Archive for November, 2012

EPIC Work to Protect Environmental Democracy Supports Community Solutions

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
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For thirty-five years EPIC has played a vital and necessary role in the protection of the natural environment of northwestern California.  The organization’s mission is to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries, and native species in Northern California.  EPIC uses an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.  An essential part this strategy is how EPIC champions and promotes access to environmental democracy.

What is environmental democracy?  Environmental democracy is about government being transparent, accountable, and involving people in decisions that affect the quality of their lives and their environment.  In many parts of the world, citizens are still fighting for these basic freedoms and rights that many in the United States take for granted.  Indeed, it is likely that a large sector of the American public does not even think about access to environmental democracy.

In the United States, governmental agencies, like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), were created and charged with the responsibility to uphold and enforce environmental laws to ensure that citizens have access to clean water, clean air and to a healthy environment from which to live and thrive.  Other federal and state agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife Services, Bureau of Land Management, National and State Parks, similarly were put in place to oversee and regulate these commonly held resources for the people of the United States of America.

Unfortunately, however, the very agencies and regulators that were put in place to safe-guard these values, time and time again, simply fail to get the job done.  Whether it is through complacency, corruption, or through a flawed system filled with bureaucrats and red-tape, agencies often lack the resources or ability to enforce the very laws they were created to uphold. Big industry and high-spending polluters with their endless resources, get their way despite overwhelming scientific data and public support surrounding the need for environmental regulation and protection.  That is where citizen watchdogs and public interest organizations like EPIC play a critically needed role, to ensure that this nation’s environmental laws are upheld and not undermined. Whether in the courtrooms, in the media, online with email or website updates, EPIC’s network of information helps to mobilize the public will, which in turn provides the necessary political pressure to help get the job done! The job of maintaining and enforcing environmental laws and protecting the natural world by promoting environmental democracy… the voice of the people, by people, for the people, for the environment.

In this vein, EPIC continues to be committed to promoting broad public participation in decision-making. Back room deals and secrecy have never been compatible with an open society. By demanding that government agencies and private corporations operate out in the open, we are working towards ensuring that a cornerstone of our democracy is vibrant and functioning. EPIC has exposed numerous proposed actions where government officials have attempted to short circuit the public’s role in the decision making process. One example of this limitation of public participation is the use of Categorical Exclusions or Exemptions from environmental analysis. Rather than receive public scrutiny over a proposal, the exemption process truly results in secretive and closed-door judgment calls that are poorly researched and counter to the public interest (see below).

Even when an open public process is ongoing, it is absolutely critical that the best available science and most recent research are presented to the public for consideration. By doing so, EPIC provides the public with the information, the public can then provide the voice and public will identifies and offers solutions to environmental problems by gathering and advancing the best available science to agencies, private parties and the general public.

 

Old-growth Douglas Fir marked for cut by the U.S. Forest Service.

Little Cronan Timber Sale

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to log an old-growth forest stand using a “Categorical Exclusion” without an environmental analysis. The project would log nesting habitat for the northern spotted owl, build landings, and a road over a trail leading to the Marble Mountain Wilderness within a watershed that is critical for salmon recovery.

EPIC was successful at halting this project for over a year, based on Forest Service violations of the Endangered Species Act; however the Forest Service is again circulating this timber sale that ignores the best available science, public comments, the law, and undermines the public’s trust in its actions.

Richardson Grove

Photo by Juan Pazos

Since 2007, EPIC and our allies have held Caltrans accountable to the law. Initially Caltrans was only going to do the bare minimum of environmental analysis for the Richardson Grove ‘Improvement’ Project—a Categorical Exemption, which is reserved for projects that do not have a significant impact on the environment.  Had EPIC not intervened on behalf of the Grove, it is likely the project would likely have already been built, with very little environmental analysis, and zero public input.


