Rogue Valley News, Thursday, Nov. 21 – Oregon Counties Win $Billion Logging Lawsuit Over State of Oregon

The latest news stories from the Rogue Valley and around the state from RogueValleyMagazine.com

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Rogue Valley Weather

Today
Sunny, with a high near 49. Clear overnight with a low of 23.

Friday
Sunny, with a high near 50.

Saturday
Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. Calm wind.

Sunday
Partly sunny, with a high near 54.

Today’s Headlines

Concluded investigations by the Jackson County District Attorney and Medford Police have sent Cara Ruettgers to jail on possible embezzlement charges including Aggravated Theft. 

In January of 2019, the Medford Police Department was alerted of a possible embezzlement involving with the Rogue Valley Youth Hockey Association. The board of directors discovered missing funds, believed to have been stolen by Ruettgers, who was the treasurer and then president over the course of 2016 to 2019.

The Department of Justice assisted with the case by providing a forensic accounting of the non-profit organization. The  investigation revealed Ruettgers did embezzle approximately $57,000 during her time with the organization.

On November 8th, 2019, Ruettgers was lodged in jail for one count of Aggravated Theft.  The case was forwarded  to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office for review and prosecution of charges.

On November 20, 2019, a Grand Jury indicated Ruettgers on the following charges:

  • 4 counts of Aggravated Theft
  • Identity Theft
  • Forgery
  • Theft 2nd Degree

Suspect:
Ruettgers, Cara Jane
43 years old
Medford Resident

This case did not involve the Southern Oregon Spartans Junior Hockey Team, which is a Tier II Junior Hockey team with a similar name to the organization involved.

Fourteen counties that claimed Oregon deprived them of revenue for decades by limiting logging won a $1 billion lawsuit against the state on Wednesday.

The four-week trial in Albany was focused on three words “greatest permanent value” and what they meant when the phrase was written into law 80 years ago. Lawyers for the counties said it meant maximizing revenue from logging.

Attorneys for the state argued that it included other factors such as recreation and habitat, and they accused counties of wanting clear-cutting of forests and of not caring about endangered species. The law enabled the state to adopt about 1,000 square miles from 15 counties that receive 64% of the logging revenues. The counties claimed the state breached the contact in 1998 when it adopted a rule defining greatest permanent value to mean healthy, productive and sustainable forest ecosystems that provide a social, economic and environmental benefits to the people of Oregon.Their lawsuit sought $674 million in lost revenue since 2001, and $392 million in future damages through 2069.

Two former Jacksonville, Oregon residents were sentenced today in federal court for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic marijuana grown in Southern Oregon to Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina, and launder the proceeds.

Alex David Koplin, 34, was sentenced to 31 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release and Tina Marie Waterfield, 38, was sentenced to 5 years of probation.

According to court documents, in approximately 2011, Koplin moved from Georgia to Oregon to work in the marijuana industry. Within a few years, he purchased property in Jackson County, Oregon and started a marijuana farm. Koplin worked with other marijuana growers to combine harvests, broker sales, and transport marijuana from Oregon to other states. Between November 2014 and June 2016, Koplin coordinated the sale and interstate transport of approximately 260 kilograms of marijuana.

While investigating the interstate trafficking conspiracy, authorities discovered Waterfield, Koplin’s then-girlfriend, was receiving thousands of dollars in out-of-state payments to her PayPal account. Investigators later learned that Waterfield unlawfully manufactured, sold, and shipped marijuana edibles to East Coast customers and laundered the proceeds in an attempt to conceal their source. Between 2013 and 2016, Waterfield’s bank accounts showed approximately $494,000 in unexplained deposits.

In April 2017, investigators executed a federal search warrant on Koplin and Waterfield’s residence and seized marijuana plants; unprocessed cut marijuana; butane honey oil, a cannabis extract; and $44,226 in U.S. currency.

On August 19, 2019, both defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Koplin also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

As part of his plea agreement, Koplin agreed to pay $150,000 to satisfy a forfeiture money judgment. Waterfield agreed to forfeit the $44,226 in U.S. currency seized from the residence she shared with Koplin.

OR-7’s Rogue Pack was officially blamed for the killings of two cow calves found in two consecutive days last week in the Rancheria area east of Butte Falls, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

A 300-pound calf was found dead Wednesday in a private grass pasture, with its abdomen open and organs gone but otherwise was largely intact, according to ODFW. It suffered bite marks and scratches consistent with a wolf attack, according to an ODFW report on the incident.

The following morning a 250-pound calf was found dead with very similar injuries on private grass-land pasture, according to the ODFW.

Both kills were in the Rogue Pack’s general area of activity, and both depredations were blamed on the Rogue Pack, the ODFW reported late Monday.

