The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Klamath Basin Weather
Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 55. Overnight low of 26.
Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 58.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 57.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 57. Breezy.
There are four new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,212. Oregon Health Authority reported 197 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m yesterday, bringing the state total to 155,787. Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine has received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the federal government, making it the third COVID-19 vaccine available for use in the United States. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the first single-dose vaccine against COVID-19. It can be stored in a refrigerator for months, making it easier to distribute without the need for ultra-cold storage. OHA estimates Oregon will receive 34,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. OHA is working with Local Public Health Authorities, state retail pharmacy partners and hospital systems to administer the vaccine. It is anticipated that less of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available in the next few weeks following this week’s initial allocation. OHA is planning for strategic deployment of the vaccine to speed up vaccinations in Oregon. “Having access to a third highly effective COVID-19 vaccine is a game changing development for Oregonians,’ said Paul Cieslak, M.D, medical director for communicable diseases and immunization, OHA Public Health Division. “We believe this vaccine is effective against the virus, and a one-dose regimen will allow us to vaccinate more Oregonians more quickly.” The process for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine review and approval was the same as it was for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The company submitted its application for EUA on Feb. 4. In its review of Johnson & Johnson’s application, the FDA reported the vaccine was 66% effective for moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 in all groups across all regions studied starting at 28 days after vaccination. The observed efficacy in the United States was 72%. The clinical trial involved 43,783 participants in the United States, Latin America, Brazil and South Africa. “The best thing is that this one-dose vaccine was 85% efficacious in preventing severe COVID-19,” Dr. Cieslak said. Reported vaccine side effects include pain at the injection site, mild to moderate headache, fatigue and muscle aches.
The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 132, which is two fewer than yesterday. There are 27 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is one more than yesterday.
Sky Lakes Medical Center says that it will hold another coronavirus vaccination clinic this week, serving seniors 65 and older that became eligible under Oregon’s plan on Monday.
The no-charge clinic will be held from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday, March 3, on the fourth floor of the original medical center. First dose vaccinations are by appointment only, and can be scheduled by calling 1-833-606-4370 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. No walk-in or on-site appointments are available. “Once you have an appointment, you are assured of having a dose reserved,” Sky Lakes said in a statement.
Oregon’s vaccination plan made the last group of seniors eligible on March 1. Though progressively more seniors have become eligible over the month of February, results have varied by county due to the shortage of supply on a national level.
Native tree and shrub seedlings are being offered for sale in Klamath Falls as part of an effort to encourage use of native plants in landscaping and restoration projects.
The sale is cosponsored by the Klamath County Museum and the Klamath Basin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. All seedlings will be sold for $1.50 each, with a minimum purchase of five seedlings per species required. All orders must be prepaid by calling the museum at (541) 882-1000. Each customer will be assigned a time to pick up their order on March 13. Plants cannot be held past the sale date.
Around the state of Oregon
Governor Kate Brown is thanking Oregonians for their hard work as Oregon marks one year of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Last Friday was the one-year anniversary of Oregon’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. Brown issued a statement yesterday thanking frontline workers, caregivers and everyone who has lent a helping hand to neighbors or friends in need. Brown also acknowledged the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Tribal, Latino, Pacific Islander and Asian communities as well as the immigrant and refugee communities. Brown says “We must do better to build a stronger, more just, more equitable Oregon for everyone who lives here.”
Oregon’s secretary of state, who as a lawmaker championed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, has joined the advisory board of a movement that is pushing states to adopt the one person-one vote system.
Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, will now be advising National Popular Vote, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the compact in states across the country, her office announced Monday. The movement needs 270 Electoral College votes for national popular vote to be adopted in America. It already has secured 196 and aims to gain more this year. Under the current system, each state’s electoral votes go to the candidate who won the popular vote in that state, with the runner-up getting nothing. Nebraska and Maine are the only exceptions. The board she’s joining advises the non-profit National Popular Vote organization in its mission of reforming the electoral college through the enactment of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
On Sunday, Yreka California Highway Patrol announced that two missing twins from Vancouver, Washington have been found safe.
According to Yreka CHP, yesterday morning the CHP Yreka Communications Center received a notification from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department to be on the look out for a man that was being accused of taking his twin two-year old nephews from their home in Vancouver, Washington. Police say that they were informed that the suspect, Ronald M. Hidalgo, was driving a 2018 Grey Jeep Renegade and could be in the area.
According to Yreka CHP, they were tipped off by the Hornbrook Agricultural Station, that Hidalgo’s Jeep had recently driven through their facility and was last seen traveling southbound on I-5.
On Sunday, Jackson County Public Health issued an Overdose Alert, after health officials say that the county experienced three overdose fatalities over the last two weeks.
