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In the News - Friday, FEBRUARY 24, 2006

CDF gears up

for fire season

   Though much has been made lately of Tulare County’s cancellation of their longstanding contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to provide its services in Tulare County, it’s pretty much business as usual at the Three Rivers fire station. It’s going to stay that way as CDF gears up in the next few months for another now rapidly approaching fire season.
   On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Captain Steve Green was on duty supervising a crew of inmates from Mountain Home Camp as they helped place sandbags and finish some of the drainage work that became necessary after the heavy rains two months ago. Capt. Green has been the lone firefighter stationed at Three Rivers for many of the shifts during the winter months.
   That situation is not unusual, Green said, as CDF has one engine in service here during the months when fire calls are infrequent. Currently, CDF personnel also act as first responders on medical emergencies.

  “In the near future, we will add another engine to Three Rivers,” Green said. “After the official start of fire season, we could have as many as seven firefighters stationed here.”
   Capt. Green said that seasonal adjustment in personnel and equipment is usually in operation at Three Rivers and Springville by mid-June. This year, under the terms of what may be the last season for the “Amador Plan,” there won’t be any shift in management policy until around Nov. 1.

  “No matter what Tulare County decides to do in the mountain areas of the county, our mission will remain the same,” Green said. “Three Rivers is a wildland station and we will continue to be here to protect the lands in and around the Kaweah watershed and area structures.”
   After Nov. 1, Green said the county must pay for CDF coverage in Three Rivers or do the job with their own personnel. CDF officials, Green said, are preparing for the latter contingency because they expect the new county fire department to provide their own coverage.

  “Under the Amador Plan that local coverage has been our responsibility,” Green said. “That’s why in the last couple of years we’ve had less time to do our other tasks like [fire] road maintenance and the school programs.”
   Captain Green said CDF is very fortunate to have the manpower of the Mountain Home crew.

  “Even though we only have them for a part of each workday, it’s amazing all we can get done when we have a dozen or so workers.”
   It’s those work details that build fire line around Lake Kaweah before each fire season. Capt. Green said a real disaster has been averted more than once because of the handiwork the crew has done prior to fire season.

  “Last month, they even provided the manpower to pull out juniper trees at the Three Rivers Memorial Building,” Capt. Green said.
   Capt. Green admitted he has been a little embarrassed by the fact that his employer, the State of California, built a brand-new fire station in Three Rivers but couldn’t even furnish his firefighters with lockers. That’s when the Three Rivers Village Foundation stepped in and had the lockers installed as a part of their community service.

  “We really appreciate all the help we received from local groups like the Foundation, the California Native Plant Society, the Redbud Garden Club, and the volunteer ambulance and firefighters,” Green said. “We’re planning on staying right here and that’s not going to change.”

Parks consider planning options

on backcountry ranger stations
Public comment will

aid decision-making

   Remote ranger stations are scattered throughout the 723,036 acres of wilderness in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and at least three of those structures — Le Conte, Rae Lakes, and Crabtree — are in need of repairs. To ensure that these outposts can remain in service, National Park Service planners are seeking the public’s input as required by federal law.
   These far-flung ranger stations, along with others in Sequoia-Kings Canyon, are described in a new book called The Last Season, by Eric Blehm. The book, scheduled to be released in April, is the biographical account of longtime backcountry ranger Randy Morgenson, who disappeared while on patrol in July 1996, prompting a massive search effort.
   The ranger stations are used for wilderness administration, resource protection, and provide shelter for personnel who are working as backcountry rangers, snow surveyors, or researchers. They also serve as a wilderness point of contact where visitors can receive information and assistance.
   The rapidly deteriorating Rae Lakes wood-frame tent platform is a priority situation and, according to park officials, requires immediate action. The proposal to upgrade the facilities is consistent with policy as outlined in the 1986 Backcountry Management Plan that states:

  “Cabins are located at various places in the backcountry as needed… These cabins will continue to be maintained and used for such activities.”
   Interested parties may request more information about the ranger stations project by calling Alexandra Picavet, parks information officer, 565-3131. Comments are welcomed on the project and must be submitted in writing to the Superintendent at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271, or email to:
   SEKI_Superintendent@nps.gov (include the phrase “Wilderness Ranger Stations” in regards to written comments or in the subject line of emailed correspondence).
   Comments mailed on or before March 24, 2006, will receive priority consideration.

