Observatory's rescue reason to be thankful

The cooperative effort that went into saving the old observatory on Rattlesnake Mountain is impressive.

It's yet another example of what people in the Mid-Columbia can accomplish when they work together for a common goal.

The old Rattlesnake Mountain Observatory had been a special part of the region for nearly 40 years, housing the largest professional-grade telescope in the state. Over the years, it was visited by thousands of people, everyone from students and the simply curious to researchers and scientists from across the country.

But in 2008 the Department of Energy ordered it taken down from the top of Rattlesnake Mountain. That might have been the end of it.

Fortunately, the telescope and observatory were saved by Battelle, which has a history of making generous donations in the community. It was a Battelle scientist who got the observatory started in the first place and Battelle was the first to operate it, later donating it to the Alliance for the Advancement of Science Through Astronomy (AASTA).

Battelle came through with a $250,000 donation to help take down the observatory and relocate it, and AASTA members went on the hunt for a new home.

One was finally found on Braden Farm, which is owned by Whitman College in Walla Walla. Construction is starting and the observatory is expected to open in 2012.

It should be better than ever. As the search was going on for a new location, Columbia Basin College took charge of the telescope and improved it with new mechanical, optical and electronic features.

Thanks to a lot of dedicated people, the observatory remains part of the Mid-Columbia.

Working without pay

One of the hazards of working for the federal government is that when budget talks stall, it can mean no pay for employees until the politicians are done haggling.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently idled thousands of workers in a partial shut-down when Congress couldn't reach an agreement about the agency's budget. In the meantime, 40 airport safety inspectors worked without pay and picked up their own travel expenses while waiting for a resolution.

It's easy to take potshots at bureaucrats, but we're thankful for the many dedicated government employees who put their country first.

Return of the pygmy rabbits

Made nearly extinct by the loss of habitat and thriving predators, the fist-sized Washington pygmy rabbits are getting yet another attempt to survive in their natural environment.

It's always good to get good news about these little charmers, which are nearly wiped out from the wild.

They are little more than a mouthful for a hungry owl -- less than that for a coyote -- so it's with particular pleasure we hear of the return of our own pygmy rabbits.

They used to thrive hereabouts. One sub-species, the Hanford pygmy rabbit, has gone extinct in the wild.

The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is endangered.

But the Oregon Zoo as well as Northwest Trek, the U.S. and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State University have conducted breeding trials with other pygmy rabbits, and attempts to reintroduce them to the wild are again under way.

The Oregon Zoo says it has excellent breeding stock and a large enough collection of pygmy rabbits to make another attempt at releasing them in the wild.

Some past attempts have come to quick and sad conclusions.

We're thankful that just because it's tough, the people trying to save these little critters haven't given up.