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Mendocino County Today: February 26, 2013

LOOK FOR A LIVELY pro-gun rally in front of the County Courthouse this Friday at 5pm. Organizer Dan Kuny said Monday, “We're not with any organized group. Just local, law-abiding people angry about how we're being painted in the media.” Info at 489-8452.

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VERY BAD HOME INVASION the other night at Greenfield Ranch. Two guys in camo and ski masks cut their way in through a closed gate off Orr Springs Road, drove to the home of a sixty-ish couple, beat the man with a flashlight, fracturing his skull in several places, and getting nothing for all that felonious effort. The cops got up the hill pretty fast, but the bad boys got away.

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AND FROM THE USUALLY TRANQUIL confines of Mendocino, “Mendocino County Sheriff's Deputies received a radio call for service regarding a burglary in progress at a residence in the 45000 block of Heeser Street in Mendocino.” A crafty senior by the name of Dorothy Baker owns the property, which she was monitoring via a live-feed video camera positioned inside the home and accessible to her by internet. Ms. Baker provided a description of the suspect and was watching as deputies rolled up to find that Alec Faccone had moved into the place. Faccone was soon under arrest and found to be in possession of a pistol modified with an illegal silencer and a sawed-off rifle. Faccone was also confirmed to have had an active felony arrest warrant out of Seattle, Washington for robbery and is believed responsible for at least four other reported and non-reported burglaries in the Mendocino and Fort Bragg areas. Faccone had been living in Ms. Baker's home for a week.

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DAY 26 AT WARBLER'S TREESIT — Report from the Warbler Support Crew, as of February 22, 2013.

Warbler is strong and well. She remains determined to hold her ground in the Liberty Ponderosa until Caltran's Bypass is cancelled. Many people have sent her copies of the newspaper coverage and she is thrilled to see renewed debate in the community about all of the possible alternatives to Caltran's $214 million boondoogle. She also sends many thank-yous and much gratitude to all of those who are sending food, supplies, and words of support and inspiration. We are certain that the strong presence of people from the community holding vigil at the treesit site has helped to deter CalTrans. So, please keep coming! With help and support from the community Warbler has been working to make her perch more livable, more self-sufficient, and stock-piled with supplies to meet her basic needs for the long haul ahead. She is now solarized!!! She is well aware that times will be more difficult when CalTrans begins to build the fence and gate around the so-called “designated construction zone.”

THAT WAS LAST FRIDAY. On Monday, CalTrans was assembling equipment in the vicinity of The Warbler's tree, and it probably won't be long before Climber Dan (remember him?) or a new version of Climber Dan scales Warbler's tree to de-nest her.

BUT, INSIST THE PROTESTERS, “Standby alert remains. Whenever CalTrans contractors arrive to begin building the fence we will initiate the emergency phone tree. We don't know when this will be. If you are on the emergency phone tree you will receive a call asking you to please gather at Evergreen Shopping Center. From there we will have shuttles to the treesit site. At the treesit site we will hold a peaceful and joyous musical rally to celebrate the trees, Warbler's courage, and our own determination to stop the Bypass destruction. Stay strong. Stop Caltrans Bypass. There is a better way!”

LATE MONDAY UPDATE: Protesters against the Willits bypass today stopped Caltrans subcontractors from building a fence — and bulldozing a path through the brush for that fence — at a site north of where a month-long tree sit is located on Highway 101 The alert went out early Monday morning that earth moving equipment was gathering off East Hill Road. Protesters walked the route, discovering several bird nests in the brush Caltrans had already cleared, and sat in the path of the bulldozer.

CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICERS came to the site, and were told by protesters they wanted to talk to California Fish & Wildlife about whether a required survey of nesting birds had been done properly. The Migratory Bird Act of 1927 prohibits disturbance of migratory birds during nesting season, which is why Caltrans had originally planned to “top” trees along the route last fall, to remove any possible nesting habitats.

A BIOLOGIST from SHN Consulting, which had done a bird survey in January, came to look at the nests, along with an environmental compliance officer from Caltrans. Both handled and moved the two still intact nests protesters had found, breaking one of them up. When local Fish & Wildlife Warden Rusty Boccaleoni arrived, he asked if the evidence had been moved, and looked at videos neighbor Malakai Schindel had taken of what he described as the “tearing apart” of one of the nests. Schindel also told the game warden he witnessed birds flying up from the brush as it was cleared. Caltrans’ compliance officer told game warden Rusty Boccaleoni, as they were both examining the one still intact bird nest: “There is some green material on the bottom [of the nest]. I can't think of a bird that builds a nest from the top down.”

