Friday, April 18, 2014

McKay Tract Community Forest: Five Thumbs Up

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 8:31 AM

The state’s first county-owned community forest is nearly a reality, after the board of supervisors voted unanimously to accept grant funding to purchase a 1,000-acre portion of the McKay Tract on Tuesday.

There’s much to do before the land is accessible to the public, though.

“The immediate next steps are processing the property transaction and getting documents ready for escrow,” said deputy director of public works Hank Seemann, “taking a breath and getting ready to launch into the more specific planning thinking about access points and thinking about overall forest management.”

Seemann said it was remarkable that the project came together, given the economic climate, and he referenced debate at planning commission meetings over the last several months about the county’s perspective on trails.

“That was more in the abstract,” Seemann said. “A month later this project came forward after being in development for two to three years. This is a trail project in reality, on the ground.”

While the Trust for Public Land helped the county secure $6.8 million to purchase the property, the agency went beyond its usual work by agreeing to donate $125,000 toward the county’s costs in preparing the land for public use. A detailed assessment of the projects and costs to prepare the land are available at the county’s website, along with maps and other resources.

“This is an opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” Seemann said. “It’s not going to solve all our problems but, especially looking down the road, … it provides a great opportunity. It’s something Eureka and the greater Eureka area can be proud of.”

Read previous Journal coverage of the McKay Tract project here.

Read the press release announcing the supes’ go-ahead on purchasing the land:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Court Changes Probation Report Policy

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 1:59 PM

The Humboldt County Superior Court has completed a review of its policies and procedures governing the unsealing of a defendant’s prior probation reports when they are charged with a new crime. Court CEO Kerri Keenan said today that judges and court staff are all in agreement that, under the law, the court should make a defendant’s prior reports public if the defendant is charged with a new criminal complaint.

“We’re working on a procedure right now, but they’ll be made available upon request, without submitting a letter or any petition to the court,” Keenan said.

California law holds that a defendant’s probation reports filed with the court should be made available to the public for 60 days from the time the defendant is sentenced in the case, at which point they are sealed. However, the law includes a provision that the documents should be unsealed in the event that a defendant is charged with a new crime.

Historically, the Humboldt County Superior Court has made the documents available for the initial 60-day window but maintained they were not open to the public after that, regardless of whether a defendant faced a new criminal charge. The court’s policy change comes on the heels of the Journal’s push to gain access to the documents, which began shortly after the New Year’s Day slaying of St. Bernard’s Parrish Pastor Father Eric Freed.

Check past coverage for more information on the documents and the Journal’s efforts to have them unsealed.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Northwest Forest Plan's 20th

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM

  • Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Northern Spotted owls

Twenty years after the Northwest Forest Plan’s birth, lawyer/writer Daniel Jack Chasan looks at whether the plan has done all it was cracked up to do. Did it save Northern Spotted owls? Did it protect the logging industry from utter devastation?

Chasan concludes, in part one of his story at, that “[n]either the owl nor the forest products industry has done as well as some people had expected and many had hoped.”

But the owls aren’t all dead, and the timber industry didn’t conk out.

“Doomsday predictions of massive job losses proved false," Chasan writes. "Certain workers, mills, and communities felt pain. The Clinton administration's brave talk about retraining workers and reviving mill towns surprised virtually no one by proving to be largely hot air. Still, the Northwest economy didn't even hiccup.” The timber industry has fewer workers now, he writes, but more capacity.

And the owl? Chasan notes that a 2004 review by the Bush administration found that “owl populations had dropped faster than anyone had anticipated.”

“It pointed the finger at past habitat loss on federal land, and ongoing loss of habitat outside the area covered by the Northwest Forest Plan," he continues. "It also pointed to the invasion of non-native barred owls, which have been pushing spotted owls out of their habitat.”

The Northwest Forest Plan was a “political compromise” allowing “more logging than the scientists preferred," Chasan says, It was devised by the Clinton administration after the 1990 federal listing of the Northern Spotted owl as threatened triggered a court-ordered cessation in 1991 of “all timber sales in spotted owl habitat, which included nearly all Northwestern national forests.”

“In some people's eyes, we had reached Owlmageddon,” writes Chasan.

The Record of Decision establishing the Northwest Forest Plan was published April 13, 1994. The plan covers 24 million acres of federal land in northern California, Oregon and Washington, 30 percent of which is set aside for what’s called late successional reserves where old-growth is supposed to be protected and enhanced. Ten percent of the total acreage is set aside for protection riparian resources (lands near water). A surrounding matrix of 4 million acres, which critics say contains old-growth trees, too, is for multiple uses including timber harvest.

Part two of the series continues the tale.
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New News News

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

The empty, dilapidated front room of the KAEF building at Sixth and E streets in Eureka will soon be bustling with news hustlers, if all goes according to plan, and Humboldt County’s only TV news program will have competition for the first time in almost 10 years.

