This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Healthy Forests

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Giving Tuesday TreeThis Thanksgiving holiday, after you’ve gorged yourself on turkey or tofurkey, after you’ve been trampled for door buster savings on Black Friday (or righteously protested mass consumerism by strolling through a park instead), and after Cyber Monday is just a fleeting electron, give big on December 1st for Giving Tuesday!

There is a long tradition in Humboldt County of supporting locally owned businesses and artisans. We know to buy local and to support local businesses because we care about the vitalizing effects of investing locally. We subscribe to this practice because we know it is good for our economy, our environment, and our community. By adhering to these beliefs we are tangibly improving Humboldt County’s resiliency and sustainability into the future.

Giving Tuesday is a nationwide movement to support local institutions, which help to make your world a better place. This Giving Tuesday, give big to support EPIC and its critical work to protect Northwest California’s forest ecosystems. As a membership organization, EPIC is dependent on its network of small donors. We are your voice, slogging through dense government documents and attending tedious meetings in far-flung corners of the state to make sure your interests are heard. (The environment does not have a lobbyist, unlike Big Business).

We all have a choice in how we spend our hard-earned money; during this season of thanks and generosity, please give to your local public interest organizations like EPIC because you value and benefit from their mission, and because you believe in humanity’s ability to positively impact the world.

Click here to donate and help the people-powered EPIC.

Exposed: Post-fire Logging Harms Endangered Owl

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Mixed-severity fire, like that shown, provides functional habitat for northern spotted owls. Photo credit, Scott Harding.

Private landowners, in particular Fruit Growers Supply Company, recently cut thousands of acres of northern spotted owl habitat, likely killing or harming the protected owl in violation of both federal and state law. And they got away with it. Here’s the story of how a timber company likely violated the law and how no one caught it.

Spotted owls utilize post-fire landscapes, including those that burn at high-severity—that is the conclusion of numerous recent scientific papers. High-severity areas, marked by significant numbers of dead or dying trees, provide excellent foraging grounds for spotted owls. The surge of dead wood and new shrub growth forms ideal habitat for wood rats, deer mice, and other spotted owl prey. The standing dead trees, or snags, provide branches for owls to roost while scanning for dinner. And because fires generally burn in a mixed severity pattern, with high-intensity burns close to areas that fire barely touched, there are often nearby trees for the owls to roost. This is informally known as the “bedroom/kitchen” model of habitat usage.

This finding, that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests, is somewhat new. It also runs counter to generalized statements about spotted owl habitat, which has generally been associated with complex mature forests. The Forest Practice Act was certainly written before this was well recognized.

While most logging in California is accomplished through a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), substantial logging can evade the environmental review provided by a THP. Under an “emergency notice,” a timberland owner can clearcut an unlimited number of acres by declaring an “emergency”—a broad loophole, which includes almost all conditions that render a tree “damaged, dead or dying.”

In 2014, the Beaver Fire burned some 32,496 acres, including 13,400 acres of private timberlands in Siskiyou County, much of which is owned by Fruit Growers. Based on the available information, between 2014 and 2015, Fruit Growers filed 32 emergency notices with CALFIRE totaling 8,644 acres. Other nearby landowners similarly filed emergency notices totaling 1,166 acres.

From surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, we know that individual owls were harmed in violation of federal law by Fruit Growers. After the fires but before most logging had begun, a curious male northern spotted owl, identified as KL0283, responded to the hoot of an owl surveyor; he had survived the fire and was living amongst the dead trees. KL0283 was proof that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests.

Sadly, the Forest Service reports later surveys attempting to locate KL0283 after logging failed to yield any positive survey results. The Forest Service notes that logging reduced the owl’s habitat far below minimum acceptable levels, and given the lack of nearby habitat, it was unlikely that he had moved to somewhere better. KL0283 is likely dead, killed by the impacts of logging.

On a facial level, Fruit Growers followed the law—they filed emergency notices telling CALFIRE that they were planning on logging and logged pursuant to those notices. However, upon investigation, it appears that Fruit Growers harmed northern spotted owls in violation of both federal and state law. How was Fruit Growers able to log spotted owl habitat without detection for so long? Turns out, it was pretty easy.

First, it is unclear whether Fruit Growers knew it was violating the law. In each emergency notice, it wrote, “Due to the severity and intensity of stand replacing fire, [the] area can no longer be considered Suitable NSO Habitat.” As explained above, this is a common misunderstanding. By regarding all burned forest as non-habitat, it provided Fruit Growers an easy way to avoid having to evaluate and state the potential impacts to spotted owls.

Second, CALFIRE dropped the ball. It is CALFIRE’s job to evaluate emergency notices and reject any notice which may cause more than a minimal environmental impact. CALFIRE obviously failed at this.

Third, it is unclear whether anyone else was paying attention. It does not appear that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews emergency notices—the Department only recently was able to hire sufficient staff to even review ordinary THPs, let alone emergency notices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged under federal law with the protection of the owl, does not review California timber harvest implementation. EPIC, I freely admit, failed to put the pieces together until too late.

But never again. EPIC is on a mission, spurred by the likely death of KL0283, to reform post-fire logging on private land in California. For more on the environmental impacts of post-fire logging, please visit

Agency Delays May Cook Owl’s Chance at Protection

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

spottedowlhelper_1It is thanksgiving time here in Northwest California, a traditional time for giving, for caring, and for sharing. For the wild creatures that call our forests home, such as the northern spotted owl, it is a time for preparing to endure the long, wet winter. However, as we know, things are much different in the halls of Sacramento government and politics, where the rule of the day seems to be “if you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.”

Such seems to typify the plight of the northern spotted owl in California, a species in precipitous decline with no voice to defend itself against the march of human progress and its disregard for the natural world. For 37 years, EPIC has served as a voice for the voiceless, willing to take the fight to protect our forests and the life that depends upon them to the halls of Sacramento, to the courtrooms, and beyond.

In accordance with our mission to give a voice to the forest, EPIC filed a petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to list the northern spotted owl under the California Endangered Species Act, in September 2012. In California, as with elsewhere in the species’ range, the northern spotted owl is in great peril of extinction as a consequence of human activities that have modified the forests it once knew and widely inhabited. Today, industrial logging practices continue to destroy and degrade habitat for the northern spotted owl on both public and private forestlands, despite over 25 years of federal protections afforded by the federal Endangered Species Act.

CESA protections for the northern spotted owl are warranted and necessary if the species is to continue to persist in the wild. However, after more than three years of advocacy for the owl to be listed under CESA, the listing process has stalled, primarily due to the willful refusal of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a review of the scientific and commercial information to assist the Fish and Game Commission in making a final decision on whether or not the listing is warranted under the law.

CESA calls upon the Department to complete a so-called “status review and report” within one year after a species is designated as a “candidate” for listing to help guide the Commission’s decision-making during the listing process. The status review and report was first due by the Department in December, 2014. The Department missed this deadline. The Commission, at the request of the Department, extended the deadline by six months, to June, 2015. The Department likewise missed this deadline; however, this time the Commission did not authorize additional extensions. EPIC considered suing the Department at this juncture but were dissuaded by the Department’s claims that it was hard at work and a final was forthcoming. This week, EPIC learned that the Department will now also fail to submit its report to the Commission at its upcoming December 2015 meeting, despite assurances that it would do so. Consequently, it appears that the Commission will once again kick the can down the road on deciding whether or not to protect the northern spotted owl.

Behind these seemingly inexplicable delays being perpetrated by the Department, and by extension, the Fish and Game Commission, is the ugly specter of big-money Sacramento politics and timber industry influence to extend the “business as usual” model indefinitely.

Scarcely a month after the Fish and Game Commission adopted findings to ratify its decision that the northern spotted owl may be either “threatened” or “endangered” under California law and afforded it the protections of a “candidate” species, the Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to the Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the agency responsible for approving private lands logging projects, to assure it that no changes in the existing review process or resultant protective measures would be necessary or required to conserve the northern spotted owl during the candidacy period. What’s more, we know that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has held several meetings and workshops with timber industry groups to discuss the northern spotted owl. None of these meetings were publically noticed or publically accessible. Department of Fish and Wildlife Director, Charlton H. Bonham, openly questioned the necessity of the spotted owl listing petition during the course of a formal Commission hearing on the merits of the petition, further betraying a bias on the part of the agency.

As a consequence of the long and unnecessary delay by the Department in producing a status report to guide the Commission’s decision-making, EPIC has been compelled to take more aggressive actions in hopes of expediting the listing process for the critically-imperiled northern spotted owl. On November 24, 2015, EPIC submitted a letter to the Fish and Game Commission detailing the long and sordid history of delay tactics perpetrated by both the Department and the Commission itself, and requested that the Commission simply proceed with a hearing on the merits of our petition in the absence of the Department’s report. EPIC is considering legal alternatives should this administrative appeal fall short.

And so, as you hunker down to partake in the wonderful feast and bounty of the land this thanksgiving, please remember those that are not at the table, but rather sadly, on the menu.


Environmental Groups File Suit to Challenge Implementing Regulations for In-Perpetuity Logging Plans

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Holm_Fay_date2008-02-25_time17.36.52_IMG_9998 copyFor Immediate Release:

Two North Coast environmental groups filed suit in state court on Friday challenging the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection adoption of regulations that fail to meet standards of environmental protection or to ensure long-term sustained yield of forest products for in-perpetuity logging plans as required by state law.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Coast Action Group (CAG) jointly filed suit in in Alameda County on Friday, to challenge the adoption of regulations by the Board of Forestry to implement the mandates of Assembly Bill 904 (Chesbro 2013), which requires, among other things, assurances of unevenaged management, long-term sustained yield of forest products, and environmental protections to be built into the regulatory permitting structure for an in-perpetuity timber harvesting permit, known as a “Working Forest Management Plan.”

Assembly Bill 904 created the framework for the development of a “Working Forest Management Plan” for logging on private land. The “Working Forest Management Plan” offers a landowner with less than 15,000 acres and who qualify for the program a logging permit in perpetuity, in exchange for a commitment to superior forestland management, practicing unevenaged forest management, attaining maximum sustained production and long-term sustained yield of forest products, and providing enhanced environmental protections.

The regulations adopted by the Board of Forestry in June, 2015 to implement the mandates of Assembly Bill 904 fail to contain essential standards or provisions that would ensure attainment of unevenaged management, long-term sustained yield, or environmental protections.

“The regulations enacted by the board simply fail the test of ensuring that the mandates of the legislature to attain unevenaged management and long-term sustained yield and environmental protection are achieved,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate. “To the contrary, the regulations adopted by the board have the real potential to result in significant forestland degradation due to the lack of meaningful built-in safeguards.”

