News

Wikimedia

Jackson County's ban on GMO crops is set to take effect on June 6th, unless the federal judge hearing a suit against it blocks it.

Another vote on a GMO ban, in Benton County (Corvallis), failed this week, by a wide margin.  Benton County is home to Oregon State University, which performs research on GMO crops.

And OSU's agriculture dean, Dr. Dan Arp, sat on a task force reporting on GMO agriculture just last year.

mtashland.com

The only ski area in Southwestern Oregon could have more weddings than ski days this year. 

Mount Ashland Ski Area only opened for 38 skiing days last winter... which is still 38 more than the winter before. 

Weddings and other warm-season events could become a more important part of the area's income down the road, if details can be worked out with the landlord, the U.S. Forest Service. 

Public comments are now being taken on summer recreation activities (see below). 

JPR's website will be in transition this morning (Thursday, May 21) starting at about 9:30am as it gets a facelift to a more mobile and tablet friendly design. The new "responsive" design will optimize the site’s layout for each individual user according to the screen size of the device being used to access ijpr.org.

votesmart.org

 

The potential impact of the Oregon Supreme Court's decision to stop the state from reforming the PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) benefits paid to retirees runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Oregon State Representative Peter Buckley (D-Ashland) will play a significant role in addressing this issue moving ahead. 

Buckley is the House Co-Chair for the Joint Ways and Means Committee, which helps shape state budgets.

Charlotte Duren/JPR News

Genetically modified crops--universally called GMO--are not going away, and neither is the controversy over them. 

Industry and many regulatory bodies insist they are safe, but many consumers and activists want them tightly controlled, if used at all. 

Jackson County passed a ban on growing GMO crops in May of 2014, the only binding local measure in Oregon.  That measure is set to take effect on June 6th, but first it has to clear a court challenge. 

Our Family Farms Coalition pushed for the measure. 

Wikimedia

Voters rejected another public safety levy in Josephine County in Tuesday's election, adding to a string of levy failures dating back several years.

Vote returns showed the No side winning the night, 54 percent to 46 percent.  Measure 17-66 was crafted as a five-year serial levy to pay for more patrol deputies, more jail officers, and the reopening of the Josephine County juvenile shelter.

But the measure would have raised property taxes by $1.40 per thousand dollars assessed valuation.  Josephine County's tax rate for county services is the lowest in Oregon at 58 cents per thousand.

Wikimedia

You can be forgiven if you forget that marijuana is still illegal in California, except for medical uses. 

And part of the confusion comes from various state and local government agencies setting up rules and guidelines for marijuana cultivation. 

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is among them, working toward a set of water quality regulations for marijuana growers. 

Unregulated use of water causes issues both coming and going; involving water taken from streams and wastes put into them. 

M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia

One decision from the Oregon Supreme Court will have a tremendous impact on state and local governments for years to come.  

The decision turned back a move by the legislature and governor to save money on public pensions, by reducing cost-of-living allowances for retirees.  

The court ruling nixed that, so the state, counties, cities, and school districts are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars of additional benefit payments.  

The Oregon School Employees Association is relieved by the decision.  

Deviant Art/Wikimedia

This interview explores the flip side of the coin on the Oregon Supreme Court decision on PERS, the Public Employee Retirement System.  

The court decision will cost state and local governments millions of dollars more than expected in benefit payments to retirees.  

The Oregon School Boards Association is assessing the impact on school districts. 

Bill McLean / JPR

Once upon a time, most of our children were so isolated from the social ills of our culture that adults thought them innocent, and unable to understand, much less resolve, serious social  problems.

Today’s youngsters, though, are often surrounded by troubling situations. The Oregon Community Foundation is using local schools to teach children to be philanthropists in their own communities.

AmeliaTempleton/EarthFx

Josephine and Curry counties occupy Oregon’s rural southwest corner. For many residents, a call to 9-1-1 could well be answered by a dispatcher saying there’s no one available to come to your aid.

Voters in both counties will decide on May 19 the fate of proposed property tax levies. The measures would raise money to restore severe cuts in law enforcement that were made after voters repeatedly and decisively shot down previous levies.

California Department of Water Resources

Snow surveys are supposed to find snow.  But in the mild winter we had, little precipitation fell as snow. 

Most of the later-in-the-season surveys turned up dirt. 

California's snow surveys came out even worse than Oregon's. 

W.W. Norton

Even people who do not know much of the Bible know the story of Noah's flood... the gigantic flood that supposedly wiped out all land creatures except the ones Noah took aboard his ark.

The search for evidence of that flood led to the beginning of the science of geology, and ultimated contributed to an ongoing tension between science and religion.

So says David Montgomery, geologist at the University of Washington. 

He's written a book on the flood called The Rocks Don't Lie, and he brings a lecture by that name to Southwestern Oregon Community College this week (May 16th). 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program.

In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried.

John R. McMillan/NOAA Fisheries

Salmon and other threatened fish need cold water to thrive. Research shows current logging rules in Oregon can result in streams warming up more than is allowed under standards meant to protect the fish.

That could force the state Board of Forestry to require more trees be left standing alongside fish-bearing streams. And that would be an economic hit to private forest landowners.

In Part Two of this story – reported in collaboration with InvestigateWest -- JPR looks at how science has ended up at the center of this debate. 

What Does the Future Hold for Oregon’s Family-Owned Forests?

May 12, 2015
Ben DeJarnette

Cary Renzema interrupts a stroll around his 50-acre forest to point out tiny purple petals peeking out from the forest floor.

“Beautiful little orchids,” Renzema says. “Once you start looking, there are hundreds of those things around here.”

For 13 years Renzema has studied this forest’s quirks and charms, explored its groves of cedar trees and patches of vine maple and wild rose about 25 miles west of Portland. Today, though, those sights are bittersweet. As part of a divorce settlement, he may have to log this second-growth forest, leaving thousands of stumps where trees have stood for three generations.

The Future is Now for Three Small Forests

May 12, 2015

Some of Oregon’s forest owners are seeking innovative ways to make a living off their land without logging it hard. Oregon’s small forest landowners, those with 10 to 5,000 acres, are responsible for just 15 percent of the timber harvest on average even though they lay claim to 44 percent of the state’s privately owned timberland.  Here is a look at three forests where owners are purposely going light on the land:

Can Carbon Markets Help Oregon's Small Forests?

May 12, 2015
Ben DeJarnette / InvestigateWest

When cancer comes calling, what if owners of small forest plots had another choice but to sell or to cut.

That’s the premise of a pilot program being launched in Washington and Columbia counties of northwest Oregon.

Standingonsacredground.org

The concerns of California's Winnemem Wintu Tribe get an airing on public TV with the creation of the film series "Standing On Sacred Ground."

The title is apt for the tribe, which is not currently federally recognized, and concerned about plans to raise Shasta Dam. 

The resulting raising of the lake would inundate what few historic sacred sites the tribe still has access to. 

Wikimedia

Oregon is on its way to joining California and New Jersey as states that ban "conversion therapy" for gay minors.   Both houses of the legislature passed a bill putting the controversial therapy off-limits to people under the age of 18. 

The therapy purports to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals, and is not accepted by much of the psychiatric establishment. 

The bill is welcomed by Basic Rights Oregon and the National Center for Lesbian Rights

Pages