GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The Bureau of Land Management has released a funding opportunity inviting new public and private partners to help support the agency’s mission to manage and protect wild horses and burros on public lands. The funding opportunity is open to a variety of organizations, including local and state governments, Native American tribes, other federal agencies and non-profit organizations, among others.
“The BLM has a long history of partnering with national and community-based organizations to help manage and protect wild horses and burros,” said Nada Culver, BLM Deputy Director for Policy. “We are excited to announce this new, simpler and more streamlined process to partner with the BLM on projects to improve the conditions for our nation’s wild horses and burros. I encourage all those who are interested in supporting the well-being of America’s Living Legends to submit a proposal.”
Partnerships formed through this funding opportunity will support critical activities important to the management of wild horses and burros. Proposed projects could include activities such as establishing training programs for wild horses and burros, facilitating the placement of excess animals into private care or assisting with management efforts on public lands, including fertility control application and building range improvements. Applications to care for excess wild horses and burros in off-range facilities, as well as proposals to fund research, are not eligible under this funding opportunity.
Applicants may propose to partner with BLM field, district and national offices. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact the BLM subject matter expert in the relevant office where the proposed work would take place to discuss the type of projects that are available, and whether they meet the requirements under this funding opportunity.
To learn more or for instructions on how to submit a proposal, visit the Notice of Funding Opportunity on Grants.gov. The deadline to submit a proposal is 5 p.m. Eastern Time on May 28, 2021.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.
(Springfield, Ore.) April 16, 2021—PacificSource announces that it will extend its special COVID-related benefit provisions for its commercial plan members to the end of 2021. PacificSource initiated special COVID-related benefit provisions in the spring of 2020 to support its members and providers during the initial phases of the pandemic.
“This expansion of these provisions serves as a critical means of support for our members as we continue to battle the pandemic,” said Ken Provencher, president and CEO of PacificSource. “While great strides towards mitigating the spread of COVID have been made with the introduction of several safe and effective vaccines, we recognize that it will take some time for everyone to get their vaccinations and therefore extended support for our members is still very much needed.”
The following is a summary of PacificSource benefit provisions that are currently in place for PacificSource’s commercial plan members and will be extended through the end of 2021 (There are no changes for Medicaid or Medicare members at this time):
PacificSource is continuing to follow standards and recommendations from the state health authorities in addressing all issues surrounding COVID-19 and recommends that Members visit the Oregon Health Authority’s website at https://covidvaccine.oregon.gov/ for updates on the latest vaccination guidelines.
About PacificSource Health Plans: PacificSource Health Plans is an independent, not-for-profit community health plan serving the Northwest. Founded in 1933, PacificSource has local offices throughout Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington. The PacificSource family of companies employs more than 1,500 people and serves over 523,700 individuals throughout the Greater Northwest. For more information, visit PacificSource.com.
State agency failed to provide legally required sign language interpreters to those who are deaf or hard of hearing
Spokane – The Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Family Services (DCYF) will pay $300,000 and make sweeping changes to procedures for providing services to families where a parent or child is deaf or hard of hearing, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington of the Eastern District of Washington and Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman of the Western District of Washington. The settlement follows an investigation of complaints by two Washington State families about DCYF’s Child Welfare Program (CWP).
“No individual should be denied or delayed access to public services because of a disability,” said Acting United States Attorney Joseph H. Harrington for the Eastern District of Washington. “Services provided by the State of Washington whether through DCYF or other important areas of civic life must comply with the ADA and its effective communication requirements. The ADA for over thirty years has strengthened our society and this settlement should serve as a stark reminder of why this landmark legislation is so important.”
“At every step communication is key to the relationship between a family facing challenges and social workers who are trying to protect and serve children,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gorman. “It is critical whether in a home assessment, a supervised visit or a therapeutic service, that a parent who is deaf or hard of hearing be able to understand and communicate with a caseworker. DCYF has agreed to a path forward that will provide these critical services.”
According to the settlement agreement, DOJ found evidence that on more than 100 occasions between 2017 and 2019, the Child Welfare Program failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids or services, including qualified sign language interpreters, for the complainant families. The communications included high stakes interviews during investigations regarding the possible termination of parental rights and during court-ordered treatments and counseling required for reunification with children.
The investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Washington determined that the failure to provide auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, denied the complainant families equal access to DCYF’s services, programs, and activities. This failure to provide qualified interpreters in a timely manner, meant that the complainant families were not provided communication that was as effective as the agency’s communications to people without disabilities. That is the standard set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The investigation concluded that complainant families were frequently unable to participate fully in agency investigations, had unequal access to case resolutions options like mediation, and experienced delays in moving through court-ordered services such as counseling and drug treatment. DCYF employees also improperly relied on ineffective means of communication such as the use of note-writing for the parents whose primary language was ASL, or the use of family members to interpret instead of qualified interpreters. There was also evidence that the parents’ status as individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and their legitimate requests for qualified interpreters resulted in caseworkers having a negative view about the willingness of such parents to cooperate in DCYF’s investigation.