“To put it simply, the Board of Forestry is simply not doing its job,” said Alan Levine, of Coast Action Group. Levine called the “Working Forest Management Plan” regulations, “a planning device that evades the legislative intent of superior management, reasonable environmental standards, and legal requirements.”

EPIC and CAG are asking the State Court to set aside the Board of Forestry’s approval of the “Working Forest Management Plan” regulations, and to remand the regulations back to the Board to make significant improvements that would meet the intent of the enabling legislation to achieve unevenaged management, long-term sustained yield, and environmental protections as part of any approved “Working Forest Management Plan.”

Click here to read the complaint

Click here to read letter from Richard Wilson, the former director of CalFire to the Board of Forestry

Click here to read the second letter from Richard Wilson to the California Governor

Click here to read the press release

The Case for Restoration in the Redwoods

Thursday, November 12th, 2015
Forest Thinning in Headwaters. Photo Credit BLM.2

Forest thinning project in Headwaters. Photo Credit BLM.

California’s coastal redwood forests are the stuff that myth and legend are made of, like a species of dinosaur that has somehow managed to persist into the modern age. At one time, redwood forests grew across the northern hemisphere, with the oldest-known fossil evidence dating back some 200 million years to the Jurassic Period.

Once, the ancient coastal redwood forests spanned some two million acres of California’s scenic and rugged coastline from Big Sur all the way to the Oregon border. And, these were certainly no ordinary forests. The coastal redwood forest encountered by Europeans in the 1850’s contained trees of as much as 300-feet tall, and as much as 25-feet wide.

Few forests in the world have comparable species assemblages, enormous tree sizes, rich and structurally-complex canopies, soil productivity or exceptional biomass, due to the temperate climate, fog, and precipitation which create ideal growing conditions for giant trees, fish, wildlife, and a stunning array of plants, lichens, and fungi. Iconic species such as coho salmon, the marbled murrelet, and the northern spotted owl were once abundant and thrived in the lush and rich old-growth coastal redwood forest ecosystem. These old-growth forests were able to sequester massive amounts of carbon dioxide and naturally regulated water abundance and availability. Time and evolution had created a seemingly-perfect balance in the redwood forest ecosystem.

Today, many still think of the coastal redwood forests as a dark, primeval rainforest, such as those depicted in the likes of Star Wars and Jurassic Park. However, the progress of human activity over the last 150 years has resulted in a reality which is in stark contrast to the idyllic images portrayed in Hollywood.

The “progress” of human activity over the last 150 years has resulted in a landscape that would be unrecognizable to those first European-American settlers. Once, the ancient coastal redwood forests spanned some two million acres of California’s scenic and rugged coastline, from Big Sur all the way to the Oregon border. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, a mere 100 years after the advent of European-American settlement, the once vast and mighty coastal old-growth redwood forest had been reduced to an estimated 10 percent of its original range. By the close of the 20th century, it was estimated that only five percent of the old-growth coastal redwood forest remained. And so it is today.

Compared to the mixed-conifer forests to the east of the redwood belt, very little of the once vast redwood forest has been set aside as public land. According to estimates provided by Save the Redwoods League, approximately 23 percent of the original coastal redwood forest ecosystem land base is publically-held in parks and reserves, with the remaining 77 percent privately-held and managed for various other purposes. In Humboldt County, two timber companies, Humboldt Redwood Company and Green Diamond Resource Company, manage a combined 600,000-acres of industrial forestland, most of which is squarely situated in the historic range of the coast redwoods.

Historic and contemporary industrial logging in the range of the coast redwood forests has left an indelible mark on the condition of these once-pristine forestlands. Even our most precious remaining resources, our redwood parks and reserves, contain large areas where the scars of past logging and land management can be seen and felt. For example, Redwood National Park includes some 38,000-acres of forestland that was clearcut logged from1950 to1978. These second-growth forests are in varying states of disrepair and recovery in the wake of intensive historic forestry operations.

Similarly, some 60 percent of the land base in the 7,500-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve—set aside for its outstanding remaining old-growth redwood forests—was logged in the past and is not actually comprised of pristine old-growth forest. Instead, the majority of the land base in the Headwaters Forest Reserve is actually young, regenerating second-growth forest.

The ecological legacy of historic and contemporary forest management in the redwoods is all too apparent today. For example, following the initial clearcutting of the 1950–1970’s in what is now Redwood National Park, the cutover land was aggressively reseeded and replanted—all too often not with local seed sources. These industrial practices altered the composition of the forest. Because this land was being managed for timber production, what was once old-growth redwoods were often re-seeded with Douglas-fir. Douglas-fir grows faster than redwoods, which is ideal if you are trying to turn a quick profit off the land, but Douglas-fir’s rapid early growth means that it often outcompetes redwoods in their early stages of development. In what is now the Headwaters Forest Reserve, re-planting was aggressively pursued after industrial logging operations, with Douglas-fir trees outcompeting redwoods in the young, newly-regenerating stands.

The results of the previous logging and regeneration activities in Redwood National Park, the Headwaters Forest Reserve, and on privately-managed industrial timberlands in the region are forest conditions which are unhealthy and unnatural. While the timing, and methods of logging and regeneration have varied over time, regenerating coastal redwood stands in Redwood National Park, the Headwaters Forest Reserve, and even on privately-managed timberlands in the region bare several characteristics in common.

thinning pic_pre2. Photo Credit BLM

Pre-thinning in Headwaters Forest Reserve. Photo Credit BLM.

Firstly, aggressive replanting activities have resulted in the establishment of an overly-dense forest with far too many trees-per-acre when compared to natural conditions. For example, in the Headwaters Forest Reserve, old-growth redwood forest contain between 69–78 trees-per-acre. By sharp contrast, previously-harvested regenerating stands in Redwood National Park have a density of 1,000 to even 3,000 trees-per-acre. These stands are structurally homogenous—all are approximately the same age and height. Unlike an old-growth forest, with breaks and variations in canopy cover which allows light to filter to berry bushes and other undergrowth, these regenerating stands are so densely packed with underperforming trees that very little light reaches the understory or the forest floor, thus further simplifying the forest. On industrially-managed forestlands in the range of the coast redwood, regenerating young plantations are often commercially thinned within the first 20 years after reestablishment in order to reduce stand densities and provide for less competition and more availability of light and growing space for residual trees, a process commonly referred to as “release.” However, the absence of such management in recovering forest stands has resulted in unhealthy forest stand conditions because far too many trees are regenerating at the same time.

Secondly, many regenerating stands in the range of the coast redwood forest are now out-of-balance in terms of tree species and their dominance. Forest species composition was significantly skewed towards faster-growing Douglas-fir post-logging, resulting in a diminishment of redwood trees. In the Headwaters Forest Reserve, for example, redwood dominates the stand component structure when compared to Douglas-fir in old-growth stands by a large proportion. In regenerating stands, by contrast, Douglas-fir makes up as much as 61 percent of trees, even post-restorative thinning.

Finally, these plantations may exhibit fire patterns unnatural for redwood forests. The excessive number of small, underperforming trees act as ladder fuels, allowing fire to spread from creeping surface fires to more severe crown fires. Because of the forest’s structural homogeneity, once fire reaches the canopy it can easily jump from tree top to tree top causing a stand replacing fire and setting the regenerating forest back to zero much like a clearcut. Old-growth redwood forests, by stark contrast, are much more fire-resistant due to large tree size with tight wood grain and thick bark, and sufficient spacing between trees to discourage crown fires from jumping from tree to tree.

Restorative forest management is ongoing in Redwood National Park, in Del Norte Redwoods State Park, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and in the Headwaters Forest Reserve. Restorative forest management activities are a far cry from the intensive, industrial-scale logging to which we have mostly become accustomed.

thinning pic_post2 Photo Credit BLM

Post-thinning in Headwaters Forest Reserve. Photo Credit BLM.

Restorative thinning was mandated for cut-over lands in Redwood National Park in 1978 when Congress, as part of the Redwood National Park expansion legislation, mandated that “a program for the rehabilitation of areas within and upstream from the park contributing significant sedimentation because of past logging disturbances and road conditions” be developed in light of the damage caused by ongoing logging operations within the Redwood Creek watershed that threatened to degrade park values and resources. In Headwaters Forest Reserve, restorative forest management has focused on thinning out smaller trees (less than 12” diameter at breast height), and has focused on the removal of Douglas-fir in an attempt to restore species balance. Importantly, other forest restoration activities, such as removal or remediation of poorly constructed roads, go hand-in-hand with restorative thinning activities as part of a holistic program of watershed restoration.

The long-term benefit of restorative forest management in the redwood region is that it can be tailored and implemented to re-grow lost old-growth forest stand conditions. Improving stocking levels, tree-spacing, species balance, stand structure and complexity, and understory vegetation development can all be accomplished through restorative forest management, and can, in turn, accelerate the recovery of the forest to more natural, pre-logging conditions.

Given that only five percent of our pristine old-growth forests remain in the redwood region, it is imperative to have a vision to protect what’s left and to restore the rest. This is a monumental undertaking that will require cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. And, the stakes could not possibly be higher—in an era where we face unprecedented drought and other effects of a changing climate, and with mass species extinction on a global scale, our coastal redwood forests represent a vestige of hope for the future of our planet and all the life that depends upon it.

November 10, 2015 – EPIC’s Rob DiPerna discusses restoration forestry in the Redwood Region. Rob interviewed Jason Teraoka, Forster for Redwood National Park, Ben Bloom, BLM Manager for the Headwaters Reserve, and Lathrop Leonard, Forester for California State Parks, who manages restoration forestry activities in the Mill Creek Addition in Del Norte, and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Thank You for a Fabulous EPIC Fall Celebration

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

EPIC's Fall Celebration 2015The staff and board of the Environmental Protection Information Center would like to thank all of the attendees, businesses, sponsors and artists who helped make this year’s Fall Celebration a fun and successful event. Each year we look forward to this event that resembles a family reunion for those of us who are the heart and soul of the environmental movement of the Pacific Northwest. The legacy that the EPIC family has made lives on through generations of grassroots activists and continues with the vibrant new energy of those who seek our efforts out to help keep our little corner of California the special place that we all know and love. Attendees included past and current staff, board, volunteers, colleagues, sempervirens award winners, and fresh new faces that are eager to participate in the contemporary environmental movement.

FullSizeRender (1)Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement for Environmental Activism Award Winner Betty Ball

We were honored that Betty Ball was able to travel all the way out from Colorado to accept EPIC’s 2015 Sempervirens Award for her grass roots activism efforts that helped secure protections for the famed Headwaters forest during the redwood summer era. It was a pleasure to hear her speak about the historical events that helped to shape our region and its environmental movement. Betty Ball gave an incredible acceptance speech that we are delighted to share with you.

