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Northern exposure

Cartoonist pokes fun at secessionists

If satire is the sign of a seasoned political movement, the state of Jefferson has arrived.

Phil Fountain’s cartoon in A News Café pokes the beer bellies of a trio of backwoods hicks. One wears a T-shirt bearing the would-be state’s double-X logo; another is wearing a “no tax” button with an empty teapot in his left hand. A third character, clad in boots and a half-buttoned plaid shirt, carries a sign reading, “No water for no buddy.”

As part of Fountain’s “be careful what you wish for” message, a pair of gophers gasp over the two U.S. senators the anti-government leaders will get “if they pull this off.”

The California secessionist movement is “the silliness only north state politicos are capable of providing,” said Fountain, a former cartoonist for the Redding Record Searchlight. He called his state of Jefferson parody “an elbow in the ribs to start a dialog.”

It’s done that, said Doni Chamberlain, owner and publisher of the Redding-based online magazine. Comments on social media and A News Café’s website alternately praise and rebuke Fountain’s lampoon.

Despite its north state origins, the state of Jefferson has not won support from the Redding City Council, Shasta County Board of Supervisors or, said Chamberlain, a host of their constituents.

But the rural furor over being ignored by Sacramento is genuine, said Fountain: “I understand the frustration. If people didn’t take it seriously it wouldn’t make a cartoon.”

Remote area will get broadband

The 21st century is snaking toward five remote Klamath River communities foot by fiber-optic foot.

Residents from Orick to Orleans are poised to connect to the rest of the world via high-speed broadband Internet service thanks to the Karuk Tribe, which won a $6.6 million grant from the California Public Utilities Commission.

The tribe collaborated with the neighboring Yurok Tribe to raise $6.2 million in matching funds for the service, which they will co-own.

In addition to helping tribal members, the high-speed connection will bring telemedicine to health clinics, better communication to fire and police agencies, and new life to 170 private businesses in northern Humboldt County, said Eric Cutright, information technology director for the Yurok Tribe.

For about 100 school kids, the Internet upgrade is nothing short of revolutionary, said Matt Malkus, principal of three elementary schools along a 50-mile stretch of the Klamath River. “They’ll be able to research anything and live-stream conversations with students anywhere in the world – even in neighboring schools.”

And imagine the difference taking state-required tests: Today, students wait two minutes for the next question to pop up in a 40-minute exam. Soon, Malkus said, “they will compete with the best of them.”

The Internet is the new utility – “as vital as water, power and roads,” Cutright said. “Without it you’re left behind.”

Fire training includes controlled burns

First they dug scratch lines and laid out hoses. Then they lit fires.

For the 30 trainees from seven states and Spain, wielding flaming drip torches was the culmination of a two-week program in the art of “controlled burning.”

Instead of putting fires out, these professionals from local fire departments, government agencies, universities and nongoverment groups were practicing the responsible use of fire as a tool for improving forest ecosystems and reducing the damage from wildfires, said Nick Goulette, executive director of the Hayfork Watershed and Training Center.

It’s a fresh approach to fire management that challenges the century-old Smokey Bear message and embraces the concept of natural fire, as essential to most Western forest ecosystems as sunlight and rain.

Managed properly, fire can make communities safer, said Goulette, who hosted one of the controlled burns in Hayfork. Others were ignited in Redwood National Park, adjacent national forests and private lands.

Organized by the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council and The Nature Conservancy, the training program was designed to help fire professionals build new skills, especially as “burn bosses” qualified to use prescribed fire.

Before they could complete their certification, the trainees faced one final hurdle, Goulette said. “Once they lit that controlled burn, they had to hold it.”