Archive for September, 2018

EPIC Fail: Oregon Denies Protection for Gravely Imperiled Humboldt Martens

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
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On September 14, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the fewer than 200 Humboldt martens estimated to remain in the state. Once again, Oregon proves that it is a few steps behind California when it comes to conservation policy.

The Commission rejected a June petition from six conservation groups to protect the rare carnivore that would have required a review of its current status in Oregon.

The Commission’s decision runs starkly against the best available science. Only two isolated populations of Humboldt martens survive in Oregon — one in the Siskiyou National Forest and another in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests stretching between the two populations has isolated them and put them at high risk.

Though martens were once common in the coastal mountains from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, California, logging of old-growth forests and fur trapping decimated and separated their populations. Southern coastal populations are now threatened by severe wildfires and rodent poisons used in marijuana cultivation. Populations on the central coast are threatened by vehicle mortalities on Highway 101 and lack of suitable mature forest habitat for dispersal.

A 2018 study concluded that Humboldt martens on Oregon’s central coast could be wiped out within three decades with trapping or road kill of just two or three individuals annually.

Earlier this year conservation groups petitioned the state to ban marten trapping west of Interstate 5. The state has agreed to implement future trapping restrictions for Humboldt martens, but the extent of the new guidelines is currently unknown.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to publish a decision on federal protection for the Humboldt marten by September 30th.

Oregon, like always, is behind us enlightened Californians. In August the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to protect the marten as endangered in the state. Martens in California face a similar level of imperilment as those in Oregon, with fewer than 200 surviving in two populations.

If you care about the martens, please consider contributing to our biodiversity and endangered species defense fund. 


Murrelets in Monument Ridge Wind Farm?

Monday, September 24th, 2018
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It was a cold and blustery morning at the top of Monument Ridge. EPIC staff were in the field to investigate a proposed wind project, between 45-70 turbines churning out 135 megawatts of power, and their potential impacts to the marbled murrelet. The murrelet, a seabird that lays its eggs on oldgrowth branches, is threatened with extinction because most of its habitat has been logged. Although this project would not cut any murrelet nest trees, the project could still endanger the bird by killing birds as they commute between their inland nest sites and the ocean, where they feed.

Murrelets in the project area are thought to come from nest sites in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and other pockets of residual oldgrowth in the Eel River watershed. Though murrelets often follow river valleys toward the ocean, sometimes they will jump over ridges for a distance-saving detour. Here, the concern is that murrelets from Humboldt Redwoods State Park may follow the Eel River for a time before jumping over Monument Ridge to connect with the Bear River, a more-direct flight path to the ocean.

Terra Gen, the project developer, has recognized the threat, and in response, has begun to study how murrelets use the project site—are there particular areas of high murrelet use, how high are they flying, and how many are making the trip across Monument Ridge. This information, according to Terra Gen, will inform placement of wind turbines to avoid and minimize impacts to the seabird. Using radars adapted from oceangoing vessels, Terra Gen has been scanning the skies for signs of the bird. EPIC was there to check out their survey efforts first hand.

Our first stop was at a trailer perched on Monument Ridge Road, near a low saddle where biologists  suspected that murrelets might jump between the Bear and Eel Rivers. On the trailer were two open array radar units—spinning bars that emit a radiowave that travels at the speed of light until they hit an object and are reflected back to the radar unit, which receives the radiowaves and locates the object. One of the radar arrays was parallel to the ground, in a way that you might see on the mast of a ship in Humboldt Bay. This radar was to pick up where the birds were flying—did they preferentially choose particular areas or were their flight paths random? The second radar array was mounted perpendicular to the ground, sending off radio waves to pick up how high the murrelets flew as they crested the ridge.

The radar is so sensitive that skilled technicians can tell the difference in the birds that they pick up based on the shape of their radar signature and the speed of movement—murrelets, for example, need to constantly pump their wings in flight and produce a fairly large “blip” on the screen and move incredibly fast, up to 100mph.

Though we were there before the break of dawn, survey station monitors were there earlier. Just prior to our arrival the survey station recorded a potential murrelet: a blueish blip on the screen traveling through the project area. Before the sighting is confirmed as a murrelet, the survey team will send its data back to headquarters to look at the flight speed and radar register of the bird.

Our tour took us to other bird survey sites throughout the project, each spaced to provide a cumulative complete look at the ridgeline, to bat survey sites, and to meteorological stations. By the time we left, the cold morning cleared to a sunny September day.

