Archive for September, 2015

Existing North Coast Cannabis Cultivators: Come into Compliance

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
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PotleafEPIC applauds the Humboldt County Supervisors for their decision to begin drafting a large-scale medical marijuana land use ordinance that will comply with the new California state laws and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s water quality order. Local control is critical for our future; we must develop land-use policies that reflect our values such as the protection of forests, families, fish and farmers.

By moving a local land-use ordinance forward, the county is taking the initial steps toward ensuring existing farmers are allowed to come into compliance with the new laws and become part of legitimate society. The first step in this process is to address “existing cultivators.” The goal should be to bring as many cultivators, including those cultivating on Timber Production Zone (TPZ) who are willing to take immediate action to ensure baseline environmental standards are met, into compliance—to be treated as responsible and legitimate business owners. After the county gets a handle on existing cultivation, it can then, begin to address, if, how and where it should allow any new cultivation areas.

EPIC does not support the further conversion of working forests for commercial agriculture, or residential development, because it threatens our vision of creating a well connected, healthy and restored forest ecosystem. When addressing the Humboldt County Supervisors and California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) EPIC recommended that an ordinance address existing cultivation, and remove language from the law/ordinance that would explicitly allow future cultivation on TPZ lands.

Existing Humboldt County TPZ landowners, who are cultivating, need to initiate the permitting process with the North Coast Water Board—the current deadline for enrollment is February 15, 2016. The new county regulations will require compliance with the Water Board and Department of Fish & Wildlife regulations—now is the time to get started. The state’s new laws require licenses from local jurisdictions.

We are entering a new era in our collective history. We need to work together to ensure systems are in place to stop further environmental damage, provide clear lines for what is and is not acceptable and create a safe-harbor for willing cultivators to come into compliance. I believe it is possible that Humboldt County can have both—protected and restored watersheds and well-regulated, salmon-safe cannabis farms—do you?

For more information and to read the new California laws and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s waiver, click here.


No Small Feat—Your Comments Helped Protect Rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands and Marbled Murrelets

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
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SavedMendocino_Pygmy_Forest_in_Van_Damme_State_Park_2Wikipedia-commons-225x300Thanks to the actions taken by EPIC members, the City of Fort Bragg and the County of Mendocino (collectively referred to as the “Joint Powers Authority,”) have indefinitely postponed the hearing to consider certification of the Environmental Impact Report for the Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project.

The Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project would have taken 12.6 acres from Russian Gulch State Park, which contains extremely rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Forests, Northern Bishop Pine Forests, and, as recently revealed, several old-growth Douglas fir trees, which State Park biologist have concluded serve as suitable potential marbled murrelet habitat, and given it to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Currently, the land is protected in the State Parks system in perpetuity. Should this deal have gone down, the lands would be subject to logging operations pursuant to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest’s mandate and management plan and in exchange the State Park would receive lands that were formerly used as a landfill—Hmm, there is definitely something is rotten about this project…

The Joint Powers Authority was poised to approve the EIR for the transfer station project at a hearing scheduled in Fort Bragg in August, 2015. However, comments submitted by EPIC staff, and comments received from 1,209 EPIC members via our Action Alert have caused the agency to postpone the certification of the EIR indefinitely to allow for “further consideration.” The Joint Powers Authority transfer station project will likely now need to go back to the “drawing board.”

EPIC gets results, thanks to you! EPIC staff wishes to thank all our members who participated in our Action Alert, or otherwise provided comments on the transfer station project. Our collective efforts have likely served to protect the rare and unique pygmy forestlands of Russian Gulch State Park.

Your actions, and your donations, make a big difference! Please consider making a gift to EPIC so that our top-notch advocacy for Northwest California’s forests can continue.

Read EPIC’s Comment Letter Regarding the Waste Transfer Station 8.11.15

Listen to the KMUD Environment show hosted by EPIC’s Wildlife and Forest Advocate, Rob DiPerna discussing issues associated with the rare pygmy forest.

 


A Day on the Elk River

Monday, September 28th, 2015
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Elk River Train Trestle. Photo Courtesy of Natalynne DeLapp.

Elk River Train Trestle. Photo Courtesy of Natalynne DeLapp.

