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April 7, 2005
COUNTY TO BUY VOTING
MACHINES: No matter who ends up
on the ballot, local voters will have a choice next year -- optical
scan or touch screen? On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of
Supervisors voted unanimously to purchase a limited number of
touch-screen machines so that the county will comply with the
federal Help America Vote Act. The machines in question are manufactured
by the Diebold Corp. and are designed to be accessible to people
with disabilities. They will include a "paper trail"
that will allow for hand recounts if a vote is challenged. If
things go according to plan, the county will place one of the
touch-screen devices at each polling place in the county, along
with the old optical-scan ballots. Each voter will have the option
of choosing her preferred method. Most of the cost to the county
will be reimbursed by state and federal funds. Several local
residents addressed the board on the topic, many of them denouncing
Diebold as "criminals." (The Ohio company and its president,
a staunch Bush supporter, have been accused of helping to engineer
a Bush victory in the November election.) Some called for a return
to hand counting paper ballots in every election, something that
has not been done in the county for many decades, as the only
way to ensure a fair count.
PALCO ANNOUNCES LAYOFFS: As the Pacific
Lumber Co. predicted when it pushed the North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board to OK logging plans in the Freshwater
Creek and Elk River watersheds, it laid off 21 lumber operations
employees last week, citing a shortage of logs. On March 16,
the water board approved Palco's logging of 75 percent of the
timber harvest plans previously approved by the California Department
of Forestry, but it was too little too late, the company said.
In a press statement issued last Thursday, Dennis Wood, vice
president of operations, said the log harvest for the first quarter
of 2005 was down from the original plan by over 10 million board
feet. "It is too little harvest, and it was reauthorized
too late, to keep all of our operations at the level which we
had planned for 2005," Wood said. "Petitions for stay
and administrative appeals from those delayed and diminished
Water Board authorizations dramatically exacerbate the uncertainty
of harvest and log supplies." Critics have argued that further
logging in the sediment-impaired Elk and Freshwater watersheds
will prevent them from recovering. In other news, Palco announced
that Scotia Pacific LLC (SCOPAC), a wholly owned subsidiary of
Pacific Lumber, was consolidating its operations into a single
business division effective April 1. As part of the reorganization,
Jeff Barrett, director of science programs, was promoted to vice
president of SCOPAC.
AUGUST TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN: The trial
of Fortuna City Councilmember Debi August has been delayed yet
again. In response to a motion from August's attorneys, Judge
John Feeney pushed the opening date of the trial back three weeks,
to May 23. August stands accused by the Humboldt County Grand
Jury of conflict of interest; her attorneys argued that they
needed the additional time to review evidence related to the
Grand Jury's investigation.
FCC APPROVES KVIQ SALE: The long-running battle between the Blue Lake
Rancheria and Sainte Partners II, owners of Fox 29, over ownership
of Eureka CBS affiliate KVIQ-TV appears to have drawn to a close,
with the rancheria achieving a Pyrrhic victory. On Jan. 31, the
Federal Communications Commission finally denied the Modesto-based
Sainte Partners' application to take over KVIQ's broadcast license
from Clear Channel affiliate Ackerley Media, with a sale of the
station itself to follow. In doing so, the commission agreed
with the rancheria's objection that Sainte Partners did not qualify
for a waiver from federal rules banning a single company from
owning two stations in the same small market. But it appears
that the rancheria never got to file its own application to buy
the station, as it had wished to do. Under FCC rules, Sainte
Partners was allowed to transfer its FCC application to a company
of its choosing. It did so, and on March 23 the commission approved
transfer of the station to Raul Broadcasting Co. of Eureka, Inc.
Raul Broadcasting's application contained a Modesto address and
telephone number as contact information for the company. A call
to that number Tuesday afternoon revealed that it belonged to
a private residence; the woman who answered declined to identify
herself, but said that she would forward a message to someone
who could answer a reporter's questions about the sale. Representatives
of the Blue Lake Rancheria could not be reached for comment.
EUREKA, ART TOWN: Eureka's arts
scene was once again recognized as one of the best around last
week, as the fourth edition of travel writer John Villani's book,
The 100 Best Art Towns in America, hit the streets. After
taking into account several measurements of artistic vitality,
including the number of galleries, museums and festivals, as
well as tourist-friendly factors like the cost of a hotel room,
Villani ended up ranking Eureka seventh in the nation for towns
with a population of 30,000 or under. In previous editions of
the book, Eureka had topped the list; this year, the honor went
to Naples, Fla.
911 PRANK: A prank 911 call went too far when a Crescent City
man stayed on the line with a Del Norte County dispatcher for
more than 20 minutes, claiming that he was in a serious car accident
and needed help but did not know where he was, according to the
California Highway Patrol. The emergency cell phone call that
could not be traced set off an interstate search on March 26
around 11 p.m., with law enforcement from southern Oregon to
Humboldt County searching area roadways for three hours before
finding out it was all a bad joke. Brandon Paul Hamilton, 21,
of Crescent City, speaking in muffled tones, told the dispatcher
between sobs that he was 17 years old, that he had a serious
chest injury and that his female passenger was possibly dead,
according to police. Humboldt County CHP said they sent out "several
units" to participate in the search, and the sheriff's office
also called out two deputies who worked overtime. Hamilton was
eventually found at a residence near Crescent City where he told
the dispatcher he had departed from before crashing his car.