According to JCPH, some of the overdoses are suspected to be from fentanyl, is a synthetic opioid approved for treating severe pain. Health officials say that the drug is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The drug is usually is prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges and can be diverted for misuse and abuse in the United States. Jackson County Public Health says that cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdoses, and deaths in the United States, are linked to illegally made fentanyl. Health officials say that it is often mixed with heroin or other drugs and is sold as a counterfeit prescription opioid pill, with or without the user’s knowledge.
Street fentanyl can be in the form of white, gray, or tan powder, dropped on blotter paper, eye dropper or nasal sprays. JCPH says that the alert has been issued to inform the medical community, law enforcement, and the county of the rise in fatal overdoses in Jackson County.
Red Cross Cascades Region Offering Free Virtual Preparedness Classes to Encourage Everyone To Prepare For Disasters
The devastating winter storms our region just experienced, and this past summer’s wildfires, serve as a painful reminder that disasters can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime – even during a pandemic.
So, in honor of March being Red Cross Month, the Red Cross Cascades Region is hosting a series of free emergency preparedness presentations throughout the month. All presentations are virtual, and everyone is welcome to attend. Red Cross volunteers are available for virtual media interviews today.
How to prepare for emergencies:
Starting today and taking place every Tuesday in March from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m., classes will cover the most common disasters we face in the Pacific Northwest and how to prepare for them. Whether you’re motivated to start building your preparedness kit, or need a refresher course, these classes are designed to help families and individuals learn how to be better prepared. Information and links can be found at redcross.org/cascades.
- March 2nd: Winter Storm Safety
- March 9th: Wildfire Safety
- March 16th: Earthquake Safety
- March 23rd: Flooding Safety
- March 30th: Home Fire Safety
We recognize that preparing for emergencies looks a little different right now, but the three basic action steps remain the same: Build a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed. In addition to the preparedness series, the Red Cross Cascades Region has a free downloadable Prepare! Guide available in four languages, English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian. Red Cross B-roll is available here.
WHAT IS RED CROSS MONTH
For nearly 80 years, U.S. presidents have proclaimed March as Red Cross Month to recognize people giving back through its lifesaving mission — which is powered by more than 90% volunteers.
They include people who volunteer to provide emotional support, psychological first aid and referrals to community assistance for families coping with disasters during the pandemic.
HOW TO HELP You can help ensure that families don’t face emergencies alone — especially during a pandemic:
- DONATE: Support our Disaster Relief efforts at redcross.org/GivingDay. A gift of any size makes a difference to provide shelter, food, relief items, emotional support and other assistance. Your donation will be part of our annual Giving Day on March 24 to aid families in need across the country.
- VOLUNTEER: Visit redcross.org/VolunteerToday for most-needed positions and local opportunities.
- GIVE BLOOD: If you’re healthy and feeling well, make an appointment at RedCrossBlood.org. Your donation can make a lifesaving difference for a patient in need. As a thank you, those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma on March 15-26 will receive a Red Cross T-shirt, while supplies last.
- LEARN LIFESAVING SKILLS: Take a class in skills like CPR and first aid to help in an emergency at redcross.org/TakeAClass. Online options include our Psychological First Aid for COVID-19 course, which covers how to manage stress and support yourself and others.
Oregon Could Become 2nd State to Permit Human Composting
A bill before the Oregon Legislature would make it the second state to allow human composting as an alternative to traditional burial or cremation.
House bill 2574, sponsored by Reps. Pam Marsh and Brian L. Clem, would allow bodies to be disposed of by alternative processes, including natural organic reduction — an accelerated decomposition process that turns bodies into soil within weeks. It also clarifies rules surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, known as aqua cremation, and extends other funeral industry privileges and responsibilities to include natural organic reduction.
A public hearing for the bill was set for Monday afternoon in the House Committee on Business and Labor.
Almost 100 people had submitted written testimony as of Monday morning, overwhelmingly in support of the bill. Most cited environmental reasons for their desire to be composted. Cremation uses more energy than composting and traditional burial involves harsh chemicals and takes up land.
“Knowing that my remains could benefit the environment that has given me so much joy over the years gives me peace,” wrote Milwaukie resident Darin MacRae.
If passed, the bill would take effect July 1, 2022.
Washington became the first state to allow natural organic reduction in 2020. In late December, two facilities began performing the service. –The Associated Press
Oregon’s Logging Industry Says It Can’t Afford New Taxes Even Though Prices Have Never Been Higher and Profits Soaring
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Thirty years after Oregon lawmakers began giving the state’s timber industry tax cuts that cost rural counties an estimated $3 billion, industry lobbyists warned them not to follow through on efforts to reinstate the tax this year.
Legislators are considering whether to add to taxes paid by the logging industry after an investigation published last year by Oregon Public Broadcasting, The Oregonian/OregonLive and ProPublica found that timber companies, increasingly dominated by Wall Street real estate trusts and investment funds, benefited from the tax cuts at the expense of rural counties struggling to provide basic government services.
