Archive for May, 2018

Pruitt Declares Biomass Carbon Neutral, Contrary to Facts

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
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In a world no longer constrained by facts, Scott Pruitt is king. On April 23, 2018, Scott Pruit, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency declared that all biomass is carbon neutral. Pruitt’s sweeping declaration is not just inaccurate, but it will help further subsidize timber industry practices at the expense of our climate and our wallets.

Pruitt’s logic is simple, but flawed. Trees sequester carbon as they grow. Although burning these trees releases carbon, more trees will grow in their place, thereby offsetting what carbon was emitted. However, the truth is more complicated.

First, if forests are burned faster than they grow, then biomass not carbon neutral, and it is helping to accelerate deforestation. But even if we accept Pruitt’s basic premise—a one-for-one trade—Pruitt’s logic doesn’t capture all of the carbon accounting.

Logging itself emits carbon, from the logging trucks, to burning slash piles, to a loss of carbon in the soil. Logging emits so much carbon that clearcut forests continue to “leak” more carbon than they store 30 years after harvest.

Transportation of the fuel also plays an important role in the carbon budgeting. Biomass does not have a high “energy density,” meaning that the amount of energy per pound is low compared to other comparable fuels, like coal. Without subsidies, biomass is difficult to pull off because the “fuel” source (i.e., a forest) needs to be within a short distance of the biomass facility—a general rule of thumb is that a biomass plant in California needs to source from within 50 miles of the site. Thus, many biomass plants are seated next to a lumber mill, where “waste” from the mill can be burned for energy. (The biomass facility in Scotia is one example of this type.)

Some biomass plants also require that the fuel be in a more refined state—like a pellet or a chip. Processing is often required for shipping of biomass across a long distance, as palletization can increase the energy density of the biomass. Processing of wood products into this fuel can also be carbon intensive as well.

But with declaring biomass defacto carbon neutral, Pruitt’s announcement allows for greater subsidies for biomass power plants. With these subsidies, the transportation distance can increase dramatically, as the plant can pay more for fuel, shipping biomass further and further distances. The timber industry is rightly thrilled, and they should be—they paid Pruitt’s former chief of staff and another lobbyist who served with Pruitt in the Oklahoma Senate top dollar to lobby him for this change. Increasing biomass use and increasing demand for their product: former trees.

Biomass may be carbon neutral and appropriate in certain circumstances—unlike solar or wind, energy from biomass can be delivered regardless of the weather and so could be a useful component in a localized renewable power strategy, such as that being pursued by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. Blanket statements like Pruitt’s risk more than just playing with the facts—they risk investing in the wrong forms of electrical infrastructure, delaying our ability to move to a post-carbon energy grid and economy.

A 2018 study from MIT found that pellet biomass facilities in Europe emitted more carbon than an equivalent coal fired plant because of the high carbon costs associated with transportation and processing. These European biomass facilities typically source their fuel from US forests, shipping biomass across the Atlantic.

If you’re interested in learning more about biomass please join the Humboldt Citizens for Clean Energy Tuesday, June 5th for a special screening of “Burned: Are Trees the New Coal?” at the Arcata Theater Lounge. The film will be followed by a question and answer discussion with filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. A donation of $5 is suggested, but not required, for admission. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. For more information about the documentary visit burnedthemovie.com


Forest Carbon Plan Released

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
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Governor Brown released his long-awaited “Forest Carbon Plan.” I’ll be blunt: the Plan is timber industry advocacy disguised as “science.”

The Plan focuses almost exclusively on greenhouse gas emissions from fire—fire does emit greenhouse gases, but this is a smokescreen for the larger agenda: to cut down more trees. The Plan states that California needs to increase logging to both reduce the fire risk and to move carbon from trees to “long-lived forest products,” also known as wood. To be specific, Governor Brown is calling for doubling the land actively managed from 250,000 acres to 500,000 acres per year. That means logging an area of land the equivalent size of Napa County per year. Scary.

