News Briefs: Return of the Wolf | Downtown Crime Down | More Eco-Idictments | Distance Biker Hurt in Europe | Atom Bomb: Never Again | More Money For Mulch | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Happening Person: Raven Moon
RETURN OF THE WOLF
Wolves have been making the headlines lately and local conservationists are excited. Oregon researchers have documented the howls of a wolf pack and Washington researchers trumped those howls with actual photos of wolf pups.
|Photo: Conservation Northwest|
Back in February the news seemed grim for wolves in the Northwest when gray wolves in the Northern Rockies were removed from the endangered species list by the Bush administration. While some called the 1,500 wolves roaming the Northern Rockies more than plenty, wolf-lovers in Washington and Oregon weren’t seeing very many of the predators that were once were hunted into regional extinction by settlers.
Wolves were reintroduced into the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s. From there the wolves were expected to migrate naturally back into Oregon and Washington. Until this month, only a handful of wolves had been confirmed as having entered Oregon. Of those wolves, three were found killed and one was returned to Idaho.
Conservationists, including the Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands Project, challenged the lifting of the endangered species protection and U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Billings, Mont., issued a preliminary injunction July 18 restoring the protections for the Northern Rockies gray wolves. This meant planned wolf hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are not on the agenda, for now.
Shortly after that announcement made headlines, Oregon researchers announced that two years of standing outside and howling into the night in Eastern Oregon had paid off: Two adult wolves and two pups howled back. This means that Oregon may have at least one “breeding pair” of wolves. The Oregon Wolf Management Plan calls for at least four breeding pairs in three consecutive rules before state endangered species protections are lifted.
In Washington, Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest confirmed the group’s remote cameras snapped photos of six wolf pups in Eastern Washington’s Methow Valley (their cameras have also caught wolverines, moose, skunks and at least one hiker). That group recorded wolf howls as well, available on their website at www.conservationnw.org
Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands Project called the recent events “a landmark week for the wolf” and said, in reference to ranchers and others who are wary of the predator: “Time and human tolerance will be key to the success of their return.” — Camilla Mortensen
DOWNTOWN CRIME DOWN
Some downtown business owners told the Eugene City Council last week that a dramatic increase in crime required the city to impose a new exclusion ordinance opposed by the ACLU.
But is crime downtown really increasing? Not according to recent Eugene police statistics on reported crime. In 2007 violent crime in the downtown neighborhood dropped 16 percent from the year before. Property crime was down 15 percent. Behavior crimes were down 3 percent. Vandalism dropped 6 percent downtown and disorderly conduct dropped 3 percent.
While some downtown businesses have advertised their area as unsafe in the media for decades, shopping malls are often more quiet about their crime problems. The Cal Young neighborhood that includes the Valley River Center mall, for example, actually had 233 more reports of theft and 19 more car thefts than downtown last year. —Alan Pittman
More than a year after Oregon defendants in the FBI’s “Operation Backfire” case were sentenced, the aftermath continues. One of the two Washington defendants was sentenced last week and Wisconsin recently unsealed an indictment against three people accused of girdling genetically modified trees at a Forest Service Facility in Rhinelander, Wis.
On July 18 in Washington, Jen Kolar of Seattle was sentenced to five years of prison followed by five years of parole, as well as $7.1 million in restitution for her involvement in the ecologically motivated arson of University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture in 2001.
In the Wisconsin case, Katherine Christianson, Brian Rivera and Aaron Ellringer were indicted and charged with causing $500,000 worth of damage by destroying 500 trees and defacing Forest Service vehicles “with references to ELF” (the Earth Liberation Front).
The federal indictment erroneously conflates ELF with a separate group, Earth First!, and mistakenly defines “direct action” as “acts of vandalism or arson designed to intimidate businesses, government and the general civilian population into ceasing activities that the individuals in these movements believe are harmful to the natural environment.”
