Thursday, January 16, 2014

NPR Barred Owls vs. Spotted Owls

All Things Considered Covers Owl Shootings

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 5:07 PM

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Photo by Zach St. George

Remember "Shooting Owls," Zach St. George's award-winning story detailing the spotted owls vs. barred owls dilemma? Killing owls to save owls?

NPR covered similar ground today on All Things Considered:

In desperation to save the rare northern spotted owl, biologists are doing something that goes against their core — shooting another owl that's rapidly taking over spotted owl territory across the northwest.

New to the story, advocacy group Friends of Animals is suing to stop the killing. Read or listen to the whole thing here.



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EPD's Harpham calls it a career after 56 years

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 12:31 PM

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Today, for the first time in 56 years, Eureka Police officers took to the streets without Murl Harpham in their ranks.

“It’s really the end of an era for the department,” said Mayor Frank Jager, marveling at Harpham’s career, which spanned six decades and saw him fill in as the department’s chief on four separate occasions before he officially retired as a captain Wednesday.

Harpham started with the department as a bushy-tailed 22-year-old on June 15, 1957. For those keeping track, that was the same year the Soviet Union launched Sputnik to ignite the space race and a year before the advent of Legos. Closer to home, it was two years before the Humboldt County Courthouse was built and seven years before the founding of College of the Redwoods.

It’s kind of wild to think about how much the world has changed as Harpham has policed Eureka, Jager mused, noting that when he started with the department in 1971, Harpham was already a sergeant there. At that time, officers did without radios and cell phones, and typed their reports on carbon paper so they could send a copy off to the district attorney’s office and keep another for their records. “He was a real mentor to all the officers that came on at that time,” Jager recalled. “He just kind of had that macho police officer presence about him, and he was a good sergeant.”

Born and raised near Everett, Wash., Harpham came to the area on a football scholarship to play end and defensive back at Humboldt State University. After taking some journalism classes in school, Harpham landed a job as a cub reporter at the Humboldt Times and wound up on the cop beat. One day, the chief of police told he could make a good deal more money doing police work than just writing about it. Harpham decided to give it a try. Fifty-six years later, he said he doesn’t remember how to do much else.

Reached Wednesday, Harpham said retirement hadn’t quite sunk in, saying “it feels like any other day.” He said he hasn’t quite figured out what what’s next. “I haven’t really thought that long ahead. I’ve done this for so long, I don’t know anything else. I’ve done this for almost 57 years. If I live to be 114, I would have still put half my life into this police department.”

Though Harpham is still working to figure exactly what retirement will look like, at least part of it will be familiar, as he’s been asked to work a handful of hours a week at EPD coordinating the department’s efforts to recruit volunteers to help with records, do crime prevention trainings and other things to help the stretched department make the most of its resources. “He has so many people in town that know him and love him, I’m going to use that relational power to seek out volunteers for the department,” EPD Chief Andrew Mills said.

Mills said he’s hopeful the arrangement will provide a maximum return on a minimal investment for the department, and that Harpham will also be able to spruce up the department’s volunteer patrols. But, the chief said, it’s a new arrangement and both sides will have to see how it goes, with either free to walk away if it doesn’t turn out to their liking. For his part, Harpham said he’s happy to give it a go and to stay involved with the department in some way.

Looking back on his 56 years of policing, Harpham said it’s been a good ride, chuckling as he remembered his first day, when then-chief Cedric Emenhiser handed him a penal code and a municipal code, telling him to study up before he’d let him out of the station. Asked about his proudest moment, Harpham said there’s too much to sift through — the baby he delivered in the back of his patrol car, the rape-in-progress he busted up, the armed robbers he caught in the act. “Having been there so long, some of those things were bound to happen,” he added.

But Harpham’s lengthy tenure at EPD has not been without controversy. In 2007, a then interim Chief Harpham infamously declared that methamphetamine was “turning our community into a hellhole. “ More recently, he was alleged to have played a leadership role in EPD’s insurrection against former Chief Garr Nielsen and he oversaw the department’s controversially heavy-handed response to the Occupy Eureka protests on the courthouse lawn. In a sense, at least in recent years, Harpham has become a polarizing figure — loved by some and vilified by others.

