Archive for August, 2016

Northern Spotted Owl Listed by Fish and Game Commission

Friday, August 26th, 2016
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Decision First Step Towards Recovery of the Owl

northernspottedowl_clip_image004Folsom, Calif.—By a unanimous vote, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis) under the California Endangered Species Act. The Commission’s decision ended the four year review process, first initiated by the Environmental Protection Information Center’s (EPIC) petition for listing in 2012.

The northern spotted owl is under siege on many fronts. Northern spotted owls are threatened with extinction by past and ongoing habitat loss, primarily to timber harvest, which can exacerbate competition from the aggressive and invasive barred owl. The increasingly rare and old growth forest adapted owls are now understood to be at risk from the use of rodenticides and other poisons used in large scale trespass marijuana operations, and there is increasing concern about what the impacts of climate change will be on the forest ecosystems that the owls call home.

“The listing of the northern spotted owl is one small step towards recovery,” said Tom Wheeler, Program Director at EPIC. “The owl was here long before us. It is our moral obligation to ensure that the owl will continue to roam our forests long after we are gone.”

While the northern spotted owl is found across the West Coast, California’s population is the species’ greatest stronghold. Protecting California’s owls is key to protecting the species at large.

The northern spotted owl has been listed as “threatened” under the Federal Endangered Species Act since 1990. The listing of the northern spotted owl has slowed the decline of the spotted owl but has not arrested it. Additional protections and conservation measures are necessary to stop the owl’s decline and to put it on a track to recovery.

“As evidenced by the owl’s decline, our current protections are not up to snuff,” said Rob DiPerna, Forest and Wildlife Advocate for EPIC. “I hope that all stakeholders can set aside differences and work together towards recovery.”


The Importance of Exercising Transinclusive Dialogue in Environmentalist Movements

Monday, August 22nd, 2016
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In light of the recent tragedy of the Orlando shootings and reoccurring attacks of the LGBTQ community, this article aims to educate how the environmentalist movement can be inclusive to LGBTQ individuals, and further ensure transinclusive dialogue through academic or non formal attempts of social and environmental sustainability. It is crucial at this point of our social and political climate to be introspective and reflective on how mainstream movements have a tendency to reflect culturally dominant ideas, and therefore exclude many of the voices that fall within the gender spectrum.

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National interest upon movements changes with the seasons, and the current spotlight on trans issues, trans celebrities, and trans characters on television is no exception. It is imperative for the movement that we as a society expand our perspective to fully understand the contemporary challenges and systemic injustices that trans people face as the dialogue on trans rights explodes. It is important to acknowledge that the trans justice movement has been going on long before any celebrities made the screens, and more importantly – that trans women of color are the most victimized of hate crimes. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs concluded, “72% of hate crimes against LGBTQ people were against trans women, 90% of whom were transgender women of color”. In 2015, there were 20 documented murders of trans women of color in the United Sates, the most ever recorded. Therefore, it is devastating but accurate to assume that mass societies inability to accept or acknowledge courageous transitions within this community, reflects the lack of momentum in the overall transformation of society to environmental consciousness.

In order to comprehend the complexity of trans issues, proper use of definitions and the breakdown of pronouns must be introduced. A trans person is someone whose gender differs from the one they were assigned at birth. A cis person is someone who does not identify as a different gender than the one they have been assigned. The word cis has been popularized by the trans community, rather than using words such as “natural” ‘biological” or “normal” which illustrates a standard, in which otherwise is abnormal. Transmisogyny “is best described as the confluence of misogyny and transphobia, including negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and discrimination” which are targeted towards trans women and trans feminine people. Transphobia represents the intense dislike or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people. According to my research the most proper way to acknowledge transfolk is either “female-assigned” or “male-assigned”. Through this discourse one can understand that a trans women does not have a male body, her body is female regardless of medical history. As a cis gender woman, I in no way aim to silence or speak for trans women. However, I do aim to educate fellow cis environmentalists on these topics, and to continue dialogue with the trans community.

transgender-human-rightsContemporary environmentalism has long since focused on conservation, preservation, and the eradication of pollutants. Through this perspective, perceptions of “naturalness” are formed through cultural and social norms, rather than legitimate biological explanations. Unnatural or manufactured threats such as chemical pollutants then contaminate the wholesomeness of both human and ecological bodies. Although policy against pollutants and non-consensual body manipulation are reasonable, this perspective ignores and even enforces the notion that a body, human or not cannot be medically, or naturally manipulated without losing the integrity of “naturalness”. Furthermore, the hegemonic ideals of gender and sexuality are then also represented as “natural”. Environmental focused academic and research based findings then reflect this notion, and further enforce and normalize transexclusive language throughout environmentalist dialogue.

