North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

May 10, 2001

Morris Graves -- 1910-2001

Chief administrator to resign

Yakima seeks buyer

Activism, photos and the law

Mattole conflict flares

PL closes old-growth mill

Accessibility workshop

Suzie Baker papers restored

Carrying more than letters

Trails and ranches

Back to the recent past

Klamath water kept in river

Dances with -- bears?

Morris Graves -- 1910-2001

[photo of Morris Graves]MORRIS GRAVES, the internationally famous visionary painter, died at his lakeside home in Loleta May 5 at the age of 90.

Graves, who moved to Loleta in 1964, left a priceless legacy in many ways. His paintings, imbued with spirituality, hang in galleries and homes around the world. His generous gifts to the Humboldt Arts Council included a major body of 20th century and ancient art that became the core of the HAC's permanent collection. The gift helped spur the council's current move to its new center in the former Carnegie Building, which last year was renamed the Morris Graves Museum of Art.

Graves was the youngest and most famous of a group painters that came to be known as the Northwest School, the first group of Northwest artists to establish an aesthetic identity for the region.

In a December 1996 Journal cover story, "Birth of an artist," Wallace Graves wrote this about his famous brother:

"Commencing with a show at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1942, Morris' paintings were added to major private and public collections throughout America and have been exhibited around the world. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946, the first Duke and Duchess of Windsor international art award in 1954, a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1956 and the following year, upon his nomination by the writer William Faulkner, was elected to the Institute.

"His art is the subject of half a dozen full-length books, and his paintings and constructions have inspired dozens of poems and responses by such writers as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the musician-poet John Cage."

"The Nature of Beauty," a special HAC exhibit that included a sampling of works by Morris Graves covering more than six decades, was the subject of a Journal cover story Dec. 28, 2000. In that article, Robert Yarber, Graves' long-time assistant, is quoted as saying:

"Morris has given his art, he's given his money. In a sense he's trying to give the spirit and pass it on as he is getting ready to leave this material plane. He's saying to us, `It's your turn now.'"

Wallace Graves, a long-time Journal contributor, preceded his brother in death in 1999.

Yarber will administer the Graves estate and will head the Morris Graves Foundation. He said plans are for Graves' Loleta home, the Lake, to be used as a retreat, a place where artists can escape the modern world and find serenity while they search for beauty.

To learn more about Morris Graves, see the current issue of The Palette, a publication of the Humboldt Arts Council, which includes "Morris Graves -- a Short Biography" by Robert Yarber and "Beauty Alone Has No Opposite," an essay by Wendy Butler. Both pieces are also online at

Chief administrator to resign

County Administrative Officer John Murray has announced he is resigning late this year. Murray has held the post since 1997 when he was promoted from his position as director of public works.

"For a job like that, he was the man of the hour," said Roger Rodoni, 2nd District supervisor. Murray combined an "ability to deal with human idiosyncrasies" with an "unfathomably deep background and amount of experience."

He needed both, Rodoni said, "to navigate this ship of state through some pretty precarious waters in the last few years," especially the continuing budget crunch.

Sources in county government said Murray will be retiring rather than seeking another position and is likely to stop working in October. The county is recruiting a replacement but has not started interviewing candidates.

Yakima seeks buyer

Yakima Products Inc., one of the North Coast's more successful non-timber manufacturing concerns, has made public that it is seeking new ownership.

The Arcata-based company is experiencing enough growth that it needs an infusion of capital to continue on its present course, according to President and Chief Executive Officer Duncan Robbins. He said the company has been expanding at a rate of 20 percent a year.

Robbins said the sale will not necessarily mean the company will move, although new owners could choose to relocate.

"My belief is that it would be very difficult to relocate us," Robbins said, because current employees enjoy living in Humboldt County.

Yakima began in 1979 when Arcata residents Don Banducci and Steve Cole purchased a small mom-and-pop company that manufactured foot braces for kayaks from a couple in Yakima, Wash. Once in Arcata, the company began producing car racks for outdoor gear, such as kayaks and bicycles. By the mid-1990s the company had grown to more than $20 million in sales and was purchased in 1994 by KRANSCO, an international company. The following year the company moved its manufacturing division to Tijuana, Mexico and shipping facilities to San Diego. The headquarters -- including engineering, advertising and sales functions -- stayed in Arcata. (See Yakima Into the Future, January 1996.)

Employment in Arcata initially dropped but has since recovered. Today the company employs 135 people in Arcata.

Activism, photos and the law

The Legacy of Luna describes the 738 days Julia Butterfly Hill spent sitting in a redwood to try and save it -- but the book's own legacy is turning out to be a little sordid.

