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Statewide advisory issued against eating bass

State health officials have expanded their advisories against eating sport-caught bass after elevated levels of mercury were confirmed in bass across Oregon.

The Oregon Health Authority has warned people for years to limit their consumption of bass from such lakes as Emigrant and Applegate, but this is the first statewide advisory. It also includes bass caught in streams such as the Umpqua River.

Smallmouth and largemouth bass were the focus of the advisory because they are long-lived, resident species and are at the top of the food chain, so the longer bass live, the more mercury they accumulate.

Mercury levels found in bass were above established screening levels, making them high enough to be a human-health concern if not eaten in moderation, according to OHA.

The data came from bass in 62 Oregon water bodies tested between 2008 and 2014, according to OHA.

The agency recommends that the general population limit consumption of bass to no more than six meals a month. At-risk people, such as the young, sick and elderly, should eat no more than two meals per month.

Umpqua Hot Springs closed to over-nighters

Camping will be banned for the next two years at Umpqua Hot Springs in Douglas County to curb lawless behavior there and allow trampled land and vegetation to regenerate.

The popular springs about 70 miles east of Roseburg on the Umpqua National Forest will be open day use only, and parking will be restricted to the trailhead parking area.

Over the past three years, Douglas County and Forest Service law enforcement officers have seen spikes in illegal activities at the springs, the trailhead and adjacent, unofficial, dispersed camping sites, according to the Forest Service.

Problems have included illegal drug use, violating campfire and smoking restrictions, cutting down trees, and failure to pay day-use fees, the Forest Service said.

Deputies have also responded to reports of domestic violence and fighting.

Violators of the day-use restrictions could face prosecution in federal court that could lead to prison sentences of up to six months and fines of up to $5,000.

Use of the hot springs dates back to prehistoric times. The site was excavated in the 1930s to create a "tub" in the rock, and unofficial tubs were later added by users there.

High E. coli levels in September led the Umpqua Forest to close access to the water, but that was lifted earlier this year.

Oregon Stewardship's Earth Day events

The nonprofit Oregon Stewardship will hold two Earth Day celebrations beginning today to highlight ongoing restoration work along the banks of Bear Creek in downtown Medford.

Events are planned for noon to 4 p.m. today and Saturday along the creek at Hawthorne Park off Jackson Street.

Students from South Medford High School who have been working to replant the creek banks with native vegetation will give a presentation on their project there.

Talk on proposed Hot Springs National Scenic Trail set

Ashland hiker and author Aria Zoner will give a presentation Sunday in Ashland about his proposal to have a 2,370-mile Hot Springs Trail designated as a national scenic trail.

Zoner's free presentation will be from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Gresham Room in the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd.

Zoner bills the system of trails that stretch from Southern California through Nevada and Idaho to Canada as "the world's longest therapeutic trail." He plans to embark on a trek of the entire trail May 1.

A petition asking for the designation for this trail can be found at  www.change.org/p/president-of-the-united-states-the-hot-springs-national-scenic-trail

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.