February 28, 2002
The pool of candidates for president at Humboldt State University has been narrowed to four, all of whom either have just toured the campus or will be doing so over the coming week.
The candidates will be available to the public during forums held from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Van Duzer Theater. A new president is expected to be named during the week of March 11 and take over for outgoing President Alistair McCrone in June.
The incoming president will inherit more then an idyllic campus and red-hot basketball team from McCrone. The university is embroiled in two as-yet unresolved controversies dealing with treatment of faculty (see related articles this issue). Just last year, the campus was shocked by a fundraising scandal (see The Case Against John Sterns and HSU, Aug. 16.).
For years, the Endangered Species Act has stood as the salmon's last line of defense. When wild salmon populations took a dip toward extinction, they could almost always rely on the strong, clear language in the law to force federal agencies to offer them protection.
But that protection may not be as strong as it once was. A coalition of farmers that compete with salmon for water from Northwestern rivers has launched an attack on the salmon's protected status under the ESA.
The efforts range from a plan to give Klamath farmers more water this year to attempts to remove the fish from the list of threatened species. Backed by a new report from the National Academy of Sciences and an administration more friendly to agricultural interests, they are gaining real traction.
The starting point for the new efforts is a decision in Eugene, Ore., last September by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan. He ruled that when the National Marine Fisheries Service gave Oregon's coho salmon threatened status, it made a mistake by not including hatchery fish in population counts. In theory, that ruling would have yanked Oregon's coho off the threatened lis. In reality, the decision was appealed, and Hogan's order stayed -- the salmon won't be delisted unless the appeal is rejected.
But even without being carried out, Hogan's decision has changed the landscape of the fight over salmon. NMFS announced Feb. 11 that it would accept petitions from irrigation groups who want to have coho, chinook and steelhead delisted across much of the Pacific Northwest. Among the petitions accepted were ones that would delist all three species in Humboldt County.
"I don't see any scientific justification for delisting," said Tim McKay, executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center.
The NEC has been on the forefront of legal battles to ensure salmon get the protection they are entitled to under the ESA. McKay said delisting would "set back the efforts to recover these species." They would not be guaranteed minimum water in rivers or other special considerations.
But those in the farm lobby say salmon were never in trouble in the first place. Their argument is that hatchery fish, which are relatively abundant, are no different than wild fish. If you lump the two populations together, they don't rate protection as an endangered species.
"We are certainly pleased that NMFS is re-evaluating its practice of making a distinction between hatchery and native fish," said Ronda Lucas, a litigation specialist with the California State Farm Bureau.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Legal Foundation, the group that successfully sued to have the coho delisted in Oregon, has filed a parallel suit in U.S. District Court to delist the coho in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Hogan will again be hearing the case, which is almost identical to that filed for Oregon's coho.
The NEC has applied for the right to fight for the government's position in that case. Participating in the cases as an "intervenor" is necessary because the Bush administration is not expected to mount that vigorous of a defense, McKay said.
Action on the salmon front continues outside the courtroom as well. The Bureau of Reclamation has recently released its preliminary plan for allocating water in the Klamath system. Last year drought forced the bureau to choose between farmers and fish. Because of their protection under the ESA, fish won, sparking protests and vandalism as farmers were shut off from the irrigation water required to turn semi-arid land into lush green fields (see The Land of Farmers, Suckers and Salmon, July 26).
But this year, the farmers seem to be winning, McKay said. "That draft basically takes a new approach that says, `The irrigators get all the water they want, and wildlife considerations come next.'"
Underlying all the legal and administrative wrangling over salmon's status and protections is a new report from the national Academy of Sciences. The academy, a nonpartisan group of prominent scientists, published a report in January that criticizes the bureau for choosing fish over farmers, claiming there was insufficient scientific evidence to warrant that decision.
The message, said the Farm Bureau's Lucas, is that "The science has to be there to support making those kinds of calls."
McKay responded that while "there could always be more science," the academy's report shouldn't cause the Bureau of Reclamation to side with farmers. He pointed out that Native American tribes have been studying the fish populations for over 10 years and vehemently disagree with the academy.
And how does McKay view the sudden onslaught of action against salmon's protections? "I think the people on that side of the issue were waiting for an opening," he said. When Hogan ruled to delist the Oregon coho, they found it.
IF THE RICH ARRAY OF COUNTY OFFICES up for election next week weren't enough to pull you to the polls, maybe the power to pass a few laws can: Six ballot measures will be up for approval March 5, covering everything from land purchases to voting machines.
A long-running dispute between the California State University and their faculty is coming to a head, with a vote on a possible strike expected within the next two weeks.
"We'll probably have a strike authorization vote on March 11," said John Travis, spokesperson for the California Faculty Association and a professor of government and politics at Humboldt State University.
If a settlement between the university and its professors is not reached, a CSU system-wide strike could follow as soon as the beginning of April. Professors are asking for increased compensation, faster resolution of conflicts with the university, more tenure-track faculty and smaller class sizes. A strike would be Humboldt State's first since protests against the Vietnam war in 1969, Travis said.
At the same time that the faculty's union is fighting their battle against the entire university system, three members of the Native American Studies department continue their private skirmish with HSU. Joseph Dupris, Joseph Giovanetti and Kathleen Hill have alleged they are the victims of discrimination and retaliation.
Last week, Dupris was recommended for reappointment. That means the professor will likely be rehired for another year. Giovanetti has already been recommended for reappointment, leaving only Hill. The three responded by alleging the university was trying to "divide and conquer."
"Each person is considered independently," said Sean Kearns, director of university communications for HSU. "Each has a different set of strengths and weaknesses."
The official motto of the Boy Scouts is to "do a good deed daily." Over the next week, you're likely to see scores of scouts fulfilling their daily duty as they hit the streets for their annual food drive.
The Scouting for Food campaign starts March 2, when Boy and Cub Scouts will distribute food donation bags to residents. They come back one week later and pick up your donations of canned foods.
Those cans of baked beans wedged in the back of your cupboard may not mean much to you, but each year food drives keep the larder stocked at several food banks. The Scouts' drive alone supplies the Food Bank in Eureka, the Arcata Endeavor, Good Grace Shepherd Church in McKinleyville and the St. Joseph's Parish Pantry in Fortuna.
Call 443-8345 or 445-3166 for more information.
Before entering private practice from 1978 to 1982, Terry Farmer worked as a a prosecutor in Minnesota and as a deputy District Attorney in Humboldt County. He became District Attorney in 1982.
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