News Briefs: Handy Defends His Position | Wolves in the Courts | Sponsors to Expand Beds | Bike Day is Saturday | Metolius Bill Still On Track | EW Takes 8 Awards for Excellence | Activist Alert | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Defending Fall Creek
Lawsuits and tree-sits surround the BLM’s proposal to log
HANDY DEFENDS HIS POSITIONS
Lane County Commissioner Rob Handy says this week that “all options are on the table,” including funding of part or all of an additional 85 beds at the county jail.
Handy, in a prepared statement, defended his vote against including the jail beds in the budget for now, saying “I am not willing to decimate the county services we currently offer our most vulnerable people — from veterans to those with developmental disabilities, to those with mental health needs to those with drug and alcohol addictions. I won’t take away funds that will cripple the programs to the homeless and the hungry or undermine the necessary services for youth that will prevent the crimes of tomorrow.”
The commissioner says it’s clear that “we all want a strong public safety system,” but “the question on the table is to determine what we can reasonably afford.”
Handy cites Lane County’s 14 percent unemployment rates and the possible loss of millions in state funding as “equally strong reasons to hold on to our reserves in order to ensure shoring up our existing systems as the economy worsens and Lane County revenues continue to decline.”
“In recent weeks,” he says, “Lane County was notified of possible cuts from the state that ranged from $1million (the best case scenario) to $9 million — per year.”
He says his intentions now are to pass the Lane County budget as required by state law by June 30, and then initiate a supplemental budget process after final passage of the state budget, seeing what services might be put back in the budget. — Ted Taylor
WOLVES IN THE COURTS
|Photot by Gary Kramerusfws
Local conservation group Cascadia Wildlands is part of a federal lawsuit newly filed by a number of conservation groups fighting the federal government’s removal of gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the northern Rocky Mountains. The groups allege that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar erroneously designated the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf as a “distinct population segment” and took it off the Endangered Species List “despite significant threats to wolves’ survival and a lack of regulatory mechanisms to ensure that the wolf population does not plummet well below sustainable levels.”
The animals, which were systematically eradicated from Oregon by the late 1940s because they were seen as a threat to humans and their cattle, were making a comeback in the Northwest under the protection of the Endangered Species Act until April, when federal protection of the wolves was lifted for the second time. The wolves are still protected within the state of Oregon.
In 2007, the federal government took federal protection away from the wolves, leaving wolf management under state-by-state jurisdiction. The environmental law group Earthjustice pursued and won a lawsuit to reinstate federal protections for wolves in 2008.
Local conservation group Cascadia Wildlands (formerly Cascadia Wildlands Project) was one of the groups involved in that lawsuit. This year, it is working with Earthjustice to yet again try to protect the wolves. Josh Laughlin, the conservation director for Cascadia Wildlands, says the Montana and Idaho state plans allow for wolves to be hunted down to a total of only 200-300 in those states, a significant drop from their current population of around 1,600.
Research in Yellowstone National Park shows that the resurgence of wolves helped restore balance in the ecosystem, bringing down overpopulation among animals such as elk and restoring the “ecology of fear.” That keeps possible prey animals moving, helping prevent overgrazing in specific areas and giving smaller animals such as beavers a chance to flourish.
The growth of Oregon’s wolf population, approximately 60 animals, is dependent on the migration of wolves from Idaho, Laughlin says. Oregon’s wolves remain protected by state laws, but without the proper protection of all the wolves of the Northwest, Laughlin says, “We fear that in Oregon the wolves won’t get a chance to repopulate.”
Right now wolves aren’t being given that opportunity, he says, and if they aren’t protected now, they’re just going to need to be protected later when their numbers dwindle again. — Krista Harper
SPONSORS TO EXPAND BEDS
Groundbreaking was May 30 for three new buildings to provide transitional housing for ex-offenders released from state prison and returning to Lane County. The new $5.5 million Sponsors Inc. facilities will be at 338 Hwy. 99 N. in Eugene.
The nonprofit Sponsors has been providing reentry services to ex-offenders in Lane County for the past 35 years. Those services include housing, case management, assistance with employment and schooling and practical support to about 300 men and women annually, which is about 35 percent of the ex-offenders released to Lane County.
The new 44-unit center is expected to double the organization’s capacity to accommodate about 72 men and women. Space will also be provided to store donations, food and other goods.
Funding comes from Oregon Housing and Community Services, the city of Eugene and Lane County programs, the Veteran’s Administration, the Collins Foundation, community contributions and a variety of other public and private sources, according to information provided by Sponsors.
See www.sponsorsinc.org for more information, and links to earlier EW stories on the organization, including a cover story Dec. 20, 2001.
BIKE DAY IS SATURDAY
Not everyone loves bicycles, even in Eugene, but the Science Factory children’s museum is hosting the fifth annual “Bike Day” to “Celebrate Eugene’s Bikulturalism” hoping to make biking in Eugene more accessible and safe for everyone.
