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November 9-15, 2005

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Briefs

Briefs by Michael Shapiro

'Point Reyes Light' Sold

The new owner of the Point Reyes Light pledges to maintain the weekly newspaper's local focus and to produce "literary" journalism. Robert Plotkin, a freelancer who has contributed to the New York Times, completed his purchase of the paper last week. We spoke to him Monday, his first day on the job. "The reason I took this job is because I couldn't do the type of journalism I wanted at corporate newspapers," he says. The Light, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for its coverage of the Synanon cult, has a circulation of 4,600, Plotkin says. Dave Mitchell, who turns 62 this month, has owned the Light since the '70s and plans to continue writing his column. Mitchell says he resisted pressure to sell to a chain. Plotkin plans to keep all the editorial staffers and says he hopes to add a few interns. He describes West Marin as a "hermit kingdom," praising the community for its independence, idiosyncrasy and general avoidance of major chains like Blockbuster. He's thrilled to have a readership that's "brilliantly educated and politically conscious." Plotkin, 35, moved to Bolinas a few months ago after living in Taos, N.M. People keep asking him if he plans to move to Pt. Reyes. His reply: "It's not a major commute. It's a 15-minute drive on a beautiful, windy road."

Target: Sharpshooters

Vowing to protect vineyards and contain glassy-winged sharpshooters, the U.S. Congress has allocated $43 million to combat and research Pierce's disease and other invasive threats to agriculture. Reps. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa Valley, helped secure the funding. Spread by glassy-winged sharpshooters (a half-inch-long flying insect), Pierce's disease can devastate vineyards. It hasn't reached the North Bay, but has been reported as close as Solano County, Woolsey says. The funds, she added, will help improve the health of viticulture throughout the United States. Meanwhile, the battle against Sudden Oak Death and invasive ludwigia continues with $5.6 million in federal funding for 2006. Sudden Oak Death, caused by a funguslike pathogen, cripples these venerable trees. First noticed in Mill Valley in 1995, it has stricken at least 12 California counties as well as the Pacific Northwest. The disease has also affected some coast redwoods. Invasive ludwigia is a non-native weed that's been found in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. It can crowd out native plants, choke waterways and shelter mosquitoes carrying West Nile disease.


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