EPIC was pleased to see the science being conducted for the project, although seeing that blip on a September morning was concerning. Murrelets cross the project area ridges to some degree, something that we know based on survey information for a past wind proposal that partly overlapped  the proposed Terra Gen project area. We will soon learn the degree to which they use this site. The best case scenario is that their use of the project area is low but consistent and predictable, which can enable Terra Gen to better avoid or minimize impacts. If murrelets consistently use a particular area of the project for travel, impacts may be avoided or minimized through strategic placement of wind turbines. Or if murrelets consistently move through the project at certain times of day, impacts may be minimized through shutting down spinning turbines at strategic times. The worst case scenario is that murrelets may use the site almost randomly but very frequently, which would make efforts to minimize impacts far more difficult.

Time will tell. The full results of the survey will not be ready for two years, the standard survey protocol time, although preliminary results from the first survey year should be available earlier.


Gypsy Remembered

Monday, September 24th, 2018
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Photo courtesy of HAVOC.

This month is the 20th anniversary of the death of David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain, a forest activist killed by a tree felled by a logger employed by the Pacific Lumber Company. This sad anniversary offers a moment for reflection—on the gains extracted by activists like Gypsy, and on the battles not yet won.

The legacy left by Gypsy and other forest defenders is written not only in the forests that they protected but in the rules by which timber must operate. This may not sound true—especially when looking out at a fresh clearcut—but California has the strictest forest practice rules in the country. We are the envy of the Pacific Northwest, and at EPIC, we often field questions from friends across the country about how our rules operate. These rules were borne from struggle—from forest activists blocking timber sales to legal advocates winning lawsuits.

The rules tell the story of the Timber War in the North Coast. For example, consideration of cumulative impacts (such as it is) was a product of the Sally Bell Grove campaign. When timber companies threatened to log the last remaining old-growth in Little Jackass Creek, a note went up on the marquee on the Garberville Theatre: “G-P Cutting Sinkyone. Help Now. EPIC.” The next day, loggers were surprised by 40 forest defenders and a Eureka television news crew. The forest defenders stalled loggers long enough that EPIC was able to obtain an injunction from a judge against logging. In the end, EPIC would win the day against Georgia-Pacific in the famous EPIC v. Johnson, in which the California Supreme Court affirmed the obligation that timber companies consider the cumulative impacts of their logging.

This anniversary also provides an occasion to reflect on how far we still have to go. Humboldt Redwood Company is threatening to log an unentered stand in the Mattole watershed and have only been thwarted by courageous forest defenders. In response, the company took a page out of the old timber playbook, hiring a private paramilitary contractor to make citizen arrests of activists. Green Diamond continues to clearcut with abandon, currying sweet deals from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bypass endangered species protections.

The life of David Chain is a reminder of the value of the struggle. In this struggle, we become our best selves. We test our mettle and discover we are stronger than we thought. We commit ourselves to higher principles and find purpose and fulfillment. The struggle gives shape and meaning to an otherwise transitory and fleeting existence. In it we become fully human.

On this 20th anniversary, let’s redouble our efforts and spirit to take on the timber beast again. And let’s do it in Gypsy’s style: with gusto, with humor, and with love and compassion for all beings.

To donate to the David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain scholarship, please visit http://www.hafoundation.org/GypsyChain


EPIC Summer Events

Saturday, September 15th, 2018
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Each Summer, EPIC’s staff, board, and volunteers share their love for the wild all across the North Coast! Catch us tabling at your favorite music festival, leading a bilingual hike along your favorite swimming spot, and hosting our second annual EPIC Base Camp. We are pleased to present new merchandise for the summer season—including car bumper stickers, and a re-release of our beloved “Save Richardson Grove” t-shirts. We will update our online store as soon as possible, so keep your eye out if you’re interested in ordering through our website. Our hikes and workshops fill up fast, so be sure to register!

Here’s a list of the EPIC happenings this summer:

May 19th: Packers Bay Invasive Weed Pull. Our breadth of work takes us far and wide.  In a modest victory, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest has agreed to partner with EPIC and the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center to pull and cut Scotch broom in areas growing near creeks and Shasta snow-wreath populations. Join EPIC this Saturday, May 19 from 10am-3pm in an effort to remove invasive Scotch broom to protect native Shasta snow wreath populations . Meet at the Garden Gulch Trailhead, which can be reached from the Packers Bay exit on Interstate 5 (from northbound I-5, take the O’Brien exit, get back on I-5 heading south, then exit at Packers Bay).

