Archive for February, 2013

Action Alert: Protect California’s Marine Life from Violent Military Sonar and Explosives

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
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whale ship noaaUpdate 3/8/13: Thanks to your participation, the California Coastal Commission has voted unanimously to reject the Navy’s proposal for increased use of Sonar and underwater explosives.  This vote will not halt the Navy’s existing training activities, but will require the Navy to negotiate further with the Coastal Commission to safeguard marine mammals in the future. 

The California vote will not immediately halt training in the region. Rather, it will now require more negotiations between the commission and the Navy. Navy officials said they plan to continue discussions about how they would mitigate harm to marine mammals.

Take Action!  Over the next five years, the United States Navy plans to conduct large scale training exercises involving intense sonar pulses and explosives off the California coast, which is expected to result in more than 9.5 million instances of harm to whales and dolphins between Dana Point and San Diego and extending more than 600 nautical miles out to sea.

Impacts to marine resources could spread as animals travel in and out of toxic debris leftover from explosives.  In addition, the Navy’s blast of high intensity noise from mid-frequency sonar pulses can impact animals far from their source.  However, before these training exercises can begin, the Navy must ask the California Coastal Commission to determine that these activities are consistent with California’s Coastal Zone Management Act, including goals to protect, preserve, and enhance the coastal environment. 

EPIC has been tracking  the Navy’s proposed warfare testing along the Pacific coast and since October of 2010.  Over the last few years, we have had over a thousand people take action online and nearly 2,000 people filled out post cards requesting Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment Committee, to hold congressional hearings to address cumulative effects to marine life and to stop the unnecessary and harmful warfare testing along the Pacific coast.  The threat has not gone away, and we still need your help to speak out against these acts of violence towards sentient marine mammals and other sea life that will be affected if the Navy does not comply with environmental standards that have been put into place to protect us and all other life that depends on a safe and clean marine environment.

On Friday, March 8th, the California Coastal Commission will hold a hearing to determine whether the Navy’s proposed training activities are consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act. The Coastal Commission has already prepared a staff report and additional background materials on the Navy’s Sonar and Munitions Program, which can be found at: www.coastal.ca.gov/fedcd/hstt/hstt.html

Please take a moment to ask the Coastal Commission to protect our coastal waters by requiring the Navy to implement additional measures to reduce harm to marine mammals and other coastal resources. 

Click here to take action now.

 


Pisces Party Tradition Celebrates Work of Richard Gienger

Sunday, February 24th, 2013
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salmon pisces transparent bkgrndThe 11th Annual Pisces Party will be held Friday, March 8, at the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland. The Pisces Party tradition has become an EPIC community ritual and harbinger of the coming spring. The event is an annual fundraiser to honor and support EPIC adviser and mentor Richard Gienger’s ongoing work restoring the forests and watersheds of the region.

Doors will open at 6 PM for a dinner prepared by Sue’s Organics, with cocktails, beer and wine to be served through the evening. Entertainment for the evening will feature one of our favorite local songwriters Jan Bramlett, and a rousing and rocking headline performance by Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. Dinner and the show is $25, while the show is only $10, with tickets available at the door. You can purchase tickets in advance by clicking here, or if you are unable to attend the party, but would like to support Richard’s work, you can make a secure online donation by clicking here.

RICHARD6Richard Gienger is without question one of the State of California’s most authentic and dedicated restoration experts and advocates. His efforts were recognized in 2010 with the presentation of the EPIC Sempervirens Award for Lifetime Achievement–an award that now carries with it Richard’s name. Richard is a rare talent who has been able to make restoration happen on the ground as well as moving policy in the halls of power in Sacramento. Sometimes controversial, and at other times a key facilitator in the resolution of conflict, Richard has been making contributions to the recovery and stewardship of the watersheds in our bioregion for four decades.

EPIC staff recently caught up with Richard to run some questions by him about his work to reform the analysis of cumulative watershed effects and the organization and availability of critical information. We asked Richard to explain and simplify the concept of cumulative effects and how they are currently analyzed. The following Q and A is an excellent window to the essence of Richard’s work that will be supported through the funds raised at this year’s Pisces Party.

loggingroadQ1)  Can you explain the concept of cumulative effects?

