Archive for June, 2017

Action Alert: Defend Public Lands; Defeat Trump’s Environmental Agenda

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
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TAKE ACTION! On the 4th of July, you can help save our forests by halting bad legislation. A new bad forest bill, the ironically named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (HR 2936), is quickly heading to a vote. The bill recently escaped the House Natural Resources Committee through a party line vote. Now, Trump’s lawless logging bill will soon come up for a vote before the House.

This is the worst federal forest legislation in EPIC’s lifetime. And scarily, it might pass. Here’s four reasons why we are freaked out:

(1) Up to 30,000 Acres of Lawless Logging

The bill gives a free pass to lawless logging by exempting logging plans up to 30,000 acres—nearly 47 square miles—that are developed through a “collaborative process” from having to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). By comparison, under the existing law only logging projects 70 acres or less are exempted from NEPA. In one fell swoop, Congress could rollback decades of work by EPIC and allies to protect federal forests.

(2) Weakens Endangered Species Act Protections

Under current law, whenever the Forest Service proposes a project that could harm threatened or endangered species, the agency needs to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposed legislation would change the law to remove this consultation requirement by allowing the Forest Service to choose whether or not to consult on a project. Further, the bill would exempt other forest management activities entirely from the Endangered Species Act.

(3) Closes the Courthouse Doors

The bill also limits the ability of citizens to challenge bad agency action in court. The bill would prohibit temporary injunctions and preliminary injunctions against “salvage” logging projects, virtually guaranteeing that logging will occur before a court can hear a challenge. The bill prevents plaintiffs from recovering attorneys’ fees if they win. While money is never the object of a lawsuit, the ability to recover fees is critical to enable public interest environmental lawyers to take cases for poor nonprofits like EPIC. Finally, it moves many forest management activities out from our federal courts to a “binding arbitration” program, whereby an agency-appointed arbitrator’s decision would decide the fate of projects.

(4) Shifts Money from Restoration to Logging

In a sneaky move, the proposed legislation would move money earmarked for forest restoration projects to logging. By adding one small phrase—“include the sale of timber or other forest products”—the bill would mandate timber sales as part of at least half of certain stewardship projects.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP BAD FOREST LEGISLATION


Breaking: EPIC Sues to Stop Richardson Grove Project Again

Friday, June 23rd, 2017
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Environmental groups and local residents today sued the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for approving a highway-widening project that would damage or destroy 1,000- to 2,000-year-old redwood trees in California’s iconic Richardson Grove State Park, along Highway 101 in Humboldt County.

Today’s lawsuit, filed in Humboldt County Superior Court, challenges the transportation agency’s latest approval of the controversial project. Three previous legal challenges blocked construction and forced Caltrans to rescind all project approvals in 2014. Caltrans quietly reapproved the project last month, purportedly to improve highway access for oversized commercial trucks.

“Caltrans keeps pushing this nonsensical project that would do terrible damage to ancient redwoods in our state park, with no benefits to the community,” said Aruna Prabhala, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s just no compelling traffic or safety reason to destroy these beautiful trees. The changes Caltrans claims it’s made to the project won’t protect more than 100 giant redwoods from being damaged or killed.”

The “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project” would cut into and pave over the roots of more than 100 of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including trees up to 2,000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to benefit passage for oversized commercial trucks and continues to rely on inadequate environmental review.

“EPIC is disappointed that Caltrans has continued to push forward, ignoring previous court warnings about the need to honestly evaluate the effects of its road widening on old-growth redwoods,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director and staff attorney at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Caltrans’ road widening shows no respect for sacred parkland and irreplaceable ancient trees.”

“Caltrans does not seem to get that we the people, by law, have a place at the table when important decisions are made affecting our environment, and in the case of this iconic and beloved grove of ancient redwoods, just how important it is to protect irreplaceable magnificent old trees when decisions made are of such consequences,” said Patty Clary, executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

Today’s suit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity; the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC); Californians for Alternatives to Toxics; Friends of Del Norte; and longtime local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen. The suit challenges Caltrans’ violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, and inadequate evaluation of environmental impacts, a misleading conclusion that the project would have no significant impact on the environment, and a flawed determination that none of the proposed highway alterations would threaten the stability of any old-growth redwoods.