Gisele Albertine

Volunteer of the Year

It was with great pleasure to recognize Gisèle Albertine for her ongoing dedication to environmental protection through he volunteer work with EPIC throughout the past year. Gisèle graciously tackles just about every task we ask of her with a positive outlook and always keeps us laughing. Gisèle is an amazing woman and we are so lucky to have her as part of the EPIC family!

We are grateful to chef Leni Heil and her crew at Outlaw Kitchen for preparing the gourmet family style meal that we were able to share while we dined and laughed with our colleagues, friends and the EPC family.

We appreciate the contributions from the sponsors below that helped to make our event one of the most successful ever!

Thank you!

Business SponsorsFinal

An Ordinance for Humboldt County’s Medical Cannabis Cultivators

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

frog on marijuanaTwo comment letters submitted to the Humboldt County Planning Commission responding to the proposed Humboldt County Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis for Medical Use Land Use Regulation. The first letter is a coalition letter from EPIC, NEC, SAFE and Humboldt Baykeeper; the second letter is from EPIC only.

October 30, 2015

Dear Planning Commissioners,

This letter is on behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Humboldt Baykeeper, Northcoast Environmental Center, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment.

We wish to thank the Board, staff, and the Planning Commission for their attention to this matter. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the development of the county’s commercial cannabis and use ordinance and believe the open inclusion of multiple voices will ultimately result in an ordinance that will result in higher industry participation and ultimately yield greater conservation success.

Based on our review of the existing regulatory landscape, including the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board waiver, new statewide legislation and signing statements, Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations, and current Humboldt County land use regulations, we do not believe the current regulatory regime is sufficient to adequately ensure environmental resources are protected. In developing a land use ordinance, we urge the county to consider the following recommendations:

Place a Cap on Total Number of Operations: We suggest a total cap of operations within the county. We suggest after five years, the county could revisit if and where it could allow new cultivation areas. By limiting the total number of operations, we believe it will provide encouragement for existing operations to come into compliance and will limit the number of legal operations within the county.

Require Water Storage Between May 15 through November 12: Water diversions associated with cannabis production are one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the county. The county’s first draft ordinance proposed a forbearance period from March 1 to October 30. A forbearance period more likely to protect water quality resources should extend from May 15 to November 12.

Discourage “Generator Grows”: Off the grid generator use associated with “mixed light” operations are of great concern. Generators used to power artificial lights produce localized noise, land air pollution—a significant nuisance to neighbors and wildlife—as many off-the grid operations are within the wildland urban interface, and improper fuel storage and/or fuel spills are a threat to water quality. Because of the significant concerns related to so-called “generator grows,” we urge the Board and the Planning Commission to require mixed-light operations be properly contained, connected to the municipal power grid and/or have proof of an adequate supply of alternative energy

No New Cultivation in TPZ: We do not support the further conversion of working forests for commercial agriculture because it threatens our vision of creating a well connected and restored forest ecosystem. That said, we understand that many cannabis cultivators are already on TPZ land. A cursory GIS exercise conducted by our organizations estimates that around 25 percent of cannabis farms are on TPZ land. A successful ordinance should be to bring as many cultivators, including those cultivating on Timber Production Zone (TPZ), who are willing to take immediate action to ensure baseline environmental standards are met into compliance with all applicable laws and stop the further proliferation of cannabis operations on TPZ land by prohibiting new operations.

Discourage and limit Indoor Operations: We are generally opposed to indoor cannabis operations because of the high associated carbon costs. We believe the future of Humboldt’s cannabis economy should be based on sun-grown cannabis. However, given the importance of indoor operations for the cultivation of certain types of medical cannabis, we understand that a full ban on indoor operations is undesirable and that a full ban would likely go ignored, pushing otherwise responsible cultivators to the black market. As a reasonable compromise, we suggest the following responsible additional regulations designed to minimize impacts from indoor operations.

The county ordinance should restrict indoor operations to areas zoned commercial or industrial. By limiting indoor to these areas, we can ensure that prime agricultural land will not be converted to other uses.

The county should require all indoor operations be connected to the municipal power grid and to a municipal water supply with adequate surplus water to support indoor operations. By requiring connection to the grid, the county can limit impacts associated with generators and by requiring connection to a municipal water supply with adequate surplus water, the county can ensure that communities, such as Redway, who already struggle to supply adequate domestic water to their residents, will not add additional users it cannot support.

Lastly, the county should limit the total size of indoor operations to 10,000 sq. ft. in order to reduce carbon impacts associated with individual farms and to promote a small-scale, diversified cannabis industry for the region.

Discourage Water Trucking: Non-potable bulk water delivery has been identified as a major environmental concern. Water trucks increase sedimentation through heavy use and disturbance of dirt roads, contribute to greenhouse gas and other air pollution, and pose a danger to residents traveling on rural roads. A standard trip between Fortuna, the closest location to Southern Humboldt where non-potable bulk water can be purchased for individuals outside of a municipal water district, and Sproul Creek near Garberville, would emit approximately 240 pounds of carbon dioxide for the 70 mile trip. Non-potable water delivery has also been tied in several instances to illegal water diversions as trucks fill directly from streams or fire hydrants under the cover of night. The ease of water delivery also disincentives water storage and proper planning. The county should not allow water deliveries as part of demonstration of proper planning for adequate water storage.

Ensure Adequate Funding: The regulation of cannabis is dependent on adequate funding of inspection and enforcement. While we understand the desire to complete a land use ordinance first to meet the state March 1, 2016 deadline, we urge the county to diligently pursue a separate funding measure so it may be included on the June 2016 ballot for voter approval.

These recommendations reflect the joint policy recommendations of our organizations. Additional and more specific policy recommendations may also be made by our organizations in their individual capacity.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We look forward to cannabis farmers being able to come into the regulatory light, legitimizing the craft and custom of North Coast farmers and improving environmental conditions for all.

Should you have any questions or comments, Natalynne DeLapp of EPIC can act as a point person to communicate with the larger group. She may be reached at (707) 822-7711 or


Natalynne DeLapp

Executive Director, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)

Jen Kalt

Executive Director, Humboldt Baykeeper

Larry Glass

Board President, Northcoast Environmental Center, Executive Director, Safe Alternatives for Our Forest Environment

October 30, 2015

Board of Supervisors’ Chambers
Humboldt County Courthouse
825 5th St.
Eureka CA, 95501

Dear Planning Commissioners,

EPIC appreciates the opportunity to comment. Based on our review of the first draft commercial cannabis land use ordinance, we have the following thoughts and recommendations. These are in addition to and complimentary to those presented the joint recommendations presented by EPIC, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Baykeeper, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment. Because county staff is developing an additional alternative or alternatives, most of these comments are not directed towards the particular language of the first draft. Instead, these comments are broadly directed towards what we believe would be included in a successful land use ordinance.

Public Nuisance as an Enforcement Tool:

Public nuisance is an enforcement tool. EPIC appreciates the inclusion of public nuisance as an enforcement tool in the first draft and encourages its inclusion in subsequent drafts. The inclusion of public nuisance as an enforcement tool will allow the county to clean up problem areas swiftly without shifting costs to taxpayers.

Incorporate Elements of the Water Board Waiver:

We believe the County’s ordinance could strengthen water quality protections by requiring cultivators that fall within Tier 1 (operations between 500 and 5,000 square feet of cultivation area, on a less than 35% slope and not within 200’ of a waterway) to produce a plan similar to a Water Resource Protection Plan as defined in Section I.B. #4, 6 & 8 of the Water Board Waiver (Order No. 2015-0023). These elements would serve to improve water quality while imposing little burden on operators.

These elements, and their potential benefit, are described below:

Detailed list of Specific Management Conditions Designed to Meet Standard Conditions: The Water Board waiver contains a list of conditions that all sites must meet. However, only Tier 2 and 3 sites need to develop a plan on how to meet these conditions. We believe it is important that all sites consider how thy will meet these conditions. As with the water use plan, we believe that this “look before you leap” strategy will improve water quality conditions by requiring farmers to consider how they will address erosion control, stream crossings, riparian protection, road construction, spoils storage and disposal, chemical handling and management, waste disposal, irrigation runoff, and water storage and use.

Maintain List of Chemicals on Property: The NCRWQCB waiver does not require Tier 1 operations to maintain a list of chemicals kept on property and a record of their use, as it does for Tiers 2 and 3. All operations larger than 500 feet should be required to maintain such a document. We believe this will reduce pesticide usage on non-cannabis crops/property and reduce risk of cross-contamination of cannabis associated with pesticide drift.

Water Use Plan and Documentation: We believe that a water use plan and documentation is critically important for all operations greater than 500 sq. ft. for multiple reasons. A water use plan requires farmers to “look before they leap.” Pursuant to the Water Board waiver, a water use plan requires cultivators to “describe water conservation measures and document approach to ensure that the quantity and timing of water use.” In doing so, farmers will be able to more realistically predict their anticipated water needs and to plan for conservation measures at the outset. We believe that the inclusion of such planning requirements will result in better watershed conditions and a reduced likelihood of water diversions to supplement or “top off” stored water. Similarly, water use plan would discourage use of expensive and environmentally-costly trucked water by encouraging greater foresight into water sources, application rates, and amount stored. Water use plans would also provide better information on the amount of water actually used in cannabis cultivation on the North Coast and the sources for this water. Per the Water Board waiver, a water use plan “shall record water source, relevant water right documentation, and amount used monthly,” including “alternative sources such as rain catchment and groundwater, and/or hauled water.” With increased information, the county may be able to revise the ordinance in the future to better fit actual conditions on the ground.

Regulations and Stringency of Review Should Correspond with Relative Risks to the Environment:

The stringency of site-specific review—whether conditional use permit, special conditional permit, or zoning clearance certificate—should correspond to the relative risk of the operation. While numerous metrics may influence a farm’s potential risk, the clearest and easiest metric on which to base review of individual operations is based on cultivated areas, the perimeter around disturbed ground. As stated by the Water Board, “Size of cultivation areas is a relevant indicator of threat to water quality because level of threat is proportional to the area of disturbed or exposed soil, the amount of water used, the potential for storm water runoff, and the potential for groundwater impacts.” (Response to Public Comments at 13). It is unclear whether the initial county draft bases its site categories on cultivated area or canopy size. We urge the county to clearly define cultivated area to be consistent with the Water Board waiver: “Cultivation area: the sum of the area(s) of cannabis cultivation and/or operations with similar environmental effects as measured around the perimeter of each discrete cultivation area of a single parcel of land.” (Waiver at 6, n. 9)

We suggested the following tier structure for “Outdoor” and “Mixed Light” cultivation:

Cultivated Area Permit Type
500–5,000 sq. ft. Zoning Clearance Certificate
5,000–10,000 sq. ft. Conditional Special Permit
10,000+ Conditional Use Permit


We advocate for a graduated system of site-specific review based on the relative risks. This serves two critical purposes.

First, it allows emphasis of greater site-specific attention to operations with greater risk potential. It allows limited staff resources—particularly given the lack of a funding mechanism—be directed more towards operations with greater potential risk. Additionally, it preserves for the Planning Commission review over operations with the greatest risk, those over 10,000 sq. ft., while still allowing site-specific review by the Planning Commission for operations between 5,001-10,000 sq. ft. if staff or neighbors feel that such additional site-specific scrutiny is warranted.

Second, it promotes smaller operations. In our discussions with CCVH, other cannabis advocacy groups, and individual farmers, they have expressed that there is a strong view within the cannabis community that conditional use permits are overly-burdensome. We suggest that requiring a conditional use permit may be an incentive for cultivators to either reduce their operations below 10,000 sq. ft. or to not expand their operations above 10,000 sq. ft.

The current county draft does not provide any incentive for smaller operations. Under the draft county ordinance, a person growing cannabis on 2,001 sq. ft. and a person growing on 43,560 sq. ft. would both need a conditional use permit. If a cultivator would need to go through the hassle and public affair of a conditional use permit, what incentive is there to stay small?

Cannabis Processing Plan

In addition to these size requirements, more stringent review should be given for facilities that process large amounts of cannabis—so-called “trim scenes.” Cannabis processing requires large numbers of workers and the work, unlike outdoor cultivation, stretches into late fall to winter. The increased number of workers and the prolonged season invites greater potential environmental risks not mitigated by the Water Board waiver. Large numbers of workers require sanitation facilities connected to an adequate septic system or sewer system to avoid issues of sewage seepage into groundwater and surface water. Additionally, large numbers of workers can impact sedimentation by the prolonged heavy use of dirt roads, often into the wet weather season.

For all operations larger than 5,001 sq. ft., the amount a “mom and pop” farm can reasonably process without significant hired help, the county should require as a condition a “cannabis processing plan.” This plan would either detail where off-site the farm will take its cannabis to be processed or, if processing on-site, will show that it has adequate facilities (hand washing stations, restrooms connected to adequate septic systems or sewer lines, ventilation and heating) to support workers in a safe environment while not otherwise contributing to environmental risks. .

Discourage Cultivation on Timber Production Zone:

As EPIC wrote in an op-ed in the Eureka Times-Standard:

Forests are important to California. Not only do they provide us humans with jobs, wood products, and recreation, they also provide important habitat for California’s rare and native species, like the Humboldt marten and the northern spotted owl; fight climate change by sequestering carbon; and help to supply clean, cool water. But our forests are at risk. Increased forest fragmentation — the breaking of large intact tracts of forests into smaller clumps — is driven by the desire to make way for new residences or commercial ventures by clearing forest land. And further fragmentation poses a serious threat to the values our forests provide.

To promote the conservation of California’s forested landscape, in 1976 the state ordered counties to identify forestlands where timber management is the “highest and best use of the land” and categorize them as Timber Production Zones or TPZ. By law, use of TPZ land is restricted to timber harvesting and other “compatible uses” — those activities, as defined county-by-county, that do not “detract from the use of the property for, or inhibit, growing and harvesting timber.” In exchange for limiting the uses of TPZ land, and knowing that sustainable timber management is not a “get rich quick” scheme, the state offers TPZ landowners significant breaks on property taxes.

While EPIC is opposed to commercial cannabis production on TPZ, we believe to a large degree that the cat is out of the bag. It exists now and in large numbers. EPIC estimates that approximately 25 percent of cannabis farms in Humboldt County are on TPZ. We do not believe it is likely that banning these operations would actually cause them to leave. (Despite being federally illegal, against state law, and in violation of county zoning codes, many farms have existed on TPZ for decades.) Rather, for existing operations, it is more important to bring them into the regulatory fold. We believe that many operations on TPZ will voluntarily participate in regulatory programs, such as the Water Board waiver, and in doing so, many of the impacts associated with these operations will be minimized or mitigated.

As such, we believe that existing operations on TPZ should be allowed to participate under the same Standard Conditions of Approval as all other specifically enumerated zones in which general agriculture is permitted. New operations, by contrast, should be prohibited on TPZ.

Large Operations Should Be Located on AG Use Districts

EPIC supports the first draft’s requirement that all operations larger than 10,000 sq. ft. be located on “parcels over 5 acres in AG Use districts with Class I or II soils, on slopes of 15% or less, and with documented current water right or other non-diversionary source of water.” These lands are the most appropriate for commercial agriculture and will present the lowest risk for large operations.

Cannabis Land Use Ordinance Should Not Be Used as Vehicle for Other Code Enforcement:

The first draft cannabis land use ordinance requires that “violations of any building or other healthy, safety, or other state or county state, ordinance, or regulation” by abated or cured no later than “one (1) year after the date of the issuance of the clearance or permit.” (§ 55.4.11). We believe that it is inappropriate to use this clearance/permit program to enforce other code issues. While EPIC believes that code enforcement is important and serves environmental values, we are concerned that the inclusion of this provision would discourage participation in this ordinance and other regulations, such as the Water Board waiver. EPIC believes that maximum participation is important to minimize environmental impacts; unnecessary obstacles which keep farmers in the shadows will only cause further environmental harm.

* * *

EPIC is deeply committed to finding solutions that will meaningfully improve environmental conditions by fostering voluntary participation and compliance by the cannabis community. Should you have any questions, please contact me at (707) 822-7711 or

Natalynne DeLapp

Executive Director

Additional comment letters:

Click here to read EPIC’s comment letter to California Cannabis Voice Humboldt on July 30, 2015.

Click here to read the Environmental Coalition’s comment letter to California Cannabis Voice Humboldt September 2, 2015.

Click here to read, “Existing North Coast Cultivators Come Into Compliance” September 29, 2015. 

Honoring Betty & Gary Ball–the 2015 Sempervirens Award Recipients

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Betty and Gary Ball

Betty Ball and her late husband, Gary Ball, will receive the 2015 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award at EPIC’s 38th Annual Fall Celebration on Friday, November 6th. Betty and Gary are the founders of the Mendocino Environmental Center, which became the hub for environmental and political activism in Mendocino and Humboldt County for more then a decade between 1987 and 1997. The issues in those years included abuse of forests on private lands, the Forests Forever ballot initiative, Redwood Summer and the campaign to protect the Headwaters Forest. Betty, the consummate networker and organizer was indispensable to the efforts to protect the environment of northern California.

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Sinkiyone Coast

Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Betty and Gary came to the Sinkyone Coast in 1986 to visit friends and fell in love with region. Upon learning that the timber company, Georgia-Pacific, was in pursuit of logging coastal ancient redwoods in the Sinkyone area, they were spurred into action.

Having long had fantasies about starting an environmental center where people could come together, work and cooperatively share resources, when Betty and Gary relocated to Ukiah in 1987, they were able to open the Mendocino Environmental Center (MEC) with little more than a $20 donation, a store front office and a phone line.

Very quickly the MEC became the central network for activism, with Betty becoming the connector between the local and regional groups. Working with and bringing together activists such as Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, Betty and Gary showed the way to organize the community. It was those connections—that were instrumental in building the movement to protect the natural communities of northern California.


Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney

Gary Ball and Judi Bari used to collaborate on articles; one about the economic and environmental implications of militarism was called “Ground Beef to Ground War,” which connected military intervention and destroying El Salvadoran forests to the fast food industry. To spread awareness of the issue, activists marched through Ukiah with paper mache animal heads, singing songs and drumming. “The protest was all over the Ukiah Daily Journal,” said Betty. “It was probably the most outlandish thing that Ukiah had ever seen.”

Another early campaign that stands out for Betty was the effort to protect Trout Creek. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) had a logging plan to log Trout Creek in the Potter Valley area outside of Ukiah. “Activists developed a brilliant and highly effective strategy—they created postcards and distributed them liberally to people up and down the coast. Those postcards were sent to PG&E telling them that everyone was going to withhold money from each bill until the company agreed not to log Trout Creek,” said Betty. “PG&E was flooded with postcards and that led the utility company to being amenable to negotiations—and because of those efforts, Trout Creek is standing today.”

68 Owl Creek Thron

Owl Creek, Headwaters Forest, Humboldt County

By the late 1980s Maxaam’s Pacific Lumber’s efforts to liquidate log one of the largest remaining tracts of old-growth redwood was in full swing in Humboldt County. Activists all across the state were working to bring attention to the issue. Groups such as EPIC were filing lawsuits, there was direct action, and organized protests coming out of the MEC. In 1989 the Mendocino Environmental Center, EPIC and other grassroots organizations decided to explore the California ballot initiative process as a means to protect private forests, specifically Headwaters. To pursue this, activists formed a new organization called Forests Forever and began crafting a ballot initiative of the same name. “Proposition 130, would have been the strictest forestry regulations anywhere. It would have restricted logging along stream beds, mandated canopy cover and no old growth logging at all, said Betty Ball. “The timber companies were going nuts about it. They knew what it would mean in terms of their ability to reap their fortunes—so they upped their harvesting.”

Tensions between environmentalists and loggers were reaching a climax. Betty and Gary Ball organized meetings between loggers, middle management and environmentalists to try to calm down the tensions. “Gary and Betty were incredible Peace-Makers, said Naomi Wagner. “They mediated many stressful situations that helped deescalate conflicts.”

Simultaneously, the organizing for Redwood Summer was underway. Modeled after Mississippi Summer, Redwood Summer was a statewide and nation wide effort to draw attention to Headwaters. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, with the support of the MEC, traveled to colleges and universities to spread information and get people involved. The MEC helped established “base camps” so that people had places to stay, food to eat and would be able to plug into actions.

On May 24, 1990, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland, California when a pipe bomb exploded directly under Bari’s driver side seat.

“Darryl was only slightly injured, but Judi was impaled and had to be removed with the Jaws of Life,” said Betty. “I received the call at the MEC, but didn’t believe it because there had been so many other pranks and threats that I didn’t believe the story. I thought, this had to be a hoax, but it wasn’t a hoax. Both Judi and Darryl were arrested for bombing themselves.”

“After the bombing happened it made some of the loggers wonder, said Betty. “We had to convince people that Judi and Darryl weren’t the perpetrators, but instead the victims.”


Headwaters Rally

“It was horrible not to have Judi present, but Redwood Summer still happened. The tragedy caused the movement to grow bigger. People were so incensed by what happened that it galvanized the movement. People stood in solidarity with Judi and Darryl, said Betty. “The charges were never dropped, but eventually, the FBI and Oakland Police Department was forced to pay $4 million in a civil and constitutional lawsuit. The FBI and Oakland Police Department were found guilty of violating Judi and Darryl’s civil rights, which helped preserve the rights of activists everywhere.”

Meanwhile…“The Timber Industry used the bombing as a media tool to say, ‘This proposition is brought forward by Earth First!’ said Betty. “In November 1990, Proposition 130 narrowly lost after garnering 48.5% of the vote.”

