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Oregon officials discuss upcoming Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

COOS BAY — After being dropped by Congress in December 2017, the $1.3 billion Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will be voted on in the next couple of months.

If passed, the state of Oregon will receive $52 million in federal funds that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will use to conserve and manage fish and wildlife species.

“We have a very narrow statutory funding stream, which has largely been over the decades from hunter and angler license dollars as well as federal funds…The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would for the first time in my career allow us to fully implement the Oregon Conservation strategy developed 15 years ago,” director of ODFW Curt Melcher said

ODFW would not receive $52 million up front, instead they would receive $26 million a year for the next two years. Also, the state must match $13 million to receive the federal grant.

According to Melcher the current biennial budget for ODFW is approximately $340 million. So ODFW would be receiving around $65 million more biennially if the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act passes.

“That is a significant investment in actual non-game program enhancements. That’s significant investment in additional fish and wildlife enforcement…Frankly it will be from my perspective it will be the watershed moment in fish and wildlife conservation in the United States,” Melcher said.  

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). Representatives drafted the bill to combat habitat loss, invasive species, disease, and severe weather that have taken a significant toll on birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies and bees throughout the country.

The $1.3 billion funding the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would come from revenue collected from oil and gas activities on federal lands and waters.

“Our goal is truly to begin to address species conservation in a proactive fashion to avoid the reactive positions that we largely end up in with species listings or petitions for listings under the federal Endangered Species Act,” Melcher said.

The bill has seen significant widespread support, and is likely to pass in the House of Representatives. However, if all goes well at the federal level for the bill the state legislature will have to find $13 million to match the federal grant.

“In the upcoming February session, you’re going to see a bill introduced, that’ll be House Bill 4015. It’s going to be introduced as a bill at the request of the House Committee on environment and energy…There are a number of us at the legislative level in Oregon to make sure this bill passes. They want to get an allocation hopefully a general fund in the amount of $13 million so we can secure this federal funds for $26 million,” Mark Labhart, member of legislative committee for environment and energy, said.

Labhart is confident that the state will elect to pay the $13 million match grant because there is of the nationwide interest in passing this bill.

“On both the House and the Senate side there are going to be strong supporters of this bill. So I’m optimistic. Yes, it’s a short session, and yes it’s going to be a difficult lift but were going to give it our best shot to get this to happen,” Labhart said.

Hunters and fishermen have been supportive of generally supportive of the act, as better funding for ODFW could mean better management of species populations. It could also prolong the ever rising costs of fishing and hunting licenses. 

Conservation Director of the Oregon Hunters Association Jim Akenson said, “This bill is very promising from our perspective in part because it’s an opportunity to share the burden of the expense of managing our states wildlife. Currently 80 percent of the funding for our states fish and wildlife agency comes from sportsman fees such as hunting and fishing licenses.”

Akenson hopes that increased funding will help restore sage grouse populations.

“Sage grouse are still hunted in our state. There’s approximately 800 tags available for sage grouse hunting, but hunters first and foremost are interested in the recovery of that species,” Akenson said.

Coos Bay resident Anita McHaney plays Wheel of Fortune
Anita McHaney will be on the show tonight at 7:30 p.m.

COOS BAY – A Coos Bay resident can now checkoff “play Wheel of Fortune” from her bucket list.

“This has been a lifelong dream of mine,” Anita McHaney told The World. “I’ve been watching this show since I was a kid and this was just a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

McHaney, a library media clerk at the Coos Bay School District, first started chasing her dream to be on the show when she still lived in Colorado and saw that the Wheel Mobile was at an RV park. She drove there and waited in line, but never had her number called.

“I tried out again at least six or seven years ago after I saw something on TV that they were holding tryouts down in Florence,” McHaney said, referring to the town north of Coos Bay. “I went and made my rounds, did a good job and they called for a second audition because trying out for the show is a process.”

