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In the News - Friday, NOVEMBER 18, 2005


New year, new leader

Sequoia-Kings Canyon
superintendent named;
will take rein in 2006


   Since Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks began being administered jointly in 1943, there has been a baker’s dozen of superintendents overseeing the local operations. Averaging about 4½ years per stay, these officials usually make the rounds of overseeing several units throughout their careers in what is today a 388-park system.
   With the ringing in of the New Year, Craig C. Axtell will become the 14th superintendent of Sequoia-Kings Canyon, the Pacific West Regional Office announced Wednesday. He replaces Dick Martin, who retired in June after serving in the top spot for, as is about average, just over four years.
   For the past six months, Russ Wilson, deputy superintendent, has served as acting superintendent.
   Axtell is currently the superintendent of Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. He plans to relocate by mid-January.
Axtell received his B.S. degree in Forest Science and a master’s in Natural Resources Management from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He and his wife, Kristine, a teacher, have two children, both of whom currently attend Colorado State; their son is in graduate school and their daughter is a senior.
   Axtell, 52, has worked for the NPS for 30 years and is a recipient of the Department of the Interior’s Superior Service Award for his work in natural resource management. He began his career as an economist and park planner in Denver and later served as a park resource specialist at Everglades (Florida) and Isle Royale (Michigan) national parks.
   For 15 years, he was chief of resources management and research in Rocky Mountain National Park. In 2000, prior to his appointment to Bryce Canyon, Axtell was named the first chief of the NPS’s new Biological Resource Management Division. While there, he developed national policy and provided parkwide assistance with wildlife management, invasive plant management, and ecosystem restoration, all skills that will serve him well in Sequoia-Kings Canyon.


POT WAR
County asks feds

for more money

   One week after Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced that California’s 2005 Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) set a record with the seizure of 1,132,692 plants, Supervisor Allen Ishida was in Washington, D.C., (Thursday, Nov. 17) to testify on behalf of Tulare County. Supervisor Ishida appeared before a congressional subcommittee that is gathering information on National Park Service efforts to combat the growth of illegal marijuana gardens in the parks.
   Ishida was asked by Congressman Devin Nunes to participate in the hearing and report on Tulare County’s perspective on the escalating drug activity on public lands. More than 15 percent of CAMP’s 2005 seizures occurred in Tulare County and a majority of those plants were being grown on public lands.

  “The Mexican drug cartels are firmly entrenched in our parks,” Ishida said. “They pose a growing threat to our public safety and to visitors who might encounter these growers while hiking or fishing.”
   Ishida said in recent years Sheriff Bill Wittman has had to allocate significant staff and resources to help Sequoia National Park combat the marijuana growers.

  “We need a greater commitment from Congress and the other federal agencies to stem this illicit activity on public lands,” Ishida said. “The Feds have got to take the lead. It’s not just a law enforcement matter, it’s a Homeland Security issue.”
   Ishida pointed out that for each bust, the county’s entire eight-man SWAT unit and dozens of other officers are needed as support personal. That leaves the most populous parts of the county vulnerable to gang activity and other violent crimes while these operations are being conducted in the backcountry.
   In cooperation with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Ishida has proposed a multi-agency task force to go after these illicit pot growers. It would be comprised of federal, state, and local officers modeled on the approach that the county has used to combat methamphetamine and rural crime.
   Ishida said he has been encouraged by the initial response to the proposal. What is needed to continue, he said, is some federal funding.

   Tulare County in top three-- Relative to other California counties, local CAMP seizures in terms of plants eradicated were about the same, but Tulare County was knocked from its number-one position.
   Shasta County had the largest number of plants seized during the most recent growing season (from about April through October depending on weather and frost conditions) with 214,319; followed by Lake County with 133,444; and Tulare County with 133, 038.
   Those seizures represent busts coordinated by CAMP; Tulare County officials report a slightly higher total of 157,529 plants removed from both public and private lands. The current total is expected to surpass the 2004 total of 161,624 by year’s end.

