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Capital Press publisher announces his retirement

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Capital Press Publisher Mike O’Brien is retiring Jan. 3 after a 46-year newspaper career.

O’Brien joined Capital Press as general manager in 1997, and was promoted to publisher in 2007.

“It has been the high point of my career to serve as publisher of Capital Press. It has been truly inspiring to work with such a talented and dedicated staff my thanks to them and the ag community that supports Capital Press,” O’Brien said. “I leave knowing the paper is in good hands with owners who are more concerned with how well we can do it rather than how cheap we can do it.”

O’Brien began his newspaper career in 1970 as a district manager at the San Francisco Chronicle. He was appointed circulation manager at the Daily Tidings in Ashland, Ore., in 1979 moved to Albany to be circulation manager at the Democrat-Herald in 1979. In 1985 he returned to Ashland as publisher of the Daily Tidings.

He has assumed leadership roles within the newspaper industry and the Northwest ag community. He serves on the board of directors of Oregon AgLink. In 1996, while at the Daily Tidings, he served as president of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. During his tenure, O’Brien supervised many large projects, including a major renovation of the Capital Press building in 2000. He also presided over big changes in the way Capital Press reaches and serves its readers.

“Under Mike’s leadership, the Capital Press has expanded its digital presence and elevated the level of reporting, becoming the premier ag publication in the Northwest,” John Perry, chief operating officer of EO Media Group, the parent company of the Capital Press, said. “He has accomplished this in good economic times and others that tested our mettle. We wish Mike all the best in retirement. He’s earned it.”

Perry will assume the publisher’s duties on an interim basis.

Port director optimistic despite TPP, loss of container business

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt told participants at the 76th annual meeting of the Oregon Seed Growers League in Salem on Dec. 12 that he is disappointed by the failure of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but is optimistic the new administration will be trade-friendly.

“I am disappointed about the TPP, but I don’t think that is going to be the last chapter in that story,” Wyatt said.

The TPP, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, has been all but abandoned in recent months after failing to generate congressional support. It also is opposed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Still, Wyatt said: “If you look at some of the folks who are going to be involved (in the Trump administration), these are thoughtful global players. I do have some optimism on that front.”

Wyatt’s presentation was a highlight of the first day of the two-day meeting that drew upwards of 500 participants.

In addition to talking about the potential effects of the Trump administration on trade and transportation, Wyatt touched on issues affecting the Port of Portland’s abilities to attract a new container shipping company, and spoke on conditions that led to the demise of the South Korean shipping line Hanjin.

Hanjin, once the third biggest trans-Pacific shipper, and one of the last container shipping lines to call on Portland, filed for bankruptcy protection Aug. 31 and is now in liquidation.

Wyatt said much of Hanjin’s demise can be traced to an oversupply of container shippers competing for limited demand, adding that at least some of the oversupply is a result of a reliance on ship building in countries such as China, Japan and South Korea.

When ship orders expire, these countries tend to offer shipping companies huge discounts on new ships in an attempt to preserve jobs and income, Wyatt said, and many companies accept.

“We have had way too many ocean carriers, and they have done what happens in a world with unlimited supply and limited demand,” Wyatt said. “They have pretty much killed themselves.”

Wyatt also noted that ship builders are constructing container ships to handle huge volumes, and that the average container capacity today is 7,500 twenty-foot equivalent units, or 1,000 TEUs greater than the Port of Portland is equipped to handle, both because of crane size and the channel depth of the Columbia River.

That limitation, he noted, is part of the challenge of attracting a new shipping line to call on Portland’s Terminal Six.

“Having said all of that,” he said, “we have pretty good business in Portland. We have reasonable cargo available at a reasonable price.

“I feel good, actually, about the quality of business that is available here,” he said.

Wyatt noted that Port of Portland officials are working daily on attracting new container service to Portland.

On another positive note, Wyatt said the new administration “seems focused on transportation infrastructure,” which could benefit efforts in Oregon to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“Let’s take advantage of the energy that I think we are going to be seeing in the nation’s capital to leverage that in the state of Oregon,” Wyatt said.

He noted that Washington, California and Idaho are spending considerable sums on transportation infrastructure, leaving Oregon alone among West Coast states not doing so.