Jillian Ward / JILLIAN WARD The World 

Anita McHaney, library media clerk at the Coos Bay School District, played Wheel of Fortune on Jan. 12. Her episode airs tonight at 7:30 p.m.

As she explained it, first would-be contestants wait in line for their number to be called, then run on stage and do a dry run of the show. After McHaney tried out in Florence almost a decade ago, she never heard back.

Then in the summer of 2015 she saw that Wheel of Fortune tryouts would be back in Florence at the Three Rivers Casino. From there she made the second auditions in Portland where, by the end, there were less than 50 people.

“That’s where they really weeded it out,” she said. “Throughout the whole process they are taking a lot of things into consideration like if you can be loud enough when saying letters, can make good choices, and basically make sure you know the rules and how to play the game.”

By the end of the second round of auditions, potential contestants were given a written test with wheel puzzles. McHaney said she aced it.

“I was on a roll that time,” she laughed. “When you watch the show and think that person doesn’t know how to play, that’s not the case at all. They know how to play if they make it that far because they won’t let anyone on who doesn’t.”

Since passing the second round, McHaney was approved to go on the show. The opportunity to go lasts for 18 months where contestants are asked two weeks in advance if they can make it to Los Angeles, Calif. to play the game. Contestants can say no within those 18 months until it fits into their schedule.

For McHaney, she was asked twice last year to go but wasn’t able to make it work. That is until she got another call just before Christmas asking if she could make it to the Jan. 12 shoot.

Now that she could do.

“I was nervous because what if I’m awful and everyone laughs at me?” she remembered feeling after committing to be there earlier this month. “Then I thought, I’m not going to let that stop me. I have to be able to laugh at myself.”

McHaney had to leave Coos Bay and not tell anyone where she was going.

“No one even knows how I did until the episode runs (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m.,” she said.

As for actually being on the show, she said the set was a lot smaller than expected and meeting the hosts was a “cool experience.”

“Vanna White came on set and was very down to earth,” McHaney said. “She had her hair up and no makeup on. I wouldn’t recognize her if not for her voice. She said ‘Yes, I look like a normal person.’ And Pat was just Pat. It was neat because I watch the show every night with my family.”

McHaney and the other 20 contestants picked out golf balls from a bucket telling them which episode they would be filmed in and when during the day. The show filmed six episodes that Friday and McHaney was in the third.

“They do hair and makeup, they fed us,” she said. “During commercials they paused and took us off stage to give us water and fluff us up.”

McHaney said one of the more surprising parts was what the contestants stood on behind the wheel. Each stood on a floor with hydraulic lifts which is what makes them all look like the same height and puts them at the same level to spin the wheel.

“Some say it’s easier to play the game at home but I don’t think it was,” she said. “It went quickly. We were only up there for 25 minutes. I’m happy with how I did and was really glad I got to play. It was once in a lifetime.”

Watch McHaney play tonight on KVAL at 7:30 p.m.

Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet connects community cultures

COOS BAY — "Connecting Community Cultures" was not only the theme of the 2018 Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet, but it was a challenge to Oregon's Bay Area to embrace the diversity that makes our community unique.

“I picked my theme due to the fact that the Chamber has been developing this idea for some time," said newly inaugurated Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President Tom Burdett at the 2018 Chamber Awards Banquet Saturday night at The Mill Casino-Hotel.

"In a very short time frame, due to running late this evening, I wish to convey that I wish for all of us to connect with community cultures. We have the capability to join together even more than we have to better ourselves at present and for those in the future. I would ask that all business owners/members participate in one of the various committees that the Chamber offers. If you as an owner are too busy, then allow one of your employees to participate on your behalf with pay/stipend and help develop the future for our success. It is what we need to do, can do and it will be added value to this area.

"So, let’s all go to work on our future success for we deserve it. Peace and Love everyone.”

Burdett succeeded 2017 Chamber president Jessica Engelke.

During the awards presentation, Tower Ford was honored as the Chamber's 2017 Business of the Year.

