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Robert Mueller now expected to reveal findings of his probe right after the November midterm elections. Also on the Thursday rundown: the poorest people pay the highest taxes in states like Nevada; and the Terminator fights gerrymandering.

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Oregon's Great Outdoors, This Week and Beyond

August 24, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregonians have one more weekend to celebrate Great Outdoors Week, with hikes, trail maintenance and other events statewide to focus on public lands and their importance to the state's economy.

Getting people outdoors is a growing business in Oregon, accounting for almost $6 billion a year and 73,000 jobs. The money isn't always easy to track, says Rob Klavins, wildlands advocate for Oregon Wild, but it benefits many rural areas of the state.

"There's a ripple effect through the economy. When somebody goes to see wolf country in Wallowa County, they buy coffee, they fill up their car with gas, they stay at a hotel or a bed-and-breakfast; they leave a tip for the waiter or the waitress there - and so those dollars get spent in local places."

This year's events are especially important to raise public awareness, Klavins says. Mining, logging and drilling already are allowed on more than half of public lands, and Congress is debating opening up another 60 million acres to development nationwide.

Oregon is home to the Columbia Gorge, the nation's first national scenic area. The group Friends of the Columbia Gorge has kicked off a hiking challenge from now through the end of October. Maegen Gossy, the group's outdoor program coordinator, says they've picked the "top 25 trails" for people to explore the Gorge on foot.

"Most people go through the Gorge seeing it from their car window. Once you start to learn more about it, it's just this story that starts to unfold."

Gossy says she hopes Great Outdoors Week gives people a chance to appreciate areas they might sometimes take for granted and to recognize that there's a small army of people working to keep them protected.

Great Outdoors Week runs through Sunday. A list of events is on the Oregon Wild website, oregonwild.org. Information on the "25 hikes" challenge is at org2.democracyinaction.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR