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Take Action: Klamath River Runs Brown!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
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Klamath River Near Mouth 7.13.15 by Mark Harris

Near the mouth of the Klamath River. July 13, 2015. Photo Courtesy of Mark Harris

Take Action Now to stop Westside: A few short but intense rain storms hit the 2014 fire areas on the Klamath National Forest causing massive sediment events that turned the mighty Klamath and Salmon River systems muddy and brown. On July 5th, 7th and 12th rainstorms brought over an inch of rain in less than an hour causing road damage, intense debris torrents with slurries of mud, rock, water and trees to sliding for miles, filling in pools and creeks that serve as some of the best salmon spawning habitat. These watersheds are located within the same steep and unstable hillsides that are targeted for logging in the Westside project.

Salmon

Juvenile and adult salmon struggle to survive in oxygen-depleted lethal water temperatures with high rates of disease and algae. The storm events greatly increased turbidity and lowered oxygen levels in the water for nearly two weeks. Massive amounts of sediment dumped into some of the most important spawning habitat and cool water refuges. There appears to be considerable reduction in size, volume, and depth of pools. It is uncertain how salmon and other aquatic life will survive this onslaught of impacts, especially with the hottest summer temperatures soon to come and the proposed clearcutting and logging activities.

Coho salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. There are 101 miles of coho Critical Habitat in the project area. This includes the rivers affected by recent storms, Klamath and North Fork Salmon Rivers and many of the cool water tributaries vital for fish survival, including: Grider, Beaver, Elk, South Russian Creeks and Whites Gulch.

Roads

Road systems were blocked and sliding mud, trees, rock and debris clogged dozens of culverts and ditches. Thousands of cubic yards of sediment came down hills and hundreds have already been cleared from roads with heavy machinery, but much more debris continues to be suspended on the hillsides waiting for the next rain event.

Click here for before and after photos of road work in the Walker Creek drainage. At least 24 different road locations on roads 46N64, 46N65, and 46N67 were blocked by mud, rock, and debris flows, and numerous culvert inlets are still buried under mud and rocks.

Roads are the leading contributor of sediment into our creeks and rivers. There are over 950 “legacy” sites, which are chronic sources of sediment in the Westside project area. The Klamath National Forest is proposing to treat only 150 legacy sites in one watershed, leaving over 800 sites untreated.

The Forest Service proposes to open miles of decommissioned and self-decommissioned roads. These roads also contain legacy sites. For instance, road 16N41 up Little Elk Creek is approximately 2 miles long and completely grown over, which would require intense forest clearing and reconstruction just upstream of coho Critical Habitat. Further, there are over 280 miles of level 2 roads, passable by high clearance vehicles only, which would require reconstruction in order to accommodate for the proposed use by heavy machinery and large trucks. These are few of many road issues that were not adequately considered, addressed or disclosed.

The Past the Future and Westside

As temperatures and extinction rates soar globally and climate change brings more extreme weather, like summer rainstorms – our water, wildlife, salmon and wild places need extra protection. Low to no snow pack and higher temperatures means increasingly low and warm summer flows in our rivers. Extreme wind, rain and fire leave behind fragile ecosystems susceptible to severe damage from industrial activities on the landscape.

The Klamath Mountains are some of the steepest and most erodible hillsides on the west coast. For decades we have witnessed and documented major impacts to our watersheds during large storm events. The decomposed granitic soils in the Westside fire areas will slide downhill and into our rivers. The entire watersheds of Grider and Walker are unstable, which is where the highest concentration of Westside units are proposed!

Click here now to tell Patty Grantham to stay off geologically unstable slopes, disclose the extreme amount of roadwork proposed, to learn from the past and allow for the natural recovery of our fragile and fire dependent watersheds.

Rivers and Creeks up Close 

A few short and intense summer storms brought massive debris flows choking the Klamath and Salmon Rivers and many of its tributaries with thick sediment and mud. The Klamath Mountains are some of the steepest and most erodible lands on the west coast. The rivers listed below support a suffering salmon population- all are proposed for clearcut logging by the Klamath National Forest in the Westside project and all are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, mostly from temperature and sediment. Many of them are supposed to be federally protected designated or eligible for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Klamath River

The Wild and Scenic Klamath River (Karuk: Ishkêesh,‪ Klamath: Koke,‪ Yurok: Hehlkeek ‘We-Roy,‪ Hupa: k’ina’-tahxw-hun’) flows 263 miles southwest from Oregon and northern California, cutting through the Cascade Range to empty into the Pacific Ocean. It is listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act for Nutrients, Organic Enrichment/Low Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature and Microcystin.

It was once the third most productive salmon-bearing river system in the country. Today, thanks to habitat blocking dams, logging, mining, grazing, agriculture, poor water quality and too little water left in the river, the once abundant Klamath salmon runs have now been reduced to less than 10% of their historic size. Anadromous species present in the Klamath River basin below Iron Gate Dam include Chinook, coho, pink, and chum salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout, eulachon, white and green sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey. Some species, such as coho salmon, are now in such low numbers in the Klamath River that they are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

North Fork Salmon River

Deeply incised canyons, rugged terrain and highly erodible soils characterize the Salmon River watershed, comprised of two forks, the North Fork and the South Fork to form the mainstem. The free flowing river is one of the largest most pristine watersheds in the Klamath River system, although it is listed under the Clean Water Act as a 303(d) impaired water body for high temperatures. The Wild and Scenic Salmon River provides over 175 miles of anadromous fish habitat and retains the only viable population of spring Chinook salmon and retains the last completely wild salmon and steelhead runs in the in the Klamath watershed. The Salmon River offers some of the best habitat on the west coast for salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, rainbow trout, Pacific lamprey, and other fish. It is home to one of the most sought after world-class whitewater rafting trips in the country. It combines lush coastal scenery with emerald green waters, steep granite gorges and numerous waterfalls.

The North Fork Salmon River, containing highly erodible granitic soils is steep to very steep. The globally significant carbon dense forests provide important wildlife habitat connectivity, particularly the released roadless areas within the Westside project area. With the combination of unique geology, climate and biology the North Fork Salmon River watershed supports populations of deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion and is home to many rare species, including Pacific fishers and pine martens. The North Fork Watershed Analysis notes that, “the watershed has habitat critical to wildlife and fish species that are listed or petitioned for listing through the Endangered Species Act. Some of these habitat features may be at risk and need protection or enhancement. Older, late successional forest stands and anadromous fish habitat are considered some of the most important features within the watershed.”

This watershed has a total of 1,035 miles of roads, and over 73 stream crossings. These roads—along with timber harvesting in this area—have increased landslide potential, and have therefore increased the potential for negative impacts on the streams. Logging in this area has also led to a decrease in shade along the entire North Fork of the Salmon River. As a result, the Salmon River is now listed under the 303(d) Clean Water Act for temperature. This increase in water temperature has resulted in fish kills of Chinook salmon and steelhead during drought conditions, such as in the years 1994 and 2014.

South Russian Creek and Music

South Russian Creek, fed from the Russian Wilderness, is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River and is recognized for its magnificent stand of old growth Engleman Spruce and for pristine water quality. Music Creek is a tributary to South Russian Creek that leads to the Russian Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail. Both of these watersheds are comprised of highly erodible decomposed granitic soils and have seen huge landslides and road impacts from past storms. In August, 1996 a thunderstorm triggered a debris torrent that scoured 2.6 miles of stream in Music Creek. The resulting plume of sediment impacted the North Fork and Mainstem of the Salmon River for several weeks.

Whites Gulch

Whites Gulch is a tributary to the North Fork Salmon. It is critical cold water refugia and spawning habitat for juvenile and adult Coho salmon, spring and fall Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Whites Gulch watershed contains Critical Habitat for Coho salmon and the Northern spotted owl. This watershed is also home to one of the four Northern goshawks nest areas that would have a high risk of abandonment because of the Westside clearcutting units.

The outer ridges were used extensively for fire suppression operations during the 2014 fires and the road system, with its many sediment sources, also saw a large amount of traffic from heavy trucks.

In October 2008, the Salmon River Restoration Council, in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and NOAA Open Rivers Initiative, removed two dams from the upstream reaches of Whites Gulch. Both of the dams were remnants of the historic mining activity that had occurred within the watershed. The removal of the dams and the subsequent removal of the culvert barrier on Whites Gulch Road, restored access to 3.5 miles of refugia, rearing and spawning habitat in Whites Gulch.

 

Grider Creek/ No Name Creek (Grider Tributary)

Upper Grider Creek watershed contains one of the most important roadless areas, which provides a vital north to south wildlife corridor that connects the Marble Mountain Wilderness with the Siskiyou Crest and Red Buttes Wilderness. The entire watershed contains the largest expanse of geologically unstable areas of the Kla math National Forest and is where the highest concentration of clearcut units in the Westside project are proposed.

Grider Creek is a key watershed, meaning that it contains crucial for salmon survival. It provides spawning, rearing, and holding habitat for Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon. In fact, the mouth of Grider Creek used to provide one of the largest and most important cold water refuge areas on the Klamath River. Unfortunately, the storm of 1997 raised water temperatures in this area and degraded its function as a cold refuge.

It is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River recognized for its undisturbed old growth mixed conifer forests, high water quality and for wildlife because bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest there. These eagles would have a high risk of abandoning their nest areas because the Westside project would decimate the area.

While Grider Creek still has large areas with minimal human activity, it is clear that managed areas of the creek are being degraded. Areas that previously provided the connectivity necessary for the wellbeing of many sensitive species in the area have turned into patchy forests unusable by many animals. If human activity increases throughout this pristine area, habitats will quickly diminish and already threatened species will suffer.

 

Walker Creek

Walker Creek provides high quality water to the Middle Klamath River and acts as a thermal refuge for anadromous salmonids during warm months. Additionally, Walker Creek provides spawning, rearing, and holding habitat for fall and spring-run Chinook salmon, winter and summer-run steelhead and threatened Coho salmon.

The Walker Creek area contains many large, active earthflow landslides and with Grider, contains the largest expanse of geologically unstable areas of the Klamath National Forest and is where the highest concentration of clearcut units in the Westside project are proposed. This along with strong seasonal storms makes this creek particularly susceptible to large amounts of sedimentation. Past management of this area has not been successful in combating this unique feature, and has made stream sedimentation worse. These high levels of sedimentation can have devastating effects on sensitive aquatic species, and therefore must be properly controlled in order for the creek and the surrounding habitat to thrive.

Elk Creek 

The Elk Creek watershed is 60,780 acres of steep slopes and large dispersed benches. It is the municipal water supply for the town of Happy Camp. This watershed provides 51.6 miles of habitat for Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon, Pacific lamprey, Klamath small-scale sucker, and other native fish species. In fact, Elk Creek provides one of highest quality spawning and rearing habitats for Coho salmon in the Middle Klamath River. Its low water temperature also makes Elk Creek an important thermal refuge for many aquatic species during warm periods.

In addition to aquatic species, this watershed is home to many threatened, endangered, and sensitive species listed under the Endangered Species Act. These species include Northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons. Other sensitive species include goshawks, willow flycatchers, fishers, western pond turtles, great grey owls, and martens.

Elk Creek is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River and is recognized for its fisheres, geologic and wildlife values because the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander has been found there.

Logging and road building activities throughout the watershed have disturbed habitat crucial to the survival of both aquatic and terrestrial species. For example, 9,833 acres of Elk Creek watershed have experienced harvest activity over the last 40 years, 7,445 of which were clear cuts or other types of regeneration harvest. This, along with other activities has caused the creek to exceed the Mass Wasting threshold of concern, which indicates an increased risk for hillslope sediment production. It has also led this important thermal refuge to range from “properly functioning” to “at risk” for proper stream temperatures. Once a cool water safe haven for aquatic species, increased water temperatures throughout this creek may lead to increased wildlife mortality. And while storm events and landslides are natural disturbances throughout this watershed, road building, timber harvesting, and other human activities have made it so storm events have much higher impacts on downstream aquatic resources than they naturally would.

The current goals for the Elk Creek watershed include maintaining and restoring the following: spatial and temporal connectivity, physical integrity of the aquatic system, water quality necessary to support healthy ecosystems, and sediment regimes in which aquatic systems evolved. In order to meet these goals and protect important wildlife throughout Elk Creek, it is critical that human activity is kept to a minimum.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek after storm. July 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of Bruce Harlow

Beaver Creek after storm. July 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of Bruce Harlow

The Beaver Creek watershed is checkerboarded with forests used as industrial timberlands. Extreme logging has taken place since the 2014 fires. Logging operations were still active up to the time of these recent storms. The Klamath National Forest has had the sense to cancel commercial logging in the watershed in the Westside project.

Beaver Creek is an important tributary to the Klamath River. This watershed makes up approximately 70,000 acres of steep sloped habitat dominated by mixed conifer and true fir forests. Beaver Creek is home to several sensitive species such as Northern spotted owls (threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)), northern goshawks, martens, fishers, willow flycatchers, Siskiyou mountain salamanders, and great grey owls. Additionally, Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon are dependent on Beaver Creek habitat for spawning, rearing, and holding for adult and juvenile fish. Due to its ecological importance, this watershed includes designated Special Interest Areas, and Late-Seral Reserve land allocation areas. These areas provide important habitat for sensitive species, and help protect the integrity of this rich watershed.

Over the years the quality of the Beaver Creek has been greatly degraded. Roads, mainly created to access timber harvest areas, are the current largest impact on the drainage. Approximately 440 miles of roads and an unknown amount of skid trails now occur within the drainage. These roads, as well as timber harvesting, has negatively impacted the watershed and degraded high quality habitat in many ways. Accelerated erosion associated with roads and logging leads to extremely high levels of stream sedimentation, which in turn results in loss of aquatic habitat for many species. In fact, Beaver Creek is on the 303(d) Clean Water Act list as impaired for sediment, and it has been reported that the likelihood of aquatic habitat being damaged due to debris is likely, and may influence the surrounding habitat for as long as ten years.

Roads and timber harvest also decrease connectivity and makes it more difficult for wildlife to easily move across the landscape. Connectivity is extremely fragmented but important for many species in this area, such as the spotted owl. There are 20 known spotted owl activity centers distributed throughout the Beaver Creek watershed. Without sufficient connectivity throughout the landscape, these owls and other late-seral dependent species are at an increased risk of endangerment.

The forests and rivers need your voice: Click here now to tell Patty Grantham to reconsider post-fire logging sensitive watersheds in the Westside proposal!


Conversion of Forests for Commercial Marijuana Cultivation–an Invitation to Disaster

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
By
16,000 square feet of cultivation on 100 acres, plus road infrastructure.

16,000 square feet of cultivation on 100 acres, plus road infrastructure.

We are somewhat strange bedfellows — the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is a non-profit group based in Arcata devoted to the defense of the North Coast’s forests; the Humboldt Redwood Company is a forestry company devoted to managing its large blocks of forestlands to provide for long‐term ecological, social, and economic vitality. Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye, we do agree on this: the marijuana “regulation” being forwarded by California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) is bad for our forests. And what’s bad for forests is bad for Humboldt County.

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 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. As a whole, the TPZ system has worked: forest conversion slowed dramatically and responsible landowners could expect a profit from forest management.

While purportedly a marijuana regulation, the CCVH initiative would do more than regulate pot — it would further open our forests to development. Under the initiative, commercial marijuana cultivation would become a “compatible use” with forestlands in Humboldt County. This little change in the law could have drastic consequences. By opening TPZ land to commercial marijuana cultivation, those growing marijuana — California’s most lucrative crop — on TPZ land would receive a tax break. In turn, because of this preferential tax treatment for those growing marijuana on TPZ as opposed to other types of land, the price of timberland would jump as more growers flock deeper into the TPZ land in the hills. Therein lies the problem.

This article was written by Natalynne DeLapp and Mike Jani and published in the Myword column of the Times Standard on July 9th


Action Alert to Protect the Wild & Scenic Smith River from Strip Mining

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
By

Smith River by Amber Shelton SM

Take Action Now: Mining companies want to develop large-sale industrial nickel strip mines in the headwaters of the Smith, Illinois and Pistol Rivers. Last year, a mining permit was denied by Oregon Department of Water Resources, but a Canadian based nickel mining company has appealed the decision. Unfortunately, the outdated mining law of 1872 prioritizes mining over all other land uses, and it is possible that the mining industry could have their way with these world class rivers if additional measures are not taken to protect them.

We need your help to ask the Obama administration for maximum temporary protection by withdrawing these rivers from mining while Congress considers the Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act, which has been proposed by Senators Wyden and Merkley and Representative DeFazio of Oregon, and Representative Huffman of California.

Nickle strip mines would negatively impact some of the highest quality rivers left in the United States, and the native fish and wildlife that depend on them. These pristine watersheds deserve protections from mining operations, haul roads, cesspools, and nickel processing facilities.

Help us keep our wild and scenic rivers pristine. The Interior Department is taking comments on the proposed mineral withdrawal now. Please click here to send a letter of support to protect our clear, emerald waters from industrial mining operations.

 


Legendary Landmark—EPIC v. Johnson turns thirty

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
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Sally.Bell.GroveEPIC has long been recognized as the regional leader in environmental advocacy for Northwest California’s forests. Our three-pronged approach of education, outreach, and strategic litigation has led to improvements in land management, law, and policy. In EPIC’s 38-year history, we have filed an untold number of lawsuits aimed at holding government and the industry accountable and protecting our wild California.

EPIC has a demonstrated history of successful impact litigation. From EPIC v. Johnson and Sierra Club v. Board of Forestry (1988) (CA Supreme Court Case; THPs may not be approved that fail to include information on impacts to old-growth dependent species), to Marbled Murrelet and EPIC v. Pacific Lumber Company (1993) (Owl Creek federal case), to the more recent successes of Bair et al. v. CalTrans (2010) (Richardson Grove case), EPIC has used the courts to intervene where government has failed.

One lawsuit, however, seems to transcend the rest, standing as a hallmark accomplishment in changing the legal and regulatory landscape for environmental review and protection on private forestlands in California. EPIC v. Johnson (1985) 170 Cal.App.3d 604, has stood the test of time as one of the most significant legal victories in the effort to properly regulate the private timber industry. EPIC v. Johnson changed the legal and regulatory landscape for the timber industry in California and brought it into the modern age.

Setting the Stage

In the beginning5The State of California has struggled with how to regulate the private timber industry since its inception, the first Board of Forestry was appointed in 1885. After WWII, an ad valorum tax became law, a misguided policy to feed the building boom – landowners were annually taxed on their standing timber until they cut 70% of it. This law remained in effect until 1976. By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, evidence was beginning to mount demonstrating that this policy and the timber industry was responsible for depleted forests, damaged watersheds, and diminishing fisheries and wildlife. To this point, the industry had basically been self-regulated. However two major events would inexorably change this dynamic.