War on weeds:

Thistle surveys

and/or self-management

   First, a quick update. The mobile spray equipment the Weed Management Group is purchasing with the Century 21 Three Rivers sponsorship donation should be arriving in Three Rivers by the beginning of next week.
   Right on time. That's exactly when it's going to be needed.
The first round of spraying on areas surveyed during last year's growth cycle will likely start soon after.
   It’s hardly possible to overstate how helpful that equipment is going to be when thistle control begins in earnest.
   Cool weather the past couple of weeks has slowed the growth of this season’s crop of noxious weeds. In most areas of Three Rivers, Italian thistle has just become visible above the grass, prompting our battalion of field biologists to postpone their on-site surveys until the thistle is taller and easier to spot.
   Surveys will most likely begin in early March and continue into April when yellow star thistle, which sprouts later, will also be up and growing.
   But don’t worry, there is still a window of opportunity to treat affected areas before they go to seed. Most years, Italian thistle can be treated up until the end of March, while yellow star thistle can be effectively treated through May.
   And no one will be overlooked. Every landowner who has called the Weed Management “hotline” is listed in a comprehensive database, and everyone will be contacted when the surveys begin.
Please join the rapidly growing number of your neighbors and call the hotline now. The new hotline number is 561-3674.
   If, however, you are ready to begin on your own, the Weed Management Group can help you get started. Here’s how:
   First, identify areas you know to be infested with thistle. This is relatively easy if last year’s skeletons are still standing.
   At their bases, you’ll see numerous flattish green plants with spiky leaves radiating out from the root crown. There are several native thistles in Three Rivers that have distinctive benefits to the local ecosystem, so if you are not certain about the variety, it’s probably best to wait for the field survey.
   If you are certain you have Italian, milk, or yellow star thistle and the area is small, the best thing to do is remove the new crop manually with a hoe or a shovel or by hand-pulling with good gloves. Make sure you cut the stem below the lowest leaf.
   If the area is too large for manual control, you can spray them with an appropriate herbicide providing you read and carefully follow the precautions on the label. The most popular herbicide (whose name is not mentioned here for statutory reasons, but which suggests the beginning of a cattle drive) is extremely harmful to amphibians if it gets into surface water.
   One of Three Rivers’s most appealing virtues is the nightly frog chorus, so if you do use chemicals please remember how many mosquitoes frogs eat, and how throaty is their crepuscular serenade.
   Another herbicide (whose name resembles cross-country telegraph wire) is even more effective than the first one. Unlike the first herbicide, this one doesn't injure grasses.
   Grasses are an important ally in fighting invasive thistle because they effectively compete with the thistle for water and nutrients and help limit thistle's spread. This chemical, however, may require you to obtain a special license before you can purchase it.
   The license is easy to obtain. The entire process takes about 15 minutes. It's simply a matter of filling out a form. There's no test to take. There's no cost.
   It's called a Private Applicators License and it allows you to purchase some chemicals that would otherwise be unavailable, providing you use them only on your own property.
   The Agriculture Commissioner’s office at 4437 S. Laspina in Tulare issues licenses Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are also offices in Exeter (101 West Pine) and Woodlake (250 Antelope, Suite L) that issue licenses between 1 and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.
   Last, when the field biologist visits your property, it’s not necessary for you to be there, but it is probably a good idea. Following them around will help you learn to identify invasive thistles on your own.