Background

Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world and is a jewel of the state park system. The park also contains essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the project in 2007, claiming the highway-widening is needed to accommodate large-truck travel. However, Caltrans acknowledges that Highway 101 through Richardson Grove is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. The agency cannot demonstrate that the project is necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy.

There has been substantial local opposition to the project, led by the Save Richardson Grove Coalition, a diverse group of community members including economists, business owners, scientists and Northern California tribes with longstanding ties to the grove. In 2012 a federal court stopped the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and stating that the agency had been “arbitrary and capricious” in its use of what the court called “faulty data.” In 2014 a California Court of Appeal ordered Caltrans to reevaluate the environmental impacts of the project under state law, finding that it had failed to fully assess impacts on ancient redwoods or provide measures to reduce potentially severe harm to the trees.

Caltrans re-approved the project again and now claims it made changes to better protect old-growth redwood trees, such as impacting fewer trees, less excavation, and less depth of surface pavement.

However, the “changes” to the project do not markedly differ from what the courts previously rejected as inadequate, and Caltrans has not answered the questions and concerns raised about structural damage to redwoods from cutting into their roots.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit are Philip Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP; Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP; and Sharon Duggan, a staff attorney with EPIC and a long-time expert on environmental law.

Click here to read the petition.

Click here to view additional articles about Richardson Grove.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE SAVE RICHARDSON GROVE FUND.


California Finalizes Listing of Northern Spotted Owl

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
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EPIC’s Forest and Wildlife Advocate Rob Diperna at the Fish and Game Commission Hearing 6/21/17 advocating for listing northern spotted owls under the California Endangered Species Act.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to adopt findings to support its August 2016 decision that listing the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), as a “threatened” species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) is warranted. At its regularly-scheduled meeting on June 21, 2017 in Smith River, CA, the Commission ratified and formalized its decision that the spotted owl warrants protection and conservation under California State Law, ending a nearly five-year listing process that began in August 2012 with a listing petition brought by EPIC.

Why Do Findings Matter?

Findings might seem like a dry matter, but they are critically important. The findings adopted by the Commission reflect the reasons why the Commission acted. Knowing this, the timber industry attempted to manipulate the findings to state that their bad behavior plays no role in the owls’ decline. At the meeting, timber industry lobbyists were in full force, pleading with the Commission to find that their logging does not harm the spotted owl and instead point all the blame at the threat posed by competitive barred owls (Strix varina). Despite their pleas, the Commission nevertheless unanimously ratified its listing decision which maintained that logging is a prime cause of spotted owl decline.

In the interceding months from the August 2016 listing decision and now, California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff have been traveling around the state meeting with interested stakeholders, including EPIC staff, to discuss possible needs to address both barred owl and ongoing habitat loss and modification on private forestlands in the State.

In the wake of the Commission’s decision, EPIC is poised to re-engage the California Board of Forestry, which in 2013 declined an EPIC-sponsored petition to change forest practice rules pertaining to protection of spotted owls during the course of private lands timber operations on the basis that the Board did not want to “muddy the waters,” or confuse the decision pending before the Commission regarding the listing.

Vigilance, tenacity, and hard-hitting no-nonsense advocacy: as always, EPIC gets results.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE NORTHERN SPOTTED OWL SELF DEFENSE FUND!


Free EPIC Hike through the Ewok Forest of Endor!

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
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Join EPIC for a Redwood hike through Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park on July 9th, 2017.  This hike will meander through an enchanted forest landscape where Star Wars Return of the Jedi was filmed.  The stunning old growth and pristine Smith River along the Stout Grove hiking trail makes it one of the most beautiful places on the North Coast.

Pack a picnic lunch for the gravel riverbar to enjoy at the end of the hike.

This .6 mile loop is well-maintained trail and designed to be accessible to almost anyone. Please come prepared with water and hiking shoes, as well as swimming gear so that you can fully enjoy the Wild and Scenic Smith River after the hike.

Meet-up is at the EPIC office in Arcata, located at 145 G Street, Suite A, at 10 a.m. As always, if you come, please be prepared for our local conditions and for the conditions generally found in our forests. Please wear appropriate clothing and foot ware, bring food, and water, and anything else you may need to be comfortable and safe in the forest. There is a strict NO DOGS rule in place for all our 2017 Redwood Hikes series, so please leave your furry friends at home.

