Archive for March, 2015

An EPIC Thank You to All Who Helped at the Moonalice Benefit

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015
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Moonalice HandbillOn behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center, event coordinators Amber Shelton, Mitra Abidi and Natalynne DeLapp would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who turned out on Friday, March 27th to help make the Moonalice fundraiser a successful event! Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate activists that have put their all into environmental advocacy and restoration work to make our community a better place for the forests, rivers and wildlife that we share this beautiful land with. The event began many years ago as the Pisces Party to support the work of Richard Gienger and his forest protection and watershed restoration efforts that have been at the core of EPIC’s work for decades. This year, in addition to honoring Richard, EPIC also recognized the Eel River Cleanup Project (ERCP), which Mike Miller breathed new life into a few years ago, and with the social networking efforts of Amy Machado, Chris Anderson and Brian St. Clair, the cleanup became a team effort to get trash out of the river and help keep it clean. The proceeds from the event benefited EPIC’s forest advocacy work in general that is done by a number of Epicureans. It is people like this who inspire us to continue the work we do, and who make us grateful to have such a wonderful community that has made 38 years of environmental advocacy work possible.

A special thank you goes out to the artists and local businesses that made contributions to the event. A huge thank you goes out to Moonalice for rocking the house with their psychedelic music and light show and for gifting attendees with beautiful artistic posters, to Dian Patterson for her amazing songs and beautiful voice, to Sue’s Organics for catering a delicious meal and Bergin Sipila Wines for donating quality wine. Thank you to Eureka Natural Foods, Wildberries Marketplace, Signature Coffee, Mad River Brewery, Kathleen Bryson, Redway Liquor and Rays Food Place in Garberville for contributing raffle items, food for the event and for selling tickets.

So many volunteers put their all into promoting the event, creating a welcoming atmosphere and producing a fabulous meal and a stunning show. A huge thank you goes out to Sue Maloney and her kitchen crew Barbara Kennedy, Leo Power, Lois Cordova, Michael McKaskle, Barley, Marcy Olson, Dan Reiss, Chip Tittmann and Wes Demarco for whipping up a delicious organic feast. Thanks to Bobby Shearer for booking Moonalice, Dian Griffith for welcoming people at the front door, Tom Wheeler for doing the dishes, to Lucy Allen for serving dessert and Gisele Albertine and Rob Diperna for helping setup and staffing the Dutch raffle table. Thank you to Bob Special, Caelidh Liddell and the Funk House crew for helping with cleanup. Thanks to Elizabeth Morgan for rocking it all day and night from setup to kitchen to cleanup. Thank you to Rob Fishman, Nat Pennington, Josh Brown, Erin Leonard and Megan Smith for serving up drinks to keep us going all night long.

Thank you to Tanya Lynne for helping with dishes, Cecilia Lanman for bringing scrumptious desserts, and to Rob Seifert, JIM FULTON, Eric, Gage & Johnny for helping with the sound, light and stage effects. A special thank you goes out to KMUD, Redwood Times, the Independent, Lost Coast Communications, KZYX, Jama Chaplin, BR, Lauren Oliver and Karin the publicist for promoting the event.

And many thanks to anyone who contributed but may not have been included in this publication, we appreciate all of your contributions and look forward to the next time we are all brought together for a common cause.  When it came time to recognize those who were important to the EPIC organization, it became apparent that just about everyone who filled the room was deeply involved with EPIC at some capacity.  This is the kind of community that makes a difference.  Thanks to each and every one of you, your participation fuels our forest protection efforts.

Moonalice poster gift to concert attendees

 

 

 


Sign Petition to Stop Westside – One of the Largest Timber Sales in US History!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
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Westside photo 2

Westside unit looking into Grider Creek Roadless Area next to a dozer line.

 

Click here to take action now. The Klamath National Forest is proposing one of the largest timber sales in US history!  Over 30,000 acres of post fire habitat are at risk of elimination.  These steep and rugged watersheds support the most productive wild salmon and steelhead fisheries outside of Alaska, the largest acreage of unprotected low elevation ancient wild forest remaining on the West Coast, a high concentration of Wild and Scenic rivers and are world renowned for their rich biodiversity with many rare and endemic native species.

The recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement contains multiple action alternatives, however none of them are ecologically sound. The project proposes to log between 100 -200 million board feet from 6,800 acres in larger forest stands, 650 miles of roadside equaling 20,500 acres, another 3,000 acres on ridge tops and outside of private property. The project also proposes to re-open decommissioned roads as well as create 22.6 miles of new roads requiring at least 14 new stream crossings.