Douglas Riley-Thron, a professional photographer and Arcata native, has announced his intent to sue HarperSanFrancisco for copyright infringement. Riley-Thron claims Harper used two of his photos to illustrate Legacy without his permission.

"I never even gave them the photos," he said. "I'm still not sure where they are."

The photos were used on the first two editions of the book -- about 38,000 copies. The images have since been pulled, but the photographer said he has not been compensated.

Riley-Thron said he originally asked for $500 for the use of his images but payment was refused. "They said, `We aren't going to pay you and we aren't going to take the pictures out of the book," he said.

Harper later agreed to pay $500 in response to an invoice he sent, but Riley-Thron said that offer came too late. "They had already printed 38,000 books."

Now that he is suing, Riley-Thron is asking for a lot more than $500. He said he isn't sure of an exact amount but has been advised by his attorney that Harper "probably did about $200,000 or $300,000 worth of violations under copyright law."

Riley-Thron said he considered it a "slap in the face of a fellow activist" that Hill did not step in and help him gain compensation. "I think that would be the decent thing to do, but I'm not going to call her and beg her."

Representatives of HarperSanFrancisco were not available for comment, but Hill said in a written statement that Riley-Thron had given his OK for the pictures to be included. She stated he "verbally agreed to be a part of this project and we believed he had followed up with a written agreement.

"It is my understanding that HarperSanFrancisco tried to resolve this matter in a reasonable manner over the course of the last year and that Riley-Thron has rejected their offers," she said.

Mattole conflict flares

The conflict between protesters and Pacific Lumber over timber harvesting escalated last week as six more protesters were arrested, bringing the total for the season to 19.

There has been an increased law enforcement presence in the area in the last week, according to protesters. Wildlife surveys necessary to begin timber harvesting are being carried out by the Department of Fish and Game, which requires officers of the agency to access the property.

But protesters think the new aggressive policing may have a different purpose. "It seems unnecessary that they [law enforcement] would be going in there just to do wildlife surveys," said an activist calling himself "Shunka." He suggested law enforcement was actually "hunting protesters."

Josh Brown of the Mattole Forest Defenders said he thought the company was preparing to begin harvesting.

"We're expecting sometime this week or next week," Brown said. Despite the arrests, there is still a "sizable contingent" in the woods, he added. The most recent estimate the Mattole Forest Defenders have given of its numbers in the woods is 20.

Brown said EarthFirst! and the Mattole Forest Defenders were preparing for actions to slow the harvest. Tactics used might include gate blockades or what he called "employee outreach" -- approaching fallers as they cut down the trees and trying to convince them not to. The organizations will also hold an "action camp" May 18-20 to collect and train activists for the Mattole campaign.

"We're calling all our supporters," Brown said.

PL closes old-growth mill

A piece of Humboldt County's industrial heritage became history this week as Pacific Lumber's Mill B in Scotia stopped spinning its saws.

"Basically, we can't get a steady supply of the logs it processes," said PL spokesperson Mary Bullwinkel. The mill, which had been running since 1910, was built to mill old-growth redwoods. Those logs have become scarce as their supply dwindled, regulations grew and lawsuits to curtail harvest increased.

The closure will put 100 people out of work, Bullwinkel said. Some may find work in other parts of PL's business, but most will have to start looking elsewhere.

PL still has one old-growth mill, Mill A, but it is set up for fir rather than redwood logs.

Accessibility workshop

Business owners and government officials worried about whether they are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act can get a clearer idea of what they face at a May 10 workshop, 9 a.m-noon at the Samoa Cookhouse.

The workshop is being put on by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. Topics covered include readily achievable barrier removal, alternatives and historic preservation.

The ADA has been a source of concern in the business community. Businesses with barriers to access for the disabled have had costly lawsuits filed against them. [See Access and Dollars, March 8].

For more information, call 269-9595.

Suzie Baker papers restored

During her lifetime, Blue Lake Advocate columnist Suzie Baker collected 119 volumes worth of notebooks, clippings, photos and miscellaneous materials -- all of which was donated to Humboldt State University in 1967. HSU photocopied and bound the collection for convenience, but those copies have faded into illegibility.

Until May 12, that is. That's the day the Humboldt County Historical Society will unveil the newly preserved Suzie Baker Foundation papers on microfilm. The newly organized collection not only represents an improvement in clarity and legibility over the old bound copies but also includes new material.