Mills said he’s learned a lot from Harpham since taking over the chief’s position a few months ago. Most importantly, Mills said, Harpham has helped him navigate his transition from the world of big-city San Diego to small-town Eureka. “I think the main way Murl has been helpful to me is bringing context to thing, and helping me understand the interconnectedness of the city,” Mills said, noting that navigating the web of relationships in Humboldt can be tricky. “Plus, he’s such a down-home, folksy kind of guy that can really communicate with people and talk with people. That’s been helpful.”

Jager confessed that he worries retirement might be a tough transition for Harpham, who’s lived in law enforcement for more than a half century. “This is going to be a tremendous change for Murl and I hope he does OK,” the mayor said, before again dubbing Harpham’s retirement the end of an era for EPD. “Murl has always been there. It’s a big change.”
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Old Town businesses relieved suspect in custody

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 3:00 PM

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Old Town businesses are breathing a little easier after Eureka Police reported arresting a woman Tuesday night they believe may be responsible for a string of robberies.

“My hope is that the rough start to 2014 is coming to a close and we can all move forward in more positive ways from here,” said Astra Burke, owner of the recently robbed Many Hands Gallery, in an e-mail to the Journal.

After being sighted multiple times in the Old Town area in the last couple of weeks, Judy Lynn Long was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of robbing Many Hands Gallery on Saturday and Belle Starr, a nearby clothing store, on Jan. 9. Police have also named Long as a person of interest in a third armed robbery, of the Old Town store Gypsy Sisters on Dec. 22.

Old Town business employees had come to be on the lookout for Long, who makes a striking figure. She is easily identifiable as a short-statured woman, standing 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and is missing both eyebrows and most of her teeth. In all three robberies, the suspect followed a similar modus operandi: waiting until evening when foot traffic had slowed and employees were alone in the store, before piling multiple items on the counter as though to make a purchase, only to brandish a weapon and demand all the money in the register.

In the case of the Gypsy Sisters robbery, the suspect drew a knife on store employee Kristen Miller.

"Seriously, are you robbing me right now?" Miller remembers saying to the woman. Initially she says she considered fighting back but decided to follow protocol and handed over the contents of the cash register. The woman also stole what Miller reports to have been $300-$400 worth of clothing.

Unsatisfied with the responding officer's progress on the case, Miller said she took it upon herself to visit neighboring businesses and give them a description of the robber, whom she feels certain was Long. Miller was out of town for the holidays when the owner of Shipwreck, on 3rd Street, detained a woman matching Long's description and called the police. An officer came and took photos but did not make an arrest. In the press release announcing the arrest the included photo is of Judy Long standing in front of Shipwreck. Her eyebrows appear have been drawn on with a pencil.

Following the robberies, many business owners began taking precautions to protect their employees. Gypsy Sisters moved their closing hours to 5 p.m., the same time as neighboring Coco Cuvee, so that employees at the two stores could watch out for one another. Jennifer Grisso, a barista at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, began carrying mace. She and other employees at the cafe say that they, too, had seen a woman matching Long's description in the neighborhood.

In an email written before Long’s arrest, Burke described the situation as a “travesty.”

“Despite our fair share of issues with the 'local flavor' over the years, nothing remotely this personally invasive has ever occurred in our little business community,” the Many Hands Gallery owner wrote. “We are in the midst of the off season here in Old Town,—it is challenging enough without having our money and our property stolen from us. This time of year we depend on local community support, and this year more than ever we will need it.”



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H1N1 Claims Local Man

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 at 1:51 PM

A local man died in a Humboldt County hospital from H1N1 influenza related complications, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services confirmed today.
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The man — who has not been identified but officials say was in his 60s — died Monday and also had underlying health  conditions, according to a county press release.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,” Humboldt County Health Officer Donald Baird said in the release, adding that officials would not be releasing additional information in an attempt to protect the man’s privacy.

H1N1 is the same strain associated with the 2009 flu pandemic, and Baird warns that this local man’s death should serve as a reminder that H1N1 has the potential to cause serious illness across all age groups, even to individuals generally in good health.

Local officials are urging folks to get their flu shots, and the Humboldt County  Department of Health and Human Services is hosting a series of walk-up vaccination clinics this month. Find the details in the county’s full press release below:

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Supes Call a GPU Element Do-over

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 7:18 PM

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The Board of Supervisors voted this afternoon to return a much-debated element of the county’s draft general plan back to the Planning Commission for review — the latest twist in the general plan update saga.

