Wildfires’ impact on rangeland

Gosia Wozniacka AP STORIES

Wildfires exploded this summer in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands of acres were scorched. I wondered: whose land had actually burned? A lot of the land that was engulfed in flames was isolated forest, grassland, hillsides. To whom did the land belong? Then I started hearing about ranchers losing their grazing allotments in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and knew I had a story.

The vast majority of the fire-affected land was federally-owned… U.S. Forest Land, BLM Land, etc. How much of it was grazing grounds? You see, the U.S. government leases its land to ranchers across the country. This practice is especially popular in the West. Ranchers pay a small fee, and they’re allowed to run their cattle on remote federally-owned mountains and hillsides. Cows and calves share the land with the wild species. Ranchers, in turn, help with conservation efforts on the land.

Allotment grazing is a controversial practice. Environmentalists say cattle grazing destroys the land, especially near streams where riparian habitat is fragile. Ranchers, of course, say they have grazed the land for generation and are good stewards of it. In recent years, there’s been a growing practice of “conservation grazing” – using cattle to graze in prescribed ways to mimic what deer once did, as a way to get rid of invasive species and keep the fuels low in case of wildfires. Some environmentalists don’t agree with this practice, while others support it. All this to explain that grazing is prevalent on remote federal lands.

Knowing this, I figured ranchers must have suffered a lot in these fires. My AP colleague wrote about the impacts of wildfires on wildlife, including the sage grouse and other species. So I tackled the other side of the equation. It was difficult to track down exactly how much of the federal land was leased as so-called grazing allotments, but I was able to interview a good number of ranchers, forest managers, and grazing specialists at the federal agencies to get a solid grasp on this. In a few cases, I got specific acreage, and in others estimates. Here is the story link and the PDF: AP-Wildfire Ranchers

Not Portlandia

Gosia Wozniacka AP PHOTOS, AP STORIES

For a long time, I have wanted to write a story about a different Portland – not the hip, popular Portland of pricey artisan lattes and overgrown facial hair, but a hidden part of town where immigrants, refugees, and low-income people live: East Portland. I have lived in East Portland for several years now and have watched it change and grow into a mix of Mexican, Somali, Burmese, other immigrants, African-Americans, and working class whites. As I witnessed my neighborhood’s transformation, I grew very tired of the stereotypes featured in the show Portlandia.

Finally, a news hook materialized: East Portlanders are seeking greater representation and an overhaul of at-large elections because they feel neglected by city hall. In addition to the main story, I also reported a series of mini-profiles, so that I could better describe the lives of those who live here. The story and profiles got a great run online in The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other websites. You can read the main story here: AP Big Story link or here in in PDF: AP-East Portland. And the vignettes profiles are here or here in PDF: AP-East Portland-Profiles.

Lamprey harvest

Gosia Wozniacka AP PHOTOS, AP STORIES

OREGON CITY — They dove into the cold waters, emerging with writhing, eel-like fish in hand and thrusting them into nets.

Thus began Northwest Native American tribes’ annual lamprey harvest at a rushing, 40-foot waterfall about 15 miles south of Portland. The jawless, gray fish are a traditional food source for tribal members in the Columbia River Basin… Read More

In this Friday, June 12, 2015 photo, Native Americans catch lamprey, eel-like fish, at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland, Oregon. An ancient fish that's a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

In this Friday, June 12, 2015 photo, Native Americans catch lamprey, eel-like fish, at Willamette Falls, south of Portland, Oregon. An ancient fish that’s a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

(AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

Tribes Lamprey Harvest

In this Friday, June 12, 2015 photo, Native Americana catch lamprey, eel-like fish, at Willamette Falls near Oregon City. An ancient fish that's a source of food for tribes in the Pacific Northwest, lampreys have been in drastic decline in recent decades. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

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Tribes Lamprey Harvest

Tribes Lamprey Harvest

In this Friday, June 12, 2015 photo, a Native American fisherman passes a burlap sack full of lampreys, eel-like fish, at the rocks at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland, Oregon. Northwest Native American tribes began harvesting the lampreys this week.(AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