June 2nd-3rd: Benbow Summer Arts & Music Festival. What better way to kick off the summer than dancing among the redwoods and swimming in the majestic Eel River. The Benbow Summer Arts Festival features more than 150 handmade craft, food, and non-profit vendor booths, a Kid Zone with arts & crafts, dancing, and fun for the whole family. Join us, and pick up the latest EPIC swag!

June 28 – July 1st:  Kate Wolf Music Festival.  For the 9th year in a row, EPIC joins our friends among the beautiful black oaks of the Hog Farm in Laytonville. This festival is a must for those who enjoy classic rock, country, and bluegrass music. Sign our latest petition postcards and learn more about what EPIC has in store for 2018 and beyond.

July 16th: Bilingual Redwood Hike-Hiouchi Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Join EPIC for a Redwood hike through Hiouchi Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. This hike will meander through an enchanting forest landscape watched over by towering giants. The stunning old growth and pristine Smith River along the Hiouchi Trail makes it one of the most beautiful places on the North Coast. This 3 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. Click here to register! 

September 7th-9th: EPIC Base Camp. Mark you calendars for EPIC’s second annual Base Camp. Join us for a weekend of ground-truthing trainings, workshops, and more! More updates soon.

September 15th-16th: North Country Fair. Join us along the coast for our last festival of the year. It always feels good to end a busy summer season at home on the coast. Don’t miss your chance to buy our latest summer merchandise!

September 23rd: Bilingual Redwood Hike-Trillium Falls Trail, Redwood National Park.  Don’t miss our last hike of the series! One of our staff favorites, this hike will explore the misty hallways of an ancient redwood home. The stunning old growth, vast creeks, and 10 ft. waterfall make it the most popular and awe inspiring trail in Redwood National Park. This 3 mile loop is a well-maintained trail and designed to be accessible to almost anyone. Click here to register!


EPIC Base Camp: Groundtruthing Last Chance Grade Alternatives

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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This last weekend EPIC staff and volunteers ventured out into ancient redwood forests and coastal scrublands to explore two of the six alternatives (Alternative A2 and Alternative L), which are being considered for rerouting Highway 101 around the unstable cliff side along Last Chance Grade, a section of Highway 101 that is sliding into the Pacific Ocean.

Alternative A2

On Saturday, Base Campers traversed through the pristine, ancient redwood forest section of Alternative A2, which was located within Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This was one of the most spectacular places any of us had ever experienced in our lifetimes. The vast size of the magnificent old growth trees was humbling, and as we traversed the pristine redwood forest floor, we became emotional with the thought that these ancient trees were numbered and could potentially be sacrificed to build a road. Ancient forests can’t be grown in our lifetimes. Redwoods live to be 2,000 years old. The forest communities they create are irreplaceable and with less than 5% of the original old growth redwoods remaining on the planet, primarily in protected state parks, we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from harm. Bisecting an ancient redwood forest would not only fragment the habitat they create, it would also degrade the remaining forest community that has taken thousands of years to develop.

Based on preliminary geotechnical investigations, Alternative A2 is one of 6 routes that is being considered, which would reroute 3.2 miles of Highway 101, creating an 85 acre construction footprint, including 3 acres of old growth redwood in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Additionally, this alternative would also include 2 creek crossings, 10 culverts and two bridges. It is EPIC’s position that this alternative, if selected, would result in the largest environmental impact to irreplaceable old growth redwood forest.

Alternative L

On Sunday, we set out to groundtruth Alternative L, which was adjacent to the coastal trail that had sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The landscape through this proposed route is made up of mixed coastal shrub, grassland and speckled with some good sized coastal spruce trees, and the northern end of the proposed route contains approximately 1 acre of old growth redwoods, with 2.2 miles of the proposed realignment going through Redwood National Park land. Caltrans hopes that further development of this alternative can eliminate any logging of old growth forests.

History

EPIC is a member of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Group, which is made up of regional tribes, agencies, companies and organizations. Last Chance Grade is a 3 mile segment of Highway 101 between Orick and Crescent City beginning just north of Wilson Creek. Road failures and landslides have plagued the roadway for over a decade, and with ongoing sea level rise and coastal erosion, it is just a matter of time before the road will fall into the Pacific Ocean. EPIC recognizes that a safe and reliable alternative route is needed, and has pledged to work with the stakeholder working group to advocate for the least environmentally harmful alternative.