After some discussion of state requirements for general plan updates, the board voted 3-2 (with 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell and 3rd District  Supervisor Mark Lovelace dissenting) to give the Conservation and Open Space element back to the planning commission for review.  

The planning commission voted last week to draft a letter asking supervisors — who have been working on the general plan update for nearly two years — to remand the entire draft general plan to the commission.

In the , planning commission chair Bob Morris says that the board’s “fundamental changes to the draft GPU” — including controversial revisions  to the  guiding principles, open space element and other elements — make it necessary for the planning commission to review the document again.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because the planning commission letter mirrors language from a Humboldt Builders’ Exchange letter sent to the board back in November, which asked Supervisors to scrap changes and send the general plan back to the planning commission. Read about that here, along with the associations between the Builder’s Exchange, the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights and the campaigns of several of the current supervisors. 

Planning commission review is meant to be advisory to the supervisors’ final decisions — state law says that any significant changes to the general plan must be at least considered by the commission — still, the board that appointed HumCPR associates Bob Morris and Lee Ulansey to the planning commission has been kind to developer-friendly policy-making recently. The board gave no specific directions for the planning commission’s review.

The supervisors’ work on the GPU will halt until that review is complete — approximately 45 days, though that doesn't appear to be a hard deadline.
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Former Yurok Official Sentenced in Embezzlement Case

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 5:33 PM

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Former Yurok Tribe Forestry Director Roland Raymond was sentenced to serve three years in federal prison today for his role in an embezzlement scheme that bilked nearly $1 million in federal funds from the tribe.

Raymond, 50, faced a maximum of five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiring to embezzle from an Indian tribal organization, but received a lesser sentence, in part, due to his cooperation with a federal investigation that led to the charging of one of his alleged co-conspirators, Mad River Biologists founder Ron LeValley. Read the Journal's previous coverage here.

Today, U.S. District Judge William Alsup handed down Raymond’ sentence and ordered him to repay $852,000 he stole from the tribe — money Raymond’s attorney, Randall Davis, claims was taken to support his client’s drug and gambling addictions.

In his plea agreement, Raymond admitted to working with LeValley to employ an elaborate system of fake invoices, false purchase requests and money transfers to embezzle more than $870,000 from the tribe during a three-year period of wildlife preservation studies. Under the scheme, Mad River Biologists would submit invoices to the tribe for survey work it hadn’t performed, according to court documents. When checks came from the tribe, LeValley would allegedly route the money back to Raymond after taking a percentage off the top.

The surveys that were allegedly never conducted were primarily looking for habitats for the federally endangered northern spotted owl to determine which tracts of tribal properties could be logged without impacting owl populations. It’s unclear whether the alleged conspiracy impacted timber harvest plans or led to the destruction of sensitive habitats.

According to his plea agreement, Raymond initially told LeValley that the scheme would provide Raymond with funds needed to pay tribal and forest crews, though court documents indicate the pilfered funds were never used to that end. 

Raymond, who served as the tribe’s forestry director for 17 years, developed a drug addiction after undergoing a medical procedure that saw him prescribed opiate pain killers, according to his attorney. He was on house arrest in the case until late October, when he was remanded to federal custody after violating the terms of his release by testing positive for methamphetamine, according to court documents in the case.

In a finding of fact filed prior to Raymond’s sentencing Monday, Alsup determined that Raymond lied to the court at a hearing in November when he said while arguing against a delay in sentencing in the case that he’d been assaulted numerous times while in federal custody.

Alsup held an evidentiary hearing on the subject and found that no such attacks occurred and that Raymond lied to the court.

“In the undersigned’s view, this is consistent with a pattern of misrepresentations that underlie defendant’s offense of conspiracy to commit embezzlement and theft from his tribe,” Alsup wrote.

Federal prosecutors had sought a 20-month prison sentence for Raymond, but lobbied the court for a 27-month sentence after learning of Raymond’s dishonesty. For his part, Davis urged the court to agree to the 20-month sentence, but asked that his client be given credit for time already served behind bars in the case, which would have left Raymond looking at approximately six months in federal prison.

Ultimately, Alsup decided the sentence being pushed by prosecutors wasn’t harsh enough and handed down the 36-month term, according to court documents, though it is not immediately clear if Raymond was given credit for time served.

