Suspect in grape grower's killing found dead in Calif.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say a man who had faced a murder charge in the killing of a California grape grower has been found dead along a highway north of Bakersfield.

Kern County coroner's officials said Tuesday that Mariano Perez suffered "traumatic injuries."

KBAK-TV reported the 24-year-old's death is being investigated as a homicide.

Perez was charged in the killing of 84-year-old Jakov Dulcich. His murder trial ended in a hung jury, and prosecutors dismissed the case in November pending further investigation.

Court documents show Perez had admitted to being a gang member but denied involvement in the murder.

Dulcich was known for his company's Pretty Lady brand of grapes.

Grizzly attacks on Mont. livestock rising

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal official says reports of grizzly bear attacks on livestock are up in 2018, but coyotes remain the top killer of domesticated animals.

The Billings Gazette reported coyotes have caused more than $550,000 in damages this year, killing almost 300 calves, three cattle, four goats, 92 sheep and almost 1,500 lambs.

John Steuber, director of Wildlife Services in Montana, said grizzlies accounted for 138 complaints of livestock depredations or injuries. That’s up from the 98 complaints involving grizzlies in 2017.

There were 92 complaints of attacks by wolves, down from 100 last year.

Ore. Christmas tree grower: Drought hurt crop

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland Christmas tree grower says his crop is sparse this year because of drought conditions.

KPTV-TV reported Quail Creek Ranch Christmas Trees planted 9,000 trees in the spring, but only about a couple hundred of the trees survived.

Quail Creek owner David Roy said he and his wife, Michelle, have been in the business for decades and this is the worst he's seen.

Roy said his trees usually have a 95 percent survival rate.

He said that demand for the trees is still high, despite the low supply.

Escaped horse dies after being hit by car

REDMOND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities say a horse that escaped out of its pasture was hit by a car in Redmond, Oregon, and later died.

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office said the crash happened around 11:49 p.m. Monday.

KOIN reported that deputies arrived to find a Subaru Forester, driven by a 23-year-old woman, with significant damage. The driver complained of minor injuries and was examined at the scene.

The horse suffered severe injuries and was alive when authorities arrived. An emergency equine veterinarian was called to the scene while deputies attempted to calm the horse and find its owner. The horse was later euthanized at the scene.

Ore. pushes to legalize psychedelic mushrooms

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s attorney general has approved language for a ballot measure to make psychedelic mushrooms legal.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that the measure would reduce criminal penalties for the manufacture, delivery and possession of psilocybin — the hallucinogen contained in psychedelic mushrooms.

The Oregon Psilocybin Society plans this month to start gathering the 140,000 signatures necessary to get the measure onto the ballot in 2020.

The number of signatures required is nearly equal to the population of Salem.

The federal government controlled use of mushrooms in the 1970s.

A spokeswoman for Oregon’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said the agency doesn’t typically comment on ballot measures.

A similar effort to legalize in California failed recently.

Laramie fair board suing over dissolution

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (WTE) – The Laramie County Fair Board is not going away without a fight.

Earlier this month, the county commission voted to dismiss the independent, volunteer board, arguing a new events department run by professionals could better oversee the Archer Complex, its new events center and other county recreation.

But board members disagree and will take their arguments to Laramie County District Court this week.

The crux of the board’s argument is that state law says county commissioners can create a board of trustees to “control, manage and maintain the (county) fairgrounds,” but offers no provision for dissolving it.

Their attorney, Gay Woodhouse, wrote in her filing that stands in “stark contrast” to provisions for hospital boards of trustees, which have an entire section devoted to procedures for dissolving a memorial hospital.

Woodhouse further challenges the commissioners’ ability to redirect the flow of property tax money the board collects.

The board, which referred to the decision as a “gross abuse of power” in a Nov. 30 news release, is asking a judge to immediately halt and ultimately reverse the commissioners’ decision.

Ore. senator seeks aid for smoked vineyards

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. senator from Oregon is asking the Senate to provide federal assistance to vineyards that suffered smoke exposure from wildfires.

Sen. Ron Wyden requested that any year-end funding bill include an extension of the Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program to provide compensation for wine-grape growers.

In a letter Nov. 30 to the Senate appropriations committee, Wyden also asked for $5.25 million of new funding for research on the effects of smoke exposure to wine grapes. He noted that many purchasers told growers their smoke-tainted grapes are not acceptable for winemaking. That forced growers to leave their grapes on the vine or sell them for vastly reduced prices.

Some growers in southern Oregon were affected by cancellations.

Dairy group sues Wash. state over manure rules

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington State Dairy Federation is challenging rules meant to protect groundwater, saying it will delay fertilizing crops with manure.

Capital Press reported the state Department of Ecology rules impose statewide a formula that prohibits spreading manure until temperatures are above freezing for a prolonged period.

The dairy federation said the formula will work in western Washington's milder climate but prevent fertilizing in eastern Washington's colder climate until mid-March in some cases.

The federation said that delay will deprive crops of nutrients without any benefit to water quality.

Dairies already must follow a separate manure-management law enforced by another state agency.

An Ecology spokeswoman said her agency used the best available science and broad input to develop clear, understandable rules.

Environmental groups separately have sued over the rules, alleging deficiencies.

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