In this Friday, June 12, 2015 photo, a Native American fisherman passes a burlap sack full of lampreys, eel-like fish, at the rocks at Willamette Falls, a 40-foot waterfall south of Portland, Oregon. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

 

Obama, Nike and outsourcing

Gosia Wozniacka AP PHOTOS, AP STORIES

Well, President Obama came to Portland, and it’s been fun. The goal of his visit: to make a speech at Nike headquarters touting a trade deal with Asian nations – the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP – in an effort to garner some much needed political support. Nike is an interesting choice of location, given that some critics are afraid the TPP will lead to jobs going overseas and labor violations. A fellow reporter and I wrote a story looking at Nike’s track record in those areas. Read the story at the link here, and PDF here: AP-Obama Nike

As a side note, it’s been fascinating watching this presidential visit. Obama is a star and receives star treatment. People go into a frenzy when they see him. The presidential airplane is a behemoth. His speech is a show. The president waves, shakes hands. Even reporters get excited. Given these high emotions and the way a presidential appearance is carefully “packaged”, it’s hard to know what objectivity means and whether people (aka fans) ever question the policy issues.

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AP STORY: Adoptee U.S. citizenship

Gosia Wozniacka AP PHOTOS, AP STORIES

I learned about Adam and his story from a source in the Korean-American community. Interviewing Adam took six hours and was emotionally wrenching. He is an intelligent, eloquent man who has faced big hurdles in his life. He’s also screwed up some. He has many emotional wounds, but he’s also trying to make amends and reimagine his future. Adam’s story opened to me a world I knew little about: that of adoptees, the often-questionable history of out-of-country adoptions, and the immigration laws that left adoptees behind. I easily could have written a great magazine piece about these issues and the stories of Adam and others like him… AP’s 800-word format didn’t do this story justice. But here is the short version, in PDF: AP-Adoptees Citizenship. 

I was, by the way, the first reporter to break this story. After that, Adam became a media sensation. 

In this photo taken on Thursday, March 19, 2015, Korean adoptee Adam Crapser poses with his daughters, 1-year-old Christal and 5-year-old Christina, and his wife Anh Nguyen in the family's living room in Vancouver, Wash. Crapser, whose adoptive parents neglected to make him a U.S. citizen, will face an immigration judge in April and could be separated from his family and deported to South Korea, a country he does not know. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

In this photo taken on Thursday, March 19, 2015, Korean adoptee Adam Crapser poses with his daughters, 1-year-old Christal and 5-year-old Christina, and his wife Anh Nguyen in the family’s living room in Vancouver, Wash. Crapser, whose adoptive parents neglected to make him a U.S. citizen, will face an immigration judge in April and could be separated from his family and deported to South Korea, a country he does not know. (AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

(AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

(AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka)

Flooded villages

Gosia Wozniacka AP PHOTOS, AP STORIES

This is one of my favorite stories that I’ve written and photographed at the AP. I worked with AP’s features editor and features photo editor to bring it together. To me, it’s an essential tale of the Pacific Northwest – a story about this region’s history and its making, the area’s principal characteristics (the river, salmon, dams, and hydropower), and the legacy of bad decisions, discrimination, and utter disregard for the suffering of a people. It is also a love story, about the devotion to a river, to a waning way of life, to the right to belong. It’s the story of Native Americans today, who are living along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington in Third World conditions, across from power-generating dams. A few decades ago, those dams flooded Indian villages and fishing sites, leaving families without a home for generations. Read the story here, or in PDF: AP-Flooded Villages

This photo taken on August 22, 2014 at Lone Pine, a Native American fishing site on the Columbia River near The Dalles, shows the home of Ranetta Spino and her family at the river’s edge. Lone Pine is one of 31 fishing sites developed as a replacement for tribal fishing grounds flooded or destroyed by hydroelectric dams. About 40 people, including children, permanently live at the fishing site in substandard conditions. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

This photo taken on August 22, 2014 at Lone Pine, a Native American fishing site on the Columbia River near The Dalles, shows the home of Ranetta Spino and her family at the river’s edge. Lone Pine is one of 31 fishing sites developed as a replacement for tribal fishing grounds flooded by hydroelectric dams. About 40 people, including children, permanently live at the fishing site in substandard conditions. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

Flooded Villages-Tribes

Flooded Villages-Tribes

In this photo taken on October 20, 2014 on the Klickitat River, a tributary of the Columbia River near Lyle, Washington, a Native American fisherman catches fish on a platform. Platform fishing is one of the most common Native American fishing techniques on the rivers in the Columbia Basin. For millennia, Indians have fished and lived along the ColumbiaÕs shores, the salmon central to their culture and religion, sustenance and trade. (AP/Gosia Wozniacka)

Flooded Villages-Tribes

Flooded Villages-Tribes

Flooded Villages-Tribes

Flooded Villages-Tribes

Photo assignment: Harvest

Gosia Wozniacka Uncategorized

 

Edible MarinIn August, I photographed the peach harvest at the Masumoto Family Farm, an 80-acre organic farm south of Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It’s not just any old peach harvest. The Masumotos run an adopt-a-tree program and they allow teams of friends and relatives to harvest their adopted trees every summer. These photos were printed in Edible Marin’s Fall 2014 issue. Here are a couple of the spreads.

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AP STORY: Labor shortages, a new reality in agriculture?

Gosia Wozniacka AP STORIES

I’m usually a big skeptic when it comes to labor shortages in agriculture. I put on my reporter hat and ask: are these shortages real, or are they just slogans used by the agriculture industry to advance an agenda? I say this, because for years – for decades – the U.S. had been awash in farmworkers streaming in from Mexico. Labor was plentiful as the unauthorized immigrant population ballooned… and yet, employers still complained of shortages. Sure, changes in crop patterns, stringent immigration laws in some states, or drastic weather changes might shift harvests and lead to a temporary need for more workers. But overall, farm labor has been plentiful for a long time.

This slowly changed in recent years. The recession in the U.S., an improved economy in Mexico, changes on the border and other factors contributed to the shrinking of mass migration from Mexico. Though the unauthorized population has now stabilized, mass migration of years past hasn’t resumed. And so, labor shortages.

There’s one way to tell whether shortages are real: and that’s to look at the wages of farmworkers. Last year, and even more dramatically this year, the wages and working conditions of workers have actually improved. Based on my conversations with workers, contractors, and farmers, labor is very tight. To be clear: crops are not rotting in the fields and consumers won’t see huge price increases. But for the first time, working in the fields means getting a better wage. As Fresno-area labor contractor Jesus Mateo put it: “For the first time, I can demand a living wage for my workers.” He also said, “Before, people were begging for work and some employers skimped workers on wages. Now the roles have reversed, with growers asking workers to come. And if the grower doesn’t want to pay, people will walk off his field.” Read my story here: AP-Labor Shortages

Reflections. Summer evening

Gosia Wozniacka Reflections

Walk. When the sun’s strength dims and shadows start to fall on homes and sidewalks. Walk down, straight down your street, your broken sidewalk, turn without thinking, Van Ness, Elizabeth, Fulton, Dudley. Walk. Past overgrown alleyways, past nopale bushes with tiny red fruit that cut your hands when you tried to steal them (someone once said, ‘be brave when picking cactus’), past children riding beat up bikes, skinny stray cats of every color, boys playing basketball inside a locked schoolhouse yard. A crumpled dollar bill to the street vendor, corn on the cob con mayonesa, queso y chile. Walk. Watch old men watering yellowed lawns as if nothing else awaited them, cholos in wifebeaters smoking on front stoops, women pushing strollers bulging with grocery bags and no children… Pit bulls bored, straining behind chain link fences, a bum with long unwashed hair swaying, absent. And always, a man or woman hidden in the bushes of a side porch, completely alone, suddenly emerging to greet you. Someone down the street singing. Walk, under trees flowering pink and white, sculptures of frayed palm leaves. The air stifling still, pressed against your skin like a warm bath. Walk until night envelops you, hints of wind brushing past the eyes of lit windows, crickets keen on their song. Listen to the train cutting diagonal across the neighborhood, its shrill call, its swish and lulling – walk, until you can walk no more, paused by the endless train tracks.