“It has been a long time since we spent new money on transportation infrastructure here in this state,” Wyatt said, “and all of our neighbors are doing it, including Idaho.

“Idaho will spend more new dollars on transportation infrastructure next year than we will, and this is a state about 20 percent our size,” he said.

Oregon Senate confirms Taylor as head of ODA

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

New director faces tough budget, more decision-making power

By Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

SALEM — The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s new director, Alexis Taylor, got some sound advice at a recent legislative hearing.

“We very rarely hear complaints about the Department of Agriculture, so please don’t screw it up,” said Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas.

That sentiment has been a running theme in meetings with state government officials during a recent stop in Salem, said Taylor, who was confirmed unanimously as ODA’s director by the Oregon Senate on Dec. 14.

The 2017 legislative session will begin soon after she takes office on Jan. 23, but after that, Taylor said her top priority would be visiting every county in the state to learn about the diversity of Oregon farms firsthand.

Taylor also said she’d be tackling a “core question” facing the state’s agriculture industry: “Who will be our next generation of farmers and ranchers?”

At the end of her tenure at USDA, Taylor oversaw the Farm Service Agency, the Risk Management Agency and the Foreign Agricultural Service, working on policy, budget and management issues. Overall, the three agencies have 14,000 employees worldwide.

“I really enjoy finding talent, helping to groom talent,” Taylor told Capital Press.

In the immediate future, though, Taylor doesn’t expect to make staffing changes at ODA.

She will need to rely on the experience of top staffers as the agency navigates the 2017 legislative session.

“Consistency is really important,” Taylor said.

ODA is at a tough juncture, as the agency is facing a cut to its general fund budget, which pays for programs such as predator control and weed biocontrol, among others.

Taylor is taking an optimistic view of the situation, noting that dealing with a constrained budget can prompt agencies to identify process efficiencies that save money.

“We can look at how we do things, why we do them a certain way,” she said.

The overall state budget turmoil is also likely to give Taylor greater decision-making power.

Gov. Kate Brown has a lot on her plate and probably won’t be inclined to micro-manage natural resource issues, said Katy Coba, the ODA’s former director and current chief of the state’s Department of Administrative Services.

“I expect the governor is not going to be giving a lot of detailed direction to Alexis,” Coba said.

The governor has also shifted her natural resources advisers into new positions, shrinking the natural resources team and likely leaving more power in the hands of ODA, she said.

“Agencies will have to step up a little more,” Coba said.

Oregon agriculture is facing several coexistence issues — between marijuana and hemp, between canola and related seed crops, between farmers who grow genetically engineered crops and those who produce crops organically and conventionally, she said.

There are a many key players in Oregon’s agriculture industry whom Taylor will be meeting at a time when the legislature is in full swing, she said.

“My advice to her, ‘Keep breathing,’” Coba said.

Snowy day expected for much of Oregon

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The National Weather Service forecast calls for snow in much of Oregon — a lot of it in some places.

The service issued a winter storm warning for Eastern Oregon, with 4 to 8 inches expected in Pendleton and Hermiston, and up to a foot in cities at higher elevations, such as John Day and Heppner.

Similar foot-deep totals are expected in Central Oregon, where snow was falling at Lava Butte early Wednesday. School districts in that region canceled classes and after-school activities.

Meanwhile, as much as 3 inches of snow is predicted to fall in the Portland metro area. Forecasters say the snow should start early Wednesday afternoon, complicating the ride home from work.

In the southern Willamette Valley, a mix of snow and freezing rain could make Eugene streets treacherous.

Alternative plans sought for Oregon’s oldest state forest

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

KEIZER, Ore. (AP) — In a public meeting that exposed deep concerns about global warming and deforestation, Oregon’s top elected state leaders on Tuesday postponed a decision on the proposed sale of the Elliott State Forest to a timber company, instead making a pitch for alternatives that would maintain public ownership of the state’s first public forest.

Speaker after speaker came from cities, towns and farms to pack the meeting room in the Keizer Community Center, north of Salem. They beseeched their leaders to reject the sale of the 82,500-acre forest in the Coastal Range to Lone Rock Timber Co. and its tribal partners.

