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The Donner Party: Famous for the wrong thing

What would it feel like to know that the only way to avoid death by starvation is to eat the flesh from a corpse who was recently your friend, or even your relative?

This morbid question remains, beyond any doubt, the most persistent legacy of the Donner Party.

This seems to me a pity.

What distinguishes the tragedy that befell these 87 emigrants in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846-47 is not the societal taboos they were forced to ignore in order that 48 of their number would survive. 

Sage grouse risk remains

The specter of the sage grouse continues to loom over Baker County, but today the future seems far less threatening.

The bird, at least for now, won’t be listed as threatened or endangered under federal law.

That means the most dire effect of a listing — severe restrictions on cattle grazing on public land, which is so vital to the county’s economy — is quite unlikely.

City needs to avoid annexation lawsuits

Baker City’s botched annexation agreement with Richard and Lynne Langrell has cost the city about $67,000.

That’s bad enough.

It would be worse yet if the city ends up incurring more legal fees defending the indefensible.

Letters to the Editor for Sept. 23, 2015

Loving Baker City, but not happy about state pot laws

My wife and I recently moved to Baker City from the coast of Oregon. We had never been here before but the wife Googled “conservative cowboy towns of Oregon” and BC popped up number one. So we visited and fell into love immediately. We originally came from central California and had a small horse ranch and lived in the rural portion of a small cowboy town. Surrounded by mountains and close to Yosemite, BC reminded us of that area a lot.

We found that a lot of local folks are third, fourth and fifth generations here and that speaks highly of this town. We were impressed on how friendly everyone was and welcomed us into the community, something that was lacking in our four years on the coast. Even the folks at the Herald were so friendly and generous with their time. When I couldn’t decipher how to log into the E-edition, Carolyn spent the time and walked me through it. You don’t find customer service like that anymore. People actually greet you when you pass them or enter their establishments. So refreshing!

I’m also impressed with the “anti-marijuana” stance this city has taken in opposition to Oregon laws. As we are both retired law enforcement from California, I can’t begin to tell you in one op-ed piece what a Pandora’s box that opens up. “Medicinal marijuana” is a front for drug dealers, profiteers and the Mexican cartel to enter into your town. The less than 3 percent who benefit from it does not outweigh the good of the community. THC, the main ingredient in pot, is available in pill form without all the street dealers hanging out near your high schools. Pro-pot people don’t want to hear that because there is no high from it. But then, it doesn’t promote lung cancer, asthma and other health concerns that smoking causes either. 

Anyway, we love it here and feel right at home. Great community and feel of Americana. We are home.

Thomas Wilcoxson

Baker City

One year in Baker City, and we couldn’t be happier

We have made it a full year in Baker City. Our plan was to see if we could survive the first winter, we’d heard they could be brutal, but the weather had other ideas. Looks like we’ll be staying another year and hoping for a brutal winter, up on top of those dry mountains anyway.

We could not have asked more from our gamble of a move. We came from an environment where merely trying to cross a street could suddenly become a near death experience. On our first walk through Baker we wondered why cars were stopping as we stood at an unmarked intersection until we realized it was for us, the drivers actually waving us to cross. We knew for sure we would miss our backyard garden but discovered Baker’s community garden in time to not miss a summer. Being aspiring artists we could not believe our good fortune, landing in a city that embraces all things art, and with such a passion! We could go on and on about the incredible place, less stressful environment, we find ourselves. Here, instead, is an extremely short list of more things we are enchanted by in Baker:

• Friendly people (you have know idea what a unique attribute that is). 

 • The food and drink, so many great options everywhere.

• The river, LAMP, the park...

• Music, exceptional local talent, the specialness of Baker’s Powder River Music Revue 

• Recreation, limitless hiking, fishing, camping... a veritable surrounding wonderland!

• Events: bicycle and people races, motorcycles, classic cars, fairs, jubilees, parades.

• Last but not least, Mike especially wants to thank the Herald for enabling his writing addiction.