As an organizing hub, the Mendocino Environmental Center used educational outreach, litigation, legislation and direct action to accomplish its goals. It is because of Betty and Gary’s efforts that northern California has a strong culture of activism and protected forests. Because of their lifetime of work, it is the pleasure of the Environmental Protection Information Center to present the 2015 Sempervirens Award to Betty and Gary Ball of the Mendocino Environmental Center.

“Without Betty and Gary we would not have saved Headwaters Forest, thanks to the MEC and its incredible networking,” said Naomi Wagner.

EPIC Fall Celebration Featuring Monophonics

Thursday, October 29th, 2015


EPIC Fall Celebration SMYou are cordially invited to the Environmental Protection Information Center’s 38th Annual Fall Celebration with Monophonics! We are celebrating 38 years of EPIC’s important forest protection work on the North Coast that has helped to preserve some of the largest intact wildest places in the nation.

Monophonics2This year, EPIC proudly presents the Bay Area’s finest psychedelic soul funk band “Monophonics” at the Mateel Community Center on Friday, November 6th featuring a locally sourced, gourmet family-style meal catered by local favorite, Outlaw Kitchen. Doors open at 6:00 PM with a full bar featuring beer, wine and specialty cocktails.

Josephine JohnsonDine with friends while singer songwriter Josephine Johnson plays her sultry folk tunes with Piet Dalmolen. Josephine writes and sings music from the heart–think Norah Jones, Stevie Nicks, and Janis Joplin meeting up for an afternoon nip of Southern Comfort. Piet is a guitar heavy on the Humboldt scene, most notably in The Nucleus, Free Rain, Money, and Full Moon Fever. Together they deliver a dynamic punch of soulful rock.

Gary and Betty BallDuring dessert, the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award of Environmental Activism will be presented to Betty and Gary Ball, co-founders of the Mendocino Environmental Center. Betty Ball, the consummate networker, was integral to the California Forests Forever ballot initiative, Redwood Summer and the campaign to protect the Headwaters Forest.

An elaborate auction featuring locally hand-crafted art and wares will be a great place for picking up holiday gifts for friends and family. Fall Celebration tickets are available at Wildberries Marketplace, Redway Liquors, and online at All-inclusive dinner and music tickets are $60 (seating is limited) and music only is $20. Doors open at 6pm and Monophonics begins at 9. For more information, visit or call 822-7711.

We couldn’t do our work without people like you, and this event is a great way for us to commemorate nearly four decades of grassroots support. We hope you will join us on this special occasion to party for a purpose: “For the wild!”

buy tickets


6:15 PM – Cocktail hour begins

7:00 PM – Gourmet dinner served by Outlaw Kitchen

8:00 PM – Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement and Volunteer of the Year Awards Ceremony takes place

9:00 PM – Bay Area psychedelic soul funk band Monophonics will take the stage


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Click Here to visit the Brown Paper Tickets event page.

Monophonics Logo - Orange & Clear


Monophonics is “One of the best live soul bands I have ever seen!”  Al Bell (Record producer, songwriter, executive, and co-owner of legendary Stax Records)

Raised amid the rich musical culture and history of the San Francisco Bay Area, Monophonics proudly carry the torch through the generations into today’s musical landscape. Holding on to tradition, but by no means purists of any kind, they play their own brand of music known as “Psychedelic Soul.”

Touching on Northern soul, doowop, rock and roll, Psych pop, and cinematic music, Monophonics show off their diversity while remaining true to their roots. Overall it’s heartfelt music and old school vibes, without losing sight of the present. This is music steeped in that timeless feeling when people could write and produce songs that you could listen to over and over again.

Help us get the word out!

Join and Share the Event on Facebook :)


We are seeking volunteers for setup, kitchen and cleanup, if you are interested in volunteering, please email or call 707-822-7711.


Push for More Logging Under the Northwest Forest Plan

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Bugaboo_Creek_Clearcut. wikimediacommonsOur federal forests, including those governed by the Northwest Forest Plan, are directed to be managed for “multiple uses,” such as recreation, wildlife habitat, and timber production.

In the late 1980s, before the Northwest Forest Plan, loggers were pulling 4.5 billion board feet of timber out of federal forests within the range of the forthcoming Plan. This amount was unsustainable, however, and was achieved largely through the liquidation logging of old-growth forests. The Northwest Forest Plan, adopted by the Clinton Administration in 1994, was largely a response to this excess and the ecological harm it inflicted on protected species like the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted, the Forest Service predicted that around one billion board feet of timber could be removed per year under the Plan. This amount, known as the “probable sale quantity” or PSQ, was merely an estimate; it was not a maximum amount which could be removed, nor was it a minimum that must be met, nor was it even a goal of the Plan. Many noted, including Jack Ward Thomas, the future Chief of the Forest Service, that because of the measures to protect wildlife, this billion board foot PSQ was overly ambitious and would not likely be met. (Indeed, the current PSQ was reduced to a 805 million board feet.) Some viewed the PSQ estimate as a political maneuvering—a deliberately ambitious number set to appease the timber industry. The timber industry, however, viewed the PSQ as a promise.

The annual PSQ estimates have rarely been met. There are a variety of causes. First, Congress has not appropriated enough money to the Service to plan projects that could meet the PSQ. Second, as Jack Ward Thomas predicted, the billion board foot PSQ was likely an overestimate. Third, attempts by Big Timber to weaken or remove habitat protect—which were, as confirmed by the judiciary, illegal—stalled normal timber operations resulting in several years of way-below average logging. Fourth, market forces, including the Great Recession and stagnant timber prices, removed demand for federal timber. Fifth, weird math by the Forest Service—for example, that timber removed from the reserve network doesn’t count towards the PSQ—also contributes to low official numbers. Despite all this, the timber industry continues to view the PSQ as a promise.

Big Timber is on the offensive. In the upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revision, the timber industry wants to remove important protective land designations and buffers around salmon bearing streams to open up more land for harvesting. This, they claim, is necessary to fulfill the billion board foot “promise.” They have some powerful friends in Washington D.C. too. In upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions, the conversation is already being framed by decision-makers that weakening the Plan is a necessity. That’s wrong. The Plan is just barely enough. The northern spotted owl continues to decline. Murrelets are nearly extirpated from Washington State. Instead of gutting the Northwest Forest Plan, the conversation must turn to what more must we do to ensure to protect our public lands. EPIC has joined forces with conservation groups across the West Coast to fight off Big Timber and their allies in the upcoming revisions.

CAL FIRE Botches Green Diamond THP Approval

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

If a timber harvesting permit is approved illegally, and no one is watching, does the landowner still get to log the plan? Apparently the answer, incredulously, is yes, at least if it is Green Diamond Resource Company.

Green Diamond Timber Harvest Plan 1-15-066DEL, in the Turwar Creek watershed in Del Norte County, was approved by CAL FIRE in August, 2015, and is currently under operations, despite the lack of legally-required consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife over potentially significant impacts to federally-threatened and state-endangered marbled murrelets.

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that has made its nests and reared its young on the mossy branches of old-growth trees along the Pacific Northwest coast for millennia. However, loss of old-growth forests to logging, combined with other ocean-related stressors, has reduced murrelet populations to the brink of oblivion throughout most of the species’ historic range. Murrelets are sensitive to human-induced noise, particularly noise from road use and infrastructural development relating to logging operations.

The Green Diamond THP involves use of a mainline logging road that traverses within 300 feet a known-occupied marbled murrelet nesting stand. The THP contains provisions to allow Green Diamond to conduct operations on the road within the vicinity of the occupied murrelet habitat during the species’ critical nesting season without approved consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State forest practice regulations require that private landowners seek formal consultation with the CDFW if proposed THP operations may have a significant impact on or may potentially result in “take” of the listed forest-nesting seabird. However, CAL FIRE inexplicably approved the THP back in August, 2015, absent the required-consultation with CDFW for concurrence with the proposals contained in the THP.

According to CAL FIRE records, Green Diamond filed for start-up, and commenced logging on the THP shortly after the plan was approved in August, 2015, squarely in the middle of the defined-nesting season for the marbled murrelet.

Quite amazingly, there is no nexus in the forest practice laws or regulations that would allow CAL FIRE to rescind its approval of the THP, or to call a halt to ongoing timber operations in the absence of citizen-initiated legal action, aside from the commencement of a department-initiated administrative complaint process.

How could this happen? Quite simply, no one was paying attention. And, what can be done now? Apparently, short of federal or state ESA litigation, not much. State laws and regulations restrict citizen’s challenges to the approval of timber harvesting permits by CAL FIRE to a 30-day window following the approval; which means that all of this seems to have slipped through cracks.

EPIC will continue to evaluate potential options for redressing this egregious situation.

EPIC in Review

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Trinidad. Photo by Amber SheltonAt EPIC we work countless hours collaborating with citizens, advocacy groups, agencies and politicians, but the bulk of our work is not always obvious to our readers. We have compiled a long list of letters and comments that address contemporary issues facing our region, state and nation. Our staff has been very busy speaking up for our forests, rivers and wildlife. Below are examples of some of the collaborative and individual work we have done in the past few months, to help make our world a better place for generations to come.

FINAL FY16 Omnibus Letter – Letter to congress emphasizing the importance of restoring funding for environmental programs and avoiding environmentally damaging policy riders in the FY16 Appropriations bills.

Kangaroo letter – EPIC joins wildlife organizations in writing a letter to the California Senate and Assembly leaders to urge them in letting the exemption on California’s kangaroo trade ban expire. If the legislature does nothing, California’s long-standing prohibition on trade in kangaroo parts will be reinstated. This would allow California to stop its contribution to the world’s largest land-based commercial slaughter of wildlife. Three million adult kangaroos and hundreds of thousands of joeys are ruthlessly killed every year, threatening the species’ long-term viability.

HR 974 – Organization letter 10 8 15 – EPIC joined other conservation groups in writing a letter to US Representatives to urge them to keep Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks’ rivers and streams protected and oppose Rep. Lummis’ proposed amendment to H.R. 974 and the underlying bill. The bill, as written, would lift existing protections and regulations on hand-propelled vessels in most of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and may effect up to 6,500 miles of backcountry streams and rivers.

FY16 environmental group letter 7 20 15 – Letter sent to Obama and congress to emphasize the importance of restoring funding for environmental programs and avoiding environmentally damaging policy riders in the FY16 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bills

FY16 Omnibus Letter – Letter to congress emphasizing the importance of restoring funding for environmental programs and avoiding environmentally damaging policy riders in the FY16 Appropriations bills.

Letter of support for the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act– Letter supporting the Refuge from Cruel Trapping Act (S. 1081), sponsored by Senator Cory Booker, to prohibit the use of body-gripping traps within the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).

Federal-Northern Spotted Owl -Endangered-Petition – The Fish and Wildlife Service found that our petition and the other available evidence before the agency presented sufficient information to determine that the uplisting “may be warranted.” Uplisting the Northern Spotted Owl will have numerous conservation benefits for the species and would provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with additional authority to protect the spotted owl. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now commence its 12-month status review; however, the 12-month review and finding will not actually be available until September, 2017. EPIC will continue to work to see the Northern Spotted Owl protected to the fullest extent possible under the Endangered Species Act.
Tongass 872 and 1955 letter – Letter of opposition to S. 872, the Unrecognized Southeast Alaska Native Communities Recognition and Compensation Act and S. 1955, the Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act. S. 872 would establish five new village corporations in Southeast Alaska and give away over 115,000 acres of public lands in the Tongass National Forest to these newly-created private entities, The Tongass National Forest is a national treasure and the engine of the region’s economy – transferring these valuable lands into private ownership endangers the region’s wildlife and sustainable economy, as well sets a precedent to reopen land claims settled through previous law.
Oppose S 750 – Letter urging Senators to vote NO on S. 750, the “Arizona Borderlands Protection and Preservation Act” which neither protects nor preserves public lands and would instead harm 10 million acres in Arizona. S. 750 purports to provide “100 percent” access for the functioning and operations of the United States Border Patrol on national parks, national monuments, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands administered by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture within 100 miles of the border in Arizona by eliminating the rule of law on those lands.
Letter Opposing the RAPID Act of 2015 – Letter to Representatives, to urge them to oppose H.R. 348, the misleadingly named “Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2015.” Instead of improving the permitting process, the bill would severely undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and, consequently, the quality and integrity of federal agency decisions.
HR 1937 sign on letter – EPIC join other conservation groups in a letter to congressional representatives to express opposition to H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015. Cloaked as a bill about increasing production of strategic minerals, this legislation is actually about hiding the mining industry’s poor environmental practices on the public’s federally managed lands.
 Community Letter McClintock Discussion –  Thirty-one conservation groups wrote to representatives on the Subcommittee on Federal Lands to express strong opposition to the discussion draft bill, the so-called “National Forest Improvement Act of 2015.” This damaging legislation contains harmful and polarizing provisions that undermine the balanced set of laws and policies that govern the National Forest System and would result in severe degradation of the environmental, social and economic values that all Americans enjoy from our national forests. Under the pretext of “forest health” and “collaboration,” the bill does the opposite by moving towards analysis-free, high-risk production-based logging on our national forests and reducing collaboration.
Letter to oppose Lucas anti-ESA amendment on NDAA –  Urging representatives to vote NO on an amendment proposed by Rep. Lucas to H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 (NDAA), which would undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by legislatively delisting two protected species.
Oppose HR 1335 NGO Community Letter – 5.27.2015 – Letter urging the House of Representatives to oppose H.R. 1335. The latest word is that the bill will be on the House floor during the week of June 1.  H.R. 1335 weakens conservation requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Act and undermines several bedrock environmental laws — National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and Antiquities Act of 1906.
Community Oppose FY16 Senate Interior Bill – EPIC joined 30 conservation groups in writing to the Committee on Appropriations to voice  strong opposition to the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which contains many destructive policy riders as well as  damaging funding levels for many programs and agencies in the bill.
CFOSCP FY17 USDA Request Letter-FINAL – EPIC joined 48 other groups in a letter written to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment and to the Chief of the US Forest Service to express strong support for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).
Huffman Drought Bill_Support Letter_FINAL_7 17 15 – EPIC joins others in a letter to Representative Huffman to express support for H.R. 2983, recently introduced legislation that would provide drought solutions from new investments in lasting water solutions, growing the economy while also protecting our rivers, wildlife, and the thousands of jobs that depend on them.
Oppose NEPA Rollbacks in HR 22 – Joining other conservation organizations EPIC writes to Senators to express strong opposition to provisions in the transportation bill, (H.R. 22) that radically undermine the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), by limiting public participation and environmental review of the construction of critical transportation and infrastructure projects in our communities.
FINAL DPR VOC CRLAF et al Comments 2015 – EPIC joins in a letter to the Department of Pesticide Regulation to take real steps to reduce pesticide emissions as part of its smog reduction requirements in the San Joaquin Valley and other polluted regions in the state.
Oppose S. 1691. Community Letter – EPIC joined conservation groups in a letter to Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Wyden Subcommittee on the Public Lands, Forests and Mining to express  strong opposition to S. 1691, the so-called “National Forest Ecosystem Improvement Act of 2015. This extreme legislation imposes dangerous and irrational logging mandates on our national forests while undermining bedrock environmental laws, posing a serious threat to wildlife, watersheds and communities. It severely curtails judicial review, weakens collaboration and limits public engagement in forest management decisions.
NWFP Regional Framework Letter – FINAL – EPIC joins conservation partners in writing a letter to national forest leaders urging them to uphold the principles of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Final_StrengthenRHR_Letter_10.7.15 – EPIC joined 82 conservation and public interest organizations to  urge the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule to restore clean air to national parks and wilderness areas and their neighboring communities.
*Thanks to EPIC intern Aaron Cobas for helping to compile these files!

State of the Redwoods – Remembering the Past, Envisioning the Future

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

RNP RDWhat did Jedediah Smith think when he came here as the first-known European-American to explore the majestic coastal redwood forest, back in 1828? Did he know, or care about the Pandora’s Box that he’d opened by leading European settlers into this remote region? When Smith first arrived in Northern California, an estimated two million acres of native old-growth coast redwood forest spanned from Big Sur to the Oregon border, and these were certainly no ordinary forests. The coastal redwood forest is home to the tallest living organisms on earth, reaching over 300 feet tall at their peak. These giant trees live an average of 500-700 years-of-age, and some have been documented to live in excess of 2,000-years-old. These massive trees can grow as large as 25 feet in diameter or more, sequestering huge masses of carbon, while, at the same time, providing essential habitat for innumerable species of plants, animals, birds, lichens, and others species.

The coastal redwood forests are considered part of the larger temperate rainforest system that once blanketed the coast of the Pacific Northwest states. However, European exploration, combined with the gold rush of the 1850’s, ushered in the era of old-growth logging in the redwoods that continues to this day. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, an estimated ten percent of the original forest remained. Today, approximately five percent of the original old-growth temperate coastal redwood forests remain. About 23 percent of the original range of the redwoods is preserved in parks and reserves, while a whopping 77 percent of the redwood region land base is still privately owned and managed. In Humboldt County today, the two largest timberland owners, Green Diamond Resource Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, own a combined 600,000-acres of forestland, much of which constitutes the original range of the coast redwood forest.

After a century-and-a-half of logging, road-building, and urban and agricultural development, the original coast redwoods are a shadow of their former selves. Of the five percent or so that remains of the original forest, the largest chunks are preserved in Big Basin State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the Redwood National and State Parks system. Much of what remains in the Redwood National and State Parks system is fragmented and disjointed.

On private lands, the largest remaining patches of old-growth redwood forest are found on the former Pacific Lumber Company lands, now owned and managed by Humboldt Redwood Company, most of which are “set-aside” and protected from logging for a period of 50 years as a result of the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement. However, these “set-asides” are not protected into perpetuity.

Following the signing of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the commonly-heard narrative was that the redwoods had, at long last been “saved.” However, this is much more myth than fact. Logging, agricultural and urban development, human recreation, and of course, climate change, all remain as stressor on the redwood ecosystem.

The advent of global as well as localized climate change now poses a significant threat to the survival of the coastal redwood forest, and the people, plants and animals that depend upon them. The signs of localized climate change are readily apparent. Fog levels on the north coast have decreased by as much as one-third since the early 20th century, while temperatures continue to rise, and rainfall declines in the face of California’s unprecedented drought. A recent study published by the global research journal Global Change Biology notes that increasing temperatures will likely significantly alter the climate in the southern extent of the redwood region in the coming decades, putting the survival of the redwoods in those regions at-risk. In the northern part of the redwood range, research conducted by Dr. Steve Sillett suggests that old-growth redwoods are currently growing at an unprecedented rate, likely as a result of decreased fog and increased sunlight. However, research on the fate of large, old trees on a global level suggests that climate change, particularly the effects of drought and disease, are an increasing threat to these ancient ecosystems.

The redwoods region’s temperate rainforest is globally significant for its biodiversity, as well as for its potential capacity to resist, adapt to, and become resilient to, the progress of climate change. Here in Humboldt County, we occupy the northern extents of the redwood range, where the opportunities for restoration and connectivity for the redwoods remain strongest.

In 2013, EPIC, along with the Geos Institute and others sponsored and participated in the very first Redwood Climate Symposium, which brought together stakeholders and land managers to discuss possible strategies for steeling the redwood region against the progress of climate change. Symposium participants from diverse backgrounds identified four primary strategies to increasing the resilience of redwood ecosystems in the face of climate change. These included:

  1. restoring old-growth characteristics that protect stands from many stressors;
  2. improving connectivity among intact redwood forest patches throughout the range of redwoods;
  3. reducing stressors that exacerbate the impacts of climate change, such as roads, fragmentation, development, and fire exclusion; and
  4. coordinating management across the redwood range, and across land ownership, allowing for conservation and/or restoration of climate change refuges and areas of connectivity.

These four strategies form the basis of a collective way forward for managing the redwoods into the future, and form the basis of EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign in the region, which largely focuses on existing parks and reserves, as well as privately-held forestlands with significant ecological, connective, and restorative value.

The coastal redwood forest of Northern California has been here for some 20 million years. If it is to persist into the future, a new holistic approach to ecosystem restoration and preservation must take hold. EPIC is dedicated to working towards this more holistic future for the benefit of the forest, the species that depend upon it, and for humanity itself.

Fire as an Excuse for Logging

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
Wet Weather Logging in Klamath National Forest October 2014

Wet weather “salvage” logging in Klamath National Forest 2014

Fire is a difficult subject because it defies easy or generalized characterizations. Fire is powerful and scary. That statement probably rings true to most folks. Fire is also natural. And for the most part, fire is good for our forests and wildlife—fire helps clear debris on the forest floor, encourage new growth, produces important habitat elements like snags (standing dead trees), and helps accelerate the development of old-growth characteristics (like deformed branches and cavities) in younger forests. That fire is natural and more often than not good for forest health is something most people don’t know (and that the mainstream media has no interest in discussing).

The timber industry has long used the specter of fire as an excuse to log. The language used regarding fire is deliberately chosen to reinforce their clearcut agenda.   (The science to justify this claim, coincidentally, is largely funded by the timber industry.) To justify logging post-fire, Big Timber says it needs to “salvage” the standing dead trees or else it will go to “waste.”