The Forest Carbon Plan almost completely ignores research that finds that California’s in-forest carbon stocks on private land are decreasing because of logging. In other words, our forests have turned from net sequesters to net emitters, losing more carbon per year than they take in. In 2013, the California Air Resources Board commissioned a study that found that between 2001 and2008, California’s in-forest lost 100 million metric tons of carbon or approximately 14 million metric tons per year. Another study from researchers at the University of California Berkeley from 2015 reached similar conclusions, finding that loss of above-ground in-forest carbon stored amounted to 5-7% of the state’s cumulative carbon emissions. Along the same vein, Oregon State University researchers found that the timber industry is the largest carbon emitter in the state of Oregon.

California’s forests can do better—and by law, must do better. In 2010, the California Legislature declared that California’s forests must play a larger role in the state meeting its carbon emission targets. AB 1504 directed that the Board of Forestry devise new rules to force timber companies to go beyond the “status quo” and increase in-forest carbon sequestration. Eight years later, the Board of Forestry has not issued any new rules. Instead, the Board has commissioned studies with the intent to prove that existing rules—which allow for large clearcuts and do not restrict the logging of large trees and high-carbon forests—are already best practices. The most recent study commissioned by the Board of Forestry found, contrary to other peer-reviewed science, that California’s forests are sequestering significant amounts of carbon.

Governor Brown has a reputation as a climate champion, so why would he sell out forests? Governor Brown has maintained a close relationship with the timber industry. His wife, Anne Gust Brown, served for 14 years in numerous top level roles for The Gap, the retail chain owned by the Fisher family of San Francisco. Humboldt Redwood Company and Mendocino Redwood Company, the largest owners of redwood forests in the world, are also owned by the Fisher family. Robert Fisher, oldest of the Fisher family dynasty, was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Strategic Growth Council; a little-known cabinet-level agency key to Governor Brown’s planning for climate change.

A true, science-based Forest Carbon Plan would be easy to construct. Want to increase carbon sequestration? Grow bigger trees, which are capable of putting on more carbon per year and are most capable of surviving a fire or beetle outbreak. How do we grow bigger trees? We cut less, increasing the rotation age for clearcuts and leaving more, older trees when utilizing uneven-aged forestry. Besides resulting in increased carbon sequestration, this management strategy has a myriad of co-benefits, from improving wildlife habitat and clean water, to helping to mitigate for the effects of climate change by promoting conditions that keep forests cool.

 


Court: Halt on Richardson Grove Highway Project to Stay in Place

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
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Highway Widening Would Damage, Destroy Ancient Redwoods

The Humboldt County Superior Court has ruled that a lawsuit challenging Caltrans’ proposed highway widening through Richardson Grove State Park can continue, meaning the building of the destructive highway is still on hold. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by the Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and community members, to prevent a project that would needlessly damage or destroy thousand-year-old redwood trees.

“Caltrans’ most recent environmental documents are deeply flawed and one-sided, failing to take a hard look at the impacts to the iconic ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “We are heartened that Caltrans remains subject to the writ and we can show the court the inconsistencies and other alarming shortfalls by Caltrans.”

“Caltrans receives another failing grade for its latest attempt to circumvent public review and ram through an unneeded highway-widening project without fully disclosing the extent of the damage that would be done to ancient trees,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity.

At issue was whether Caltrans had complied with a previous court order prohibiting road construction until a valid environmental analysis had been prepared. The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that Caltrans’ environmental analysis was critically flawed and the agency had to “separately identify and analyze the significance of the impacts to root zones of old growth redwood trees before proposing mitigation measures.”

Instead Caltrans released an addendum to its environmental review that repeated the state agency’s discredited arguments that highway work would not harm ancient redwood trees in the park. Caltrans allowed no public comment period and sought to dismiss the lawsuit and end the public’s right to a thorough environmental analysis of the project impacts, arguing that the addendum complied with the appellate court’s order. But Judge Kelly Neel found in the new decision that the court-ordered halt to construction should remain in place until the court can review the new documents released by Caltrans, and address legal issues presented by conservation groups in a 2017 lawsuit.