Nearly half of the treatment area is within mature forest reserves, which were designated to protect and enhance mature forest ecosystems that serve as habitat for old growth dependant species.  A vast amount of the project is within Critical Habitat for the Northern spotted owl and would remove over 1,000 acres of habitat.  Other rare species such as the marten, fisher and the endemic Siskiyou Mountain salamander are in danger. Visual quality and fisheries on six Wild and Scenic Rivers are threatened, as well Key watersheds deemed vital for salmon survival and Critical Habitat for Coho salmon. The project would negatively affect six different Inventoried Roadless Areas, which are vitally important because they are the last large tracts of un-roaded wild lands outside of wilderness.

westside photo

North Fork salmon River Salmon Salvage Timber Sale 2013

The Westside project considers logging in three distinct fire areas but fails to analyze them separately. The Beaver Fire area is north of the town of Scott Bar near the Oregon border.  Here the public land is intermixed with forests long abused by industrial timber management.  In fact, the entire area has been logged and replanted since 1955.  The Happy Camp Fire area, on the Klamath River contains one of the most important wildlife corridors on the North Coast, the Grider Creek watershed, which is threatened by the proposed project.  The Whites Fire, on the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River, burned within and adjacent to the Russian Wilderness.  The entire watershed has been impacted by two years of fire, fire suppression and multiple timber sales.  The Salmon River watershed is a stronghold for the last remaining viable run of Spring Chinook salmon.

The project would multiply the damage already incurred by last summer’s fires and fire suppression, which cost taxpayers $195 million dollars.  Nearly 200 miles of ridgelines were bulldozed to bare earth leaving behind swaths of clearcuts and huge amounts of slash.  Hundreds of thousands of gallons of fire retardant coated entire ridgelines and the heavy use of roads and fire effects caused severe sedimentation into salmon bearing creeks.

Comments on the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement are due April 13th.  Because vital wildlife information has not been released but is referenced in the document, EPIC is asking for an extension on public comment.

Please tell the Klamath National Forest that the ecological costs of the Westside project are too high.  Our forests have higher than monetary value. Our communities, wildlife and watersheds deserve better.

Click here to voice your opposition and share your concerns- Sign the petition and please attend a public meeting hosted by the Klamath National Forest Tuesday April 7 @ 5:30 at Six Rivers Headquarters by the Bayshore Mall.


Action Alert: Speak Up for Rare Mendocino County Pygmy Forest

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
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Mendocino Cypress Pygmy Forest Photo Credit:  hidesertdi1 (Flikr)

Mendocino Cypress Pygmy Forest Photo Credit: hidesertdi1
(Flikr)

Click here to take action. The supposed inevitable march of progress of modern society over the last 150 years in Northwest California has left a landscape that has largely been logged, converted, scarred, or otherwise fragmented. This dynamic is most acutely understood in the context of the loss of nearly 95 percent of the original old growth redwood forests. However, other forest and vegetation types have experienced similar detrimental impacts and precipitous declines.

Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands, otherwise known as “pygmy forests” have been subject to significant conversion, logging, and other varieties of development. These unique and rare forests require a combination of environmental factors—including highly acidic and nutrient-depleted soils with an underlying layer of hardpan rock or dense clay—which stunts the trees’ growth. Some estimates put the total remaining acres of Mendocino pygmy forests at 2,600 acres or less, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that approximately 70 percent of what remains is under some sort of non-protective status.

Now, the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority is proposing a solid waste transfer station for the City of Fort Bragg on a 17-acre parcel of undeveloped Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodland and Northern Bishop Pine Forest—another rare forest type—along state highway 20. The 17-acre parcel is currently owned by the state, and is being managed as part of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, but the proposal involves a land-swap that would transfer it out of state ownership for the purposes of the proposed development.

The proposed conversion of these forests for a waste transfer facility runs contrary to several land management mandates that are built into the Mendocino County General Plan, and even runs contrary to tenants of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest management plan, which calls for protecting and maintaining the current extent and distribution of pygmy cypress forest types.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the project fails to adequately assess potentially significant adverse environmental impacts resulting from the conversion of these rare forest habitats, and fails to present or adequately analyze feasible alternatives to the project that would either avoid or substantially lessen the potentially significant adverse impacts of the conversion.

In a letter dated February 28, 2014, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that it believes the project will have a significant adverse impact on pygmy forest, stating: “[g]iven this project has the potential to remove acres of high quality habitat in a rare, threatened, and declining vegetation type, CDFW finds it is highly likely this project will result in significant impacts to Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodland.”

