker Children’s Choir, but heard they too did a great job.
We thank all the talented singers and musicians who share their many talents with us at these concerts.
Mark and Patty Bogart
Winners enjoyed the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest
Meranda and I would like to thank the Baker City Herald, Bella and Earth & Vine for sponsoring the Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest. We had a great time looking at the pictures and voting for other look-alikes. Thank you Bella and Earth & Vine for the wonderful gift certificates, we look forward to visiting your establishments soon. I hope you will consider sponsoring a Father-Son Look Alike Contest for Father’s Day.
Shelly and Meranda Christensen
Shelly and her daughter, Meranda, were the winners in the Herald’s Mother-Daughter Look Alike Contest earlier this month.
An English traveler fondly remembers Pearl Jones
It is this time of year I remember a friend I met 20 years ago this week. One name I know yours readers will know, Pearl Jones. I spent six weeks in America following the OregonTrail. When I arrived in Baker City, Pearl, knowing I was traveling alone, tucked me under her wing and showed me around, and I met many of her friends and family. After that Pearl and I kept in touch. And when she visited England we met up. Her family let me know about her death several years ago.
I still remember with fondness Baker City, its people and most of all Pearl Jones. My regards to you all.
Community helps Mayce Collard’s memory live on
We wish to thank our community for surrounding the fifth-annual Mayce Day-DRINK PINK event with support for the J. Mayce Memorial Scholarship fund. With a team effort of the Collard family, BHS Learning Center’s Bulldog Blender, volunteers and you, we have been able to financially award numerous recipients who personify many of Mayce’s best qualities: a positive attitude, volunteer experience and acceptance of others.
February 2007 was a devastating time for the Collard family, when Mayce Collard, an extraordinary young woman, was taken from us at age 16, all too soon. This has changed the Collards’ lives forever, but I personally know the outreach from our community has been and continues to be such a help.
Mayce Day-DRINK PINK is a day of hustle and bustle with the making of more than 200 drinks, and numerous volunteers, including the Collards, driving around town delivering cups and cups of blended drinks all topped off with special Mayce Day hot pink straws (thank you, Sorbenots!). In the midst of the craziness there never fails to be a moment of reflection of how powerful this day is. Realizing each and every drink was ordered with Mayce Collard crossing their mind. She lives on in us. It is a blessing to live in such a wonderful place.
With gratitude on behalf of the Collard family.
By Jayson Jacoby
Baker City Herald Editor
From 12,000 miles up in space — a place I’ve never actually visited except in a figurative sense — I can plot my course with ease and precision across a goodly portion of Baker County.
On the ground, though, I get fouled up after the first intersection.
Give a bunch of brainiacs millions of dollars and they can toss satellites and cameras and other cool stuff into orbit.
What they can’t do is iron out Baker County’s topography, which is as rumpled as Charlie Sheen’s shirt after a hard weekend.
Although the two things, so far as I know, aren’t otherwise alike. I doubt Charlie ever smells strongly of sagebrush, for instance.
The risk in exploring the nearly tree-free hinterlands along the divide between the Powder and Burnt rivers east of Baker City, an area that includes a section of the Oregon Trail, isn’t that you’ll get lost.
The scarcity of trees, and the expansive views it affords, makes this unlikely except perhaps in a pea soup fog or a blizzard.
What I’m talking about is the navigational purgatory in which you never seem to get where you’re trying to go because there’s always a ridge or a knob or a draw between you and where you want to be.
It’s the place where you don’t trust the roads, which veer about in an unpredictable, sometimes unfathomable, way.
This wasn’t such a problem, years ago.
You figured on taking a lot of wrong turns, except you didn’t think of them as “wrong,” exactly, because even if you brought a map you knew better than to rely on it.
But these days we have GPS satellites, which follow us around like a crew of attentive butlers (complete with a snooty British accent, on some models.)
Moreover, we have Google Earth.