BOCCALEONI eventually told protesters that JoAnn Dunn, a staff environmental scientist for Fish & Wildlife, who works on Caltrans projects that need permitting, would be coming down to the Willits site to look things over.

ORGANIZER Sara Grusky later said Dunn told protesters at the site that Fish & Wildlife would be returning to do a more complete survey, which would take a few days, and discuss the nests protesters found. “No one told us whether Caltrans was or was not allowed to start building again before the survey was done,” Grusky said.

AVA REPORTER WILL PARRISH said the Save Our Little Lake Valley group would be inviting the local Audubon Society to do an independent survey.

PROTESTERS were pleased they’d stopped Caltrans for the day, and were asking supporters to call Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman — there was no local law enforcement present Tuesday — to ask him if he now agrees that CHP has jurisdiction at the site. At the site Tuesday, CHP Sergeant Jerry Elrod said his agency had jurisdiction because these were state lands. (— Jennifer Poole)

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “We need more people to work at local farming. A necessary first step to making that happen is to get out of the way of people already farming and gardening. One thing people like all of us here who might agree can do right now is find out who sits on city councils, zoning commissions or other relevant public bodies and make our desire known that there be no interference with or unnecessary restrictions on farms or gardens. I went to city hall and looked up the relevant statutes in my city: I was pleasantly surprised to find that while farm animals are prohibited within city limits, there are no restrictions on what people can plant in their yards. I have no problem with that. I am happy to leave milk, meat, cheese and dairy production to the many organic farmers who live nearby. By growing most of my own veggies, I can afford to buy local and organic for other foods. One reason behind the failure of the political left is its arrogant disdain for local issues and local politics. Lefties in my, and probably your, communities can tell you every detail of every atrocity perpetrated over the last three decades on the five inhabited continents, but have no idea how government works or who makes decisions where they live.

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LESSONS for Bill McKibben's Followers: The Perils of the Keystone XL Pipeline Confront Obama. By Ralph Nader

Bill McKibben, a prolific writer and organizer on global warming and climate change, has had a busy year teaching environmentalists not to despair and will soon be learning some lessons himself.

In August 2011, he organized an unprecedented demonstration in front of the White House urging President Obama to deny a permit for the giant Keystone XL pipeline that would haul very dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada down to Texas refineries, largely to be exported. More than 1200 people were arrested over the course of the month to protest the construction of the pipeline. This could be the largest mass arrest before the White House in decades. Kudos to Bill and his associates.

On February 17, 2013, 48 people, including McKibben and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., were arrested for open, non-violent civil disobedience mostly for refusing U.S. Park Police orders to keep moving on the White House’s sidewalk (with some protestors actually attaching themselves to the fence in front of the White House).

This past weekend, McKibben was back at the White House with more than 40,000 anti-Keystone XL protestors along with demands for Obama to act on broader climate issues. Protestors included leaders of Native American tribes, some legislators, corporate executives, farmers, students, workers and other Americans who think saving the planet from a huge rush of carbon dioxide and expanding the very large toxic region of Alberta, was worth some of their direct effort.

President Obama has twice postponed his decision on the XL pipeline, much to the relief of Hillary Clinton, whose State Department would have been blamed for approving the pipeline, much to the detriment of her future political aspirations. Now Secretary of State John Kerry has said a decision is coming “near term.”

The Keystone XL pipeline’s owner is TransCanada, which is busily buying rights of way through the western U.S., and calling on states to use their eminent domain powers when ranchers and farmers resist. Giant pipes have already been shipped to various locations along the way. Actual construction has been underway in Texas. The governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, dropped his objection once the pipeline’s route was alerted to go around the state’s environmentally vulnerable Sand Hills area.

Since fracking is spreading rapidly in many states to increase U.S. oil production, not to mention burgeoning natural gas fracking extractions, why would President Obama want to approve Keystone XL? What about his State of the Union warnings regarding global warming and its terrible costs in lives, property and money?

Notwithstanding the absence of the need for oil from Canada and Mr. Obama’s stated concerns about global warming, TransCanada, backed to the hilt by Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is confident that it will receive a permit from Obama.

First, the pipeline has been promoted as a significant job creator. In reality, building a pipeline in these days of automation requires a few short-term workers. The exporting refineries are even more automated. But with the AFL-CIO and the construction unions combined with the American Petroleum Institute’s lobbying forces in Washington, a majority of members of Congress have signed on.

Second, even without the pipeline, TransCanada can still ship tar sands oil to the U.S. via rail, barge, truck and other existing pipelines. Or the company, with Canadian government backing, can decide to build a pipeline westward through British Columbia for shipment to oil-hungry China.

