Cheers and jeers

Cheers — to the Pacific Forest Trust and the Bureau of Land Management for their efforts to transfer private land in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to public ownership. The trust has been buying parcels of private land within the monument from willing sellers since the monument was created in 2000. Most of the land was owned by timber companies. The purchases were funded by private foundations and individual contributions.

The BLM in turn is buying the land from the trust as money is approved in Congress. The first $1 million transaction last week transferred 890 acres into public ownership.

Most of the monument already is public property, but there are many parcels of private land within its boundaries. It makes sense to convert as much monument land as possible to public ownership so the land can be protected.

Jeers — to Congress, first for under-funding the digital converter box coupon program and second for proposing to delay the switchover because some TV watchers may not know that their televisions will become unwatchable without the converter boxes. This, despite a solid year of informational TV spots and news coverage. The Senate voted unanimously to put off the transition for four months; the House on Wednesday failed to pass the postponement. The Obama administration also is pushing for delay.

Just get the transition over with and move on to more pressing matters — such as rescuing the economy.

Cheers — to the Eagle Point High School Future Farmers of America livestock judging team for its first-place finish at the Arizona National Livestock Judging Contest. The five-member team was among 140 students from 35 schools across the country competing in the New Year's Eve event. Students evaluated 10 classes of pigs, sheep and cattle and then defended their results.

Jeers — to the smokers who have been filling Ashland sidewalks with their castoff butts since Oregon's new indoor smoking ban took effect Jan. 1 — and to the bartender at the Beau Club bar, where smoking previously was allowed, who said the mess wasn't his problem or that of the bar's owner, who declined to comment at all. Meanwhile, a neighboring business owner is cleaning up the debris in front of his restaurant left by patrons of the bar. Ashland city officials may have to revisit the city's ban on ashtrays on the sidewalks. Maybe they could have a contest for artistically decorated receptacles.

Cheers — to the widow of a motorcycle accident victim and the driver of the truck he collided with for teaming up to press for quick action to lower the speed limit and make other safety improvements at the intersection of Lone Pine and North Foothill roads in Medford. Cheers also to the Oregon Department of Transportation for finishing the required study ahead of schedule and approving the speed limit reduction.

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