First, in 1970, the California legislature enacted landmark legislation that became known as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Through an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process, CEQA requires that projects must evaluate potentially significant environmental impacts, and if such potential impacts are identified, must mitigate all significant adverse impacts to insignificance. The spirit of CEQA brought into being an environmental awareness and consciousness in the public debate about growth, development, and industry.

Secondly, legal action challenging the self-regulation of the industry shook the landscape. In 1971, Bayside Timber v. Board of Supervisors, the courts ruled that the existing Forest Practice Act was unconstitutional because the Board of Forestry, which regulated the private timber industry, was composed entirely of the industry itself.

In 1973, the State legislature enacted the modern Forest Practice Act. The modern Forest Practice Act created the contemporary review and regulatory system that we have come to know today. In order to harmonize the Forest Practice Act and CEQA, the Secretary of Resources certified the Forest Practice Act and extant Forest Practice Rules as a certified regulatory program under CEQA in 1976, thus exempting the private timber industry from the requirements to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A certified regulatory program is an alternative program under CEQA, which allows for exemptions from preparation of an EIR so long as the program contains all the substantive requirements of CEQA.

Georgia-Pacific, the Sinkyone, and the “Sally Bell” Grove
It is in the backdrop of this new legal and regulatory landscape that our story truly begins. EPIC was born out of the herbicide wars of the 1970’s. Soon, EPIC became involved in the struggles to protect and defend at-risk landscapes. In particular, the area that is now Sinkyone State Wilderness and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park on the northern Mendocino County coast, traditionally used by Native Americans, became a focal point of conservation efforts, and eventually, litigation.

The Sinkyone coast of northern Mendocino was a battleground for conservation efforts in the mid 1970’s. California State Parks designated two land management units as projects, the Bear Harbor unit in the north, and the Usal beach unit in the south. In 1975 most of the Bear Harbor unit was acquired with the purchase of the old Bear Harbor Ranch.

Sally Bell GroveIn 1977, Georgia-Pacific proposed to liquidate the old-growth forests of the Little Jackass Creek watershed. The California Department of Forestry convinced GP to conduct its logging operations in stages, as opposed to cutting the entire watershed at once. In late 1977, GP had it’s first THP in the watershed approved with 40 acre and 80 acre clearcuts on either side of what would eventually became known as the “Sally Bell” grove. GP carried out two more approved THPs in 1978 and 1979, one adjacent to the Sally Bell Grove area and the other above Bear Harbor mainly in Jackass (or Wolf Creek) watershed.

In the THP on the knoll and valley adjacent to the Sally Bell Grove area, which was mostly clearcutting, a designated significant archaeological site was bulldozed by GP to make a layout pad for falling an old-growth redwood. GP was taken to court and ended up having to do a complete archaeological inventory for their entire 50,000 acre Usal unit. The judge was pressed to, but did not, impose mandatory consultation with Native Americans as part of his ruling.

EPIC commented on all of the GP THPs along the Sinkyone Wilderness Coast between 1977 and 1986. In 1983, EPIC filed its first forestry-related litigation aimed at stopping GP from clearcutting the Sally Bell Grove. EPIC, the public, and tribal interests worked with the state legislature, State Parks, and land acquisition interests such as Trust for Public Lands to try and secure funding to purchase the GP holdings along the Sinkyone coast.

EPIC v. Johnson

In 1983 GP proposed to clearcut 75 acres of old-growth redwoods of the Sally Bell Grove, and some other areas, and CDF approved the THP. EPIC and the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) filed suit against the agency, CDFCDF, and its Director, Ross Johnson, as well as the Board of Forestry, the Secretary of Resources, Rex Timber, and GP.

EPIC v. Johnson brought four major claims. First, the suit contended that the six-page THP approved by CDF must comply with all provisions of CEQA from which they are not explicitly exempt that CDF abused its discretion by approving the THP without requiring GP to analyze the cumulative impacts of its combined old-growth logging projects in the Sinkyone coast. Second, EPIC argued that CDF abused its discretion by failing to require GP to consult with the Native American Heritage Commission over sensitive historic cultural sites. Third, there were insufficient steps taken to ensure that the heritage sites were adequately protected. Finally, EPIC argued that CDF abused its discretion by failing to provide a timely response to public comments when it approved the THP.

EPIC filed suit in state court. The case was heard in Mendocino County. The Mendocino County court denied EPIC’s request for a Writ of Mandate. EPIC appealed the decision to the California Court of appeals, and the Court granted a Stay until a decision could be made. The appeals court, unlike the trail court, agreed that CDF had abused its discretion and issued a Writ of Mandate setting aside the approval of the THP on July 25, 1985.

Legal Claims Analysis

EPIC prevailed on all four of its major claims against the approval of the THP. The court agreed with EPIC that all substantive provisions of CEQA apply to the approval of THPs unless such provisions had been explicitly exempt from application by statute. Two previous court cases also found that the Forest Practice Act and THPs must comply with CEQA, however, in EPIC v. Johnson, CDF itself argued that it only needed to approve THPs utilizing the criteria of the Forest Practice Act and Rules. The courts once again rejected this argument, and thereafter, there was little debate as to the applicability of CEQA to THP approvals.

The court agreed with EPIC that CDF had abused its discretion by failing to require GP to analyze cumulative impacts. Here, CDF argued that it need not consider cumulative impacts because there were no explicit rules requiring such analysis in the Forest Practice Rules. The court also rejected this argument.

Second, the court agreed with EPIC that CDF had abused its discretion by failing to consult with Native American representatives over potential impacts to cultural resources. Here again, CDF fell back on the argument that it need not consult because there were no rules in the Forest Practice Rules requiring it to do so. The courts rejected this argument, referring back to CEQA, which requires public agencies to consult with all agencies having jurisdiction over the affected natural resources.

Third, the Court agreed that adequate measures were not considered or implemented to ensure that the Native American Heritage sites were protected.

Finally, the court agreed with EPIC that CDF had abused its discretion by failing to provide a substantive response to public comments within the then required 10 days after THP approval. The court reasoned that CEQA called for a good faith, reasoned response to public concerns that showed why a particular comment was rejected or accepted. Responses to public concerns are now issued at the time of THP approval.

Enduring Legacy

After the landmark victory of EPIC v. Johnson, the same GP forester who had written the set-aside THP for the Sally Bell grove resubmitted the THP to CDF, changing only the date on the THP application. EPIC v. Johnson II was filed. This case never resulted in a decision, however, as EPIC’s victory in the original case, coupled with public pressure, legislatively-allocated funds, and funds from the Trust for Public Lands and the Save-the-Redwoods League resulted in the purchase of the 7,100 acres of GP lands on the Sinkyone Coast in December of 1986. 3,255 acres of this was transferred to State Parks and incorporated into Sinkyone State Wilderness and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, with the rest acquired by the Sinkyone Intertribal Council in 1997 as Sinkyone InterTribal Wilderness.

Not only did EPIC v. Johnson save the old-growth of the Sally Bell grove, but, perhaps even more significantly, it forced CDF and the private timber industry to address the cumulative impacts of its logging activities on sensitive and irreplaceable natural resources. It took CDF and the Board of Forestry about six years to come up with a check-list process, and still thirty years after the EPIC v. Johnson decision adequate reform – despite report after report and blue-ribboned panel after panel – is still being held up. There were and continue to be efforts to improve the processes for protection of Native American Heritage, and compliance with CEQA, that have had some good results. There still is not an ongoing reality of true consultation with California Indians that is required by federal agencies.

Work Remains

Fulfillment of the full spirit and intent of EPIC v. Johnson remains elusive. Although the Board of Forestry did create a mechanism for the analysis of cumulative impacts from approved THPs, significant problems remain. According to EPIC co-founder, and EPIC v. Johnson plaintiff, Richard Gienger, the full intent of EPIC v. Johnson has never been implemented or realized. “The current system doesn’t work and no one wants to face it,” said Gienger. Specifically, Gienger calls out the gross inadequacy of restricting the cumulative impacts analysis only to projects conducted within the past 10 years. Gienger said that the legacy effects and cumulative impacts of historic logging activities are still being felt, some from the late 1800s, but especially since 1950 and right up to today. More troubling, however, is the institutional culture at CDF and other state agencies that results in unjustifiable decision-making. “Decisions aren’t being made based on the conservation and recovery of the forests, watersheds, and wildlife; nor on the long-term needs and balanced relationships with human communities,” Gienger said. “Decisions are being made based on current net economic value which basically forces cutting as soon as there is merchantable value.”

EPIC has proved itself as probably the singular most effective environmental advocacy group at changing law, regulation, and policy governing the private timber industry in California using strategic litigation. Today, EPIC is deeply engaged in the newly created “Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program” which is aimed at developing transparency, efficiency, and environmental integrity in the private timber industry regulatory process. EPIC will continue to advocate for our forests, watersheds, and wildlife on privately managed forestlands and will work to uphold the public trust and keep both public agencies and private industry accountable to the law.


Action Alert to Ban Bobcat Trapping in California

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
By

bobcat-kitten flikrTake Action Now: Bobcats are still being trapped throughout California, and their pelts are sold in the international fur trade market. Recent spikes in demand from countries like Russia and China have increased prices for bobcat pelts, resulting in a boom in bobcat trapping throughout the State of California.

On October 11 2013, the Governor approved the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 (AB1213), which directs the California Fish and Game Commission to increase bobcat protections, and now the Commission is considering two options for bobcat trapping restrictions: Option 1 proposes a partial closure of the state to bobcat trapping by establishing closure boundaries around protected areas; and Option 2, which EPIC supports, would implement a complete ban on commercial trapping of bobcats throughout California.