The event near Autzen Stadium and Alton Baker Park is from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday, June 13, and includes music, food, family-friendly events, demonstrations, booths and a beer garden (but remember, it’s still considered drinking and driving when it’s a bike!).
Riding a bike is fun exercise, but riders need to remember that safety and obeying the law is an important part of cycling. According to Oregon Revised Statute 814.400, “Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle.”
As for those bikers who whiz along on the sidewalk leaving pedestrians in their wake, part 2a of the same statute clarifies, “A bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code.” Harlow Meno, station manager at the West University Public Safety Station next to the UO campus, an area packed with cyclists, says bikes must “obey all the same traffic laws as a car.”
“There’s a hierarchy of right of way in the world of transportation,” says UO student Nick Snyder. “It goes: cars, bicyclists, then pedestrians. Bicyclists at the university have forgotten that.”
Non-bikers complain about distracted cyclists talking on cell phones and wearing headphones, not paying attention to pedestrians or, more dangerously, to cars. “You have to pre-think what the cars are going to do,” says Meno. “When it’s car vs. bicycle, a car is going to win.”
Other attractions at Bike Day to help Eugeneans become better bikers include a safety rodeo, helmet decoration, bike safety checks, bike polo, tire changing competition, fashion show, jumping, tricycle races, unicycle demonstration, bike blended smoothies and a performance by the “Bottom Brackettes” bike dance group.
The local GEARs (Greater Eugene Area Riders) bike group helped organize the event and has posted a full schedule on its www.eugenegears.org/bikeday website. — Sam Marx
METOLIUS BILL STILL ON TRACK
Legislation to protect the Metolius River basin from large resort developments is making its way through committees and could end up on the Senate floor this week or next. Democrats in Salem have been moving along HB 3298 while Republicans have been trying to block it. The bill got a public hearing in the Senate Rules Committee June 3.
Some 17 local, state and national organizations have allied to urge lawmakers to protect the Metolius. The alliance’s concerns include water quality and flow, fish, bird and other habitat, river stability and health, plants and winter range for elk and deer. Fighting the legislation are developers and Jefferson County officials who see the building of two large resorts as an economic boost to the area. As many as 8,000 new homes and other buildings could be constructed at the resorts.
The two proposed resorts are The Metolian, on one square mile just north of Highway 20 and Suttle Lake, and The Ponderosa, on 10,000 acres straddling the Metolius basin on Green Ridge about eight miles north of Sisters.
The alliance of environmental organizations sent a letter to lawmakers and supporters dated May 26, calling for protecting the Metolius as an Area of Critical State Concern (ACSC). The letter outlines the broad ecological values of the area and noted that the U.S. Forest Service concluded in the mid-1990s that the area has already reached “full capacity for recreational use.”
“Construction of destination resorts in the Metolius will not generate enough jobs to significantly alter our region’s economy,” reads the letter. “The costs to the public of allowing this construction and the return to the boom and bust housing cycle far outweigh the benefits. In the long run, destination resorts seriously compromise the destinations.”
See www.metoliusfriends.org for maps, updates and contact information for lawmakers. — Ted Taylor
EW TAKES 8 AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE
The Oregon and Washington Society of Professional Journalists held their annual awards banquet May 30, and EW picked up eight awards, including two first-place nods for arts coverage.
In the category for non-daily print publications with a circulation greater than 8,000, Camilla Mortensen took third place in environmental reporting for “One Good Tern Deserves an Island.”
Molly Templeton took second place in the consumer, food, lifestyle, home category for “Much More Than a Mimosa” in the Uncorked issue.
Jason Blair took first place in arts and criticism for “Forging Ahead” his review of The Counterfeiters. Suzi Steffen took second place in arts and criticism for “Operation Sharing Their Truth.”
In the category for alternative newsweeklies in region 10: Alan Pittman took second place in government reporting for “Blind Oversight.” Camilla Mortensen took second place in consumer/environmental affairs reporting for “One Good Tern Deserves an Island.”
Suzi Steffen took first place in arts reporting for “Buddhist Visions.” And EW staff took third place in special sections for “Water Day,” edited by Suzi Steffen and designed by Todd Cooper.
Links to these stories can be found on the EW blog.
• “Paper, Plastic, or Neither? What the Choice Means for Our Environment” with David Tyler, is a free Science Pub talk at 7 pm Thursday, June 11, at Cozmic Pizza, 8th and Charnelton. Tyler is a chemistry professor at UO, currently teaching the chemistry of sustainability.
• Mayor Kitty Piercy and Rep. Terry Beyer are hosting “Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Transportation Town Hall,” at 6:30 pm Tuesday, June 16, at St. Mary Catholic Church, 10th and Charnelton. The free event is organized by BikeLane Coalition, and will be looking at transportation priorities outlined in the TransPlan adopted 10 years ago.