It is also the first step toward even greater convenience in accessing the papers. Starting later this month, the papers will gradually be made available on the Internet. To view samples, go to

Carrying more than letters

Humboldt County is on the edge of the largest food drive of the year. A massive undertaking that supplies food banks until Christmas, the drive brings in more than 40,000 pounds of nonperishable food.

As part of the annual Letter Carrier's Food Drive, letter carriers will pick up canned and dry goods left by mailboxes and deliver them to the food bank May 13.

"It's tremendously important" to Humboldt County food banks' success, said Doug Moyer, coordinator for Eureka food bank, Food for People. "We have ongoing collections and donations from the community but we only have three food drives a year and this is the biggest one."

Trails and ranches

The California Coastal Conservancy has funded two projects in Humboldt County that could mean improved access to the North Coast's natural beauty.

The conservancy allocated $1 million for the purchase of a 225-acre ranch on the Lost Coast. The property, located five miles west of Ferndale, has a broad bluff overlooking the ocean and supports steelhead trout, bald eagles and mountain lions.

Some nearby residents have expressed dismay that another piece of property has gone into public ownership, but the land will not be officially public. The conservancy granted the money to a Virginia-based private non-profit group, the Conservation Fund. That group will buy the ranch and turn administration of the property over to the Bureau of Land Management, which will allow cattle grazing to continue.

A former rail line running from Blue Lake to Arcata may become the next leg in Humboldt County's trail network. The conservancy has granted the Redwood Community Action Agency $160,000 to lay the groundwork for a rails-to-trails conversion of the Arcata and Mad River Railroad Corridor, popularly known as the Annie and Mary line.

The money will cover a feasibility study and initial design work for the potential 6.8-mile trail. Special attention will be paid to ameliorating concerns of adjacent landowners. RCAA expects completion within the next year and a half.

"As a trail, the Annie and Mary would serve local neighborhoods, provide a route through forests from Blue Lake to the California Coastal Trail and help visitors explore more of the North Coast," stated Sen. Wes Chesbro, the senate's appointee to the conservancy.

RCAA has some experience on this turf. The organization took over responsibility from the county for the Hammond Trail in 1985 and has been building additional sections ever since [See Linking Hammond Trail, July 13, 2000].

Back to the recent past

Humboldt County is travelling back in time: A national economic downturn and high energy prices are combining to erase gains the Humboldt economy made over the last two years.

"We had been gradually increasing until 1999," said Steve Hackett, associate professor of economics at Humboldt State University and executive director of the Humboldt County Index of Economic Activity. The economy then experienced "a burst of activity that maintained itself until late 2000. Then with the combination of the energy crisis and the economic slowdown, we're back to where we were in 1999."

Hackett acknowledged the slowdown may last awhile. In the meantime, there are "some businesses struggling with lower demand and much higher production costs."

Graph: Humboldt County's Economic Activity, 1998-Present.Like the national figures, local manufacturing is showing the signs of strain. According to the Index, the manufacturing sector dipped 4.4 percent in March. Even more telling is the change since last year: Activity in the sector was 14.5 percent lower than in March 2000.

Manufacturing problems are more than just statistics. In addition to the imminent closure of Eel River Sawmill, Pacific Lumber Co. announced last week 100 jobs will be lost due to the closure of its old-growth redwood mill (see related story).

Humboldt residents are not necessarily tightening their belts, however. The retail sector went up while manufacturing declined. Hackett said that both nationally and locally, "Consumers are less confident than they were a year ago, and yet if you look at consumer behavior, they keep buying houses and cars and vacations."

That spending could eventually lead to problems with consumer debt, but right now vacationers are helping to grow Humboldt County's tourism industry. The hospitality sector of the Index increased 11.4 percent during the month of March. Current hotel occupancy rates are 23 percent higher than they were just two years ago. And this is a purely northern phenomenon: Occupancy rates at Bay Area hotels were down 8.5 percent from a year ago.

Hackett warns that we shouldn't pin all our hopes on tourism.

"The big uncertainty is what's going to happen with gasoline and electricity prices, and the concern is they may have a deleterious effect on the tourism industry."

The latest American Automobile Association study found that prices are higher in Eureka than in any other spot in the continental United States. The state average is $1.84 a gallon, while Eurekans pay more than $2.10. Many feel gas prices are only going to increase this summer.

Prices for electricity are also about to go up. Hackett said that for all of the talk and the occasional blackouts, price caps have kept electricity prices from rising as much as the commodity's shortage dictates. The Public Utilities Commission is expected to commit itself to a new rate schedule soon, however, and it will "put much higher numbers on the people who use a lot of energy," Hackett said.

