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Cancelled Sheep Count

 July 19, 2021 at 4:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Kinsee Morlan in for Annica Colbert….it’s Monday, July 19. So...EVERY YEAR FOR 50 YEARS, PEOPLE HAVE GONE OUT TO THE DESERT TO COUNT the endangered BIGHORN SHEEP population. BUT NOT THIS YEAR. More on that story later in the show, but first, let’s do the headlines. *** Southwestern College hosted a memorial yesterday to commemorate the 37-year anniversary of what the time…. the largest mass shooting in American history. People gathered at The Higher Education Center in San what was the scene of the shooting…To pay tribute to the 21 victims who lost their lives on July 18, 1984 when the shooter fatally shot 21 people and wounded 19 others before being killed by a police sniper. *** And another shooting on the other side of the country over the weekend got San Diegan’s attention… San Diego Padres fans watching the game against the Washington Nationals Saturday watched as the game got suspended in the sixth inning after three people were shot right outside the ballpark. There were some scary moments as fans began fleeing their seats when the ballpark was evacuated…. Three people were injured in the shooting. *** Big news broke Friday that impacts lots of people here in our border region… A federal judge in Texas on Friday ordered an end to DACA...the Obama-era program that prevented the deportations of some immigrants brought into the United States as children…. The judge ruled in favor of Texas and eight other conservative states that had sued to halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides limited protections to about 650,000 people. Those already enrolled won't lose protections, but the judge is barring the processing of new applications. *** And Covid cases are climbing in our county...We’re averaging about 270 cases a day over the past week and just a month ago, the average was less than 100 cases per day. **** From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. MIDROLL 1 The heatwaves that have rippled across the Western U.S. this summer are causing problems for wildlife researchers. In the desert outside San Diego, an annual bighorn sheep count is canceled. KPBS reporter Claire Trageser says the decision was made after a volunteer died. It was supposed to be the 50th anniversary of a citizen scientist tradition. Every year for three days in early July, volunteers hike into the desert, sit in the shade all day, and count sheep. SOT “I’ve got the male, the male’s going down, down, down to the water right now.” That’s from a video made at last year’s count. Volunteers like Callie Mack say their efforts help keep tabs on the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, which are endangered. SOT “You hike up there, and you’re all hot and sweaty and you’re carrying some gear and you’re saying to each other, why do we do this every year, this is just miserable.” Mack has been going to the count for 35 years, and says it’s worth it. SOT “All of a sudden you start seeing sheep coming down to get a drink or come into your count site and everything changes, it’s like the sun coming up.” But not this year. Right before the scheduled count, a volunteer was out in the 116-degree heat stashing water for sheep counters to use. He died of heat stroke. The state parks department decided to cancel the count. Volunteers like Mack were not happy. SOT “Honestly we felt like we’d been slapped hard in the face by state parks. They might have made some modifications, they could have gathered us all together beforehand and said look, we don’t want this to happen again, be extra cautious.” The California state parks department wouldn’t do an interview about the decision. But here’s part of a pre-recorded statement spokesman Jorge Moreno sent. SOT “While California State Parks appreciates the citizen science surveys, it should be noted this data set is only one piece of the overall bighorn sheep recovery plan.” He says the extreme heat makes the count just not worth it. And there are other ways to count sheep, including using helicopters, cameras and GPS collars. But researchers at Oregon State University say a combination of all methods, including first hand observation, is best. SOT “And I’m speaking quietly because I’m watching a group of bighorn sheep.” Professor Clinton Epps monitors bighorn sheep populations by checking for parasites in their droppings. SOT “OK, we’ve been here about 20 minutes, and a collared ewe did just drop pellets so we’ll collect the samples and then move on and try to find a different group of sheep.” He says an annual census done in the same way every year is also important. SOT “That's a long dataset and we don't have many long data sets in this business like that.” And that dataset helps researchers like him know whether conservation efforts are working. He says cameras and collars also help--as long as you have someone to review all the footage. SOT “It's expensive and it's hard. And, you know, it's one thing to put out cameras, it's another to sit there and review hundreds, maybe thousands of hours worth of videos or, you know, thousands of gigabytes worth of photos.” Epps says in person counting can also spot issues like disease. But that won’t be happening this year. The state parks department says they’ll work on safety plans so the count may return in the future. If it doesn’t, volunteer Callie Mack says more will be lost than just a sheep census. SOT “It makes more ordinary citizens aware of why the bighorn needs protection.” At last count, there were less than 800 Peninsular Bighorn sheep. That story from KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser. *** CALIFORNIA LAWMAKERS have APPROVED THE NATION’S FIRST STATE-FUNDED BASIC INCOME PROGRAM. CAPRADIO’S ED FLETCHER HAS MORE ON WHO’S ELIGIBLE FOR THE pilot program . [ED] THE BILL APPROVED BY THE STATE SENATE AND BACKED BY THE GOVERNOR WILL MAKE $35 