Western Canada Geese are having a field day with local ranchers.
The surge in the flocks who have found the private property at the Arcata Bottoms appetizing have prompted California Fish and Game to come up with a plan to divert them to public land.
This month Fish and Game hopes to burn and mow the tall grass at the Mad River Slough Wildlife Area on the north end of Arcata Bay. Fish and Game may even enlist some ranchers' cows to nibble on the grass.
The overgrowth has made the nearly 500-acre site an inadequate landing or takeoff zone for the birds, Fish and Game wildlife biologist Herb Pierce said. It's also hard for the birds to eat, drink or relax there, when predators could be lurking in the tall grass.
Obviously a better spot, a few hundred geese have descended on John Mason's property off Foster Road to find refuge. Mason chases them off his property to the neighbor's land and vice-versa, he said.
The dance between neighbors has become frustrating for Mason, because the birds' unwelcome stay consumes time and grass meant for his livestock.
And they don't seem to get the hint that no matter how appealing they are to look at, they're a continual drain on resources.
"When they get a field they like, they come back," he said. Plus, they turn their noses up at the dry, dense stuff found on state property, he quipped.
For the time being, Mason's simply satisfied that reduced numbers from last year have returned. He's also happy one of his neighbors has grown a corn field for the returning geese.
The success of President Clinton's $100 million proposal announced last week to save the dwindling Pacific Northwest salmon population lies with the passing of the administration's fiscal 2000 budget. Congress received it this week.
Already, the salmon restoration plan has some heavyweight legislators behind it in California, one of four western states due to receive $25 million. Washington, Oregon and Alaska are the others.
The funding, to be matched dollar-for-dollar by state and local entities, would be spread over a six-year period. A letter, requesting twice the amount in the Clinton plan, was signed by Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Thompson.
Their support for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund was matched on the state level by Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, D-Duncan Mills, who pledged to channel the funds to specific restoration projects.
Supporters contend that at least 320 stocks of the fish that use the West Coast's coastal rivers to spawn were either "extinct or at high risk of extinction. Many populations have been or are proposed to be listed as endangered." They cite human impacts as affecting the remaining, healthy stocks and the fishing communities that depend on them.
In the last 30 years, 72,000 jobs in the salmon industry have been lost with the stock declines, the letter continues.
A plan to pump $850 million into state and local parks may go to the voters, if state Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, has his way.
The bond measure is meant as a way of improving the parks system, Chesbro explained in a statement last week. The last major park bond was approved in 1988. This one is aimed at the March 2000 ballot.
The Watershed, Wildlife and Park Improvement Bond Act of 2000 allocates funds for wildlife conservation programs and Redwood forest and wetlands protection plans, among other efforts. On the North Coast, park bond funds could be used to bring parks on-line with developing communities, the statement adds.
Chesbro also wants to develop walking and cycling trails along waterways and expand spaces for athletic fields.
The idea comes as welcome news for officials with the state park service's North Coast Redwoods District, which has 21 parks under its jurisdiction.
District Interpretative Specialist Alan Wilkinson said there's a "backlog" of items on the park service's wish list that have needed funding. The district plans to go over a few at next week's budget meeting, he said.
Wilkinson listed nterpretative displays, road maintenance and trail rehab efforts. Rest assured, the wish list should be whittled down to top priorities by the year 2000, he added.
Following a year-long dispute, the California State University Board of Trustees has placed a tentative contract between CSU and its faculty union on the table.
"We're hopeful, by the end of the month, we'll have a contract," CSU administration spokesman Ken Swisher said in a telephone interview from Long Beach.
The proposed contract was hailed as a major breakthrough by the chancellor's office and a "generous" offer.
The faculty union sees it differently.
"It has its good points and its bad points," said Ken Fulgham, CFA chapter president at Humboldt State University.
After crunching some numbers, Fulgham said he's "debating" supporting the proposal but admits a rejection comes with a risk.
Under the tentative agreement, faculty will get a 3 percent general salary increase retroactive to Oct. 1. The CSU administration had originally proposed a 2.5 percent salary increase. Among other perks not offered before, the proposal also doubles the maternity leave time from 10 days to 20.
Still, the offer regardless of being a compromise from CSU's last represents a small token of rewards when considering the magnitude of a professor's job, Fulgham said. He adds, there are times some have shared feeling "brow-beaten" into accepting what they can get.
If the faculty union membership turns down the tentative agreement, the board of trustees may impose a version more favorable to its own interests, not the faculty's, he said. By Feb. 28, the 6,800-member union is expected to vote on the proposal. More than 200 teach at HSU.