A1) Cumulative effects are those effects which are a combination of single effects which may affect a given area or situation in ways that are capable of significantly altering conditions such that entire established relationships and conditions for that area or situation are transformed.  For instance, to use a common example for forested watersheds:  One failed road stream crossing is likely to not overwhelm the productive capacity of fish habitat in a given watershed, but a number of failed stream crossings in that watershed (which can happen over time) could contribute levels of sediment that could impair the productive capacity of the fish habitat in the whole watershed – a significant cumulative effect.  Usually cumulative effects are assumed to be adverse, although that isn’t necessarily the case – for instance the cumulative replanting of conifers in conifer depleted riparian zones could lead to improved  water temperatures and fish habitat.  Cumulative effects can happen, and do happen, over a range of space and time.  An example of adverse cumulative effects on wildlife would be the case of the Marbled Murrelets which depend on very large branches of old growth forests relatively close to the ocean for their nesting habitat.  The logging of such old growth, if scattered in location and size and over long periods of time may not significantly threaten the overall populations of Marbled Murrelets, but at a certain point, if the old growth removal is extended over large areas in a relatively short period of time, the cumulative effect will be to jeopardize the reproduction and survival of the species –  taking their habitat needs beyond the threshold of conditions necessary for the species to thrive or even survive.

Q2)  Can you summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the current assessment methodology?

A2) The strengths of the current assessment methodology include the requirement in Section 916.4 of the Forest Practice Rules for the forester (or their designee) to walk every watercourse and describe and/or map features that adversely affect that watercourse and riparian zone in the area of a submitted Timber Harvest Plan (THP).  Another strength is that the evaluation of cumulative effects is required covered all past, current and foreseeable seen future cumulative impacts – impacts of all kinds, not just logging effects, as they affect the appropriate evaluation area.  Cumulative Watershed effects are almost always required to be, and justifiably so, evaluated at the CalWater Planning Watershed scale – usually an area of 5,000 to 10,000 acres.  This is the same scale that the Department of Fish & Wildlife recommend that recovery plans, determination of limiting factors, and organization of information be done at in the 2004 Coho Recovery Strategy.

The weaknesses of the current assessment methodology include, but are not limited to:

  1. The failure to have a Planning Watershed scale evaluation that appropriately incorporates the Section 916.4 type of evaluation required for THPs.
  2. There are no standard templates (specific maps at specific scale, specific descriptions in a specific framework etc.) required for the necessary information that would give a credible cumulative effects evaluation that.
  3. Information is not currently organized by Planning Watershed but is by county.  CalFire is trying to gradually get information at that scale, but all the stakeholders need to be able to ‘click’ on the Planning Watershed number and get the information they need on their computer screen.
  4. Most landowners lack the kind multidisciplinary expertise, access to information, and funds to adequately consider and respond to significant adverse cumulative effects.
  5. Even the best “consideration” of cumulative effects required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) seldom, if ever, respond with what needs to be done to reduce those effects to insignificance.

Q3)  Can you talk about the nuts and bolts of capturing and organizing information?

A3) A “nuts and bolts” way of doing this, that I have been pushing on for more than two decades is through having multidisciplinary, multiagency, and multistakeholders to conduct pilot projects that determine what information is needed and how it should be organized.  A central part of this is to have that information be “user-friendly’ and electronically accessible to all stakeholder – from the THP submitter to the reviewing agencies and to the public.

Q4)  How do you anticipate that the gathering of this information will inform or influence decision-making?

I think this information – if adequate in content, organization, standardization, and accessibility – will  make for better decisions that can actually lead to correction of adverse cumulative effects, better forestry, and recovery of wildlife, fisheries, and human communities duet to legacy and current impacts  on forestland.  Of course this information will only provide a foundation on which better decions can be made.  The actual right decisions will be difficult and painful, but without adequate information one would be unable to gain “a toe-hold” to leverage the kind of changes that are needed.

Q5)  What is your ideal outcome?

A5)  My ideal outcome is the right decisions will start being made through the multidisciplinary, multiagency, multistakeholder processes described above.  Check out a current attempt in the California Legislature, AB 875 – go to  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html  and put in the bill number.  Let’s get solutions into the “light of day”.

Q6) What are your feelings about the Pisces Party?

A6)  I feel great about the Pisces Party — always an inspiration with good, music, food, fellowship, community fun & goodwill. Thanks EPIC and friends!


Action Alert: Support EPIC’s Petition to Protect Spotted Owls and Save Public Funds

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
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NSO fem&juv _0397Update 3/6/13:  Thanks to your participation, the Board of Forestry has voted to accept EPIC’s rulemaking petition, which is expected to be available for public review.  Stay tuned for future updates.

Take Action Now!  Support EPIC’s petition to remove outdated and harmful regulations that damage Northern Spotted Owl habitat.  Existing state regulations have allowed intensive logging of spotted owl habitat within known owl territories resulting in the abandonment and loss of hundreds of historic nesting sites.  Changing state regulations to reflect the most current scientific and regulatory guidance is necessary in order to address these deficiencies.  Changing existing state regulations will also serve to streamline review and approval of timber harvest plans.

On February 6, 2013, EPIC filed a rulemaking petition with the California Board of Forestry to remove regulations that have resulted in harm to owls and significant loss of owl habitat, and comment the deadline for this issue is February 26th. It is Urgent that you take action today to protect Northern Spotted Owls.