Click here to take action now. Tell the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority that you oppose placement of the solid waste transfer station on lands currently occupied by rare Pygmy Cypress Woodland and Northern Bishop Pine Forest. Tell the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority that it must properly evaluate the potentially significant adverse impacts of the proposed waste transfer station location, and that it must develop and consider feasible and meaningful alternatives to the proposed location that would avoid or substantially lessen the potentially significant environmental impacts of the project as proposed.


One Plan to Rule Them All

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
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NWFP LogoOver the next few weeks and months, EPIC is going to focus in depth on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions for the U.S. Forest Service. Each week we will bring you a new topic. To catch up on what EPIC has previously written, click here.

Species like the northern spotted owls don’t respect political boundaries. For that reason, the original Northwest Forest Plan was a regional forest management plan. The Plan amended the forest plans for 26 separate forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service, across 24 million acres of the American West. As a single, regional, interagency plan, the Northwest Forest Plan allowed for an ecosystem management approach to account for the needs of multiple listed species across three states through a system of wildlife reserves.

The Plan, by and large, has worked. Recent science has reaffirmed the importance of the Northwest Forest Plan as a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation, particularly the reserve network. Forest growth as a result of the Plan has turned the forests of the Pacific Northwest from a significant annual source of CO2 to a carbon sink. The reserve system has mitigated the impact of logging and the invasion of the barred owl on the northern spotted owl. Water quality has significantly improved due to the plan’s emphasis on watershed restoration and system of riparian buffers.

Now 20 years into a 100 year restoration plan, the Northwest Forest Plan is at risk. There is pressure to ditch the single, regional format of the Plan and go back to the old days where each federal agency and each forest was managed differently. This plan to go it alone puts at risk all of the gains made, particularly for the imperiled northern spotted owl which depends on the system of interconnected wildlife reserves.

We urge the Obama Administration to keep the Northwest Forest Plan as a consistent, interagency ecosystem management plan to manage all of the federal public forests of the West. The reserves work; going it alone doesn’t.

NOTE: The first CA listening session will in Redding, CA on Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Red Lion Hotel. We hope to see you there! If you are planning on attending, please let Tom know by shooting him an email at tom@wildcalifornia.org.


Caltrans District 1: Wake up and smell the 21st Century

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
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It is time for a change. Now is time to rein in Caltrans. Last year, an independent report—the SSTI Assessment and Recommendations, authored by the State Smart Transportation Initiative—was released. Commissioned at the behest of Governor Brown, the report found that Caltrans is stuck in an “era of [i]nter-state building” despite calls (since the 1970’s) for more multimodalism, sustainability and less reliance on auto-mobilty. The study also finds that Caltrans has not developed sufficient communications skills and procedures to either explain its own decisions or to take into account important material from communities and partners; and has not fully adapted to the multi-stakeholder environment in which it finds itself. The pattern of inadequate response to community concerns about social and environmental impacts of highway development, as well as a lack of legal accountability becomes apparent when a series of projects are looked in their entirety.

Four Caltrans projects on California’s North Coast stand as examples of this “stuck-in-the-past” project planning.

Richardson Grove

richardson_grove_bikes

Richardson Grove State Park. Photo credit: Caltrans

The highway “realignment” through Richardson Grove State Park seriously threatens mammoth ancient redwood trees—a fact confirmed by the 1st District Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2012 that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the impact of its proposed project on the ancient redwoods. This should have come as no surprise to Caltrans. In 2010, by Caltrans own admission, the agency found the project, as proposed, “may cause significant adverse impacts to old growth trees in this unique natural community.” California State Parks likewise expressed concern in its comments to the Draft Environmental Assessment, “The Draft EA does not provide an assessment of the number of trees that will have their structural root zone compromised. Without such an assessment the State Parks cannot adequately assess the proposed action’s impacts on old-growth redwoods and other mature trees. Caltrans therefore must assume that the proposed action will result in significant adverse effects to old-growth redwoods and that adequate mitigation needs to be developed.” (Emphasis added.)

Caltrans initially informed the public that the purpose of project was to enhance safety and goods movement; however it changed tack during the environmental review process, and ultimately concluded that the Proposed Project is not a safety project and concluded that the economic impacts of the proposed project on Humboldt County businesses and trucking firms would be negligible.

After seven-years and three lawsuits Caltrans has rescinded its approval of the Richardson Grove Project and withdrawn its federal Finding of No Significant Impact. Now the project cannot proceed until additional environmental analysis about the impacts of the project on the environment are completed and approved by the courts.

