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Wildfire season in the Northwest started early this year. Crews recently subdued the 5,345-acre Buckskin fire near southern Oregon’s Illinois Valley.

The Buckskin fire is called a “reburn” because it’s on land that was scorched by wildfire in the recent past. These reburns are a positive indication that the forests are recovering from decades of fire suppression.

Cascadia Wildlands

Oregon's Elliott State Forest is almost at the point of producing more arguments than trees.

The forest is supposed to supplies trees for timber companies, in order to provide income for Oregon's Common School Fund. 

But environmental protections reduced the harvest.  So in some years, the forest loses money, rather than making it. 

The State Land Board is looking at options, including a possible sale of at least a portion of the forest. 

Kari Greer | California Interagency Incident Management Team

Fire season has already begun, with the usual discussions of which fires are burning where, and how big.

Scientist Dominick DellaSala of the GEOS Institute is less concerned with individual fires than with the overall approach to wildfire. 

We know fire is a normal part of life processes in any forest. 

But it may be that even the more intense fires--the ones often labeled "catastrophic"--are natural and necessary. 

Old Hardware, A New Twist: The No-Pay Phone

Jul 1, 2015
Kate davidson/OPB

Remember pay phones? You know, back before nearly everyone carried a cell phone in their pocket? OPB's Kate Davidson has this story of an encounter with a strange relic of that past, with an odd twist: a public phone booth that makes calls -- for free.

PGHolbrook/Wikimedia Commons

Southern Oregon and Northern California's Smith River could be temporarily protected from mining by a maneuver proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.

BLM plans to withdraw roughly 100,000 acres of public land from mining in Curry and Josephine Counties, including land considered for a major nickel mine.

NASA/Public Domain

If you're concerned about global warming, it stands to reason that you think about the future.

The people of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now--SOCAN--are thinking long-term and a few months down the road. 

October is when SOCAN hosts a climate summit, "Our Critical Climate," in downtown Medford. 

An impressive list of speakers is already shaping up.

Wikimedia/JPR titling

The Countdown to Legalization is almost at zero.

On July 1st, Oregon residents will be able to grow and possess marijuana for recreational use, under state law. 

Measure 91's approach produced a flurry of activity, including many interviews and reports. 

Those include a segment of Oregon Public Broadcasting's "Think Out Loud" talk show. 

OEA

We can't seem to go a week without some news about standardized testing.

It's the accepted way to measure the progress of students. 

But when student progress is extrapolated to measure teacher quality, that's when the National Education Association and its state affiliates get their backs up. 

The national Representative Assembly this week includes Oregon Education Association President Hanna Vaandering. 

New is apparently better for Oregon gamblers, at least in one sense.

The Oregon Lottery began installing new video lottery machines (VLMs) last year, and its revenues are up ten percent since that time. 

The machines come with new features, like allowing players to gamble smaller amounts of money. 

That's no consolation to organizations that treat problem gambling, like Emergence in Eugene. 

Jeff Zimmerman/advancedfiretech@gmail.com

UPDATED MONDAY JUNE 29, at 9:30 a.m. | The Buckskin Fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest is quiet for now, still holding at 5,345 acres.  Overall containment remains at 60%. 

The fire remains under patrol, but last week's successful burnout operation means no additional fire activity is anticipated within the next 72 hours.

National Weather Service, Medford

The summer's first major heat wave could also produce a round of wildland fires.

UPDATED at NOON, SUNDAY, JUNE 28: The Red Flag Warning issued by weather forecasters for a broad swath of Southern Oregon and Northern California, remains in effect.

The only forecast zones served by JPR not included in the warning are Mount Shasta, Redding/Red Bluff, and the Northern California Coast.

Kacey Musgraves, the country singer performing later this summer at Britt Music and Arts Festival, stopped by NPR on Friday for a Tiny Desk Concert. The full session isn't available yet, but since Musgraves performed her anthem Follow Your Arrow about accepting people for who they are, NPR couldn't resist sharing it today ... and neither can we. 

BLM

The arrival of fire season, summer, and hot weather reminds us of some of the major points of living near potential wildfire zones.

Like leaving defensible space around the house, so fire can't burn to and through it. 

But the finer points of being fire-wise can include things like gardens containing fire-resistant plants. 

Fire District 3 in Jackson County (generally north of Medford) set up three gardens at fire stations in the district to demonstrate the principles and plants.

Wikimedia

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus--HIV--is no longer the death sentence it once was. 

But modern drugs still can't shrink distances, so treatment can be difficult for HIV patients in rural areas. 

The HIV Alliance, based in Eugene, is ramping up a "telehealth" program to provide services to HIV patients in rural Southern and Eastern Oregon. 

Chasing The Sale: A Day In The Life Of A Mushroom Buyer

Jun 25, 2015
Rowan Moore Gerety/NWPR

At high-end grocers in Paris or Tokyo, wild mushrooms flown in from the Northwest can fetch upwards of 100 dollars a pound. That gourmet supply chain begins on a dirty folding table on the side of a backwoods highway.

Wikimedia

The ongoing drought in California has been tough on trees.  Or has it?

While it's apparently true that 12 million trees have died in recent years in California, the deaths are probably caused by a combination of drought and insects. 

Naomi Tague at UC-Santa Barbara's Ecohydrolab is one of the authors of a study that assessed the various causes of various tree deaths. 

It clears up the relationship between bugs and droughts, and provides possible future patterns for tree deaths in certain climate conditions. 

Wikimedia

You take medicine because it's supposed to be good for you.

Oregon voters made marijuana a medicine in the belief that it would help people. 

But a recent investigation by The Oregonian (Oregon Live online) found holes in regulations and testing regimes led to the presence of pesticides in some medical pot. 

Oregon Growers Analytical tests marijuana for pesticides and other contaminants. 

Rowan Moore Gerety/NWPR

Every spring in the Northwest, morel mushrooms sprout from the blackened mountain soil where wildfires burned the year before. For a few thousand commercial mushroom pickers, it’s time to pile into dusty pickups and follow the bounty across the region.

USDA/Public Domain

Summer vacation carries some dangers for the health of low-income children. 

Not the dangers of swimming and climbing trees, but the danger of poor nutrition caused by being separated from free meals at school. 

The federal government provides money for summer food programs in Oregon and other states, but there can be obstacles to families making use of the programs. 

Wikimedia

The role of police is supposed to be straightforward: catch bad guys and protect the people.

But it's seldom that simple, and gets extremely complicated when police have to deal with mentally ill citizens.

Which happens with regularity, and such a confrontation led to shooting death of Brian Babb by Eugene Police in late March.

Babb was a veteran with PTSD, and social worker Becky Higgins was on the phone with him right before his death.

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