What’s news in the Northwest today:
GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The body of a man washed out to sea last month when the tsunami from Japan hit the Northern California coast has been found more than 300 miles north in Oregon near the mouth of the Columbia River. The Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office said today that the body found April 2 at Fort Stevens State Park by a person walking on the beach has been identified as 25-year-old Dustin Douglas Weber. Family members have said he had just moved from Bend to Requa, Calif., on the Yurok reservation at the mouth of the Klamath River. He was fixing up a house given to him by his grandmother and had gone to the beach to take photos with friends when the surge hit him.
Budget deal blocks Obama wilderness policy
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan budget deal that avoids a government shutdown would block an Obama administration plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection. Republican lawmakers had complained that the wilderness plan would circumvent Congress’s authority and could be used to declare a vast swath of public land off-limits to oil-and-gas drilling. An agreement reached Friday night prohibits the Interior Department from spending money to implement the wilderness policy, which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in December. Salazar’s plan would reverse a Bush-era policy and make millions of acres of public lands eligible for wilderness protection. The so-called wild lands plan replaces a 2003 policy — dubbed by critics as “No More Wilderness — that opened Western lands to commercial development.
Wolf protections expected to be lifted by Congress
BILLINGS, Mont. — A rider in the federal budget bill that takes gray wolves off the endangered species list across most of the Northern Rockies would keep protections intact in Wyoming, at least for now. Wildlife advocates conceded today that the wolf provision was all but certain to pass. Congress faces a tight deadline on a budget plan already months overdue. That means wolf hunting would resume this fall in Idaho and Montana. Western lawmakers said they acted to circumvent a federal judge who repeatedly blocked proposals to hunt the predators. Wyoming lawmakers inserted language into the bill to uphold a ruling on wolves by another judge last year that was favorable to their state. However, the ruling said only that the government must reconsider Wyoming’s wolf management proposal — not necessarily accept it.
University researcher tests new wild sheep vaccine
BOISE — A Washington State University wildlife disease researcher has produced an experimental vaccine that appears to have protected four bighorn sheep against deadly pneumonia. Subramaniam Srikumara, the WSU professor in Pullman, says his findings are a promising but concedes years of work remain to help protect wild bighorn herds from periodic die-offs that have plagued the species in Idaho. Srikumaran’s research comes at a time when domestic sheep that roam the same habitat as bighorns are blamed for spreading disease to their more vulnerable wild cousins. That’s led to federal managers closing sheep grazing allotments in Idaho’s Payette National Forest to protect the wild sheep, a move that’s made the region’s ranchers deeply angry at the federal government that they see as protecting wildlife over their families’ economic livelihoods.
Scientists checking changing Puget Sound chemistry
SEATTLE — Marine scientists in Seattle are testing fish, crabs and geoducks to see how they respond to increased acidity expected from higher carbon dioxide emissions being absorbed in the oceans. The research is being conducted at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center near the University of Washington. The laboratory is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Seattle Times reports Puget Sound already has some of the most corrosive seawater on Earth. Ocean acidification is just one of the changes affecting seawater. And, some changes might be beneficial, helping some creatures grow, for example. That’s why researchers are hoping to improve their understanding of the entire food web.
Parents of boy killed at Richland track file suit
RICHLAND – The parents of a 12-year-old boy killed in a go-kart accident three years ago in Richland have filed a wrongful death suit in Benton County against the city and several other people and organizations whose negligence they claim contributed to their son’s death. Jacqueline and Kenneth McKinster of Portland, Ore., claim in their lawsuit that the Horn Rapids Kart Track where their son, Kenneth Jordan “K.J.” McKinster, died was negligently designed, maintained and operated by the city and Tri-City Kart Club at the time of his accident on April 11, 2008. The boy’s kart slid off the track while he was trying to navigate a hairpin turn during a weekend racing event. It crashed through a wire cable fence. The coroner said McKinster died from fatal injuries to his neck vertebrae and jugular vein.
Eagles Club ordered to pay $193,000 in harassment
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Department of Labor and Industry has awarded over $193,000 to a former bartender who filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Havre Eagles Club. The Great Falls Tribune reports hearings officer Gregory Hanchett issued a decision Friday finding that KayCee Groven’s supervisor, Thomas Farnham, repeatedly sexually harassed her over a period of years and that club officers and trustees did nothing to help her. The Havre Eagles Club has 14 days to appeal. The club’s attorney, Lindsay Lorang, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Hanchett found that Farnham repeatedly grabbed Groven’s breasts, buttocks and crotch and while on out-of-town trips tried to convince her to have sex with him. Farnham pleaded guilty to sexual assault in October 2009. He is still the club’s general manager.
State lawmakers exercise along ‘Oregon Trail’
SALEM, Ore. — Many Oregon state lawmakers and their staffs are hitting the Oregon Trail every day — in a way. They’re walking two miles a day for 100 days for exercise and to remember pioneers who made the trek along the Oregon Trail in the 1800s. The Statesman Journal reports participants log their mileage on the Capitol intranet. Each time they reach a landmark along the historic trail legislative Human Resource Director Lore Christopher sends out a brief history lesson about the stop. For example, St. Marys, Kan., was the last community before Salt Lake. Christopher says more than 500 people collected pedometers from her office to measure the miles.
Southern Oregon man gets 3 years in fraud scheme
MEDFORD, Ore. — An Oregon man has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for bilking friends and family members out of retirement savings in an illegal scheme to develop land belonging to American Indian tribes in Montana. The Mail Tribune reports that 32-year-old Gilbert Birdinground Pugliano of Medford used the money for expensive cars and vacations. Police said Pugliano has roots in an American Indian community in Montana, and it may have helped him convince victims that what he was doing was legitimate — even though it is illegal to purchase tribal land for development. Pugliano was indicted last fall on various counts of racketeering, aggravated theft, securities fraud and selling unlicensed securities. Pugliano apologized during his sentencing Monday, but some victims in the courtroom called out “liar” as he spoke.
Milton-Freewater police want daytime kid curfew
MILTON-FREEWATER, Ore. — Milton-Freewater police are asking the city council to approve a daytime curfew for juveniles. It would be in effect during school hours during the school year. And it would be in addition to the existing curfew between midnight and 5 a.m. for anyone under 18. Police Chief Doug Boedigheimer says it would reduce petty crime and help keep kids in school. KVEW reports anyone caught violating the curfew would be escorted back to school or home and possibly given a citation.
Moose wandering Coeur d’Alene tranquilized, relocated
COEUR d’ALENE — A yearling moose that brazenly walked by the Kootenai County sheriff’s campus in Coeur d’Alene was hit with a tranquilizer dart, wandered into the street and leaned onto the trunk of a woman’s car when the drug kicked in. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports Idaho Fish and Game officers were called Monday morning after the 600-pound moose walked by the sheriff’s department. Regional Conservation Officer Craig Walker says the moose was darted while lying near a day care. The animal then got up, wandered onto U.S. 95 and collapsed against the trunk of a car stopped at a red light. The moose then rolled onto the pavement, where IDFG officers rolled it into a net and loaded it into a truck. It was released north of Coeur d’Alene.