It didn’t have to be this way. Richardson Grove is world-class state park and the ancient redwood trees it protects deserve the fullest protection under the law—and yet, Caltrans repeatedly failed to follow the law. Instead the agency and Humboldt County advanced a public relations campaign to promote highway expansion saying that the project would be good for business and have “no significant impact,” despite the fact that to date it has not provided the public with any legitimate evidence, criteria for decision making, meaningful explanation why or analysis to substantiate that conclusion. Instead of properly analyzing viable alternatives that better reflect the needs of Californians and the environmental realities of our times, Caltrans has wasted time and money trying to prove its project is benign.

Caltrans estimates that new documentation will be available in fall 2015 and public comment will be re-opened. EPIC is committed to taking all steps to preserve Richardson Grove State Park’s old-growth redwoods and looks forward to reading and analyzing Caltrans’ next iteration of documentation.

Willits Bypass

Winter Willits WetlandThe Willits Bypass is draining 90 acres of precious wetlands for a giant interchange made for a four-lane freeway that will do little to relieve local congestion. Caltrans’ implementation of the Bypass has seen a laundry list of environmental permit and cultural violations including being charged with violating the U.S. Clean Water Act when erosion at the site sent pollution streaming into a protected creek and destroying a known Native American archaeological site that was supposed to be protected by law. The impact is so severe that Caltrans is required to do the largest environmental mitigation in its history to compensate. But Caltrans has had trouble meeting permit and mitigation requirements. In June 2014, Caltrans was so far behind in its environmental requirements the U.S.

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit and shut down most work on the bypass for more than 3-weeks. Then there was the stunning collapse of a 150-foot section of the Bypass viaduct on January 22, 2015, dumping cement and debris right into Haehl Creek! More recently Caltrans requested an additional $64.7 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission for what it calls “unforeseen issues.”

If compelled, Caltrans could implement design changes to the northern interchange such as reducing the footprint from 4-lanes to 2-lanes, which would reduce environmental impacts, damage to cultural sites and save money.

Smith River Highway 199

Smith River Hwy 199

Smith River Hwy 199

A highway development project planned for Highway 199 and 197 in the northwestern-most corner of California poses direct and indirect threats to our redwood parks and the unparalleled salmon habitat of the wild Smith River in Del Norte County. In response to a lawsuit by EPIC, Caltrans has agreed to reassess impacts of the highway-widening project on protected salmon and their habitat along the Wild and Scenic Smith River. A settlement agreement will keep in place a court-ordered halt of construction work until Caltrans completes consultation with the National Marine Fisheries.

Four Bridges Project

Elk Creek Bridge

Elk Creek Bridge

Lastly, Caltrans’ Four Bridges Project is proposing to upgrade four existing bridges along the Avenue of the Giants, a world-famous scenic drive through the ancient redwood groves of Redwood State Park. EPIC found that the agency’s initial release of the project proposal violated the California Environmental Quality Act as it failed to adequately provide the public with access to various environmental studies, which the agency relied on to justify its conclusion that the project would have no significant impact and that further study wasn’t needed.

The North Coast community deserves an honest, transparent, and open discussion about the impacts of highway development on its irreplaceable natural treasures, and about the costs and the benefits of this infrastructure development. This discussion must include recognizing the viability of alternatives that will meet needs for goods movement and transportation, as well as protect the rare and sensitive environments.

Rally in Sacramento

Rally in Sacramento

Yet, Caltrans has refused to be forthright with residents about the direct impacts of its highway development projects, much less been willing to engage the public in a productive manner when concerns are raised. In the absence of credible leadership by Caltrans, EPIC has challenged the legality of these projects with the immediate intent of protecting rare and sensitive environments, and with the long-term goal of leveraging successful court action into political momentum that will lead to a serious reform of the agency and change in culture. A major restructuring of the Caltrans is under way as a result of the SSTI Report; the question remains whether the recommendations of the independent review combined with the reality check of the court orders will be sufficient impetus to bring Caltrans out of the past.

Last Chance Grade

Last Chance Grade AerialCaltrans may have an opportunity to get it right with Last Chance Grade—a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City which sits precariously high above the Pacific Ocean and experiences frequent landslides due to the geological instability of the area Caltrans is in the beginning stages of planning for the Last Chance Grade Project along Highway 101. The agency is considering possible alternatives and reroutes in an attempt to find a long-term solution for the Last Chance Grade. U.S. Congressman Huffman’s office is working to develop a stakeholder group for facilitated discussions regarding potential projects to address Last Chance Grade. This group would work to identify one or two alternatives for a project that would ensure that U.S. Highway 101 is protected from a serious failure of the roadway and environmental harms are reduced. The group’s discussions would parallel and inform the current public process Caltrans has embarked on.