For example, in 2002 research from the United States Geological Survey investigated the effects of large fish kills, and accounts of skin lesions of smallmouth bass in the South Branch of the Potomac River in Virginia. Throughout their research they discovered that a majority of the male sample of smallmouth bass had developed microscopic female germ cells, as well as a high level of testicular oocytes (suggesting an intersex conditon). The presence of endocrine disruptions or estrogenic compounds in the water are claimed to formulate testicular oocytes in gonochoristis fish (fish that have a single distinct sex). The USGS admits, “ a low level of gonadal intersex may be a natural phenomenon in some gonochrisitc fishes”. Furthermore, there is no additional research to conclude the norm for smallmouth bass collected in areas of no pollution, and the solely gonochoristic character of the smallmouth bass is still unknown. However, as soon as this report circulated to mass media outlets, transmisogynistic language and stereotypes of the fixity of human gender and sex were popularized. Articles like “Operation Sex Change, “Gender-bender Threat to Marine Life”, “Something in the Water is Feminizing Male Fish. Are We Next?” confirmed hegemonic ideals of gender. Some articles even went as far to refer to the smallmouth bass as “transvestite fish”, as word that is considered a slur by many trans women today.

These headlines perpetuated fears against pollutants that may instigate “unnaturalness”, when in actually this phenomena may be indeed “natural”. In fact Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford University, confirms “the most common body form among plants and in perhaps half of the animal kingdom is for an individual to be both male and female at the same time, or at different times during its life”. Instances such as the heterosexual monogamous portrayal of penguins in the March of the Penguin’s movies have faced criticism for falsifying the nature of the penguin’s relationships in accordance to human ones. Articles such as Jon Mooallem’s “Can Animal’s Be Gay?” which examined female-female paired Laysan albatross, faced insane controversy between the scientific and community at large. Therefore, despite science’s foundation as actively objective, there are many illustrations of a long history of scientists imposing human cultural values into the bank slate of animality. Observing nature through socionormativity calls for the misrepresentation of biodiversity, and the acceptance of transmisyogynistic language and interpretation.

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Our ecological problems are deeply rooted in our extremely lopsided and dangerous social, economic and political systems. Social justice and environmental movements share many common goals, and both call out systematic injustices. Furthermore, if we are to gain any sort of balance with the non-human world we must aggressively work toward understanding and correcting our human relationships. Creating solidarity with LGBTQ movements is inevitably infiltrating the system and coercing consciousness for environmentalist efforts.

February 27, 2014 EPIC sponsored an event to bring best selling ecological movement author, philosopher, and poet Derrick Jensen to HSU. The goal of this event was to provide the audience with an opportunity to hear about Derrick’s beliefs and philosophy, and ask him questions and engage in conversation about how we can become a more sustainable society. Derrick Jensen and Lierre Kieth founded Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a direct action environmentalist organization. We at EPIC admit that we did not know Jensen’s or DGR’s controversial perspective on gender. EPIC was educated and focused solely on his individual pieces of work and philosophies. DGR claims that gender is a solely cultural construct, and therefore gender is voluntary. Through this as well as an adopted radical feminist perspective they claim that the only solution to the patriarchal systematic oppressions is to “overthrow male power and thus the entire gender system”. This statement is transexclusive, transmisogyistic, and transphobic for it does not acknowledge the existence or struggle of transfolk. Additionally, DGR has outwardly excluded trans identified women into their organization based on this premise.

By bringing Jensen to HSU we at EPIC understand that there were people in our community who were hurt and angry by his presence due to his stance on gender and past transexclusive actions. We apologize for our role in nativity, and want to restate that we, openly affirm our commitment to being trans-inclusive. We welcome trans people into our organization, as all people are essential to the mission to protect the environment from the oppressive systems that are destroying our planet. We are committed to confronting the institutions that destroy communities, cultures and the Earth. Furthermore, we vow to include transinclusive dialogue within any and all of our future efforts and reports. We strive to continue further solidarity between EPIC and the LGBTQ movement, and are making steps to improve the connection between social and environmental justice movements.

