October 6, 2013

Northern Exposure: State of Jefferson gets gubernatorial hopeful

Brian Dahle, a state assemblyman representing the district that includes three of the five rebelling rural counties, issued a statement announcing he will run for the highest office if the 51st state is created.

The State of Jefferson may be little more than a state of mind, but it has its first candidate for governor.

Brian Dahle, a state assemblyman representing the district that includes three of the five rebelling rural counties, issued a statement announcing he will run for the highest office if the 51st state is created.

Despite snickering statewide about its prospects, the State of Jefferson is not just bumpkin ballyhoo. A sense of alienation from state government is widespread and it’s real, said Dahle: “People are frustrated. I get that.”

The frustration dates back to at least 1941, when angry miners and loggers signed a declaration of independence from California, raised a green double-X flag and manned a checkpoint at their ersatz border. The bombing of Pearl Harbor distracted the secessionist movement.

Last month, Siskiyou County supervisors revived it by voting 4-1 to withdraw from California. Three weeks later, Modoc County supervisors added their voice to the growing chorus calling for recognition of the needs of this sparsely populated region.

The current complaints include state laws that regulate air quality and gun control, and fees for water rights and state-provided fire protection.

Approving a new state would literally require an act of Congress – “a tall order” that Dahle conservatively called “challenging.” Still, he said, the rebels have raised awareness that urban priorities such as transgender bathrooms and carpool lanes don’t fit the needs of ranchers and wood workers in the state’s far north.

Stay tuned, Sacramento.

Siren’s song lures barred owls into deadly trap

First they seduce them with song. Then they shoot them.

That plan, just released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is designed to reduce the population of barred owls and help recover the threatened northern spotted owl, the adorable icon of the Northwest timber wars of the 1990s.

Today, it’s not loggers but barred owls that are the target of the spotted-owl recovery plan.

Native to eastern North America, barred owls have adapted to the West so comfortably that they now occupy the entire range of their Pacific Northwest cousins. Because they are larger and less picky about their diet, they are out-competing them and taking over their nesting areas, said Matt Baun, an agency spokesman in Yreka.

Some barred owls will be relocated to halt the spotted-owl population’s plummet, as high as 7 percent annually. The agency also plans to use a variation of the siren’s song, luring barred owls by playing the hoots of their rivals. Then they will discharge “lethal methods” – shotguns.

The four-year experiment includes the forests of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, where Mark Higley, a tribal biologist, will oversee and monitor its effectiveness.

Audubon California is not opposing the program but has urged Fish and Wildlife to find long-term solutions to prevent taking one species to protect another. The Pacific Northwest needs more old-growth forest habitat for spotted owls and a variety of other species, said Andrea Jones, the organization’s Important Bird Area coordinator.

Recall campaign the work of ‘soreheads’?

A rare recall campaign is stirring up Modoc County, but nobody on the local political scene seems to know what it’s about.

The petition now circulating around the Canby area seeks to oust District 4 Supervisor Jim Wills, a retired California Highway Patrol officer who took office in January. The grounds include “negligence” and “misuse of political office.”

None of the 24 recall proponents contacted by The Bee returned calls.

“They don’t talk to me either,” said Wills, who spent 36 years in law enforcement before retiring in Modoc County.

He and others suspect the unrest stems from the Modoc County Land Use Committee, a volunteer board that advises the county supervisors on federal land use issues. After decades of using cooperation and consensus to solve problems related to recreation, grazing and timber sales, new members appointed by Wills tried to remove a county resource analyst who had functioned effectively for 20 years. Wills opposed the action.

“We don’t do it that way – not even here,” Wills said.

The first petition to unseat him was filed almost immediately – before the required 90-day wait after Wills took office. A second attempt failed to collect enough signatures within the prescribed time frame. The current proponents have until Nov. 4 to gather the 260 signatures needed to place the issue before voters, said Modoc County Clerk Darcy Locken.

In a place where practically everyone knows everyone else, longtime Alturas Realtor Gordon Dick, 80, summed up his notion of what’s motivating the recall proponents: “They’re soreheads.”

No one was available to contradict him.

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