Help Stop “Salvage” Logging in the Kangaroo Roadless Area

Sunday, November 25th, 2012
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UPDATE: January 30, 2013

Public Input Works. By taking action late last year with EPIC to oppose salvage logging proposed after last summer’s Goff Fire in the Klamath NF near the Oregon border, you have saved wild forests from unnecessary and damaging post-fire logging. The Klamath National Forest has cancelled plans to heavily log the Kangaroo Roadless Area! The Forest Service changed course because-

Goff Fire

 

1) Helicopter logging was not economically viable;

 

2) Klamath NF Fire staff said that post-fire logging would not improve firefighter or community safety; and

3) the Forest Service had heard from enough people that value the Kangaroo Roadless Area to realize there was nothing collaborative about a “salvage” proposal.

Now, land/ mangers will be concentrating on fuels reduction 500 feet around private properties and roadside hazard tree logging. Because a formal proposal is not yet finalized, EPIC will continue to follow the Klamath National Forest post-fire projects related to the Goff fire closely.

November 25, 2012

Click here to take Action! The Kangaroo Roadless Area outside the Red Buttes Wilderness is in danger.  This backcountry forest is one of the largest intact wild lands in California.  It provides critical connectivity for wildlife and is a virtual hotspot for biodiversity and endemic species.  It hosts waterfalls, high mountain meadows, lush old-growth forests, endless wildflowers and amazing vistas from the Pacific Crest Trail.

This summer the 22,000 acre Goff Fire burned exquisitely with a vast majority of the flames burning low to the ground cleaning the forest floor in its path. Now that the smoke has cleared, the Klamath National Forest is considering helicopter logging the biggest old-growth snags (burned trees) in the name of “forest health”.

Please Act Now and tell the Klamath National Forest to forgo logging in backcountry roadless areas and that you value rare and biologically rich post-fire habitats.

 


Final Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Rule Restores Federal Lands, But Excludes Redwood Region

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
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Northern Spotted Owls, by Peter Carlson

9.6 Million Acres Protected as Critical Habitat for Northern Spotted Owls

Decision Reverses Controversial Bush Administration Cuts to Habitat

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups today hailed protection of 9.6 million acres of critical habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl across federal lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, but were deeply disappointed by the exclusion of all private and most state lands, resulting in a 4.2 million cut from the proposed designation. The owl has continued to decline since being protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, in part because of continued loss of habitat on private and state lands.

“The forests that owls depend on are the same forests we cherish for clean drinking water, habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and outdoor recreation with our families,” said Joseph Vaile, program director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, Ore. “We need to focus on protecting and restoring our remaining mature and old-growth forests across all lands, so we can recover endangered wildlife and produce sustainable jobs in rural communities.”

Today’s designation replaces a 2008 designation by the Bush administration that had ignored years of scientific evidence showing that spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest needed more, not less, old-growth forest habitat protection, and had slashed a 1992 designation of nearly 7 million acres by more than 1.5 million acres. This cut of critical habitat was based on a recovery plan for the owl that was widely criticized by the scientific community and revealed in congressional hearings to have been the product of direct political interference designed to undermine the protective measures of the Northwest Forest Plan. Conservation groups successfully challenged the 2008 designation, resulting in today’s designation, which is a substantial increase from both previous designations.

“In restoring extensive protections on federal lands, today’s decision, protecting millions of acres of habitat for the spotted owl, marks the end of a dark chapter in the Endangered Species Act’s implementation when politics were allowed to blot out science,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is, however, deeply disappointing that the Obama administration has elected to exclude all private and most state lands, which are absolutely essential to the recovery of the spotted owl and dozens of other wildlife species.”

While the final rule restores protections to essential federal lands, it fails to fully account for and implement the recovery goal of critical habitat because it proposes to exclude far too much habitat on non-federal lands. Many of these lands provide essential habitat for the owl; many private lands in the “Redwood Coast” region, for example, are absolutely essential because the owl can nest in younger trees with redwoods and the owl’s productivity is consistently higher in the redwood zone as compared with the remainder of the range.

“The evidence is overwhelming that redwood forests are essential to the conservation of the species. Leaving them out of the final rule is a big mistake,” remarked Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center.

