Archive for February, 2018

Happy Nineteenth Birthday to the Headwaters Forest Reserve!

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018
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Headwaters EarthFirst! 20th Anniversary Reunion Hike

The Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south of Eureka, CA celebrates its nineteenth birthday anniversary on March 1, 2018. The 7,500-acre Reserve was established at the climax of the nearly 15-year-long campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, and stands today as a critical ecological refugia and linage to the primeval past for many critically-threatened and endangered species. The Headwaters Forest Reserve also stands today as a place for pioneering redwood forest restoration, a place for connecting community and visitors to stories of the past, and to a better vision for the future.

Nineteen years after the controversial last-minute consummation of the landmark Headwaters Forest Agreement, known to most activists and conservationists as “The Deal,” on March 1, 1999, the landscape that now embodies the Headwaters Forest Reserve in many ways bears little resemblance to the landscape, or the times when it was first established.

The so-called, “Death Road,” constructed into the heart of Headwaters Grove by Pacific Lumber Company, has been removed and decommissioned. Once raw, the barren clearcuts authored by Pacific Lumber Company and Elk River Timber Company are beginning to regrow and heal. The young, over-dense, biologically-sterile forest plantations established in the wake of the industrial clearcuts have been thinned, restoring both stem count, species composition, and stem density ratios to a more natural and healthy condition.

Today, the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a place where people and history can intersect, and where stewards of the future can learn the lessons from the stewards of the past. The Headwaters Forest Reserve is alive with educational events, living history reenactments, and thousands of visitors annually on the publicly-accessible trails in the Reserve. There is active stewardship as well. BLM volunteer-docents offer guided interpretive tours, and the young, burgeoning Friends of Headwaters Group hosts public trail maintenance days, tree-planting days, and invasive weed removal days. For the last two years, the Friends of Headwaters Group has also helped orchestrate the wildly popular and successful Halloween at Headwaters event in cooperation with the BLM.

Back in 1999 when the Headwaters Forest Agreement was signed, few, if any could have envisioned what the Headwaters Forest Reserve is and has become today. The success and longevity of the administration and public support for the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a great testament to the visionary work of activists at EPIC, Trees Foundation, The Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Sierra Club California, and the larger Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, which embroiled thousands of ordinary citizens and forest activists in the fight to save the last remaining significant uncut old-growth redwoods in private hands left on the planet.

While our campaign certainly did not get everything it wanted, there yet lies within the struggle, the loss, and the failures, an irreplaceable ecological gem that can still serve as the nucleus and blueprint toward a different and better future.

Our friend Ken Russell uploaded the video below last fall. It was taken on September 15, 1996 at the Protest to Save Headwaters Forest in Carlotta, California, featuring Brian Tripp, Judy Bari, Darryl Cherney, Bonnie Raitt, Starhawk, and 6,000 others in the largest civil disobedience action in the history of the forest preservation movement.

 

 


Government Delays a Bad Sign for Humboldt Marten

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
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CA Dep’t of Fish and Wildlife Delaying Listing of the Humboldt Marten

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is playing political games with the Humboldt marten. The Department is holding up the listing of the critically endangered Humboldt marten. Why? Because it wants to blunt the impact of the listing on the timber industry by fast tracking a “Safe Harbor Agreement.” We expect this level of chicanery when dealing with the federal government, but we are sorely disappointed when it comes from the Brown Administration.

In 2015, EPIC petitioned to list the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act—a necessary step to protect the marten because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally failed to list the species. (As a recap: we sued USFWS and won, with a judge finding the federal agency relied on bad logic and science, ordering a redo by the agency.) The Fish and Game Commission moved to make the marten a “candidate” species in February 2016, triggering a legal duty on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a “status review and recommendation” to the Commission within one year. This status review is supposed to be the best science on the species, and the Department is supposed to then recommend whether the Commission list the species.

