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Assemblyman Barry Keene released copies of letters he sent to North Coast environmentalists, including a representative of the locally based Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and timber companies that proposed a definitive test of the effects of dioxin-containing herbicides in an actual forest environment far from people.

“Everyone has an absolute right not to be sprayed with herbicides. Homes, water supplies, domestic and food animals and crops should not be contaminated with any amount of dioxin,” said Keene (D-ELk), who represented the North Coast.

Keene’s letters said the proposed test “would be an extremely thorough one, with both proponents and opponents of these chemicals given an opportunity to participate in its design.”

“If both proponents and opponents of herbicide use could agree in advance to the design of this proposed test, to a firm target date, and to accept the results as definitive and conclusive, I believe we could secure adequate state funding for the test,” Keene wrote.

“Under these circumstances it might be possible to arrange an interim moratorium on all other aerial application of these herbicides on forests lands until the test is completed,” Keene’s letter added.

Keene noted that responsible scientists agreed that dioxin was toxic, but disagreed on whether it photoreduced to nontoxic components in sunlight, whether it bioaccumulated in the food chain, and how far it drifted under varying wind conditions in the forest. The proposed test would attempt to answer these questions conclusively, he said.

“If an agreement on a conclusive test cannot be reached, I believe the issue will be resolved through the state and federal political process, with unpredictable results. Meanwhile, this issue will continue to create division among Californians, especially North Coast residents,” Keene wrote.

“Human health must come first,” Keene said.

The previous fall Keene had arranged a voluntary, statewide moratorium on aerial application of 2,4,5-T and other dioxin-containing herbicides on forest lands. Timber companies declined to extend the moratorium that spring while herbicide opponents were devoting their energies to attempts to pass Senator Peter Behr’s bill that would have banned aerial application. The Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee later defeated Behr’s bill.

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The Southern Humboldt Unified School District’s board of trustees renewed their commitment to place schools in outlying areas at their meeting. A report filed by business manager Howard French showed the district planned to proceed with the sale of surplus school property and hinted at an early date for completing those transactions.

Earlier that summer the board agreed to sell ex-school sites and place the netted money into the development of satellite schools.

The trustees’ plan called for the sale of district property at Fort Seward, Eel Rock and Myer’s Flat and for the trade of the current property at Ettersburg for an appropriate school-site parcel. The board reportedly intended to place a “relocatable” classroom in the Ettersburg area.

Before the district properties would be sold (through the bid process), the trustees wanted assurance from the state that the money realized from sales could be retained by the Southern Humboldt district. Sales of school property typically ended up in the hands of the state.

Special dispensation could be granted school districts by the state for expressed reasons and funds could be kept at the local level.

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Prescribed burning of dry brush, dead trees and other wildfire fuels like those that made that summer’s wildland fires so disastrous would become a reality on a large scale under a bill by Assemblyman Barry Keene.

It was passed with the support of farmers and ranchers, business, California Indians (who had used controlled burning techniques for centuries) and environmentalists, Keene said.

Keene’s bill created an ambitious program designed to encourage private landowners to burn wildfire fuels with state help during damp weather.

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