If this message has resonated with you, and you would personally like to show support, feel free to attend – Humboldt Pride Parade and Festival September 10, 2016. The event will be held at Halvorsen Park, Eureka from 12pm-5pm.

Written by Briana Villalobos, EPIC intern and Humboldt State sociology graduate.


California’s Carbon Plan and Forest Practices

Thursday, August 18th, 2016
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help FIGHT climate changeIn a time when corporate profits rule over our ecosystems, and each year becomes the hottest year on record, we are faced with an incredible challenge to protect what matters for the greater good and for future generations. At EPIC, we know that the best thing we can do is protect our intact forestlands, which is no easy task, but we are willing to do the hard work of participating in the public process, developing standards, and keeping corporations and agencies accountable. But this work is only possible with contributions from people like you. If you believe in our cause, please consider making a donation today.

Changes in our global climate – as a result of emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the earth’s atmosphere from anthropogenic activities such as fossil fuel combustion and wide-spread deforestation – have been apparent to scientists and concerned citizens for several decades. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Physical Science Basis Report concluded with a 95 percent degree of certainty that human activities are the dominant cause of global warming observed since the mid-20th century.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from motor vehicles, power plants, deforestation, and other human activities have increased carbon dioxide to its highest concentrations in the atmosphere in 800,000 years, according to reports commissioned by the State of California Air Resources Control Board (Battles et al. 2014). According to the 2013 IPCC Report, the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C, between 1880 and 2012.

The IPCC (2013) report states that it is “unequivocal,” that the earth’s climate system is warming, and that since the 1950’s, changes observed are deemed to be “unprecedented” in global history. Radical changes in polar and tropical temperatures are well-documented, as are changes in precipitation levels by latitude, and significant changes in severe weather and climactic events are similarly well-documented and easily observable.

In California, the signs of global climate change are easily apparent. Long-term and unprecedented state-wide drought, water shortages, increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires, documented decreases in fog and precipitation on the North Cost, coastal sea-level rise, and the recently-documented die-off of over 2 million trees in the Southern Sierra-Nevada are just some of the signs that the human-induced changes in our global atmosphere and climate are very real.

Deforestation has been ranked as the second highest contributor to global GHG emissions behind fossil fuel combustion. In California today, our forests are storing less carbon than in the past. Burkhardt (1992) estimated that forest biomass, and essential component of forest carbon sequestration potential, has been reduced to a level of only 15 percent or less of the pre-European contact and settlement estimates. This dramatic decrease in total forest biomass is directly, and almost exclusively a consequence of intensive, and largely unregulated or poorly-regulated forest resource extraction in California.

According to Battles et al. 2014, between 2001 and 2008, the total carbon stored in the forests and rangelands of California decreased from 2,600 million metric tons of carbon (MMTC) to 2,500 MMTC. Aboveground live carbon decreased ~2% and total carbon decreased ~4%. The majority of this decline in carbon storage (61 %) can be attributed to a loss in carbon density, which is largely related to tree-size. According to McIntyre et al. (2015), tree density in forested regions in California increased by 30 % between the 1930’s and 2000’s, whereas forest biomass has declined, as evidenced by a 19 % reduction in basal area (a measure of average tree diameters at breast height per-acre).

In 2006, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 32, the “California Global Warming Solutions Act,” which requires California to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emission to pre-1990 levels by the year 2050. In August 2014, Governor Brown commissioned the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT), with the purpose of creating a California Forest Carbon Plan by the end of 2016. The goal of the FCAT, among other things, is to establish forest health and resiliency conditions needed to reach targets for carbon sequestration and net reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and atmospheric black carbon, develop near, medium, and long-term targets for carbon sequestration and emissions reductions by region and ownership, through 2050 and beyond, based on goals and ecosystem potential. The FCAT is a cooperative venture of the California Department of Forestry, CalEPA, the California Air Resources Control Board, and the California Natural Resources Agency.

The FCAT is also charged with the development and implementation of forestland investment strategies to achieve carbon sequestration targets, and provide a framework for managing California’s forested landscapes to increase carbon sequestration and reduce climate-warming emissions, alongside other values of “healthy forests.”