And in part because its photographs were taken from the middling height of a few hundred miles — much closer than the GPS satellites — the detail, as anyone knows who has sampled this program, is stunning.
Especially out on the Powder-Burnt Divide, where only an occasional juniper interferes with the orbiting cameras.
Take a tour of the area on Google Earth and you’ll see that the roads, many of which consist only of a pair of tire-width lines through the sagebrush and grass, show up as distinctly as a six-lane freeway.
Even fence lines, which involve considerable pounding but little in the way of excavation, are pretty easy to pick out.
The result of which is that it’s easy to convince yourself, after taking the interstellar bird’s eye view from Google Earth, that driving from one place to another is as simple as making it through the sort of maze they print on the side of a McDonald’s Happy Meal box, the sort any competent first-grader can finish without having to go back even once.
All you have to do is stay on this tan squiggle and you’ll be fine.
It was with this sense of confidence that I set out on a recent Sunday with my father-in-law, Howard Britton.
Last spring we drove from near Pritchard Creek west to the White Swan mine and then across Virtue Flat to Highway 86 near the Interpretive Center.
My goal that day was to stay on a road that I believed, after an extended study of Google Earth, stayed near the spine of the divide.
I still think it might.
But I failed to find the right way last year.
This year I failed again, except in a different place, or, rather, places.
We were going along well for a few miles. Each of my navigational aides — GPS, paper map, seemingly clear memory of the Google Earth view — was in agreement. But then we came onto a confounding boundary where several fence gates convened. We tried a different route, which led us to a windmill I was certain I had been to before, until it became obvious that I hadn’t.
Eventually we made it back to the “main” road — as I said, you have to work awfully hard to actually get lost in that country.
Still and all, I was, and still am, a trifle dismayed that a seemingly straightforward task devolved so quickly.
I’m no John Fremont, but neither has my inner compass ever let me down so completely that I had to spend a night hunkered under a tree, munching on pine needles and wondering how awful my own urine would actually taste.
I did gain a newfound respect, though, for those pioneers who came this way more than a century and a half ago.
Their maps, if they had any, were crude. Their version of Google Earth was to climb the tallest tree nearby, which along much of the route wasn’t very tall at all.
Yet they crossed most of a continent by a route that survives yet.
In fact the section of the Oregon Trail we followed must be unusual in that none of it has been paved over or erased by city or farm.
Someone with a more educated eye than mine could, I’m sure, still detect in places the rut of the wagon wheel from that of the heifer.
Probably get more use out of Google Earth, too.
Jayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.
Baker City Herald Editorial Board
A sense of impending financial crisis pervaded Baker City Hall for a few evenings this week but fortunately the specter of laying off police officers and firefighters was short-lived.
The debate among the city’s budget board was, in the main, a healthy one.
It served to remind city officials — though we hope no such reminder was truly necessary — that the economic outlook, though improving, is far from rosy.
And that uncertainty needs to be reflected in the labor contracts city administrators are negotiating with the three unions that represent most city employees.
Each of those unions has a five-year contract that expires June 30.
That’s an unusually long period but we supported the deals when they were approved in 2008 because the duration allowed the city to accurately forecast its personnel costs — which make up about 70 percent of spending — for five years.
Those contracts seem especially generous today in part because they took effect just months before the economy started its historic plunge.
Police received a 3-percent raise for each of the five years.
Firefighters got 4 percent the first year and 3 percent each of the remaining four years.
Members of the third union, which represents mainly public works employees, received between 2 percent and 4 percent for each of the five years (the contract stipulated annual raises based on the federal Consumer Price Index, which ranged from -0.4 percent to 3.8 percent during the contract period, but the amount could not be less than 2 percent nor more than 4 percent).
Many of the local residents whose property taxes go to City Hall didn’t get any raises during that period. Some lost their jobs.
We commend city officials for being responsible in budgeting; the city is fortunate, and somewhat unusual these days, in that it doesn’t need to lay off employees to balance its budget.