Biologists discover

at least 27 animal species

   Spiders, centipedes, and scorpion-like creatures are among the 27 new animal species that biologists have discovered in the dark, damp caves of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   The finds were made during a three-year study of 30 caves in the local parks. Many of the creatures live only in caves — and some only in one particular cave of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, according to the study, conducted by park staff and biologists from Zara Environmental, based in Austin, Texas.

  “We thought we might find a handful of new species,” said Joel Despain, cave specialist for Sequoia-Kings Canyon. “It was amazing to find 27.”
   Park officials said the cave-dwelling invertebrates can tell scientists a lot about environmental problems because of their sensitivity to surroundings.

Forest issues

wood permits

   Starting on Wednesday, March 1, woodcutting permits for Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument will be available. Permits will be valid for an eight-month period from April 1 to Nov. 30, 2006.
   The wood permits are $10 per cord with a minimum purchase of two cords per person ($20).
   For more information, go to:

www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/passespermits or call SNF headquarters, 784-1500, or the Hume Lake Ranger District, 338-2251.

Local equestrians make

strides in the show world

Kacie Fleeman is a

California Paint Horse champion

   Kaweah Country’s own Kacie Fleeman was awarded a saddle and four buckles at the recently-held California Paint Horse banquet in San Diego. Kacie, 11, accumulated the highest number of points during the 2005 season to win the California State Paint Champion Youth Walk-Trot All-Around.
   Kacie has been riding since she could sit up and began showing horses in a lead line class at age 5. Many years and long hours of dedicated work culminated in the win of her first championship saddle tooled in a rose-basket weave.
   The young equestrienne also collected three State Champion and one Reserve Champion silver and gold buckles at the gathering on Mission Bay. Kacie earned the top place for “11 and under” in Walk Trot Western Pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle, and Hunter Seat Equitation classes.
   The Walk Trot Showmanship class gave her a fourth buckle for Reserve Champion. In the “18 and under” Youth Halter class, Kacie was third in the state.
   C.R. Painted Dream, or “Dreamboat,” is the horse Kacie showed in 2005. They have been training together for a year under Jerry and Shelley Lunde of Lunde Show Horses located in Norco in Southern California.
   Kacie’s rigorous schedule includes two to three trips a month to Norco. While there, she will train for three or four days, riding four or five hours a day.
   After she finishes schooling her Dreamboat in trail, equitation, and showmanship patterns, Kacie puts other Lunde mounts through their paces.
   All these hours of concentrated training prepare the Three Rivers native for the 22 shows throughout the coming year. Her travels will include such destinations as Temecula, Bakersfield, King City, Rancho Murieta, Burbank, and her favorite, Paso Robles.
Kacie’s parents, Jayme and Darrell Fleeman, provide the support system to help Kacie realize her ambitions. The prodigy’s participation is sponsored by Darrell’s Visalia business, Autotech, while Jayme provides the transportation and schooling duties.
   Kacie loves her home away from home. The 33-foot three-horse trailer with living quarters has two beds, a bath, kitchen, and TV, making travels to shows and training convenient and comfortable.
   Kacie has been homeschooled for two years. According to Jayme, many of their destinations throughout the year provide educational side trips to complement her studies.
   In addition, Kacie also finds time to show her steer in 4-H.

  “Right now, I’m interested in marine biology,” says the sixth-grader when asked about her career goals.
   The paint-show community fosters good sportsmanship between their young riders. Congratulations flow freely between competitors after each event.
   Kacie enjoys her social life with the close friends she has made on the circuit.
   Kacie’s match-up with her seven-year-old gelding has been a good one.

  “Dreamboat already knew all of his events, but had been turned out for a year,” said Jayme. “He was very hairy and barely had a tail.”
   The chestnut overo transformed from beast to beauty as well as champion in Kacie’s caring hands.
   Dreamboat is known to have a sweet tooth.

