Archive for June, 2012

Victory for Western Snowy Plover

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
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On June 18th, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) announced that 24,527 acres will be designated as critical habitat to protect the population of threatened western snowy plovers on the pacific coast of Washington, Oregon and California.  “Species with federally protected habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without it, so this puts a big safety net between plovers and extinction,” said Tierra Curry of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Western Snowy Plovers are typically found in undeveloped beaches, estuaries and river bars in the unique coastal beach-dune ecosystems along the Pacific Coast. Their estimated population is about 2,500, and is concentrated in only 28 major nesting areas.  Threats to plover habitat include human activity on beaches such as walking, jogging, walking pets, operating off-road vehicles, and horseback riding during the plover breeding season, which inadvertantly results in destruction of eggs and chicks.

EPIC has been advocating for protections for western snowy plovers in our region and we are excited to see these sensitive areas set aside for their recovery.  Some of the places that EPIC advocated for include Lake Earl, Gold Bluff Beach, Humboldt Spit and Beach, Eel River Gravel Bars, MacKerricher Beach and Manchester Beach.  For additional information click here to visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s website.


Rare Redwood Tract Protected as a Community Forest

Monday, June 25th, 2012
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In an extraordinary turn of events in the saga involving Earth First! Humboldt’s long running tree-sits, Green Diamond Resource Company and the Trust for Public Land are on track to protect the 7,500-acre McKay Tract in the Ryan Creek watershed from development pressure; along with the establishment of a community forest west of Ryan Creek and the end of a nearly four-year tree-sit village.

The McKay Tract, the forest owned by Green Diamond Resource Company just east of Eureka has long been proposed as an area for residential development as the County of Humboldt anticipated its future growth potential.

However, biologists and environmentalists consider the McKay Tract, and the whole Ryan Creek watershed it lies within, one of the region’s best refuges for spawning coho salmon and the most productive redwood timberland land in the county. The presence of endangered northern spotted owl, osprey, tree voles, flying squirrels, and residual old-growth redwood trees in some areas of the tract further lends to the biological significance of the forest.

Earth First! activists discovered a timber harvest plan proposed by Green Diamond, called the “McKay 09” THP that would have clearcut nearly 40-acres of forest on the west side of the McKay Tract, which threatened scattered old-growth redwood trees and 100 year old second growth, and was home to a breeding pair of northern spotted owls. The activists began setting up an extensive ‘tree-sit village’ and began a campaign to protect the McKay.

About two years ago Green Diamond announced they were considering selling the McKay Tract to the Trust for Public Land, a conservation easement organization. Earth First! Humboldt started lobbying the Trust for Public Land. “We asked them to help protect the land and create a real conservation plan that would preserve the biological heart of the watershed,” said Farmer, an Earth First! activist. “Later we approached Green Diamond, asked them to deescalate the situation and to put a good foot forward by closing the timber harvest plan, McKay ’09.”

Last week, Green Diamond decided to close the McKay ’09 timber harvest plan and not log the contested land, as a part of a larger land deal with the Trust for Public Land and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. That deal would put the 7,500-acre McKay Tract into a conservation easement. Up to 1,800 acres along the western edge of the McKay Tract, the area of contention for the tree-sitters, will be bought by the Trust for Public Land to become a community forest managed by the county. The 5,700 acres on the east side of Ryan Creek will remain under the management of Green Diamond, and the timber company has agreed to sell a conservation easement, thereby surrendering its right to pursue residential development and thus maintaining a “working forest” model for the tract in perpetuity.

“This is a great resolution for the forest and the community,” said Natalynne DeLapp of EPIC. “The tree-sitter’s presence prevented the permanent loss of a rare redwood ecosystem and Green Diamond deserves real credit for what is turning into a text book example of a private conservation initiative with a public benefit.”

The tree-sitters are packing and cleaning up their Ewok village for some much deserved rest and relaxation before they start planning their next forest defense campaign. Click here to read the press release from Earth First! Humboldt regarding their victory in the McKay Tract.

The following EPIC articles feature the evolution of the McKay Tract situation:

Green Diamond Poised to Log Mckay THP

Development within the McKay Tract?