MILLION DOLLARS AVAILABLE AS GRANT MONEY TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS THAT HAVE BASIC INCOME PROGRAMS. THE PROGRAMS SUPPLEMENT EXISTING SOCIAL SAFETY NETS WITH NO-STRINGS-ATTACHED MONEY FOR PEOPLE IN POVERTY. NANCY SKINNER, WHO CHAIRS THE SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE, SAYS THE GRANT MONEY COULD FILL A BIG NEED. SKINNER: “IF YOU'RE IN THE FOSTER SYSTEM UP TO A CERTAIN AGE, YOU ARE PROVIDED FOR. AND YET THEN WHEN YOU TRANSITION OUT WHILE WE HAVE SOME SUPPORT SERVICES, BASICALLY YOU'RE KIND OF JUST LEFT OUT ON YOUR OWN.” [12.7] IN ADDITION TO CHILDREN AGING OUT OF THE FOSTER SYSTEM, THE STATE FUNDING PRIORITIZES PREGNANT WOMEN. AS THE MAYOR OF STOCKTON, MICHAEL TUBBS’S BASIC INCOME PROGRAM SENT $500 TO A SELECT GROUP OF RESIDENTS IN POVERTY. HE’S NOW AN ADVISOR TO GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM AND CHAIRS THE MAYOR’S FOR A GUARANTEED INCOME GROUP. TUBBS: “THE IDEA IS THAT 500 DOLLARS A MONTH OR A THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH WILL ALLOW THEM TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE, TO WORK, TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR CHILDREN, TO BE LESS STRESS AND BE LESS ANXIOUS.” [9.3] HE SAYS WHILE THE STATE MONEY HAS A SPECIFIC FOCUS, LOCAL PROGRAMS WILL BE ABLE TO TARGET A WIDER AUDIENCE. And that was Ed Fletcher Reporting for CapRadio in SACRAMENTO.. **** Coming up…. Looking back at two decades of war, some San Diego families are not able to turn the page as the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan. That story after a short break. MIDROLL 2 For many in the public Afghanistan was America's back-burner war….far away, often overshadowed by war in Iraq. As us troops continue pulling out….the survivors of a fiery helicopter crash 15 years ago that killed 10 soldiers say time does not heal all wounds. KPBS, military reporter Steve Walsh has the story. He also sits down with Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanauch to discuss the story. Speaker 2: 00:25 Just to know Donahoe was 24 years old. When he enlisted in the army, he had already graduated college. His parents, pat and Pam still have his pickup truck out front. They drove it home to San Diego after visiting him at Fort drum just before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. And Speaker 3: 00:41 We took him out to dinner at his favorite Chinese restaurant, which he loved. And that was the last time we saw him live. Speaker 2: 00:49 It's been 15 years since Justin died in a fiery helicopter crash on a mountain side in Coonara province, along with nine other soldiers, Speaker 3: 00:58 Fathers aren't supposed to bury children. There is no closure for that. There is a, a internal kernel of you that is still filled with grief. Speaker 2: 01:13 Justin O'Donoghue was a cavalry scout with the 10th mountain division. His platoon was on a mountain at night near the Pakistani border. One of Justin's platoon mates. Nick Pelosi says the landing zone was only large enough for the giant Chinooks rear wheels to touch down on the third, try the rear rotors struck a tree top and it just tumbled and exploded. And it was a mass mass current as basically they had been in the field for weeks. Part of operation mountain lion. The goal was to retake territory captured by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It was so hot that we couldn't get down in there. So we're yelling if you're hurt and you're still alive, you know, move or make a song, something, and we'll, we're going to come down and get you in the morning. The survivors came down to recover. The bodies Polozi was injured after he was knocked out of the helicopter during an earlier attempt to land. I mean, it was about nine 11. And at this point, I don't really know. I don't really know what that's about. Polozi left the army after that first 18 month deployment. He's now living on a farm in upstate New York, near where he grew up. The damage that comes from this stuff is unbelievable. You know, none of these families are ever going to be the same after this. Speaker 2: 02:46 Justin left one last voicemail before heading into the mountains in Afghanistan, just to tell his parents, he was okay. They were a military family. Justin's father spent his career in the Navy, his brother, Kyle, a Navy pilot, Donna Ho's mother, Pam says some days are harder than others. Speaker 4: 03:05 I don't, I don't agree with the war because I think a lot of kids, a lot of boys got killed for no reason. We didn't win anything for anyone. You know, why were we there? I don't know anymore. Speaker 2: 03:24 The O'Donnell house sat around the same dining room table where army officers sat to tell them the findings of the crash nearly 15 years ago, Speaker 3: 03:32 When all is said and done the helicopter still Christ and our sons still died. Speaker 2: 03:36 The army rule, the crash and accident. I heavily redacted copy of the crash reports. As two sergeants told their leadership that they considered the night landing high risk and didn't understand why it was being attempted. Regardless. The effective end of the war in Afghanistan doesn't offer any solace to the O'Donnell hoes, Speaker 3: 03:54 Move on with the rest of your, your life. And you don't forget, you don't ignore you. Don't let it slide by. I have a compartment in me that's Justin Speaker 2: 04:06 America has never had a conflict that's stretched on for so long that the parents of fallen soldiers were still watching the war on TV long after their children had died. As the Afghan war finally comes to an end, Pam and pedo Donahoe are moving forward without moving on. Speaker 1: 04:26 Joining me is KPBS, military reporters, Steve Walsh, and Steve welcome. Speaker 5: 04:32 I'm Maureen. Speaker 1: 04:33 Now the sacrifice of this family and the Afghan war is part of two decades of us casualties in that country. More than 2300 us military personnel have been killed. And yet, as you say, this