Liam Moriarty


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, turning his talents to covering the stories that are important to the people of this very special region.

Joshua Veal / USFS

During the summer of 2014, wildfires burned more than 200,000 acres of the Klamath National Forest in northern California’s Siskiyou County.

Last year, the US Forest Service proposed a program of salvage logging, replanting and hazardous tree removal. That plan faced opposition from environmental groups and the Karuk Indian tribe.

Now, a modified version of the plan has been approved, and was immediately met with a challenge in federal court.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Last week, a divided city council in Weed, California voted to accept an agreement with the Roseburg Forest Products company to continue to draw the city’s water supply from a spring on the company’s property in Weed.

Now, in the face of vehement community opposition, the council seems to be getting cold feet. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Each year, authorities in Medford and Jackson County stage as many as a dozen sweep operation along the Bear Creek Greenway, ousting homeless campers and often confiscating their belongings. Within days, many of the campers are back, usually because they simply have nowhere else to go.

Now, a proposal that builds on successful projects around the Northwest is gaining momentum in the Rogue Valley.

M.O. Stevens via Wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers in Salem just wrapped up their legislative session for 2016.

The majority Democrats emerged from the session with a number of key wins. But Republicans say the Dems took unfair advantage of their position.

JPR’s Liam Moriarty spoke with our Salem Correspondent Chris Lehman to bring us this overview. 

Bobjgalindo/Wikipedia Commons

In December, Congress adjourned without passing legislation to ratify a trio of agreements meant to end the long-standing water wars in the Klamath Basin. This essentially killed the deal, arrived at through years of painstaking negotiations between farmers, ranchers, tribes and other groups.

Now, there’s a move to demolish four dams on the Klamath River through a separate regulatory process, bypassing the need for Congressional approval.

Normally, if you do a job, you expect to be properly paid for it. But many workers aren’t given the compensation they’re legally due. One study estimated more than a quarter of low-wage workers were paid less than the legal minimum wage. Another found nearly 90 percent of fast food employees weren’t paid what they were entitled to.

Now, workers’ advocates and Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are pushing to crack down on what they call wage theft.

Oregon Secretary of State

On Monday, Oregon’s legislature reconvenes. Democratic lawmakers see the five-week-long  “short session” as a chance to wrap up unfinished business left over from last year’s full-length session.

But Republicans, who are in the minority, say the Dems are abusing their control of the legislature to push through a liberal agenda.

JPR’s Liam Moriarty talks with statehouse correspondent Chris Lehman to get a sense of what we can expect in the upcoming session.  

Rick Bowmer

With the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge ongoing in eastern Oregon, there’s been renewed attention on ranchers’ discontent with federal grazing policy.

A lot has been said about the relatively low prices ranchers are paying to graze their livestock on public lands. Critics say the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing that.

But as is often the case, the truth isn’t quite so cut and dried.  JPR’s Liam Moriarty spoke with Jes Burns with our EarthFix team to try to sort it out.  

Jes Burns/EarthFix

On January first, Oregon will join California in at least temporarily banning the use of a controversial gold-mining technique in which miners essentially vacuum up river beds to recover the mineral. Environmental groups say a ban is long overdue. But independent miners say the state is illegally interfering with their federally-granted rights.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

People have been fighting over scarce water resources in the Klamath Basin for decades.  After nearly ten years of negotiations, a series of agreements were reached.  They were designed to provide irrigation certainty for farmers and ranchers while preserving river and fishery health.  

But congressional approval for these locally-negotiated pacts is needed for them to move forward.  And after years of delay, the Klamath Restoration Agreements are approaching an end-of-the-year deadline. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

The Rogue Valley boasts a thriving community of small family farms, many of them organic. But most of the food grown here is shipped out of the area.  If you want to buy this bounty locally, farmers markets and food co-ops have pretty much been your only option.

Now, farmers are getting together to put Rogue Valley grown produce where most people buy their food: the local supermarket. 

UC Davis

After nearly 20 years in a legal gray zone, medical marijuana in California is being brought under regulation. But clandestine pot cultivation continues. Illegal grows on public land are especially notorious for causing a range of environmental problems. Now, there's new research that zeroes in on the toll these trespass grows take on threatened wildlife.

Liam Moriarty/JPR News

A century of putting out wildfires has left many forests in the West much thicker than in the past. That buildup of fire fuel is widely seen as a disaster waiting to happen. 

And an innovative project in Ashland, Oregon is an example of an increasingly popular approach to dealing with that fire risk.

Doug Bevington

Conventional wisdom says forests in the West are overstocked and need to be thinned to prevent “catastrophic” wildfires. But some researchers say focusing on reducing fuels downplays a greater and growing driver of wildfire: climate change.

Dominick Dellasala/Geos Institute

The cost of fighting wildfires has skyrocketed over the last 30 years. At the same time, close to two million acres of wildland have been developed each year.

One of the major drivers of that expense is protecting lives and property in fire-prone areas where people didn’t used to live.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Roseburg, Oregon, site of the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, is a rural, conservative timber town in which firearms are a traditional part of the culture and gun rights are cherished.

In the wake of the shooting, calls for new gun laws were vigorously rejected by public officials and many residents. But some long-time members of the community feel there should be more emphasis on gun safety.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are in the midst of a leadership crisis, brought on by the abrupt retirement of Speaker John Boehner and the decision by presumptive replacement Kevin McCarthy of California to not seek the post.

Greg Walden represents Oregon’s Second District and is in the House Republican leadership. He spoke with JPR’s Liam Moriarty about the ongoing drama.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

This week, Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have been visiting with college students to listen to their concerns about paying for higher education. Both Democrats are proposing measures to make college more affordable and to create more flexible terms for paying student loans. Wyden and Merkley came to Southern Oregon University Wednesday. 

Liam Moriarty/JPR

Oregon Governor Kate Brown greeted students returning to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Monday morning. It was the first day of classes since the October 1st campus shooting that left 10 people dead. 

Hundreds of Roseburg residents lined the road to the college, waving American flags and signs offering encouragement and support.

Liam Moriarty/JPR

A number of community colleges around Oregon held vigils Wednesday evening to honor the victims of the shooting last week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.