DOJ concluded that the delays and barriers to access to DCYF’s services, including resolution of investigations and visitations with their children, caused significant emotional distress to the complainant parents and their children. The investigation also reflected that these problems were likely not limited to the complainant parents but reflected a more widespread inability to communicate effectively with families with members who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Under the terms of the settlement DCYF Child Welfare Program must devise and implement, with input by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, new policies, practices, and procedures on how it will communicate effectively with constituents who have communication disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The new communications policies will follow the ADA requirements and will ensure there are a variety of resources, including appropriate auxiliary aids and services, for caseworkers to use in communicating with families. The new policy will prohibit the use of interpreters who are family members and children, as required by the ADA.
The settlement agreement also calls for DCYF to enter or maintain sufficient contractual arrangements across all the counties of Washington State to meet the expected needs for qualified interpreters. Video remote interpreting may be used following the ADA’s standards and requirements.
The settlement agreement further calls for publicizing the new communications plan, appointing an ADA coordinator, training employees on the new plan and ADA requirements, and keeping a log of when auxiliary aids and services, including interpreter services, are used. The log will be part of the information provided to the U.S. Attorney’s Offices to ensure DCYF remains in compliance with the settlement agreement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the $300,000 will be divided between the complainants in Eastern and Western Washington. Some of the money will be held in trust for two of the children whose reunification with their parents was delayed by a repeated lack of interpreters.
The Department of Children, Youth and Families cooperated fully in the investigation. The settlement was reached without DCYF admitting the conclusions or determinations mnade by the United States.
The investigation was conducted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Derrig of the Eastern District of Washington and Assistant United States Attorney Christina Fogg who serves as the Civil Rights Program Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Washington.
The U.S. Attorney’s Offices (in coordination with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice) vigorously enforce federal civil rights laws throughout Washington. These laws prohibit discrimination, protect the constitutional rights of residents, and affirm equal opportunity for all.
Portland, Ore. – Registered anglers fishing near the Tri-Cities, Washington, can fish and turn in northern pikeminnow beginning April 19 as part of an early opening trial of the 2021 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery.
The early season opener is only available to anglers registered at the Columbia Point registration station near Richland, Washington, fishing within program boundaries above McNary Dam. The regular northern pikeminnow sport reward program begins May 1.
As in previous years, the program pays registered anglers $5 to $8 for each pikeminnow that is at least nine inches long. The more fish an angler catches, the more each pikeminnow is worth. And some fish have an even bigger payout. State fish and wildlife biologists have released specially tagged northern pikeminnow into the Columbia and Snake rivers, each worth $500.
Northern pikeminnow are voracious eaters, consuming millions of young salmon and steelhead each year. Since 1990, anglers paid through the program have removed nearly 5 million pikeminnow from the Columbia and Snake rivers. The program is funded by the Bonneville Power Administration and administered by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in cooperation with the Washington and Oregon departments of fish and wildlife. It has reduced predation from pikeminnow on young salmon and steelhead by approximately 40% since it began.
If the early opener proves productive, additional stations may be considered for early opening in 2022, said Eric Winther, project lead with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Historically, large numbers of northern pikeminnow congregate near the mouth of the Yakima River early in the year,” said Winther. “We believe this early opener may provide anglers with some great harvests before those fish disperse from the area later in the season.”
Winther noted there have been several changes to station locations and operating hours for the 2021 season.
In addition to the eighteen full-time stations that operate during the five-month season, six new satellite stations will offer anglers additional pikeminnow harvest opportunities in areas with good fishing during short windows of time. These satellite stations will open at different times throughout the season. Interested anglers are encouraged to get the most up-to-date information on the program website, www.pikeminnow.org, before heading out.
Details on how to register for the program and applicable state fishing regulations are also available on the program website. Anglers will find resources on the site to help boost their fishing game, including maps, how-to videos and free fishing clinics.
For more information about the 2021 Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Fishery visit www.pikeminnow.org, or call 800-858-9015.