During hearings last week, a parade of industry lobbyists and supporters said now would be the worst possible time to reinstate the tax. What they didn’t tell lawmakers: Lumber prices are at record highs. The huge demand for lumber and the accompanying high prices have helped to boost stock prices and profits for some of Oregon’s biggest timber companies.
The COVID-19 pandemic and record wildfires, which burned hundreds of thousands of acres of private timberland last year, put the timber industry “up against the ropes,” lobbyist Chris Edwards said in testimony last week.
Edwards is a former Democratic state senator who now represents the Oregon Forest & Industries Council, a lobbying group for the state’s biggest timber companies. He suggested that if lawmakers restored the tax, companies might be forced to cut rural jobs or withdraw from a landmark accord struck last year with Oregon environmental groups to negotiate tightening the state’s logging laws, which are weaker than those in California and Washington.
“This all comes from the same pot of money,” Edwards said. “Additional taxes right now could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”© Provided by ProPublicaChris Edwards, a former Democratic state senator, in 2013. Edwards now represents the state’s biggest timber companies as a lobbyist.
Despite the wildfires and the pandemic, lumber producers are “generating unbelievable margins right now, record margins and profits,” said Brooks Mendell, president of the forest investment consultancy Forisk.
Small-scale timber owners who lost most of their timber in last year’s wildfires suffered major financial hits. Others lost valuable equipment. But large corporations and lumber manufacturers are thriving, Mendell said.
“You can see it’s showing up in their financial statements, and the publicly traded guys and the private guys are doing really well,” Mendell said. “They’re investing in their mills and they’re just doing extremely well.”
Sara Duncan, a spokesperson for the industry council, didn’t directly address questions about record lumber prices. In an email, Duncan instead pointed to the impact that restoring the tax would have not on the council’s large member companies but on smaller forest landowners who also testified before lawmakers.
“There are over 65,000 forest landowners in Oregon, many of whom lost land in the Labor Day fires, and all of whom would be negatively impacted by new timber taxes,” Duncan said.
The stock price for the largest timber company in Oregon, Weyerhaeuser, is sitting at a three-year high. The Seattle-based investment trust — which owns 1.6 million acres in Oregon, three times more than the next-largest landowner — saw 125,000 acres of its timberlands burn during the Labor Day wildfires that scorched more than a million acres across Oregon. The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Despite losing $80 million to the fires, the company reported net earnings of $797 million last year, its highest mark since 2016.
Weyerhaeuser executives sounded bullish in their Jan. 29 earnings release. The company’s CEO, Devin Stockfish, called its 2020 performance “remarkable” and said he was increasingly confident that demand would continue to bolster the housing market, which uses the company’s lumber.
Charles Gross, a Morningstar senior equity analyst who follows Weyerhaeuser, said the company’s earnings last year showed “a huge net increase. It’s one of the best years they have on record.”
Wildfire losses for Weyerhaeuser and other large investment companies “pales in comparison to how much they gain from high lumber prices,” Gross said. “This is especially true for Weyerhaeuser,” which not only owns forestland but also owns mills that turn logs into lumber and other products, he said.
Gross said he did not forecast any significant financial effect on the companies if lawmakers reinstated a severance tax of 5%, which would be assessed based on the value of trees at the time they’re cut down.
For decades, private timber owners in Oregon paid a severance tax. But in the 1990s, lawmakers passed a series of tax cuts that phased out the severance tax, which in turn lowered the funding provided to schools and local governments. Then they eliminated the tax for all but the smallest timber owners, who can opt to pay it in exchange for reduced property taxes.
If the tax were reinstated, Gross said, companies would adjust prices and shift the cost to consumers.
“I don’t think there would be any net impact to the timber industry over time for profitability,” Gross said. “This wouldn’t harm the long-term profitability of a company like Weyerhaeuser.”
Since cratering at the beginning of the pandemic last year, lumber prices have tripled, setting a record as wildfires reduced supplies and low interest rates helped fuel a strong demand from the housing market. Prices soared so high that in January home builders asked President Joe Biden for help as they struggled with lumber costs and delivery times.
High prices for lumber, wood that has been milled, have not boosted prices for logs in all of the country’s wood-growing regions, like the South, where production is higher than it’s ever been, said Rocky Goodnow, vice president of North American Timber Service at Forest Economic Advisors.
But the rise in lumber prices has increased the cost of trees harvested in Western Oregon, the state’s dominant tree-growing region, Goodnow said, where log prices are up about 40% since the early days of the pandemic.
A severance tax would reduce Oregon’s competitiveness with other timber-producing regions and “on the margin lead to less production,” Goodnow said, particularly if the market for lumber weakens.
