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Children eager to celebrate Native American Heritage Month
Schools celebrate Native American Heritage Month

COOS COUNTY – Coos County is unique because it has two of the nine federally recognized Native American tribes in Oregon.

Coos Bay School District’s Attendance Advocate Breana Landrum pointed this out last week while surrounded by children at the Boys and Girls Club, all of whom were eager to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

“November is Native American Heritage Month,” Landrum said. “The Coos Bay and North Bend school districts are working alongside the Boys and Girls Club to teach youth about that special heritage here in our county.”

Both school districts spent last week holding activities and assemblies to educate students about the importance of Native Americans, their history, and their local impact.

“We’ve gone into classrooms to talk with the kids about what it means to be Native American and what it means to have a heritage,” Landrum said. “We encouraged them to go home and ask their parents what their heritage is so they can understand why it’s important.”

Last week, Landrum participated in classroom activities covering Native Americans across the United States and localized lessons such as teaching students how to make a deer nosed canoe, the same that were used by local tribes.

Both the Coquille and Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians participated in the events. During after school events last week at the Boys and Girls Club, tribal members drummed with students, taught about traditional tools and native plants. A member from the Coquille Indian Tribe taught about their native language on both Wednesday and Thursday.

“Then we also did beading with the kids and encouraged those who made bracelets to give them to a friend,” Landrum said. “It’s important to teach these parts of our local culture, to show these kids that we are surrounded by so much history, especially when people don’t often talk about it. We need to experience the culture here and show that it exists. Not only does it expose the kids to it who have never seen it before, but it honors the children who do have it in their culture and heritage at home.”

Coos County hosted another free waste disposal event

COOS BAY — The Beaver Hill Transfer site, off of U.S. Highway 101, held a free house hold waste collection event on Saturday  

Coos County holds around eight of these collection events a year, the next of which being in February. It serves as an opportunity for county residents to dispose of household wastes like paint, various auto-related fluids, and aerosol sprays.

The transfer site makes disposing household waste very easy. residents looking to dispose of waste simply drive into the open garage of the household waste facility and shut off their car, the staff then unloads the waste from their vehicle and they drive right on through. 

The collection event ran from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and saw over thirty people come out to properly dispose of their household wastes for free.

“It’s actually a pretty slow day, usually when we hold these events we around 80 or so people,” equipment operator at the Beaver Hill Transfer site Clint Johnson said.

At the transfer site there is a separate area off to the side where household wastes are collected that just opened last April.

According to Johnson the most common hazardous household waste people bring in is paint.

“We accept household paint here at all times on site for free. We also accept motor oil and antifreeze every day for free too,” Johnson said.

While some household wastes are always free, many aren’t. Johnson said that outside of a free collection event a pickup truck bed full of household waste costs right around $30.

Certain things cannot be brought to these events, like ammunition, asbestos, explosives, fireworks, medical waste, and radioactive waste.

The transfer site asks that in the future when they have events like these people call and make an appointment to dump. While it was a slow day last weekend, over the summer when the weather is nice as many as 175 people have shown up to dispose of waste. So, if appointments are made they can coordinate the flow of traffic better.

One thing that Johnson says very few people know about is the household waste reuse room. Essentially the reuse room is a closet full of unused household waste products that the public can come and take for free. Things like antifreeze, motor oil, and various cleaning products grace the shelves of the reuse room.

“This stuff is free. If you came in here and wanted antifreeze, there you go. There’s not much in here right now, but we are trying to get the public more aware of what we’ve got going here,” Johnson said.

Endangered orcas compete with seals, sea lions for salmon
Endangered orcas compete with seals, sea lions for salmon

SEATTLE (AP) — Harbor seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off: They're devouring more of the salmon prized by a unique but fragile population of endangered orcas.

Competition with other marine mammals for the same food may be a bigger problem than fishing, at least in recent years, for southern resident killer whales that spend time in Washington state's Puget Sound, a new study suggests.

Researchers used models to estimate that from 1975 to 2015, marine mammals along the U.S. West Coast ate dramatically more Chinook salmon - from 6,100 metric tons to 15,200 metric tons, according to a study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.

In the same period, salmon caught by commercial and recreational fishing from Northern California and Oregon to Alaska declined from 16,400 to 9,600 metric tons.

"This really quantifies yet another pressure on recovering the salmon population," said co-author Isaac Kaplan, a research fishery biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, part of NOAA Fisheries. Other threats to salmon include habitat damage, dams and pollution.

The emphasis typically has been on managing how fishing affects salmon. But this study brings the rest of the ecosystem, including predators, into the picture, Kaplan said.

Researchers have known marine mammals gorge on salmon in certain hotspots, including the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington. But the predators may be eating even more in the ocean than thought.

The authors estimated how much salmon in different life stages four marine mammals ate based on a number of assumptions, including their weight, diet and size. The species included California sea lions, Stellar sea lions, harbor seals and fish-eating killer whales.

The study does a very good job of accounting for who eats Chinook salmon during its various life stages, said Andrew Trites, professor and director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of British Columbia. He was not involved in the study. "They've identified some of the major players, but they haven't identified them all," such as other fish, marine birds and porpoises, he said.

The study found killer whales, which increased from 292 to 644, ate the most salmon in terms of biomass, or weight, while harbor seals ate the greatest numbers of salmon, mostly juvenile fish.