• ODOT is inviting the public to a drop-in open house from 5 to 7 pm Tuesday, June 16, at the Springfield City Hall Library Room. The topic will be plans to lift 11 bridges crossing I-5, including the Centennial Boulevard Bridge and I-105 overpasses. Information will be included about the anticipated traffic control plans, detour routes, and proposed construction schedule for the overpass raisings. For more information call Ken Kohl at 747-1496 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Local improvement districts are on the agenda of the Eugene City Council in June, involving levy assessments on property owners for street improvements. The Crest Area project is scheduled for council action June 22. Property owners have complained about high assessments for paving and sidewalks. Is compromise on the table? See the city website at www.eugene-or.gov for agendas and times.
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Gypsy moth spraying (southeast Eugene): If you feel you or your family members were sickened, your property contaminated, or your rights violated by the forced exposure to the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s aerial spraying of the biological (and chemical) insecticide FORAY 48B during April and May, you need to file a “Report of Loss” form no later than Friday, June 26, in order to preserve your right to recover damages. For forms and information, go to forestlanddwellers.org/News/GypsyMothSpray/
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• In our June 27 Summer Guide listings last week, the price for the Sustainable Lifestyles Festival in Pleasant Hill should be $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Some workshops require a separate fee. See www.herbaltransitions.com or call 736-0164, or see Happening People this week.
• In Slant last week we wrote about the County Commission cutting off dues for the Association of Oregon Counties. That should be the Association of O&C Counties. Funding continues for the AOC.
• Whole Foods still looking at Eugene? We’ve heard the rumors, but the company’s not saying much. We did hear from the Whole Foods corporate office in Texas that a Eugene store is not happening anytime soon, but they didn’t rule it out. Whole Foods is currently working on its Interbay shopping center anchor store in the Queen Anne area of north Seattle. It appears the high-end grocer is still looking to expand but is being cautious. The Interbay store, if built, will be quite a bit smaller than originally planned.
For those new to town, Whole Foods and local developers negotiated to build a new store at 8th and Mill downtown back in 2006, and the proposal included the city coughing up $9 million for an adjacent parking garage. Public opposition to subsidizing the project was strong. Eugeneans tend to balk at the idea of paying national corporations to build downtown and compete with local businesses.
• The X factor? Last week in this column we wrote about the growing number of part-time subsistence farmers in Japan, but that was only half the story. What do these farmers do with the rest of their time? Japan not only has economic problems, but also a crisis in mental health, with more than 30,000 suicides each year. The new lifestyle offers people the time to pursue their individual talents and passions, whether profitable or not. It’s being called “half-farmer, half-X,” and Naoki Shiomi, who popularized the concept, helps people find their X factor, their “real calling” in life.
• The Helios Resource Network is a local nonprofit that doesn’t get much attention but does a lot of good work through small matching grants to 22 very local projects around Lane County, such as the Oregon Toxics Alliance, School Garden Project, Huerto de la Familia, Community Alliance of Lane County, etc. The organization began with a small family endowment, but we hear the original grant is running out. Fortunately, some folks in the community are supporting Helios with one-time and monthly donations. Check out www.heliosnetwork.org
• Members of the Lane County Friends of the Birth Center (FBC) are meeting with PeaceHealth officials this week to ask some tough questions. At issue is the surprise gap coming June 30 in PH’s out-of-hospital birthing services (see News Briefs, 5/28). Back in January the hospital’s CEO announced that construction on the new Birth Center could not begin until all costs were met upfront, including sale of the building. A short gap in services was anticipated, but now it looks like it could be nearly a year. The FBC wants to know why the interim plan does not include a temporary facility for out-of-hospital births, why there was a delay in communication, why this particular project needs 100 percent capitalization while others have not, and what can be done for the families who were already on track for significantly cheaper out-of-hospital births.
We asked some of these questions ourselves, and got partial answers. PH spokesperson Andrea Ash did tell us, “Moving Birth Center patients to Sacred Heart at RiverBend’s birthing suites during the interim was not our first choice, but given our goal to make the best use of our limited resources, we have chosen to invest in the future Birth Center rather than the complex and costly process of developing an interim location.”
DR. SHAROL TILGNER
On the weekend of June 27-28, Wise Acres Farm east of Pleasant Hill will host the first Sustainable Lifestyles Festival, featuring a full schedule of lectures and workshops on such topics as solar hot water, raising chickens, and making beer. Wise Acres is an organic and biodynamic educational farm focused mainly on medicinal herbs, owned and operated by Dr. Sharol Tilgner, author of Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth. “We’re expecting 300 to 500 people,” says Tilgner, who grew up on an isolated farm outside La Grande, did pre-med studies at PSU and finished a four-year N.D. degree in 1990 at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland. “I started an herb company while I was in school,” says Tilgner, who moved the business, Wise Woman Herbals, to a farm near Cottage Grove to raise herbs in the mid-1990s. Ten years ago, she sold the business and purchased the Wise Acres property. Other summer events at the farm include the fifth annual NW Herb Fest on the weekend of July 25-26 and a nine-day intensive course in herbal preparations in August. For a complete listing of course offerings and festival schedules, visit herbaltransitions.com