In California, the way fire is managed depends on who owns the underlying lands. On private lands, timber companies have wide discretion and very little oversight when managing their lands either for fire prevention or for post-fire logging. (Both activities, to varying degrees, are exempt from the requirement to prepare a Timber Harvest Plan.) On federal lands, however, Big Timber is bound by federal law which has traditionally placed greater restrictions on timber harvests, both for undisturbed green trees and for post-fire forests.

Big Timber wants to capitalize on logging our national forests (for, among other reasons, logging on federal lands is heavily subsidized). To do so, Big Timber has its eyes set of weakening federal environmental laws, particularly the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal land managers to consider the environmental impact of a project before acting.

The timber industry’s logic—that a tree is nothing more than a pile of fuel—has found champions in federal legislators. In 2002, following a string of large fires in a drought year, the Bush Administration, at the behest of Big Timber, passed the “Healthy Forest Restoration Act.” The Act, which has been mocked as the “Leave No Tree Behind Act,” weakened environmental laws for “fuels reduction” projects by, among other things, limiting the public’s right to comment and object to projects and limiting and in some cases removing environmental impact analysis.

Big Timber is at it again. In response to this summer’s fires and the lingering anti-fire sentiment, House Republicans are pushing to pass a new law which will weaken or remove environmental laws. H.R. 2647 or the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015,” would, among other things:

  • Shift money devoted to environmental restoration to logging.
  • Categorically exempt many destructive activities—including pre- and post-fire logging up to 15,000 acres—from environmental impact analysis.
  • Fast-track projects to bypass public participation.
  • Increase the road network on our national forests and make road decommissioning more difficult.
  • Require environmental groups to post bonds before litigating projects.

It is not clear whether H.R. 2647 will pass the Senate or if its authors will attempt to sneak it into another “must-pass” bill. What is certain is that Big Timber and its friends in Congress will continue to use fire as a vehicle to get the cut out, whether in this Congressional session or the next.

Where does this end? With an educated public. So when someone tells you that fire is a problem and that “active management” is the solution, call them on it! Or when a friend repeats a line about how environmental groups are standing in the way of healthy forests, politely correct them. Together, some conversations over coffee or in the comment section on Facebook, we can change the narrative that the mainstream media and Big Timber is trying to sell us.

Whistleblower Tip Line

Monday, October 12th, 2015

AGENCY POLITICSGovernment science impacts us daily—whether it is ensuring that the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is pure, or the air we breathe is clean. Yet, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, staff from major federal agencies tasked with protecting our health and environment believe that too often important decisions are made based on politics and not science. At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, 76 percent of respondents indicated that consideration of political interests were “too high.”

This is not a problem confined to federal agencies. In our work, we often see the frustration and disappointment in state agency staff because their work is improperly influenced. We hear from you that you want to share some information, but you are afraid that you may be retaliated against for sharing information. We also hear about techniques employed by agencies to avoid a paper trail that might be discoverable through the Freedom of Information Act or the Public Records

To the government workers or others out there with information you think needs sharing, we have developed two anonymous ways to share information. Both are anonymous and confidential. EPIC commits that it will only reference or otherwise make public information that you give permission to share.

Anonymous Submission via Google Forms

Anonymous Document Submission via DBinbox for Dropbox

Existing North Coast Cannabis Cultivators: Come into Compliance

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

PotleafEPIC applauds the Humboldt County Supervisors for their decision to begin drafting a large-scale medical marijuana land use ordinance that will comply with the new California state laws and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s water quality order. Local control is critical for our future; we must develop land-use policies that reflect our values such as the protection of forests, families, fish and farmers.

By moving a local land-use ordinance forward, the county is taking the initial steps toward ensuring existing farmers are allowed to come into compliance with the new laws and become part of legitimate society. The first step in this process is to address “existing cultivators.” The goal should be to bring as many cultivators, including those cultivating on Timber Production Zone (TPZ) who are willing to take immediate action to ensure baseline environmental standards are met, into compliance—to be treated as responsible and legitimate business owners. After the county gets a handle on existing cultivation, it can then, begin to address, if, how and where it should allow any new cultivation areas.

EPIC does not support the further conversion of working forests for commercial agriculture, or residential development, because it threatens our vision of creating a well connected, healthy and restored forest ecosystem. When addressing the Humboldt County Supervisors and California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) EPIC recommended that an ordinance address existing cultivation, and remove language from the law/ordinance that would explicitly allow future cultivation on TPZ lands.

Existing Humboldt County TPZ landowners, who are cultivating, need to initiate the permitting process with the North Coast Water Board—the current deadline for enrollment is February 15, 2016. The new county regulations will require compliance with the Water Board and Department of Fish & Wildlife regulations—now is the time to get started. The state’s new laws require licenses from local jurisdictions.

We are entering a new era in our collective history. We need to work together to ensure systems are in place to stop further environmental damage, provide clear lines for what is and is not acceptable and create a safe-harbor for willing cultivators to come into compliance. I believe it is possible that Humboldt County can have both—protected and restored watersheds and well-regulated, salmon-safe cannabis farms—do you?

For more information and to read the new California laws and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s waiver, click here.

No Small Feat—Your Comments Helped Protect Rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands and Marbled Murrelets

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

SavedMendocino_Pygmy_Forest_in_Van_Damme_State_Park_2Wikipedia-commons-225x300Thanks to the actions taken by EPIC members, the City of Fort Bragg and the County of Mendocino (collectively referred to as the “Joint Powers Authority,”) have indefinitely postponed the hearing to consider certification of the Environmental Impact Report for the Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project.

The Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project would have taken 12.6 acres from Russian Gulch State Park, which contains extremely rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Forests, Northern Bishop Pine Forests, and, as recently revealed, several old-growth Douglas fir trees, which State Park biologist have concluded serve as suitable potential marbled murrelet habitat, and given it to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Currently, the land is protected in the State Parks system in perpetuity. Should this deal have gone down, the lands would be subject to logging operations pursuant to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest’s mandate and management plan and in exchange the State Park would receive lands that were formerly used as a landfill—Hmm, there is definitely something is rotten about this project…

The Joint Powers Authority was poised to approve the EIR for the transfer station project at a hearing scheduled in Fort Bragg in August, 2015. However, comments submitted by EPIC staff, and comments received from 1,209 EPIC members via our Action Alert have caused the agency to postpone the certification of the EIR indefinitely to allow for “further consideration.” The Joint Powers Authority transfer station project will likely now need to go back to the “drawing board.”

EPIC gets results, thanks to you! EPIC staff wishes to thank all our members who participated in our Action Alert, or otherwise provided comments on the transfer station project. Our collective efforts have likely served to protect the rare and unique pygmy forestlands of Russian Gulch State Park.

Your actions, and your donations, make a big difference! Please consider making a gift to EPIC so that our top-notch advocacy for Northwest California’s forests can continue.

Read EPIC’s Comment Letter Regarding the Waste Transfer Station 8.11.15

Listen to the KMUD Environment show hosted by EPIC’s Wildlife and Forest Advocate, Rob DiPerna discussing issues associated with the rare pygmy forest.


A Day on the Elk River

Monday, September 28th, 2015
Elk River Train Trestle. Photo Courtesy of Natalynne DeLapp.

Elk River Train Trestle. Photo Courtesy of Natalynne DeLapp.

The consequences of the recent intensive timber extraction in the Elk River watershed are fairly well-understood—landslides, bank erosion, gullying, road-related runoff, and failed road facilities, among many other impacts, have resulted in an astronomical amount of sediment being delivered and deposited into Elk River and its tributaries, resulting in rises in the level of the riverbed and channel restrictions, over-vegetation, and of course, causing significant increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding. Individuals and families have lost their domestic and agricultural water sources, have their homes flooded and have their ingress and egress to and from their homes blocked from three to 20 times-a-year. Fences are destroyed and can’t be rebuilt because the next high water would destroy them, houses can’t be lived in because of continuous mold problems and septic systems are flooded.

In modern times, the discussion continues as to what impacts contemporary logging operations are having, as conducted by HRC and Green Diamond Resource Company, the two large industrial timberland owners in the watershed. Each of these postulates that so-called “legacy” i.e., historic, or pre-contemporary operations, impacts, and practices are to blame for the condition of Elk River, and that contemporary operations do not significantly contribute to the problems.

Humboldt Redwood Company, unlike its counterpart, Green Diamond Resource Company, maintains an “open-door policy” when it comes to visitors on its property. So, earlier this month, EPIC staff joined representatives of Humboldt Redwood Company, and long-time upper Elk River resident, Kristi Wrigley, on a field tour to witness current on-the-ground conditions on HRC property, and to discuss the logging, environmental, and most importantly the human issues in the upper part of the basin.

Our tour began not on HRC land, but at the infamous concrete bridge over the North Fork Elk River at the corner of Elk River Road and Wrigley Road. There, we viewed the over-grown vegetation on the banks of the river, with thick layers of sediment deposits clearly visible on the river-bottom as well. Here, the channel gradient is very low, and as we all know, water, as well as sediment, which is carried by water, flows downhill. In reaching this low gradient section of the river, the sediment has nowhere to go, and the river does not have enough assimilative capacity to carry all the sediment downstream. There is little wonder that the flooding continues at its frequent and frightening pace here.

Elk RIver flooding bridge. Photo courtesy of Kristi Wrigley.

Elk River flooding stone bridge at the corner of Elk River and Wrigley Roads. Photo courtesy of Kristi Wrigley.

We then spent the rest of the day progressively moving up the watershed on HRC property. We viewed revegetating MAXXAM-era clear-cuts, and second growth redwood stands selectively harvested by HRC over the last several years. The old MAXXAM-era clear-cuts seem to be regenerating, but also appear to be jam-packed with innumerable young tress. HRC’s selectively logged areas, by contrast, largely contained what appeared to be well-spaced and stocked post-harvest.

Elk River Restoration Project on HRC Land. Photo courtesy of Nataynne DeLapp.

We also viewed two stream restoration effort sites along the Elk River on HRC land, where woody material is being placed back in the river to create complexity, flow mediation, and salmonid habitat enhancement.

That evening, EPIC’s Rob DiPerna joined Elk River resident Kristi Wrigley on KHSU’s Thursday Night Talk program, to discuss the issues in Elk River and our day in the field.

The question arose, in one form or another, throughout the day about whether or not contemporary logging practices and associated activities have improved, and whether or not these improvements are adequate to address sediment production from the contemporary operations. In other words, just because the logging may be “better” does that then mean that it is benign in terms of its effects on Elk River? However, the more important question is whether any logging at all is appropriate in Elk River in light of the extreme and significant cumulative impacts that have occurred over the last 25 years in the watershed. These more important questions form the foundation of the true discussion over contemporary logging in Elk River.