There is no question that Caltrans needs significant reform to bring it into step with best practices in the transportation field, with the state of California’s policy expectations and the true needs of North Coast residents. While the lawsuits are effective for enforcing the law, they do not permanently stop projects, and reform is what will lead to sustainable transportation solutions for rural communities. This reform is not only the demand of citizen organizations like EPIC; it is the recommendation of one of the nation’s leading authorities on sustainable transportation. The time has arrived to rein in Caltrans.


EPIC Digs in on Northwest Forest Plan Revisions

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
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Holm_Fay_date2008-04-09_time16.02.45_IMG_8035 copyAncient forests of Douglas fir, hemlock, western red cedar—and in our lucky corner of California, the majestic redwoods—once stood proudly on the landscape. These forests, nurtured by the warm, wet climate, supported an amazing diversity of life; from salmon to northern spotted owls, Pacific fishers to grizzley bears, many species evolved to depend on these verdant lands.

And then came European settlors and everything changed. Decades of logging largely stripped these ancient forests from the landscape. By the late 1980’s there wasn’t a whole lot left and what still remained was going fast. The critters that evolved to depend on these big, old trees were on the brink of extinction—most notably the poster child of old growth forests, the northern spotted owl. In 1990, the spotted owl was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Locally, 1990 was the start of “Redwood Summer,” a movement of environmental activism devoted to protecting the last remaining stands of old growth redwoods.

The listing had near immediate effect; logging on national forests containing owls was enjoined in 1991. But the issue was far from resolved. Indeed, it was only heating up. A back-and-forth fight ensued between pro-timber interest on one side and pro-forest forces on the other.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration intervened, beginning a series of hearings and reports. By 1994, a plan was developed: The Northwest Forest Plan, a set of federal policies and guidelines amended 26 land use plans, spanning 24 million acres of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service-managed lands in Northern California, Washington and Oregon. The plan, designed to protect the northern spotted owl by setting aside large swaths of land, “Late-Successional Reserves,” while still providing for some limited timber extraction in so-called “Matrix” lands.

In has been 20 years since the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted. Revisions to the land use plans which constitute the Plan are either underway or are about to begin. The BLM has begun to create new management plans for the forests they manage. The Forest Service is just beginning listening sessions for their forest plan revisions.

Over the coming weeks and months, EPIC is going to talk about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. We will keep you abreast in ongoing discussions, provide critical evaluations of the success (and failures) of the original Plan, and will preview important revisions and principles EPIC will champion in forest plan revisions. So stay tuned. And thanks for your support.

NOTE: The first CA listening session will in Redding, CA on Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Red Lion Hotel. We hope to see you there! If you are planning on attending, please let Tom know by shooting him an email at tom@wildcalifornia.org.


Marbled Murrelets Protected Again

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
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MAMU_AlaskaFWSThe DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected yet another attempt by the timber industry to remove federal endangered species protections from the marbled murrelet. The appeal was the timber industry’s fifth attempt—and fifth loss—in the past decade to eliminate protections for the old growth forests that marbled murrelets call home, despite undisputed scientific evidence that has shown murrelets are continuing to disappear from the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

On appearance alone, the marbled murrelet doesn’t appear to be very remarkable. The murrelet is a small seabird mottled with streaks of brown, grey and white—the timber industry dismissively compares the murrelet to a pigeon. But looks can be deceiving—the marbled murrelet is quite extraordinary. Murrelets make their home in old growth forests and travels daily up to 50 miles from the coast to return home. (Let’s see a pigeon do that!) Each year, breeding murrelets return to the same home forest. The murrelet does not build a nest; females lay a single egg in mossy deposits high in old growth trees.

Marbled murrelets are near the brink of extinction in California. Only a few nesting areas remain in the whole state. But EPIC has their back. Since the marbled murrelet was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992, EPIC has zealously defended the murrelet and its remaining habitat. In 1995, EPIC’s instrumental victory in Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt was instrumental in the creation of Headwaters Forest, one of the last intact tracts of murrelet habitat. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision is yet another victory benefitting the murrelet and the big, old trees on which it depends.

Despite five consecutive losses, we are sure that the timber industry will continue to try to delist the murrelet by any means possible. That’s where we come in: EPIC will continue to stand guard against industry attacks on the murrelet and the ancient forests it calls home.

This work is made possible by people who value big, old forests and want to see that the wildlife that inhabit these forests receive the best possible protections. Make a donation now and help EPIC continue to fund groundbreaking litigation to protect marbled murrelets and old-growth forests.