Conservation groups also remain concerned about statements in the proposed critical habitat rule calling for “active management” of spotted owl critical habitat, including logging. The scientific basis for logging existing spotted owl habitat to benefit the species remains questionable, at best, with numerous studies demonstrating the owl is sensitive to logging of its mature and old-growth forest habitat.

“The owl needs these areas of protected habitat to survive,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy. “We remain concerned, however, that Fish and Wildlife may allow increased logging in critical habitat, which could also imperil the threatened marbled murrelet, and help the spotted owl’s competitor, the barred owl.”

At most, 20 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s original old-growth forests remain. In addition to providing critical habitat for spotted owls, salmon, steelhead and other species, mature and old-growth forests are important sources of clean water and help reduce global warming.

“Independent scientific peer reviews have been crystal clear on owl recovery being tied to protection of old forest habitat especially as competition with the more aggressive barred owl increases and climate change further stresses spotted owl populations,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist and former member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006-2008 recovery team who initially raised concerns about lack of habitat protections under the Bush proposal.

Conservation groups, represented by Kristen Boyles, attorney with EarthJustice, successfully challenged the 2008 designation, resulting in today’s designation.

NSOCriticalHab_PR_11-21-12

Associated Press/Times-Standard article from Nov 22, 2012 – Feds aim to double habitat for spotted owl

Redding Record-Searchlight article from Nov 22, 2012 – Feds’ spotted owl ruling sparks criticism; 9.5 million acres for birds excludes private forest lands


EPIC Open House and Membership Mixer & Meeting

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
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Want to learn more about forest conservation on the Redwood Coast? EPIC members and tree lovers are encouraged to meet the local environmental community for a mixer, Friday, December 7th from 5:00-8:00pm at the EPIC Office  (145 G Street, Suite A in Arcata).

Connect with EPIC staff and Board of Directors to talk about forest conservation strategies for the North Coast and provide input for EPIC’s future campaigns! Elect the 2013 Board of Directors, current EPIC members have voting rights (if you would like to vote for the 2013 Board of Directors, please join or renew your membership here).

Live music by Josephine Johnson and photography by Peter Carlson, with drinks, appetizers and silent auction.

Free and open to the public.

Directions:

The EPIC office is on South G Street next door to the Arcata School of Massage in the old North Coast Journal building.

Election Process:

Nominations for the 2013 EPIC Board of Directors were accepted at the southern Humboldt membership meeting (held November 10, 2012) at Persimmon’s Garden Gallery. That slate of nominated Board of Directors will be presented to the Northern Humboldt membership c0mmunity and voted on to determine the 2013 Board of Directors.


It’s Back! Take Action to Save Salmon River Old Growth Forests (Updated)

Thursday, November 8th, 2012
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UPDATED November 20, 2013: The comment period for this Timber Sale has closed on Nov 20. EPIC, along with allies, submitted comments demanding that a full environmental analysis be done due to the exceptional circumstances surrounding this project. Though your letter will be late, it is important to keep sending messages to the Klamath National Forest that logging old growth on the Marble Mountain Wilderness boundary is a Bad Idea.

Take Action Now!  The Little Cronan Timber Sale is back again.  The Klamath National Forest needs to hear your opposition.  Logging this old growth forest stand would have a big impact on many values we hold dear.  The project proposes, not only to log nesting habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, but also to build landings and a road over a trail leading to the Marble Mountain Wilderness within a Wild and Scenic River corridor and within a Key watershed that is critical for salmon recovery.

Click here to see photos of old-growth trees proposed for logging.

The North Fork Salmon River is home to threatened Coho Salmon and to Chinook Salmon, including critically imperiled Spring-run Chinook.   The Salmon River provides one of the last strongholds for the nearly extinct Spring Chinook, a species that needs cold, clean water while holding in deep pools throughout the dry season.  The Garden Gulch trail, leading to the wilderness, would be used as a logging road, with skid trails and landings directly adjacent to a tributary leading to this Key watershed.