The consequences of the recent intensive timber extraction in the Elk River watershed are fairly well-understood—landslides, bank erosion, gullying, road-related runoff, and failed road facilities, among many other impacts, have resulted in an astronomical amount of sediment being delivered and deposited into Elk River and its tributaries, resulting in rises in the level of the riverbed and channel restrictions, over-vegetation, and of course, causing significant increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding. Individuals and families have lost their domestic and agricultural water sources, have their homes flooded and have their ingress and egress to and from their homes blocked from three to 20 times-a-year. Fences are destroyed and can’t be rebuilt because the next high water would destroy them, houses can’t be lived in because of continuous mold problems and septic systems are flooded.

In modern times, the discussion continues as to what impacts contemporary logging operations are having, as conducted by HRC and Green Diamond Resource Company, the two large industrial timberland owners in the watershed. Each of these postulates that so-called “legacy” i.e., historic, or pre-contemporary operations, impacts, and practices are to blame for the condition of Elk River, and that contemporary operations do not significantly contribute to the problems.

Humboldt Redwood Company, unlike its counterpart, Green Diamond Resource Company, maintains an “open-door policy” when it comes to visitors on its property. So, earlier this month, EPIC staff joined representatives of Humboldt Redwood Company, and long-time upper Elk River resident, Kristi Wrigley, on a field tour to witness current on-the-ground conditions on HRC property, and to discuss the logging, environmental, and most importantly the human issues in the upper part of the basin.

Our tour began not on HRC land, but at the infamous concrete bridge over the North Fork Elk River at the corner of Elk River Road and Wrigley Road. There, we viewed the over-grown vegetation on the banks of the river, with thick layers of sediment deposits clearly visible on the river-bottom as well. Here, the channel gradient is very low, and as we all know, water, as well as sediment, which is carried by water, flows downhill. In reaching this low gradient section of the river, the sediment has nowhere to go, and the river does not have enough assimilative capacity to carry all the sediment downstream. There is little wonder that the flooding continues at its frequent and frightening pace here.

Elk RIver flooding bridge. Photo courtesy of Kristi Wrigley.

Elk River flooding stone bridge at the corner of Elk River and Wrigley Roads. Photo courtesy of Kristi Wrigley.

We then spent the rest of the day progressively moving up the watershed on HRC property. We viewed revegetating MAXXAM-era clear-cuts, and second growth redwood stands selectively harvested by HRC over the last several years. The old MAXXAM-era clear-cuts seem to be regenerating, but also appear to be jam-packed with innumerable young tress. HRC’s selectively logged areas, by contrast, largely contained what appeared to be well-spaced and stocked post-harvest.

Elk River Restoration Project on HRC Land. Photo courtesy of Nataynne DeLapp.

We also viewed two stream restoration effort sites along the Elk River on HRC land, where woody material is being placed back in the river to create complexity, flow mediation, and salmonid habitat enhancement.

That evening, EPIC’s Rob DiPerna joined Elk River resident Kristi Wrigley on KHSU’s Thursday Night Talk program, to discuss the issues in Elk River and our day in the field.

The question arose, in one form or another, throughout the day about whether or not contemporary logging practices and associated activities have improved, and whether or not these improvements are adequate to address sediment production from the contemporary operations. In other words, just because the logging may be “better” does that then mean that it is benign in terms of its effects on Elk River? However, the more important question is whether any logging at all is appropriate in Elk River in light of the extreme and significant cumulative impacts that have occurred over the last 25 years in the watershed. These more important questions form the foundation of the true discussion over contemporary logging in Elk River.

EPIC wishes to thank both Elk River resident Kristi Wrigley and HRC for an informative day of discussion about the environmental and human rights issues in Elk River. EPIC is dedicated to working with stakeholders to seek common ground and foster dialogue, while advocating for best forest and watershed management practices to protect and recover the river for fish, wildlife, water quality, and humans alike.

Part one in a six-part series. Future articles will focus on the following topics:

2) Vital statistics about Elk River; 3) Cumulative impacts; 4) Management regimes; 5) Legal and regulatory frameworks; and 6) Social issues.


Humboldt County: It is High Time to Regulate Cannabis!

Monday, September 14th, 2015
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frog on marijuana

Photo credit: Kym Kemp

Update: On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing County Counsel to develop a medical marijuana ordinance in compliance with state law to be effective no later than March 1, 2016; the Supervisor’s Ad Hoc Committee will work to develop a framework for a county Cannabis Commission; and a local taxation measure will be on the Humboldt County ballot as soon as June 2016 or no later than November 2016.

Local control is critical for our future. Humboldt County must take initiative to develop its own land use ordinance to regulate the number, size, and location of operations for commercial cannabis cultivation that fits the specific needs of our forests, fish, farmers and families.

Now is the time, the momentum is here. On Friday, the State of California provided the first ever comprehensive framework to regulate commercial cannabis cultivation. This is huge and much needed, but a work in progress. The new laws will provide clear rules within two years, allow for cultivation of up to one acre of cannabis, and focus on the licensing processes for commercial sales, which includes a requirement for local permitting. Additionally, in August, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its groundbreaking water quality order, the first regulation by a California state agency designed to address environmental impacts from cannabis cultivation. However, because the regulation was developed by the Water Board, the order only explicitly focuses on water quality issues.

These are monumental steps taken at the behest of cannabis farmers and many others to transition the industry from underground to legitimate. For nearly two decades, since cultivation for medical use was decriminalized, there have been very few rules and regulations to govern what activities are and are not acceptable. Cannabis production increased dramatically, particularly in the last 5 years, where watersheds in Northern California have seen increases in area under production ranging from 55% to over 100%. And because there are no external incentives to improve practices and because law enforcement does not appear to discriminate between good and bad growers, there is a perverse incentive: go real fast, go real big, and take the chance that you’re not going to get caught.

Humboldt County needs to put its own plan in place before we allow more development in our already over allocated watersheds. Because existing and reasonably foreseeable future regulations from the state do not solve our problems, we need to act locally. A county land use ordinance has the potential to regulate the number, size, and location of operations.

The Water Board order provides a good template to base a land use ordinance for Humboldt County. The Water Board framework provides the necessary carrot and stick to bring an industry, which has historically existed only by breaking the law, to come into compliance with the law. Growers who fail to comply with the order will face stiff civil penalties while growers who comply with the regulation will shift from regulatory targets (“red dots”) to being largely left alone (“green dots”). Furthermore, looking forward, compliance with state and local laws will be one of the criteria that the state considers when granting potentially lucrative growing licenses. Such a framework, which provides incentives for farmers to come into compliance and address the damage that our community is suffering in the absence of appropriate environmental regulation and enforcement.

It is imperative that cultivators begin the process of coming into compliance with the NCRWCQB’s order before February 6, 2016.

California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) has led the most recent effort in Humboldt County to advance the creation of a land-use ordinance that focuses on protecting small cannabis farmers. One of the guiding priorities for CCVH in crafting their ordinance was to create a regulatory structure which made sense to the average cannabis farmer, providing clear rules and a structure that would encourage compliance.

The CCVH ordinance rightly focuses on permitting existing operations, ensuring that those folks who are already members of our community have an opportunity to come out of the shadows. Focusing on current operations also establishes a baseline to slow or stop the green rush; new operations above a significant threshold would require a conditional use permit, a process whereby the impact from an additional operation can be scrutinized before any plants are in the ground.

EPIC had previously taken issue with the CCVH ordinance, particularly a portion of the ordinance that could encourage further forest fragmentation through opening land zoned as “timber production zones” or TPZ to commercial cannabis cultivation. As part of CCVH’s public comment period for their draft ordinance, EPIC submitted substantial comments. EPIC, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Baykeeper and S.A.F.E. submitted additional recommendations aimed at addressing permitting and licensing for existing operations and mitigating ongoing environmental impacts of the cannabis industry to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

This began a productive dialogue between EPIC and CCVH. Through numerous meetings, calls, emails, and text messages we discussed our vision for Northern California’s forests and farms and realized that our principles were not far apart.

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, CCVH turns their hard work over to the Humboldt Board of Supervisors along with a series of recommendations. The Board, having received the ordinance language, can run with the baton, sending it through the necessary internal and public review. The Board, which has previously dragged its feet on cannabis regulation due to a lack of clarity from the State, will hopefully feel a greater charge from the public to see this ordinance to completion in an expeditious manner.