The ‘Beyond the

Dust Bowl’ series continued

   In the annals of Tulare County, there are a number of inspiring stories as the sons and daughters of migrant families pull themselves out of abject poverty. None of these tales are any more moving than the experiences of Ron Hughart, Kaweah Country’s best-known “Okie.”
   More of Hughart’s childhood, caught up in the throes of the migrant farmworker lifestyle of the 1950s and 1960s, has been explained in his latest book, Beyond the Dust Bowl With a Pocket Full of Peanuts. Ron, a lieutenant at the Woodlake Police Department, will be available tonight (Friday, Nov. 18) at Exeter’s Book Garden (189 E. Pine St.) from 5 to 7 p.m. to sign copies of his new book, a sequel to the brutally honest prose of his 2002 book, The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl.

  “Growing up, I learned reality is harsh, and its onset should be accompanied with much explanation and caution,” Hughart wrote after the publication of his first book. “My parents, stifled by the harshness of their own reality, were more concerned about daily survival than the assimilation of their children with which they, themselves, were unfamiliar.”
   In his writing, Hughart probes his own childhood as a means of coming to terms with a society where many are forced to live in a perpetual state of self-degradation. But rather than feel sorry for himself and other migrant families, his own example reveals how these experiences can actually be a source of character and strength.
   As an adult, Hughart’s formal schooling led him through the education curriculum, practical case studies of a social worker, and some criminology for good measure. Now in his vocation as a law officer in a community with a large migrant population, there is no doubt he is the best man for a very challenging job.
   His first book also led to Hughart being discovered by Hollywood directors and casting agents. He attributes his suddenly in-demand acting career to his distinctive look that has been characterized in various roles between ruggedly handsome and downright scruffy.
   Ron says he is surprised by the fuss folks are making over his books and especially their placement on college reading lists. At the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, where his first book is required reading, he was feted recently with a bologna and Spam luncheon, staples of his childhood diet.
   At 56, Ron Hughart is an inspiration for all who read his books and make his humble acquaintance. His life of thanksgiving at his 40-acre Exeter ranch is living proof that the meek really do inherit the earth.

Recycle unused

cell phones locally

   From now until year’s end, the Tulare County Resource Management Agency-Solid Waste Division is administering drop-off points throughout the county in an effort to recycle no-longer-used cell phones.
   Locally, any type of portable cell phone, as well as PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant handheld computers) and pagers, may be dropped off at the Bank of the Sierra branch on Sierra Drive. The third-annual event will continue through December 31.
   It is estimated that two million cell phones are discarded every week in the U.S. During the holiday season, this statistic increases dramatically as the newest phones get wrapped up and placed under the tree.
   This creates an environmental hazard since cell phones contain mercury, cadmium, and nickel that could contaminate groundwater.
   The cell-phone recycling event coincides with “America Recycles Day” and is sponsored by the county Resource Management Agency, the Consolidated Waste Management Authority, and the Tulare County Youth Corps. All cell phones are refurbished by the CollectiveGood organization and put back into use in developing economies or are scrapped for parts.
   CollectiveGood funds charities though cell-phone recycling. This year’s event will benefit the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Visalia.
   All phones and other devices should be deactivated before donating them.
   Other recycling locations are in Woodlake, Exeter, Farmersville, Lindsay, Porterville, Visalia, Tulare, Dinuba, Orosi, and Kingsburg.
   For more information, call the Resource Management Agency, 733-6291.

Postage stamp

price will increase

   A two-cent boost in the price of a postage stamp was approved this month by the independent Postal Rate Commission.
   Under the recommendation, which now goes to the Postal Service’s Board of Governors for final action, the cost of a first-class stamp will go from 37 cents to 39 cents.
   The postcard rate will rise a penny to 24 cents.
   The increase is expected to go into effect in January 2006.

How will thy heat?

Better check the ways…

   As the nights turn colder, home heating becomes imperative and so does checking and properly maintaining the heating sources to avoid a tragic fire.
   Here is a checklist provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF):

  —Clean the flue: Chimney brushes may be rented or purchased or look in the yellow pages under “Chimney Cleaning” for a professional. Also, inspect the firebox and flue for cracks or damage.

  —Inspect furnace for obstructions and operations: Vacuum duct openings to eliminate dust and lint and check for any toys or other objects that may have ended up there during the year. Replace all furnace filters.

  —Inspect all gas appliances: Check gas lines for wear or damage. Check venting for leaks or obstructions.