To add insult to injury the Forest Service believes that the project does not need an environmental analysis, that there are no extraordinary circumstances.  Tell the Forest Service that logging old-growth trees next to critical salmon streams and spotted owl habitat is unacceptable.

EPIC was successful at halting the project for over a year, based on Forest Service violations of the Endangered Species Act.    Rather than learning from its mistakes, the Forest Service is ignoring the best available science, public comments, and the law.

Please let the Forest Supervisor and Ranger know that the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River and old growth forest stands need protection not destruction!


Green Diamond Exposed as National Case Study in “Greenwash”

Thursday, November 8th, 2012
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The active summer of clearcut logging on Green Diamond private forestland holdings has raised the eyebrows and ire of many North Coast residents, as well as visitors to the area. The phones at the EPIC office often ring with questions, observations, and complaints about industrial activities from many different corners of our bioregion. The intensity of clearcut logging on Green Diamond lands in Northern Humboldt County has been the subject of several phone conversations with concerned locals phoning into the EPIC office with questions and concerns about what was going on “back there.”

Yet, it wasn’t until we had new photos from the air of Green Diamond holdings in upper Maple Creek and in the upper North Fork of the Mad River that we were able to fully confirm what many residents had been calling in to ask about–that the hardcore Green Diamond logging of the summer of 2012 was almost exclusively based in extensive fresh clearcutting of the redwood forest ecosystem.

We felt it was urgent to share the newest images of Green Diamond forest destruction with the broad community of people all around the state, the country, and the world that have communicated their interest in protecting the redwood temperate rainforests of the North Coast of California.

The photos rapidly caught the attention of our friends and colleagues at ForestEthics. ForestEthics is spearheading a national campaign to expose the “greenwash” of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification scheme. When we told them our story of Green Diamond’s SFI certified redwood forest destruction, the team at ForestEthics was, without a better way of saying it, absolutely disgusted. They decided to turn that disgust with SFI certified redwood forest destruction into action, and promptly published an action alert that features Green Diamond’s SFI certified clearcuts as a national case study in “greenwash.” 

In a blog post titled “Seeing Red: Green Diamond and SFI Greenwash Forest Destruction” the scandal of the SFI certified clearcuts of redwood forest on Green Diamond holdings in Northern California is denounced as an “attempt to mislead us when we as consumers are trying to do the right thing.”  This statement gets to the core of the insidious nature of Green Diamond’s misrepresentation of their forestry practices as “sustainable”–most consumers do not want to pay for forest products that come from destructive clearcut forestry. It is only through massive PR (i.e. “greenwash”) that Green Diamond is able to hide the reality of the impacts that their forestry practices have on endangered species and the most endangered temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet, the redwood forest. The kind of national exposure that this recent ForestEthics action will give to the situation on the ground in the redwood forest will assist in unmasking Green Diamond and SFI as partners in “greenwash,” and help consumers across the country develop the skills necessary to decipher (and avoid) the destruction that is behind the false eco-labels.

Check out the ForestEthics blog and their new action — Seeing Red: Green Diamond and SFI Greenwash Forest Destruction — and stay tuned for more news from EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Program.


Thank You for EPIC Fall Celebration

Thursday, November 8th, 2012
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Thank You to Everyone Who Supported EPIC’s 35th Anniversary Fall Celebration–It was a huge success!

On Friday, November 2, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) celebrated 35 years of advocacy for wild forests and endangered species on the North Coast of California. Several hundred EPIC members and community supporters gathered within the warm embrace of the Mateel Community Center to dine, dance, and celebrate.

As a highlight to the evening, the 2012 Richard Gienger Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rick Klein for his lasting contributions in environmental advocacy. Rick was one of the first of his generation to articulate the imperative of protecting ancient forests and has long been at the forefront of conservation innovation within our community. After years of key contributions to environmental defense at home in the Redwood Region of California, he helped found the seminal global temperate rainforest protection organization, Ancient Forest International.