To be successful, a local land use ordinance must:

  • Stop the “Green Rush.” This is the exploitation mentality of people who have flocked to the region looking to make fast money regardless of the environmental and social consequences of their activities.
  • Create a safe haven for existing cultivators who want to come into compliance, without fear of persecution.
  • Protect Humboldt County’s small-scale, salmon safe, sun-grown, artisanal cannabis farmers.
  • Provide clear lines as to what activities are and are not acceptable.
  • Prevent and mitigate the negative environmental impacts associated with cannabis cultivation.
  • Halt the further fragmentation and conversion of our working forests for commercial agriculture.
  • Mandate that all water used for cannabis cultivation be stored, with no
    surface water diversions between May 15 and October 31* (this date is based on the NCWQCB’s new order).
  • Create a tax-system for farmers to be able to contribute financially to society.
  • Protect Humboldt County from a future filled with Big Tobacco-owned mega-grows.
  • Restore damaged watersheds and watershed function.
  • Provide adequate funding resources to inspect, enforce, and remediate cultivation areas.

Passage of a land use ordinance is not the end but the beginning. After California legalizes recreational cannabis, the regulatory landscape will become even clearer. A future local land use ordinance that addresses new cannabis cultivation and cultivation for recreational purposes will be necessary. We must remember that regulations and laws are not going to be perfect the first time around and that adaptive management strategies must be employed. The community must work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials as the implementation of the new rules are seen to either be effective or ineffective. Through all these steps, EPIC will be there to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation.

Click here to read the California Bills: AB243, AB266 and SB643.

* The staff at EPIC believe that all water used for any commercial agriculture should be stored and not diverted from surface waters during the dry season.


Westside Community Meeting in Orleans September 11th

Monday, September 7th, 2015
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Westside from BR Lookout

This Friday, concerned community members will be meeting to discuss impacts of the Westside project on our communities. In the coming days, the Klamath National Forest plans to auction off 14 timber sales, that have been analyzed as part of the Westside post-fire logging project, a large commercial salvage logging proposal that covers over 30,000 acres of management including logging on about 10,000 acres of forests affected by the Whites, Beaver and Happy Camp fires of 2014. Areas proposed for logging are adjacent to wilderness areas, the Pacific Crest Trail, within Wild and Scenic River corridors, critical habitat for coho salmon and northern spotted owls and wildlife corridors that are important for providing linkages between the islands of protected areas. The timber sales proposed in the Westside project are all located within the blue circle on the map (below). The Klamath National Forest has not yet released the Record of Decision, which was expected this week, and has not completed formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service. The Klamath National Forest has not yet received a water quality permit from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

EPIC Connecting Wild Places with Westside IDsmallOver the past year, our staff has read and commented on the Westside Environmental Impact Statement and attended the informational meetings put forward by the Klamath National Forest, and we have all agreed that the information and format that has been provided is less than helpful.

In order to better understand the landscape that will be affected by the proposed Westside Project, we have used the shape files for the project boundaries to illustrate aerial images from google earth. These maps more accurately depict the scale, magnitude and context of the proposed project by showing the project in relation to the watersheds that are at stake. These maps will be available at the community meeting.

The Karuk Alternative maps that were developed by the Karuk Tribe have proposed to reduce the project scope to focus on strategic ridge-top fuel breaks to protect rural communities so that fire can be reintroduced to the landscape. The Karuk Alternative is a third of the scale of the Klamath National Forest’s proposal.

Since the beginning of time, fire has shaped the landscape of the region, and it is well documented that cultural burning was used to thin the understory, and allow for healthy larger trees to thrive. prescribed fires were also used to encourage the growth of important resources such as acorns and bear grass, which is used by local tribes to make baskets. Over the last century, these mountains have endured the ecologically damaging practices of clear-cut logging, fire suppression, and plantation forestry, which shape most of the landscape we see today. If you live in or visit the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains and observe your surroundings, you have probably noticed the vicious cycle of:

1. clear-cut logging of the big old fire-resistant, shade-producing trees;

2. plantations that quickly become brush fields due to lack of funds to maintain them in an ongoing way;

3. fire suppression policy that continually increases the size and severity of fires that get away;

4. fire-fighting strategies that increase the size of the burned area; and

5. salvage sales that cost taxpayers more than the government makes on the sale, and in many cases leave huge amounts of slash on the ground, setting us up for the next fire. (And setting the fish up for a hot, sediment-choked, disease-prone environment.)

