Archive for August, 2015

If you held the purse strings to Caltrans, how would you spend your tax dollars?

Monday, August 24th, 2015
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CRTP_LOGO_2ColorWould you build bigger freeways or fix existing failing roadways and infrastructure?

Would you chose to bulldoze through a wetland in order to reduce a five and a half hour drive time by five minutes or would you make improvements to portions of the road known to regularly cause deadly accidents? Would you design projects to accommodate the needs of commercial interests or the regional community who use the roads?

These are the questions, we at EPIC continue to ask ourselves and we would like to know what you think—what are your transportation priorities?

For the past 7-years, EPIC has defended the ancient redwood forest of Richardson Grove State Park and the Wild and Scenic Smith River from two highway realignment projects the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has designed in order to allow oversized trucks into sensitive environments. The purpose of these projects is questionable, with dubious economic justifications and known negative environmental impacts. Are these projects what the North Coast wants and needs?

Our court cases have stopped the projects and have shown a lack of agency consideration to legal obligations; and over the years public perception has changed, especially in Sacramento, regarding what should Caltrans’ priorities be. EPIC is committed to holding the line for the legal defense for Richardson Grove, and the Smith River 197/199 Project; however lawsuits slow, they do not typically make projects go away. We believe that with increased public pressure and new information, we can build the political momentum needed to stop these projects once and for all.

I would like to introduce you to a newly created organization called the, Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP). CRTP is dedicated to a new vision for transportation on California’s North Coast. Their vision is to build on the geographic advantage of the North Coast by encouraging spending of limited transportation infrastructure dollars on projects that ensure a high quality of life for the community. They reject the outdated idea that limited transportation dollars should be spent on building ever-wider roads, but instead, focus on maintaining the roads and bridges we have in order to ensure that people can continue to get to local homes and businesses—and then improve our community-level infrastructure to ensure that they want to stay.

The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities will be on redwood coast community radio station, the KMUD Environment Show, on Tuesday, August 25th, from 7-8pm. Listen live at 99.1FM or stream it live or archived at KMUD.org

On Wednesday, August 26th CRTP is hosting a “Meet and Greet” from 5-7pm at the Chapala Café (201 Second St, Eureka). These are informal occasions for anyone interested in the issues to talk about CRTP’s plans and priorities as well as other local transportation topics.

CRTP Priorities

Spend our limited transportation dollars on maintenance and repairs first. For many years, our state and our nation have built more and bigger infrastructure than we can afford to maintain. On the North Coast, the rugged and unstable terrain combined with the age of our roads and bridges make this problem particularly acute. Our crumbling roads and bridges put basic access for residents and emergency services at risk. Fixing these problems needs to come before we even consider expanding existing roadways.

Only fund new infrastructure that supports healthy, livable, sustainable communities. The road-building, road-widening approach to transportation planning is a relic of an earlier era—a fact reflected by Caltrans’ current mission and policies. When we build new infrastructure today, it should be with the goal of supporting safe, environmentally sustainable, community-building modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, mass transit, and responsible marine transportation.

Cancel counterproductive road expansion projects. We can no longer afford new infrastructure for the biggest fossil fuel-burning vehicles. Thanks to the “Buckhorn Grade” project, the biggest trucks on the road will soon have two ways to enter Humboldt and Del Norte Counties—via US 101 from Oregon and Highway 299 from Redding. The proposed Caltrans projects at Richardson Grove and on Highways 199/197 would add two more segments to this STAA trucking network, inviting even more big trucks into our communities and increasing greenhouse gas emissions at a time when Governor Brown has required Caltrans to reduce them. These projects are expensive, unnecessary and damaging to our roads, communities and environments. They reflect outdated planning priorities, and they do not serve our local needs. They can and should be canceled.


BLM Seeks Input on Management of Headwaters Forest Reserve

Friday, August 21st, 2015
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Headwaters Forest Thinning By Rob DiPernaThe Bureau of Land Management is seeking public input on plans to amend the management plan for the Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south of Eureka, California.

The 7,742-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve was established in 1999 by the landmark Headwaters Forest Agreement, and in 2004, the BLM adopted a contemporary management plan for the reserve. The 2004 plan articulates nine management objectives for the reserve, foremost among these being preservation of old-growth dependent species and habitats, and the restoration of old-growth and aquatic ecosystems.

While the Headwaters Forest Reserve was originally created for the purpose of protecting old-growth forests and old-growth dependent species and their habitats, only a percentage of the reserve actually contains old-growth forests, with the majority of the reserve containing previously-harvested stands in varying states of regeneration and recovery.

The primary means of returning previously-managed forests towards old-growth characteristics over time in the Headwaters Forest Reserve has been the use of prescribed thinning. Currently, the BLM employs a method known as “lop-and-scatter,” where forest stands are thinned by cutting small-diameter trees in young, dense regenerating forest stands, and the resulting material is scattered on the forest floor. No trees are removed from the forest.

The purpose of these thinning treatments is to move previously-harvested stands towards an old-growth-like state over time, consistent with the reserve’s management goals. Previously-harvested stands in the reserve represent a wide range of forest conditions which are in varying states of regeneration and recovery. Regenerating forests often grow back much thicker and denser than the original forest stand condition. As a result, regenerating previously-harvested forests often contain too many trees, too tightly packed together. This results in forest stands which are highly homogenized and simplified, leading to unhealthy conditions for wildlife, and the forest itself.

The BLM is now seeking to revise its 2004 management plan to allow for greater flexibility in the methods available for restoration of previously-harvested forest stands in the reserve. Possible approaches could include re-entry of previously thinned stands or even the implementation of prescribed burning in previously-managed stands to thin trees and manage fuel loads.

The BLM will hold a public meeting to take input on potential revisions to the 2004 management plan on Tuesday, September 1st, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the BLM offices in Arcata, located at 1695 Heindon Road in Arcata. EPIC encourages interested members of the public to attend.


New California Wolf Pack

Thursday, August 20th, 2015
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California Wolf Pups 1-jpg

Photos Courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Shasta Pack of Northern California is a family of seven gray wolves, two adults and five pups! The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) just released photos of the pack, which are all dark in color. The pups appear to be a few months old and approximately 35-40 pounds.

CDFW had set up additional trail cameras after earlier photographs recorded a single canid in May and July. More photographs and video of the Shasta Pack are expected next week.

California Wolf Pups 2The world famous lone Oregon Wolf, OR-7 had made California part of his home range for four years. He was the first confirmed wolf in the state since 1924. He and his family of three new pups, two yearlings and mate, the Rogue Pack, are currently residing in Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon.

In anticipation of wolves returning to golden state, EPIC worked to see the gray wolf listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. In June 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of listing. This was also the day that first OR-7 pups were confirmed. The gray wolf continues to be listed in California under the Federal Endangered Species Act; therefore, it is illegal to harass, harm, pursue or to engage in any such conduct.

California Wolf Pups 3Now that we have an official wolf pack regulations and enforcement of the protection of wolves is paramount. The California Draft Wolf Management Plan is expected to be released for public comment this year. EPIC has put in hundreds of hours as a stakeholder with the CDFW and many others to draft the plan. The draft plan has since gone through peer review and is currently being updated to include the new Shasta Pack information.

Please stay tuned for more updates and the opportunity to comment on the California Wolf Plan later this year.

Our grass-roots organization is supported by people like you, so if you would like to help us protect wolves, please make a contribution:

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Northern California National Forests on Fire

Monday, August 10th, 2015
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River Complex

River Complex

 

Last month’s storms in the North Coast resulted in hundreds of lightning strikes igniting forest fires across the region and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Now a combined total of approximately 102,755 acres are burning on the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests.

 

Shasta Trinity National Forest contains 7 fire complexes totaling 80,249 acres:

Route Complex            19,974                   15% contained       *Dozer lines & tree felling

South Complex            18,108                   5% contained         *19 Dozers

River Complex             18,235                   12% contained        *4 Dozers

Fork Complex              22,312                   19% contained         *54 Dozers

Shf Lightning               75

Saddle Fire                   1,542

Hog Fire “Saddle Fire”      3

Six Rivers National Forest contains 3 complexes totaling 22,506 acres:

Mad River Complex 19,189                  35% contained           *6 bulldozers

Gasquet Complex     2,335                    9% contained            *Dozers & tree felling

Nickowitz Fire             982                    17% contained

Hog Fire -Saddle Fire-dozer lines

Hog Fire -Saddle Fire-dozer lines

Thousands of fire fighters are on the ground, some in an effort to protect life and property and others are in the wilderness and backcountry. Fire suppression and the military style of firefighting can be more environmentally destructive than wildfire itself. Crews typically construct ridge top fire lines with bulldozers, dump fire retardant, ignite high severity back burns, fell trees and open up decommissioned roads to access and suppress the fires. These damaging efforts are often ineffective, for example yesterday a burning tree fell across a containment line on the Route complex, causing the fire to escape.

Route Complex

Route Complex

Techniques such as back burning purposefully result in high intensity fire consuming all of the vegetation in its path. Fire retardant can be toxic to fish, especially when it is applied into creeks and streams. Snags are felled throughout sensitive areas. The Six Rivers allowed an untold amount of chainsaw work to cut snags in the Siskiyou Wilderness in the Peak Fire. Perhaps the most destructive activity is the construction of often-ineffective firelines creating miles of ridge tops that are plowed to bare earth. In the Fork Complex alone, there are multi-agency crews operating 54 bulldozers.