The phrase “direct action” actually originates in the labor movement — a strike is a direct action — and Martin Luther King Jr. defined nonviolent direct action as something that seeks to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
Oregon defendant Daniel McGowan was named a co-conspirator but not a defendant in the Wisconsin indictment. McGowan was recently held in a Madison, Wis., jail for refusing to give information to a grand jury other than his name and address, according to his wife, Jenny Synan.
McGowan is currently in transit, and Synan fears he will be transported to a rumored newly established “communications management unit” (CMU) in Marion, Ill. CMUs are not officially listed on the Bureau of Prisons website, but the Washington Post broke the story of the CMU at Terre Haute last year, calling it “a less restrictive version of the ‘supermax’ facility.” — Camilla Mortensen
DISTANCE BIKER HURT IN EUROPE
Longtime Eugene human rights activist Neil Van Steenbergen, 81, was reportedly run over by a tractor in Germany while on a bicycle trip from Paris to Istanbul this summer. He suffered a fractured pelvis and a broken leg and spent four weeks in a German hospital, according to an email sent out to his fellow congregation members at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church.
|Neil Van Steenbergen. Photo: TED TAYLOR|
Van Steenbergen was flown back to Eugene last week and was at Sacred Heart Medical Center for a few days before being transferred this week to Eugene Rehabilitation and Specialty Care on Chambers Street.
The injury was also reported on the blog of the Orient Express Bicycle Expedition (tourdafrique.com). One fellow rider wrote of him:
Once or twice in a lifetime, if you are fortunate, you come into the presence of a human being who seems to possess, with such grace and ease, the attributes of a celestial being … non-judgmental, compassionate, intelligent, humorous, respectful, endowed with infinite optimism and joie de vivre and the ability to make everyone feel they’re worth more than a billion dollars. One of the 2008 OE riders, Neil Van Steenbergen, is one such rare being. And for the past 18 days we were indeed a fortunate and privileged group. His free-spirited, curious and enthusiastic approach to living seems to be his secret to ensuring that every moment of every day is an adventure. Neil had an accident on the road yesterday just outside Passau, Germany, and is sadly unable to continue with us onto Istanbul.
Van Steenbergen served for years on the Eugene Human Rights Commission, wrote about racial issues and social justice, and has testified at numerous public hearings. He took up long-distance bicycling when he retired and set out to bike around the world a few years ago.
In his own blog entries just before the accident he wrote:
I am sitting on the steps of the great church in Regensburg, Germany, writing in the sun and watching people on the Dom Plaz take pictures of me. I suppose they may want the Dom in the background as well. I smile a lot. I am in exactly the right place in my life. Life is good. And I am content. — TJT
ATOM BOMB: NEVER AGAIN
On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing an estimated 220,000 people, with thousands more dying later from radiation exposure. Each year Lane County residents gather to honor the victims and to action to help ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again.
The annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemoration is being held from 7 to 9:30 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Alton Baker Park’s small shelter near the duck pond . A community potluck begins the evening, followed by a program at 8 with drumming by Eugene Taiko, traditional Japanese Obon dancing, and a call to action by MC Bob Watada, father of Iraq War protester Lt. Erin Watada.
The event will close with the floating of candle lanterns on the duck pond to remember those who died. Each lantern is also a symbol of a personal commitment to create peace in this world. During the lantern ceremony, Japanese Koto master Mitsuki Dazai will play music.
“We cannot let the memory of Hiroshima fade and allow our leaders to make this grave mistake again. We are gathering to remind Oregonians of the horrific consequences of nuclear weapons and to urge our lawmakers to take action to abolish these horrific weapons,” says Michael Carrigan of CALC, one of the event organizers.
For more information contact Carrigan at 485-1755 or calcdev@efn
MORE MONEY FOR MULCH
Finding that clean and natural looking bark to strew around your flowerbeds and shrubs throughout your landscape won’t be hard to find, but the money you’ll have to spend on it might be.
Bark-o-Mulch is a premium bark, which comes from Douglas fir trees. It comes in many different grades and sizes and is mainly used in or around flowerbeds as well as around bushes. According to Rexius, a local landscape company, Bark-o-Mulch is screened for a clean smooth appearance and is longer lasting than most mulches. It also maintains moisture and creates a protective blanket for shrubs.