They said a line must be drawn to preserve public lands, expressing fear that a Trump presidency would try to sell some of the lands to enrich a few, and that the next administration would also ignore the threat of global warming.

The sale of the forest was proposed because timber harvest revenues that go into a school fund have dropped in recent years.

“Teddy Roosevelt and people like our first forester, Francis Elliott, went to great efforts to preserve these last great tracts of unclaimed land for future generations of Americans to enjoy and recreate on. I did not think I would have to be here in 2016 to defend them,” Joseph Metzler, a retired Coast Guard rescue swimmer from Coos Bay, told the State Land Board.

Those in flannel outnumbered those wearing suits at the 3½-hour meeting attended by more than 200 people.

Some school board representatives backed the sale, saying the $221 million it would fetch should go into the Common School Fund. Several speakers recommended that if the sale does not go forward, that the forest be removed from the Common School Fund portfolio so it would not suffer negative impacts with declining timber harvests.

Lone Rock, based in Roseburg, had said it was confident that it could turn a profit by extracting at least 35 million board feet per year from the forest while providing protections for older forests, streams, recreation opportunities and local jobs. The state has not logged nearly that amount in recent years, at least in part because of environmental protections and lawsuits.

“It is a sustainable harvest level based on the estimated 70-plus million board feet of forest growth each year,” Jake Gibbs, director of external affairs of Lone Rock Resources, told The Associated Press in an email.

After years of being profitable since 1997, net revenue from the forest fell from $5.8 million in 2012 to losses of $3.3 million in 2013 and $1.8 million in 2014, the Oregon Department of State Lands says. But 2015 saw gains. This year through 2019 are expected to be borderline.

People who came to testify before the board, composed of Gov. Kate Brown, State Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins, warned that no trespassing signs would go up and that the forest might be resold down the line. They said that a sale could embolden people like Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, who led the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon last winter.

Grandmothers and even children were among those who took three seats at a time before the board to testify. Clapping was banned, so people showed silent support for comments that they liked by waving their hands in the air. Some of those who spoke against the deal said Native Americans should get much more than the small share the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians would obtain in the deal.

At the close of the meeting, Brown encouraged those attending to help find a solution.

“This is your opportunity, and I expect that you will work quickly, collaboratively and thoughtfully and hope that we can come up with another proposal that will maintain the Elliott in public ownership,” she said to a burst of applause.

She said she is proposing that the state use up to $100 million in bonding authority to pay into the Common School Fund and relieve the Elliott of part of its fiduciary responsibility for the fund.

The Department of State Lands said it will continue to work with the proposers of the purchase plan, including exploring the potential for additional partners, possibly involving public entities. The State Land Board instructed the department to provide an update on Feb. 14.

Lawsuit seeks reconsideration of BLM sage grouse rules

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

The Harney Soil and Water Conservation District in Eastern Oregon hopes that new sage grouse regulations will be revised under the upcoming Trump administration.

To that end, the district has filed a lawsuit that seeks a court order requiring the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reconsider the rules, which ranchers see as overly burdensome.

The BLM amended Oregon’s “resource management plan” for federal lands last year as part of a broader push to protect greater sage grouse habitat and prevent further declines in the bird’s population.

The agency unlawfully ignored a “rural community alternative” focused on preventing wildfire and invasive species — the greatest threat to sage grouse — developed by local BLM officials, scientists and ranchers, according to Harney SWCD’s complaint.

Instead, BLM adopted a plan that will likely cause grazing curtailments, the complaint said.

The rural community alternative was disregarded not for scientific reasons, but for expediency, which isn’t a valid reason to ignore the law, said Karen Budd-Falen, the district’s attorney.

“The BLM ignored it because they said they were under court deadlines (from a previous legal settlement) and didn’t have time,” she said.

Capital Press was unable to reach a spokesman for the Interior Department, which oversees BLM.

The amended regulations contain unrealistic grass height requirements for cattle to be allowed to graze, Budd-Falen said. “In a lot of areas, the grass doesn’t grow that high no matter what.”

BLM is also adopting a new method of monitoring rangeland health that will require re-training of agency employees, she said.