Fast forward one year: the Department returned to the Commission and said it wouldn’t be ready in time and asked for a six month extension. By law, the Commission is only supposed to grant an extension when it is necessary to complete peer review on the status review. The Department was then given a new deadline of August 2017 to complete the status review. August came and went. EPIC inquired about the progress of the status review and were told that the Department had not even begun peer review and that they could not provide a date by which they thought they would have the status review complete and delivered to the Commission. In other words, the Department illegally obtained an extension and is now ignoring their duty to produce the status review and recommendation.

In the meantime it has come to light that the Department has been putting considerable effort into developing a “Safe Harbor Agreement” with Green Diamond Resource Company, the primary private property owner that would be impacted by the marten’s listing. The practical effect on the status review of the “Safe Harbor Agreement” is that Green Diamond would not be subject to the “take” prohibition of the California Endangered Species Act. EPIC has not even been provided a draft version of the Safe Harbor Agreement—we’ve had to ask and have filed a Public Records Act request—but the secrecy under which the agency is developing the agreement is alarming. EPIC is likewise afraid that the Department will finalize the agreement and then use it as a cudgel against listing the marten, a move that the Department could have learned from the greater sage grouse debate; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list that species after it had extracted a voluntary management plan that it said negated the need for listing. Thus, the Department could (and it is obvious that the timber industry will) use the existence of the Safe Harbor Agreement to argue that additional conservation measures are not necessary.

There are less than 100 Humboldt martens left in California. Unless drastic action is taken, the marten will go extinct. Now’s not the time to be playing political games.


Road to Nowhere—Humboldt Redwood Company Making a Mess of the Mattole

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
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Photo courtesy of ‘Save the Mattole’s Ancient Forest’

Humboldt Redwood Company doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons handed down by its predecessor, the now-bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company. Faced once again with community and activist resistance to its plans to log previously-unharvested and extremely rare upland Douglas-fir forests, the Company is resorting to some very Hurwitz-era tactics by proposing to construct over 1,000 feet of new road along Long Ridge in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole Watershed for seemingly the sole purpose of circumnavigating community and activist resistance to its logging plans.

HRC has proposed a major amendment to THP 1-12-026HUM, the “Long Ridge Cable” THP, erroneously arguing that the new road segment is necessary to facilitate greater access to the Mattole property for timber management and fire suppression activities, without offering any explanation or rationale as to why the pre-existing road network, which it has already used to conduct partial harvesting operations, is not sufficient to do the job.

Behind the scenes is a live and real controversy over the company’s claim that the forests to be logged are not “primary forests,” as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), triggering additional conservation requirements and HRC’s refusal to entertain a proposal by the local community to purchase the land for conservation purposes. Why? The answer seems to be that HRC bought damaged goods from Pacific Lumber on the whole as a property investment, and the forests of the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole represent the last of the best of what the company has left to work with to meet the financial bottom-line for their owners, the San Francisco-based billionaire Fisher family, which is notorious for the Gap clothing company.

HRC, EPIC, and Mattole community interests and activists have spent the better part of the last five years interacting over the potential fate and management of the North Branch of the North Fork Mattole holdings, with Humboldt Redwood Company once-promising an open and transparent collaborative solution-based process. For years, HRC honored that agreement and we made headway in addressing the controversy. Forest defenders came out of the woods and there was a truce. That has unfortunately ended, as HRC announced that it plans to move forward, simply announcing its findings and decisions without any effort to collaboratively or openly solve the continuing disputes through direct dialogues.

Faced with Mattole community and activist resistance to the logging it proposes, HRC has chosen to forge stubbornly ahead and to propose what is clearly unnecessary additional road construction under false and erroneous pretenses.

Because the amendment to allow the road construction to go forward constitutes a major change to the Long Ridge Cable THP, HRC must go through the normal THP review process, including allowing CAL FIRE and other agencies and the public to inspect and comment on the proposed new road construction. EPIC has submitted comments to CAL FIRE pertaining to the legality and legitimacy of the road construction amendment. Our comments on the Long Ridge Cable THP can be viewed here.