Defining and attaining a state of, “healthy forests,” particularly as pertains to our privately-owned and administered forestlands in California, can be a significant challenge. To begin with, the vast majority of our state’s privately-owned forestland has been logged at some point in the past, many several times over, and therefore, no longer resemble the “reference” or “old-growth” condition. For example, here in Northern California’s coast redwood forest region, 95 percent of the forested landscape has been previously logged at least once; according to estimates provided by Save-the-Redwoods League (2016), 77 percent of the original 2 million-acre coast redwood forest land-base is privately-owned and managed in the present-day, almost all of which has been logged at least once, and very likely, at least two or three times in the 175-years since European-American contact and settlement in the region.

The FCAT concept of “healthy forests,” as articulated in the Forest Carbon Plan Concept Scoping Paper (FCAT 2016), describes a healthy forest as resilient, diverse, biodiverse, and ecologically and economically sustainable. The sad reality of the vast majority of California’s privately-owned and managed forestlands, particularly our large, “industrial” or “corporate,” forestland ownerships bare little if any resemblance to the reference condition, as they are largely evenaged, homogenous, and over-simplified as a result of intensive plantation-style forestry models that in no way resemble forests that are resilient, diverse, biodiverse, or ecologically or economically sustainable in the present-day. Simply put, over 175 years of intensive resource extraction and conversion of native forests to industrial fiber farm plantations has depleted our forests, our fish and wildlife resources, and has ultimately served to erode our economic and social systems as well as the infrastructural systems of many of our rural forest-dependent communities in California.

California’s private lands forest practice, legal and regulatory framework has been slow to respond to the realities of global climate change, and has done virtually nothing to meaningfully curb the past and ongoing contributions of California’s private land forest products industry to GHG emission that have, and continue to pollute our atmosphere and endanger the short-term viability of human, and other life on earth.

While the California State Legislature has recently amended the California Forest Practice Act of 1973 to require the Board of Forestry to ensure that its Forest Practice Rules consider forestland resource capacity, including values related to above-ground and below-ground carbon dioxide and carbon emissions and sequestration, and to enact standards and guidelines in the rules to guide CAL FIRE and the activities of the private lands forest products industry, in accordance with the mandates of AB 32 and Executive Orders issued by Governor Brown, the Board and CAL FIRE have thus-far failed to act to address these new legislative mandates.

To say that the bureaucratic process at the Board of Forestry is moving to address the new realities and legislative mandates at a snail pace would be a massive understatement. At present, the only proposed action the Board is developing and considering is the addition of a Greenhouse Gas Assessment component to the suite of factors to be assessed in the cumulative impacts assessment of individual Timber Harvest Plans and other discretionary projects. There appears to be no movement, or real impetus, for the Board to discuss, develop, or adopt rules and standards and guidelines to address GHG emissions, carbon sequestration, or forest health and productive capacity as directed by the State Legislature at-present.

EPIC staff has been invited to participate in the stakeholder working group developed to refine the specifications of the California Forest Carbon Plan. Among EPIC’s chief goals in the development of the Plan is advocating for an approach that is forest-type and regionally-specific that prioritizes forest management practices that protect, enhance, and restore the carbon sequestration capacity of forestlands as well as support the development of healthy, diverse, and resilient forests. EPIC also advocates for prioritization of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund allocations in areas with the greatest potential to contribute to State-mandated GHG reduction targets, and that are spatially strategic so as to achieve the greatest possible benefits from fund allocations.

EPIC is also engaging with the Board of Forestry to compel the Board to take seriously its responsibilities to ensure restoration of forestland productive capacity and to promulgate rules, regulations, guidelines and standards that ensure State-mandated requirements to address carbon emissions, sequestration, and forest health and capacity for both ecological and economic benefits are developed, adopted, and implemented.

The days of “business as usual” and favoring short-term economic benefits of private entities and individuals over the needs of our forests, fish, wildlife, water, air, economies and communities, and general public welfare simply cannot continue in California, or elsewhere. If we are to arrest or reverse the global-scale climactic crisis that threatens the very future of life on earth in the short-term, immediate conservation and restoration of California’s forests, particularly our coast redwoods, is absolutely critical to the achievement of State-mandated GHG reduction objectives, and to the creation of resilient, healthy, diverse, and ecologically and economically viable forests that can serve to buttress and combat the specter of a human-induced global climate catastrophe, and likely, mass extinction.

This is an uphill battle and we are willing to do this hard work, but we need your support to keep our organization running.

Please click here to make a contribution today.

