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Let Oregon be Oregon

The administration should stop trying to block wilderness bills

The Bush administration, apparently insufficiently occupied with insurgencies in the Middle East and the looming November election, now is standing in the way of bipartisan efforts to expand the Mount Hood wilderness area in far-off Oregon.

The House has passed a bill backed by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., to expand the winderness area by about 77,000 acres. A more ambituous Senate version introduced by Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith would add more than 128,000 acres.

But Mark Rey, the Agriculture undersecretary in charge of U.S. forest policy, said last week that the administration opposes both bills, and would prefer just 55,000 acres set aside as wilderness, and the rest protected under a less restrictive category such as a national recreation area.

There will be little time left to reach a compromise on the two measures when Congress returns to Washington after the election. It would be embarrassing enough if a united Oregon delegation was unable to get a single measure through both houses. It would be even more lamentable if Oregon lawmakers caved in to administration demands to shrink the proposal.

"We've heard loud and clear that the people of Oregon want more protections for Mount Hood," Wyden told The Associated Press last week. Oregon's elected representatives have listened to their constituents. It's time for the administration to get out of the way.

Progress on rental rules The Medford City Council is poised today to enact new licensing requirements for owners of rental property in the city. The move is a positive one for renters and for their neighbors, who too often have to endure the result of absentee landlords' neglect of their responsibilties.

That can mean garbage that doesn't get picked up as required by city code or rental units that are allowed to deteriorate into unsafe and unhealthy places to live.

Most landlords are responsible, of course, but those who are not cause headaches for city staff and for renters and their neighbors. And because half of Medford's landlords live outside Jackson and Josephine counties, tracking them down to notify them of a problem can be problematic.

The city changed the rules last month to allow code enforcement officers to cite out-of-town violators by mail. That move allows quicker responses to problems, and the registration requirement will for the first time give the city a database of rental units in Medford.

The council should adopt the new requirements without delay.