If resources aren’t sufficient to monitor certain regions with the new method, that will provide environmental groups with fodder for lawsuits to block grazing, Budd-Falen said.

Ranchers depend on grazing allotments on federal land, since they don’t have any ready alternatives for forage while the BLM calibrates its new monitoring strategy, she said. “These grazing allotments are part of these guys’ ranches.”

It would be more difficult for ranchers to build rangeland improvements due to restrictions on possible perches for predators that would hunt the sage grouse, she said.

In the best case scenario for the lawsuit, a judge would remand the amended plan to BLM, which would then incorporate recommendations in the rural community alternative that are less onerous to ranchers, Budd-Falen said.

“The Trump administration can’t predetermine a decision,” but it can re-start the process,” she said.

Prosecutors push ahead with trial for last Oregon occupiers

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. government will push forward with conspiracy charges against the remaining seven people who helped take over a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, just weeks after the stunning acquittal of the first group of defendants.

Prosecutors said they also would proceed with firearms charges against six of the defendants and planned to add lesser counts that could include trespassing or destruction of property.

That would give jurors the option of a less serious conviction that wasn’t available in the earlier case.

Monday’s filing in U.S. District Court in Portland indicates that the government is not backing down despite the Oct. 27 acquittal of the occupation’s leaders, brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and five others.

Both groups faced the same charges: felony conspiracy to impede federal officers from doing their job and possession of a firearm in a federal facility.

But prosecutors appear to be padding their luck with the misdemeanor counts. Those plans make sense, legal experts said, particularly in light of how the first jury saw the case.

“I think one of the difficulties of this case always was that the actual felony charges didn’t exactly fit what the government theory was and, in an odd way, the misdemeanor charges might,” said Laurie Levenson, a law professor and former federal prosecutor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“It gives the jury more options and room to compromise — and it still sets them up for a conviction,” she said.

Those charges also would allow the government to seize any property used in the crimes if the defendants are convicted, said Tung Yin, a criminal law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland. The provision is more commonly used in drug cases to go after property purchased with drug proceeds, he said.

In this case, the property could include guns, personal vehicles and other belongings the defendants used during the takeover, said Andrew M. Kohlmetz, lawyer for defendant Jason Patrick.

The government also asked for a 60-day delay for the trial, which was to begin in February, a request opposed by all the defense attorneys, Kohlmetz said.

The heavily armed occupiers seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 to protest the imprisonment of two Oregon ranchers convicted for setting fires on public land and demand the federal government turn over public lands to local control.

The Bundys and other key figures were arrested in a Jan. 26 traffic stop outside the refuge that ended with police fatally shooting Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, an occupation spokesman. Most occupiers left after his death, but four holdouts remained until Feb. 11, when they surrendered following a lengthy negotiation.

Federal prosecutors took two weeks to present their case against the first seven defendants, finishing with a display of more than 30 guns seized after the standoff.

During trial, Ammon Bundy testified that the plan was to take ownership of the refuge by occupying it for a period of time and then turn it over to local officials to use as they saw fit.

He also said the occupiers carried guns because they would have been arrested immediately otherwise and to protect themselves against possible government attack.

Washington, Oregon call truce with gypsy moths

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Washington and Oregon agriculture departments will not spray for gypsy moths next spring, one year after mounting high-profile and so far successful aerial campaigns to stop the destructive pest.

Combined, the states in April and May sprayed 19,250 acres, including over Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver. In the following months, gypsy moths were trapped elsewhere in both states, but none were caught in the areas that had been treated.

State officials say two more years must pass before they can declare the missions successful.

“This spring’s treatment results are very encouraging,” Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison said Monday in a written statement.

Western states have taken a hard line toward gypsy moths. The leaf-eating pests are established in Midwestern and Eastern states and have defoliated tens of millions of acres, according to USDA.

The egg masses of European gypsy moths come West attached to belongings, while Asian gypsy moths are introduced by ocean going vessels. Washington and Oregon have sprayed for gypsy moths most springs since 1979 as caterpillars hatch.

The states were especially alarmed in 2015 by the detection that summer of Asian gypsy moths, rarer and more mobile than European gypsy moths.

