Liam Moriarty

Reporter/Producer

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for more than 20 years. He's reported on a wide range of topics – including politics, the environment, business, social issues and more – for newspapers, magazines, public radio and the web.  Liam was JPR News Director from 2002 to 2005, reporting and producing the Jefferson Daily regional news magazine. After covering the environment in Seattle, then reporting on European issues from France, he's returned to JPR to cover the stories and issues that are important to the people of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Several thousand people gathered in Medford’s Hawthorne Park and marched to downtown on Saturday for the second annual Southern Oregon Women’s March. Many carried signs supporting a range of progressive causes and criticizing President Donald Trump.

Taking A Last Minute Look At Oregon's Measure 101

Jan 19, 2018
Chris Phan/Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t voted yet in the special election on Oregon’s ballot Measure 101, you still have time. It’s too late to mail your ballot, but you have until 8 o’clock Tuesday evening to get it to an official ballot drop-box.

The measure is a complicated topic that involves how Oregon pays to provide health insurance to some of its most vulnerable residents. Kristian Foden-Vencil covers health care for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He talks with JPR’s Liam Moriarty to help explain what voters are deciding. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Recent decades have not been kind to rural Oregon. As natural resources come under increased pressure -- and the economy becomes more globalized -- small, resource-based communities have been hit hard. Port Orford, on Oregon’s south coast, is no exception.

But now, some people in Port Orford are trying innovative approaches to adapting traditional livelihoods to the new reality so their town can survive – and even thrive – in the 21st Century. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Many rural Oregon towns share the same problems; the natural resources they traditionally based their economies on no longer support them, and isolation and limited funds often make solutions hard to come by. But how these communities grapple with these changes can vary.

JPR’s Liam Moriarty takes us to Port Orford, on the state’s south coast, to see how people in one fishing town are working to carve out a potential future.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Port Orford is perched on the Pacific coast, less than ten miles from the westernmost point in Oregon. And while it’s only about 60 miles as the crow flies from the heavily-traveled I-5 corridor, getting there means a two-hour-plus drive over the Coast Range.

Its relative isolation is one reason tourism isn’t a well-developed industry in Port Orford. Another is the strong local desire to retain the town’s identity as a fishing village.

Now, economic pressures are fueling a new effort to foster tourism that’s consistent with Port Orford’s values.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Like many rural towns, Port Orford, on Oregon’s south coast, has struggled with shifting economic tides. The Port of Port Orford has long been a key economic driver in the town, providing essential infrastructure to the local commercial fishing fleet. But the decrepit wooden building which houses much of that infrastructure won’t last much longer.

Now, many in town are pinning their hopes for Port Orford’s renewal on an ambitious replacement project, which would take the port in new directions.

Credit PGHolbrook/Wikimedia Commons

Attempts in recent years to open nickel mines near the headwaters of pristine creeks and rivers in southwest Oregon have faced solid opposition. In response, the Obama Administration last January withdrew 100,000 acres of federal land in the area from consideration for mining for at least 20 years.

A Republican congressman from Utah says that was illegal. He’s asked the Trump Administration to review that and all other Obama mineral withdrawals. And the foreign-owned mining company that most stands to gain is weighing in, as well.

GARY HALVORSON, OREGON STATE ARCHIVES

The National Flood Insurance Program was created by Congress in 1968 to offer subsidized insurance to property owners and businesses located in areas prone to flooding.

Now, as part of a legal settlement, the agency that administers the flood insurance program is proposing stricter rules meant to discourage development in salmon habitat in Oregon.

But many property owners – and local governments – say the rules are regulatory overreach. And, in a case with national implications, the city of Coos Bay, Oregon, is suing to get them overturned.

Liam Moriarty/ JPR News

Restoration efforts in the Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon are getting underway.  While most of the area was lightly burned or even unburned, more than a third of the acreage suffered severe or moderate tree damage.

Federal forest managers are gearing up to authorize salvage logging in some of the more badly-burned areas. Local elected officials are pushing hard for cutting those trees. But others question whether the long-term costs outweigh the short term benefits.

US Forest Service

The Chetco Bar fire in southwestern Oregon was the state’s biggest wildfire of 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres, mostly in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Seven homes were lost and hundreds of people had to evacuate from Brookings and nearby communities.

Now, specialists have assessed the damage to the landscape and repair work is getting underway. But the full impact will largely depend on this winter’s weather, and on management decisions that have yet to be made.

Liam Moriarty/ JPR News

Earlier this month, as wildfires were ripping through California’s wine country, government and tribal agencies collaborated with non-profits to deliberately set prescribed fires further north in the western Klamath Mountains.

The Klamath Training Exchange – or TREX – strategically put fire on the ground to protect towns from wildfire, to restore native cultural traditions and to train crews in how to use “good fire” to fend off “bad fire.” 

Inciweb.nwcg.gov

The Chetco Bar fire, near Brookings on Oregon’s south coast, simmered for weeks in the scars of previous fires in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness before breaking out in mid-August. As the fire raced across the landscape, driven by high winds, the firefighting effort came under growing criticism.

Liam Moriarty / JPR News


At a public meeting in Brookings, Oregon Thursday evening, officials with the US Forest Service explained why they decided to the fight the Chetco Bar fire the way they did.

But many in the audience remained unconvinced the Forest Service did all it could do to prevent the spread of what become a huge and costly fire.

inciweb.nwcg.gov

The dozens of fires burning in the Northwest this summer forced thousands of people from their homes and cast clouds of heavy smoke that kept residents inside and ruined untold numbers of vacations. That’s led to some vigorous finger-pointing on editorial pages, talk radio and social media. JPR asked some forest experts for a reality check.

Liam Moriarty / JPR News

The wildfires burning in much of Oregon this summer have blanketed the state with unhealthy levels of smoke. This has led a growing number of outdoor events to cancel during the height of the summer tourist season. At a time when many rural Oregon communities are already struggling, the economic impact could really hurt.

Geoffrey Riley/JPR News

The persistent haze of smoke from the wildfires burning around the Northwest has led many people to wear face masks to protect their lungs. But health officials say many of those masks aren’t doing what the wearers think they are.

ijpr.org

An outpouring of community support has led Oregon governor Kate Brown to reverse a decision to veto state funds for the renovation of the historic Holly Theatre in Medford. But she followed through on veto threats for two other projects championed by Medford’s state representative. 

Oregon Governor's Office

On Tuesday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office announced she’d veto more than $3.6 million in state funding for projects in the Medford area.

The move was clearly meant to punish Medford’s Republican state representative, Sal Esquivel , who had provided a key vote in exchange for that funding, but later backed a referendum to overturn that same bill.

JPR’s Liam Moriarty spoke with veteran political reporter Jeff Mapes from Oregon Public Broadcasting about this unusually public display of political hardball.

Oregon governor's office

Oregon Governor Kate Brown says she'll veto more than $3.6 million dollars in state funding for three projects in the Medford area in what seems to be an act of political payback aimed at Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford, who championed the projects.

Liam Moriarty/JPR News

Everybody needs care at some point in their lives. If not as elders, or when injured or sick, then certainly as children. But a study of what it calls the “care economy” in Oregon says the state is failing to invest in the social infrastructure needed to make high quality care available to everyone who needs it, at whatever stage of life.

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