Fire has shaped the region for millennia; it is a natural force that keeps our forests healthy by cleaning out the understory and opening the forest floor. Wildfires are most commonly started by lightning, which strikes on ridge tops, then creeps down the mountain side, most often over 85 percent of forest fires burn at low and moderate severity, and less than 15% burns at high severity. In this scenario, most of the largest trees are left alive and the smaller understory is cleaned out, allowing the larger trees more light and nutrients to grow.

Dozer Line on Castle fire in South Complex

Dozer Line on Castle fire in South Complex

Once the smoke clears, many of these burned forests will be considered for post-fire “salvage logging” timber sales, as we are experiencing on the Klamath National Forest in the Westside project, which is slated for a decision in early September. Post-fire operations usually propose to remove the largest (most profitable) trees, which are the most valuable to wildlife, soil stability, soil structure and carbon storage. Salvage logging on steep slopes leaves the sensitive landscape susceptible to landslides and erosion, removes important habitat and damages natural growth and recovery.

In order to allow our forests to undergo natural processes, fire suppression should focus around homes and communities by creating a defensible “fire safe” area. Landscape level fire strategies that include shaded fuel breaks and the widespread use of cultural and prescribed burning should be and are becoming a priority for national forest managers, tribes and rural communities.

Below are some maps of the fires as of August 10, 2015:

*Photos and maps and data courtesy of inciweb.nwcg.gov


Don’t Trash our State Park Lands—Protect Mendocino County Forests

Monday, August 10th, 2015
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Mendocino_Pygmy_Forest_in_Van_Damme_State_Park_2Wikipedia commonsTake Action: Would you trade rare state park forestland for a defunct waste transfer station? Neither would we. Yet, that’s what the County of Mendocino and the City of Fort Bragg are poised to do.

In a complicated three-way land swap proposal, 12.6 acres of rare Russian Gulch State Parks forestland would be transferred to Jackson Demonstration State Forest, which would then transfer 17 acres of its property to the city and county for development of the Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station. State Parks would then have the option of acquiring 60 acres of county and city property, formerly the site of the Caspar Landfill and waste transfer station.

How is this possible? The framework of this land swap was created by legislation brought forward by then-Assemblymen Wesley Chesbro. The proposed Central Coast Waste Transfer Station is currently undergoing environmental review. Numerous groups, citizens, and even public agencies have submitted comments expressing concerns about the proposed land swap and the adverse environmental consequences of the project, citing inadequate treatment of potential environmental impacts and inadequate consideration of other feasible alternatives.

So, what’s at stake? The 12.6 acres of Russian Gulch State Parks property currently proposed as part of the swap contain rare and important forest habitats, including Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands, Northern Bishop Pine forests, and also serve as important habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the marbled murrelet. These lands would be transferred to Jackson Demonstration State Forest, which is dedicated to experimental logging of its forestlands for sustainable wood production. Meanwhile, state parks would get in return lands that were once a landfill and waste transfer station.

Fortunately, there is still time to stop this ill-conceived plan. On August 17, 2015, the city and county will hold a hearing on whether or not to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project. The FEIR, like the draft before it, is fatally flawed and should not be the basis for allowing the project to go forward.

Click here to take action now to tell the City of Fort Bragg and the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors that you value rare forests!


Half-Solutions for Fisher Conservation

Monday, August 10th, 2015
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Pacific-Fisher_Bethany-Weeks-300x200The work to protect the last remaining Pacific fishers has taken a half-step forward and a half-step back.

The Pacific fisher—a small and rare carnivore that depends on old forests in California—is in dire need of protection. Fishers have been extirpated from the majority of the West Coast; California’s forests represent their last remaining significant populations. To recover the species across their historic range, we need to first protect the last remaining California fishers.

California’s fishers have never fully recovered from historic impacts, such as logging and trapping. And, new impacts, particularly forest fragmentation, increased predation, and rodenticide exposure associated with illegal marijuana operations, have acted to kick the species while it is down.

Last Wednesday, the Fish and Game Commission considered whether to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act. Instead of the full protections needed (and warranted under the law), the Commission decided to only protect a small portion of California’s rare Pacific fisher. By a unanimous vote, the Commission adopted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation that only fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada be protected; fisher in Northern California are left to fend for themselves. It was a half-victory for the fishers. But a half-victory is not enough. All of California’s remaining fishers need protection.

This one setback won’t stop EPIC from its mission to protect the Pacific fisher. EPIC is also pushing for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Way back in 2000, EPIC and other conservation organizations petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the fisher. After 15 years of fighting—including numerous successful court battles—the Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a final decision in early 2016.

Thank you to the thousand-plus supporters who took action to protect the fisher. We will need your voice again soon to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not follow the California Fish and Game Commission’s example.