Those options set up the argument that Alberta tar sands oil will be burned on the planet anyhow so why not have it go through a more efficient pipeline than with railcars and ships.

Third, the “sleeper” argument on Obama’s desk is that TransCanada, having already invested big money in the U.S., can invoke Chapter 11 of the NAFTA trade agreement and sue the U.S. government for big damages if its permit is denied. Incredible as it may seem, the notorious Chapter 11 has been used by numerous companies to seek billions of dollars in damages from governmental official decisions in either Mexico, the U.S. or Canada. Companies have succeeded in obtaining settlements totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Paid for by the taxpayers, of course.

McKibben and associates know the odds of stopping the Keystone Pipeline are heavily against them. Obama can issue his approval and counteract its impact with intensified White House efforts to reduce the carbon/methane footprint. Obama could, to the delight of conservative and liberal economists, come out for a carbon tax. Obama should be a leader on environmental issues. His environmental supporters voted for him and declined to criticize him prior to the election. The letdown from the high expectation levels built on the many protests would be devastating to the morale and energy of the movement.

McKibben, however, hopes that the struggles’ collateral benefit will be a rise in public consciousness and a recharged Obama Administration to hoist renewable energy and conservation to the top of the President’s expedient “all of the above” policy (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar and greater efficiency).

McKibben’s army has thrown its non-violent troops against the Keystone XL Pipeline and tar sands exploitation that will devastate an area in Alberta the size of Florida. This project has been called a massive body blow to the Planet Earth by NASA’s climate scientist James Hansen, who has been arrested several times in the protests.

Obama approving the pipeline makes it happen. While promising collateral offsets by Obama is nothing more than the Obamamania of hope. We know how far hope traveled since Obama became president and never had to worry about political competitors on the ballot, including third parties, attracting votes to environmental and other progressive causes. There are lessons that McKibben may have to explain to his 350.org followers.

(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)

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OVER 300,000 SALMON returned to Klamath River in 2012. By Dan Bacher

KlamathA record run of 302,108 fall adult Chinook salmon returned to the Klamath River in 2012, while 283,871 adult salmon came back to the Sacramento River.

The preliminary estimates of adult and jack (two-year-old) spawning escapements (returns) to the two river systems were recently released on the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) website. The “Review of 2012 Ocean Salmon Fisheries" is available at: http://www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/salsafe_2012.pdf.

The data will be used in the crafting of recreational and commercial seasons on the California and Oregon coasts in 2013, as well as the recreational and tribal fishing seasons on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers and the recreational fishing season on the Sacramento, Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers. The data is compiled by the state, federal and tribal fishery agencies.

The Yurok Tribe has commercial and subsistence fisheries on the Klamath River, while the Hoopa Valley Tribe has a subsistence fishery on the Trinity River.

The preliminary data was released as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) gets ready for its salmon status update and outlook meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa.

In spite of being a record run, the actual numbers of total fish returning to the Klamath were 78,892 fish less than the pre-season forecast. The preliminary postseason river run size estimate for Klamath River Fall Run Chinook (KRFC) was 302,108 adults, compared to the preseason-predicted ocean escapement (river run size) of 381,000 adults, according to the PFMC.

That was the largest number recorded since 1978 when the PFMC began compiling the data. The previous largest run was 187,333 adults in 2001.

The escapement to natural spawning areas was 122,018 adults, 1.4 times the preseason prediction of 86,300. The estimated hatchery return was 55,939 adults. Jack returns to the Klamath Basin totaled 21,473, including 15,705 that escaped to natural spawning areas.

Spawning escapement to the upper Klamath River tributaries – the Salmon, Scott, and Shasta Rivers - where spawning was only minimally affected by hatchery strays, totaled 38,723 adults.

“The Shasta River has historically been the most important Chinook salmon spawning stream in the upper Klamath River, supporting a spawning escapement of 30,700 adults as recently as 1964, and 63,700 in 1935,” the PFMC said. “The escapement in 2012 to the Shasta River was 27,593 adults, which is the highest adult escapement since 1964. Escapement to the Salmon and Scott Rivers was 3,561 and 7,569 adults, respectively.”

"While this year's fall Chinook salmon was a welcome change from the sporadic runs of the past several decades, the river remains in serious trouble," according to a statement from Yurok Tribe fisheries biologists. The biologists attribute this year's out-size run of king salmon to three main scientific factors.

First, in 2010, when all of these salmon were at the most critical stage of their development, the basin experienced plentiful spring rains, giving the juvenile fish access to the best rearing tributaries.

Second, ocean conditions were phenomenal. Krill, the foundation of the food chain, were abnormally abundant, giving salmon in the ocean a better shot at making it back to the river to spawn.