CSU and CFA were embroiled in a bargaining since last February. Five months later, an impasse was declared after their prior three-year contract expired.
A state mediator was brought in during the extension period.
Following last week's mistrial, the future of Michael S. Shaddix, 35, could swing toward any one of at least three legal choices.
On Friday, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen will go over the options with the defense and prosecution, both sides confirmed.
Shaddix, a Sunny Brae Middle School teacher accused of molesting two of his female students, may be offered a plea bargain, retrial or dismissal.
Defense attorney Greg Rael said last week he's not interested in a plea bargain, while Deputy District Attorney Maggie Fleming said she objects to a dismissal.
"I can't see him teaching again," she said.
Whether or not he will continue teaching remains a mystery, as calls to his supervisor with the Humboldt County Office of Education were unreturned.
Shaddix is charged with 13 counts of child molestation, allegations that would net at least 20 years in prison with a full conviction, published reports indicate. The 12-member jury was deadlocked on all counts.
The North Coast Railroad Authority has lined up $1 million to repair the ailing, debt-laden rail.
The two-part windfall will help pay expenses to fix the tracks from the Napa junction north to Willits, closed months ago by the Federal Railroad Administration for safety reasons.
The contractor hired to work on the southern end expects to complete the work by early March, rail authority President Allan Hemphill said. Once Herzog Construction finishes the work on the southern end, the focus shifts to the northern end from Willits to Eureka, Hemphill said.
But this end of the line, closed for about a year because of landslides, is a whole other matter.
The rail authority's difficulty with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over what qualifies for reimbursements has delayed the project. But Hemphill seemed assured those problems would be worked out as his agency that oversees operation of Northwestern Pacific Railroad makes progress on the piecemeal upgrade.
The closures have made those doing business up and down the U.S. Highway 101 corridor totally dependent on trucking, Hemphill said.
Adding to the beleaguered railroad's problems, a lawsuit filed by state regulatory agencies over the holidays asks the railroad to kick in more funds to clean up hazardous material and appoint an environmental monitor for compliance, an Associated Press report indicates. The suit accuses NWP of polluting the Eel River, among other waterways.
The defense attorney for a Whitethorne record producer and musician convicted on drug charges plans to file a motion by mid-February for a new trial.
David Penalosa, 43, was found guilty last week of possessing and cultivating one pound of marijuana following a raid of his home on Chemise Mountain Road in September 1997, Attorney Mel Pearlston confirmed. He added that his client was also charged with possessing a small amount of hashish.
Penalosa, considered the founding father of Afro-Cuban rhythms, pleaded innocent to the charges. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, Pearlston added.
The Pacific Justice Center attorney said he was surprised by how quickly the jury came back with the guilty verdict, which was delivered in a few hours.
"I feel the DA's evidence is extremely weak," Pearlston said of his reasons for standing by his case.
Phone calls to the prosecutor in the case, Deputy District Attorney Eamon Fitzgerald, were unreturned.
Penalosa, a musician in the salsa band Kachimbo, is a co-owner of Redway-based Bembe Records, Pearlston confirmed on behalf of his client. A band on the record label has been nominated for a Grammy Award, due to air Feb. 20.
The interim chief executive officer for General Hospital has been tapped for the top job, the hospital announced last week.
Martin Love, who joined the Eureka hospital in 1973, has served in the position since July. He replaces David Wanger, who moved to Phoenix, hospital officials confirmed.
Love was the chief operating officer for the 79-bed facility for 12 years, a statement issued by the hospital said. His new appointment was unanimously approved by the board of directors.
Among the list of projects proposed at the hospital, Love said he looks forward to the creation of a new birthing unit. The hospital is spending nearly $1 million on the facility due for completion in six months, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The new chief holds a bachelor's degree in zoology and master's degree in business administration.
He's involved with the Sunrise Rotary Club in Arcata and is on the Hospice of Humboldt board.
One of the nation's oldest crimes has recently caught up to Humboldt County.
Countering a rash in the amount of funny money that circulated on the North Coast during the holidays, the Eureka Police Department Crime Prevention Unit is sponsoring a class to teach merchants, bankers and law enforcement what to look for.
The class will be held Feb. 17 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the police station, 604 C St. Secret Service Special Agent Jim Luttig will give the class.
The federal agency, known for protecting
presidents and their families, has guarded the U.S. currency since 1865
two years after a national currency was established.
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