BANNERPROTECT OUR FORESTS BEFORE ITS TOO LATE


Westside Rip-off

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
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The Westside salvage logging project on the Klamath National Forest (KNF) is having more than severe ecological costs. The Forest Service forecasted making over ten million dollars in timber sale revenue. In reality, the agency brought in less than 5% of that estimate. Timber corporations paid $457,000 to log 13,000 acres in the heart of the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

“Required costs to restore the project landscape through site preparation, planting and fuels reduction are estimated as $27,487,000.” -Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

That leaves twenty-seven million more dollars needed to pay for 8,000 acres of replanting, 23,000 acres of fuels reduction treatments and for cleaning up logging slash. Replanting clear cuts, known as plantation forestry, creates highly flammable conditions for decades. The KNF claims it is accelerating reforestation and recovery; however natural regeneration is and was already taking place. Fuels reduction on 23,000 acres is needed to remove the smaller trees and shrubs with no commercial value, which will likely not happen, due to a lack of funding. It is these smaller and finer fuels that are shown to exacerbate fire behavior. The entire premise of the project was based on fuels reduction. Less than 2% of the money needed for these activities was made though timber sale receipts.

Westside logging implementation newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside logging implementation: newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Patty Grantham, KNF Supervisor and decision-maker for Westside, stated in a recent federal court declaration that without restoration (plantation creation) and fuels treatments, the area would remain at heightened risk for landslides and burning again at high severity. She stated that, funding for fuel reduction work is tenuous, typically very limited and must be appropriated by congress (your tax dollars), and therefore not guaranteed. Grantham also said that, a primary purpose of treating the project area is to restore the forest.

On top of those costs, the cost of repairing one third of the nearly 1,000 legacy sediment sites in the project area, which are road related chronic sources of sediment to our waterways, was estimated at over twelve million dollars. All 802 miles of the rivers and streams, including 101 miles of Coho critical habitat in the Westside project are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, which means that current conditions do not meet water quality standards. The KNF stated that, controlling legacy sediment sources and design features would offset much of the increase in cumulative disturbance. In order to get a water quality waiver, the Forest Service came up with a schedule for repairing only 350 legacy sites over the next twenty five years without a guarantee for any funding.

The Westside: Record of Decision; the EIS; all of the supporting reports (hydrology, geology, wildlife, aquatics, recreation, botany et.); consultation with US Fish and Wildlife; National Marine Fisheries Service and approval by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board all relied on plantation creation, fuels reduction and legacy sediment site repair actually taking place.

The claimed purposes of the Westside “recovery” project are for public and firefighter safety for community protection, economic viability, benefiting local communities and restored and fire-resilient forested ecosystems. Without further funding, river communities are more at-risk of high severity fire and have not benefitted, the economics are not viable, thousands of acres of natural restoration and recovery are being damaged and forest ecosystems are less resilient with a higher risk of severe wildfire, chance of landslides and loss of soil stability. At two dollars per truckload of the largest trees, the only benefit went to timber corporations.

The ecological costs of Westside salvage logging deserve attention. Westside will harm or kill an important source population of the Northern spotted owl, which was known to be one of the most productive populations in the entire range of the species. Creeks providing cold water refuge for wild and suffering salmon will be affected. The Caroline Creek bald eagles are expected to abandon their nest site, after decades of re-populating the mid-Klamath region. Endemic Siskiyou Mountain Salamanders, fishers, hawks and nearly every wildlife species in these watersheds may be negatively impacted. Logging is within Wild and Scenic River corridors, mature forest reserves, streamside areas, adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail and on 2,000 acres of unstable slopes. Implementation of the project will disturb water quality, landscape connectivity and natural recovery. The loss of big trees impacts complex forest structure, carbon storage, shade, cooler microclimates, soil nutrients, and high quality habitat and slope stability.

Beyond the thousands and perhaps millions of dollars taxpayers spent planning the project; we are now on the hook for forty million dollars more to pay for restoration and fuels reduction. Wild places, wildlife, water quality and communities are paying an immeasurable and long-term cost, while timber corporations benefit. The irreversible damage to the value of intact complex forest ecosystems and the services they provide has not been calculated. The Westside salvage project adds up to an unnecessary colossal waste and possible environmental catastrophe.

Click here to learn more about the ecological costs of the Westside project.

 Natural recovery taking place around these trees proposed for extraction in the Westside project. Photos courtesy of Kimberly Baker.