Coastal lands west of Arcata and north of Manila may become part of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
The Lanphere-Christiansen Dunes Preserve may be given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Nature Conservancy, which has owned the preserve since the early 1970s. Any transfer to federal management would only be done after lots of public input, which began May 1 with an open house at Manila Community Center.
"A conceptual land management plan will go out to the public in mid- to late-August for a 30-day review period," said Kevin Foerster, refuge manager. For more information, call 733-5406.
The dunes' current owners say there will be no changes as far as public use is concerned when and if the dunes are transferred to federal ownership. "Their intent is to manage it exactly the way we do," said Andrea Pickart, preserve manager. Which means users will still be asked to secure a permit, a process which allows dunes managers to explain how and why to tread lightly on the fragile landscape, home to endangered beach layia and Humboldt wallflower.
For permit information, call 822-6378.
President Clinton announced May 4 that he was changing federal welfare rules to "help teen mothers break free from the cycle of dependency." The strategy: getting teen parents to live at home and stay in school.
As Clinton acknowledged, many states, including California, already have such requirements. In Humboldt County, about 100 teen moms receive AFDC and participate in the state's 18-month-old Cal-Learn Program. Most do not live with their parents.
The program imposes penalties on girls who don't stay in school and bonuses when they make passing grades. "Since July 1, we've awarded 72 quarterly bonuses of $100 each for progress and 19 bonuses of $500 each for graduation," said Teresa MacClelland, Cal-Learn coordinator.
For students who aren't doing as well, 44 sanctions of $50 to $100 each have been deducted from monthly AFDC checks.
The "live at home" policy is also on the books, passed by the Legislature but not implemented because a waiver is needed from the feds -- presumably, one is in the works, under Clinton's recent "Executive Action."
But local youth workers aren't so sure it's a good idea. "Often girls who get pregnant don't come from homes where a rational, loving thought process is happening. It may not even be safe for them to stay home," said Roger Golec, case manager for Youth Service Bureau, a branch of Redwood Community Action Agency.
There is language written into California law -- as well as Clinton's proposal -- to prevent a teen from being returned to an abusive home. But how the teen's safety will be assessed hasn't been worked out yet.
About 1,850 American Indians from the Klamath and Trinity valleys received special U.S. government checks last month. The money was mailed to settle the Jessie Short case, a 33-year-old legal conflict over who owns the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.
In 1963, Jessie Short and hundreds of other Indians -- primarily Yuroks -- sued the federal government, claiming that they had been unfairly denied income from timber cut on the 12-mile-square Hoopa Reservation. The reservation, they contended, was supposed to belong to them as well as to the Hoopa Indians who'd organized the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council in the 1950s. But the Hoopa Valley Tribe had been recognized by the Interior Department as the sole beneficiary of the land.
According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, a 1973 ruling in the U.S. Court of Claims should have ended the matter. "The government turned it into a 20-year battle," said Michael Greenberg, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "They actively fought against including any of our people in the reservation, and we had to try them one by one."
A 1988 law, backed by the Hoopa Valley Tribe, created the Yurok extension along the Klamath River from the Hoopa square to the ocean. But the Indian plaintiffs didn't consider the smaller, less valuable area just compensation for the timber-rich Hoopa Reservation.
A final U.S. appeal lost in 1995, and payments of $38 million went out last month in a court-supervised distribution; average check, about $20,000. For Jessie Short and some 500 other deceased plaintiffs, the awards will go to their heirs.
A related case pending in federal court seeks compensation for the value of the reservation land -- not just the timber cut from it during the period covered by the Short case. "The suit was filed to get the value of the square portion of reservation for the Indian people that they (the Hoopa Valley Tribe) took it away from," said William Wunsch, partner of the original Short case lawyer, Harold Faulkner (also deceased).
Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairperson Dale Risling has also grown weary of the litigation.
