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BLM Seeking Input for Public Land Management in NW CA

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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The Bureau of Land Management will be holding public scoping meetings to seek comments to help shape the Northwest California Resource Management Plan (NCIMP) and Environmental Impact Statement for public land management over the next 15 to 20 years. The plan process is expected to take up to four years to complete and would govern 400,000 acres of public lands and resources in Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, Tehama and Butte counties. Several meetings will be held throughout the region, including one in Eureka on Wednesday, January 11th at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center at 911 Waterfront Drive from 5 to 7 p.m. Other meetings will be held in Redding, Weaverville, Garberville, Willits, Chico and Yreka.

The planning area includes lands that are comprised of wilderness trails, hunting areas, off-highway riding areas, mountain bike trails and scenic vistas. Many of these lands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as resource uses including mining, timber production, livestock grazing, and firewood collecting. Click here to find background documents that provide information about the planning area.

Specific areas of interest include Elkhorn Ridge, South Fork Eel River, Yolla Bolly, Middle Eel Ishi and Yuki Wilderness Areas as well as Samoa Dunes Recreation Area, Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, Lost Coast Headlands and Ma-l’el Dunes. We are urging our members to come out and advocate for habitat connectivity on these public lands as well as the protection of wildlife and vital ecosystems that could be affected by the plan.

We encourage our members to provide specific landscape-level comments and rationale including how you would like to see these places managed

Click here to comment and or find a meeting near you.


Public Land Giveaway

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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Sally Bell GroveOn the first day of Congress, the House of Representatives made it easier to give away public lands. In passing a “rules package”—the rules that are supposed to govern the rules for the 115th Congress—House Republicans included a provision that allows for the transferring of public lands without an accounting of the value that these lands provide.

Previously, rules required the Congressional Budget Office, a research arm of Congress, to determine how much a transfer would cost the U.S. Treasury by calculating the potential lost revenue from grazing fees or timber sales. Before a transfer could be approved, Congress would need to make budget cuts in other federal programs equivalent to the value of the land. The new rule change assumes that public lands are literally worthless, thereby eliminating the budgetary barrier to transfer land.

“It is alarming that giving away our public lands is apparently among the top priorities for this new Congress,” said Tom Wheeler, Program Director at EPIC. “Attempting to slip sneaky language into little-read legislation is not going to fly. We are watching.”

Our public lands are our nation’s key jewel, what filmmaker Ken Burns called, “America’s best idea.” Not only are our public lands a source of beauty and a backyard for recreation, they are key wildlife habitat and the source of clean drinking water. Public polling has shown that the vast majority of Americans are opposed to giving away our public lands, which helps to explain why Congress is trying to hide their actions in seemingly innocuous and mundane legislation.

Also worrisome, Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Ryan Zink (R-MT) voted for the rule change. Zink has previously stated that he is opposed to transferring ownership of federal lands to states, tribes, or private entities and his office said that, despite the vote, his position has not changed. To be fair, the land transfer provision was part of a larger rules package which included many other measures.


State Initiates Pilot Watershed Study of Timber Harvest Plan Process

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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The State of California has initiated the first of three planning watershed-scale pilot studies to evaluate the adequacy utility, and methods of representation and assessment of information that informs the modern-day Timber Harvest Plan review process. The Campbell Creek Planning Watershed Pilot Project is a subsidiary to the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program that was created in the wake of 2012’s Assembly Bill 1492, that calls for ensuring efficiency, accountability, and transparency in the THP process, and the eventual development of “Ecological Standards and Performance Measures,” to ensure the overall effectiveness of the THP administration program.

The concept behind the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is to evaluate pre-existing information in Timber Harvest Plans over history in a specific planning watershed and to then “truth” the value, utility, clarity, and representation of the information against the physical on-the-ground conditions in the watershed via field examination. The study will evaluate the ability of the information as represented to accurately depict field conditions, identify and design mitigation measures, and to identify restoration opportunities and prioritization of restoration activities and funds. The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is the brain-child of long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study for Campbell Creek, a tributary to the Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County, is being conducted by the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Working Group is comprised of an agency leadership team, a team of agency technical staff, and an appointed group of non-governmental stakeholders, including land owners, Registered Professional Foresters, scientists, fisheries restorationists, environmental non-profits including EPIC, and a tribal liaison from the Pomo tribe. The concept of having “multi-disciplinary” team and approach to evaluation is critical to the premise of the pilot project concept.