“We are looking forward to elevating the level of broadcast news available in the market,” KRCR Redding News Director Jennifer Scarbrough says in a not-so-subtle dig at KIEM News Channel 3. “We genuinely believe viewers in all of our areas deserve the best news product they can possibly get.”

Details are light at this point and plans are being finalized, but Scarbrough says the news program is a go. The broadcaster’s sister stations — KAEF 23 (our local ABC affiliate) and KBVU 28 (our FOX affiliate) — are both likely candidates for a local news program, she says.
The station hasn't decided on a launch date, nor is it giving out information about how many reporters or other employees it will hire for the Eureka station. The station is currently advertising for an assistant news director position. Scarbrough will act as the news director, splitting her time between Eureka and Redding.

Is the Humboldt County market big enough to support another TV news program? “We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think that was the case.”

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nice, and Nicer

Posted By on Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 1:44 PM

The question came near the end of the two-hour debate Friday night, one she said she hadn’t expected: What do you bring to the position of 5th District supervisor that your opponent does not? After a long pause, challenger Sharon Latour said, “Twenty years more of adult life, of problem-solving, tragedy and joy, mistakes and redemption … the benefit of years.”

Incumbent Ryan Sundberg, the first Native American to hold that elected office, didn’t hesitate. “I know this community.”

Latour, a Presbyterian minister who moved into the district from southern Humboldt in 2010, may be forgiven for mispronouncing Orleans in her opening statement and for not knowing KBRA stands for Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. (It's also a radio station in Texas, for that matter.) She readily admits being on a “steep learning curve” and it showed throughout the evening. She said she’d have to bone up on a lot of issues, including the Williamson Act, water flow volume in the Trinity River (she answered the question by talking about drinking water), and levee flooding in Orick. After three years on the job, Sundberg was well prepared to discuss all of the above.

Latour landed only one partial blow. In her closing statement, she criticized the current supervisors, including Sundberg, for not passing the General Plan Update when they’ve had the completed draft for two years, and for changing the GPU guiding principles last year. “The current board, and recently reconfigured planning commission, have taken our visionary plan and utterly disregarded it. Protection for working lands, forests and watersheds has been weakened. …”

Sundberg said changing the GPU guiding principles was more of an update since the original ones were set back in 2002. “I didn’t think it was a huge deal.” He said the GPU process is moving along to completion.

About 50 people attended the Friday evening debate at Azalea Hall sponsored by the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce. Both incumbent and challenger were excessively polite and cordial. Both said their opponent was "a nice person" and “very nice.”

The debate was recorded by Access Humboldt and will be available online soon at For a rundown of other scheduled debates in local races, check here.
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Yurok Language Program in NYT

Posted on Sun, Apr 13, 2014 at 9:18 AM

In case you missed it, Eureka High School's Yurok language program landed on the front page of yesterday's New York Times.

"A generation ago, linguists predicted that Yurok and many other Native American languages would become extinct around this time with the deaths of tribal members who grew up speaking the languages, the criterion used at the time," the story says. "All of the current Yurok teachers came to the language as adults, by painstakingly acquiring it from the last living elders and sometimes comparing notes with outside linguists."

The story offers a nice overview of the Yurok Tribe's campaign to revive its language, noting that it serves as a model to many other tribes.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

HSU Staffer Among Bus Crash Victims

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 10:28 AM

Photographer Jeremy Lockett, of Red Bluff, was driving to Orland when he came across the fiery scene of the accident and caught this image. - JEREMY LOCKETT/J. LOCKETT PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jeremy Lockett/J. Lockett Photography
  • Photographer Jeremy Lockett, of Red Bluff, was driving to Orland when he came across the fiery scene of the accident and caught this image.
Humboldt State University has confirmed that Admissions Counselor Arthur Arzola was among the 10 people dead after a bus crash outside of Sacramento Thursday afternoon.

Arzola, a regional recruiter based in the Los Angeles area, was accompanying a bus full of high school students up to Arcata to attend HSU’s Spring Preview event for prospective students. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, many of the high-schoolers on the bus were first-generation college students, with many coming from low-income families.
  • Humboldt State University
HSU issued a brief statement this morning about Arzola, saying he is remembered by colleagues for his “passionate commitment to helping low-income and first-generation students get to college.

“He dedicated his career to that work,” the statement continued. “The campus community extends its deepest condolences to Arthur’s family and friends. Words cannot express our sadness, and we are here to support the in any way possible.”

Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee reports HSU President Rollin Richmond is down south visiting students involved in the crash in area hospitals to comfort them and their families, telling them the school will arrange for students to visit campus when they are feeling better. “We will arrange for them to get to Humboldt in ways that don’t involve a bus,” Richmond told the Bee.

