Archive for July, 2017

Meet Humboldt’s Flying Squirrel, a New Species in our Forests

Thursday, July 20th, 2017
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Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis) perched on tree. Mendocino Co, CA. Photo by Brian Arbogast,

Scientists recently announced a “new” mammal species that calls our redwood forests home: Humboldt’s flying squirrel (Glaucomys oregonensis). The squirrel, named after the famed naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, is now the 3rd species of North American flying squirrel and the 45th in the world.

It turns out that the squirrel was hiding in plain sight. Humboldt’s flying squirrel is a “cryptic” species, closely resembling in appearance another flying squirrel, the northern flying squirrel. There are slight differences—Humboldt’s flying squirrel is slightly darker and smaller than the northern species—but because the two species had overlapping ranges, scientists had assumed that these differences were unimportant.

But those small differences had puzzled researchers. Curious to see if there was something more at play, biologists collected DNA samples from 185 squires, some recently killed squirrels and others old museum samples. The results surprised scientists. Looking at the nuclear genome, scientists saw a clear and distinct split—two branches on the family tree diverging.

It is thought that the species diverged as a result of the last ice age. A northern population of squirrels became cut off from a southern population by glaciation. Isolated from each other, the two different populations diverged on separate ecological paths. Eventually, they became so different from each other that when the glaciers melted and the two populations came in contact again, they didn’t interbreed. (The fact that they don’t interbreed or “hybridize” shocked researchers, as the other two species of North American flying squirrels hybridize.) Scientists are puzzled as to what is keeping these two species from breeding. Is it behavioral or are they so physically different that they can’t interbreed?

Humboldt’s flying squirrel ranges the West Coast, from British Columbia in the north to the bottom of the Sierra Nevada forests. In its northern range, Humboldt’s flying squirrel shares its forests with its cousin, the northern flying squirrel. Although the two squirrels look alike and share the same forests, they do not interbreed.

Humboldt’s flying squirrel generally prefers older forest types, where it can launch itself from high branches to soar to another tree. Using a membrane that runs from its front legs to its back legs as a sail and its poofy tail as a rudder, the flying squirrel can glide up to 100 meters in the air. The squirrels forage at night, looking for berries, nuts, fungi, carrion, and bird eggs. They, in turn, are hunted by predators like the northern spotted owl, Pacific fisher, and the Humboldt marten.

The flying squirrel’s “discovery” is a good example of the impact that cheap, high-resolution genetic studies have had on the field of taxonomy. In some cases, genetic research has determined that there are less differences than we had previously thought—such as recent research that shows that coastal martens in Oregon and California are actually one subspecies and not two. In other cases, like here, scientists can discern separate species from physically similar individuals with overlapping ranges. Expect more discoveries like Humboldt’s flying squirrel in the future as genetic tests become cheaper, faster, and easier to perform.

New genetic studies also have regulatory implications. To the degree that a single species can be “split” into multiple species, the more likely it is that one of these new species is eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Similarly, if two species can be “lumped” into one species, the protections afforded to individuals can diminish.

The full text of the Humboldt’s flying squirrel genetic report can be found here: Genetic data reveal a cryptic species of New World flying squirrel: Glaucomys oregonensis 


Protections for Humboldt Marten Proving as Elusive as the Animal Itself

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017
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EPIC and our allies have been working for over seven years now to secure legal protections and forward long-term recovery of the Humboldt marten. Astoundingly, securing protection and conservation of this cat-sized mesocarnivore is proving as elusive as the marten itself. Once long-thought to be extinct, the improbable return of the Humboldt marten to our forests may be short-lived unless State and Federal wildlife authorities take action.

EPIC and allies filed a petition to list the Humboldt marten under the Federal Endangered Species Act with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010. In April 2016, the Service issued an updated Species Assessment Report clearly indicating that the listing of the marten was warranted, while at the same time issuing a 12-Month Finding on our petition determining that the listing was not warranted. EPIC and our allies filed suit in Federal Court challenging the Service’s “Not Warranted” finding, and in April 2017 a Federal Judge granted our Motion for Summary Judgement, finding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had indeed erred in determining that small, isolated populations of the marten were not a threat to the survival and recovery of the species.

EPIC and allies also filed a petition to list the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act with the State of California Fish and Game Commission in May 2015. In February 2016, the Fish and Game Commission determined that listing the marten, “may be warranted,” and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to conduct a Status Review and prepare a Status Report for the marten in California to inform the final decision to be made by the Commission. State law affords the Department of Fish and Wildlife one year to conduct and complete investigation of the status of a species and prepare a report with recommendations. By March 2017, however the Department of Fish and Wildlife had not completed its review and report within the one-year statutory timeline and sought and was granted a six-month extension by the Fish and Game Commission, with a new target date of September 2017.