Washington sprayed a total of 10,450 acres in seven locations, while Oregon sprayed 8,800 acres in North Portland. Both states conducted extensive public campaigns to explain their plans and assure residents that the pesticide did not pose a risk to humans or animals.

Following the spraying, Washington trapped 25 European gypsy moths in Clark, Cowlitz, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Mason, Pierce, Spokane and Thurston counties. The widespread detections were not enough to warrant spraying, according to WSDA.

New England suffered its worst gypsy moth outbreak in 30 years last summer, said Jim Marra, WSDA’s pest program manager. “With outbreaks in other areas, we expect to see more catches in our state,” he said.

Oregon trapped four European gypsy moths in Grants Pass and two east of Springfield in Lane County.

Although gypsy moths have been trapped for several years in Grants Pass, the numbers are declining, ODA spokesman Bruce Pokarney said. “It makes us think it’s not a breeding population of concern,” he said.

Perrydale FFA food donations top 260,000 pounds

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

AMITY, Ore. — Perrydale High School FFA Chapter’s Food For All Program winds up this month with the lofty goal of distributing over 130 tons of locally collected agricultural produce to needy families in Oregon.

The program, now in its 19th year, was started by former long-time Perrydale FFA Chapter Adviser Kirk Hutchinson. It’s now headed by second-year adviser Christina Lorenz, but “Hutch” takes an active role in each year’s collection and distribution efforts.

Students from all of Perrydale’s three public schools help the high school FFA chapter’s members gather, package and distribute the donated vegetables and other produce — from onions to squash, beets and other items — to needy people up and down the Willamette Valley. The efforts extend to the central Oregon Coast and Eastern Oregon as well.

“Each year, I am beyond impressed with the pride that my students take in this project,” Lorenz said. “It’s inspiring to see that tomorrow’s leaders are selfless and generous people who want to make their world a better place for everyone.”

Lorenz is also Perrydale High’s agriculture curriculum instructor.

The busload of kids, accompanied by Hutch and a large flatbed truck, made stops at several donor plants and warehouses to collect food and chat with the businesses’ representatives during a collection stop on Dec. 1. The route wound up the Willamette Valley from Perrydale along Highway 99E through Salem, Canby and farther northeast.

Stops at places such as EZ Orchards and Schlecter Farms were intended to introduce the FFA students to the donor’s plants and warehouses, watch the loading activities and chat with owners and managers.

EZ Orchards was the first stop, and the bus then headed up the corridor to NW Onion Co. in Brooks.

Duane Olson, NW Onion’s sales manager, had a big grin on his face and was clearly enjoying giving away 400 sacks (10 tons) of yellow onions to the FFA program’s “ambassadors” that gathered at the company’s warehouse.

Both Kevin Zielinski, Olson and principals of the other warehouse stops along the way received an FFA award “For Outstanding Service and Contributions” from Perrydale FFA Chapter President Sierra Starr and handshakes from all the kids.

“This project allows students build valuable partnerships with business and industry professionals, which leads to a strong professional network upon graduation,” Lorenz said. “(The project) also allows them to build employability skills while serving their community.”

Food For All gathered one tote of potatoes from Salem’s Kettle Foods when the program began in 1998. Since then, totals have risen each year from 10,000 pounds of food to 211,000 pounds in 2010 and over 260,000 pounds last year.

Deadline looms for second refuge occupation trial

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Federal prosecutors must decide by Monday, Dec. 12, whether to move forward with a second trial in February for those who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns earlier this year.

The trial of the seven remaining defendants is scheduled to begin in February. They’ve been charged with a felony: conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs at the refuge.

It’s the same charge occupation leaders Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five others beat in October when a jury acquitted them for their roles in the armed protest that played out along eastern Oregon’s high desert.

The shocking verdict was a win for the patriot movement and others who believe the federal government doesn’t have the authority to own land.

Now the government must decide how — or whether — to proceed with a second trial.

Prosecutors have a few options: they can move forward with the conspiracy charge, bring new charges — likely misdemeanors — or drop the charges entirely, meaning there wouldn’t be a second Oregon trial at all.

Wes Williams, a criminal defense attorney in La Grande, said it’s likely the government will move forward with a trial for this second set of defendants.