Take Action for our Humboldt County Forests


Action Alert: Protect Northern Spotted Owl Habitat

Monday, June 25th, 2012
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Take Action Now: Protect Northern Spotted Owl Habitat!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl threatens to weaken protection for mature forests in Northern California and throughout the Pacific Northwest.  The proposed rule would allow extensive logging and degradation of owl habitat; forests that also provide clean drinking water and shelter spawning grounds for Pacific salmon.  In addition, the proposed rule exempts over 2.5 million acres of critical habitat under a legally flawed approach, reminiscent of the Bush Administration.

We need your help to fix this proposed rule!

Please tell the Obama Administration that our magnificent old-growth forests must remain protected for the sake of the owl, other species, and future generations of Americans.

Unfortunately, the government isn’t making commenting on this plan as easy as they could, but we will not be deterred. To make your voice heard and submit your comment, click here or visit: www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FWS-R1-ES-2011-0112-0030

Fill in your name and contact information.  We have provided some suggested comments below.  However, in order to greatly increase the impact of your action, we encourage you to personalize your comment by adding your own feelings and experiences.  You may also learn more by listening to the 6/26/12 KMUD Environment Show featuring a discussion on the Northern Spotted Owl.

Please forward this alert to others.  Thank you for your help on this important issue.

Sample Comment:

I am writing in support of protecting the mature and old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest that provide numerous economic and ecosystem benefits and are essential to threatened species such as the Northern Spotted Owl, the Marbled Murrelet, and Pacific salmon. Conservation of the old-growth ecosystem by the Northwest Forest Plan was a significant environmental advance that ended decades of unsustainable management practices. Studies show that the plan is working — the highly fragmented forests are growing back into large blocks needed to maintain water quality and recover threatened species such as the Northern Spotted Owl.

The draft Critical Habitat proposal raises concern because it does not protect all of the habitat essential to the conservation and recovery of the spotted owl.  The rule also proposes to exclude habitat on state and private lands necessary for recovery, particularly coastal redwood forests.  In addition, even for areas designated as Critical Habitat, the draft rule allows logging that is not supported by science. Three major scientific societies are advising the Obama Administration to conduct more research before more owl habitat is lost.

We agree with the scientists’ call for caution. The necessity and benefits of logging in owl habitat remain in scientific dispute; if allowed, it should be viewed as experimental, conducted on a small scale, and monitored to determine its impact.

The draft includes language allowing for weakening or eliminating protections of the Northwest Forest Plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must ensure that the protected reserves are maintained. Logging areas now protected by the Northwest Forest Plan, including mature forests that the Plan had intended to become old-growth is inconsistent with sound science and should not be allowed.

Sincerely,


Action Alert! FSC — Don’t Greenwash Green Diamond Resource Company!

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
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Take Action Now!

Green Diamond Resource Company (previously known as Simpson Timber Company) owns over 400,000 acres of forested lands on the north coast of California in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.  These private lands surround Redwood National and State Parks, the Yurok Reservation, and the communities around Humboldt Bay, Trinidad, Klamath and Crescent City.  Therefore, these lands are critical to the integrity of our natural landscapes, water supplies, fish and wildlife, and productive communities.

Green Diamond is now seeking to certify its forest lands through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-profit organization that sets standards for forestry practices in an attempt to balance environmental, social, and economic values. While this could be a promising development, many questions arise because of Green Diamond’s aggressive clearcut logging, their legacy of toxic pollution, their decades long history of antagonistic relationships with local communities and civil society organizations, and their corporate culture of greenwash, impunity, and lack of accountability.

FSC is using a third party company, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), to conduct the audit of Green Diamond’s forest lands.  This process is open to public input and there was a public meeting on June 11th at the Bayside Grange near Arcata.  EPIC was there at this meeting, and the staff of our organization continues to believe that there is real opportunity in this certification process to bring about substantial changes in the manner in which Green Diamond (ex-Simpson Timber) treats public trust resources in our bioregion. We applaud the leadership at Green Diamond for endeavoring to enter into this process. Nevertheless, due to the dynamics at this meeting and concerns that FSC is not registering nor taking seriously the comments of the public, it has been become clear to us that there is a very real risk that the Forest Stewardship Council could provide certification to Green Diamond without bringing about the necessary transformation of their operations on the ground, and without seriously addressing the corporate culture that pays lip service to social and economic concerns while continuing to hide the impacts on our local landscapes and human communities that have resulted from decades of abuse by this privately held Seattle based company.

