MONDAY 8-12-2013

Aug 12, 2013 -- 10:18am

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8-12-2013 PODCASTS - 6AM    7AM    8AM

Interesting, from the WSJ, as more Americans "Head for the Exits".


6:35 Dr. Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at Institute for Policy Innovation.

7:35 Medford City Councilman Chris Corcoran

8:35 Dale Matthews, Sandy Cassennelli, Jo County being reckless regarding fair contracts? Here's more:

810 Dr. Dennis Powers - "Visiting Past and Present"

Ralph Wehinger: A True Visionary

By Dennis Powers

Dr. Ralph Wehinger was an Eagle Point chiropractor who does not have a monument in his honor, a long-lasting business, or lived a very long life. However, he was a true visionary and his passion for the outdoors and its wildlife is very evident today. 

In the mid-1980s, Ralph was instrumental in the funding of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (“USFWS”) Forensic Laboratory and its location in Ashland. Its Director, Ken Goddard, was working without a state-of-the-art facility and this need was striking. Wehinger was attending a USFWS forensic meeting in 1985 in Portland, when the agent explained that their efforts to stop falcon smugglers--a protected species--was enraging legitimate falconers, who had been wrongly accused of violating the Migratory Bird Act. The meeting’s purpose was basically to tell the public not to take wild falcons from the wilderness without the required permits.

Wehinger questioned whether the agents had considered using DNA to find out the difference. When the agent answered that the USFWS didn’t have a forensic laboratory, Ralph got down to work. Enlisting others, he intensively lobbied Oregon Senators Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood, who became involved in the efforts. Attended by the senators and other dignitaries, the Ashland dedication ceremony for the lab--the world’s only dedicated wildlife forensic laboratory--took place in July 1989. Ralph received the credit also for bringing the lab to Ashland as its location. 

At the same time, he was working with Ron Lamb to create the Pacific Northwest Museum of Natural History in Ashland. With his success on the forensics lab--which would share a corner of the SOU property with the museum--Dr. Wehinger already had a track record with Washington, D.C. With federal Interior Department funds due to Senator Mark Hatfield’s efforts, private donations, and a state bond issue, the museum was constructed and opened in July 1994. Its exhibits, wildlife, and history were critically acclaimed; however, owing to not being able to meet the bonded debt, the museum closed its doors in 1997. The facility today is used by the ScienceWorks Museum.

To make time for another endeavor, Ralph left the museum project in 1990: He was also working to obtain a Foreign Trade Zone designation for Medford Airport. This would allow the international clearing of customs and duty-free manufacturing in Medford, plus the ability to clear wildlife directly to his proposed wildlife treatment center for injured birds and animals. He and Mike Burrill, Sr., set up a for-profit company, Ore-Cal Trade Co., for which Wehinger was the chief executive. 

Due to these efforts, the airport in October 1994 became an international airport with a Foreign Trade Zone designation and arrival of a U.S. Customs Service office. In March of the following year, the airport was renamed as the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport due to this. In later 1995, the zone was activated at the airport, thus allowing manufacturing and distribution outside of U.S. Customs. International shipments were able to be cleared in Medford without the need of shipping them through Portland or San Francisco. In 1996, as an outgrowth of the Foreign Trade Zone designation, Dr. Wehinger was named an honorary consul to Korea in 1996.

Ralph was working meanwhile on his dream of the International Wildlife Recovery Center. This center would be the only nonmobile facility of its kind in the western United States as a main responder for wildlife rescue in oil spills. Rather than dying at the spot, oily birds from any North American major spill could be flown to Medford. From there, they could be transported to his decontamination and rehabilitation center on Little Butte Creek, 30 miles east of Medford, in the remote wilderness behind his home--and there nursed back to health. The question was whether this could become a reality.

In September 2002, Dr. Wehinger announced the opening of the private, nonprofit center with receiving/inspection facilities at Medford’s airport and the rehab center--with a heliport--on Little Butte Creek. A grant from the Department of Agriculture ($1.2 million) and other funding from the federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (passed due to the Exxon Valdez spill) brought about the $2 million development. His dream to save wildlife had been fulfilled.

One month later, the news came of Ralph’s diagnosis of a brain tumor and his being in grave condition. Dr. Wehinger passed away on December 6, 2002, at age 48. After his death, the Foreign Trade Zone and his International Wildlife Recovery Center became inactive. His chiropractic business was sold. The USFWS Forensic Center, however, and the building with ScienceWorks continues on. Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport has its international designation.

Southern Oregon was so much the better for his visions: and so much was done in so little time.

Sources: “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Our Lab’s History,” at Forensic Lab History; Jonel Aleccia, “Harsh financial realities swallowed up natural history museum founders’ vision,” Mail Tribune, August 3, 1997, at Pacific Northwest Museum; Bryan Denson, “Bad guys who hurt animals? Ashland forensics lab is on the hunt,” The Oregonian, June 7, 2009 (updated September 28, 2009) at More on the Lab; Mail Tribune, “Eagle Point’s Ralph Wehinger diagnosed with brain tumor,” October 10, 2001, at Ralph Wehinger; John Darling, “A refuge for oiled birds,” Mail Tribune, September 6, 2002, at International Recovery Center (With Images); Damian Mann, “Trade Zone may go dormant,” Mail Tribune, July 19, 2004, at Foreign Trade Zone.

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