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Side Notes 2/11-2/18 

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Central Oregonians are known for their independent spirit. And, now, there's a (major) party for that. Secretary of State Kate Brown announced Monday that the Independent Party of Oregon—also known as the party people sometimes join when then mean to register as "unaffiliated"—is officially a major political party (a bragging right previously reserved for Democrats and Republicans). With that designation, which essentially means the party's membership exceeds 5 percent of the state's population, comes the right to hold ballot primaries for its candidates. It may also mean that candidates running on the Independent ticket will have to actually be a member of the party, preventing candidates from double-dipping—as Rep. Knute Buehler did in the November 2014 election.

OSU-Cascades is starting to walk—and bike—its sustainability talk. First, the university recently received commitments totaling $725,000 toward an initiative to make the new OSU-Cascades a model of conservation, ideally reducing energy usage by about 40 percent. Leading the generous donors are retired OSU alums Lee and Connie Kearney, who own property in Central Oregon, and have pledged $500,000 toward the cause. Rod Ray, former president and chief executive officer of Bend Research, and his wife Lori have contributed $75,000 and Deschutes Brewery is offering $50,000. In the nearer-term, OSU-Cascades is launching a bicycle loan pilot program that will allow faculty and staff to borrow one of four cruisers during weekdays.

Central Oregon lost a local legend with last week's passing of High Desert Museum founder Donald M. Kerr. He was 69. The museum was born out of Kerr's vision and passion for sharing the wonders of the natural world with others. The museum was one of the nation's first "living museums," featuring live animals rather than taxidermy displays. Kerr led the museum until 1995, when he fell ill with viral encephalitis he is believed to have contracted after being scratched by a wild great horned owl. A third generation Central Oregonian, Kerr's fascination with the natural world was first sparked at age 12, when a teacher brought a raptor into the classroom.

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