Mendell, the forestry consultant, said his firm forecasted Oregon’s timber production to change little over the next 20 years, seeing a decline of perhaps 2% based on wildfire damage and estimates of when most of the state’s trees will be old enough to be logged.
“Markets are really strong right now,” Goodnow said. “We think the demand for forest products is going to remain strong.”
Proponents of the severance tax told lawmakers that the industry’s strong position means there’s no better time to restore the tax.
Jody Wiser, founder of Tax Fairness Oregon, a tax watchdog, told state representatives that fires that burned 3% of the state’s private timberlands were no reason to delay restoring taxes that could fund sheriff’s deputies, mental health workers and economic development officers in rural counties that bore the brunt of the cuts.
“Those are the kinds of jobs rural communities have lost because they lost revenue,” Wiser said. “They are also good-paying rural jobs, which should be restored with a robust severance tax.”
Disagreement exists about where the money should go if a tax is reinstated. The current proposal to restore the tax, introduced by state Rep. Paul Holvey, a Eugene Democrat, would institute a 5% tax to be paid by timber owners. Half of the money would fund wildfire fighting and a quarter of it would return to the counties where the logging occurs. The rest would go to the Oregon Department of Forestry and research projects at Oregon State University.
Counties want to see all of the money returned to them. But lawmakers have sidelined two early bills to restore a severance tax that would serve entirely as local government revenue, while Holvey’s proposal received its first hearing last week.
Meanwhile, small landowners with less than 5,000 acres, which together own about a third of Oregon’s private forests, have protested the use of tax revenue to pay to prepare private homes for wildfires.
“These costs should be shared by all citizens. We are very happy to support OSU forestry and the Department of Forestry and pay our share for fire,” Sarah Deumling, whose company manages 1,300 acres in Polk County, told lawmakers, “but please think twice before trying again to tax us out of business.”
The Association of Oregon Counties, representing the 36 counties that once received the tax revenue, echoed the timber lobbyist’s statements about the timing being wrong to raise taxes and urged lawmakers to delay beyond the 2021 session.
Speaking on behalf of the association, John Sweet, a county commissioner from coastal Coos County, which has lost an estimated $208 million in severance tax payments since 1991, told state lawmakers they should not restore the tax without taking time to study it. If they do act now, Sweet said, they should direct the money where it once went, to local governments and schools, not to state responsibilities like firefighting.
Sweet said in an interview that while timber companies are currently seeing strong returns, lawmakers still need to be careful in their efforts to restore the tax.
“This may be a reasonable tax,” he said. “I don’t want it to be imposed when we’re shooting from the hip.”
Sweet has received $29,000 in campaign contributions, nearly 20% of what he’s raised in nine years, from timber interests including Weyerhaeuser. He said the contributions did not influence his position.
This article was produced in partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting and The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Bill To Permanently Ban Mining In Parts Of Southwest Oregon Passes
Conservationists have been resisting a proposed nickel mine in Southern Oregon for many years.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a permanent mining ban in the area as part of a new public lands bill.
Just before he left office, former president Barack Obama ordered a temporary ban on mining near the headwaters of several rivers that flow through Southwest Oregon and Northern California. Now, the House has approved a bill to make that ban permanent.
Ann Vileisis is president of the Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, an environmental group in Curry County. She says these protections are important for the communities surrounding the rivers.
“Several communities rely on the rivers for drinking water, but also for recreation like fishing and the recreation economy and tourism economy that we all care about,” says Vileisis. “And just our way of life. So the idea of allowing strip mining to get a toehold in our region just makes no sense to me.”
Nickel mining can destroy landscapes and pollute waterways. Vileisis says conservationists hope make this ban permanent.
“We want to make it so that these places will forever be protected,” says Veleisis. “So that’s what this legislation is about. It kind of extends what’s in place now and makes it permanent. We’re hoping that now that it’s moved along in part of this big house bill, our senators will take it up and make it happen finally.”
The bill would protect headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Smith, Rogue and Illinois Rivers and Hunter Creek and North Fork Pistol rivers.
The measure is an amendment to a national public lands bill. It was introduced by Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio and California Representative Jared Huffman. The Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protect Act will now go to the Senate, where Oregon and California Senators have already signaled their support.
Officials north of us in Oakridge are asking for your help. The Lane County sheriff’s office released more information about the investigation into a shooting outside Oakridge last week that sent 2 people to the hospital. “Initial information was that the suspect was described as a male, possibly Hispanic, armed with a firearm, and driving a blue Toyota Prius,” the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said Monday. “At this time, it is unknown if the initial reports of the suspect leaving the scene in a blue Toyota Prius is accurate.” Investigators have also learned that a car recovered at the scene after deputies responded at 10:21 p.m. on February 25 had been stolen less than 3 hours earlier.