Meanwhile, LeValley — who also faces a single count of conspiring to embezzle from an Indian tribal organization — is reportedly working toward a plea deal of his own with prosecutors. He is due back in court Feb. 11, when he is expected to enter a guilty plea in the case, according to court documents.
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Chris Lehman Drops out of the Senate Race

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:58 AM

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Chris Lehman — the 35-year-old Arcata man who announced his candidacy for the State Senate with vigor last August — said in a press release today that he will abandon his campaign.

Lehman launched out of the gate shortly after current Senator Noreen Evans announced she wouldn't run for the 2nd District in 2014. He quickly gained support from current and former  assembly members, most of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, and other notables. He laid out his platform in an August interview with the Journal, which you can read here.

Lehman says he chose to support Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire rather than run a costly campaign against a candidate with "similar backgrounds and beliefs."

Here's the press release:

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Billboard Butcher Strikes Again

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 6:48 PM

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A  second safety corridor billboard fell today at the hands of a nefarious, saw-wielding advertisement adversary. The nearly 30 billboards lining Highway 101 have been a source of displeasure and controversy for some Humboldt residents for years. Bay views — enjoyed while zipping down the highway in climate controlled automobiles — are spoiled by the loathsome structures, they say.

Well, someone decided to do something about it, and the guerrilla tactic may last. Last Thursday a Bailey Mortgage sign was chopped, as the Mad River Union was the first to report. Before crews could repair the sign, the Humboldt County Building Division slapped it with a stop-work order. As it turns out, there's a lot of debate and confusion about who owns the land that the billboards are on. The review necessary to rebuild the signs is imposing — and for now has completely blocked the idea of repairs. That's on top of the recent Coastal Commission approval of highway conditions with the caveat that as many billboards be taken down as possible. Read past coverage of the signs here and here and here.

Then, sometime overnight, the Living Styles furniture ad fell. Perhaps fueled by news that the first felled billboard might not go back up, the radical(s) behind the "timbering" of the signs seemed to have struck again. Or maybe it was a copycat? Or maybe they knew before taking saw to wood that the owners of the billboards would  have a dickens of a time reposting them? It's unclear. But the Sheriff's Office is investigating the vandalism.

If this proves to be a trend, you better enjoy the gleaming tokens of capitalism while they last.
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Be Careful: 20-Foot Waves

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Sure, it looks gentle. But some 20-footers are coming. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Sure, it looks gentle. But some 20-footers are coming.

OK, that’s it: We’re calling wrap-it wonder Christo to throw some CAUTION around that big wavy gray danger of a Pacific that’s constantly slavering at our doorstep.

Either that or we could simply heed the latest warning from NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard — this time, to beware the 20-foot waves coming our way over the weekend, according to a news release:

“… there is a threat of extreme wave conditions forecast for the entire weekend covering the Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte County Coasts. Any activities on or near the water are discouraged as wave conditions approaching 20 foot in height are expected.”

A synopsis on the National Weather Service's site explains what's happening out there:

A FRONT WILL MOVE THROUGH THE WATERS LATE TONIGHT WITH SOUTH
WINDS INCREASING SIGNIFICANTLY AFTER MIDNIGHT BUILDING SHORT
PERIOD STEEP SEAS. WIND WILL PEAK SATURDAY MORNING THEN RAPIDLY
DECREASE BEHIND THE FRONT AND SHIFT TO NORTHERLY BY LATE SATURDAY
NIGHT. A LONG PERIOD WESTERLY SWELL GENERATED BY THE ACCOMPANYING
SURFACE LOW WILL MOVE INTO THE WATERS STARTING SATURDAY MORNING
AND BUILD TO NEAR 18-20 FT EARLY SUNDAY MORNING.

The U.S.G.S. recommends any ocean or oceanside wanderers check out the National Weather Service’s updated forecast online. The forecast as of 12:48 p.m. today, including the synopsis, is copied below:

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Killing in Trinidad

Posted By on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 1:18 PM

GOOGLE EARTH
  • Google Earth
A 24-year-old man was killed in a Trinidad trailer park overnight following reports of people yelling.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the Hidden Creek Trailer Park around 3 a.m. and found the victim, who has not yet been named.

Around 10 this morning, detectives arrested 33-year-old Trinidad resident Larry Clinton Morrow on suspicion of homicide. Officials are releasing few details at this point.

The press release:

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