Project opponents remain vigilant in defense of the grove, with three current lawsuits challenging Caltrans’ inadequate environmental analysis and other attempts to dodge public scrutiny. For more on the campaign to protect Richardson Grove State Park, visit www.SaveRichardsonGrove.org.

Click here to read the Superior Court Ruling and Order on Respondent’s Motion for Discharge of Peremptory Writ of Mandate.


Vote for a Greener Future

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
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Voting season is upon us, and mail-in ballots are already out for the Statewide Direct Primary Election, which is June 5, 2018. EPIC is joining our sister environmental groups to support the passage of Propositions 68 and 72, which are described below.

California Proposition 68: Parks, Environment, and Water Bond. A yes vote would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for: creation and rehabilitation of state and local parks, natural resources protection projects, climate adaptation projects, water quality and supply projects, and flood protection projects. Also, prop 68 money won’t be spent on the twin tunnels or dam building projects.

California Proposition 72: Rainwater Capture Systems Excluded from Property Tax Assessments Amendment. A yes vote would allow the state legislature to exclude rainwater capture systems added after January 1, 2019 from property tax reassessments. During a time of extreme drought and weather patterns, this is the least we could do to incentivize rainwater collection to store and save water during wet months for use during dry months.

If you live within Humboldt County, you should check out the Candidate Questionnaire on Environmental Issues that was put together by the Northcoast Environmental Center.

If you are not registered to vote in this election, you can register here until May 21, 2018.


David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain Memorial Scholarship

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
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Dear Friends,

This coming September will be twenty years since David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain lost his life while trying to prevent illegal logging in an Earth First! Action near Grizzly Creek in the Van Duzen River watershed.  To mark this anniversary and remember an idealistic young man, we have established the David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain Memorial Scholarship.  Administered by the Humboldt Area Foundation, this fund will provide an annual scholarship of $1,000 for a local high school student or first year student at Humboldt State University or College of the Redwoods who has demonstrated commitment to issues of forest ecology through volunteer or academic projects.

In addition to assisting students, establishing this scholarship will provide a focus for reflection on changes in our community over the past twenty years. What have we learned since the painful controversies over and in the forest in the 1990s?  How have we grown as individuals and as a community?  For those of us who knew Gypsy or knew of him, how did his death influence the course of our lives?

We envision memorial events on the HSU campus on Sunday, September 16 and Monday, September 17, including performances, lectures, and art displays.  Members of Gypsy’s family will travel here to attend.  Gypsy’s mother, Cindy Allsbrooks, will serve on the annual scholarship selection committee; we hope the task will bring her comfort.  If you would like to serve on our creative team and help produce the memorial events in September, please contact either of us directly.  We will appreciate assistance with all aspects of the project including designing and facilitating the events, gathering materials for a memorial website, and publicizing the memorial fund and events.

Also, we invite you to participate by making a donation to the Fund.  Donations large and small will be appreciated.  We have set an ambitious goal of $25,000, the minimum required for a Fund to continue into perpetuity.  In addition to helping individual students, the annual  announcements of the scholarship availability and recipients will continue to educate the public about an important era in Humboldt County history and the ongoing story of the preservation and restoration of the magnificent but fragile redwood ecosystem.

To make a donation online or by mail please see: http://www.hafoundation.org/GypsyChain

Sincerely yours,

Marion Nina Amber, marioninamber@gmail.com

Naomi Steinberg, rabbinaomisteinberg@gmail.com


Last Chance Grade Project Update

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
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The Redwood Highway, also known as Highway 101, is the main north-south arterial connection for North Coast residents and visitors alike. “Last Chance Grade” is a stretch of Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously above the Pacific Ocean. Built on an active landslide, the road has steadily slipped towards the Pacific Ocean, including a fairly substantial road failure in winter in 2017. In many areas, the road is no longer in its original alignment, having slipped further down the slope. The area that has experienced the greatest movement has moved 40’ horizontally and 30’ vertically so far. The question is not if the road will fail, but when and how badly.