has been America's back burner war. Why do you think that is? Speaker 2: 04:52 Well, you can make the case that Afghanistan stopped being at the forefront of public attention, right after the invasion of Iraq. In 2003, you look at all the publicity surrounding the departure over the last few weeks. You know, I'm watching this a bit more closely, so I can see some of the benchmarks as the U S starts to pull out. You know, we have a largely left Afghanistan already, but you're not really seeing, um, these stories making, you know, the top headlines, uh, you know, some of that is the Biden administration. They're not looking for that mission accomplished moment. They're more interested. It seems to not Telegraph their moves so they can avoid a confrontation with the Taliban. On the way out. Speaker 1: 05:36 One of the soldiers you spoke to in your feature says the war used to be about nine 11, then he didn't know what it was about. And that questioning about the purpose of the war is shared by Justin's parents. Wasn't it? Yeah. Speaker 2: 05:50 Justin's mother, especially. She really didn't understand why we had been there for so long and had the most difficult time in trying to explain that, um, his father had very similar, had a very similar viewpoint, even though he's, uh, he had a military career himself in the Navy and was a civilian contractor. In fact, he even did a crash investigations as part of his job, so he could understand what had happened to his son, but it's, you know, it's especially hard to explain the more after the seal team killed Osama bin Ladin back in 2011, there's just a sense that nothing really changed. Long-term, you know, we honor the sacrifice that, uh, these men and women made for our country and for their comrades. But overall, the goal seemed kind of murky Speaker 1: 06:38 This week. The top general in Afghanistan stepped down and that's apparently a signal of the end of the war. Can you tell us about that? Oh yeah. Monday Speaker 2: 06:47 General Austin Miller stepped down as the commander of the American led forces in Afghanistan. They had a change of command ceremony in Cabo, which effectively ended the us war in Afghanistan after 20 years. You know, we have largely left already except for a small force, which remains mainly to protect the embassy in our residual forest. That's basically handing off control to Turkish forces, but you know, after 20 years, this is not the top story this week, even though, you know, for the most part, the war is over and, and don't expect any big homecoming parades. This will most likely be a very quiet end to America's longest war. Speaker 1: 07:26 And since the war in Afghanistan lasted a generation, I wonder if the end of the war is having as big an impact as you might think it would on camp Pendleton. You know, so many young Marines were barely born when this war started. Speaker 2: 07:42 I'm always told that, you know, the Marines are, um, are the youngest fighting force. So most of the people who fought in Iraq in Afghanistan, um, they're either at the very end of their careers or they've they've left long ago, I've been told by a us Marine headquarters that there are no Marines who are part of the remaining troops. So that means no one from camp Pendleton or, or 29 palms are left on the ground. So, you know, I'm going to be sitting down with members of the dark horse battalion, which spent seven months in, in Helmand province in Afghanistan. They will go down as having the highest number of casualties of any American unit during this war, you know, 34 Marines lost limbs. And they're living with the legacy of a co this conflict in, and they'll be living with it for the rest of their lives. Their injuries though, did drive a revolution in prosthetics. So I'm really actually looking forward to sitting down with them and talking with them and, you know, really getting a sense from them of what, uh, what their understanding is of the war. Speaker 1: 08:44 The U S okay is gone, but our stated enemy, the Taliban remains is the Taliban part of a new Afghan government. Speaker 2: 08:54 Well, you know, we think we forget that talks are still ongoing with the us and the telephone and the Afghan government it's been described as a slow growing, even by optimists. Um, you know, many observers say the Taliban is just waiting for the U S departure. They've already taken wide swaths of the country. The Biden administration said that they, uh, they're confident that the Afghan government will hold its, uh, at least at the population centers around Cabo. But you know, we'll see when you spoke Speaker 1: 09:23 With Justin's family, the Donna hos, did you get the sense that they were glad the Afghan war is finally over Speaker 2: 09:31 Well for them and for everyone else who lost a loved one in that more, it does not bring back back their son or daughter, you know, it doesn't bring back their son or any of the people who died in that crash that day back in 2006 Justin's dad talks about there being no such thing as closure. When you lose a son, it was clear that they, uh, they haven't been able been able to describe the purpose behind this war for a very long time. Um, they seem relieved that it's over, but it, it really, it doesn't really end the pain that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. **** And that was Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanauch talking with KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh. That’s the show. Thanks for listening...I’ll be back with you tomorrow morning.

The yearly count of the endangered bighorn sheep was canceled after a volunteer died due to heat stroke; so what’s next for the sheep census? Plus: remembering victims of a tragedy in San Ysidro, no-strings-attached money from the state for people in poverty and looking back at two decades of war and how some San Diego families aree not able to turn the page as the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan.