Archive for May, 2015

Guide to Groundtruthing the Westside Timber Sale

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Grieder Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535. Photo courtesy of Felice Pace

Grider Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535.

As summer is fast approaching, now is the time to get outside and explore your national forests. And if you need a recommendation of where to go, we encourage you to see for yourself what the Klamath National Forest is proposing in one of the most biologically significant and diverse temperate forests in the world.

The Klamath National Forest is proposing one of the largest post-fire logging projects in California’s history in an area that covers 210,000 acres of forest nestled in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains between the Marbled Mountain, Russian and Red Butte Wilderness. You can read more about the proposed project here. These burned forests are alive and vibrant. More biologically diverse than unburned forests, they provide for an array of plant and animal species, and are considered to be one of the rarest and most ecologically important forest habitats in western forests.

We need your help. One of the most effective things we can do to battle this timber sale is to have a firm understanding of what is proposed on the ground. By documenting the precious areas at risk or by investigating whether the Forest Service is keeping its word, a forest-defense technique called “groundtruthing,” you can save forests from being clearcut. But because this project is so massive, EPIC’s staff cannot examine all corners of the proposed cut. And we know there is a lot to find. Our forays into the project area have already yielded troubling results: EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, Kimberly Baker, has documented big, large trees—those the Forest Service claims will not be affected by the project—marked for cut, and previously protected trees on steep, unstable slopes once again slated to be logged.

Here’s how you can help: If you have a background or knowledge of wildlife, botany, water quality, or just have the time to explore the remote reaches of the rugged Klamath Siskiyou bioregion, please apply your skills here. Photographs with GPS coordinates are incredibly important to illustrate the uniqueness and fragility of this post-fire landscape. To learn how to get the most out of your field trip, read Bark’s Guide to Groundtruthing and bring Bark’s Groundtruthing Survey Form, an excellent resource for citizens to use when surveying a particular area for timber sales.

Specific Markings for timber sale units in the Westside Project include:

  • blue paint for “hazard trees” that are intended to be logged; and
  • orange paint for trees that are marked for leave (with the rest in a marked stand to be logged).

Need maps on where to look?

Click here to view the Klamath National Forest’s website, which includes maps for the Westside Project, if you scroll down to the bottom, you will find the “Timber Sales Sold Current FY”, which includes maps of the timber sales that have sold.

Although the public comment period ended on April 27th, comments submitted after that date will still be included in the administrative record, and should be sent to wcoats@fs.fed.us. The Final Environmental Impact Statement and decision for Westside could be released as early as mid June or July.

UPDATE:  APRIL 25, 2015. The project has been approved and logging has begun in timber sale areas that received bids.

If you need additional information, contact the EPIC office at 707-822-7711, or email epic@wildcalifornia.org.

 


Keeping California Wild

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Photo by Kimberly BakerEPIC has been talking a lot about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. The Northwest Forest Plan is the governing document for all national forests in the Pacific Northwest and it is undergoing major revisions. This is one of our best opportunities in 20 years to critically affect National Forest management. For more in the series on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions, please click here.

Late-Successional Reserves are a core component of the Northwest Forest Plan. Under the Plan, these areas are dedicated to “mature” forests, either protecting existing mature forests or developing younger forests to become mature. To do so, many activities, such as logging strictly for commercial timber purposes, are supposedly prohibited under the Plan. However, there is a gulf between theory and practice.

As revealed by the Klamath National Forest’s Westside timber sale, which you can read about here, the Forest Service has started targeted Late Successional Reserves for timber harvest. Under the guise of hastening the development of new forests, the Forest Service has proposed to cut over 6,000 acres of Late Successional Reserves. Many of the proposed cuts are within the Grider Creek area, a critical habitat component linking the Marble Mountains to points north. While EPIC has stood up to the Forest Service on Westside, more drastic change is needed. These wild and rare areas need permanent protection, not subject to the politics and profits of the Forest Service.

