Archive for December, 2015

Big, Old Trees are the Local Solution to Global Climate Change

Monday, December 28th, 2015
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While much of the activism, politics, and media around global warming rightly focuses on reducing the use of fossil fuels and stopping pipelines that threaten to expand fossil fuel use, the forests in Northwest California are quietly absorbing vast quantities of carbon rivaling the most productive ecosystems on earth and sustaining natural communities and services humans depend on.

Big, old trees are our local solution to global climate change. With your financial support, EPIC will champion the important role our forests play in carbon sequestration and climate change.

Northern California is home to 4 of the top 10 carbon-storing national forests in the country. Our forests breathe in excess carbon dioxide caused by burning of fossil fuels, and store the carbon in their trunks, roots, and surrounding soil for centuries—if allowed to grow.

Let me explain: as trees grow, they suck up carbon dioxide from the air and trap it in their trunk, limbs, roots, and leaves—or to use the fancy science term, this carbon is “sequestered.” As a tree grows, it becomes a carbon “sink,” storing more carbon than it emits. And the bigger the tree, the more carbon can be stored away.

Logging short-circuits this process and accelerates the transfer of stored carbon back into the atmosphere. This is especially important in regards to old-growth forests. If a tree had been pulling from the atmosphere for 700 years, as many old-growth redwoods on the north coast have, then if that tree is cut down, it will emit significant amounts of carbon that had been stored for hundreds of years.

Just like fossil fuels, this carbon had long ago been removed from the carbon cycle; like stepping on the gas pedal in your car, logging these high-carbon forests will only speed up global climate change by releasing a sudden influx of long-stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Recruiting and preserving big, old trees is like hitting the brakes, slowing our rate of carbon emissions by keeping carbon in the trees.

Conservation victories over the last 25 years have shifted the northwest forest landscape from a net source of carbon to a net carbon sink. Proposals by Congress and the U.S. Forest Service to increase logging on public lands would increase carbon emissions, reverse hard-earned conservation gains, and fly in the face of what we know we must do to prevent an all out climate disaster.

With your financial support, EPIC will champion the important role our forests play in carbon sequestration and climate change, and be ready to push back on Big Timber interests, who have their eye on our public forests. For the love of forests, please donate today and help EPIC be ready to stop them.

 


Lawsuit Challenges Failure to Protect Coastal Marten

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
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Photo Credit: USFWS

Photo Credit: USFWS

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

Two conservation groups today sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the coastal marten under the Endangered Species Act. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center first petitioned for protection for the coastal marten, sometimes known as the Humboldt marten, in 2010. Represented by Earthjustice, the groups are now challenging the Service’s April 2015 decision not to award federal protection to the marten. Read the complaint here.

The bushy-tailed carnivores 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. A slender mustelid related to minks and otters, the coastal marten survives only in three isolated populations in old-growth forest and dense coastal shrub in Northern California and southern and central coastal Oregon.

“The science clearly shows that the coastal marten deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the agency ignored its own scientists in making the political decision to betray the marten,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and lead author of the petition to protect the marten.

The marten faces a barrage of threats, including logging, fire, climate change, trapping in Oregon, vehicle strikes, rodenticide poisoning and small population size. In denying the marten protection, the Service ignored the best available science, including its own scientific report. In the past year, the agency has come under increasing criticism for overruling its own scientists and too often bowing to political pressure.

“We’re dealing with an animal that is already extinct throughout more than 83 percent of its historic range. It’s like discovering that the ivory-billed woodpecker still exists, yet refusing to protect it,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney for Earthjustice representing the groups. “If they’re going to survive and recover, coastal martens desperately need the protection that the Endangered Species Act provides.”

“The Service’s decision not to protect the coastal marten is scientifically and morally unjustifiable,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California forest and wildlife advocate. “The marten is a special part of the natural heritage of the Northwest and deserves full protection.”

The coastal martens’ historic range extended from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon; in Oregon the marten now lives only in a small area within Siskiyou and Siuslaw national forests. Coastal martens were believed extinct in California — 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 California marten to be photographed in recent times was detected in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park by remote-sensing camera.

The extremely secretive animals are known for their slinky walking motion and expert 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.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1977, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has defended Northwest California’s forests and wildlife, including the rare and incredibly adorable coastal marten.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.


Latest Study Shows Northern Spotted Owl Populations in Rapid Decline

Monday, December 14th, 2015
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NSO babyThe northern spotted owl is in decline across its entire range and its rate of decline is increasing—that is the conclusion of a major demographic study produced by federal scientists, published Wednesday, December 9, 2015, in the journal “The Condor.” The study examined survey results from monitoring areas across the range of the imperiled owl, and results suggest that immediate and aggressive improvements in existing conservation efforts will be necessary if the owl is to persist in the wild.

The northern spotted owl was listed as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990. Loss of old-growth forests, on which the owl depends, to logging across the Pacific Northwest on both federal and non-federal lands was the impetus behind the original listing, and eventually served as the basis for the creation of the Northwest Forest Plan, the forest plan that now governs activities on federal lands in the range of the owl.

However, the over 25 years of federal ESA protections, including the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan for federal lands, has not been enough to curtail the decline of the northern spotted owl. The latest demographic study indicates that habitat loss continues to plague the owl range-wide, and that the expansion of the barred owl into the historic range of the spotted owl has further confounded efforts to protect and conserve northern spotted owls in the wild.

EPIC is Fighting for Owls

The latest demographic study results for the northern spotted owl confirms EPIC’s worse fears about the perilous condition of owl populations in California and across the species’ range, and shows alarming trends and grim prospects for the conservation of the owl. After reviewing the results of the last demographic study results for the northern spotted owl (Forsman et al. 2011), EPIC understood that more aggressive and immediate conservation measures for the owl were necessary if the species is to survive in the wild.

Taking this into account, EPIC initiated a two-pronged approach to increasing the listing status and conservation options for the northern spotted owl. In 2012, EPIC filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, requesting that the agency “up-list” or “reclassify’ the northern spotted owl from a “threatened” to an “endangered’ species under the federal ESA. In conjunction, EPIC also filed a listing petition for the northern spotted owl under the California Endangered Species Act with the California Fish and Game Commission.

Agency Inaction in the Face of Declining Owl Populations

Our federal “reclassification” petition for the northern spotted owl has been mired in agency heel-dragging on the part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although the “reclassification” petition was submitted to the Service in 2012, the agency did not even produce its initial 90-day evaluation and finding on the merits of the petition until April, 2015, and only then under the threat of imminent litigation from EPIC.

The listing petition for the northern spotted owl under CESA has similarly been subject to incomprehensible agency delays and heel-dragging, which has been perpetrated by both the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It took the Fish and Game Commission nearly a year before it even held the initial hearing on the merits of our petition to list the spotted owl. Although the spotted owl became a “candidate” for listing under CESA in December, 2013, and was afforded temporary protections, the final hearing on the merits of the CESA listing petition for the northern spotted owl has yet to be scheduled, largely as a result of the failure of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to prepare and produce a status review and report for the owl within statutorily-required timeframes. At present, there is no date-certain for the Department to produce and submit the report to the Fish and Game Commission, despite the fact that the report is now over six-month delinquent.

EPIC has also been working to challenge, critique, and improve the protective measures afforded to the northern spotted owl during the course of logging operations on private forestlands under the California Forest Practice Act and Forest Practice Rules. Logging operations on private forestlands in California have been poorly-regulated and poorly-monitored, particularly since 2008, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended its participation in the review and approval process for private lands timber harvest operations. The lack of independent scientific expertise to guide the review and approval process for private lands THPs, combined with the antiquated and ineffective regulatory constraints on the private lands logging industry, has effectively hung the northern spotted owl out to dry, and facilitated the continuance of “business as usual.”

EPIC will continue advocate for increased, and more immediate and aggressive measures to conserve the northern spotted owl.

NSO Population Declines, New Study Reports Final EPIC WFLC Press Release

The Effects of habitat, Climate, and Barred Owls on Long-term Demography of Northern Spotted Owls – The Condor Volume 118, 2016 pp.57-116

 

 


Stop Road Construction in an Inventoried Roadless Area!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
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Bulldozer_CAT_D6M_XL_8705Take action now: The Shasta Trinity National Forest is proposing to build a road through an inventoried roadless area to allow Sierra Pacific Industries Timber Inc. (SPI) to reach and log 80 acres of a forested private inholding! The cost of the road would be borne by the public, subsidizing the logging performed by SPI. EPIC is opposed to the road project and we need your support.

Road construction would come at an extreme environmental cost. According to a retired Forest Service employee familiar with the area, the road would be built on steep and potentially unstable slopes. Public documents state that trees up to 39 inches in diameter would be removed to bulldoze the new road. Species thought to use the area include mountain lions, fishers, ringtail cats, and martens. Nearby streams may also be affected, including wildlife, such as trout, tailed frogs, and yellow-legged frogs. Roadless areas are the largest tracts of intact wild lands outside of wilderness areas and they provide landscape habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Road construction through public land is unnecessary. The parcel in question is not landlocked; SPI can access the parcel through its own lands, however it does not want to spend the money if the Feds would do it for them. Further, SPI routinely utilizes helicopter logging for other areas where it would be too difficult or costly to put in a logging road.

This road is unwarranted and comes at too great of an ecological cost. Tell Forest Supervisor Myers that you don’t support roads for private logging in roadless areas!


Westside Project Update

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
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Westside

Russian Wilderness post 2014 Whites Fire Near north Fork Salmon River.

For the past year, we have discussed the proposed “Westside Project” on the Klamath National Forest. The Westside Project is an environmental disaster, proposing huge clearcuts across thousands of post-fire acres of the Klamath National Forest. The project would drastically impact northern spotted owls and would harm other wildlife, such as bald eagles and the Pacific fisher. You can read more about the Westside Project here.