"Once the PUC becomes committed there will be tremendous economic incentives" to conserve, Hackett said.

Klamath water kept in river

A request by Klamath Basin farmers to reopen the irrigation project that feeds their lands was denied in federal court last week.

Farmers in Eastern Oregon and Northeastern California have irrigated their land with water diverted from the Klamath River and its headwaters in Klamath Lake since 1907. Threatened coho salmon in the river and endangered sucker fish in the lake often suffer from lack of water.

The Bureau of Reclamation, which controls the irrigation project, decided with the mountain snowpack that feeds the river at less than one third of its normal size, there would not be enough water to irrigate crops and protect fish -- and the fish come first. The bureau has shut down 90 percent of the irrigation flows to farmers.

The farmers' lawsuit aims to force the bureau into giving them water. The farmers had asked for a preliminary injunction to keep water flowing until the court case could be decided; injunctions are only issued when there is a great likelihood the lawsuit will succeed.

In San Francisco last week Judge Ann L. Aiken wrote that the Endangered Species Act gives fish species priority over the farmers and recommended that the farmers negotiate long-term solutions outside of court.

Dances with -- bears?

IF YOU ARE GOING TO ENTER A DEN," SAID BEAR BIOLOGIST RICH CALLAS, "it is critical to make sure the bear is tranquilized." While that might seem self-evident, even seasoned veterans like Callas make the occasional mistake in dosage.

"We had one instance where it was not. No one got hurt but my adrenal level went up," Callas said in a telephone interview from Redding.

Which begs the question: What on earth was he doing crawling into a bear den?

[photo of Melissa Crew with bear cub] DFG wildlife biologist Melissa Crew with bear cub.

Callas and his crew of wildlife biologists were checking on females and their cubs as part of a 10-year study of bear reproduction in two areas of Siskiyou County. Callas just completed his winter work, opening bear dens to count cubs and put radio collars on hibernating female bears.

After a female has a radio collar, she will be visited by Callas for the next several years. He uses flights in small planes to find the general location of a den, then approaches on foot. He often has to dig through a few feet of snow to find dens.

"We've been looking at how old they are, what their ages are and how they reproduce," Callas said. The idea was to get a picture of "how a female's ability to produce cubs changes when she ages," he said. The data will be added to the Department of Fish and Game's stockpile of information on bears, which is used to evaluate the effect of hunting on the bear population. The department then makes recommendations on hunting quotas to the state Fish and Game Commission.

But for Callas, the means are more interesting than the end. "Personally," he said, "I have a great interest in wildlife. Bears to me are fascinating animals for many reasons. They are long-lived, intelligent and have evolved some complex strategies for survival. Getting a chance to work on them is a great opportunity."

And the study has yielded a wealth of information on the species.

The western edge of Siskiyou County may support the highest density of bears, measured in average number per square mile, anywhere in the western United States; litter sizes averaged between 1.5 and 1.9 cubs per female; the "home range," or area a bear covers looking for forage, is between 14,000 and 22,000 acres; and the infant mortality rate in this area is about 50 percent, possibly due to predation by male bears.

[photo of Callas] Rich Callas, bear biologist

"Adult males will eat the cubs," Callas said, adding that such behavior is normal. He said that bears are "omnivorous -- they will eat anything." Early in the spring, when food sources are scarce, adult males "will eat the cubs as a source of protein."

It is sometimes more than hunger, Callas said. "If a male bear sees a female with a young cub in the spring he will kill that cub and bring her into estrus so he can breed with her."

Many dens are located in hollow spaces high in trees -- as much as 100 feet off the ground. It remains unclear just how bears know that these dens, which are often almost invisible, are there. "In some of these large Douglas fir trees you can see where bears have climbed them for many years. Sometimes a trail of bear tracks will spiral around the tree."

Those dens Callas has to pass by, because the hibernating bears are still "very alert," Callas said. If he tranquilized a bear hibernating in a tree and it ended up stumbling out, "it could fall 70 feet," he said.

As such, he doesn't yet know why some female bears appear to prefer hibernating with their cubs in a tree. "It may be that females are taking their yearlings up off of the ground to protect them from predation by male bears, but we don't know."

Those dens that he can access are made in hollow logs or in trees close to the ground. The same principle that prevents him even looking at dens high in trees applies here: The bear's health and safety come first. "It's not good for the bears" to be disturbed during hibernation, Callas said.

But with his hands-on technique (and courage), he doesn't have to disturb them. Just open the cave, peek in, tranquilize the bear and cub and do your work. By the time the bear wakes up, she'll never even know he was there.

Reported by Arno Holschuh



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