Wilderness Areas are part of the solution to an agency gone rogue. In Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service is limited in its management; the Service may only do things that are consistent with the wild nature of the land. Thus, logging, road building and other destructive activities are generally prohibited;  instead, the land is preserved for the benefit and use of humans and wildlife. Wilderness Areas are our best way to permanently protect the land through greedy hands.

The upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions offer an opportunity to designate eligible Wilderness Areas. The Forest Service is required to assess the potential for new wilderness areas (36 C.F.R. § 219.6(b)(15)) and to recommend new areas for inclusion as Wilderness ( 36 C.F.R. § 219.7(c)(2)(v)). In this way, we can protect critical areas—those with outstanding beauty, such as North Fork Salmon River watersheds or those that connect areas of high habitat value, like Grider Creek.

EPIC can—and will—suggest new Wilderness Areas for consideration by the Forest Service, including areas slated for harvest under the Westside timber plan. But we need your help to identify the best, most productive areas. So we say unto you, our adventurous membership, go forth on to our public lands and find those areas: (1) under federal ownership and management; (2) consisting of at least five thousand acres of land or are connected to previously existing wilderness areas; (3) where human influence is “substantially unnoticeable”; (4) where there are opportunities for solitude and recreation; and (5) possess “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” Explore the land and let us know what you find!


State of the Mattole

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Fieldtrip to Mattole THP's with HRC

Fieldtrip to Mattole THP’s with HRC

Nestled in a remote valley that drains to California’s famous Lost Coast, the Mattole River watershed spans from its headwaters near Whitethorn down to the sea where it terminates at Petrolia. The Mattole watershed is a peculiar Humboldt County coastal watershed in that its forests are largely composed of a mix of fir and hardwoods, rather than being dominated by the giant and majestic redwoods found elsewhere in the region.

Pre-European settlement, the forests of the Mattole appear to have been left unmanaged, while grass lands were burned to maintain oak acorn harvests, and to manage conifer encroachment.

Post-European forest management activities and old-growth logging in the Mattole began in earnest after World War II. By 1988, approximately ninety percent of the original old-growth forest had been logged.

In the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole, much of the remaining old growth (approximately 48 percent), is still in privately-held industrial timberland ownership. The majority of this property is held by Humboldt Redwood Company, the successor to the Pacific Lumber Company.

While forest conservation activism in Humboldt County in the 1980’s and 1990’s was focused on the redwood region, the old-growth forests of the Mattole on private lands remained largely at risk. With the advent of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the Mattole Valley old-growth on the Pacific Lumber Company lands became fair game for logging. The old-growth in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole was considered to be a so-called “sacrifice zone.”

Beginning in 1999, the Pacific Lumber Company aggressively targeted the old-growth conifer forests of the Mattole for clearcut logging. Citizen’s lawsuits and direct actions in the forest were able to slow, but not fully prevent the logging of the old-growth in the Mattole by the Pacific Lumber Company.

After Pacific Lumber went bankrupt in 2008, all PL land and assets were transferred to Mendocino Redwood Company, and in 2012, the newly named Humboldt Redwood Company began to prepare and file logging plans in forest stands thought to be old-growth, or at the very least so-called “primary forests” i.e. areas that have never been managed for timber production. Once again, citizen’s mobilization and direct action ensued. In response to this, Humboldt Redwood Company has voluntarily ceased timber operations in these sensitive forest stands, and is now working with EPIC and other members of the community to determine the most appropriate conservation and management measures within these old-growth and primary forest stands.

While Humboldt Redwood Company touts commitment to protecting old-growth trees and old-growth stands, appropriate management activities in the primary forest stands are still a subject of debate. EPIC will continue to monitor Humboldt Redwood Company’s logging activities in the Mattole, and work to ensure best conservation and management practices are in place to protect the unique Mattole watershed.