It is hard to end our list... Baker has just about everything to offer that we had in the, out of control, sprawl of the Portland / Vancouver area, without the anger, crime,  rudeness, stress.. that comes with a stifling population. We look forward to another year in this very special place. 

P.S. Check out the LAMP soon if you wish to see it free of trash. I am certain this pristine glory is only temporary. 

Barb and Mike Meyer

Baker City

The burning question

In the aftermath of the biggest wildfire in Baker County history, salvage logging is a major topic of discussion.

And a major source of frustration.

We understand why.

A pressing problem: Which urine protects best?

Should I douse my wife’s garden with the urine of a wolf or a cougar?

As you can imagine, this conundrum is cutting into my sleep.

Nor are my choices, in the realm of liquid produce protection, limited to apex carnivores.

Maybe I can confuse as well as frighten the tomato-gobbling deer and the blackberry-pecking robins by sowing the place with the excretory scent of the fisher, a diminutive but apparently quite vicious type of weasel.

Bikes and fire: Not a good mix

Cycle Oregon’s first visit to Baker County since 2008 didn’t go as intended.

Like so much else this summer, the week-long event that brought 2,200 bicyclists and a couple hundred support workers to the county was affected by wildfire.

The Dry Gulch fire, specifically, which was ignited Saturday afternoon when a driver lost control of his pickup truck on Eagle Creek Road near New Bridge and crashed, sparking a vehicle fire that spread into the parched grass and brush beside the road.

Letter to the Editor for Sept. 16, 2015

‘Protecting’ our public forests is burning them up

This year has been a traumatic year for rural communities in the Pacific Northwest. As has been the case in prior years, this year a common comment from Forest Service management has been, “We need more money to fight fires!” It is almost a mantra every year.  

With such a financial bind the Forest Service is in, why is closing and decommissioning roads such an important factor for their management of our public lands? Roads are vital to so many of the uses the public has for public lands.  A forest supervisor even admitted earlier this year the current (non-travel management plan) road system is a large factor in quick and successful initial attacks on fires in his forest. Several firefighters have stated how appreciative they were of roads and how much easier their job was. Roads even used as fire lines.

Sept. 11, 2015, photos were taken of a dozer re-opening a closed road in order to gain access to a wildfire. In one photo, three Forest Service pickups and one Forest Service fire engine were parked with several Forest Service employees standing and watching the dozer. This dozer operator was hired to travel up and open the road. When they are done fighting the fire, it will most likely be re-closed. Is closing, opening and then again closing roads a good use of tax dollars? Are the new bills in Congress going to be paying for these sorts of things? The issue isn’t a lack of funding, it’s a lack of efficient use of the funds given them. 

The ideology behind protecting public lands is a dream that doesn’t factor in reality.  The reality of financial situations, public safety, the reality that these lands were intended to support local economies. The reality that without logging, without restoration and without active management, we will continue to choke on more and more smoke and burn up more and more tax dollars on idiotic actions like I explained above. Eventually there won’t be communities to protect from fires and the Forest Service won’t have any reason to exist anymore.

Donald George


Letters to the Editor for Sept. 14, 2015

Boardman-to-Hemingway line won’t go away

Do you think that the Boardman to Hemingway power line has gone away? Not a chance. I expect that the BLM will issue its decision just before the holidays. Since we will have only 30 days to respond, great timing, likely on purpose. We get to study lots of pages, they get to eat turkey.

You can be sure that the BLM and Idaho Power are working hard to come up with all the benefits for Baker County. Even after almost 400 people sent letters that objected to all parts of the project.

Touring the burn: Fire’s effects are haphazard

I spent a few hours last week having a look at a small part of the biggest wildfire in Baker County history. As with every other blaze I’ve toured, I was intrigued by the random nature by which flames inflict their marks on the land.

On the afternoon three weeks to the day after the Cornet fire roared through on its way to link up with the Windy Ridge fire, I walked a couple miles on the ridge between Trail Creek and the Dooley Mountain Highway.

Two mornings later I drove the Trail Creek Road up to the Skyline Road, then west across Dooley Summit and down the 1130 road through Stices Gulch and back to the highway.

I know most of this country pretty well.

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