The Commission is slated to make a decision to adopt regulations at their August 5th hearing, which will be held at 8am at the River Lodge at 1800 Riverwalk Drive in Fortuna California.  EPIC will join bobcat advocates from around the state to rally for the protection of bobcats at 7:30am before the hearing.

Two days before the hearing, on Monday, August 3rd from 6-8pm, EPIC and our allies will host a teach-in and poster making session in the Arts & Crafts Room at the Arcata Community Center. 

The trapping industry  has openly opposed the state wide ban, and will likely send a spokesperson to speak at the August 5th hearing in favor of bobcat trapping. This is why it is important for bobcat allies to make a presence and show the Fish and Game Commission that the overwhelming majority of people are in favor of a statewide ban.  The law on the books allows bobcat trapping season to take place between November 24 and January 31, and anyone possessing an easy-to-obtain trappers’ license can trap as many bobcats as desired until a statewide total of 14,400 bobcats are killed for the season. The nearly unrestricted statewide cap is based on out of date population estimates from the 1970’s of 72,000 individuals. This baseline number is deeply troublesome. Over thirty years ago, in 1982, a court found that the science behind the 1970’s population estimate was too flawed to qualify as the basis for a bobcat management program. Yet, no additional surveys have been conducted since.

Bobcats are shy creatures that do not threaten public safety, and while no one knows what the current bobcat populations are, there is anecdotal evidence that trapping has greatly diminished localized bobcat populations, throwing ecosystems off kilter. In fact, the state legislature recognized that bobcats are important apex predators that play a significant role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, reducing rodent populations and preying on populations of many animals that are considered “nuisance” animals such as raccoons, opossums and skunks. Bobcat trapping hurts more than bobcats; it hurts our forests and fragile ecosystems.

In addition to protecting bobcats for ecological reasons, there is a moral obligation to end the cruel and inhumane methods of killing bobcats. Because their pelts are worth more without bullet holes or other marks, trappers often strangle, stomp or bludgeon them to death. California should lead the nation and outlaw this cruel and harmful practice.
Click here to take action now!

P.S. The last time we attended a Fish and Game Commission hearing in Fortuna, we helped sway the Commission to protect gray wolves in California and with your help, we can do this again for the bobcats.

 


State Wildlife Action Plan Update & Alert

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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Photo Credit: USFWS

Take Action: Advocate for a strong conservation legacy of California’s imperiled wildlife by asking the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to prioritize the protection of species in the North Coast Klamath Province and Pacific Northwest conifer forests.

CDFW is updating the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The public review and comment period on the draft is open until July 2, 2015. California is the wildlife state, harboring more species and endemic plants and animals than any other state in the nation and it is the most populous, which makes this plan no small task.

The SWAP is a “comprehensive plan for conserving the state’s fish and wildlife and their vital, natural habitats for future generations.” Rather than concentrate on single species, the CDFW targets conservation through defined provinces and different natural habitat types. It includes the consideration of climate change and revises the list for the Species of Greatest Conservation Need and also reiterates the need to promote partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, tribes and non-governmental organizations. The Draft plan outlines goals, key ecological attributes, objectives, pressures and threats, strategies, companion plans, adaptive management and monitoring.

There are over 1,000 species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals and plants that are considered as Species of Greatest Conservation Need! The list includes 414 fish and wildlife species. National forests account for 15.8 million acres (48%) and other public lands account for 4.2 million acres (13%) of the golden state.

The North Coast and Klamath Province encompasses 14 million acres and the vegetation consists of predominantly conifer and mixed conifer forests.  Logging is one of the pressures outlined in the Draft plan. Forestry is the most widespread land use consisting of 1.9 million acres of privately owned timberlands mostly in the coastal portion and 4.8 million acres of national forests and public land managed by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Other pressures in our province include agriculture, dams and water management/use, housing and urban areas, invasive plants/animals, fire and fire suppression, livestock, farming and ranching and climate change.

Strategies and objectives, in the Draft plan, to conserve wildlife in Pacific Northwest Conifer Forests are: data collection and analysis, outreach and education, management of invasive species, advocating for wildlife-friendly fire management, management planning to ensure the conservation of redwood habitat, improving fire management plans and influencing management of federal lands with partnerships.

While much consideration has gone into the SWAP Draft Update there is a need to prioritize and strengthen working relationships between CDFW and the US Forest Service. Because of increasing pressures and dwindling populations of threatened and endangered species there is also a need to prioritize the conservation of old-growth and mature forest habitat throughout the state, primarily within the Pacific Northwest.

Please take action to ensure a strong conservation legacy for California’s people and wildlife!

Click here for more information or to read a copy of the SWAP Draft Update


State of Elk River—Cumulative Impacts, Contemporary Challenges

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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Source: Lost Coast Outpost.  According to local Angela Tellez who took the photo, “It floods like this at least once a year, though this year this is the third time it’s flooded this much. It’s from the hole in the Headwaters, all the logging over here and it’s getting worse every year.”

Source: Lost Coast Outpost. According to local Angela Tellez who took the photo, “It floods like this at least once a year, though this year this is the third time it’s flooded this much. It’s from the hole in the Headwaters, all the logging over here and it’s getting worse every year.”

It is said that those whom forget history are doomed to repeat it. When it comes to the Elk River watershed, located just south of Eureka, in Humboldt County, California, perhaps the saying should read “those whom forget history are doomed to exacerbate its effects.”

Over 150 years of intensive forestland management in the Elk River watershed have profoundly changed the landscape, and left behind a legacy that continues to confound contemporary forest policy debate. The Elk River watershed has long been a focal point of EPIC’s advocacy efforts. While much of this effort has been focused on preserving the remaining old-growth of Headwaters Forest, the solutions to recovering the forest, watershed, and wildlife are much less clear.

There can be little debate that forest management practices in Elk River have improved dramatically over the last several decades. In particular, forest management has significantly improved on the former Pacific Lumber Company Lands, now owned by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC). HRC serves as a stark contrast to the intensive liquidation logging conducted in Elk River by Pacific Lumber during the MAXXAM days. HRC has ended the practices of clearcutting and the logging of old growth, and has proven itself to be a law-abiding citizen, in stark contrast to its predecessor.

Questions remain, however, as to whether or not this change in heart and practice is enough. The forests of Elk River have been depleted, the watershed is in a state of disrepair, fish and wildlife species continue to struggle, and downstream residents continue to feel the effects of a century and a half of resource extraction. These cumulative impacts persist and serve to confound contemporary management, law, regulation, and policy.

While both HRC and Green Diamond Resource Company continue to produce forest products, conditions in the Elk River watershed have been slow to respond and recover from past management. While the debate about the effects of contemporary management rages on, the watershed, the wildlife, and downstream residents continue to suffer, thus begging the question about forest and watershed recovery. In-stream remediation projects which could benefit residents, fish, and wildlife, are mired in regulatory red-tape, and even the most optimistic estimates indicate that these projects could still take years to implement.

State regulatory mechanisms, which were largely responsible for enabling Pacific Lumber to perpetrate much of the contemporary damage that has been done to Elk River, have proven ineffective and inadequate to address pre-existing cumulative impacts in the context of modern timber harvest permitting. CAL FIRE continues to approve THPs in Elk River, while the Regional Water Quality Control Board flounders at its efforts to develop meaningful and effective regulations and permits to protect and recover water quality.

Clearly, a new approach is needed. EPIC is dedicated to working with land managers, agencies, residents, and restorationists to find collaborative, creative, and lasting solutions. Elk River is historically, biologically, and socially significant, and will be a focal point of our advocacy efforts going forward.


Northwest Forest Plan at 20: It’s Working!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
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The Northwest Forest Plan is working according to schedule. Like a fine wine, the Plan predicted our forests would get better with age; as forests that were cut in the 20th century eventually matured, the landscape would slowly regrow beautiful and bountiful old forests. In the 20 years that the Plan has been in place, our federal forests have recruited new old-growth habitat and have dramatically slowed the loss of high-quality habitat. And while losses still outnumber gains, according to the Plan, we should begin to see net gains in old-growth forests by mid-century.

On June 9, 2015, an inter-agency group composed of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, released its 20 year status review of the Northwest Forest Plan. The study found:

  • The Northwest Forest Plan makes a big difference in forest management. The loss of old-growth has been nearly stopped on federal forests (and the loss that does exist is almost exclusively due to natural disturbances) while non-federal old-growth continues to be lost to logging
  • Outside of Washington State, marbled murrelet populations appear stable. (Flip side: Washington’s murrelet population is plummeting precipitously.)
  • While murrelet habitat is largely stable on federal lands, it is still disappearing from non-federal lands. To ensure murrelet’s long-term survival, we need to arrest the loss of habitat on non-federal lawns.
  • For northern spotted owls, the good news is that the loss of habitat on federal lands has been drastically slowed. The bad news is that non-federal lands are still getting hammered, placing greater strain on federal lands for spotted owl conservation.
  • Our federal forests are still producing jobs. Recreation spending is the number one job creator on lands under the Plan.

 

For more information, EPIC has provided a longer analysis of the report below. (Warning: for forest nerds only!)

 

Status and Trends of Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forests

Overall, the amount of older forest on all lands within the NWFP boundary has decreased by 5.9 to 6.2 percent between 1993 and 2012, depending on which definition of older forest was used. Because of new recruitment, these losses are tempered: negative net changes in amount of older forests on federal lands managed under the Plan’s guidance have been small—a 2.8 to 2.9 percent decrease. These numbers are consistent with the expected losses under the NWFP.