  “He loves peppermints,” said Kacie. “He will run you over for a peppermint!”
   Paint horses like Dreamboat have been on the American scene for centuries. The first recorded descriptions of the early paint came from the Hernando Cortez expedition in 1519.
   Paint horses were a favorite of the American Indians. Fine horsemen such as the Comanche preferred these loud-colored horses, and many paints are depicted on the buffalo-robe artwork.
   The horse was known by different names through the 1800s into the 1900s such as pinto, paint, skewbald, or piebald. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, groups dedicated to preserving the “spotted” horse were organized.
   Today, the American Paint Horse Association is based in Fort Worth, Texas. Paint horses have become the second largest breed registry in the U.S. based on the number of horses registered annually.
   The annual World Championships are held each summer at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth and received almost 5,000 entrants in 2005. Kacie attended this two-week competition the last couple of years. In 2004, she posted three Top Tens and one Top Five in her events.
   She and her mom will travel to the Lone Star State again this summer for the “Worlds.” The young champion has one more year to compete in the 11-and-under group.
   Her ambition is to repeat as state champ in 2006. She has a good start on her goal; in the first show of the year in Tucson, Ariz., Kacie earned a Region of Merit award for 13-and-under Trail class.
   Kacie’s success doesn’t surprise her grandmother, Iyone Jorgensen. She believes it’s in the genes.

  “I could never get her mother off her horse, either,” she said.
   Betsy Zimmerman of Three Rivers contributed this feature story.


Leading the way in horse clubs

   Steve and Christy Wood, owners of Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables in Three Rivers, were honored at separate events in January.
   In 2005, Steve was elected to the board of directors of the California Appaloosa Show Horse Association. At the annual convention last month, he was elected president of the association.
   For more than 40 years, the California Appaloosa Show Horse Association has strived to promote, encourage, sponsor, and administer appaloosa events in California and other western states. The association promotes the breeding and exhibition of better appaloosas as well as provide leadership and reward excellence in appaloosa events.
   Steve has earned many state championships over the years as a member of the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team.

  “It is a great honor to have been elected president,” said Steve.
   Christy just returned from Oklahoma City where she attended the Color Breed Council Judges’ Seminar. Approved horse-show judges must attend this seminar once every three years to stay certified to judge in the U.S.
   While there, Christy was presented with her 25-year pin as a certified judge with the Appaloosa Horse Club.

  “The appaloosa horse has been my first love and the reason for becoming a judge with this breed first,” said Christy. “When I was approved, I immediately had a personalized license plate made for my car that reads ‘APYJDGE.’”
   Christy is also an approved judge with the Pinto Horse Association (21 years), the Miniature Horse Association (17 years), and the Paint Horse Association (12, years).

OBITUARY

Thomas Bantz
1962 ~ 2006

Our beloved son,
brother, uncle, friend...

   Thomas Andrew Bantz, a former resident of Three Rivers, died of an apparent suicide on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006. He was 43.
Tom was born in Oceanside on Oct. 4, 1962, the youngest of three children. In 1971, he moved with his mother and sister to Three Rivers.
   He graduated from Three Rivers School and attended Woodlake High School with the Class of 1980.
   Tom was currently living in Northridge in Southern California. He was a jet pilot.
   According to his family, Tom showed an affinity for speed and danger at a young age, starting with his first mini-bike at the age of five. He was an extreme athlete and participated in many sports.
   His recent passion was bicycling, even once riding with Lance Armstrong. He also excelled at skiing, surfing, bodybuilding, swimming, and dirt-bike riding… and he loved beautiful women.
   Tom is survived by his father, Dr. Clyde Bantz of Valley Center; his mother, Dottie Zander (Stokes) of Qualicum Beach, B.C.; his brother, Dr. Stephen Bantz of Germany; sister Virginia “Gigi” Dimitre of Springfield, Ore.; nieces Carrie Carso of Eugene, Ore., and Amalia Iser of Germany; and his great-nephew, Brighton Robertson of Eugene, Ore.
   Tributes to Tom’s life are planned to be held in Northridge and Three Rivers. A Friends’ memorial service will be held Saturday, March 4, in Qualicum Beach, B.C.
   Remembrances in Tom’s name may be made to the donor’s charity of choice.

 
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