Forest Products Marketing Firm Commits Major Blunder in the Redwoods

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
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FSC Certifies Clearcuts?

FSC Certifies Clearcuts?

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to certify more than 270,000 acres of climate destroying clearcuts in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest

On February 11, 2013, Green Diamond Resource Company (formerly Simpson Timber Company), SCS Global Services (SCS), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) issued a joint press release declaring a major milestone in the progression of forest management on California’s North Coast.  Unfortunately, the only major milestone here is that a once respected forest certification standard, FSC, is now squarely in danger of losing a significant measure of credibility.

SCS Global Services, an international corporation that provides certification contracting services to a number of industries, conducted, on behalf of the FSC, the evaluation, or audit, of Green Diamond Resource Company’s logging practices.  SCS then published the partial results of the audit in the form of a public report, failing to disclose a significant amount of information about the process, information which at this juncture remains secret.  EPIC’s review of the public report reveals a number of serious weaknesses, enough so that EPIC now questions the decision making process that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond.  It is imperative that the public be given full and open access to the whole certification record in a timely manner.

By certifying over 270,000 acres of clearcutting in the redwoods, FSC has knowingly risked the credibility of its brand.  As a consumer reference, FSC has had a reputation for legitimately identifying forest products that are produced in a manner to reduce social, economic, and environmental impacts. The general weakening of FSC standards, and the deterioration of meaningful access and participation for local communities in the FSC certification process, are widespread criticisms of FSC at a regional and global scale.  What is particularly troubling is that such a mistake could have been made in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest of northern California.

“The spin doctors have once again succeeded in performing life-saving surgery on Green Diamond Resource Company, formerly Simpson Timber” remarked Andrew Orahoske, Conservation Director at the Environmental Protection Information Center.  “With the ongoing climate crisis, the restoration of the great redwood forests is absolutely essential to mitigating the negative impacts of global warming.  It is deeply disappointing that a forest products marketing firm like FSC is blind to these realities.”

Early indications leading to the recent decision to put an FSC stamp on Green Diamond clearcuts were evident long before the logging giant’s press release.  In the fall of 2011, EPIC submitted comments in opposition to a proposal to change FSC standards allowing for even-aged management (clearcutting) in Pacific Coast region, including the Redwood Temperate Rainforest.  EPIC sounded the alarm over where this train wreck was headed; however, FSC ignored our comments and quietly changed the standard to allow for more large industrial landowners on the Pacific Coast to take advantage of the FSC brand and access to markets.  During the Green Diamond audit in June 2012, EPIC again warned of the potential hazards of FSC lowering certification standards to accommodate Green Diamond.  There is little evidence that EPIC’s and other stakeholders’ comments were provided any substantial weight in the decision making processes, heightening concerns that affected local communities are being ignored globally.

EPIC is in the process of conducting a more thorough investigation of the decision to grant FSC certification to Green Diamond Resource Company.  Our initial review is summarized below:

Climate Ignorance
In the year 2013 FSC still fails to take the climate crisis and the essential role of the world’s forests in sequestering atmospheric carbon into account. This is particularly egregious when considering the Redwood Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem enormous potential for capturing carbon and sequestering for thousands of years is unparalleled.  By certifying clearcuts in the redwood forests, FSC is squandering an opportunity to encourage forest management that will assist our society in responding to the present climate crisis.

Endangered Species
By Green Diamond’s own admission, the so- called Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Northern Spotted Owl has clearly failed the species. The HCP has allowed the company to continue to destroy owl habitat, resulting in an undeniable decline in the number of owl nesting sites on Green Diamond property.  Nevertheless, FSC relies on this failed Green Diamond HCP as evidence of the company’s responsible forest management.

Toxic Legacy
Green Diamond has made a commitment to eliminate the use of atrazine, the pesticide likely to be banned nationally in the near future due to well-documented public health hazards.  However, in addition to thousands of pounds of atrazine used by Green Diamond on their property in the past, the company will continue to use many thousands of pounds of other harmful pesticides, such as 2, 4-D, imazpyr, and triclopyr. These substances threaten aquatic species and domestic water supplies, including the Mad River which provides municipal drinking water to tens of thousands of people.  In a 2011 Biological Opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Services has concluded that the use of 2,4-D jeopardizes the continued existence of Pacific Coast salmonids.

Community Conflicts
The award of FSC certification comes at a time of heightened local community conflicts over Green Diamond logging.  This includes the controversial plans to clearcut at Strawberry Rock near the town of Trinidad, and their proposal to clearcut in the immediate vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, further exacerbating conflicts with local residents threatened with flooding downstream from Green Diamond holdings on the Elk River.

