Jane Braxton Little

Northern Exposure

Published: Sunday, Sep. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am

Journalist detained while covering protest

Steve Eberhard surrendered his cameras, held out his hands to be cuffed and walked to the waiting California Highway Patrol car.

With that, he joined the ranks of recent journalists who have been arrested or detained doing their jobs in Istanbul; Tehran; Washington, D.C.; Denver; and, now, Willets.

Eberhard, 65, a veteran and freelance photographer who works with the Willets News, has been covering the protest of a $200 million highway bypass, under construction by Caltrans, since it began in January. He was trying to photograph protesters July 23 who had chained themselves to construction equipment.

None of the protesters had been arrested, but when Eberhard showed up at 6:20 a.m., he was immediately cited for trespassing, in violation of his First Amendment rights, he said.

The attitude of CHP and Caltrans officials is “if we don’t cover the protest it isn’t happening,” said Linda Williams, editor of the twice-weekly newspaper.

CHP officers are at the construction site at the request of Caltrans to ensure public safety. The agency “strongly objects” to the allegation that the media was harassed at the bypass site, said Steve Krul, a CHP captain based in Ukiah.

“Eberhard knows the rules. He trespassed,” Krul said.

Williams is still deciding whether to take legal action against the CHP and Caltrans. “We feel a little like David vs. Goliath,” she said, “but we don’t even have a slingshot.”

Push for a pool in Susanville gains momentum

Lassen County Supervisor Jim Chapman took the plunge. So did Susanville City Councilman Brian Wilson.

But it was local kids who created the biggest splash in a campaign to build a new Susanville swimming pool.

Their Pennies for the Pool project has raised more than $10,000 to replace the Roosevelt Pool, built in 1936 with WPA funding. Lassen Aquatics, a local swim club, contributed another $5,000.

Chapman and Wilson are using that momentum to propose a joint powers agreement creating a pool commission funded by $200,000 annually from the county Board of Supervisors and the City Council. Chapman said the new proposal involves a 15-year city and county commitment raising $6 million to build, operate and maintain a public swimming pool.

Neither the county board nor the City Council has formally approved the funding, but both have agreed to include it in budget discussions.

Recently, a Susanville retiree upped the ante, challenging the public officials by making a donation of 1 million pennies. “It's time to throw some money at this,” said Bill Feierabend, a former U.S. Postal Service letter carrier.

His donation brings the pool fund total to about $25,000.

With pressure from both ends of the age spectrum, Chapman is optimistic that Susanville will soon end nearly a decade without a swimming pool. “This is a de facto vote. It's telling us we need to do something,” he said.

Intern brings tribal knowledge to river restoration

Kagat McQuillen has lived most of his life in the Klamath basin, but he now sees it with fresh eyes.

McQuillen, a Yurok tribal member, spent the summer as an intern in a program connecting federal scientists and six tribal college students to river restoration projects in the region that includes California's northwestern corner.

The students learned remote sensing from NASA and, from tribal elders, how the land has changed through times. Using both Western science and traditional knowledge, they designed protocols to assess the physical, biological and ecological health of two key tributaries to the Klamath River.

In the process they tapped into the centuries-old knowledge held by tribal community members that has largely been overlooked by modern scientific methods. The results help prioritize the species most important to the six tribes and the places best suited to sustaining them.

“Restoration is much more than an on-the-ground effort,” said McQuillen, an environmental science major at Sac State.

Harvesting fish, for example, requires a population resilient enough to take some for food, some for sale and some for ceremonial purposes. But the harvests are historically done communally, bringing those who participate into the culture.

“Going to KFC to get a bucket of chicken is a whole different process,” McQuillen said.

As landscapes are affected by a changing climate, it is critical to be more strategic about what resources we protect, said Daryl Van Dyke, an analyst with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Integrating cultural values into resource assessments promises to bring a deeper understanding of how to conserve natural resources throughout the region, he said.

Jane Braxton Little covers issues affecting Northern Californians.


Jane Braxton Little, a freelance writer, covers science, natural resources and rural Northern California from Plumas County. Reach her at jblittle@dyerpress.com.



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