The product is widely used, but competing uses and price increases might change this. One reason for the rising cost is that companies have to travel farther to obtain this product. Jack Hoeck, vice president of environmental services at Rexius, says that wood products production has been dropping and therefore, so are the residual products, such as Bark-o-Mulch.
“It’s not a matter of not being able to get it; it is just more difficult to get it in a local area,” says Hoeck. Hoeck doesn’t feel that the supply of fir bark is decreasing at a rate to worry about, yet.
The increased use of hog fuel is another reason for the upsurge in bark mulch prices. According to Lane Forest Products, hog fuel is an unprocessed mix of barks and wood fiber that is used as mud control on farms and ranches. The same products used to create hog fuel will potentially be used to create biomass fuels. As the price of energy goes up, so do the products that accompany it.
Hoeck says that the price of bark mulch has been steady in the last year and that the increase is mainly tied to lumber production.
So there won’t be a problem finding the ever-useful bark mulch, it will just cost a little more.
Hoeck puts it into perspective: “When we go to a gas station there’s gas there; it’s not that the gas station doesn’t have gas, it’s just much more expensive than it was two years ago.” — Courtney Jacobs
• The second annual West Coast Convergence for Climate Action that began July 28 continues this week at River’s Turn Farm outside Coburg (see News Briefs last week). Civil disobedience and other protests are planned for Monday, Aug. 4. Visit www.climateconvergence.org
• A new environmental documentary from Green Fire Productions will be shown at 7 pm Thursday, July 31, at the Eugene Public Library Bascom-Tykeson Room. Common Ground: Part II focuses on the rich, diverse marine ecosystems of Oregon, and includes interviews with state policy makers, local elected officials, marine scientists and fishermen on solutions for protecting and restoring Oregon’s marine habitat.
• Unitarians in Eugene are planning a community vigil and short service to commemorate the shooting deaths and injuries that happened at their sister church in Knoxville, Tenn., last Sunday. The gathering is planned for 7 pm Friday, Aug. 1, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 477 East 40th Ave.
• Eugene neighborhood bike tours that began July 26 (see News Briefs last week) are continuing with the second tour scheduled for 1 pm Aug. 9 at the Friendly Market, followed by 10 am Aug. 23 at 2755 Kincaid in the Amazon Neighborhood, and 11 am Sept. 6 at the Red Barn in Whiteaker. The tours highlight local grass-to-garden projects, reclaiming parking spaces, rainwater catchment, solar design and more. For details and updates, visit www.eugenepermacultureguild.org or call 686-6761.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,125 U.S. troops killed* (4,125)
• 30,324 U.S. troops injured* (30,324)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 94,285 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (93,880)
• $540.6 billion cost of war ($538.6 billion)
• $153.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($153.1 million)
* through July 28, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million.
Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule
• Correction for last week: Near Marcola/Mohawk schools: Weyerhaeuser (741-5211) will aerial spray starting July 30 (#55545).
• Near Jackson-Marlow Road: Oregon Forest Management Services (896-3757) will ground spray 108 acres for Transition Management (484-6706) starting Aug. 5 (#50609).
• Near Lorane: Weyerhaeuser (744-4600) will ground spray Tahoe 4E and other herbicides on 583 acres near South Fork of the Siuslaw River starting Aug. 1 (#50602).
• Near McKenzie River: M Three Timber (767-3785) started ground spraying Arsenal on 78 acres on July 22 (#55569).
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
• We hear two old-time downtown Eugene developers have tossed a challenging prospect to our new city manager: Why not entice both the Opus student building and the WG mixed-use building to the downtown? Does it have to be either/or? We prefer the WG proposal across from the library and the student housing in another site, maybe a little closer to the UO but still bringing nearly 500 new residents to the center city. Probably a dozen bureaucratic reasons, plus several economic ones, block this discussion, but this is an opportunity for Manager Ruiz to show he can act creatively and shred red tape. When he spoke to the City Club several weeks ago, Ruiz said Eugene should not sacrifice long-term benefits to expedite short-term gain. Good goal for a peopled, pitless downtown Eugene.