The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale, carbon-free hydropower from 31 federal dams in the Columbia River Basin. It also markets the output of the region’s only nuclear plant. BPA delivers this power to more than 140 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA also owns and operates more than 15,000 circuit miles of high-voltage power lines and 261 substations, and provides transmission service to more than 300 customers. In all, BPA provides nearly a third of the power generated in the Northwest. To mitigate the impacts of the federal dams, BPA implements a fish and wildlife program that includes working with its partners to make the federal dams safer for fish passage. It also pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain safe, affordable, reliable electric power for the Northwest. www.bpa.gov
Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced James Lee Crooker, age 36, was sentenced today, after having pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted production of child pornography, each involving a different victim, on June 17, 2020. Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Crooker to a 25-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a lifetime term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison.
Crooker had previously entered a guilty plea to one count of production of child pornography pertaining to one minor aged victim, and he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. However, on his motion, his conviction and sentence were vacated. Today’s 25-year sentence follows a superseding indictment, wherein he was charged with additional acts of child exploitation, several of which committed against additional victims.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, the investigation began after law enforcement received information about sexually-explicit communications on a cellular telephone between a 15-year-old developmentally delayed child and a then 32-year-old male, James Lee Crooker. Investigators quickly determined Crooker was a registered sex offender. As the investigation progressed, authorities learned that Crooker had asked the child to send him sexually explicit photographs of herself and she sent them through Facebook and Kik Messenger. She had told Crooker she was 15-years old, but he still requested the photos. She had met Crooker in person and they had discussed meeting to engage in sex. Investigators found the explicit photographs the minor victim sent on Crooker’s smartphone.
While Crooker was under investigation for the photographs produced of the 15-year old child, Facebook alerted law enforcement that Crooker was also communicating in a sexually-explicit manner with a 13-year old child in Ohio, who had also taken and sent sexually-explicit photographs to Crooker who was in Eastern Washington via Facebook, at his request.
In November, 2019, the FBI interviewed another child who resided locally and who investigators believed to be a witness to other aspects of the case. However, the child soon revealed to the FBI Agent that she too had been in a sexual relationship with Crooker, when she was 16 years old. Crooker communicated with her primarily via Facebook. Crooker asked her for sexually explicit photographs repeatedly.
At sentencing Chief Judge Bastian noted he felt compelled to protect the public and provide adequate deterrence from future misconduct. Judge Bastian told Crooker he gave him credit for pleading guilty but noted, “you have accepted responsibility reluctantly and late.” Crooker had commented he knew it was time for him to grow up, to which Judge Bastian responded, that was good, but he had victimized children who wanted to grow up too and wanted to grow up not being a victim.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington said, “The lengthy sentence imposed today demonstrates the severity of Crooker’s criminal conduct. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington is committed to protecting vulnerable victims and prosecuting individuals who engage in conduct in which they attempt to produce child pornography and sexually exploit children. I commend the outstanding work of our federal and state partners who worked collaboratively in the investigation of this case.”
This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals, who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:
· Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;
· Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;
· Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;
· Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and
· Community awareness and educational programs.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Yakima Police Department, Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, and the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. This case was prosecuted by Alison L. Gregoire, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.
April is National Volunteer Month – an ideal time to renew and refresh a commitment to volunteering, especially virtual volunteering.
Throughout the U.S., volunteers work with nonprofits, charities, congregations, and schools to support vital community needs. Individuals and employers alike are realizing that the community benefits of volunteering also extend to health and wellness.
The positive impacts of volunteering, including virtual volunteering, extend beyond communities to one’s own mental and physical health. Volunteering is found to reduce stress, improve bonding with others, and even extend lifetimes, according to the Longitudinal Study of Aging.
“Spring, especially this year, is a time of renewal that can spark both community-care and self-care,” said Umpqua Bank’s Caitlin Back, VP, Corporate Responsibility director. “For us at Umpqua Bank, it’s an important time to come together in renewed support of our communities, continuing to foster a culture of service that elevates our associates’ sense of purpose and meaning.”
Any size business can rally employees to contribute to the greater good, while attracting and retaining talent. First, gauge employee interest in volunteering, then, structure volunteer opportunities that can be flexible and done remotely and as a team.
Umpqua Bank is in its the 18th year of its Connect Volunteer Program through which associates receive 40 hours of paid volunteer time annually. The Bank’s internal Community Action Hub serves as a resource to find virtual volunteer opportunities available across the Bank’s five-state footprint.
While much volunteering is still in-person, virtual volunteering options have expanded significantly. Now, thanks to virtual volunteering, potential volunteers with geographic or time constraints have new opportunities to help make a positive impact in their communities.
The following organizations are just a few of those that provide virtual volunteer opportunities:
Additional virtual volunteer information and resources are available on Umpqua Bank’s blog.
Spring into Action this April during National Volunteer Month with Umpqua Bank @UmpquaBank #VirtualVolunteer #SpringIntoAction. Learn more about Umpqua Bank’s commitment to community at www.UmpquaBank.com/community.