Thumbs up to McWhorter Ranch, thumbs down to Christmas tree stance

Thumbs up to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for naming the 14,000 McWhorter Ranch on Rattlesnake Mountain as the state's top priority for critical habitat land purchases in 2013.

Most of the ranch is home to endangered ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, long-billed curlews, Townsend's ground squirrels, American badgers, black- and white-tailed jackrabbits, sage sparrows, sage thrashers, elk and mule deer.

It's one of the largest remaining tracts of Eastern Washington's native shrub steppe habitat, and extends to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, the Mid-Columbia's highest point.

The state would open the land for hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, some hunting and other uses compatible with the wild nature of the land.

Our community keeps growing and spreading onto former farm and ranch land. Houses have crept up hillsides and onto ridges. Once open spaces are lost, they're gone forever.

The board's recommendation increases the odds this unique opportunity won't be lost.

Bright future

Thumbs up to Energy Northwest for considering construction of a solar power project on about 65 acres of unused land near its nuclear reactor.

Construction of two other nuclear plants on the property near Richland was never completed, but workers left behind an infrastructure that could be converted to harness solar power.

The Energy Independence Act, created by a voter initiative in 2006, requires utilities with more than 25,000 customers to buy a portion of their electricity from qualified renewable sources, including solar. Unless the law changes, it means a ready market.

A more exhaustive study may find that the plan isn't feasible. But at least Energy Northwest is exercising some creative thinking in looking for ways to capitalize on the investment in infrastructure Northwest ratepayers already have made.

You're a mean one

Thumbs down to the Port of Kennewick's Grinch-like proposal to forego its Christmas tree lighting in 2013 as a cost-savings measure.

We're not sure of the exact costs, but with $4.7 million set aside for capital projects next year, the Christmas tree expense amounts to what's known around most government agencies as "budget dust."

Blaming the tree-darkening plan on the cost of fulfilling public records requests doesn't help. It looks like an attempt by the port to put the individuals making the requests in a bad light.

We're not buying it down here in Whoville.

Ignorance isn't bliss

Thumbs down to the presidential candidates for failing to address climate change in any of their debates.

Scientists point to rising sea levels, historic drops in the level of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean and an increase in extreme weather as evidence of the risks changing global temperatures pose.

The potential threat to national security is real. For the two front-runners in the race for the White House to ignore the threat -- unreal.