• Cris Beamud will be leaving us soon as our first independent police auditor, much to the delight of some city employees, but the fight just moves to round three. Round one was getting an ordinance creating the auditor position voted into the charter. Round two was hiring an auditor, writing up procedures and appointing the Civilian Review Board. Round three will be carrying on the work with a new staff, likely under the capable direction of Assistant Auditor Dawn Reynolds. Round four will be passing a charter amendment in November to strengthen and solidify the auditor position. Regardless of who's in the ring, the public stands to win or lose this dragged-out fight for transparency and accountability.
It's also vital that voters re-elect Mayor Kitty Piercy who has strongly supported the independent auditor, while Jim Torrey has called for the auditor to not be independent but rather under the control of the city manager. Torrey, who has received strong financial campaign support from the police union, recently called for the council to "take a step back" and re-examine the auditor position.
Beamud has shown exceptional bravery, resolve and grace under attack during her critical first year in this new position. After what she's put up with, we can't blame her for taking a better job in a bigger city where her impressive talents will be more appreciated. Looking back, the public would have been better served if Beamud had been given the respect, support and cooperation she deserved from city staff, including the police chief. We like to think Beamud has broken new ground in Eugene and paved the way for a smoother road ahead. Throwing up roadblocks against much-needed independent police oversight needs to end. If entrenched police attitudes don't change, then police management needs to change.
• Any ideas on what to do with the soon-to-be-vacant Hynix facilities? We're not holding our collective breath waiting for a solar panel company to buy the huge complex and do expensive retrofits, particularly since solar plants in Portland are currently expanding to meet demand. How about a prison? Good wages, non-polluting, sustainable even in recessions, and the prisoners can wear the old bunny suits left behind by Hynix. The inmates won't be eating in local restaurants and staying at local motels, but visitors certainly would. It's also a dandy site for a new state mental hospital. How about a regional storage and distribution center for all kinds of materials? The site is already being used to store tons of toxic chemicals. Warehousing toys from China would be a good fit. How about low-cost student housing? If all else fails, the site would make a world-class paintball palace.
• The debate over an exclusionary zone is back in the news as the Eugene City Council considers a proposal to ban certain troublemakers from the city core if they have been cited by police, even before convictions. This so-called solution has basic flaws. If downtown really is a magnet for criminals, crime and hate, we already have laws in place and 170-some sworn police officers to deal with it. If downtown is a police priority, the chief needs to get more cops out of their cruisers and walking the streets downtown. It's a form of community policing and it would save the city a lot of gas money in the process. If indeed 10 percent of city crime happens in the city core, why are only a few extra officers on the streets downtown?
Excluding habitual criminals from downtown is something judges can do after convictions without violating civil liberties. And judges are in a better position to evaluate whether a convicted offender is truly a menace to downtown. Banning someone charged with a minor offense could have unintended consequences. That person, despite a moment of poor judgment, could have a job or do business downtown or need to provide transportation downtown to family members. Leave it to the judges.
“This is my 23rd year at the Saturday Market,” says Raven Moon, purveyor of spirit rattles, shakers, masks and fantasy animals, hand-made of papier-maché and gemstones. “I love it. Life is great!” A sociology grad of Arizona State, Moon was a letter carrier in Corvallis and the single dad of two young daughters in 1983, when he met spiritualist and Tarot reader Yana Breeze, who encouraged him to change his line of work and his name. “At first I was thinking, ‘Moon Raven,’” he says. The pair got started in crafts by making “gemulets” (gemstone amulets) to sell at the market. “I wanted to make my own rattle for a ritual with Yana,” Moon recalls. “I quickly found my artistic medium. I loved it and others liked it too.” Moon and Breeze moved to Eugene and got married in 1993, 10 years to the day from when they met. For the past 10 years, Moon has transported his market booth and merchandise to the park blocks in a garden cart strapped to his recumbent bike. He and Breeze gave up their car altogether in 2000, when they noticed that their pre-Y2K fill-up had lasted into summer.