Fig1The Northwest Forest Plan makes a big difference in forest management. The amount of decrease on federal lands) was significantly less on federal lands than on nonfederal lands (11.6 to 18.1 percent). As shown in Figure 14, the primary cause of loss of older forests (OGSI-80=structural components akin to 80 year old, OSGI-200=structural components akin to 200 year old) on federal land were natural disturbance, such as fire and insects, but on nonfederal law, timber harvest dominated the removal.

Most of the loss on federal lands coincided with large wildfires, and thus the areas that incurred the largest losses of older forest (OGSI-80 and OGSI-200) on federal lands (based on area) were the Oregon Western Cascades, Oregon Klamath, and California Klamath which have experienced large wildfires since 1993. The largest percentage loss (8.6 percent) was on reserved allocations (Late-Successional, Riparian, Congressional) on USFS lands in northwest California owing to fire. That said, wildfire proportionately occurred in fire-prone areas. Fires have the capability of increasing the speed at which forests develop old-growth characteristics by adding important snags and downed wood.

Over the last 20 years, older forests have become slightly more fragmented from disturbances on federal lands at the scale of the Plan, but again, in some smaller landscapes such as the Siuslaw National Forest, the older forests have not only increased in abundance, but have also become somewhat less fragmented. Overall, federal forests are far more contiguous and less fragmented than nonfederal forests.

Status and Trends of Marbled Murrelet Populations and Habitat

Marbled Population

Fig2

Based on at sea surveys of marbled murrelets across the range of the Northwest Forest Plan, researchers estimate that there are approximately 19,700 murrelets. Since surveys the inception of the Plan, annual population estimates for the entire NWFP area ranged from about 16,600 to 22,800 murrelets. Populations range from a low of 71 in the far end of the study range (San Francisco to Shelter Cove, CA) to a high of 7,880 murrelets in northern Oregon (from Coos Bay north to the Columbia River, Oregon).

At the state scale, local population trends are not always clear. In Washington, there is a clear declining linear trend in Washington of 4.6 percent decline per year. There is no evidence of a trend in Oregon or California, no trend was detected. At the NWFP landscape level, no trend was detected for the overall area, although the trend estimate is negative owing to Washington’s decline.

Marbled Murrelet Habitat

While the murrelet populations appear to be somewhat stable, the status review’s analysis of marbled murrelet habitat is somewhat bleak. As stated in the report:

While there is some uncertainty about gains and net change, we believe that a real loss in habitat has occurred from 1993 to 2012. Based on our bookend data, the rate of loss of higher-suitability habitat on reserved lands has been about 2.5 percent over the 20-year period (due mostly to fire, especially in Oregon; Table 2-12). However, rate of loss of higher-suitability habitat has been about 10 times greater (26.6 percent) on nonfederal lands, due mostly to timber harvest (Table 2-13). Conservation of the threatened murrelet is not possible if such losses continue at this rate into the future.

If the amount of higher-suitability habitat for murrelets is to be maintained at its current level, and given that almost half of the higher-suitability habitat is on nonfederal lands, accomplishing this goal will require significant contributions from nonfederal lands. Over time, as habitat on federal reserved lands increases in quality, less reliance on nonfederal lands may be warranted. Thus, currently, there are limits on the extent to which the NWFP can protect remaining suitable habitat and prevent its ongoing loss.

. . . .

For the many younger stands in the murrelet range that were clear-cut harvested in the past century, the benefits of habitat development are far into the future. However, if management for late-successional and old-growth forests continues, projections show substantial increases of forest exceeding 150 years in age by 2050 on western federal lands (Mills and Zhou 2003). Shorter-term gains in habitat quality may occur as older forest fills in around existing suitable habitat and reduces edge and fragmentation effects in existing habitat, prior to the older forest developing the large limbs, nest platforms, and other characteristics of murrelet nesting habitat.

. . . .

Given declining murrelet population trends as well as habitat losses, in many areas, it is uncertain whether their populations will persist to benefit from potential future increases in habitat suitability. This underscores the need to arrest the loss of suitable habitat on all lands, especially on nonfederal lands and in the relatively near term (3-5 decades). (Emphasis added).

Further, in studying the various factors which might influence murrelet population dynamics, such as climate and ocean conditions, the status review concluded that “amount and distribution of higher-suitability nesting habitat are the primary factors influencing abundance and trend of murrelet populations.”

Northern Spotted Owl Habitat:

Fig3

The good news is that the Northwest Forest Plan is working and has slowed the destruction of northern spotted owl habitat. Within federal lands, approximately 7.2 percent of nesting and roosting habitat was lost; however, much of this was offset by new habitat recruitment—i.e., forests growing large and old enough to function as suitable habitat. Together, on all federal lands, there was an estimated rangewide net decrease of 1.5 percent of nesting/roosting due to the recruitment of new habitat offsetting losses. In the reserve network (Riparian, Late-Successional), the net decline was greater at 4 percent, which is less than the anticipated loss of 5 percent over two decades in the NWFP’s design. It is expected that by mid-century, new recruitment will overtake habitat loss.

Fragmentation of NWFP forests has likewise slowed. Rangewide, nesting/roosting habitats have become slightly more fragmented on federal lands (both reserved and nonreserved) with about a 1.1 percent conversion of core habitat to edge habitat. In California, reserved habitat has become slightly more contiguous in the wet and quick growing Coast Range and Cascades (0.8 to 1.2 percent respectively) and more fragmented in the drier Klamath province (3.8 percent).

The bad news is that private lands are still being hammered and that losses from private lands are placing greater strain on federal lands for conservation. Dispersal habitat, which is more open than nesting/roosting or foraging habitat, is important as it allows gene flow between high-quality northern spotted owl habitat. On federal lands, dispersal habitat has increased by 2.2 percent. However, at the landscape level, there has been a 10 percent gross loss of dispersal habitat around the periphery of federal forests, likely due to private timber harvesting near federal lands. This heavy loss means that there has been a net loss of 2.3 on all lands, federal and private. This has caused a loss of connection between some areas, including between the Oregon Coast Range and the Western Cascades and an increasing isolation of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

There are other unknown or unquantifiable threats. Climate change may increase the frequency and intensity of large wildfires. Further, changing climates may cause species composition changes, particularly a move to less hospitable pine forest types. Lastly, barred owls are displacing northern spotted owls and may be forcing northern spotted owls to utilized less suitable and marginal habitat.

Socioeconomic Report

Recently, logging on federal land has increased while logging on non-federal land has slowed. Between 2001 to 2009, timber offered for sale on federal lands more than doubled, and timber actually harvested in 2009 was 60 percent greater than that of 2001—volumes not seen since immediately after the adoption of the Plan. In contrast, private timber harvests have dropped. As a result, in 2012, the percentage of timber harvested on federal lands compared to total harvest on all ownerships increased from 3.2 to 9.6 percent.

While timber production is undoubtedly important to rural communities, recreation visitor spending is the single largest job-creator associated with lands under the NWFP. In 2012, NWFP recreation visitors supported approximately 6,900 direct jobs and 2,900 indirect and induced jobs in the NWFP area.


Last Chance Grade: Looking at Alternatives

Monday, June 8th, 2015
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Last Chance GradeThe Redwood Highway, also known as Highway 101, is the main north-south arterial connection for north coast residents and visitors alike. “Last Chance Grade” is a stretch of Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously high above the Pacific Ocean and experiences frequent landslides due to the geological instability of the area. Within this corridor, landslides have been an ongoing problem for decades, resulting in regular road closures. Currently, Caltrans is in the beginning stages of planning for the Last Chance Grade Project. The agency is considering possible alternatives and reroutes that would take the road along an inland path to the east through coastal scrub, riparian and young, mature and old-growth forests within the Del Norte Coast State and National Park boundaries.

lcg_cultural-and-environmental-resourcesThe project bypass proposals are big and expensive and one could result in the removal of up to three acres of old-growth redwoods (30-50 trees); all would result in significant cuts to the hillside with nearly a million cubic yards of fill that would need to be disposed of (and not in the nearby creeks). All bypass alternatives would directly impact the natural resources in and visitor access to Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. If Caltrans were to follow its traditional methods of operation, the project would result in major conflict and controversy.

Perhaps sensing that Last Chance Grade could be yet another disastrous Caltrans project, Congressman Jared Huffman stepped in and commissioned the creation of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Working Group. Elected officials from Humboldt and Del Norte County, three tribes, members of the public, business interests and environmental organizations, including EPIC, have a seat at the table. Over the next ten meetings, the group is tasked with reaching consensus to recommend one or two alternatives to Caltrans that would be the “preferred” alternative(s) to address the geological instability and potential for roadway failure at Last Chance Grade.

Thus far, the stakeholders have meet twice, toured the slide area and spoken with Caltrans’ geotechnical engineer about the slide and learned about existing construction fixes to the roadbed. According to Caltrans, the slide is nearly one mile long, about 2,500 feet wide and at a minimum 250 feet deep. The sheer size of the slide, the steepness of the cliff and the composition of the geology make the project area difficult to design around. Caltrans repaves the roadway monthly to combat sinking. The stakeholders are exploring all viable options including using the existing right of way, by way of a viaduct, and a tunnel.

This multi-stakeholder process is the first for Caltrans District 1. Perhaps the agency is learning that the community deserves an honest and open discussion about the social and environmental impacts of highway development? This process is a far cry from the way in which Caltrans District 1 first attempted to fast-track approval of the STAA highway-widening project at Richardson Grove State Park back in 2007. For the past seven years, EPIC has been calling on the agency to explain its decisions, take into account community concerns and operate in accordance with the law. “These should not be ridiculous expectations for a public agency,” said Natalynne DeLapp, Executive Director of EPIC. “However, three contentious lawsuits: Richardson Grove, Willits Bypass and the Smith River’s 199/197 projects have shown that Caltrans was not forthcoming with the public or respecting our laws.”