Last Chance Grade Alternative Comparison Chart

Alternative Acres Old Growth Affected New Construction Footprint in Acres Cost in millions Travel Time Added Length within Park Timeline
Existing Allignment 0 0 $2M/year 0 0 Ongoing
A1 1.5 80 $672M 1 minute .8 miles 4 years
A2 3 85 $240M .8 minute .6 miles 3.5 years
F 1.5 4.5 Up to $200M 1 minute N/A 7 years
L 1 47 acres $220M 2.2 minutes 2.2 miles 3.5 years
X 0 20 $150M 1.1 3.5

Groundtruthing

EPIC staff and volunteers went into the field to document the path of proposed road realignment. The photos below were taken and plotted on a georeferenced project map marking the location of the photos with a GPS stamp using the Avenza Maps application. Every affected tree was marked with a small round metal tag that had a number on it to identify the tree. The proposed roadway was identified with wooden stakes and/or white flagging.

EPIC would like to thank Caltrans for their assistance in making Base Camp a reality. Caltrans has been forthright with information, including staking of the potential alternatives prior to our Base Camp, and has provided EPIC will all documents needed to study the alternatives. EPIC is heartened by the open and transparent process under which these alternatives are being developed.

 

 

 


Logging, Not Wildfires is a Greater Threat to Northern Spotted Owls

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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Science in action: Defying current assumptions, a new scientific review of northern spotted owl studies discovered that current forest management practices meant to protect them may instead be hurting them. In a recent meta-analysis, Pennsylvania State University researcher and quantitative ecologist Dr. Derek E. Lee examined 21 published scientific studies on the spotted owl and found that wildfire impacts were less than previously believed, challenging the narrative that fuel-reduction logging is necessary or helpful for their survival. The study found that mixed-severity fires may in fact be beneficial to their habitats

This summer, as the West Coast continues to be scorched by multiple infernos, the wildfire risks to human life and property are not to be underestimated. Wildfires (or the mere potential for them) near cities and towns can be extremely deadly, and must be proactively managed for human safety. However, in the wilderness and away from human habitation, mixed-severity fires may actually have complex ecological effects that warrant a second look.

On wildfire impacts to the spotted owl, Dr. Lee writes, “[These results were] not a surprise to me as this species has been living with forest fire for thousands of years. But, it was fascinating to see the positive effects of wildfire on the owls. The positive effects of forest fires on spotted owls indicate mixed-severity fires, including so-called mega-fires, such as have been receiving lots of media attention lately, are within the natural range of variability for these forests. The fact that spotted owls have adapted to these types of fires over evolutionary time tells us that they have seen this before and learned to take advantage of it.”

Click for full infographic by Derek E. Lee. Used with permission.

In the examined studies, fewer than 1% of spotted owl breeding sites were found to be affected by fires. In contrast, the wildfires produced mixed habitats that drew in new owls (increased “recruitment”) and provided more foraging opportunities in the recently-burned areas.

According to Dr. Lee’s press release, “The idea behind these logging projects is that the risks from wildfire outweigh the harm caused by additional logging, but here we show that forest fires are not a serious threat to owl populations and in most instances are even beneficial. This reveals an urgent need to re-evaluate our forest management strategies.”


David “Gypsy” Chain 20th Anniversary Memorial Fundraiser

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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Monday, September 17th marks the 20th anniversary of the death of David Nathan “Gyspy” Chain. Chain tragically lost his life while trying to prevent illegal logging in an Earth First! Action near Grizzly Creek in the Van Duzen River watershed.

To honor his death, friends and family have established the David Nathan “Gyspy” Chain Memorial Scholarship Fund in support of the next generation of environmental stewards. 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.

We invite you to join us Sunday, September 16th for the David “Gypsy” Chain 20th Anniversary Memorial Fundraiser at the Historic Eagle House in Eureka.  Enjoy an evening of music, refreshments, and a silent auction full of artesian goodies!  All proceeds will benefit the David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Tickets are $25 at the door.

Doors open at 7pm. Featuring the fine art and craft silent auction, refreshments, and a no host bar.

Music at 8pm. Hosted by Julia “Butterfly” Hill. Featuring appearances by Darryl Cherney, Joanne Rand and Rob Diggins, Francine Allen, David Simpsonand Jane Lapinr, Berel Alexander and Kira Weiss, Jerry Martien, Joan Dunning, Naomi Steinberg, Paul Woodland, and many more!

We are in need of a few volunteers! If you’re interested, please contact Judith Mayer at jmayer@sonic.net

To donate directly to the scholarship fund please visit hafoundation.org/gypsychain or call (707) 442-2993