“It would be wise, however, for the prosecutors to allege claims they know they can prove instead of biting off more than they can chew,” Williams said. “A good trial lawyer never shoots the moon. A good trial lawyer pleads what he or she knows they can prove.”

The defendants in the February trial include Duane Ehmer, of Irrigon, Ore. Ehmer gained notoriety during the occupation because he rode his horse, Hellboy, around the refuge, while waving an American flag. The images were published by news organizations around the world.

Another defendant, Jason Patrick of Bonaire, Ga., is currently acting as his own attorney. Video played during the trial this fall showed Patrick at the cutting of a refuge fence back in January with the Bundy brothers and other occupiers.

Sean and Sandy Anderson of Riggins, Idaho, are also slated to go to trial next year. The married couple were among the final four hold outs at the refuge as the occupation ended.

Others scheduled to go trial include Dylan Anderson of Provo, Utah; Darryl Thorn, of Marysville, Wash.; and Jake Ryan of Plains, Mont.

Unlike the occupation leaders, these defendants were, and have remained, largely unknown.

Given the higher profile trial this fall resulted in acquittals, prosecutors run the risk of appearing punitive should they move forward with a February trial, said Susan Mandiberg, a professor of criminal law at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland.

“The optics aren’t great,” she said.

Mandiberg said she’s interested to see if the government alters the charges in some way.

“If they go ahead with the same charges, I would certainly be looking to see if they had a different strategy for dealing with the arguments and the testimony that seemed to go against them the first time,” Mandiberg said.

Even if the charges are the same and many of the government’s witnesses and evidence remains the same that doesn’t guarantee the outcome will be the same, Mandiberg said. It’s a different jury and a different set of defendants, she said.

There are other risks, though, if prosecutors move forward with a second trial.

Defense attorneys have the benefit of reviewing testimony from government witnesses in court transcripts, meaning they can better prepare their cross examinations of FBI agents and others.

Martin Estrada, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Los Angeles area, said prosecutors could be concerned about this trial because it involves less culpable members of the alleged conspiracy.

“The jury is often going to wonder about that,” Estrada said. “They’re going to know that this was a larger act and incident. And they’re going to wonder where these other individuals, including the leaders, are and that can often be a detriment to the prosecution.”

Estrada said that’s an even larger issue for the government in this case because it received so much media coverage. He’s confident that just about every potential juror in Oregon knows about this case.

“It’s not something that’s going to be able to be concealed from the jury,” Estrada said. “They’re going to know about this. And it’s going to be a problem and a consideration the government’s going to have to take into account.”

At the same time, Estrada said, there’s a risk if the government just drops the charges. Part of what prosecutors are trying to do is send a message and, in this case, deter future occupations that target federal lands in the west.

“You want to send a message that this type of crime won’t be tolerated,” he said. “What you’re dealing with in a situation like this one, with the publicity it received, the controversy it created in the community, there’s certainly an important dynamic of deterrents that the government has to be considering at this point.”

Harney County residents remain divided about the 41-day occupation. Many locals supported it. Others said they agreed with the Bundy’s, but felt the occupation itself had gone too far. Still, many others deeply opposed it and say a second trial is an opportunity at justice and preventing future incidents.

“They should have a second trial because these guys committed crimes,” said Liz Appleman, a former Bureau of Land Management employee who was just elected to the Burns City Council.

“By just letting them off it means they did nothing wrong,” she said. “They need to be punished for what they did as far as I’m concerned.”

So far, 11 of the 26 who were indicted for their role in the occupation have pleaded guilty. Three of the defendants are trying to reverse their guilty pleas.

Oregon refuge defendant seeks to withdraw guilty plea

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Arizona man is the latest Oregon standoff figure to ask for his guilty plea to be withdrawn.

Joseph O’Shaughnessy pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge nearly three months before a jury acquitted seven of his co-defendants, including standoff leader Ammon Bundy.

O’Shaughnessy is awaiting trial on accusations stemming from a 2014 standoff with government authorities at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nev.

Defense attorney Tony Schwartz wrote Sunday that O’Shaughnessy had a plea deal in Nevada, but it was contingent on him pleading guilty in Oregon. Because the plea offer fell apart, his client should be able to withdraw his Oregon plea.