EPIC urges HRC to abandon this ill-conceived and pigheaded approach to community engagement and to return to the table with EPIC, Mattole community interests, and activists to orchestrate a more genuinely collaborative and legitimate outcome for the rare, unique, and critically-threatened upland Douglas-fir forests of the North Branch North Fork Mattole.


Action Alert: Stop Pesticide Contamination in Smith River Estuary

Monday, February 19th, 2018
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By Greg King, Siskiyou Land Conservancy

Take Action: After many years the California North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has finally released a long awaited report that provides new and devastating data from the Smith River estuary: From 2013-15 state scientists found 17 highly toxic pesticides in surface waters of the lower Smith River. They also found at least ten instances of that water being so toxic that it destroyed the invertebrates that make up the basis of the salmonid food chain (aka “acute and chronic reproductive toxicity”).

Perhaps more devastating, though, is the state’s response to the contaminated waters of California’s healthiest and arguably most important remaining wild fishery: Water Board officials say that the water’s toxicity is not the result of the 17 pesticides (most of which are used on surrounding bottom lands to grow Easter lily bulbs and are highly toxic to fish), but stem from the water’s “lack of hardness.”

In other words, the state Water Board is currently in the process of abandoning the vital Smith River to the whims of agriculture, where lily farmers annually apply 300,000 pounds of pesticides on bottomlands that surround the Smith River estuary — some of the heaviest concentrations of pesticide applications in California. State officials are now even saying that they may not get around to developing a “discharge permit” for the lily growers, without which the farmers are technically operating illegally (as they have since 2003). Rather, the risk of further pesticide destruction of threatened and endangered estuary wildlife — home to coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, and the world’s northernmost population of Endangered tidewater goby — will be addressed via the lily growers’ voluntary measures and “best management practices.”

Since its founding in 2004, the Siskiyou Land Conservancy has worked to reduce and eliminate pesticide contamination in the Smith River estuary, the most vulnerable reach of a watershed that is otherwise one of the wildest, healthiest, and most beautiful rivers in the world. Never has there been a more egregious, and Orwellian, abrogation by the state of its duty to protect wildlife in this isolated corner of California. The pesticides are also impacting the health of 2,000 residents in the town of Smith River, according to the Smith River Community Health Assessment conducted by SLC in 2016.

Click here to take action! Tell the Water Board that heavy applications of highly toxic pesticides have no place on bottomlands that that surround the vital Smith River estuary.

Once you take action at the link above, send copies of your correspondence to your elected officials:

 

Hon. Jared Huffman

1406 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

john.driscoll@mail.house.gov

(707) 407-3585

 

State Sen. Mike McGuire

1303 10th Street, Room 5061 Sacramento, CA 95814

Robert.christensen@sen.ca.gov

916-651-4002

 

Assembly Member Jim Wood

State Capitol P.O. Box 942849 Sacramento, CA 94249-0002

Deanna.hansen@asm.ca.gov

(916) 319-2002


Hey, Governor Brown, EPIC’s Here to Help!

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018
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Jerry Brown Addressing Headwaters Rally in 1997. Photo by Nicholas Wilson.

Governor Brown to Convene Forest Task Force

In his final State of the State address, Governor Brown highlighted the need for reforms to how California’s forests are managed and directed the creation of a “task force composed of scientists and knowledgeable forest practitioners to review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires.…[and] consider how California can increase resiliency and carbon storage capacity.”

Hey, Governor, EPIC agrees and we are here to help! We will gladly serve on your task force. And not to toot our own horn, but no one’s better suited than EPIC. Since 1977 we’ve been one of the prime advocates in revising our Forest Practice Rules. We have brought over 100 lawsuits—lawsuits that resulted in the discussion of cumulative effects in a Timber Harvest Plan, forced timber companies to plan for a sustained harvest of timber products, and protected sacred ancient forests. Heck, our longtime attorney, Sharon Duggan, literally wrote the book on California’s Forest Practice Rules.