But the budget board members who this week critiqued the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year were right to point out that the city can’t maintain its current enviable financial position and still approve lavish, long-term contracts.
It’s far better — and wiser — to acknowledge this now. Financial challenges, unlike wine, almost never improve when they’re stored away and forgotten for a while.
President Obama tramples on the Bill of Rights
Since the editor of the Herald is a journalist, it is understandable that in his commentary (“Obama’s Bad Week A Cornucopia For His Critics”) he ranks the Justice Department seizure of phone records from the Associated Press as a more serious offense than the IRS “leaking” information of political value to the Presidents political party. Let us not forget, however, that these are but two of a long series of abuses by the current administration. In “Fast and Furious” the so-called Justice Department violated federal firearms laws by funneling weapons into Mexico. The failure to send needed and requested help to U.S. citizens under attack in Benghazi must rank as one of the most cowardly acts of any administration in our history.
There is one common thread through the many unconscionable actions this administration is responsible for. That is a profound disregard for the Constitution, a document Obama himself has clearly voiced objection to on more than one occasion. et it is a document he swore to uphold and defend. His taking that oath, and then not doing as he promised is consistent with his all-too-frequent deceptive statements and practices.
The United States of America defends its Constitution and Bill of Rights. Dictators trample on such things. For the record, Obama has trampled on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 10th amendments and that is just since January. Richard Nixon was impeached for actions less offensive, inflammable, unconstitutional and less frequent than Obama’s. It is time Congress manned up, did its job, and impeached the would be dictator who holds our nation’s highest office. Were it not for his race, I think Congress might do just that. Perhaps Congress ought to recognize that there are many people of color much more qualified than Obama who are very electable as president. Unlike the current president, they are honest and believe in the founding principles of our nation. I would be as proud to vote for any of them as I would be, were I able, to vote for the impeachment of our current pretender president.
Trust, once broken, is hard to regain.
Certainly that old chestnut applies to the recent revelation that some IRS officials were about as impartial as a political attack ad as they went about their duties.
That the IRS would target conservative groups for especially keen scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status is troubling enough.
But the truly frightening aspect of this scandal is that it raises the specter that the agency might have engaged in similar political profiling, only in ways potentially more harmful and punitive to Americans.
It’s entirely conceivable that IRS agents also used political affiliations to decide which individual taxpayers or businesses to audit.
Or, as appears to have been the case with the clandestine profiling of groups seeking tax-exempt status, that the agency relied on such information to decide who wouldn’t receive extra attention from the federal tax-collecting apparatus.
If there is anything positive to be said about the current situation, it’s that the IRS’ transgressions were so blatant that we doubt Congress will cut any corners as it investigates.
We hope not, anyway.
No agency deserves more than the IRS to have its actions subjected to a merciless, but fair, examination.
Caring about schools, or just stirring the pot?
Do Mr. McComb, Mr. Dielman, or Mrs. Moses really care about the school situation or do they just like to stir the pot? After reading their letters to the editor, I have decided they just like stirring the pot and talking negatively about everyone they don’t support. I don’t personally know any of the three, however I do know a few of the candidates they are bashing on. In my opinion there are multiple well-qualified candidates running for the school board and a few of them have been targets of these three individuals. Do they have children in the school? What is the reason they are bashing several candidates that have children in the school. These candidates want the best for their children and the children of this community.
That brings me to another topic that bothers me. I would like to know if any of these three voted to pass the levy for a new school. Did they support that levy or did they write letters to the editor against the levy? If the community really cared about our kids and their education I feel that levy would have passed. It’s my understanding the majority of property owning residents of Baker would be paying approximately $16 a month for a new school. I know Baker City citizens pay a monthly sidewalk fee to maintain our sidewalks, why can’t we pony up a few more dollars for our kids? In the words of the late, great Whitney Houston, “I believe the children are our future.”