Four major steps need to be made before logging could begin in earnest. First, the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service need to complete their “consultation,” a process required by the Endangered Species Act, given the high magnitude of threats to the northern spotted owl. Second, the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to complete their consultation, also required by the Endangered Species Act, because of the potential harm to threatened coho. Third, after consultation is completed, we expect the Klamath National Forest to issue a decision on the project. Lastly, after it releases a decision, then the Forest Service can apply to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for a “waiver of waste discharge requirements”—a permit to pollute, to (overly) simplify. EPIC is engaging with all of these ongoing processes to provide the necessary critical oversight. Given the timeline with these steps, we do not expect the Forest Service to be able to log until early spring.

While most of the major activity will not be able to occur this winter, the Forest Service could complete other logging activities in the vicinity, including some major “hazard tree” removal on the Sawyers road between Whites Gulch and Robinson Flat, a roughly two mile stretch. This stretch of road is within the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River corridor. In about 95 acres, the Forest Service estimates it would remove approximately 1,400 trees greater than 14” diameter at breast height. Smaller trees will be felled and not removed. The Klamath National Forest indicated that this road presents an immediate safety risk for the surrounding communities.

EPIC will continue to bring you updates on the Westside Project as they unfold.

 


Action Alert: Don’t let Congress Silence You and Clear-cut Millions of Acres of our Forests

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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Willits Rein in Caltrans Slide

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Tell Congress to pass a clean fire suppression funding bill—No anti-environment riders!

Some in Congress are trying, once again, to take way our voice in decisions that affect our lives. The National Environmental Policy Act is the foundational law that gives every citizen the right to be involved in decisions that affect our environment and to stop illegal activities. But some in Congress are chipping away at that law and those rights. Backroom deals are taking place in Congress right now to allow the US Forest Service to log millions of acres of our public forests with little to no public input.

The US House of Representatives passed a very bad bill this year, HR 2647, ironically called the “Resilient Federal Forest Act.” The bill has nothing to do with making forests more resilient. This is a typical trick of the anti-conservation politicians. Those pushing HR 2647 want to use fires as an excuse to clear-cut millions of acres of our National Forests that have experienced fire and to silence critical voices. Let’s be clear: this legislation will not help with better fire management and prevention—the bill is about massive clear-cuts, and taking away our public voice.

Knowing that their extreme anti-environmental rhetoric is toxic, Big Timber is pushing politicians to sneak their bad bill in as a rider to a bill to fix the fire funding chaos. Tell Congress, “No Bad Logging Riders!” Pass a clean bill or no bill.

At the same time, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress and by citizens to fix the chaotic way we fund firefighting. It is clear that we need to find a more sustainable solution to ballooning fire suppression costs, which often far exceed the amount appropriated to the Forest Service for fire suppression. This in turn forces the Forest Service to pull money from other departments, such as recreation and forest health—a process known as “fire borrowing.”

You can stop these bad riders. The action has moved to the back rooms of the US Senate now and your Senators can help stop this.

Click here to take action now!

Or contact your Representatives in Congress directly:

Senator Diane Feinstein

Northern California (San Francisco) Office: (415) 393-0707

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3841

Email: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

 

Senator Barbara Boxer

California District Office (Oakland): (510) 286-8537

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3553

Email: https://www.boxer.senate.gov/contact/shareyourviews.html

Twitter: @SenatorBoxer

 

Congressman Huffman (California 2nd District )

District Office (Eureka): (707) 407-3585

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-5161

Email: https://huffman.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepHuffman

 

Congressman LaMalfa (California 1st District)

District Office (Redding): (530) 223-5898

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-3076

Email: https://lamalfa.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepLaMalfa


Coastal Marten Takes Important First Step Toward California Endangered Species Act Protection

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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Humboldt Marten at Bait StationIn response to a petition from two conservation groups, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended protection for the coastal marten under the California Endangered Species Act. Formerly known as the Humboldt marten, the coastal marten is a cat-sized carnivore found in the old-growth forests of Northern California and southern Oregon. The California Fish and Game Commission will vote in February on whether to accept Thursday’s recommendation by the department to make the marten a “candidate” for state protection. More than 90 percent of the marten’s forest habitat has been decimated by logging; there are probably fewer than 100 martens left in California.

“We are encouraged that the department has recommended candidacy for the marten,” said Rob DiPerna, a wildlife advocate with the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Both the perilously small population size and the magnitude of threats to the marten clearly point to the conclusion that candidacy is warranted.”

“This is great news for coastal martens,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Once the commission accepts the petition early next year, these amazing animals will finally start to get protections that are decades overdue.”

The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the state to protect the marten in June. Under the California Endangered Species Act, it is the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s role to make recommendations on any petition, but ultimately, it is up to the five-member Fish and Game Commission to act on the recommendation and formally accept a petition. Once the petition is accepted by the commission, coastal martens will begin to receive important protections the California Endangered Species Act affords, such as a prohibition on the killing or harming of these beautiful creatures.

The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once thought extinct, the marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time researchers have continued to detect martens in California, but also determined that coastal martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2008 and have not rebounded.

Since 1977, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has defended Northwest California’s forests and wildlife, including the rare and incredibly adorable Humboldt marten.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Click here to view press release.