This is a critical moment in the work being done to establish an ecologically viable and socially responsible forest products industry on the North Coast of California. Take action today, and tell the FSC — Don’t Greenwash Green Diamond!

Read the Public Notification Letter about this process and for more information about how to submit your own comments or click here and take action today!


How Trees Communicate

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
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New studies from researchers at the University of British Columbia show that trees can communicate by sharing carbon and nitrogen.  Fungi connects the underground root systems to create a symbiotic relationship that works as a survival mechanism for the trees.  Larger and older “Mother Trees” have mycelium that grows below their roots linking them to nearby trees in a complex neuro-network of roots, soil, fungi and micro-organisms.  The intertwined root system forms a structure that functions similar to axons and neurons in the brain.  Essentially, trees can move their energy, leaving a legacy that transfers from one generation to the next.   This study shows the importance of a complex forest ecosystem that contains both old and young trees together sharing ancient resources in opposition to a clearcut model, which would decimate ancestral knowledge and resources.


Political Favors for Wealthy Timber Baron Just Business as Usual in Sacramento

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
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Recently, the Sacramento Bee revealed that Governor Jerry Brown has proposed changes to long established California law to appease a wealthy timber baron. Billionaire Red Emmerson and his company, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), own more than 2 million acres in California, with a net worth of $2.6 billion, making him California’s largest landowner.  SPI is being prosecuted for negligently starting a fire that destroyed public trust resources, but rather than play by the rules, the company has asked the Governor to change them.  Affording the company an advantage in a high profile federal prosecution is clearly inappropriate.  The U.S. Attorney’s office describes SPI’s attempt to change the legal playing field as “cynical,” and we believe that it is insulting to the public and any sense of justice.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) once again sees the disconnection between decisions made in Sacramento and the perspectives of citizens and local communities in California’s rural areas.  EPIC, based in Humboldt County, represents environmentally aware Californians, and has championed the protection of California’s forests, clean water, sustainable economies and the state’s unique biological diversity for over three decades.  EPIC has a history of challenging wealthy timber barons, which have benefited from Sacramento’s complicity through lack of governance.  Once again, it appears Sacramento is poised to ignore the needs of Californians in favor of the wealthy elite.

Beyond the Governor’s obvious giveaway to SPI in the fire liability context, is a less obvious but equally egregious giveaway: a consumer tax on lumber.  The proposed tax would give SPI the ability to freely pass the cost of critical public trust analysis onto the consumer.  This is an obvious bailout for SPI.  Without a fee-based program, as most other permitting processes require, SPI is free to pass on the costs of its clearcuts to the greater public, all without any measure of accountability.  The Governor’s approach provides no incentive to engage in sustainable forestry, as practiced by many small landowners for decades, but instead allows business as usual for those large industrial landowners, like SPI, that clearcut forests across California.  Rather than impose a tax on Californians, the Governor should bring California’s timber industry into the 21st century.  Anyone that wishes to despoil our great state must be assessed the real cost of public trust resource review, which can be appropriately adjusted for sustainable practices, and especially for the advances made by smaller landowners.

Damaging logging plans that include clearcutting require more intensive review by state agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game, and therefore should be more expensive to permit.  SPI’s clearcuts impact numerous public trust resources thereby requiring more state agency resources to evaluate the impacts.   At present, this cost is born by the taxpayer, and equates to a direct subsidy to SPI.  Meanwhile, genuine stewardship of California’s forests by smaller landowners goes unnoticed and unrewarded.  The time has come for a responsible fee schedule, which rewards those landowners who steward their lands and are committed to the restoration of California’s natural heritage.  In the case of cut and run corporations that only wish to profit off our public trust resources, they should pay. Holding billionaire timber barons accountable for the damage they have wrought on our natural landscapes and human communities is imperative for charting a new path forward to restore California’s forests.