One Year And Counting: Looking Back

Dec 31, 2014

October marked one year since I returned to the Rogue Valley from Europe to take up my new assignment at Jefferson Public Radio: to add local and regional news features to JPR’s broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition. 

Looking back over this past year, I think we’ve been successful at bringing JPR listeners interesting news and compelling stories about issues and events from around the region.

Here are a few of my favorite reports, ones that showcase the wide range of issues and interests JPR brings you each day. If you missed any of these when they were first broadcast, you might go to our website and take a listen …

Feeding The Neighbors: The Food Project Hits A Big Milestone

Aired Dec. 18, 2013

Mary Shaffer and sons Gabriel and Rio with a haul of donated groceries in the Food Project's distinctive Green Bags.
Credit Paul Giancarlo

Last December, I spent an icy Saturday morning with Ashland residents Paul Giancarlo, Mary Shaffer and their then-ten-year-old sons Gabriel and Rio. I followed the family as they made their bi-monthly rounds of their neighborhood, collecting bags of food to be donated to the food bank. Paul and Mary were among the founders of the Ashland Food Project, an innovative community approach to hunger that’s been copied across the country. They showed me what makes the Food Project a potent model of compassion in action. 

 

Killing One Owl Species To Save Another

Aired Jan. 16, 2014

It’s been 20 years since the Northwest Forest Plan scaled back logging across the region, in large part to preserve habitat for the endangered northern spotted owl. But the spotted owl continues to decline. Scientists blame the larger, more aggressive barred owl for pushing the spotted owl out of its natural habitat. I spoke with an owl biologist who reluctantly found himself shooting barred owls to see if removing the competition will allow spotted owls to recover.

 

Oregon’s Child Care Affordability Trap

Aired Jan. 23, 2014

With stay-at-home parents becoming increasingly rare, finding high quality, affordable child care has become a major challenge for many families. A recent report found Oregon has the least-affordable child care in the nation. I visited single moms and child care workers to get a look at the hurdles parents face and how some are coping with the squeeze.

                                    

Are Whales At Risk From Navy Sonar Training Plans?

Aired Feb. 25, 2014

Active sonar is the Navy’s best weapon to detect the presence of hostile submarines. But that same powerful underwater pulse of sound can harm or even kill whales and other marine mammals. The Navy is seeking permission to continue using a huge swath of the Northwest coast – from northern California to the Canadian border — for a wide range of naval training and practice, including sonar. The Navy says it’s taking precautions, but I spoke with a top whale expert and others who say it’s not enough.

                                     

Out Of The Shadows: An Emerging Cannabis Industry Seeks Respectability

Aired Feb. 28, 2014 

The Oregon Health Authority had just started accepting license applications for the first state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries. The law’s supporters hope to assure patients safe access to their medicine. But as a rapidly expanding list of states allows medical marijuana – and with Washington and Colorado legalizing recreational use of pot – a growing cohort of entrepreneurs hears opportunity knocking. I attended Oregon’s first-ever medical marijuana business conference in Ashland to see what the burgeoning industry is up to. And now that Oregon has joined the states that have legalized recreational use of the drug, I expect these trends to accelerate quickly.

 

Armed Citizen Groups Fill Law Enforcement Gaps

Aired April 6, 2014

Rural counties in southern Oregon are suffering from the loss of the federal timber money that used to be the mainstay of county government budgets. After repeated failed efforts to get residents to approve tax increases, officials in Josephine County made dramatic cutbacks in county services, including law enforcement. In response, a growing number of armed citizen groups stated cropping up to fill that public safety vacuum. I rode with a citizen patrol in O’Brien and sat in on a training session for another in Merlin to see what these groups are doing to secure their communities.

 

Time To Update The 1872 Mining Law?

Aired April 27, 2014

The federal legislation that regulates mining for copper, zinc, gold and many other minerals was originally signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant. In ways, the law reflects a 19th century view of natural resources: limitless and there for the taking.

A legacy of pollution at tens of thousands of abandoned mines across the West prompted Oregon Congress member Peter DeFazio head a new effort to revise the General Mining Act of 1872. I went with DeFazio and staffers from the EPA and BLM to visit an abandoned mine site in the Umpqua Basin that’s leaching toxins into nearby waterways.

 

GMO Battle Divides Jackson County Farmers

Aired May 12, 2014

The people with perhaps the most direct economic stake in the fate of the Jackson County ban on growing genetically modified crops are the county’s farmers. In the weeks before voters approved the ban I visited Rogue Valley farmers who stood on opposite sides of Measure 15-119 to find out how they saw it.  

 

The Wolf At The Door: California Wrestles With A Predator’s Return

Aired June 11, 2014 

It’s been ninety years since the last native California wolf was trapped and killed. In June, Oregon wildlife officials announced that OR-7, the wolf they’ve tracked wandering in and out of northern California, had found a mate and fathered a new litter in southern Oregon.

That news contributed to the growing sense that it’s only a matter of time till wolves re-inhabit the Golden State. Against this backdrop, California wildlife officials extended endangered species status to the gray wolf.

 

Touched By Fire: Stories From The Oregon Gulch

Aired Aug. 28, 2014

The Oregon Gulch fire was southern Oregon’s largest this past season, blackening nearly 56 square miles of Jackson, Klamath and Siskiyou counties. Several homes were lost, others were saved and a rural mountain community came face-to-face with the reality of sudden danger and loss. I went to the scene with the fire chief who was first to arrive as the fire flared out of control.

 

As we continue to present in-depth regional news features in 2015, I'm confident that the JPR news team will continue to live up to our mission which aims to enhance the quality of community dialogue about regional, state, national and international civic issues.