Third, the Tribe has spent millions of dollars over the past two decades restoring several key Klamath tributaries where many salmon start life.

"We will have a decent run next year because a large percentage of 4-year-old fish will return, but after that it will go back to the unacceptable path of uncertainty about whether there will even be a harvestable number of fish," according to the scientists.

Sacramento salmon returns exceeded 2012 goal, but federal law still violated

State and federal fishery biologists estimated that a total of 283,871 hatchery and natural area fall run Chinook adults returned to the Sacramento River basin for spawning in 2012. While this number exceeded the escapement goal of 245,800 hatchery and natural area adults, it is still 171,979 fish below the forecasted hatchery and natural area adult escapement of 455,800.

Recreational angling for salmon in Central Valley rivers was expected to yield a catch of 74,200 adult fall Chinooks. The actual harvest of these fish in 2012 Central Valley river fisheries totaled 62,189 adults.

Fall Chinook returns to Sacramento River hatcheries in 2012 totaled 120,956 adults, while escapement to natural areas was 162,915 adults. “Available data indicate hatchery-produced fish constitute a large portion of the Sacramento River naturally spawning fall Chinook population,” the PFMC noted.

The estimated escapement to natural areas was 66,771 adults and 7,453 jacks on the Sacramento River, 57,507 adults and 6,142 jacks on the Feather River, 5,981 adults and 1,687 jacks on the Yuba River and 32,656 adults and 2,244 jacks on the American River. The Coleman National Fish Hatchery reported 76,304 adults and 7,786 jacks, the Feather River Fish Hatchery reported 33,628 adults and 8,533 jacks and Nimbus Fish Hatchery reported 11,024 adults and 1,660 jacks.

While the Sacramento salmon returns exceeded those of the previous year's, the state and federal governments continue to violate the landmark Central Valley Project Improvement Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush in the fall of 1992. The law set a goal of doubling the Bay-Delta watershed’s Chinook salmon runs from 495,000 to 990,000 wild adult fish by 2002. The legislation also mandated the doubling of other anadromous fish species, including Central Valley steelhead, white sturgeon, green sturgeon, striped bass and American shad, by 2002.

According to a salmon index released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) in November 2012, the Central Valley Chinook salmon fishery has suffered a dramatic collapse over the past decade, now standing at only 13 percent of the population goal required by federal law. The analysis revealed a steady decline in Bay-Delta Chinook salmon from 2003 through 2010, at which point it reached a record low of 7 percent. (http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kcoplin/Salmon%20Index%20Chart%20and%20Table.pdf)

While the state and federal governments claimed that ocean conditions prompted the decline, fishing and environmental groups pointed to increased water diversions as a significant cause of this decline. Between 2000 and 2006, freshwater pumping from the Bay-Delta increased 20 percent in comparison to 1975-2000. The record water export year was 2005 until a new record was set in 2011 under the Brown and Obama administrations.

The winter run Chinook, another victim of decades of massive water exports out of the California Delta, continues its struggle to survive. Spawner escapement of endangered winter Chinook salmon in 2012 was estimated to be 2,529 adults and 145 jacks.

Escapement of spring Chinook to the Sacramento River system in 2012 totaled 22,432 fish (jacks and adults). An estimated 18,694 fish, returned to upper Sacramento River tributaries, including Butte, Chico, Battle and other creeks, while the remaining 3,738 fish returned to the Feather River Hatchery. The majority of fish, 16,139, returned to Butte Creek.

The estimated San Joaquin River fall Chinook spawning escapement in 2012 totaled only 13,714 jacks and adults in natural areas and 7,557 jacks and adults to hatcheries.

CDFW public meeting on salmon set for February 28

Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites the public to attend its upcoming annual salmon status update and outlook meeting.

This year’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonoma County Water Agency, 404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa. The possible seasons for 2013 California ocean and river salmon fisheries will be discussed. “

“The meeting will provide the latest information on California salmon escapement in 2012 and the outlook for sport and commercial ocean salmon fisheries during the coming season,” according to the Department. “The public is encouraged to provide input to a panel of California salmon scientists, managers and representatives, many of whom will be directly involved in the upcoming Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meetings in March and April.”

Salmon fishing seasons are developed through a collaborative regulatory process involving the PFMC, the California Fish and Game Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The input will help California representatives negotiate a broad range of season alternatives during the PFMC March 6-11 meeting in Tacoma, Wash.

The 2013 Salmon Information Meeting marks the beginning of the two-month long public management and regulatory process used to establish this year’s sport and commercial ocean salmon fishing seasons. A list of additional meetings and other opportunities for public comment is available on the ocean salmon webpage, http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/salmonpreseason.asp.

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