  —Use fireplace safely: Use only clean, seasoned wood. Do not burn paper, cardboard, or any trash. Make certain that there is a screen covering the fireplace opening to prevent sparks from leaving the fireplace and smoldering on a carpet or rug. Check the spark arrester over the chimney top to be certain it is of sufficient size (half-inch mesh). Dispose of only cold ashes (fireplace ashes can be hot for a week or more). A metal bucket should be used to remove the ashes. After the ashes are outside, they should be thoroughly mixed with water in a bucket and left well away from any nearby combustibles.


WOODLAKE HIGH SCHOOL

FFA to open

Christmas tree lot

   They’ll be fresh off the truck from Oregon so plan on gathering around one of these Douglas firs this holiday season.
   The Woodlake High FFA will be selling the trees during the week beginning Saturday, Dec. 3, through Sunday, Dec. 11. The tree lot will be located adjacent to the high school’s ag building and next to the “new” gym parking lot (from Whitney Avenue turn north into the driveway between Woodlake Middle School and the Woodlake Library).
    Prices will range from $30 to $40, depending on the height of the tree. Shoppers may choose trees from about five feet tall to eight feet.
   All proceeds will benefit Woodlake High FFA. Through agricultural education, the local award-winning Future Farmers of America program continues its dedication to ensuring the personal growth of its students by teaching leadership training and career options.

  ‘Tis the season for giving-- Whether in need of a tree for the home or not, holiday shoppers will also have the opportunity to give an amazing gift via the FFA tree sale.
   Buy a five-to-six-foot tree at a discounted price of $20 and FFA members will deliver it to a local family who may not otherwise be able to afford one.
   The tree lot will be open weekdays from 3:30 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.
For more information, call Steve Parker, FFA advisor/ag instructor, 564-3307, ext. 134.

Tigers bow to Monarchs

in East Sequoia League finale

   There were plenty of positives for the Woodlake Tigers (4-6, 2-7) in last Thursday’s regular-season finale loss to the Exeter Monarchs. The annual neighborhood grudge match was really much closer than the final score, 33-14.

  “A very tight game turned on that third quarter interception,” Coach Costa said. “Exeter had all the momentum after that play and we just couldn’t stop them.”
   Exeter, who had little success with their highly-ranked passing attack, relied on runningback Denno Daly to bull his way up and down the field. But, again, for the third consecutive week, the Tiger offense displayed a balanced running attack, spreading the work among five different runners — Daniel Tiller, Steve Tindle, Souk Stephens, Carlos Acosta, and QB John Gomez-Carretero.
   On defense, the Tigers received stellar performances from Andrew Belis, a junior middle guard, and Thomas Navarro, a sophomore safety. Navarro separated the ball from an Exeter receiver with a vicious hit on a pass over the middle and was instrumental in convincing Exeter to rely on more running plays.
   This Friday, for the opening round of the playoffs, Exeter moves up to Division III and with a seventh seed draws a home game versus Sierra (Tollhouse), the 10th seed. Woodlake, the No. 11 seed in Division IV travels south to face Taft-Bakersfield, seeded No. 6.

  “Our guys don’t mind playing on the road and this will be a good match-up,” said Costa. “They like to feature one running back and don’t pass all that often. We know what we need to do to win.”
Taft’s featured back is Ben Estill. His 2,245 yards and 28 touchdowns lead the Valley in both rushing and scoring. He averages 7.5 yards a carry so Woodlake will have to key on him and hope to contain their offense from springing their talented runner on big yardage plays.
   If Woodlake can upset Taft, who lost last week to even their record at 5-5, they would then meet Chowchilla in the second round on November 25.

  “I like the direction this team is going right now so that’s why we’re in the playoffs,” Costa said. “Orosi and Corcoran opted not to go but our guys deserve post-season play because they have really worked hard and made steady improvement. In the playoffs, we all start over so anything can happen.”
   The Tiger JVs let a halftime lead slip away against the Monarchs and the mostly frosh team ended up on the short end of the scoreboard, 33-22. The loss dropped their season’s record to 3-7.

  “We had a much better year than our record,” said Isaac Martinez, one of the JV assistant coaches and a Woodlake High alum. “Our team has plenty of talent and all we need is more experience.”









 
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