"It's been litigated and gone through Congress ... the people who were organized (as the Hoopa Valley Tribe) were the people that were here and had ties to the land. The attorneys are using some sort of broad language to expand it to a lot of other potential beneficiaries."
Burning tires on the banks of the Mad River will have a negative impact on the air in Blue Lake.
So said the Blue Lake Planning Commission twice last month in rejecting the request of Ultrapower to burn chipped tires with its usual wood-waste fuel.
The company is appealing the commission's decision to the City Council. If the council upholds its appointed commission, the company's only option will be to prepare an environmental impact report, a lengthy, expensive process.
Blue Lakers who oppose the project promise to keep battling it until it's really, truly dead. And in the midst of the controversy, some see a new spirit of civic involvement blossoming. "It's woken up a lot of people who've moved here recently," said Bobbi Ricca, a former mayor.
The south spit of Humboldt Bay has long been an informal -- and illegal -- homestead for poor people in the county. Now, under state legislation proposed by Sen. Mike Thompson, the peninsula would be purchased by the state and managed as a wildlife reserve by county, state and federal agencies.
The new reserve would ban camping and regulate all other uses to preserve plants and wildlife, but it would increase public access for hiking, fishing and spiritual gatherings by Native Americans.
Depending on the outcome of mediation between the county and Redwood Legal Services, relocation services may be provided for many residents. "The county is hoping they can go in and assist and evaluate each of the individuals who are there and provide social services," said Elizabeth Murguia, field rep for Thompson.
The land is owned by the county, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private owners, the largest of which is Pacific Lumber. "It was once used as a hunting opportunity for their employees ... PL has indicated for years that they are willing to sell," said Murguia.
Humboldt County will be in the spotlight again with yet another movie filmed here this summer. "Edwards and Hunt," a spoof on the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Oregon coast, will star Chris Farley and Matthew Perry.
Evaluating Humboldt County's public high schools is sort of like asking "How's the weather in California?" Almost any answer would be true, and the only sure bet is that you'll find extreme differences.
Take Eureka High, for example. The largest school in the county reported an average student SAT score of 1,057 in 1995, according to a recent statewide report on school performance. That's 155 points above the state average and 75 points above Arcata High, the county runner-up in SAT scores (1,600 is a perfect score). The school also offers more Advanced Placement courses than any other county school.
Yet, only 36 percent of eligible students took the SAT test, much less than the county average of 48 percent. And many don't even make it to senior year: The school's "completion rate" is the lowest in the county, ranking near the bottom in comparison with 100 other California high schools with similar demographics.
These figures point to a highly stratified school, with many students doing well and many others doing poorly.
Principal Kim Kellenberg acknowledges the school's got problems. In fact, a team of 25 parents, teachers and community leaders gathered for a two-day "strategy session" at the end of May "to blueprint out action plans to address all these issues over the next five years."
One student believes the problem lies in the school's lack of focus on the academically "average" students.
"We have really good teachers for academically gifted students ... (and) for academically challenged students," said Ella Watson-Stryker, a sophomore honors student. "Students in the middle tend to not get any recognition unless they're in sports or ... industrial arts. They just kind of like fall through the cracks."
Humboldt County and the union representing most of its workers are negotiating over salaries and benefits. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1684 is asking for a 5 percent salary increase.
The county is offering 3 percent plus a $750 one-time bonus. At issue in the negotiations is the recent return of $2 million in county funds set aside in an insurance fund. AFSCME said this means the county can afford the raises it wants; the county said property tax shifts to the state continue to strain county funds.
After a long and contentious battle over sewage disposal, McKinleyville has a plan that seems to satisfy everyone.
State water quality officials gave the nod April 23 to the McKinleyville Community Services District's proposal to purchase a 30-acre pasture and "flood irrigate" it with about 40 percent of its wastewater. The system will handle treated effluent from May 15 through Oct. 1; during the wetter months, it will continue to be discharged into the Mad River.