Another, though understated objective of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study, is to evaluate the ability of existing information in the THP process to inform and guide methods of assessment and develop necessary mitigations to address cumulative environmental impacts of past and contemporary timber harvesting activities on private lands in the State.

The Pilot Project Working Group held its first meeting in Fort Bragg in December 2016. The location allows for easy access to field site visits in the Campbell Creek watershed on its timberlands. Timberlands in Campbell Creek are presently primarily under the ownership of Lyme Timber. Lyme is a Timber Investment Management Organization (TIMO), and is the successor to Campbell Global, itself a TIMO. Campbell Global acquired the property from Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County is one of the last vestiges of remaining native wild-run coho salmon in the Central California Coast, and is thus a critical watershed for study and assessment of restoration opportunities.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study concept has been subject of other legislative efforts in the past that subsequently failed, but is now built into the rubric of the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program, with the hope that the study will contribute valuable information to the larger program, and aid in the development of Ecological Standards and Performance Measures. Ecological Standards and Performance Measures can be thought of as “Thresholds of Significance,” in the CEQA parlance, a set of objectives and measureable criteria to aid in the identification and avoidance of adverse cumulative environmental impacts from timber harvest and related activities on private lands in the State.

EPIC’s participation in the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group is a circling back to the landmark 1986 court decision, EPIC v. Johnson, in which EPIC sued CAL FIRE for approving the logging of old-growth in the Sally Bell Grove in what is now the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, without evaluating the cumulative impacts of successive harvests and the subsequent cumulative loss of old-growth forests.

While EPIC prevailed in forcing private forestry to be subject to evaluation of cumulative impacts via the creation of the modern-day cumulative impacts assessment process in the Forest Practice Rules, the requirements are weak at best, and in the present-day have resulted in little more than cut-and-paste boiler-plate conclusionary statements that are passed off as an “evaluation,” to support a finding of no cumulative impacts. In the 30 years since EPIC v. Johnson, CAL FIRE has never denied a Timber Harvest Plan on the basis of a finding of adverse cumulative impacts, despite the wide-spread loss of old-growth, continued declines in populations of threatened and endangered fish and wildlife, the listing of almost every major North Coast stream as water quality impaired, and now the advent of global climate change.

Long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger, has been advocating for a truly multi-disciplinary evaluation of the THP process and the information upon which is predicated for decades, and his vision and prints are all over the concept and structure of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study and the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Pilot Project study is a foundational element to building an understanding and developing an information-based critique of the current process, identifying opportunities for much-needed reform.

40 years, and still going strong, EPIC is working as hard as ever to protect our forests, fish, air, water and wildlife against the damaging impacts of industrial-scale timber harvest on private forestlands in the State. Far from being finished, EPIC will hang tough and stay strong and vigilant in working for the place we love and call home.


California Wolf Plan Sets Road Map for Conserving Small Population

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
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California Wolf Pups. Courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Two Breeding Pairs for Two Straight Years Could Trigger Reduced Protections

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has released its final plan to guide conservation and management of a small population of gray wolves well into the future. One of the strengths of the plan, which was released late Tuesday, is its emphasis on nonlethal methods to deter conflicts with livestock. But it would also seek to reduce wolves’ federal protection status from “endangered” to “threatened” when the population reaches a threshold of only two breeding pairs for two consecutive years — far fewer than what independent scientists say is needed for a secure population.

In response to public comments on the proposed wolf plan, the agency stepped back from plans to initiate delisting of wolves once their population reached only 50 to 75 wolves. The agency also included in the final plan additional, current, best available scientific literature on key issues such as the vital ecological role of wolves.mmm

But conservation groups say the final plan should have included specific protections to shield wolves from clearly identifiable threats such as being mistaken for coyotes during coyote-killing contests. And the plan failed to identify key wolf habitat conservation priorities like connectivity corridors crucial to building healthy, sustainable populations — a feature that would benefit not only wolves but other California wildlife as well. The plan also proposes to initiate aggressive management actions, which could include killing wolves, for ungulate population declines “presumed to be influenced by wolf predation” without a scientific assessment to determine if wolves, in fact, are the cause.

“Because California is only in the early stages of wolf recovery, we need to give these animals a chance to become established in sustainable numbers rather than prematurely rushing to end protections that are vital to their survival,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But we support the plan’s initial emphasis on restoring wolves to the Golden State and reliance on nonlethal methods to reduce loss of livestock.”