He was arrested for making a false report of an emergency, misuse
of 911, obstructing a police officer and making false statements,
and was booked into Del Norte County Jail. Hamilton may also
be required to pay for the time emergency workers spent looking
for him, which the CHP said could amount to several thousand
HRC DISCUSSES GAY MARRIAGE: Joining the
surge of gay rights activism stemming from last month's San Francisco
Superior Court decision that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional,
a local group will consider urging the county to take a stand
for queer couples who want to wed. The Human Rights Commission,
an advisory committee to the county, meets on April 12 from 6
to 8:30 p.m. at the county courthouse to discuss a draft resolution
supporting same-sex marriage, which will later be passed on to
the county Board of Supervisors for consideration. Commission
member Rick Botzler said that the meeting attendees have shown
support for gay marriage in recent months. "I think this
will make the public more aware and bring us closer to having
a sense that all people should be treated with dignity and fairness,"
CORRECTION: The name of
local animator and musician Bowen Comings was misspelled in last week's cover story, "Festival
Time." The Journal regrets the error.
[The online version has been corrected.]
New local bird atlas a
labor of love for Audubon Society
In 1994 Rob Hewitt, longtime
member of the Redwood Region Audubon Society, suggested to fellow
birders that Humboldt County should have its own atlas of breeding
birds. Out of all the 3,560 counties in the United States only
four others have as many species of breeding birds as Humboldt.
Groups in a number of other counties around the country had published
such references. Land managers, biologists, environmentalists,
government agencies and birders found such baseline data valuable.
Later that fall the core group
got its first inkling of how enormous this project was going
In the Six Rivers Forest supervisor's
office they spread out a series of U.S. Geological Society quad
maps. "We just laid those suckers out," said co-author
David Fix, indicating an area about 12 by 15 feet. They divided
Humboldt County into blocks measuring 3 miles on a side. Eventually
the number of blocks reached 425.
The timetable was five years.
The unuttered and sobering thought was, "We're going to
need a lot of people."
It turned into a saga. A whole
community -- of biologists, environmentalists, timber companies,
businesses, federal agencies, private landowners, artists, educational
institutions and individuals -- came together to produce an invaluable
record: a snapshot in time of the birds of Humboldt County in
the waning years of the 20th century.
On April 15, the impressive
product of that decade-long effort will be unveiled. The book
signing of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Humboldt County
will highlight the Godwit Days opening reception. The four authors
of this extraordinary tome, John E. Hunter, David Fix, Gregory
A. Schmidt and Jude Claire Power, will be at the Arcata Community
Center from 5 to 7 p.m. to sign the book and share their unique
experience in community collaboration.
The public call for volunteers
came in an article Hewitt wrote in the January 1995 issue of
The Sandpiper, the newsletter of the RRAS. Birders were
to survey blocks according to a strict methodology set up by
"There are two stages in
a project: wild enthusiasm and abject panic," Fix said.
"By year three the attrition rate well, it was like water
off a duck's back." Many of the observations were left to
a core group to finish. He credits Hunter's leadership and focus
with helping to sustain the group.
Schmidt brought technical expertise
in database management to bear on the massive amount of raw data.
The original 34,000 pieces of data were individually analyzed
and sifted down to 17,000. Out of that he generated a map for
each species showing its location and behavior. He also created
As the data collection wound
up, a spirited discussion arose about what to do with it. The
task of analyzing the data and writing the species accounts seemed
overwhelming. And they were running out of money.
Someone suggested that they
simply dump the data onto a CD and distribute it to ornithologists
and bird enthusiasts. Their indignation around that idea reenergized
the group. After all, as Fix said, "You can't curl up in
bed with a CD."
Confronted with the task of
illustrating the book, and raising money, they recruited sponsors
to pay $125 for a drawing by a local artist. Half the money went
to the artist, half toward publication, and the sponsor kept
the original art. A paperback will retail for $30 and a hardback
for $50, yet the RRAS has priced the book to just break even.
It fell to Fix to write the
overwhelming majority of species accounts, and he experienced
a paradox: "I have training as a biologist but I feel that
I am more involved with the birds as a poet. In talking about
how American kestrels are "trim and buoyant," that's
not science. "Trim and buoyant." Define that; quantify
that. Right there I fall on the side of the fence of the poets
and the nuts and the artists. I had to find a way to present
the data we collected in a way that honors each of these species
as an individual nation of beings." Fix's accounts usually
start with a lyrical paragraph followed by the solid science,
still accessible to the layman.
So, after five years of grueling
data collection and five more of stolid data analysis, writing
and art, what is the purpose here?
Fix rubs his gray-flecked beard
and thinks a moment. "Data helps give land managers and
biologists a foundation from which to make decisions, but those
decisions are ultimately made by people. I think that science
in and of itself will not save birds. Science is helpful and
it's indispensable but if we can convince people that what is
out there is beautiful, then maybe the desire to save and preserve
and enhance and protect beauty will ultimately cause people to
make decisions to save the birds."
The Atlas of the Breeding
Birds of Humboldt County will be available at HSU, the Natural
History Museum, Northtown Books, Borders, Strictly for the Birds,
Arcata Marsh Center, Western Field Ornithologists, American Birders
Society and the Redwood Region Audubon Society.
Stilson Snow of Eureka is
a writer and an avowed eclecticist.
The Daunting Task
- 3,825 square miles
- 197 species
- 275 volunteer observers
- 34,000 pieces of raw data
- 80 private landowners
- 50 local businesses and individuals
- federal, state and local agencies
- 440 pages
- 50 sponsors of 68 illustrations by 11
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