Meanwhile, forestry in the known extant range and dispersal area range of the Humboldt marten in California on private industrial lands continues, and is largely unchanged, even in the wake of the Fish and Game Commission affording “candidacy,” and interim legal protection to the marten. In fact, the primary private industrial timberland owner, Green Diamond Resource Company, has accelerated its submission of THPs in and around the Klamath River and north and east, the virtual ground-zero for protection, conservation and recovery of extant but isolated marten populations in California.

Recent and more up-to-date information on the status of the marten is also currently largely inaccessible to EPIC and the public. The inter-agency and landowner “Humboldt Marten Conservation Group,” has completed its own report on the marten with management recommendations, but this report has not been published or otherwise made available to EPIC and the public. EPIC was not allowed to participate in the conservation group by the participants despite our clear interest in the protection and conservation of the marten.

And so, while we sit and wait for the wheels of the individual listing agencies and the conservation group to finish grinding, marten populations in California and Southern Oregon continue to be imperiled by logging, habitat fragmentation, small isolated populations, and the ever-increasing threats posed by a changing climate in favor of allowing “business as usual,” to go on largely unaltered.

EPIC is dedicated to ensuring the survival, protection, and recovery of the Humboldt marten and the forests on which it depends. But, as always, we cannot do it alone; we need your help! By donating to EPIC, and taking actions when necessary, everyone can help us make a difference for the forest and for the Humboldt marten and help us to hold the agencies accountable to ensure that the marten survives and thrives into the future.

Photos courtesy of the Bluff Creek Project, which has captured better images of the Humboldt Marten than the USFWS has over 20 years. The extremely rare Humboldt marten photos were captured from camera traps on Bluff Creek in Humboldt County.


1% for the Planet

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
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You are already an eco-conscious business, why not claim credit for it? EPIC is a proud member of 1% for the Planet, which is a program that connects businesses, consumers, and non-profits, empowering all of us to drive big positive change. More than 1,200 member companies give 1% of their profits to more than 3,300 nonprofits. Click here if you have a business, and you would like to learn how to donate 1% to the Planet.

Beyond doing good, your generosity can be good business. Your customers will feel good that their local business supports their local environmental group.

Many of you already give your 1% (and more!) for the planet. Get recognized for doing so! Perks include recognition by EPIC on our website, twice annually in our email newsletter that is distributed to our 15,000 members and supports, and once in our Annual Report. EPIC is also open to working with you on cross-promotional advertising. Because EPIC gains a stake in your business, we have an incentive that you do well.

 


Welcome California’s Newest Wolf Family: The Lassen Pack!

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017
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Northern California just got a little more wild! Biologists surveying the Lassen National Forests have confirmed California’s second wolf pack. An adult couple made a showing in Lassen county last fall. They now have a family of at least three pups born this spring residing in Lassen National Forest and adjacent private lands.

Biologists began surveying the forest in May this year after finding evidence of wolf presence. On June 30, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife captured and collared the 75-pound alpha female. A nearby trail camera operated by the U.S. Forest Service revealed photos of the mother and her playful pups.

OR-7, or “Journey,” is now a grandpa. The alpha male of the Lassen Pack is the three-year-old son of OR-7, who was the first known gray wolf to return to the Golden State in nearly 100 years. OR-7s sister is the alpha female of the all-black Shasta Pack, which had five pups in 2015 but has not been seen since last fall.

Gray wolves in California are listed as endangered under the state and federal Endangered Species Act, however, the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Farm Bureau filed suit in court to remove state protections. EPIC and others, represented by Earthjustice, have intervened in this baseless lawsuit to ensure wolves get the best legal defense possible.

Recovery is just beginning in Northern California and we look forward to watching these canine families grow. There are more wolves on the way that will call our region home. EPIC is working to protect landscape connectivity so that they have the habitat and room they need to roam.

Help our wolf legal defense fund by making a donation today!


EPIC Midyear Review

Monday, July 10th, 2017
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How is it already July? 2017 is flying by fast. Below is a brief recap of some of EPIC’s major accomplishments of 2017.

Like our work? Please consider making a donation today. Your donations fuel EPIC’s work.

New Faces at EPIC: EPIC began 2017 with some new staff and a change in jobs. Tom Wheeler, EPIC’s Staff Attorney, took over as Executive Director from Natalynne Delapp. Briana Villalobos, EPIC’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year, joined the EPIC team as our new Communications and Outreach Director.

Victory for Humboldt Marten: EPIC scored a victory for the Humboldt marten by forcing US Fish and Wildlife Service to go back and issue a new decision by October 2018. Hopefully this time the agency will listen to science and not timber lobbyists. If not, EPIC will be there again to fight for our favorite mustelid.

EPIC Tells Court, “Greenhouse Gas Accounting Matters”: In our first court case of the year, EPIC filed an amicus brief to let the court know that accurate accounting of greenhouse gases matter in our statewide effort against global climate change.