Where are our priorities Baker City? If the citizens of Baker really cared about our kids we would be in the process of building a new middle school. We wouldn’t have a problem with adding sixth-graders to an overcrowded and run-down Middle School if we just built a new one. I agree with Ogan and McKim. Why can’t we support candidates without bashing on the others? There has already been enough of that on the school board. I say vote for whoever you feel is the best candidate and may the best person be elected.
Legislature thwarts local decision on GMO crops
Recently I sent an email to Senator Ferrioli stating I was disappointed in his “yes” vote on Senate Bill 633. What was SB 633? Jackson County wanted an initiative that would allow them to stop GMO crops from being planted in their county. Having a county, city or citizens be in charge of decisions that affect them did not set well with some legislators. We were part of a group that met with Senator Ferrioli before the vote. When the subject of GMO came up. His reply was “I have enough information from two sources. That’s not open for discussion.” When we left his office, the corridors were lined with lobbyists.
Following is the answer to my email from Senator Ferrioli. “Mr. Miller, I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with my vote on SB 633, but I submit this to you in my defense. Your email to me is of a technical level well beyond the capacity of Baker County staff to interpret. How could they possibly administer a management program that would deal with all the potential applications of genetic modification of agricultural products? Who would pay for such a program of administration? Apply the local control argument to the Center for Disease Control. Would it make sense to conduct epidemiological studies at the county level with the resulting patchwork of response? I think not! Ted Ferrioli.”
We exchanged more emails. All the unedited emails are being posted here: www.larryRmiller.com. If I were an administrator or county official, I would consider his reply a slap in the face. To become law, the House of Representatives has to pass their version: HB 3192. If you’re concerned about health, your children’s health, future generations and personal liberty, contact your representative. Do your own GMO investigating. Be sure you know who funded the research. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/28/study-gm-maize-cancer. SB 633 and HB 3192 go far beyond GMO. If the state overrides local opinion on this, what freedoms and liberties will be next?
Cassidy has the qualities we want in school board member
We want to include our names to the list of Kevin Cassidy supporters. What our community should seek and expect from a Baker 5J School board member are these qualities:
1. Thoughtful, careful and respectful consideration of all issues
2. Steady and calm demeanor
3. Ability to listen
4. Desire to fix problems, rather than create them
5. Strong support for students, staff and the community
6. Knowledge of budget, finance, and available resources
Kevin Cassidy demonstrates these qualities. We have known Kevin for close to 40 years and can personally vouch for his credibility as a strong, solid civic leader. We are supporting Kevin because he would be an asset to the Baker 5J School Board. We urge you to vote and when doing so, make Kevin Cassidy your choice.
Randy and Joanne Crutcher
Abell, Cassidy have outstanding qualifications
Having been public school teachers and a bank officer for over 30 years, we want to express our concern over the upcoming school board election. We urge the choice of Rosemary Abell and Kevin Cassidy for school board members because of their outstanding qualifications.
Rosemary Abell has by far the most excellent educational background, having experience as a teacher, administrator and consultant at the local, state and national levels. This school board needs someone with her expertise and experience.
Kevin Cassidy has the business background and leadership qualities to cover that aspect of school board membership. He is a graduate of BHS and EOU with a bachelor’s degree in business/economics, has owned his own company and has worked for ODOT in administration policy and budgetary planning. He has a young son and is active in the Haines PTCO.
For these reasons we strongly urge you to vote for Rosemary Abell and Kevin Cassidy. Their education, experience and integrity would truly benefit the Baker 5J School Board.
Alden Keith Taylor
Nancy Ann Taylor
No matter where Idaho Power Company routes its new power line through Northeastern Oregon — and we have no doubt the 500-kilovolt line will be built — some people will be mad.
A major power line pretty much defines the concept of NIMBY — Not In My Backyard. The trouble, of course, is that every place is someone’s backyard, whether or not that’s literally true.
Idaho Power’s proposed Boardman-to-Hemingway project (B2H) has gone through several permutations since the Boise company proposed it six years ago.