Transparency and Accountability
In reviewing the public report questions have been raised as to how community concerns and comments were integrated and weighted in the audit process.  EPIC will demand access to the full record on deliberations that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond.  Guaranteeing full and open access to information is a key tenant of environmental democracy and EPIC will continue to defend this fundamental right.

EPIC encourages affected community members and stakeholders to ask questions about the process that led to FSC certifying Green Diamond clearcuts in the redwoods.  In the meantime, we will continue to oppose damaging logging and watchdog forest certification schemes in northern California.  Exposing greenwash and public relations spin campaigns that are designed to hide the true environmental and social costs of logging and other industrial activities in Northwest California is an increasingly important job for the organization. The award of FSC certification to Green Diamond has very serious implications for the future of the Redwood Temperate Rainforest, and suggests an unraveling of credible forest management certification processes.  EPIC is committed to exposing the weaknesses of these certification schemes, while advancing policies based on the best available science.

Local North Coast residents who may have feedback to share with Green Diamond should be sure to come out this Wednesday night, February 13, from 6:30 – 8:30 for a public meeting at the Bayside Grange on Jacoby Creek Road outside of Arcata.

Click here to learn more about how EPIC is keeping an Eye on Green Diamond.

 


EPIC Files Rulemaking Petition to Delete Harmful Rules that Allow Take of Northern Spotted Owls

Monday, February 11th, 2013
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babyNSOOn February 6, 2013, EPIC submitted a rulemaking petition to the California Board of Forestry aimed at enhancing protection measures for California’s Northern Spotted Owls, while saving substantial state and federal agency resources.  The rulemaking petition is the product of over three years of EPIC spotted owl advocacy aimed at challenging the glaring inconsistencies between the inadequate protection measures found in California’s Forest Practice Rules and the clear guidelines provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, backed up by even clearer legal precedent from the Supreme Court.

In California, Northern Spotted Owl protective regulations were originally adopted by the Board of Forestry in the early 1990’s shortly after the species was listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.  These regulations were based on the limited scientific information available at the time of the rulemaking.

The protective measures for Northern Spotted Owls in the California Forest Practice Rules were designed to allow continued timber harvest within suitable habitat while avoiding “take” as prohibited under the federal ESA.  Prior to 1999, these regulations were enforced via consultation with the California Department of Fish and Game.  In 1999, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) requested that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) begin consulting on Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) that proposed removal of suitable Northern Spotted Owl habitat in order to insure that “take” was avoided.

Over time and with the benefit of both office and field experience, the Service began the question the effectiveness existing Forest Practice Rules to avoid “take” of Northern Spotted Owls.  Despite participation in the consultation process (known as technical assistance), the Service began to note the loss of historic spotted owl territories as a direct result of timber harvest conducted under the Forest Practice Rules protective provisions.

In 2008, the Service dropped out of the Technical Assistance process, citing financial issues. In 2009, the Service provided CAL FIRE with a guidance document that provided both a regulatory and scientific basis for protective measures it believed would more effectively avoid “take” of Northern Spotted Owls.  The Service provided a wide range of evidence that California’s Forest Practice Rules were not effective at maintaining owls on the landscape.  The Service noted that habitat definitions and habitat retention provisions in the California Rules did not adequately represent high quality habitats, and did not prevent the depletion of high quality habitats as a result of timber harvest.

The Service demonstrated how California’s existing regulations intended to protect Northern Spotted Owls on private lands have actually worked to damage the species.  Our work over the last three years has verified the inadequacy of the Rules to prevent “take” of Northern Spotted Owls as a direct result of timber harvest activities reviewed and approved by CAL FIRE.  We have uncovered numerous examples of how large timber companies have taken advantage of the antiquated and ineffective Rules to essentially force owls off their property and out of their traditional homes.

EPIC’s petition is designed to remove these antiquated and ineffective rules from the books.  Landowners will still have the option of following the guidance provided by the Service to protect owls during timber harvest activities.  Adoption of this rulemaking by the Board would be an easy fix that would bring the California Rules more in line with federally-recommended standards for protecting Northern Spotted Owls.  The rulemaking petition is will also help to streamline agency and public review of THPs proposing to harvest owl habitat.

The rulemaking petition is also submitted against the backdrop of EPIC’s petition to list the Northern Spotted Owl under the California Endangered Species Act.  Recently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife completed an evaluation of EPIC’s petition and recommended that a full status review be conducted to determine wether the owl be listed under the California ESA.  With the potential for spotted owls to receive protections as a candidate species under the California Act in the near future, the Board of Forestry could take a proactive step toward improving spotted owl protections by adopting EPIC’s rulemaking petition.

Strange things can happen at the Board of Forestry, however.  With large industrial timber giants including Sierra Pacific Industries holding influential seats, the deletion of these harmful and wasteful rules is no slam dunk.

Click here to learn more about the EPIC Spotted Owl Self-Defense Campaign Initiative