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the arrival in California of wolf OR-7, the first known wild wolf in the state in 87 years. His arrival launched the development of a state wolf plan with input from a stakeholder group representing conservation, ranching and sports-hunting interests. OR-7 eventually returned to Oregon, where he found a mate and has since sired three sets of pups. In August 2015 state wildlife officials confirmed the establishment of California’s first wolf family in nearly a century: the Shasta pack in Northern California’s Siskiyou County. And just last month, a pair of wolves was confirmed in western Lassen County. DNA-testing of scat collected from the pair shows that the male is a young adult from one of OR-7’s litters, while the female is of unknown origin.

“The ongoing arrival of wolves in California is cause for celebration and makes the state wolf plan’s provisions all the more important,” stated Kimberly Baker, public land advocate for the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “Wolf recovery will bring the essence of wild back to California and reiterates the need for landscape connectivity.”

The plan proposes a phased management approach, in which establishment of four wolf packs for two consecutive years will trigger consideration of more aggressive management of conflicts. After establishment of eight wolf packs for two consecutive years, management actions will become even less protective of wolves. Conservation groups say the reduced protections come too quickly under the plan, and call for an ongoing emphasis on time-proven, research-based nonlethal measures to minimize conflicts with livestock.

“It’s exciting that nonlethal methods of reducing wolf-livestock conflicts are such a foundational element of this plan, because we know they work,” said Damon Nagami, a senior attorney in NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program. “We want to give these magnificent animals every possible chance to survive and thrive here in California. So we look forward to working with the Department to ensure that happens.”

The agency received significant public input last year when it released a draft plan for public comment. Changes requested included the need to acknowledge the best available current science on managing conflicts, social tolerance, the importance of protecting wolves from illegal killings, and wolves’ critical ecological role. During the comment period, 19 conservation organizations submitted a joint comment letter on behalf of 2.9 million California residents highlighting 27 key issues of concern in the draft plan. The vast majority of Californians wants wolves protected and also fully supports the joint efforts of the state, conservation groups, ranchers and hunters to implement nonlethal conflict-prevention measures.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment.

Sierra Club California promotes the preservation, restoration, and enjoyment of California’s environment, and enables chapters and grassroots activists to speak as one voice to promote California conservation.

Click here to view the official Press Release, which includes press contacts.


Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
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Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed's only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com

Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed’s only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com.

Take Action Now: Meet the Horse Creek Project, the Klamath’s new boondoggle that will log sensitive areas while losing taxpayer money. (There’s something in it for everyone to hate!)

The Klamath National Forest cannot let a fire go to “waste.” Following the 2016 Gap Fire, the Klamath National Forest is trying to log areas that should be off-limits: Late Successional Reserves, forests set aside from commercial timber harvest so that they can develop into old-growth forests; Riparian Reserves, areas around streams that are supposed to be off-limits to logging to prevent water pollution; and northern spotted owl habitat. The Klamath National Forest argues that logging large diameter snags, (which will stand for decades until new forests grow up around them all the while providing critical wildlife habitat) is good for the forests and for wildlife—paradoxical logic that has been rejected by both science and the courts.

If history is any guide, the Klamath National Forest will lose money in logging owl habitat—what’s known in Forest Service parlance as a “deficit sale.” Burned forests are worth more to owls and fishers than they are to timber mills. To make a profit, timber companies need to purchase trees from the Klamath National Forest for next to nothing. In several timber sales from earlier this year, the Klamath National Forest sold a logging truck’s worth of timber for about $2.50—less than the price of a cup of coffee. The Klamath will lose untold thousands or millions of dollars on this timber sale, money that could go to protecting local communities or improving wildlife habitat.

The Klamath National Forest has also tied important measures such as the removal of roadside hazard trees and the reduction of fuels near private property, to the controversial logging units. By doing so, the Klamath National Forest will not only delay this important work by several months through more complicated environmental review, but may tie up this work for years in court.

EPIC urges the Klamath to focus on the priorities. Protect local communities and drop logging in Late Successional Reserves, Riparian Reserves, and occupied owl habitat.

Take Action Now: Let the Forest Service know you oppose losing taxpayer money to log sensitive areas.


Water Board Buckles under Pressure in Fight to Protect Elk River

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
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Courtesy of Elk River Residents.

Flooded home. Courtesy of Elk River Residents.