Caltrans has an opportunity to get it right with Last Chance Grade. There is little question among EPIC staff that the project has a legitimate need: to maintain motorist safety and connectivity of the major highway between Oregon and California. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the process and will work cooperatively with the stakeholders to find solutions that will adequately address the needs of the community, while protecting the rare and sensitive environments,” said Natalynne. “As this project unfolds, EPIC will continue to advocate for full public transparency and protection of old-growth redwood forest and salmon habitat values.”

Click here to listen to KHSU’s May 28 Thursday Night Talk as Eric Kirk interviews Natalynne DeLapp about Last Chance Grade and other transportation projects on the North Coast.

Click here to listen to KMUD’s May 25 Environment Show host Natalynne DeLapp discusses transportation, the environment and quality of life on the North Coast with Dave Spreen. 


Defending the Pacific Northwest Protects the Planet

Friday, June 5th, 2015
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USFWS FLICKROver the next few weeks and months, EPIC is going to focus in depth on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions for the U.S. Forest Service. Each week we will bring you a new topic. To catch up on what EPIC has previously written, click here.

Big, old trees are our local solution to global climate change. The Northwest Forest Plan, the landscape-level plan for our federal forests in the Pacific Northwest, not only protects local wildlife, water quality, and recreation, but also helps our forests act as a climate buffer, slowing the impact of global climate change.

Let me explain: as trees grow, they suck up carbon dioxide from the air and trap it in their trunk, limbs, roots, and leaves—or to use the fancy science term, this carbon is “sequestered.” As a tree grows, it becomes a carbon “sink,” storing more carbon than it emits. And the bigger the tree, the more carbon can be stored away. When trees are cut, however, they become a carbon “source.” Deforestation creates carbon emissions, from the heavy equipment, to disrupted soils, to burning unmerchantable piles of limbs and branches (called “slash” piles). After accounting for carbon stored in wood products, logging releases approximately half the carbon that was sequestered. This is especially important in regards to old-growth forests. If a tree had been pulling from the atmosphere for 700 years, as many old-growth redwoods on the north coast have, then if that tree is cut down, it will emit significant amounts of carbon that had been stored for hundreds of years. Just like fossil fuels, this carbon had long ago been removed from the carbon cycle; like stepping on the gas pedal in your car, logging these high-carbon forests will only speed up global climate change by releasing a sudden influx of long-stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Recruiting and preserving big, old trees is like hitting the brakes, slowing our rate of carbon emissions by keeping carbon in the trees.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan was implemented, our federal forests in the Pacific Northwest were on the whole, carbon sources. The Northwest Forest Plan was designed to protect old-growth dependent species like the northern spotted owl. Since its implementation, logging on federal forests in the Pacific Northwest has dropped by 82%. Incidentally, by protecting forests, the Northwest Forest Plan has turned our federal forests from carbon sources to carbon sinks. By some estimates, Pacific Northwest forests have a greater economic value being left alone, to continue to absorb and hold carbon, than they do as lumber!

The federal government is contemplating revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. Big timber interests have their eye on these revisions as a way to get their hands on our public forests. EPIC and our allies are ready to stop them. In forest plan revisions, EPIC will champion the important role our forests play in carbon sequestration and climate change.

EPIC is part of the Federal Forest Carbon Coalition, a broad-based national coalition that encourages federal forest management agencies to manage forests in ways that protect the Earth’s climate. Find out more here. Critical National Forest Carbon Sinks   Carbon Management Choices


Fish Kill Likely on the Klamath: A Guide to Reporting Fish Health

Friday, June 5th, 2015
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Fish Health Readiness Levels for Klamath

Source: Klamath Basin Monitoring Program

Data released by the California/Nevada Fish Health Center showed that as of April 30th of this year, 100% of out-migrating juvenile salmon trapped in the main stem of the Klamath River were infected with Ceratomyxa shasta, a lethal parasite that infects salmon intestinal tracts. Based on this data, the Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team has raised current fish health readiness levels to Orange for the mainstem of the Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam to Weitchpec, which means that a kill is likely to occur and management levels in agencies need to be alerted.

Fish kills often occur rapidly over a short period of time, limiting the ability to provide a timely response to prevent large scale fish die-offs. For this reason, it is incredibly important that residents within the Klamath Basin immediately report any signs of fish mortality. If dead fish are spotted and reported, the Bureau of Reclamation would likely release water flows from the upriver dam to flush the parasite out of the area, possibly preventing a kill.

Sick fish usually congregate at creek mouths during periods of heightened stress, and dead fish generally accumulate in eddy areas. If you encounter high numbers of sick or dead fish, please alert the Office of Emergency Services Warning Center at 1-800-852-7550. Click here to download the Klamath notification poster, which you can display in your community.

 


2014 Annual Report

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
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AR 2014Cover

The Environmental Protection Information Center is proud to present to you our 2014 Annual Report. The report includes an overview of some of our major accomplishments from last year, and a vision for what we plan to do in the coming years. In 2014 we had many victories: we protected ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove, saved northern spotted owl habitat, successfully listed the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act, launched a successful campaign that banned super toxic rat poison, settled lawsuits to protect endangered wild coho salmon from interbreeding with and being preyed upon from hatchery fish, and secured an injunction against Caltrans to protect the Wild and Scenic Smith River.

As you will see, our renewed focus on forest protection advocacy work dominates our efforts, as we revitalize our organization’s role as the watchdog and defender of Northwest California’s forestlands. Our newest campaign “Connecting Wild Places” sets our biggest goal yet, to permanently protect and connect wild places, with a focus on high quality habitat areas that serve as wildlife corridors between existing protected islands of wilderness.

EPIC’s approach to forest advocacy is to seek out and champion the best available science to shape policy through education, outreach and strategic litigation. We focus on reducing environmental stressors within identified habitat linkages and roadless areas by monitoring for projects that would harm key places. We monitor Timber Harvest Plans on private lands, Timber Sales on public lands, and further protection of species that rely on intact wild places. This work would not be possible without people like you; more than half of our funding comes from individual donations. And as a membership organization we represent your values as we advocate for the science-based protection and restoration of northwest California’s forests.

 


California Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Nearly Extinct Humboldt Marten

Monday, June 1st, 2015
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Marten Flickr CCThe Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act today. The Humboldt marten is a cat-sized carnivore related to minks and otters that lives in old-growth forests in Northern California and southern Oregon. Most of the marten’s forest habitat has been destroyed by logging, and the remaining martens in California likely number fewer than 100 individuals. Consequently, California’s Humboldt martens are at grave risk of being lost entirely from the state.

“California’s Humboldt martens have been eliminated from 95 percent of their historic range,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate. “Survival and recovery of the marten demands immediate action.

The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once thought extinct, the Humboldt marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time, researchers have continued to detect martens in California, but also determined that Humboldt martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2008 and have not rebounded from that decline.

“The population size of the Humboldt marten is disturbingly low,” said Justin Augustine, with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the commission works quickly to protect this species and help rebuild a viable marten population in California.”

The Fish and Game Commission has 10 days to refer the petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department in turn has 90 days to make its recommendation as to whether the petition presents substantial information indicating that protecting the marten under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. After the department’s recommendation is received, the commission must make its own determination as to whether listing of the marten may be warranted. If so, the department will then have one year to conduct a more thorough status review of the marten.

Though fewer than 100 martens remain in California, last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to protect them under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Center, which petitioned for federal protection for the marten in 2010, plans to challenge the decision.

“The denial of protection is simply not a scientifically defensible decision,” said Augustine.

Humboldt Marten Petition to the California State Fish and Game Commission

 


Guide to Groundtruthing the Westside Timber Sale

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Grieder Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535. Photo courtesy of Felice Pace

Grieder Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535.

As summer is fast approaching, now is the time to get outside and explore your national forests. And if you need a recommendation of where to go, we encourage you to see for yourself what the Klamath National Forest is proposing in one of the most biologically significant and diverse temperate forests in the world.

The Klamath National Forest is proposing one of the largest post-fire logging projects in California’s history in an area that covers 210,000 acres of forest nestled in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains between the Marbled Mountain, Russian and Red Butte Wilderness. You can read more about the proposed project here. These burned forests are alive and vibrant. More biologically diverse than unburned forests, they provide for an array of plant and animal species, and are considered to be one of the rarest and most ecologically important forest habitats in western forests.

We need your help. One of the most effective things we can do to battle this timber sale is to have a firm understanding of what is proposed on the ground. By documenting the precious areas at risk or by investigating whether the Forest Service is keeping its word, a forest-defense technique called “groundtruthing,” you can save forests from being clearcut. But because this project is so massive, EPIC’s staff cannot examine all corners of the proposed cut. And we know there is a lot to find. Our forays into the project area have already yielded troubling results: EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, Kimberly Baker, has documented big, large trees—those the Forest Service claims will not be affected by the project—marked for cut, and previously protected trees on steep, unstable slopes once again slated to be logged.

Here’s how you can help: If you have a background or knowledge of wildlife, botany, water quality, or just have the time to explore the remote reaches of the rugged Klamath Siskiyou bioregion, please apply your skills here. Photographs with GPS coordinates are incredibly important to illustrate the uniqueness and fragility of this post-fire landscape. To learn how to get the most out of your field trip, read Bark’s Guide to Groundtruthing and bring Bark’s Groundtruthing Survey Form, an excellent resource for citizens to use when surveying a particular area for timber sales.

Specific Markings for timber sale units in the Westside Project include:

  • blue paint for “hazard trees” that are intended to be logged; and
  • orange paint for trees that are marked for leave (with the rest in a marked stand to be logged).