For further information, or to RSVP, please call the EPIC office at: 707-822-7711 or email rob@wildcalifornia.org

This hike is free and all ages are welcome 🙂  Click here to join and share on social media!


A Change of Heart—Revolutionary Ecology in a World of Climate Change

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
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“The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and the people responsible have names and addresses.”

— U. Utah Phillips

Combating global climate change and destabilization, and arresting the human-related causes of these are the greatest challenge of our time, perhaps the greatest challenge in human history. Global climate change and destabilization also bring home the fundamental conflicts between our industrial capitalist way of life and world view and the realities of ecological processes and the limits of the natural world.

As 2017 marks the 40-year anniversary of the inception of the Environmental Protection Information Center, we continue to see examples of how the basic underpinning of the world created by humans is in direct conflict with the world that created us, and how this conflict is leading us toward our own demise as a species as we continue to compromise the life support systems of our planet. Of course, none of this is new and the advent of global and bioregional climate change and destabilization once again has us searching for the root causes of what ails us as people and a societies.

Judi Bari shows police photo of her bombed car; circa 1991. Photo © by Evan Johnson

May 24, 2017 marked the 27-year anniversary of the car-bombing of Earth First activists Judi Bari and Daryl Cherney on their road tour to promote Redwood Summer. This upcoming November 3, 2017, EPIC will posthumously award Judi Bari with the Semperviren’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her career of work for environmental and social justice.

Judi understood that changes in heart and in culture and not simply changes in law, politics and policies were necessary to change the course of human history and its relations to the feminine, the native, and the natural. In her treatise titled, Revolutionary Ecology, Judi wrote about some of the root causes of our human sickness. The belief that humans are separate from nature and that nature exists to serve humans is the core underpinning to the justification of our modern-day industrial capitalist societies and of course the concept of private property. The idea that humans can own, control, manipulate, and dominate the earth and its natural processes for individual gain and profit fundamentally contradicts how things work in nature, where inputs and outputs are equal, and all things work in an interconnect web of balance.

Judi knew that a human centered, and human-dominated world-view was in direct conflict with the true nature of the world, which revolves around nature and its processes. Judi wrote of the contrary nature of anthropocentrism and biocentrism, stating: “Biocentrism is a law of nature that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn’t matter whether we view the world in a human-centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use –has led us to the brink of collapse of the Earth’s life support systems.”

Judi also called out the patriarchal framework upon which so much of our modern-day industrial capitalist society is built, hallmarked with top-down, power-over structures that devalue nature, women, and feminine traits in humans and the earth. Judi argued that in place of a patriarchal framework predicated upon domination, that human societies must return to a more feminine and biocentric view, writing, “Instead of this masculine system of separation and domination, ecofeminists seek to promote a science of nature. Nature is seen as holistic and interdependent, and humans as part of nature, our fates inseparable.”

Judi Bari shows a photo blowup of Headwaters Forest as she speaks at a March 28, 1995 rally for Headwaters at Fisher Gate, near Carlotta CA. Photo by Nicholas Wilson.

Twenty years later, Judi’s words ring more true than ever, as we see the global atmospheric greenhouse gas component continue to skyrocket. Last October, global scientists announced that GHG concentrations in our atmosphere had reached 400-parts-per-billion, and that the earth had crossed over into a new geologic phase from the Holocene, to the Anthropocene, or the “age of man,” a world irreversibly modified by humans. Most credible climate scientists recognize 350-parts-per-billion GHG component in our atmosphere as the upper limit beyond which planetary life support systems would begin to unravel. But the prevailing industrial capitalist model cannot recognize the fact that its activities are creating the very device of its own demise. Judi knew that little would change in the system without mass non-cooperation, stating, “[t]he system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people.”

At EPIC, we work within the existing framework of the law, regulations and policies established to bolster a system that we already know cannot be reformed in any fundamental way. We serve the role of enforcing existing laws and regulations and trying to improve these utilizing the mechanisms and venues offered by the system itself. Our work in Sacramento and elsewhere is critically important in holding a line of defense and attempting to slow the progress of the destruction, but ultimately, as Judi knew, the system itself must be changed.

While we in California are undoubtedly national and global leaders in the fight to recognize, arrest the causes of, and mitigate and adapt to the damage already done to causes climate change, our efforts are half-measures predicated upon false hopes and voodoo accounting, at best, while our national leadership is in a shambles on the issue with the recent announcement by the Trump Administration that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. Behind these failings are the global corporate industrial capitalists who wish to continue polluting and making a profit at the expense of the natural world, the people of the planet, and ultimately, the very life-support systems that allow it all to exist and persist.