Other award recipients included Lonni Corona, recipient of Chamber Member of the Year; Teri Jones, Educator of the Year and the Ford Family Foundation President's Award.

A new award, the Richard "Mac" McIntosh Education Legacy Impact Award - in honor of the late Richard "Mac" McIntosh who passed away in 2017 after a valiant two-year battle against pancreatic cancer —  was presented to the McIntosh Family.

The Prefontaine Award was given to George Legesse, a former North Bend High School Student.

Performing their first time as the event was Joanna Goslin and Bay City Swing, The evening’s emcee was Clark Walworth.

A sold-out crowd in excess of 300 attended the annual event at The Mill's Salmon Room.


Former Bay Area Chamber of Commerce president Jessica Engelke hugs new president Tom Burdett as she hands over the presidents gavel Saturday night at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce 2018 Banquet Awards Ceremony.


Trump calls for unity on immigration, infrastructure in State of the Union

WASHINGTON — Addressing a deeply divided nation, President Donald Trump summoned the country to a "new American moment" of unity in his first State of the Union address, challenging Congress to make good on long-standing promises to fix a fractured immigration system and warning darkly of evil forces seeking to undermine America's way of life.

Trump's address Tuesday night blended self-congratulation and calls for optimism amid a growing economy with ominous warnings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and violent immigrants living in the United States illegally. He cast the debate over immigration — an issue that has long animated his most ardent supporters — as a battle between heroes and villains, leaning heavily on the personal stories of White House guests in the crowd. He praised a law enforcement agent who arrested more than 100 gang members, and he recognized the families of two alleged gang victims.

He also spoke forebodingly of catastrophic dangers from abroad, warning that North Korea would "very soon" threaten the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles.

"The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country to help the needy, the struggling and the underprivileged all over the world," Trump said. "But as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America's children, America's struggling workers and America's forgotten communities."

Trump addressed the nation with tensions running high on Capitol Hill. An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the "Dreamers" — young people living in the U.S. illegally ahead of a new Feb. 8 deadline for funding operations. The parties have also clashed this week over the plans of Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a classified memo on the Russia investigation involving Trump's presidential campaign — a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.

The controversies that have dogged Trump — and the ones he has created— have overshadowed strong economic gains during his first year in office. His approval ratings have hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency, and just 3 in 10 Americans said the United States was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In the same survey, 67 percent of Americans said the country was more divided because of Trump.

At times, Trump's address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second. He devoted significant time to touting the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, promising the plan will "provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses." He also highlighted the decision made early in his first year to withdraw the U.S. from a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact, declaring: "The era of economic surrender is totally over."

He spoke about potential agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, including a call for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. He touched only briefly on issues like health care that have been at the center of the Republican Party's policy agenda for years.

Tackling the sensitive immigration debate that has roiled Washington, Trump redoubled his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants — but only as part of a package that would also require increased funding for border security, including a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the nation's visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system.

"Americans are dreamers too," Trump said, in an apparent effort to reclaim the term used to describe the young immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

A former New York Democrat, the president also played to the culture wars that have long illuminated American politics, alluding to his public spat with professional athletes who led protests against racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, declaring that paying tribute to the flag is a "civic duty."

In a post-speech rebuttal, Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, was seeking to undercut Trump's optimistic tone and remind voters of the personal insults and attacks often leveled by the president.

"Bullies may land a punch," Kennedy said. "They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future."

The arc of Trump's 80-minute speech featured the personal stories of men and women who joined first lady Melania Trump in the audience. The guests included a New Mexico policeman and his wife who adopted a baby from parents who suffered from opioid addiction, and Ji Seong-ho, a defector from North Korea and outspoken critic of the Kim Jong-un government.

On international affairs, Trump warned of the dangers from "rogue regimes," like Iran and North Korea, terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, and "rivals" like China and Russia "that challenge our interests, our economy and our values." Calling on Congress to lift budgetary caps and boost spending on the military, Trump said that "unmatched power is the surest means of our defense."