Need maps on where to look?

Click here to download the Westside Proposed Alternative Maps (Alternative 2 is the “preferred” alternative).

Although the public comment period ended on April 27th, comments submitted after that date will still be included in the administrative record, and should be sent to wcoats@fs.fed.us. The Final Environmental Impact Statement and decision for Westside could be released as early as mid June or July.


Keeping California Wild

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Photo by Kimberly BakerEPIC has been talking a lot about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. The Northwest Forest Plan is the governing document for all national forests in the Pacific Northwest and it is undergoing major revisions. This is one of our best opportunities in 20 years to critically affect National Forest management. For more in the series on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions, please click here.

Late-Successional Reserves are a core component of the Northwest Forest Plan. Under the Plan, these areas are dedicated to “mature” forests, either protecting existing mature forests or developing younger forests to become mature. To do so, many activities, such as logging strictly for commercial timber purposes, are supposedly prohibited under the Plan. However, there is a gulf between theory and practice.

As revealed by the Klamath National Forest’s Westside timber sale, which you can read about here, the Forest Service has started targeted Late Successional Reserves for timber harvest. Under the guise of hastening the development of new forests, the Forest Service has proposed to cut over 6,000 acres of Late Successional Reserves. Many of the proposed cuts are within the Grider Creek area, a critical habitat component linking the Marble Mountains to points north. While EPIC has stood up to the Forest Service on Westside, more drastic change is needed. These wild and rare areas need permanent protection, not subject to the politics and profits of the Forest Service.

Wilderness Areas are part of the solution to an agency gone rogue. In Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service is limited in its management; the Service may only do things that are consistent with the wild nature of the land. Thus, logging, road building and other destructive activities are generally prohibited;  instead, the land is preserved for the benefit and use of humans and wildlife. Wilderness Areas are our best way to permanently protect the land through greedy hands.

The upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions offer an opportunity to designate eligible Wilderness Areas. The Forest Service is required to assess the potential for new wilderness areas (36 C.F.R. § 219.6(b)(15)) and to recommend new areas for inclusion as Wilderness ( 36 C.F.R. § 219.7(c)(2)(v)). In this way, we can protect critical areas—those with outstanding beauty, such as North Fork Salmon River watersheds or those that connect areas of high habitat value, like Grider Creek.

EPIC can—and will—suggest new Wilderness Areas for consideration by the Forest Service, including areas slated for harvest under the Westside timber plan. But we need your help to identify the best, most productive areas. So we say unto you, our adventurous membership, go forth on to our public lands and find those areas: (1) under federal ownership and management; (2) consisting of at least five thousand acres of land or are connected to previously existing wilderness areas; (3) where human influence is “substantially unnoticeable”; (4) where there are opportunities for solitude and recreation; and (5) possess “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” Explore the land and let us know what you find!


State of the Mattole

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Fieldtrip to Mattole THP's with HRC

Fieldtrip to Mattole THP’s with HRC

Nestled in a remote valley that drains to California’s famous Lost Coast, the Mattole River watershed spans from its headwaters near Whitethorn down to the sea where it terminates at Petrolia. The Mattole watershed is a peculiar Humboldt County coastal watershed in that its forests are largely composed of a mix of fir and hardwoods, rather than being dominated by the giant and majestic redwoods found elsewhere in the region.

Pre-European settlement, the forests of the Mattole appear to have been left unmanaged, while grass lands were burned to maintain oak acorn harvests, and to manage conifer encroachment.

Post-European forest management activities and old-growth logging in the Mattole began in earnest after World War II. By 1988, approximately ninety percent of the original old-growth forest had been logged.

In the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole, much of the remaining old growth (approximately 48 percent), is still in privately-held industrial timberland ownership. The majority of this property is held by Humboldt Redwood Company, the successor to the Pacific Lumber Company.

While forest conservation activism in Humboldt County in the 1980’s and 1990’s was focused on the redwood region, the old-growth forests of the Mattole on private lands remained largely at risk. With the advent of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the Mattole Valley old-growth on the Pacific Lumber Company lands became fair game for logging. The old-growth in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole was considered to be a so-called “sacrifice zone.”

Beginning in 1999, the Pacific Lumber Company aggressively targeted the old-growth conifer forests of the Mattole for clearcut logging. Citizen’s lawsuits and direct actions in the forest were able to slow, but not fully prevent the logging of the old-growth in the Mattole by the Pacific Lumber Company.

After Pacific Lumber went bankrupt in 2008, all PL land and assets were transferred to Mendocino Redwood Company, and in 2012, the newly named Humboldt Redwood Company began to prepare and file logging plans in forest stands thought to be old-growth, or at the very least so-called “primary forests” i.e. areas that have never been managed for timber production. Once again, citizen’s mobilization and direct action ensued. In response to this, Humboldt Redwood Company has voluntarily ceased timber operations in these sensitive forest stands, and is now working with EPIC and other members of the community to determine the most appropriate conservation and management measures within these old-growth and primary forest stands.

While Humboldt Redwood Company touts commitment to protecting old-growth trees and old-growth stands, appropriate management activities in the primary forest stands are still a subject of debate. EPIC will continue to monitor Humboldt Redwood Company’s logging activities in the Mattole, and work to ensure best conservation and management practices are in place to protect the unique Mattole watershed.


Connecting Wild Places—State of Connectivity on Private Lands

Monday, May 11th, 2015
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GDRClittleriver

Extensive Green Diamond Clearcuts in Little River Watershed

Introduction

Habitat integrity and connectivity for species movement, protection, enhancement and recovery — and for climate resistance, resilience, and adaptation – is essential as we move into the 21st century. The precipitous decline of our wildlife and biodiversity, exacerbated by the significant effects resulting from climate change, means habitat connectivity on our forested landscapes is absolutely critical. Privately-held forestlands in Northwest California are essential to the recovery of species, for landscape-level integrity with habitat connectivity, and for resistance and resilience to climate change. Although privately-held forestlands regulatory mechanisms do not seek to achieve landscape-level connectivity, there are strategies that would significantly improve existing landscape conditions and allow for private lands to contribute to species recovery and biodiversity, and climate resiliency.

There are over 33 million acres of forestland in the State of California, comprising one-third of the total acreage of the entire state. Of these 33 million acres of forestland, approximately forty percent (13.3 million acres) are privately-held forestlands that are primarily managed for timber production. Of the 13.3 million acres, over 25 percent is in non-corporate private ownership, while a little over 14 percent in corporate private ownership.

The forests of Northwest California are some of the most biodiverse in the nation. Prior to European settlement, Northwest California’s forests were teeming with native flora and fauna that reflected millennia of natural growth and disturbance that created the mosaic of landscapes first encountered by settlers. Native fauna of Northwest California originally included numerous species dependent on large, dense, and complex forests and forest structures to complete life history behaviors. Some of these species are so specialized that the subsequent loss of the old-growth to logging has brought these iconic species to the brink of extinction. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, approximately 60 of California’s native wildlife is now “at-risk” and in need of conservation.

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign 

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places campaign is designed to proactively address the need for habitat corridors to facilitate species’ movement and create micro-climactic refugia. Achieving connectivity across land-use allocations, i.e. both public and private lands is a daunting task, at least on-the-face of it. While large areas of public lands are designated as reserve, such as wilderness areas and late successional reserves, there are currently few mechanisms to achieve these goals on private lands, outside of outright land acquisition or securing conservation easements, or other voluntary measures. Private lands are a critically important piece to the connectivity puzzle, and changing the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes will be essential to achieving long-term, landscape-level management changes.

Connectivity and the Private Lands Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Forest Practices on private lands in California have changed dramatically over time, particularly with the advent of the California Environmental Quality Act (1970), and the subsequent enactment of the modern California Forest Practice Act (1973). The Forest Practice Act brought into being the modern private lands Forest Practice Rules. While incremental improvements to the rules have been made over time, the private lands timber harvest regulatory system has utterly failed to give serious consideration to, or afford protections for, habitat connectivity on a landscape-level.

The Forest Practice Act articulates a duel mandate to at once achieve maximum sustained production of high-quality timber products, while protecting fish, wildlife, water, carbon sequestration, and aesthetic enjoyment. However, there is little in the modern Forest Practice Rules that would require private forest landowners to manage forests to achieve habitat connectivity and maintain species biodiversity. For example, in articulating the implementation of the Forest Practice Act’s intent, the Forest Practice Rules stipulate only that timber operations should maintain functional wildlife habitat in sufficient condition for continued use by existing wildlife communities, and that such operations maintain and recruit late and diverse seral stage habitat for wildlife, concentrated in stream zones. This is simply intent language, with no enforceable provisions or other guidance provided to achieve these goals.

Faced with this reality, federal and state regulators have fallen back on the development of voluntary conservation measures to improve forest heath and species habitat connectivity on privately-held forestlands. The primary voluntary measure is the use of Habitat Conservation Plans for private landowners where activities may result in “take” of federally-listed species. While sometimes offering additional conservation measures above and beyond standard Forest Practice Rules, Habitat Conservation Plans also include the issuance of incidental “take” permits, which allow adverse modification of habitat for, and incidental death of, species listed as threatened or endangered.

Opportunities for Achieving Connectivity on Private Lands

While the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes do not require the achievement of landscape connectivity on private lands, there are opportunities to improve land management activities for connectivity in Northwest California. There are areas where management for forest integrity and habitat connectivity could achieve significant benefits.

