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The State of Oregon is now looking for a buyer willing to take the Elliott State Forest off its hands, following Thursday’s vote by the Land Board to move ahead with plans to sell the public forest located near Coos Bay.
Every summer, writers from all over the country head to the base of the towering Wallowa Mountains for Summer Fishtrap, a conference about writing and the West. This year, they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the festival's founders, the journalist and historian Alvin Josephy, with the theme “Hidden From History: Stories We Haven’t Heard, Stories We Haven’t Told.” We couldn't resist the draw of a roadtrip to the mountains, so we invited a number of Fishtrap founders and visiting writers to join us for a live show at the Josephy Center for Arts and Culture. A round table with festival founders Kim Stafford (writer and Lewis and Clark professor) and Rich Wandschneider (former longtime Fishtrap director and now head of the Josephy library), as well as festival board president Rose Caslar, a Wallowa County native who took her first Fishtrap class at 15. They talk about Josephy's influence, the place of Western writing, the reaction to hanging a four-point buck rack in a Lewis and Clark College dormitory and the area's troubled relationship with its original inhabitants, the Nez Perce. 13:30 - Josephy Center director Cheryl Coughlan tells us about how the center helps to culture a creative life in a rural community. 17:56 - Keynote speaker Timothy Egan discusses reporting on stories hidden in plain site. Best known for his National Book Award–winning “The Worst Hard Time,” chronicling Dust Bowl stories, Egan has also written about the photographer Edward Curtis, the wildfire that gave rise to the U.S. Forest Service and western issues of all types for his regular op-eds in the "New York Times." 25:10 - We venture to Fishtrap's lodge for a youth workshop on writing hip-hop theater with poet Myrlin Hepworth. 29:10 - Roberta Connor, the director of the Tamastlikt Cultural Institute whose family includes Nez Perce, Umatilla and Cayuse ancestry, was invited to Fishtrap to talk about what happens when Native stories are told by white writers and to share some of the hidden stories that speak most deeply to her. 36:57 - We close with a discussion with two of this year's most rambunctious workshop leaders, writers Erika Wurth and Sherwin Bitsui. Wurth, who is Apache, Chickasaw and Cherokee, most recently published "Crazy Horse's Girlfriend" and is working on a novel about Native gangs. Bitsui is a Diné from the Navajo Reservation in White Cone, Arizona, and his most recent poetry collection, "Floodsong," won the American Book Award and the PEN Open Book Award. The music in this week's show comes from Tony Furtado's newest album, "The Bell." Furtado has a slew of Oregon shows coming up, including one near the Wallowas at Enterprise's OK Theater on July 30.
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A law passed in 2011 takes effect this school year and it's changing the way Oregon students will be graded from here on out. The law requires districts to measure students' performance based on state standards and to assign grades based on whether students are meeting, exceeding or falling short of those standards. The law says that grades must clearly distinguish between academic proficiency and behavior. The law does not specifically define "behavior." Many districts are interpreting it to include things like attendance, class participation and whether or not students turn in their homework on time. For districts like Forest Grove, this lines up with the way they've been grading students for years. But for other districts, such as Reynolds, it feels like a huge cultural shift.
Detective Matt Smith investigates elder abuse cases. He says he's flooded with cases right now and doesn't anticipate the pace letting up anytime soon. Many abusers, he says, are not who you might expect. In one of his cases, a former school board member became a caregiver to a family friend and then drained the senior's savings on vacations, gambling and pornography. Shawn Michael Vilhauer was ultimately sentenced to five years probation and to pay restitution to the family — but not in time to help Gary Murray, who died alone in a care facility. Many of the cases Smith sees involve financial abuse. He estimates about half the time, the victim dies before the abuser is convicted. Smith says he applauds recent changes in state law to strengthen the hand of law enforcement, including the bill that passed this week to expand mandatory reporting of elder abuse.
Off-road — or off-highway (OHV) — vehicles zip through the state's national forests as drivers enjoy the speed and the beauty of their surroundings. However, that excitement might be limited if Mt. Hood's newly released travel plan (pdf) sets any kind of standard. It specifies 146 miles of roads and trails in the Mt. Hood National Forest for use by vehicles like ATVs and dirt bikes. Environmental groups such as Bark and Oregon Wild applaud the decision. They are pleased this will force vehicles to stay in designated areas. And will give law enforcement the ability to chase them down if they don't. Lori Ann Burd, from Bark, told OPB reporter Rob Manning:
It's going to allow them to begin to get a grip on some of the out-of-control OHV use. Managing OHVs on Mount Hood has been a nightmare for the forest's already stretched-thin law enforcement team.People who enjoy the sport are less pleased. Marvin Ohlde from the Central Oregon Motorcycle and ATV Club told me he thinks the plan simply doesn't allow enough trail for ATVs in the forest.
What's the best way to manage — and to assess the value of — a state forest? That's a question currently under consideration in the legislature. House Bill 3072 would allow the state to change the way it defines the "greatest permanent value" for forest lands by emphasizing the economic value of logging in the forest rather than balancing timber with ecological and recreational benefits. Tillamook and Clatsop County commissioners (who sit on the largest pockets of state forest land) see an increased emphasis on logging as a way to bring more revenue to counties that were cash-strapped before the current global recession. The Oregonian editorial board (and plenty of environmental groups) see the current legislative proposal as the end of a balanced approach to forest management.