We totally agree that a task force is necessary. For too long, the Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE have been dominated by the timber industry, and look at the result: species that depend on mature forests, like the northern spotted owl and Humboldt marten, are headed towards extinction; we have replaced fire-adapted forests with overly dense fiber plantations; and mismanagement of our forests have turned them from carbon sinks to sources! It is a sorry state of affairs. We did not arrive at this place by chance, but by mismanagement. We need a revised approach to how we regulate forestry.


The Elk Death Trap

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018
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A herd of elk has gone extinct in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Why? Poor road design.

The Boyes elk were first documented in Boyes Meadows in 1937. By the late 1940s, their population ballooned to around 100, taking advantage of the newfound forage to jump in size. Over time the population settled; between 1950 to the late 1990s, the population fluctuated between 20-60 individuals. In 1998, there were 30 elk. By 2011, the herd was extinct.

In 1984, Caltrans began planning for a bypass around the old-growth of the park—today, we call the original road the “Newton B. Drury Bypass.” The original road, just two lanes through enchanting old-growth redwoods and elk-filled meadows—made traffic slow. The new 101 route was twice as big, four lanes, and allowed cars to zip by at 65 mph.

This “improvement” came at a cost. The new road opened in 1992. Construction of the road created meadows and clearings which were soon utilized by elk. Increased road kill soon followed. In places, the road is quite steep. Cars heading downhill (southbound) may find it difficult to stop or evade elk in the roadway. Similarly, elk may find avoiding humans more difficult.

In 2003, Caltrans installed a barrier to separate north and southbound lanes. The barrier, intended to keep cars from cross lanes, was also likely effective in limiting elk mobility, making attempts by elk to evade or avoid vehicles more difficult. Elk and other ungulates have a difficulty assessing vehicle speeds and distance, perhaps making last minute maneuvers, and things that inhibit that flight response, more important. Furthermore, these elk were habituated to humans, and the elk may have had difficulty determining which vehicles detected them and wanted to slow to observe and which vehicles did not detect them or wanted to poach them.

The road also facilitated poaching. The original road was square in the park; this new section of Highway 101 is remote and dark. Poachers have a low risk of getting caught. Again, the habituation of elk likely further enabled poachers by reducing the elk’s usual fear of humans.

Things may be getting better for elk in the area, but not thanks to Caltrans. The meadows along Highway 101 are slowly giving way to forests, as young conifer species and other successional plants began their invasion.

It may take a while before Boyes meadow is home to another herd of elk. A female elk could leave her herd and travel to Boyes meadow to give birth. After birth, the young could stick around with their mother (and potentially other mothers) to start a new herd. This possibility is thought to be “far flung.” Alternatively, the meadow could be recolonized—a small number of colonizing elk, pushed to the meadow by some disturbance, like a fire, and determine that they like it and way to stay. Or an existing elk herd could expand their home ranges, although this too is regarded as unrealistic as other elk herds are separate by a fair distance of thick forests.

For more on the Boyes herd and our fascinating Roosevelt elk, please read “Population Ecology of Roosevelt Elk: Conservation and Management in Redwood National and State Parks” by Dr. Butch Wekerly.


EPIC Membership Mixer

Thursday, February 1st, 2018
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Want to learn more about forest conservation on the North Coast?

EPIC members, volunteers, and tree lovers are encouraged to meet the local environmental community for a mixer, February 9th from 6-9pm at the EPIC office (145 G Street, Suite A in Arcata). Meet our Board and Staff and hear about our exciting new programs for 2018.

In celebration of Arts! Arcata, EPIC’s own Forest and Wildlife advocate Rob DiPerna will feature his photography highlighting the region we work to protect.

At 7pm we will be presenting a slideshow outlining recent accomplishments, and new projects we will undertake in the coming year. Learn how to get involved!

Get the latest update on EPIC’s work all while enjoying some drinks, snacks, and beautiful photography!

Please “attend” and invite your friends on Facebook!