The kills are the 14th and 15th attributed to the Rogue Pack since March.  The Rogue Pack and other wolves in Western Oregon are federally protected as endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

State and federal wildlife biologists have been trying to trap one of the Rogue Pack wolves in order to fit it with a GPS collar for tracking purposes, but they have not been able to do so.

OR-7 gained international fame for its trek from northeast Oregon to southwest Oregon and Northern California before it found a mate and settled in eastern Jackson and western Klamath counties.

In recent years, however, the pack’s livestock kills have made it notorious as the largest inflicter of livestock predation in Oregon in 2018, with its 11 livestock and dog kills nearly twice that of any other Oregon pack that calendar year.

Pump prices are cheaper in most states including Oregon this week as an increase in gasoline stocks has put downward pressure on prices.

For the week, the national average slips one-and-a-half cents to $2.60 a gallon. The Oregon average falls a nickel to $3.26. This is the third-largest weekly decline in the nation. Oregon is one of 39 states where prices are lower now than a week ago. Oregons 5 cent decrease was the third-largest weekly decline in the country. California with a 9 cent decrease has the largest week-over-week decline.

CITY OF GRANTS PASS OPEN BURN WINDOW REINSTATED THROUGH SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 24TH.

Due to predicted farmable weather, the city burn window is now scheduled for Saturday, November 16 through Sunday, November 24th.

Those that hold a permit may burn to start this Saturday pending DEQ approval of air quality. DEQ Burn information is available at 541-476-9663. The burn information is updated at 7 AM daily.

Those burning need to have a water source, hand tools, and phone to call 911 if the burn is out of control.

Persons still needing a permit may purchase one starting immediately at the Parkway Public Safety Station (800 E Park St). Our office hours are 8 AM to 12 PM, 1 PM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday.

Please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at 541-450-6200 for more information.

Heading to the great outdoors on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving? You can fish, crab or clam for free anywhere in the state!

Oregon Fish and Wildlife hosts annual Free Fishing Days the two days after Thanksgiving. That means on Friday and Saturday, November 29th and 30th no fishing licenses or tags are required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. If you have relatives or friends visiting Oregon from out of state they can come along too as non-residents are also free on these two Free Fishing days.

Around the state

One lucky person who purchased a Powerball ticket in Aurora has two days to claim their $50,000 prize before it is set to expire.

Tomorrow at 5 p.m. the winning Powerball ticket will expire meaning the person who purchased the ticket in Aurora last year will be unable to claim the $50,000 prize. Oregon Lottery tickets are valid for one year from the date of the drawing. The $50,000 ticket was purchased in Aurora on the evening of November 20th and as of Tuesday no one had claimed the prize.

There are several other unclaimed Powerball prizes in addition to the one set to expire this week. In February, a $100,000 Powerball prize sold in Portland will expire. In March, another $50,000 Powerball prize sold in Medford will also expire.
All unclaimed prizes go into the state’s Economic Development Fund.

Add Fire Safety to your Holiday Menu

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and State Fire Marshal Jim Walker wants to remind Oregonians to add fire safety to their cooking and holiday meal plans.

“The holiday is a time to give thanks and enjoy friends and family,” said Walker. “By following basic fire-prevention tips, you can keep yourself and loved ones safe and avoid cooking-related fires.”

In Oregon, cooking was the leading known cause of residential structure fires over the past five years (2013-17), causing an average of 19 percent of Oregon’s total residential structure fires, according to state fire agency data submitted to the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

On average, there are 533 cooking-caused residential structure fires in Oregon per year.

Statewide the range/stove was the most frequently reported equipment involved in cooking fires. Of these, 73 percent were from an electric-powered range/stove.

All told, there were 10 deaths in Oregon from residential cooking fires during the past five years, or an average of two deaths per year.

Cooking safety tips:

  • Don’t leave cooking food on your stovetop unattended, especially when frying and sautéing with oil.
  • While your turkey is cooking, check on it frequently.
  • Use a timer to monitor cooking times when simmering, baking, or roasting foods that require long cooking times. Check the stove or oven frequently.
  • Remember to keep items that may catch fire, like oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels, at least three feet from the cooking area.
  • Roll up your shirt sleeves and avoid using clothing that may come in contact with open flames or other heat sources.
  • Don’t cook if you are drinking alcohol or using other substances that make you drowsy.
  • Keep children three feet or more away from all cooking areas, hot food, and liquids to avoid burns.
  • Keep pot and pan handles turned inward on the stove to avoid bumping them and spilling hot foods.
  • Heat cooking oil slowly and never leave it unattended.

If you have a cooking fire:

  • Always keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires. Smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and don’t move the pan until it is completely cool.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire; it can splatter the grease and spread the fire.
  • In the event of a fire in your oven or microwave, turn the appliance off and keep the doors closed.
  • When in doubt, get out! Call 9-1-1 after you leave.

Make sure you have smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area, and in every bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and replace them if they are 10 years old or older.

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