Congressman Jared Huffman has convened a stakeholder group to help work through some of these issues. EPIC, Friends of Del Norte, and Save the Redwoods League sit on this group to provide input from the conservation community. The stakeholder group has met numerous times over the past three years to consider the project. The unanimous conclusion of the group, so far, is that something has to be done to improve the existing road. The question is what, where, and at what cost.

Caltrans is considering possible alternatives and reroutes. Of the six initial options presented by the agency, each has something that would ordinarily rule out that alternative from further study—from massive cost (Alternative F, a deep tunnel under the problem area, would cost one to two billion dollars, if it is even feasible at all!) to large impacts to old-growth (Alternative A2 would affect 3 acres of old-growth redwoods, including the loss of 30-50 trees) to technical feasibility (Alternatives C3-C5 are also in areas prone to sliding and may not be any better at staying open than the current route).

At the most recent stakeholder meeting, Caltrans has introduced two more alternatives: Alternative X, which would take drastic actions to stabilize the current alignment, and Alternative L, which would move the road slightly uphill, perhaps better positioning the road for the future). From their initial descriptions, EPIC is intrigued and excited to develop these alternatives further. Both alternatives initially appear to have the smallest environmental impacts—neither would affect old-growth nor require any stream crossings. Both are relatively cheap too, with a back-of-the-envelope estimate of $100-300 million, making them appear more feasible in our eyes. There are downsides too. Both would be costly to maintain and still prone to failures like the current road has experienced.

To further narrow their thinking, Caltrans has completed an “expert risk assessment,” where the agency has employed the help of geotechnical experts from across the West Coast to do an initial assessment of the various alternatives. The assessment focused on three factors: the cost to maintain the road (“cost”), likelihood of impairments to mobility, such as temporary lane closures for road work (“mobility”), and the risk of a full road closure (“closure”). One alternative, the long tunnel under the problem area (Alternative F) scored far better than the rest—but this alternative is the most expensive to build in the first place (“cost” in the report only concerns the cost to maintain) and the agency lacks the geotechnical data necessary to understand if this alternative is even possible. So it may be cumulatively cheaper to build a less expensive road but pay higher annual maintenance costs than to build an expensive road that doesn’t cost much to keep up.

The geotechnical analysis is only part of the consideration of values necessary to refine the alternatives. It doesn’t include consideration of environmental values, like preservation of old-growth or sediment inputs to rivers. To refine the alternatives further, Caltrans will conduct a “value engineering analysis” that will require soliciting thoughts from stakeholders about their deeply held values. These values will inform what alternatives that Caltrans will further decide.

By November 2018, Caltrans hopes to begin “scoping” under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). NEPA and CEQA are the laws that require the agency to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of the various alternatives. The project will still take many years to complete, with Caltrans searching for money from federal and state coffers.

EPIC will keep our members informed as we learn more information.


EPIC Stops Tower in Redwood National Park

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
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The Office of Emergency Services (OES) has heard our voices loud and clear, and has decided not to put an emergency communications tower in Redwood National Park. The initial proposal called for three towers ranging from 120 to 270 feet, one of which was proposed inside the boundaries of Redwood National Park. But thanks to the 1,451 EPIC members from 32 states and 28 countries who spoke up by sending comments through EPIC’s two action alerts, none of the towers will be built within Redwood National Park. Instead, the towers will be built at alternative locations outside of the park.

The approved project includes three new towers to replace and provide the same level of coverage as the Red Mountain communications site, which must be removed due to its location within the Helkau Ceremonial District, a site that is sacred to the Yurok Tribe. The towers will provide coverage in the remote and rugged region within the Yurok Reservation, as well as Redwood National Park and surrounding areas that do not have cell phone reception. The emergency communication towers will be for use by state, federal and local law enforcement, transportation, fire, medical and resource agencies. Once the Red Mountain site is cleaned up, the Yurok Tribe will once again be able to access their sacred site and begin holding ceremonies as their ancestors have since time immemorial.