The plan was greeted with approval by residents who had bitterly opposed an earlier idea to "aerate" sewage on land near the airport. "We're thrilled that they've dropped the airport project and purchased permanent land for disposal," said McKinleyville native Lynn Pettlon.
A repentant Don Littlefeather Rivas was sentenced to five years in state prison May 1 for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.
The former Trinidad Police Chief acknowledged his guilt in court prior to sentencing, saying "I have hurt a lot of people."
Another ex-Trinidad official, former Treasurer Phyllis Sharum, agreed last month to plead guilty to theft and embezzlement charges. As part of the plea bargain, the prosecutor will seek a two-year sentence for Sharum, who is charged with embezzling from the city and from private bookkeeping clients over many years.
May was a busy month for Pacific Lumber Co. and its opponents.
On May 7 the federal appeals court in San Francisco issued two rulings, one favorable to the company and the other not. The court overturned last September's ruling by District Judge Maxine Chesney that would have made any logging in Headwaters subject to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversight. Since a state forestry ruling still prevents PL from building a road into Headwaters, the company said it may log by helicopter.
At the same time, the appeals court upheld an injunction that prevents PL from logging in its Owl Creek property, prime nesting habitat for the marbled murrelet.
Then on May 10, PL announced it was suing the federal government, claiming federal protection of the murrelet prevents it from reasonable use of its property. Five days later, as all sides of the controversy had anticipated, the Fish and Wildlife Service completed its "Final Rule" designating critical habitat for the murrelet, including Headwaters and other PL lands.
What implication the critical habitat designation will have on PL is contested, with the company claiming that it's being unfairly targeted. "Of the 44,600 acres of private land (designated) in California, 33,000 acres are owned by the Pacific Lumber Co. ... it's peculiar," said PL spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel, adding that much of the land is second- and third-growth, while the murrelet is characterized as dependent on old-growth redwoods.
The FWS denies any attempt at unfairly focusing on PL. "When we do this we look at aerial photographs (and survey data), and they don't tell us whose property it is," said Bruce Halstead, FWS project leader. "That is the habitat that the biologists feel is necessary at a minimum to maintain the species, to keep it from going extinct, and at a maximum, what it needs for recovery, so it can be de-listed."
The County Environmental Health Department reminds shellfish lovers that mussels are unsafe to consume from May through October.
The filter-feeding mollusks can accumulate dangerous levels of a toxic plankton that flourishes during the warmer months. While the naturally occurring substance does no harm to the mussel, humans can suffer "paralytic shellfish poisoning," a nervous system disease that can result in death in extreme cases. (There is no restriction on the use of mussels for bait.)
The spotted owl listing put many people out of work, but most of the loss in forest products jobs occurred for other reasons. So concludes a study by the researchers for the state Senate.
The study, released in April, indicates timber employment was dropping after 1980 due to automation and "downsizing." Home building dropped after 1989, causing more layoffs and shutdowns.
Zevon Odelberg of Blue Lake burned up the competition in Sacramento last month with his portrayal of the steamy Tennessee courtroom where the famous Scopes trial took place. The 15-year-old Arcata High student placed first in the state History Day, and he's on to Washington, D.C., June 9 for the national competition.
Odelberg portrays three characters in the trial which was made famous in the movie "Inherit the Wind." Dressed in period costume, he recites monologues by the teacher who dared teach evolutionary theory, John Scopes; the Christian prosecutor, Williams Jenning Bryan; and the defense attorney, Dudley Field Malone.
A man who dedicated his retirement years to visiting America's national parks has been memorialized in the redwoods.
When Charles Shields of Santa Barbara died last year, his widow and other family members wanted to create an appropriate memorial. After contacting the Save the Redwoods League, they arranged to make a $20,000 donation and dedicated a 12-acre grove of Humboldt Redwoods State Park as the Charles and Eloise Shields Family Grove.
The grove was the last unnamed grove on the Avenue of the Giants.