Also, during the awards ceremony, Tryphena Lewis, and James and Ella Shelton were granted the 2012 Volunteer Awards for their dedication to environmental protection. Tryphena for her inspired perspective and eye for party planning; James for his successful outreach and fundraising; and Ella for her determination to make a difference in the world—thank you! We feel your positive influence on the organization everyday!

We want to extend a huge thank you to Tryphena Lewis and all of her volunteer kitchen staff for preparing a delicious Indian feast for nearly 200 people!

The music of the evening was tremendous! Vancouver-based Delhi 2 Dublin Turned up the Stereo with their non-stop world beat energy creating a multi-cultural dance celebration. Where else could you have seen an amazing fiddle player rocking out with a two bouncing Bhangra percussionists and a vocalist who looks like he would be at home in a Bollywood music video other than the Mateel? If you missed them at last weekend’s event you’ll have to wait until next year’s festival season to see them!

Thank you to all of the businesses and artisans that support EPIC:
3Fold-Good Karma, Abraxas, Amanda Steinebach, Anna’s Haute Aprons, Alirose, Arcata Core Pilates, Arcata Exchange, Arcata Holistic Health Center, Baroni Designs, Batty Bats, Bayside Roasters, Bead Mask, Bead Supply, Belle Star, Benbow Inn, Beneficial Tea Company, Blessed Lotus, Bohemian Mermaid, Brian Allison Photographer, Bubbles, By Nieves, Cada Johnson, Catlin Blair Harvey, Caravan of Dreams, Carey West, Chakra Nation Hoopers, Chatauqua, Goldenspirits, Coming Attraction Theatres, Cool Shoes, Danielle Donaldson, Dell’arte, Earnest Efforts, Earth Stones, Elka Herbals, Eureka Natural Foods, Fantasy Lane Copper Fairies, Far North Climbing Gym, Fire and Light, Fire Arts Center, Frey Vineyards, Glass Station, Global Village Gallery, Golden Bee Candle Works, Good Relations, Greta Montagne, Guinevere’s Candles, Harbin Hot Springs, Harmonic Botanicals, Hempress Arise, Holly Yashi, Humboldt Connection, Humboldt Glassblowers, Hyampom Valley Soap, Isara Designs, Jackson Threads, Joyce Jonte, Libation, Lagunitas Brewery, Lost Coast Brewery, Lost Coast Communications, KMUD: Redwood Community Radio, Mad River Brewery, Mark Hensen, Mark Young Cermamic, McKinleyville Central Market, Michelle Palazzo, Mitch Deadrick Pottery, Monica Star, Moonrise Herbs, Morning Star, Northtown Books, Northcoast Co-Op, Northcoast Journal, Ohana Organics, Oregon Flavor Rack, Orr Hot Springs, Pacific Paradise, Peace Chain Joe, Pierson’s Building Center, Polar Babies, Practical Rabbit, Radtke, Ray Storch, Ray’s Food Place, Redway Feed, Rise Designs, Roland Leprin, Roundtuit Spoonz, Russ Clanton Attorney, Shaw House B&B, Shop Smart, Signature Coffee, Simply Macintosh, Soul to Soul Foot Bar, Sprout Kids, Starseed Solar Graphics, Stone Fever, Susan Nolan, Sylvia DeRoy, Tami Sionx, Thimbleberry Threads, Traci Rain Attorney, Trumbly Designs, Veronica Flora, Violet Green Winery, Waxing Moon Batiks, Welldunn Illustrations, Wildberries Marketplace, Wild Oak, Woodrose Café, and Yea Yeah Pony.

Please consider these businesses when you are making choices about supporting sustainability in your community! The generosity of these companies in supporting our organization is invaluable to our being able to do the work that we do, THANK YOU!

Thank you to all of the volunteers who made the night possible:
Rob Fishman, Joe Metzger, Laurel Hoffman, Jeffrey Hinton, Jemma Williams, Mitra Abidi, Stephen Luther, Sara March, Jeri Fergus, Cassandra Amos, Tuan Moondy, Resha Reneu, Ben Adams, Gabriel Salazar, James Shelton and Star Malandro

Our volunteers are the heart and soul of EPIC, THANK YOU!
Thank you to everyone who helped make our 35th Anniversary Fall Celebration a total success. It really was a firecracker of a party! Watch for our schedule of events for 2013, we will be sure to get everyone together again to celebrate our Wild California!