The 5 alternatives that were considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) include:

  • Alternative 1: Rodgers Peak (Redwood National Park), Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp.
  • Alternative 2: Same as Alternative 1, except Rodgers Peak site would expand clearcutting from 1.5 acres to ~3.9 acres to install a solar array as a primary power source.
  • Alternative 3: Rodgers Peak would not be developed under this alternative. Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp would be the same as Alternative 1 and Green Diamond 1 and Orick sites would also be developed for a total of 4 towers.
  • Alternative 3a: Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 1 sites would be developed. Green Diamond 1 site is clearcut.
  • Alternative 3b: Identical to Alternative 3a except Green Diamond 2 site would replace the proposed Green Diamond 1 site. The Green Diamond 2 site is clearcut and a portion of the parcel is located within the Coastal Zone. However, the tower would be built outside of the coastal zone.
  • Alternative 4: No Project Alternative. Decommissioning activities would be implemented at Red Mountain, and the sacred site would be restored consistent with existing permits issued to the State by the USFS. None of the proposed sites would be developed and the entire region would lose emergency communication services.

The tower locations that have been approved in the Final EIS include Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 2. The Initial Scoping Notice only proposed one alternative that included Redwood National Park. After over 600 comments poured in, OES developed a range of alternatives, with Alternative 1 identified as the proposed project, but after hearing from community input in the form of the second round of hundreds of public comments requesting that the agency avoid building a tower in Redwood National Park, the OES went with Alternative 3b, which includes Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 2. The Green Diamond 2 location is partially within the coastal zone; however, the location of the proposed tower would not be in the coastal zone, and is in an area that is already clearcut.

Although significant unavoidable impacts will be made to the visual resources of Lyons Ranches Historic District, the OES has issued a Statement of Overriding Considerations along with its project approval, finding that the project benefits (providing emergency services communications and cleaning up a sacred site) outweigh the impacts of replacing the red mountain tower with three new towers that affect the viewshed of the surrounding areas.


EPIC Forest Prom Thank you!

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
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The staff and board of the Environmental Protection Information Center would like to thank all the attendees, businesses, sponsors, volunteers and artists who helped make our first EPIC Forest Prom a success! It was inspiring to see a room full fresh faces engaged in our cause. We were thrilled to host an event that showcased our old school EPIC charm with the vibrant new generation of environmental activists.

EPIC was proud to partner with Zero Waste Humboldt to host a Zero Waste Prom! From our decorations and corsages—to our glassware and eco green plates, we were able to pull off a huge event with little to no waste.

EPIC Prom Nominees

Congratulations to Nathaniel Pennington and Briana Villalobos for taking home the crown. We were honored to highlight the impactful work of our EPIC Prom Court Nominees. A special thanks goes out to Jennifer Savage, Mitra Abidi, Natalynne Delapp, Robert Shearer, and Mike Wilson for being such good sports and helping raise money for the forests and wildlife of North Coast California.

Businesses and Sponsors

We owe a special thank you to Lost Coast Communications for their generous radio ad sponsorship, and for Collin Yeo for the A+E blog feature in the North Coast Journal. Thank you to long-term EPIC board member, Peter Martin for your sponsorship—we appreciate your support! A huge thank you goes to The Arcata Veterans Hall and the staff who helped us put up and break down decorations. Joanne McGarry for assisting in our Zero Waste Prom initiative and allowing us borrow her eco green plates. Sue Leskiw for her delicious donated desserts. Arcata Tuxedo for their free tux rental giveaway. Sincere appreciation goes out to Mad River Brewery, Lost Coast Brewery, Humboldt Cider Co., Sean Charles, Moonstone Crossing, and the Co-Op for the food and drink donations. We could not have done it without you all!

Music

We have great appreciation for the musical acts that helped make this event a success! We were happy to support local favorites The Apiary and DJ East One. We were all boogying on the dance floor till the wee hours of the night, and it was truly a joy to see everyone let loose in their formal prom attire. Thank you Phil from the Arcata Veterans Hall for assisting with sound throughout the night.