Connecting Wild Places—State of Connectivity on Private Lands

Monday, May 11th, 2015
By
GDRClittleriver

Extensive Green Diamond Clearcuts in Little River Watershed

Introduction

Habitat integrity and connectivity for species movement, protection, enhancement and recovery — and for climate resistance, resilience, and adaptation – is essential as we move into the 21st century. The precipitous decline of our wildlife and biodiversity, exacerbated by the significant effects resulting from climate change, means habitat connectivity on our forested landscapes is absolutely critical. Privately-held forestlands in Northwest California are essential to the recovery of species, for landscape-level integrity with habitat connectivity, and for resistance and resilience to climate change. Although privately-held forestlands regulatory mechanisms do not seek to achieve landscape-level connectivity, there are strategies that would significantly improve existing landscape conditions and allow for private lands to contribute to species recovery and biodiversity, and climate resiliency.

There are over 33 million acres of forestland in the State of California, comprising one-third of the total acreage of the entire state. Of these 33 million acres of forestland, approximately forty percent (13.3 million acres) are privately-held forestlands that are primarily managed for timber production. Of the 13.3 million acres, over 25 percent is in non-corporate private ownership, while a little over 14 percent in corporate private ownership.

The forests of Northwest California are some of the most biodiverse in the nation. Prior to European settlement, Northwest California’s forests were teeming with native flora and fauna that reflected millennia of natural growth and disturbance that created the mosaic of landscapes first encountered by settlers. Native fauna of Northwest California originally included numerous species dependent on large, dense, and complex forests and forest structures to complete life history behaviors. Some of these species are so specialized that the subsequent loss of the old-growth to logging has brought these iconic species to the brink of extinction. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, approximately 60 of California’s native wildlife is now “at-risk” and in need of conservation.

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign 

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places campaign is designed to proactively address the need for habitat corridors to facilitate species’ movement and create micro-climactic refugia. Achieving connectivity across land-use allocations, i.e. both public and private lands is a daunting task, at least on-the-face of it. While large areas of public lands are designated as reserve, such as wilderness areas and late successional reserves, there are currently few mechanisms to achieve these goals on private lands, outside of outright land acquisition or securing conservation easements, or other voluntary measures. Private lands are a critically important piece to the connectivity puzzle, and changing the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes will be essential to achieving long-term, landscape-level management changes.

Connectivity and the Private Lands Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Forest Practices on private lands in California have changed dramatically over time, particularly with the advent of the California Environmental Quality Act (1970), and the subsequent enactment of the modern California Forest Practice Act (1973). The Forest Practice Act brought into being the modern private lands Forest Practice Rules. While incremental improvements to the rules have been made over time, the private lands timber harvest regulatory system has utterly failed to give serious consideration to, or afford protections for, habitat connectivity on a landscape-level.

The Forest Practice Act articulates a duel mandate to at once achieve maximum sustained production of high-quality timber products, while protecting fish, wildlife, water, carbon sequestration, and aesthetic enjoyment. However, there is little in the modern Forest Practice Rules that would require private forest landowners to manage forests to achieve habitat connectivity and maintain species biodiversity. For example, in articulating the implementation of the Forest Practice Act’s intent, the Forest Practice Rules stipulate only that timber operations should maintain functional wildlife habitat in sufficient condition for continued use by existing wildlife communities, and that such operations maintain and recruit late and diverse seral stage habitat for wildlife, concentrated in stream zones. This is simply intent language, with no enforceable provisions or other guidance provided to achieve these goals.

Faced with this reality, federal and state regulators have fallen back on the development of voluntary conservation measures to improve forest heath and species habitat connectivity on privately-held forestlands. The primary voluntary measure is the use of Habitat Conservation Plans for private landowners where activities may result in “take” of federally-listed species. While sometimes offering additional conservation measures above and beyond standard Forest Practice Rules, Habitat Conservation Plans also include the issuance of incidental “take” permits, which allow adverse modification of habitat for, and incidental death of, species listed as threatened or endangered.

Opportunities for Achieving Connectivity on Private Lands

While the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes do not require the achievement of landscape connectivity on private lands, there are opportunities to improve land management activities for connectivity in Northwest California. There are areas where management for forest integrity and habitat connectivity could achieve significant benefits.