Scientists also found certain populations of fish-eating resident killer whales in southeast Alaska and Canada waters ate a lot more salmon. But the orcas that spend time in Puget Sound ate about the same volume they did 40 years ago, mostly because their numbers have been relatively constant.

Puget Sound orcas, also known as southern resident killer whales, face greater challenges than their orca counterparts farther north because they have a narrower menu of fish stocks and fewer available fish compared with what they need, Kaplan said.

These whales have struggled due to lack of food, pollution and impacts from boats since they were listed as endangered in Canada in 2003 and 2005 in the U.S. There are now just 76, down from a high of 140 decades ago.

Marine mammal protection efforts including the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 have meant good news for other populations. Harbor seals, for example, increased 210,000 to 355,000.

Puget Sound orcas consume adult Chinook salmon - also called king salmon because they're the largest - that migrate back to Puget Sound waters.

"Every other one of those predators has a chance to eat that salmon before. They're the last ones to sit at the table and get a chance to eat," said Brandon Chasco, lead author of the study and an Oregon State University postdoctoral student.

Meanwhile, harbor seals feast on millions of smaller, juvenile salmon as they migrate to the ocean from local rivers.

"They're first in line to eat the prey before they become adults," Chasco said. "The question is whether those fish would have died in the ocean, or if they're taking prey out of the mouths of predators farther downstream."

The authors say efforts to restore threatened salmon runs may be masked by the increasing numbers eaten by these marine mammals.

The study was paid for by the Pacific Salmon Commission, which was formed by the governments of Canada and the United States in 1985.

GOP-targeted deduction used by many tax filers in most states

ATLANTA — A popular deduction targeted in the GOP's overhaul of the tax code is used by more than a quarter of all filers in a majority of states, including many led by Republicans where some residents eventually could see their federal tax bills rise.

The exact effect in every state isn't known, in part because of differences in the Senate and House versions of the bill. But the change to the deduction for state and local taxes could alter the bottom lines for millions of taxpayers who itemize.

Residents in high-tax, Democratic-led states appear to be the hardest hit. But some filers also could be left paying more in traditional Republican states, such as Georgia and Utah where about a third of taxpayers claim the deduction.

"It's a bad deal for middle class families and for most Georgians," said Georgia state Rep. Bob Trammell, leader of the House Democrats.

He said Republicans are eliminating the state and local deduction to help pay for tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy.

How many winners and losers are in each state depends in large part on another aspect of the Republican tax overhaul that would nearly double the standard deduction — to about $12,000 for individuals and about $24,000 for married couples.

Republicans say that provision would be a net benefit for most tax filers.

The Tax Policy Center, run by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, has estimated that the number of people itemizing deductions would drop by three-quarters. Some of those taxpayers could get a larger deduction under the Republican plan, even though they no longer could claim a break for state and local taxes.

"Based on what I have seen, it might actually help some Georgians" to replace the state-and-local tax break with a higher standard deduction, said Georgia state Rep. Terry England, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Yet estimates by the Tax Policy Center and a nonpartisan congressional analysis say some taxpayers eventually will end up owing more in federal taxes under the GOP plans.

The left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said changes to the state and local tax deduction under the House bill would contribute to one of every five taxpayers in the hardest hit states getting a higher tax bill. While most of those states are led by Democrats, Republican-led Georgia and Utah, and the swing state of Virginia were among them.

Democratic lawmakers said that any initial tax relief felt by the middle class or working-class families will eventually disappear. In Georgia, for example, an estimated 9 percent of filers would pay higher taxes in 2018, rising to 22 percent by 2027, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The state and local tax deduction is just one of many provisions targeted for change under legislation that passed the House earlier in the week and is pending in the Senate. The House version would repeal the deduction for income and sales taxes while capping the property tax deduction at $10,000. The Senate bill would end deductions for all state and local taxes.

Most tax filers currently take the standard federal deduction of $6,300 per individual or $12,600 for married couples. But some reap larger tax breaks by itemizing deductions for state and local taxes, medical expenses, charitable contributions and interest paid on home mortgages.

The state and local tax break is the largest of those. About 44 million taxpayers claimed deductions totaling about $550 billion for state and local taxes paid in 2015, according to the most recent IRS data.

The top 10 states with the highest average state and local tax deductions all voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in last year's election. New York led the way with an average state and local tax deduction of more than $22,000, followed by Connecticut, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

But when analyzed by the percentage of taxpayers claiming the deduction, several states won by Trump rank in the top third nationally. In reliably Republican Utah, 35 percent of taxpayers claimed the deduction for state and local taxes. That figure was 33 percent in Georgia and 31 percent in Wisconsin. Thirty-five states had at least one-quarter of their taxpayers claim the deduction.

Because of its widespread effect, debate over curtailing the deduction already is creeping into competitive 2018 elections.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin has warned that repealing the deduction could lead to a tax increase for many state residents.

The left-leaning Wisconsin Budget Project has estimated that the Senate plan overall eventually would leave nearly 300,000 Wisconsin taxpayers with higher federal income taxes. Baldwin said the plan will disproportionally benefit corporations and the wealthiest.

"That's not right and it's not fair," she said during a news conference Friday in Milwaukee.

One of her Republican challengers, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, has signed a letter encouraging the tax repeal. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a tax overhaul supporter who is seeking re-election, has been criticized by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now. The group says repealing the deduction would have "the net effect of a massive property tax increase for Wisconsin homeowners."