EPIC wishes to thank both Elk River resident Kristi Wrigley and HRC for an informative day of discussion about the environmental and human rights issues in Elk River. EPIC is dedicated to working with stakeholders to seek common ground and foster dialogue, while advocating for best forest and watershed management practices to protect and recover the river for fish, wildlife, water quality, and humans alike.

Part one in a six-part series. Future articles will focus on the following topics:

2) Vital statistics about Elk River; 3) Cumulative impacts; 4) Management regimes; 5) Legal and regulatory frameworks; and 6) Social issues.

Humboldt County: It is High Time to Regulate Cannabis!

Monday, September 14th, 2015
frog on marijuana

Photo credit: Kym Kemp

Update: On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing County Counsel to develop a medical marijuana ordinance in compliance with state law to be effective no later than March 1, 2016; the Supervisor’s Ad Hoc Committee will work to develop a framework for a county Cannabis Commission; and a local taxation measure will be on the Humboldt County ballot as soon as June 2016 or no later than November 2016.

Local control is critical for our future. Humboldt County must take initiative to develop its own land use ordinance to regulate the number, size, and location of operations for commercial cannabis cultivation that fits the specific needs of our forests, fish, farmers and families.

Now is the time, the momentum is here. On Friday, the State of California provided the first ever comprehensive framework to regulate commercial cannabis cultivation. This is huge and much needed, but a work in progress. The new laws will provide clear rules within two years, allow for cultivation of up to one acre of cannabis, and focus on the licensing processes for commercial sales, which includes a requirement for local permitting. Additionally, in August, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its groundbreaking water quality order, the first regulation by a California state agency designed to address environmental impacts from cannabis cultivation. However, because the regulation was developed by the Water Board, the order only explicitly focuses on water quality issues.

These are monumental steps taken at the behest of cannabis farmers and many others to transition the industry from underground to legitimate. For nearly two decades, since cultivation for medical use was decriminalized, there have been very few rules and regulations to govern what activities are and are not acceptable. Cannabis production increased dramatically, particularly in the last 5 years, where watersheds in Northern California have seen increases in area under production ranging from 55% to over 100%. And because there are no external incentives to improve practices and because law enforcement does not appear to discriminate between good and bad growers, there is a perverse incentive: go real fast, go real big, and take the chance that you’re not going to get caught.

Humboldt County needs to put its own plan in place before we allow more development in our already over allocated watersheds. Because existing and reasonably foreseeable future regulations from the state do not solve our problems, we need to act locally. A county land use ordinance has the potential to regulate the number, size, and location of operations.

The Water Board order provides a good template to base a land use ordinance for Humboldt County. The Water Board framework provides the necessary carrot and stick to bring an industry, which has historically existed only by breaking the law, to come into compliance with the law. Growers who fail to comply with the order will face stiff civil penalties while growers who comply with the regulation will shift from regulatory targets (“red dots”) to being largely left alone (“green dots”). Furthermore, looking forward, compliance with state and local laws will be one of the criteria that the state considers when granting potentially lucrative growing licenses. Such a framework, which provides incentives for farmers to come into compliance and address the damage that our community is suffering in the absence of appropriate environmental regulation and enforcement.

It is imperative that cultivators begin the process of coming into compliance with the NCRWCQB’s order before February 6, 2016.

California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) has led the most recent effort in Humboldt County to advance the creation of a land-use ordinance that focuses on protecting small cannabis farmers. One of the guiding priorities for CCVH in crafting their ordinance was to create a regulatory structure which made sense to the average cannabis farmer, providing clear rules and a structure that would encourage compliance.

The CCVH ordinance rightly focuses on permitting existing operations, ensuring that those folks who are already members of our community have an opportunity to come out of the shadows. Focusing on current operations also establishes a baseline to slow or stop the green rush; new operations above a significant threshold would require a conditional use permit, a process whereby the impact from an additional operation can be scrutinized before any plants are in the ground.

EPIC had previously taken issue with the CCVH ordinance, particularly a portion of the ordinance that could encourage further forest fragmentation through opening land zoned as “timber production zones” or TPZ to commercial cannabis cultivation. As part of CCVH’s public comment period for their draft ordinance, EPIC submitted substantial comments. EPIC, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Baykeeper and S.A.F.E. submitted additional recommendations aimed at addressing permitting and licensing for existing operations and mitigating ongoing environmental impacts of the cannabis industry to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

This began a productive dialogue between EPIC and CCVH. Through numerous meetings, calls, emails, and text messages we discussed our vision for Northern California’s forests and farms and realized that our principles were not far apart.

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, CCVH turns their hard work over to the Humboldt Board of Supervisors along with a series of recommendations. The Board, having received the ordinance language, can run with the baton, sending it through the necessary internal and public review. The Board, which has previously dragged its feet on cannabis regulation due to a lack of clarity from the State, will hopefully feel a greater charge from the public to see this ordinance to completion in an expeditious manner.

To be successful, a local land use ordinance must:

  • Stop the “Green Rush.” This is the exploitation mentality of people who have flocked to the region looking to make fast money regardless of the environmental and social consequences of their activities.
  • Create a safe haven for existing cultivators who want to come into compliance, without fear of persecution.
  • Protect Humboldt County’s small-scale, salmon safe, sun-grown, artisanal cannabis farmers.
  • Provide clear lines as to what activities are and are not acceptable.
  • Prevent and mitigate the negative environmental impacts associated with cannabis cultivation.
  • Halt the further fragmentation and conversion of our working forests for commercial agriculture.
  • Mandate that all water used for cannabis cultivation be stored, with no
    surface water diversions between May 15 and October 31* (this date is based on the NCWQCB’s new order).
  • Create a tax-system for farmers to be able to contribute financially to society.
  • Protect Humboldt County from a future filled with Big Tobacco-owned mega-grows.
  • Restore damaged watersheds and watershed function.
  • Provide adequate funding resources to inspect, enforce, and remediate cultivation areas.

Passage of a land use ordinance is not the end but the beginning. After California legalizes recreational cannabis, the regulatory landscape will become even clearer. A future local land use ordinance that addresses new cannabis cultivation and cultivation for recreational purposes will be necessary. We must remember that regulations and laws are not going to be perfect the first time around and that adaptive management strategies must be employed. The community must work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials as the implementation of the new rules are seen to either be effective or ineffective. Through all these steps, EPIC will be there to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation.

Click here to read the California Bills: AB243, AB266 and SB643.

* The staff at EPIC believe that all water used for any commercial agriculture should be stored and not diverted from surface waters during the dry season.

Westside Community Meeting in Orleans September 11th

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Westside from BR Lookout

This Friday, concerned community members will be meeting to discuss impacts of the Westside project on our communities. In the coming days, the Klamath National Forest plans to auction off 14 timber sales, that have been analyzed as part of the Westside post-fire logging project, a large commercial salvage logging proposal that covers over 30,000 acres of management including logging on about 10,000 acres of forests affected by the Whites, Beaver and Happy Camp fires of 2014. Areas proposed for logging are adjacent to wilderness areas, the Pacific Crest Trail, within Wild and Scenic River corridors, critical habitat for coho salmon and northern spotted owls and wildlife corridors that are important for providing linkages between the islands of protected areas. The timber sales proposed in the Westside project are all located within the blue circle on the map (below). The Klamath National Forest has not yet released the Record of Decision, which was expected this week, and has not completed formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service. The Klamath National Forest has not yet received a water quality permit from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

EPIC Connecting Wild Places with Westside IDsmallOver the past year, our staff has read and commented on the Westside Environmental Impact Statement and attended the informational meetings put forward by the Klamath National Forest, and we have all agreed that the information and format that has been provided is less than unhelpful.

In order to better understand the landscape that will be affected by the proposed Westside Project, we have used the shape files for the project boundaries to illustrate aerial images from google earth. These maps more accurately depict the scale, magnitude and context of the proposed project by showing the project in relation to the watersheds that are at stake. These maps will be available at the community meeting.

The Karuk Alternative maps that were developed by the Karuk Tribe have proposed to reduce the project scope to focus on strategic ridge-top fuel breaks to protect rural communities so that fire can be reintroduced to the landscape. The Karuk Alternative is a third of the scale of the Klamath National Forest’s proposal.

Since the beginning of time, fire has shaped the landscape of the region, and it is well documented that cultural burning was used to thin the understory, and allow for healthy larger trees to thrive. prescribed fires were also used to encourage the growth of important resources such as acorns and bear grass, which is used by local tribes to make baskets. Over the last century, these mountains have endured the ecologically damaging practices of clear-cut logging, fire suppression, and plantation forestry, which shape most of the landscape we see today. If you live in or visit the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains and observe your surroundings, you have probably noticed the vicious cycle of:

1. clear-cut logging of the big old fire-resistant, shade-producing trees;

2. plantations that quickly become brush fields due to lack of funds to maintain them in an ongoing way;

3. fire suppression policy that continually increases the size and severity of fires that get away;

4. fire-fighting strategies that increase the size of the burned area; and

5. salvage sales that cost taxpayers more than the government makes on the sale, and in many cases leave huge amounts of slash on the ground, setting us up for the next fire. (And setting the fish up for a hot, sediment-choked, disease-prone environment.)

If you would like to learn about the size, scope and specifics of the Westside salvage sale and discuss potential consequences and community responses, you are cordially invited to come to this important informational meeting for Westside post-fire logging project on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm at the Karuk DNR-Department of Natural Resources Community Room, 39051 Highway 96. In Orleans, CA. All are welcome. Refreshments and dinner included, but bring a potluck dish to share if you can.

DIRECTIONS: Headed northeast on Highway 96, go one quarter mile past Orleans and cross the bridge over the Klamath. The parking lot is on the right hand side (Just after Red Cap Road). Cell phones and GPS Navigation systems do not work here, so you may want to map your route in advance. Allow ~2 hours of drive time from Arcata area.


Google Earth image maps with timber sale boundaries – Organized by timber sale and/or watershed.

Westside Fact Sheet and Agency Contacts for Westside Project – 1 page fact sheet for letter writing.

EPIC Guide to Groundtruthing trifold – An excellent guide for analyzing project impacts in the field.

The Westside Story – An in epic analysis of the wildlife, wild rivers, and wild places that would be affected by the Westside project.

Final Comments on Westside DEIS – EPIC, Klamath Forest Alliance and KS Wild comments on the Westside Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement – A link to all of the Klamath National Forest’s documents related to the Westside project.

Timber Sale Maps developed by the Klamath National Forest:

Whites Fire Salvage Heli Map

Walker Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tyler Meadows Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tom Martin Fire Salvage Heli Map

Slinkard Fire Salvage Heli Map

Salt Creek Fire Salvage SBA Map

Middle Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Hamburg Fire Salvage Map

Greider Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cougar Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cold Springs Fire Salvage Map

Caroline Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Blue Mountain Fire Salvage Heli Map

Beaver Fire Salvage Timber Sale Map