According to reports, the crash occurred at about 5:40 p.m. when a FedEx semi traveling south on I-5 in Orland swerved to avoid another car, lost control and crossed over the center divide, colliding head-on with the tour bus loaded with about 50 prospective HSU students. Numerous news reports quote first responders expressing surprised that anyone made it off the bus alive.

In a brief bio on the HSU admissions page, Arzola described himself as hard-working, thoughtful, compassionate and friendly, saying he likes “hanging out at the beach and walking around Arcata to eat at all of the local restaurants.”
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Ocean Swimmer Dies

Posted By on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

A 21-year-old from Tulare died yesterday afternoon after being rescued from the ocean off of Samoa Beach, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Matthew Bryant Garcia had gone swimming with a friend, and disappeared in the surf, says the release.

A passerby called 911 at about 4:30 p.m. In two minutes rescuers were on the scene By 4:50 p.m. a United States Coast Guard helicopter had spotted the man 30 yards offshore "but was unable to attempt a rescue."

"Three Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies and a Samoa fireman were directed to the drowning man’s location by the U.S.C.G., helicopter where they waded several feet deep into the surf and pulled the man to shore," says the release. "After they pulled the man to shore, City Ambulance and Samoa Fire started CPR. The man was loaded into the back of a Sheriff’s Office Jeep and driven to the roadway. He was then loaded into the ambulance and transported to the hospital. The man had a pulse at the time he was transported to the hospital."

Garcia died at the hospital.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prospective HSU Students in Bus Crash

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 8:51 PM

A fiery accident on Interstate 5 this afternoon involved a tour bus reportedly filled with high school students headed for Humboldt State University’s Spring Preview event.

At least nine people are believed to have been killed in the wreck, which occurred in city of Orland, about 100 miles north of Sacarmento, at about 5:40 p.m. when the bus collided with a FedEx truck. The crash is getting national attention from the likes of CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News and USA Today.

Humboldt State University President Rollin sent out a letter to faculty and students this afternoon saying the university is “deeply saddened” by the tragic accident and urging families of students who may have been aboard the bus to call the Univeristy Police Department.

The following is Richmond’s letter:

Dear Friends,
Humboldt State University is deeply saddened by a tragic accident that occurred earlier this evening involving a charter bus filled with prospective students. They were on their way to visit campus for the April 11 Spring Preview event.

Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible.

The bus was travelling on Interstate 5 near Orland when it collided with a FedEx truck. We are in contact with law enforcement in the area, and are being told of multiple injuries.

Families of students who may have been affected may contact University Police for more information or guidance at (707) 826-5555.

Rollin C. Richmond

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Debate Season Hits Stride

Posted on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Humboldt's DA candidates have a lot of debating to do.
  • Humboldt's DA candidates have a lot of debating to do.
Voters in Humboldt County’s 5th Supervisorial District will get their first chance to compare their candidates side-by-side Friday, as incumbent Ryan Sundberg and challenger Sharon Latour square off in the race’s inaugural debate Friday.

The forum, which starts at 6 p.m. in Azalea Hall, is hosted by the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce and will span three hours (three hours!).

Chamber Executive Director Heather Vina said the forum is open to the public and will consist almost entirely of attendee’s questions for the candidates. Vina will moderate the discussion, and said the forum will be recorded to be broadcast on Access Humboldt on an unknown future date.

Meanwhile, Mad River Union Editor Kevin Hoover recently hosted a discussion on KHSU between the two candidates in the 4th District race, incumbent Virginia Bass and challenger Chris Kerrigan, which can be found here.

It’s currently unclear if additional debates or forums are scheduled in either supervisor race at this point. However, folks desperate for some testy exchanges can find all their heart desires in the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Race, which has no fewer than seven forums scheduled over the next couple of months.

Candidates Allan Dollison, Elan Firpo, Maggie Fleming and Arnie Klein are slated to discuss all things prosecutorial at the following forums:

April 11, a League of Women Voters luncheon

April 14, the Fortuna Rotary debate at noon

April 21, the Rotary Club of Eureka's forum at the Elk's Lodge in Eureka at noon

April 26, the Ocean West candidate forum in McKinleyville at 6 p.m.

April 30, the League of Women Voters, KEET debate at 6 p.m.

May 5, the KMUD debate

May 8, the Humboldt State University Constitution Forum at 6 p.m.

And, for those who missed them, the candidates have already verbally slugged it out a few times and have a couple of debates rebroadcasting on Access Humboldt — including this one and this one, which was sponsored by KHSU and the Mad River Union, with its audio also available on the KHSU website.

The Journal will work to update the above list with additional forums, times, locations and broadcast schedules as more information comes in.

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