Judi argued that one of the greatest failings of capitalism is that it cannot account for the true value of the natural resources it destroys and extracts and exploits due to the very nature of a profit-dominant paradigm. Judi referred to capitalism’s, “total disregard for nature as a life-force rather than simply a source of raw materials.” Our forests, our water, our air, our fish and wildlife and our soil are reduced to bank ledger-lines and to categories such as “assets,” “profits,” “capital,” “commodities,” and of course, “liabilities.” The compartmentalization of our thought and reasoning about the natural world perfectly sets the stage for tunnel vision. The western “scientific” or what Judi called, “reductionist,” view of the natural world and the tings in it completely fails when faced with the reality that all things have a value of their own, and that all things in nature are interconnected.

And so, how can all this change? Judi argued that the machinery of capitalism must stop, and that this must be accomplished by those operating the machinery, the workers themselves. Some argue that simply changing lightbulbs, driving hybrid cars, and transitioning to “clean” energy are all that are necessary to avert the impending climate disaster and save human civilization. Judi knew better: “A revolutionary ideology in the hands of privileged people can indeed bring about some disruption and change in the system. But a revolutionary ideology in the hands of working people can bring the system to a halt. For it is the working people who have their hands on the machinery. And only by stopping the machinery of destruction can we ever hope to stop this madness.”

Judi also understood that direct violent conflict with the system and its throngs of military and police could never succeed, writing: “This system cannot be stopped by force. It is violent and ruthless beyond the capacity of any people’s resistance movement. The only way I can even imagine stopping it is through massive noncooperation.” Mass non-cooperation requires a massive change in the hearts, minds, and dispositions of the majority of the global population, or at least, the majority of the population in the industrialized countries. And so, the question remains, can and will the everyday people of this planet wrest the steering wheel of this titanic away from the capitalist industrials captioning this spaceship Earth, or will we sit by sipping our tea and eating our crumpets as we slam headlong into the climate disaster iceberg?


Keep California Great

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
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EPIC is hitting the summer festival circuit to Keep California Great! This summer EPIC is collecting postcards to send to Senator Kevin de León in support of SB 49 and SB 50, which are designed to preserve California’s natural environment against Trump’s cynical rollbacks of federal environmental protections.

Together, the two bills Trumpproof California environmental law and help protect and preserve our public lands and wild places.

SB 49 acts as insurance against the rollback of federal environmental laws by making current federal clear air, climate, water, labor safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under California state law. Therefore, in the event that Congress or the President weakens or repeals corresponding federal standards, California would then adopt said standards as our own. Because the bill stands up to polluters and poachers, the bill has encountered severe opposition by big industry groups.

SB 50 would make it the official policy of California to oppose all giveaways of federal public land, and should land be given away, provide a right of first refusal for the State Lands Commission. This bill would discourage third party or commercial industry from purchasing our public lands, and further preserves our public lands as a space for recreation, scientific research, and native cultural and historical significance.

SB 49 and SB 50 are successfully making their way through the legislative process. Both bills have passed their first hurdle, the California Senate, and now sit in the California Assembly where they have been directed to committees for their review. Assuming the bills safely make it out of committee, they will need to go to the floor of the assembly and to the governor’s desk before they can become law. EPIC continues to monitor the progress of these bills and will keep you updated.

You Can Help!

Already, EPIC has collected over 150 postcards, and it’s only halfway through summer! EPIC would like to sincerely thank all those who’ve signed and supported our efforts to Keep California Great! EPIC will send our letters of support to main bill author Senator de León to further illustrate public favor of the bills throughout future assembly hearings. Be on the lookout for the EPIC tent at the upcoming Kate Wolf festival.

If you’re interested in sharing EPIC’s support of SB 49 and SB 50 please visit the EPIC office for a stack of postcards, or download the print out attachment here.


Base Camp Reflections

Thursday, June 15th, 2017
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Over the weekend, EPIC staff and volunteers and ventured out into the remote wildlands of the Klamath Mountains for EPIC Base Camp; a three day “groundtruthing” training that focused on data gathering to help reform grazing and timber sale practices on public lands. Outdated laws allow for private timber companies and ranchers to use public lands for private profit, and the fees collected for these destructive activities do not cover the costs of the impacts, regulation, or oversite associated with the practices.