If you would like to learn about the size, scope and specifics of the Westside salvage sale and discuss potential consequences and community responses, you are cordially invited to come to this important informational meeting for Westside post-fire logging project on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm at the Karuk DNR-Department of Natural Resources Community Room, 39051 Highway 96. In Orleans, CA. All are welcome. Refreshments and dinner included, but bring a potluck dish to share if you can.

DIRECTIONS: Headed northeast on Highway 96, go one quarter mile past Orleans and cross the bridge over the Klamath. The parking lot is on the right hand side (Just after Red Cap Road). Cell phones and GPS Navigation systems do not work here, so you may want to map your route in advance. Allow ~2 hours of drive time from Arcata area.

RESOURCES:

Google Earth image maps with timber sale boundaries – Organized by timber sale and/or watershed.

Westside Fact Sheet and Agency Contacts for Westside Project – 1 page fact sheet for letter writing.

EPIC Guide to Groundtruthing trifold – An excellent guide for analyzing project impacts in the field.

The Westside Story – An in epic analysis of the wildlife, wild rivers, and wild places that would be affected by the Westside project.

Final Comments on Westside DEIS – EPIC, Klamath Forest Alliance and KS Wild comments on the Westside Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement – A link to all of the Klamath National Forest’s documents related to the Westside project.

Timber Sale Maps developed by the Klamath National Forest:

Whites Fire Salvage Heli Map

Walker Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tyler Meadows Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tom Martin Fire Salvage Heli Map

Slinkard Fire Salvage Heli Map

Salt Creek Fire Salvage SBA Map

Middle Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Hamburg Fire Salvage Map

Greider Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cougar Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cold Springs Fire Salvage Map

Caroline Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Blue Mountain Fire Salvage Heli Map

Beaver Fire Salvage Timber Sale Map

 

FlyerWestsideMeeting


Groups Fight to Save Rare, Mink-like Carnivore in California and Oregon

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
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Marten2ThumbnailLawsuit Will Challenge Failure to Protect the Coastal Marten

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to protect the coastal marten, a secretive member of the weasel family, under the Endangered Species Act. The groups, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, petitioned in 2010 for federal protection of the rare carnivore, then known as the Humboldt marten, but the Service issued a decision denying protection earlier this year.

A small carnivore related to minks and otters, the coastal marten is found only in old-growth forest and dense coastal shrub in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon. Once extensively trapped for their fur, the cat-like animals were once common, but now fewer than 100 of them survive in California, while an unknown, but very small, number are still found in Oregon.

“The science clearly shows that coastal martens are some of the most endangered animals in the United States,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the petition to protect the marten. “Denying protection to the coastal marten is a blatant example of the Fish and Wildlife Service caving to pressure from the timber industry — at the expense of an irreplaceable creature.”

Coastal martens were believed extinct — with 95 percent of their old-growth forest habitat lost and a history of excessive trapping — until they were rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. In 2009 the first marten to be photographed in recent times was detected in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park by remote-sensing camera.

“It’s unjustifiable that the Service denied protection for the coastal marten,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California forest and wildlife advocate. “We already nearly lost the coastal marten to extinction, and so now we need to do everything we can to protect this special part of our natural heritage.”

These martens’ historic range extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. In Oregon the marten lives in the Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests.

“This is one of those unfortunate cases where science got streamrolled by political expediency,” said Greg Loarie, attorney for Earthjustice representing the groups. “It’s impossible to reconcile the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own finding that coastal martens are gone from 95 percent of their historic range in California and down to the last 100 individuals with the Service’s conclusion that martens don’t desperately need protection under the Endangered Species Act.”

The extremely secretive animals are known for their slinky walking motion and ferocious hunting skills. Typically about 2 feet long, with large, triangular ears and a long tail, they eat smaller mammals, berries and birds, and are preyed on by larger mammals and raptors.

Humboldt Marten: Slinky, cat-like and nearly extinct – Excellent article by MSNBC

Final 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue RE Marten 9-1-15