In response to the discovery of Oriental fruit flies in the Hope Ranch area last month, the pesticide Dibrom (a trade name for naled) was applied for the third time to trees and telephone poles in the region. The eradication program went ahead despite a request by Mayor Marty Blum that it be halted to allow time for discussion of gentler alternatives. Blum pointed out that residents have complained of illness following the pesticide’s application. The California Department of Food and Agriculture – which ordered the eradication – said that less harmful pesticides would be ineffective.

Oil-drilling may be coming to Orcutt in a big way. The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission seems poised to approve a request by Brietburn Energy to begin drilling for oil on five acres of a 10,000-acre spread it owns off Rice Ranch Road. The acreage in question is remote from neighboring landowners. However, Planning Commissioner Michael Cooney has expressed concern that hauling the petroleum along local roads could prove disruptive.

A group of descendants of the various Chumash tribes paddled out of Oxnard’s Channel Islands Harbor during the pre-dawn hours last Saturday, setting out in traditional wooden canoes called tomols on their way to the Channel Islands. The grueling 21-mile journey wrapped up about 10 hours later at Scorpion Bay on Santa Cruz Island, the former site of the Chumash village Limuw.

Residents of the City of Santa Barbara recycle about 64 percent of waste that would otherwise wind up in the Tajiguas Landfill, eclipsing the state’s latest and greatest diversion record of 52 percent. Santa Barbara County reports similarly high diversion rates. The city’s high numbers stem from a new method of calculation adopted this year. Using established methodology, the city’s diversion rate would be 50 percent. State trash officials are expected to decide in October whether they’ll accept the new numbers.

BFI, one of the South Coast’s two main trash haulers, has received 900 postcards and 1,000 phone calls from customers who believe they could have been overcharged for green waste disposal. According to BFI’s three-year-old contract with City Hall, customers are entitled to free service for one green can. Responding to accusations from BFI’s competitor MarBorg that BFI was charging customers for the free green cans, City Hall ordered BFI to offer rebates. It remains unclear how many rebates BFI has actually approved.

The California condor isn’t out of the woods yet. A coordinator for the federal condor recovery program told the Fish and Game Commission last Thursday that while there are nearly 300 California condors living in the wild, a scant four eggs were hatched last year, and of those, only one chick survived. Lead poisoning and trash consumption are the leading problems for the scavenger birds.

Seventeen Red Cross volunteers flew from Santa Barbara to Orlando on Monday in anticipation of Hurricane Ernesto’s landfall. More are expected to respond to the “call down” issued Saturday by the national Red Cross office in cooperation with FEMA. Last year, Red Cross workers also deployed to Florida several days ahead of Hurricane Katrina.

Neverland narrowly escaped a fiery end last Friday. Fueled by brush and grass, a blaze burned through 40 acres of Michael Jackson’s sprawling Los Olivos ranch, at one point coming within 200 yards of buildings on the property. None of the animals in Jackson’s extensive and exotic collection were evacuated. Firefighters managed to contain the blaze by early evening; as of press time, the cause of the fire was unknown.

Pluto got sacked last week, and Santa Barbarans aren’t happy about it. After the International Astronomical Union voted to reclassify the rock orb a “dwarf planet,” the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History took an informal poll on its Web site to gauge local reaction. The results? A triumph of sentiment over science: 80 percent of respondents said Pluto should retain its status as the puny but plucky runt of the planetary solar system.

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