When he pleaded guilty in Portland, O’Shaughnessy said he didn’t participate in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but felt a duty to provide security for the protesters.

Two other defendants have sought to withdraw their pleas. The judge has yet to rule on their requests.

Portland’s urban coyotes become a university research project

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND — Coyotes are a fairly common sight in rural areas of the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, and landowners might instinctively reach for the rifle if they see one in the pasture or sniffing around the barn.

Put a coyote in a city, however, and residents are more likely to react in a way that ranges from trying to feed them to panicking over their pets and children. Coyotes sometimes lose their heads as well, becoming so habituated to people and urban environments that they trot down streets in broad daylight and snack on garbage or the occasional cat.

Many cities, Portland among them, now are home to thriving coyote populations. Researchers in Chicago a few years ago estimated Cook County there had 1,500 to 2,000 coyotes.

Zuriel Rasmussen, a student at Portland State University, is trying to learn more about how coyotes and humans coexist in cities. Rasmussen is a researcher and director of the Portland Urban Coyote Project, which maps coyote sightings and provides information in collaboration with the Audubon Society of Portland.

Rasmussen is pursuing a Ph.D in Earth, Environment and Society, a program offered through PSU’s Geography Department. She’s interested in science communication and public engagement, and the coyote project offers opportunities for both.

She comes at it from a rural perspective. She lived in Weston, near Pendleton in Eastern Oregon, until she was 12. Coyotes were part of the landscape there, and she was startled the first time she saw one in Portland.

“I was one of those East Oregonians surprised to see a coyote,” she said. “I thought it was pretty cool. I was fascinated with how they were living in the city and how that’s even possible.”

The possible now is commonplace. Residents of the Portland metro area have reported 1,916 coyote sightings to Rasmussen’s project website just this year. Coyote calls keep USDA’s APHIS Wildlife Services hopping as well: From 2012 through 2015, officers responded to an average of 373 coyote “conflict” complaints in Clackamas County, which borders Portland, and killed an average of 30 a year, according to statistics provided by Kevin Christensen, of the Wildlife Services office in Portland.

Wildlife Services responded to an average of 222 coyote conflicts a year in Washington County, on Portland’s westside, and killed an average of 15 a year during the same time frame. Wildlife Services does not have a cooperative service agreement with Multnomah County, which covers most of Portland, but killed three coyotes that were acting aggressively toward people and pets.

Of the Clackamas County coyote complaints, 56 percent involved damage or threat of damage to agriculture. In Washington County, 54 percent of the coyote conflicts involved agriculture, according to statistics provided by Christensen.

At PSU, Rasmussen’s studies over the past couple years have shown the urban and rural divide plays out with coyotes as it does with many other issues. Some Eastern Oregon residents have posted graphic YouTube videos about hunting coyotes, complete with slow-motion replays of bullets hitting coyotes at long range.

Portlanders’ reaction to the presence of coyotes appears to range from neutral to positive, Rasmussen said. Although concerned about coyotes attacking pets, they’re generally supportive of coyotes and opposed to lethal control.

“One of the big things I’ve found is that the impact coyotes have on your life bears a lot on your attitude,” she said. In rural areas, they’ve been vilified — along with wolves — as something that threatens people’s livelihoods, particularly with livestock, she said.

In cities, they’re not seen as a threat to the way people make a living. Instead, they are “a glimpse of the wild in an urban environment, which is a different experience than seeing a coyote near your sheep pasture.”

Analysis of urban coyote scat shows their diet is primarily rats, mice, squirrels and rabbits, “pretty similar to a rural coyote,” Rasmussen said. They eat more garbage than their rural cousins, and about 1 to 2 percent of their diet is cats.

“They’re super opportunistic,” she said.

Part of her work involves advising city residents what to do when they see a coyote. She said urban coyotes can become habituated to humans, and people should “retrain” them to be wary. She recommends “hazing” them by yelling, using an air horn, shaking a coffee can full of rocks or other methods. People obviously shouldn’t feed coyotes, either directly or by leaving pet food or garbage accessible, and should keep a close eye on pets, she said.

“When they get used to being around people, those are the coyotes that cause problems,” she said.


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