Liam Moriarty

Reporter for Jefferson Public Radio

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.” 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up his weekend tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon on Sunday.

Among others, he met with a pro-monument group of conservationists, landowners and local elected officials, and with Oregon governor Kate Brown.

Over the past century, fossil-fuel powered automobiles have become the default transportation mode across the industrialized world, impacting everything from patterns of land use to foreign policy.

And while the dominance of cars has certainly had beneficial effects, it’s also taken a heavy toll in pollution, resource consumption and a range of social and public health ills.

A recent report from the University of California Davis envisions a future in which how we get around each day becomes cleaner, faster, greener .. and cheaper by combining three emerging technologies.

About 200 people gathered in Ashland on Saturday night to celebrate the life of a hometown boy who died trying to protect a pair of women from anti-Muslim abuse in Portland.

America’s energy future is often cast as a battle that pits fossil fuels such as coal and gas against wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. But in the Pacific Northwest, we've already slashed greenhouse gas emissions -- and saved big bucks -- with a clean energy source that often doesn't even get mentioned in policy debates.

The federal government has fined more than 750 hospitals across the country for scoring in the bottom 25 percent on measures of patient safety. Hospital-acquired infections, blood clots, falls and bedsores are among the avoidable injuries to patients included in the annual ranking by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The program is meant to prod hospitals to improve patient safety. But hospital officials say the rating system doesn’t paint an accurate picture of patient care.

Progress has been made in recent years in decreasing homelessness, especially among veterans. But the spiraling cost of housing still leaves many people with few affordable options.

Now, inspired by the success of similar projects in the Pacific Northwest, a group in Medford is  building a tiny-house village that offers hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness. 

The recent election saw California and three other states join Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska in legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Four more states voted for medical cannabis, as well.

But the burgeoning cannabis industry has relied on an Obama Administration policy of tolerating state laws that regulate a drug that’s still federally illegal. With a new administration taking over in Washington DC, what does this mean for legal pot?

A bit of covert political sleight of hand has made a pair of legislative races in south central Oregon the focus of attention this election season. JPR’s Liam Moriarty sorts out who’s who in the oddest of this year’s legislative races.

The race for the Third Senate District in southern Oregon was triggered by the sudden death in August of Dr. Alan Bates. Bates, a Democrat, was widely respected, especially for his work on health care issues.

Now, Democrat Tonia Moro – an attorney -- and Republican Alan DeBoer -- an auto-dealer -- are each making the case that they are the best choice to succeed Bates in a race that has implications for the balance of power in Salem.

These days, we openly discuss a lot of things that used to be considered too delicate for polite company: sex, money, childbirth …  If there’s one taboo left, it’s the subject of death. Recently, JPR’s Liam Moriarty attended a social gathering held specifically to talk about the end of life. 

Relations between federal land managers and residents of the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon have long been strained by disputes over the Bureau of Land Management’s forest plans. With another large forestry project now under consideration, JPR’s Liam Moriarty recently went on a field trip with BLM staff and Applegate residents to look at the proposed Nedsbar timber sale on Bald Mountain.

John Rosman / OPB

As legalization of marijuana has spread, so have fears of large corporate ownership of the emerging cannabis industry. The sponsors of legalization initiatives have sought to prevent “Big Marijuana” from getting monopoly control and driving out small growers.

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich stopped in southern Oregon on his campaign swing through the state Thursday.

The Ohio governor touted his economic record in that state and said he offers an alternative to the negativity of the race so far. 

One of the things that makes the upcoming Oregon primary unusual is the fact that, for the first time, the state has three designated major parties on the ballot.

Let’s look at what the Independent Party of Oregon brings to this election.

This has been – to put it mildly – an unusual presidential election season. And for the first time in many years, Oregon’s May 17th primary could actually make a difference in the outcome at both major party nominating conventions.

But now that the primary is suddenly relevant, a lot of people find themselves confused about how the process works.

Let’s sort it out, shall we?

The downtown economy of Ashland is heavily dependent on the tourists who flock to see the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or who come to hike, bike, ski, fish and boat the area’s mountains and waterways.

Last year, complaints from merchants, residents and visitors about aggressive panhandling and uncivil behavior by some homeless people reached a fever pitch.

Now, city officials are looking for fresh ideas to head off a new season of unpleasantness.

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.

Pages