Court Will Not Stop Caltrans from Cutting Trees, Harming Salmon Streams Before Lawsuit over Controversial Willits Bypass Project Can Be Heard

Thursday, November 1st, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO— A federal judge today refused to halt imminent environmental destruction by the California Department of Transportation in preparation for construction of the Willits Bypass, a proposed four-lane freeway to be built around the community of Willits in Mendocino County. Caltrans has awarded a construction contract that could result in cutting of mature oak forests and clearing of riparian vegetation along critical salmon streams as early as this month.

“We’re disappointed Caltrans may be able to start cutting trees and destroying streamside habitat in the headwaters of the Eel River right as salmon are beginning to migrate into spawning rivers,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It will be a shame if irreparable harm is done to salmon habitat before we get our day in court, since we have a strong case that environmental review for the project is weak.”

“A $200 million project to bulldoze a six-mile freeway through major wetlands and endangered species habitats while we are facing unprecedented climate disruption is 1950s-style planning — is this the best we can do?” said Gary Hughes with the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We intend to redouble our efforts in this lawsuit to force Caltrans to consider alternatives which will not harm wetlands, salmon streams, endangered plants, and productive farmland and rangeland.”

“We will press forward with our lawsuit against this ill-conceived highway project,” said Ellen Drell with the Willits Environmental Center. “We cannot allow Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers to use taxpayer money for such extensive damage to our environment just because one intersection in Willits backs up for a few hours a day.”

The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction requested by the Center for Biological Diversity, Willits Environmental Center, Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), despite a pending xarelto lawsuit results, which will not be heard until December at the earliest. Although the court agreed there is a risk of irreparable environmental harm in allowing the cutting of legacy oaks and riparian vegetation to go forward before the trial, its ruling could allow Caltrans to initiate tree-cutting and degrade salmon-bearing streams.

The court’s ruling is limited, and Caltrans has indicated it will only proceed with “topping” trees and clearing vegetation in the near future. As far as filling wetlands and excavating the roadway, Caltrans claims these activities will not occur until 2013. In the meantime, the court will hear the merits of the entire case.

Background

Caltrans and the Federal Highway Administration are pursuing a bypass on Highway 101 around Willits, supposedly to ease traffic congestion. The agencies insist on a four-lane freeway and have refused to consider or analyze equally effective two-lane alternatives or in-town solutions. The project would construct a six-mile, four-lane bypass including several bridges over creeks and roads, a mile-long viaduct spanning the floodplain, and two interchanges. This would hurt wildlife habitat and biological resources in Little Lake Valley, including nearly 100 acres of wetlands, and require the largest wetlands fill permit in Northern California in the past 50 years. It would damage stream and riparian habitat for chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout in three streams converging into Outlet Creek, harm the rare plant Baker’s meadowfoam, and destroy increasingly scarce oak woodlands.

Conservation groups sued Caltrans and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 2012 for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The California Farm Bureau Federation has since intervened on behalf of the plaintiffs due to its concerns about threats to productive agricultural lands. The plaintiffs contend that Caltrans refused to consider two-lane alternatives and failed to prepare a supplemental “environmental impact statement” for substantial design changes and new information about lower traffic volumes and more severe environmental impacts. The Army Corps improperly issued a wetlands fill permit in February 2012.

Although Caltrans documents show that traffic projected to use the bypass is not enough to warrant a four-lane freeway, the agency unilaterally discarded all nonfreeway or two-lane alternatives. New information shows that traffic volumes are below what Caltrans projected when it determined a four-lane freeway was needed.

For Immediate Release, November 1, 2012

Contacts: Gary Hughes, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 223-5434
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Ellen Drell, Willits Environmental Center, (707) 459-4110