Volunteers

EPIC’s volunteers are the roots of our success, and EPIC’s Forest Prom could not have happened without their support. A special thank you to Anne, Molly, Abbey, Casey, Amber, and Rob for dedicating the time and energy to craft, create, and forage all the decorations for EPIC’s Forest Prom. Thank you to Luke and Kyra for donating their time to make our EPIC Forest Prom posters, and to Madrone and Halle for making the most beautiful corsages and boutonnieres. Shawnee and Tryphena for allowing us to borrow their pint glasses and bar kit. Adam, Lexi, Madison, Shohei, Emely and Claire for assisting with the setup of the bar and venue. Our fabulous bartenders Pierce, Ali, Elyse, and Daniel for quenching everyone’s thirst. Nathaniel for assisting us at the door, Gigi and Stan for helping us bus dishes, Tom for helping haul the kegs and decorations in his truck, and to Dennis for supporting us wherever we needed help. Many of our volunteers assisted in multiple positions throughout the night—and their dedication does not go unnoticed! Thank you!

 

Photographers

We were blessed to have two different photographers document the nights festivities! Thank you to James Adam Taylor Photography for the candid shots, and to Ray Cisek for coordinating our photo booth.

Click here to view your EPIC Forest Prom photo booth pictures!

Don’t worry if you weren’t able to make it this year, we are thrilled to announce that the EPIC Forest Prom will now be an annual event!

Photos Below courtesy of James Adam Taylor:

Additional James Adam Taylor Photography’s candid prom shots can be viewed here.


Dead End—HRC Mattole Road Proposal Fails to Make the Grade

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018
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Mattole trees between 100-120 years old.

There are some, it seems, that will just never learn. Reciprocity is a basic law of the physical universe, and so it is also true when dealing with suspect timber company behavior. Humboldt Redwood Company just doesn’t seem to be getting the memo, or learning from the mistakes of its predecessor. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

And so it is with HRC’s ill-conceived, and highly suspect proposed Major Amendment to THP 1-12-026HUM, the “Long Ridge Cable” THP, located in the North Branch, North Fork of the Mattole River watershed, in one of the most ecologically significant and unique landscapes on its property, and one of the powder-keg watersheds for the company. Yet, HRC was proposing to construct over 1,000 feet of new road without providing CAL FIRE, the public, or anyone else any legitimate reasons why it was necessary, or even providing the thoughtful analysis of road construction and road networks required by State Forest Practice Rules.

HRC had once promised an open, collaborative, and solution-orientated process for resolving the issues surrounding management of the largely unentered Primary Douglas fir forests of the North Branch North Fork of the Mattole, but this never actually materialized, with the company choosing instead to cut EPIC, the Mattole residents, and the public at-large out and to simply pronounce its intentions to all involved.

HRC claims it has voluntarily relinquished the rights to log in portions of the unentered primary forests on parts of the two approved THPs in the North Branch North Fork of the Mattole, but the company has refused to codify any of its commitments in writing, either as part of the THPs or in a written agreement with the community and interested stakeholders. EPIC, Mattole residents, and the public have been simply told to trust HRC; however, heavy-handed application of hack-and-squirt herbicides in old hardwood stands and a proposal to construct over 1,000 feet of new road for no identifiable reason has strained any inclination toward trust.

HRC was recently forced to withdraw its amendment and plans to construct the new road, faced with the realities of the regulatory hurdles and great pushback from EPIC, the Mattole residents, forest defenders and others.

With spring springing and the landscape in the North Branch, North Fork of the Mattole River watershed beginning to dry out, the specter of logging still looms, albeit with great uncertainty as to the intentions of HRC, or how much faith and stock can be put in the company’s previous promises and commitments.

EPIC urges HRC to abandon this bull-head, short-sighted and heavy-handed approach to addressing the logging plans in the North Fork, North Branch of the Mattole River, and urges the company to keep its promises to EPIC, the Mattole residents and others that a collaborative and community-orientated process would determine the fate of the forest.

EPIC has submitted two rounds of comments on this THP, see our comment letters below.

EPIC Comments on Long Ridge Cable THP April 2, 2018

EPIC Comments on Long Ridge Cable THP February 14, 2018