For example, Humboldt Redwood Company’s Mattole forestland holdings still contain a significant amount of late successional-stage forests, often referred to as “primary forests” i.e. forests that have never been managed for timber production. Appropriate management in these areas could serve to accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics, and provide for essential corridors between previously-managed areas and the primary forest areas. In addition, opportunities exist to conduct restorative forest management activities elsewhere on Humboldt Redwood Company lands, primarily in association with its so-called Marbled Murrelet Conservation Areas, which are old-growth forest stands set-aside as part of the company’s Habitat Conservation Plan. Appropriate management activities could serve to restore the connectivity between the fragmented patches of remaining old-growth redwood forest, thus facilitating species movement, and preparing for resiliency and resistance to climate change.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are aimed at improving forestland management on private lands for the purpose of achieving biodiversity, habitat connectivity, and resistance and resilience to climate change:

Federal and State regulators should seek to improve Forest Practice Rules governing private lands to prioritize species integrity, habitat connectivity and viability, and climate resistance and resilience;

Federal and State regulators, as well as private land trusts, should seek to work with private landowners to either acquire lands essential for forest health and habitat connectivity, or to secure conservation easements on such lands to achieve these goals;

Federal regulators’ issuance of new Habitat Conservation Plans must include safeguards to ensure that forest management activities conducted under these plans provide for biodiversity, connectivity, and climate resistance and resiliency; and

Federal and State regulators should work cooperatively to develop landscape-level management plans that would transcend land ownership and land allocation boundaries.

Conclusion

EPIC will work to identify, and advocate for, critical areas for achieving landscape connectivity on private lands. While the deck is stacked against us, and the challenges are many, opportunities remain to reform private lands forestry practices through regulations, legislation, policy changes, land acquisition, and voluntary measures. Working cooperatively with state and federal regulators, legislators, and private landowners represent the most promising possibilities for achieving the goals of landscape-level connectivity on private lands, and across ownership classification boundaries.


Children Are Our Future

Friday, May 8th, 2015
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photo 1Someday our children will inherit this planet, so it is imperative that we teach them well and leave them with a healthy environment that they can thrive in. Last week, EPIC joined forces with the California Conservation Corps and the Watershed Stewardship Project and presented at Creek Days in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the week before, my colleagues Rob and Gisele presented at the Hoopa Fish Fair. These events are incredibly rewarding, and we all agreed, that we were constantly amazed by the wisdom the children shared.

As I set up my fourth to sixth grade classroom next to the “Tall Tree” I felt dwarfed by the magnificence of the towering old growth forest that surrounded me. The plaque in front of the tree said the tree was 42 feet around, and 359 feet tall, when it was measured in 1957. When a new group would come through, the children would all run over to the tree and plead with their chaperones to have their picture taken with the giant redwood.

After they explored the tall tree, I would call the children over to learn about forest ecology, how forests help keep the rivers healthy by keeping the water clean, preventing floods and providing shade, habitat and food for salmon, and how the salmon eventually become fertilizer for the forest. Then I expressed the importance of protecting wild places, because these trees would not be here if they were not protected.

Wolf Pack 2I asked the children if they knew what advocacy was. None of them knew what it meant.  I told them it was speaking on behalf of something. “For my work at EPIC it is speaking for the forests, rivers, fish and wildlife, because they can’t speak for themselves.” “You mean like the Lorax?” One of the kids asked. “Yes, just like the Lorax” I said. Showing them the photograph of the wolf rally and all of the signs people had made to advocate for wolves, I told them the story of how the gray wolf gained protections last year:

There is a lone wolf in Oregon that strayed from its pack, and began coming in and out of California. Upon learning of this wolf in the region, several ranchers and even public officials publically stated that they would kill it on sight if they found it. So we joined with a coalition of people and groups to get protections for the wolf so that if it came to California, it would be safe. At the wolf hearing my two-year old son stood up in front of the Fish and Game Commission during the public comment session in front of a packed house with hundreds of people and shouted into the microphone “Protect wolves!” As people teared up hearing the plea of a little boy who wants to see wolves protected, the next commenter announced that the lone wolf “Journey” has just been confirmed to have puppies!” The crowd rejoiced and soon after, the Commission voted 3-1 to grant wolves protections under the Endangered Species Act. Someone chimed in and said, “See, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still make a difference.”

Next, I showed them the photographs of some the critters we advocate for in our region and asked them to choose one of the animals and make a poster for it. The things they came up with were so inspiring, I decided to bring them back to the office and begin sending them to decision-makers as issues come up relating to each animal.

I taught 180 students that day, and I learned from 180 students also. Now I’m hoping that the wisdom of these children will help to remind those in power of the importance of protecting wildlife and wild places for future generations.

Tall Tree - Humboldt Redwoods State Park


EPIC in Review

Thursday, May 7th, 2015
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NSO-self-defenseOur staff is always busy working to save wildlife and wild places. The short list below illustrates some of the issues we have recently worked on. Several of the items are original works, and many of them are letters we have signed to support larger coalitions. Over the past month or so, we have advocated for the protection of northern spotted owls, sage grouse, bobcats, pygmy forests, national parks, public lands and waters, community forests and open space, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Protection Agency among other things. Special thanks to all of our allies and partners in working together to make an impact both at home and across the country, and thanks to EPIC volunteer Gisele Albertine for compiling and summarizing the documents for this article.

Original Works:

On April 10th, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at long-last produced its initial 90-day finding on EPIC’s petition to “uplist” or “reclassify” the Northern Spotted Owl from a threatened to an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act. 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.

Northern Spotted Owl uplisting 90 day finding official

Federal-Northern Spotted Owl-Endangered-Petition

EPIC submitted comments on the DEIR on the proposed Central Coast Transfer Station in Mendocino County’s Pygmy Forest.

EPIC petitioned the Office of Administrative Law alleging that CAL FIRE’s current use of review standards for proposed harvesting plans which may affect the Northern Spotted Owl, are not authorized and constitutes an underground regulation and is inconsistent with the Administrative Procedures Act.

Environmental Coalition Letters:

Supporting Tsongas amendment to strike sage-grouse provision on the National Defense Authorization Act.

Community Opposes Daines Antiquities Letter which would block designation of future National Parks.

Oppose drastic cuts in non-defense spending that would further cripple the ability of the EPA, and other agencies to carry out their missions to steward our natural resources. Environmental community opposition letter to House and Senate FY16 Budgets.

Opposed the RAPID Act of 2015  which undermines the core purposes of NEPA by prioritizing speed of decisions and project approval over the public interest.

Supported the Council on Environmental Quality’s revised draft guidance for federal departments and agencies on consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change in NEPA reviews.

Supported reauthorization of FLTFA to protect significant conservation lands and enhance local economies by allowing federal land sales and conservation transactions to occur through this no-cost program.

Urged the Department of Commerce to measure the overall contributions of America’s public lands and waters to the economy, and report on the employment and economic activity associated with the outdoor recreation industry.

Urged the rejection of SB 457 which would effectively permit trappers to kill bobcats near the boundaries of national and state parks.

Opposed the “Federal Permitting Improvement Act of 2015” which undercuts public participation and environmental review.

Supported the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

In opposition to repealing California’s landmark law to protect people, wildlife and the environment from toxic lead dispersed by ammunition.

Opposed the so-called “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015.”

Urged the creation of an ozone pollution standard that is protective of ecosystems, wildlife, and vegetation.


Thousands Speak Out Against Post-Fire Logging In Klamath Region

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
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Concerned community members attend Forest Service meeting to oppose the Westside proposal.

Concerned community members attend Forest Service meeting to oppose the Westside proposal.

Westside Timber Sale Threatens Salmon and Wildlife

Over 12,000 concerned residents have submitted comments in opposition to a logging plan in Northern California that proposes to decimate protected old-growth reserves and recovering salmon-bearing watersheds.

The Klamath National Forest is proposing a massive plan to clearcut fragile post-fire forests. The Westside Project would authorize the logging of over 30,000 acres of forest that are currently protected by the Forest Plan. The Forest Service has requested permission to fast-track the project and limit public participation.

“It is disheartening that the Forest Service would attempt to bypass opportunities for public collaboration.” Said Morgan Lindsay of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “Rather than fast-track a heavy-handed logging outcome, the Forest Service should substantively collaborate with stakeholders to identify areas of agreement and priorities for treatment.”

“This region is one of the most biologically significant and ecologically rich areas in the country ” said Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Our watersheds are worth far more than short-term monetary value. We would like to see the Forest Service work with affected river communities to develop a long term fire strategy that is best for wildlife, rivers and the people.”

“People from all walks of life are speaking up to oppose this project,” Said Laurel Sutherlin with the Rainforest Action Network. “Salvage logging should not be used a means to rush timber production at the expense of cultural, wildlife and watershed values.”

As proposed, the Forest Service would clearcut tens of thousands of acres located primarily in backcountry  “Late Successional Reserves” that were established to protect wildlife habitat and accommodate wildfires. The timber sale will harm approximately 70 Northern spotted owl nesting sites and log on steep unstable “Geological Reserves” located in “Key Watersheds” for salmon recovery. The Forest Service plans acknowledge that the project would violate the Klamath National Forest’s own management plan.

At the very least, when the Forest Service does propose pot-fire logging, they must follow the law. This means that creeks should be protected with riparian reserves as required by the Forest Plan, and that yarding on steep granitic soils should be avoided when possible. Unfortunately, some timber planners see fire as an opportunity to throw the rulebook out the window.

Over 12,000 comments from concerned Americans around the country have been submitted to the Klamath National Forest asking the Forest Service to protect, rather than log, the old-growth reserves and fragile watersheds in the Klamath Mountains.

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact statement closed on April 27, 2015.