In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Gorge trails plan aids nature, economy; VA needs to pay attention to women

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Cheers: To linking more Columbia River Gorge communities to hiking trails. The Friends of the Columbia Gorge, a group that is dedicated to protecting the Gorge’s environment and scenic vistas, is promoting just such a plan.It’s a long-range vision, but already some work is under way on the Oregon side of the river near Mosier, and plans are being drawn up to connect the Washington town of Lyle with nearby existing trails. The goal is to encourage visitors to enjoy the unmatched natural scenery and also take in the small-town atmosphere, and adding to the overall prosperity by buying something. With Portland’s population expected to continue to grow, the demand for recreation in the Gorge is expected to double in the coming years.

Most of the land is publicly owned or controlled by conservation groups; it’s important to protect private property rights as the plans move forward. But it’s encouraging to see more plans that aim to preserve Gorge scenery, the Gorge environment, and the Gorge towns’ economies.

Jeers: To a new Government Accountability Office report that shows the Department of Veterans Affairs is having trouble meeting the unique needs of homeless women veterans.

While the overall number of homeless veterans has dropped, the number and needs of homeless women veterans have increased.

The GAO report, requested by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., shows that the VA has limited data on the number and needs of these women. But the available data show that the VA is having trouble reaching veterans who are eligible for benefits, is uneven in implementing policies, and lacks minimum standards for safety, security and privacy of women veterans in mixed-gender housing. There is also difficulty in providing for their children. A cheer to Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, for drawing attention to the problem.

Cheers: To the Vancouver-based Columbia Land Trust’s latest purchase, nearly 1,000 acres along the Columbia River between St. Helens and Rainier, Ore. Glenn Lamb, the land trust’s executive director, says the purchase of the former Columbia Stock Ranch provides a crucial link in the land trust’s goal to boost fish and wildlife habitat along the river. At $5.3 million, it was the biggest purchase along the river in nearly 40 years. It will be paid for in part by the Bonneville Power Administration, which will pass the cost on to its wholesale electricity customers.

Plans for conserving the land are incomplete, but it’s likely the parcel’s potential wetlands will be reconnected to the river, which will provide abundant of habitat for young salmon.

Jeers: To politicians who tout how they are against government over-regulation of enterprise and then introduce special-interest regulations in the name of constituent service. A prime example is Senate Bill 6383, which would regulate penalties imposed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. It’s the brainchild of Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, one of the most ardent foes of government intrusion into everyday life. Benton says the bill is necessary because the WIAA wouldn’t allow the Kings Way Christian School’s girls volleyball team to participate in the playoffs last year after it played too many regular-season games. Regardless of whether the WIAA’s action was fair or unfair, politicizing the rules is no way to win the game.

Cheers: To J.R. Martinez. The Iraq War veteran, burn survivor and “Dancing with the Stars” winner will give Clark College’s June 21 commencement address.