For example, Humboldt Redwood Company’s Mattole forestland holdings still contain a significant amount of late successional-stage forests, often referred to as “primary forests” i.e. forests that have never been managed for timber production. Appropriate management in these areas could serve to accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics, and provide for essential corridors between previously-managed areas and the primary forest areas. In addition, opportunities exist to conduct restorative forest management activities elsewhere on Humboldt Redwood Company lands, primarily in association with its so-called Marbled Murrelet Conservation Areas, which are old-growth forest stands set-aside as part of the company’s Habitat Conservation Plan. Appropriate management activities could serve to restore the connectivity between the fragmented patches of remaining old-growth redwood forest, thus facilitating species movement, and preparing for resiliency and resistance to climate change.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are aimed at improving forestland management on private lands for the purpose of achieving biodiversity, habitat connectivity, and resistance and resilience to climate change:

Federal and State regulators should seek to improve Forest Practice Rules governing private lands to prioritize species integrity, habitat connectivity and viability, and climate resistance and resilience;

Federal and State regulators, as well as private land trusts, should seek to work with private landowners to either acquire lands essential for forest health and habitat connectivity, or to secure conservation easements on such lands to achieve these goals;

Federal regulators’ issuance of new Habitat Conservation Plans must include safeguards to ensure that forest management activities conducted under these plans provide for biodiversity, connectivity, and climate resistance and resiliency; and

Federal and State regulators should work cooperatively to develop landscape-level management plans that would transcend land ownership and land allocation boundaries.

Conclusion

EPIC will work to identify, and advocate for, critical areas for achieving landscape connectivity on private lands. While the deck is stacked against us, and the challenges are many, opportunities remain to reform private lands forestry practices through regulations, legislation, policy changes, land acquisition, and voluntary measures. Working cooperatively with state and federal regulators, legislators, and private landowners represent the most promising possibilities for achieving the goals of landscape-level connectivity on private lands, and across ownership classification boundaries.


Children Are Our Future

Friday, May 8th, 2015
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photo 1Someday our children will inherit this planet, so it is imperative that we teach them well and leave them with a healthy environment that they can thrive in. Last week, EPIC joined forces with the California Conservation Corps and the Watershed Stewardship Project and presented at Creek Days in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the week before, my colleagues Rob and Gisele presented at the Hoopa Fish Fair. These events are incredibly rewarding, and we all agreed, that we were constantly amazed by the wisdom the children shared.

As I set up my fourth to sixth grade classroom next to the “Tall Tree” I felt dwarfed by the magnificence of the towering old growth forest that surrounded me. The plaque in front of the tree said the tree was 42 feet around, and 359 feet tall, when it was measured in 1957. When a new group would come through, the children would all run over to the tree and plead with their chaperones to have their picture taken with the giant redwood.

After they explored the tall tree, I would call the children over to learn about forest ecology, how forests help keep the rivers healthy by keeping the water clean, preventing floods and providing shade, habitat and food for salmon, and how the salmon eventually become fertilizer for the forest. Then I expressed the importance of protecting wild places, because these trees would not be here if they were not protected.

Wolf Pack 2I asked the children if they knew what advocacy was. None of them knew what it meant.  I told them it was speaking on behalf of something. “For my work at EPIC it is speaking for the forests, rivers, fish and wildlife, because they can’t speak for themselves.” “You mean like the Lorax?” One of the kids asked. “Yes, just like the Lorax” I said. Showing them the photograph of the wolf rally and all of the signs people had made to advocate for wolves, I told them the story of how the gray wolf gained protections last year:

There is a lone wolf in Oregon that strayed from its pack, and began coming in and out of California. Upon learning of this wolf in the region, several ranchers and even public officials publically stated that they would kill it on sight if they found it. So we joined with a coalition of people and groups to get protections for the wolf so that if it came to California, it would be safe. At the wolf hearing my two-year old son stood up in front of the Fish and Game Commission during the public comment session in front of a packed house with hundreds of people and shouted into the microphone “Protect wolves!” As people teared up hearing the plea of a little boy who wants to see wolves protected, the next commenter announced that the lone wolf “Journey” has just been confirmed to have puppies!” The crowd rejoiced and soon after, the Commission voted 3-1 to grant wolves protections under the Endangered Species Act. Someone chimed in and said, “See, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still make a difference.”