Stopped a Destructive Railroad Proposal in its Tracks: EPIC fought against a grant to study a railroad from Eureka to Gerber that would cross Wilderness Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers. EPIC helped rally the good people of Trinity County to demand that the County not move forward with its proposal. Because of the massive groundswelling of support, the Trinity Board of Supervisors listened and voted down the railroad!

EPIC Back in Court to Protect Richardson Grove: EPIC is back in court to defend the old-growth redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park against a highway widening proposal that would cut and pave over their root structure. This is EPIC’s third time in court; each time we’ve been victorious. 1000+ year old trees are too precious to risk by cutting their roots.

EPIC Defends Wolf Protections: In 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf in California (based on a petition brought by EPIC!). In 2017, Big Beef took aim at those protections. The California Cattlemen’s Association filed suit to strip the wolf of protections. EPIC and allies intervened to give the wolf a voice and defend their protection. The case is still pending, but in the meantime, another wolf pack has been established. If we can hold wolf killers at bay, wolves will return home!

Getting Fire and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Back on the Ground: Kimberly Baker, EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, is a regular presence on the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership collaborative, a group that helps the Forest Service develop smart forest management projects. EPIC’s work is starting to pay off, as the Six Rivers National Forest is moving forward with a project developed in collaboration with WKRP! The Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management Project works to return fire’s role on the natural landscape, a job that will help to protect the wildlife and clean water of the Klamath Mountains.

On the Ground Monitoring Saves Big, Old Trees: When EPIC’s Conservation Advocate, Amber Shelton, bushwhacked into logging units to examine the Jess Project, she immediately knew something was wrong: trees were marked for logging immediately adjacent to streams. Amber quickly alerted the Forest Service to their mistake and marking crews returned to “black out” dozens of big, old trees. These trees will continue to provide habitat for owls and will help to preserve the cold, clean water of the Salmon River. 

Spotted Owl Advocacy Gets Results: In 2016, EPIC successfully listed the northern spotted owl under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing has already generated results. The Board of Forest and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are looking at ways forestry rules can be improved to protect the owl. Hope is on the way for our favorite forest raptor.

EPIC Brings Legal Fight Against Massive Timber Sale: EPIC is back in federal court to challenge a massive timber sale on the Klamath National Forest, the Westside Project. This is the largest timber sale EPIC has fought in over a decade, with over 6,000 acres of logging proposed and the “taking” of more than 100 northern spotted owls.

First Annual EPIC Base Camp: EPIC staff and members braved harsh weather to investigate the propose Horse Creek Project, a post-fire logging project on the Klamath National Forest. Information gained in the trip helped EPIC write detailed comments concerning individual logging units. On the ground monitoring is a hallmark of EPIC’s work. We hope that all those that attended will continue to put their activist skills to good use.

EPIC Petitions to End Sale of Invasive Ivy: EPIC, together with our friends at the Humboldt No Ivy League, submitted a rulemaking petition to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ban the sale of the invasive English ivy. Ivy is more than just a nuisance, it limits the biodiversity of our coastal forests by outcompeting native vegetation.

Monitoring Private Grazing on Our Public Land: EPIC’s Program to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California has been out monitoring grazing on our National Forests. Our advocacy has resulted in better management by the Forest Service, including holding rogue grazers who are out of compliance accountable. Passionate about public lands? Find out how you can help. Check out more at www.grazingreform.org.

EPIC on the Street: You may have seen us around. We’ve been at Godwit Days, the Climate March, the Women’s March, the Mount Shasta Earth Day Expo, Creek Days, Benbow Summer Arts, Kate Wolf Music Festival, and countless farmers markets. Keep an eye out for EPIC and come by and say hi. (We love to meet our members.)

EPIC Hikes: EPIC has taken community members all across the redwoods, from Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith State Park to the Lady Bird Johnson Trail in Redwoods National Park. There are still two more hikes scheduled for 2017. Come join us August 6th for the Trillium Falls Trail in Redwoods National Park and September 17th for a special trip on the Salmon Pass Trail in the Headwaters Forest Reserve.


Wanted: Professional, assertive, creative, problem-solvers interested in joining the EPIC BOD

Monday, July 10th, 2017
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We are looking for people with experience in the following areas:

  • non-profit governance;
  • conservation science;
  • financial management;
  • environmental law;
  • policy development;
  • fundraising; and
  • event planning.

Current EPIC Members* may apply to become a Board Member between July 1 and July 31 for the next Board of Director’s year, which begins on January 1.

Prospective candidates are asked to fill out an application (available online or in hard-copy format at the office), describing qualifications, skills, and what they would bring to the Board. Applications must be submitted to the Executive Director (tom@wildcalifornia.org) by August 1.

Current Board of Directors can be viewed here.

*Current member: an individual who has donated $40 or more in the 14 months prior to July 31.