Because regulatory agencies tasked with protecting our natural resources are under staffed, they do not have the capacity to visit all of the sites in a timber sale or grazing allotment, so they depend on public citizen monitoring to report inconsistencies between what is proposed and what is happening on the ground. In essence, agencies are complaint driven, meaning that they don’t act unless someone files a formal complaint.

Day 1: Grazing Monitoring and Timber Sale Sleuthing

On Saturday, June 10, Felice Pace, Project Coordinator of the Grazing Reform Project took the group on a field tour of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment, and the Horse Creek post-fire timber sale in the Klamath National Forest. A site visit of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment revealed illegal felling of a large old-growth tree that had been cut  and likely used for fire wood. Environmental impacts, including damage to water quality, impairment of meadow hydrology and degradation of fish, amphibian and wildlife habitat are a common occurrence in these allotments, which are located on public lands.

Next, the group ventured up into the mountains to monitor the Horse Creek timber sale, which was burned in the 2016 Gap Fire. These burned areas were already regenerating with tree seedlings and new plants sprouting up all over the forest floor. In the units that were visited, the landscape was extremely steep with a slope of 30%-70%. It was clear that logging, tractors, skid trails, and new roads would tear up and compact these steep fragile soils, resulting in erosion and delayed regeneration of the fragile post-fire ecosystem years to come. The low gradient of Horse Creek makes it one of the best coho salmon habitats in the Klamath Basin. Logging and road building above critical coho habitat will result in sediment entering the stream, which degrades salmon habitat and smothers baby salmon. The total amount of logging in the Horse Creek watershed is massive.

Several of the timber sale units were located within Late Successional Reserves. The objective of Late-Successional Reserves is to protect and enhance conditions of late successional forests (think: old-growth), which serve as habitat for old-growth dependent species, including the northern spotted owl. However, most of the largest trees visible from the roadway within these areas were marked for logging, a violation of the law.

The federal timber sale is immediately adjacent to massive private timber operation, compounding the impacts to fish and wildlife. As of June 1st EPIC identified 21 emergency notices in the Gap Fire area totaling 4,863 acres from private land owners (primarily Fruit Growers Supply Company) in addition to the Horse Creek timber sale. Emergency notices are private post-fire logging projects that are exempt from environmental review. On the way to investigate Unit 115.34 of the Horse Creek project, the neighboring parcel, owned by Fruit Growers Supply Company, was being actively logged under an exempt emergency notice. Volunteers noted that the riparian areas within Fruit Growers’ land were being logged. Emergency timber operations can be conducted in riparian areas, including adjacent to streams known to provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species without environmental review by the CAL FIRE or agencies responsible for administering the California or Federal Endangered Species Acts.

Day 2: Timber Monitoring Continues

On Sunday, June 11, EPIC volunteers braved the weather and poor roads to investigate the largest timber sale unit. Volunteers walked a road proposed to be punched in to facilitate logging. Again, life was everywhere in this “dead” forest. Hardwoods were sprouting from stumps, conifer seedlings provided a green carpet, and many trees the Forest Service considers to be dead were alive, with green boughs and branches. After hours of documenting the forest, EPIC volunteers ended the weekend with a cheer and a promise to return.

It is important to note that most projects like these don’t get monitored, and therefore private companies get away with violating environmental laws and standards that are in place to protect common pool public resources, like clean water we rely on for drinking, critical habitat for species such as salmon that feed our local communities, forests that provide us with clean air, and other ecosystems that support the web of life that we all depend on.

THANK YOU! 

Although EPIC has been groundtruthing for years, this is the first EPIC Base Camp. Our inspiration came from Bark, an Oregon based non-profit that has held an annual Base Camp event for years. Bark was kind enough to send expert ground-truther, Michael Krochta, to share techniques, and lead some of the trainings. EPIC would like to thank the 17 volunteers who came out to the boonies in a rain storm to document these projects, and the information they gathered, will be used in our comments to improve the Horse Creek project to minimize impacts to these wild places. EPIC has the best members. THANK YOU!

If you would like to check out our timber sale unit notes click here.

To view the photos we took in the project areas, click here.

Photos by Amber Shelton.