Next, I showed them the photographs of some the critters we advocate for in our region and asked them to choose one of the animals and make a poster for it. The things they came up with were so inspiring, I decided to bring them back to the office and begin sending them to decision-makers as issues come up relating to each animal.

I taught 180 students that day, and I learned from 180 students also. Now I’m hoping that the wisdom of these children will help to remind those in power of the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places for future generations.

Tall Tree - Humboldt Redwoods State Park


EPIC in Review

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
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NSO-self-defenseOur staff is always busy working to save wildlife and wild places. The short list below illustrates some of the issues we have recently worked on. Several of the items are original works, and many of them are letters we have signed to support larger coalitions. Over the past month or so, we have advocated for the protection of northern spotted owls, sage grouse, bobcats, pygmy forests, national parks, public lands and waters, community forests and open space, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Agency among other things. Special thanks to all of our allies and partners in working together to make an impact both at home and across the country, and thanks to EPIC volunteer Gisele Albertine for compiling and summarizing the documents for this article.

Original Works:

On April 10th, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at long-last produced its initial 90-day finding on EPIC’s petition to “uplist” or “reclassify” the Northern Spotted Owl from a threatened to an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service found that our petition and the other available evidence before the agency presented sufficient information to determine that the uplisting “may be warranted.” Uplisting the Northern Spotted Owl will have numerous conservation benefits for the species and would provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with additional authority to protect the spotted owl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now commence its 12-month status review; however, the 12-month review and finding will not actually be available until September, 2017. EPIC will continue to work to see the Northern Spotted Owl protected to the fullest extent possible under the Endangered Species Act.

Northern Spotted Owl uplisting 90 day finding official

Federal-Northern Spotted Owl-Endangered-Petition

EPIC submitted comments on the DEIR on the proposed Central Coast Transfer Station in Mendocino County’s Pygmy Forest.

EPIC petitioned the Office of Administrative Law alleging that CAL FIRE’s current use of review standards for proposed harvesting plans which may affect the Northern Spotted Owl, are not authorized and constitutes an underground regulation and is inconsistent with the Administrative Procedures Act.

Environmental Coalition Letters:

Supporting Tsongas amendment to strike sage-grouse provision on the National Defense Authorization Act.

Community Opposes Daines Antiquities Letter which would block designation of future National Parks.

Oppose drastic cuts in non-defense spending that would further cripple the ability of the EPA, and other agencies to carry out their missions to steward our natural resources. Environmental community opposition letter to House and Senate FY16 Budgets.

Opposed the RAPID Act of 2015  which undermines the core purposes of NEPA by prioritizing speed of decisions and project approval over the public interest.

Supported the Council on Environmental Quality’s revised draft guidance for federal departments and agencies on consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change in NEPA reviews.

Supported reauthorization of FLTFA to protect significant conservation lands and enhance local economies by allowing federal land sales and conservation transactions to occur through this no-cost program.

Urged the Department of Commerce to measure the overall contributions of America’s public lands and waters to the economy, and report on the employment and economic activity associated with the outdoor recreation industry.

Urged the rejection of SB 457 which would effectively permit trappers to kill bobcats near the boundaries of national and state parks.

Opposed the “Federal Permitting Improvement Act of 2015” which undercuts public participation and environmental review.

Supported the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

In opposition to repealing California’s landmark law to protect people, wildlife and the environment from toxic lead dispersed by ammunition.

Opposed the so-called “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.”

Urged the creation of an ozone pollution standard that is protective of ecosystems, wildlife, and vegetation.