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New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 4, 2016


Today in New West news: debate over public land flares up as armed group moves onto Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, tiny homes in Colorado, and the best (and worst) cities to find a job.

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New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 12, 2015

Brigham Young University North Campus

In New West news: Brigham Young University ranks high in entrepreneurial studies, new Super Duck fossil provides missing link to Montana’s state dinosaur, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks considers letting people fish on Madison River year-round, and Forbes favorably ranks Denver and Utah in job growth.

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New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 20, 2015

Colorado River

In New West News: Colorado unemployment drops to four percent, a Cold Water Climate Shield is being mapped across five states, the USDA wants to save Montana bees, and rent for apartments is up in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

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Evel Knievel At the Pearly Gates

We lost some interesting people last year. It was the death of Evel Knievel, the bunged up daredevil in the confederate-flag suit that hit closest to home. I was home from college after Evel’s famous jump over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, not far away. I thought he was cheating by claiming to jump the “Snake River Canyon.” He knew darned well that we’d all imagine Hell’s Canyon, a huge chasm deeper than the Grand Canyon but then, Evel was always one for exaggeration. “I hear Evel’s got a brother, Awful Knawful, who’s even better than he is,” Bud said confidentially. “There is no such person, Bud.” “I’d still like to see him.” There never was much point in arguing with Bud.

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Measure 37 Means Condos and … Compromise?

We haven’t heard much about Measure 37 recently, but that’s not because much isn’t going on — it is, and the biggest pieces of this fractured story are the least obvious. First, to the obvious: Measure 37 is about the money. The money that landowners claim they’ve lost or will lose by the state or counties barring them from developing. The money that lures forestry companies to turn from logging to condos. And the money that farmers, house-holders and others with what they see as presently useless or excess land are costing the rest of us with their claims. Claims may be totally legit (though numerous ones in Hood River County, at least, have asked to make developments that were never allowed under their original zoning), but they take public time to assess. That’s cost Wasco County, for one, several thousand dollars; and the real impact will come with the May rush, of some 30 claims to assess, according to The Dalles Chronicle. Wasco County doesn’t charge landowner claimants for its planners’ time. Hood River County, with many more claims, does; but nowhere near enough to pay for their efforts. Measure 37 presently accounts for an estimated 70 percent of the planning staff’s time — and the fees the county charges cover less than 10 percent of the planning budget...

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China’s Newest Export To The NW Is Dirty Air

Can we agree that smoggy air is really counter to the whole idea of living in the Northwest? That haze doesn’t belong in the Columbia Gorge? Turns out, a growing cause of the haze that’s increasingly obvious here, is the slew of poison spewed into the air by China. Let me for the record say — that’s a bad thing. Clean air, good; polluted air, bad. I don’t how you vote or what whack-job political commentators you listen to — I don’t care — but my 3-year-old daughter shouldn’t have to breathe China’s dirty air in her Columbia Gorge backyard. Or any dirty air, for that matter...

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Take A Second Look At Eco-Arson Case, Says Ore. Court

What does it take to become a political prisoner? A harsh sentence handed down for a politically motivated property crime? If so, then Jeff “Free” Luers fits the definition. A radical Eugene activist, Luers received a nearly 23-year prison sentence for torching three pickups and trying to ignite a gas tanker in 2000. No one was hurt and Luers’ co-defendant (Craig “Critter” Marshall) pleaded out to a 5 1/2-year sentence, leaving environmental activists to decry the surprisingly harsh sentence for Luers. But if a sentence’s harshness makes one a martyr, Luers will have the chance to become just a plain ol’ criminal. Last week, the Oregon Court of Appeals gave Luers a partial victory on his appeals. The courtordered a lower court judge to resentence Luers, and he may receive as little as a third his original 266-month imprisonment. What’s not apparent in the few news stories about the case is that Luers was just one of several Eugene-area environmental activists who turned to sabotage and arson. A band of activists turned radical in the 1990s, toppling and torching in opposition to consumerism, corporate power and forest development. Only last year were the radicals apprehended...

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No Measure 37 Claims In Gorge Scenic Area, Says Court

The history was complex, but a recent ruling made it plain: Oregon’s Measure 37 does not apply in the Columbia Gorge’s National Scenic Area. That was the word from the Oregon Court of Appeals last week. The ruling (read it here) came a relatively swift two months after the court heard arguments in the case. The court action was a test case specifically designed to answer the question: which has precedence, the scenic area or Oregon’s land-use development law? Defendants Paul D. Mansur and Stephen Struck — both Hood River property owners wishing to develop modest parcels in the Gorge — were represented by Oregonians In Action, the point organization for Measure 37. OIA argued in court that since Oregon had to participate in the creation of the Columbia Gorge Commission, the Commission is a state agency. Actually, the court ruled, it’s a hybrid creature, a regional bi-state commission established under a Congressional act. Wrote the judges, “we agree with plaintiff that the interstate compact between Oregon and Washington that created the Commission has the force of federal law,” making the Scenic Area exempt from Measure 37 While lawyers were hashing out the Gorge-vs-Measure 37 case, legislators were beginning to tackle the law head-on. Democrats, now solidly in control of the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s seat, say they’re considering a revision of Measure 37. They say they may address the greatest issue at hand: that Measure 37, considered a matter of fairness by a large (if dwindling) number of Oregonians, opens loopholes for potentially massive developments...

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Washington Legislature: With Neighbors Like This…

I was beginning to wonder if Oregon wasn’t the new California: The western state most noted for silly public goings-on.* But then there’s Washington. Right now, a Seattle Democrat state legislator is hoping to pass a law that would allow dogs in bars. Yep — can’t smoke in them, but you could bring your Labradoodle for some slobbery good times. State Sen. Ken Jacobsen is proposing a state law (SB 5484) allowing pooches in bars and establishments with liquor licenses, as long as the dogs are leashed and well-behaved. The definition of well-behaved remains undefined — so apparently the same meat-heads who carry dogs in their purses like fashion accessories and drive with them on their laps will get to decide if it’s okay that their dog is humping someone’s leg. (No word on whether bartenders would have to card dogs before serving them drinks. The legal dog age would be 3.) A supporter of the proposed law “said she ... would like the law to pass so she could bring her 112-pound Rottweiler, Ida, with her when meeting friends at bars.”...

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Riparian Refuge Seeks Volunteers

Are you dying to save the environment but not sure where to start? Here is an idea: Stewardship Saturdays! Jim Clapp of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service in Washington is looking for a little help (or a lot of help) to replant three small National Wildlife Refuges on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge - Steigerwald Lake near Washougal, Franz Lake near Skamania, and Pierce between Beacon Rock and North Bonneville. I spoke to Jim Clapp this morning and he assured me these work parties are completely kid friendly. So why not make a family day of it? When I brought my boys to a Pick up the Giff work party last fall, it was fun and environmentally rewarding. Plus, because I’m desert born and raised, it was a chance to apply a parental homily: “When I was a kid we didn’t have Beautiful Forests to play in.” But more apt perhaps is this sentiment: “Someday, when you have kids, I want them to have Beautiful Forests to play in.” Here is the official Press Release...

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