Although the dust is still settling from the eight hours of hearing in Eureka last week, it is clear that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board members chose to defer to acquiesce to pressure from Humboldt Redwood Company and CAL FIRE instead of protecting, people, property, and water quality in Upper Elk River. The Regional Board, after months of delay, finally acted to adopt a new water quality control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company’s timber operations in the Upper Elk River watershed last week, but the product approved represents a gutted shell of the proposal that was originally brought for by staff earlier this year. The new water quality control permit does not contain sufficient control measures to prevent sediment pollution and is unlikely to lead to the attainment of water quality objectives specified in the watershed remediation and recovery plan adopted by the Board for Upper Elk River in May 2016.

Last week represented the third attempt by the Regional Board to adopt new regulations to control sediment pollution from Humboldt Redwood Company timber operations in the severely impacted Upper Elk River watershed. The proposed order brought to the Board members for consideration by staff last week has been systematically watered-down with each failed attempt at adoption at the behest of Board members. Any remaining value to the Proposed Order was gutted by Board members, from the dais, via successive motions, with no opportunity for public input.

In May 2016, the Regional Board finally adopted a 14-year delinquent watershed remediation and recovery strategy, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), in which it established that no further controllable sediment from human activities could be authorized due to the well-documented lack of capacity in the Upper Elk River to assimilate further pollution. Yet, the water quality control permit adopted by the Regional Board to control Humboldt Redwood Company timber operations and their contributions to sediment pollution in the watershed will clearly not attain the goal of a ‘zero’ addition to the sediment pollution problem.

EPIC has fought for Elk River for over 20 years and will continue to fight. EPIC and our allies are presently studying the order adopted last week and are evaluating possible redress options. EPIC will not stand by and allow the disinclination of individual Board members to regulate timber operations and their contributions to water quality pollution to win out over the mandates of the law, science, conscious, and plain common-sense.


Trump Administration Troubling for Public Lands

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
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trump-digs-coal-the-guardianOur nation’s public lands are more than just pretty places. Our public lands provide clean drinking water, are “home” to wildlife, clean our air and sequester carbon dioxide, and are the backyard in which we play. They are the crown jewel of America and our greatest legacy we pass down through generations. The Trump Administration is a threat to our public lands.

Trump says that he wants to “drain the swamp.” EPIC has two problems with this. First, it’s a bad turn of phrase—doesn’t he know that wetlands are critically important? Second, Trump is filing his administration with the same Washington insiders and industry apologists that already plague our political system.

Two picks in particular, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, are the most important to our public lands

The Department of the Interior

Trump’s choice for the Department of the Interior could be his most impactful. Within the Department of the Interior are three major landowners: the Bureau of Land Management, which owns forest and rangeland across the West, and has earned the moniker the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining” do to the coziness with the ranching and mining communities; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are not only charged with implementing the Endangered Species Acts, but also manage our federal wildlife refuge system, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and the National Park Service, the crown jewel of America’s public lands.

The consensus frontrunner for the job is Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma. Gov. Fallin is a cheerleader for the oil and gas industry. Her track record as Governor is scary. She’s questioned climate change, outlawed local jurisdictions from regulating fracking, cut taxes on Big Oil (at the expense of public schools), and signed an executive order stating that Oklahoma would not follow the Obama power plant regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If her record is any indication, our public lands may be auctioned off to the highest bidder. As Governor, she shuttered 18 parks; reducing the number of public outdoor spaces from 50 to 32 in a single day. In 2005, as Lieutenant Governor, she spearheaded an effort to sell 750 acres of Lake Texoma State Park to private developers—who just happened to be campaign contributors—to construct a billion dollar resort on the lake.

There have been other rumored candidates. Harold Hamm and Forrest Lucas, both oil and gas company executives, have been floated. From the Bundy public lands giveaway camp, Rob Bishop—the chief agitator in favor of giving away public lands and gutting the Endangered Species Act—is a favored candidate. Donald Trump Jr., a trophy hunter himself*, is another potential pick and could be the most pro-conservation pick. (What a world where I cross my fingers for Trump Jr. to be elevated into a position of power!)

Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Forest Service is, somewhat surprisingly, within the Department of Agriculture. This is an anachronism from when our federal forests were concerned primarily with timber production and not the full suite of values, from recreation to wildlife that our forests are now charged with promoting.

Most rumored candidates are from Big Ag. At the moment, there isn’t a clear frontrunner. Names that have been floated include Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Chuck Conner, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush. Both men are not from the West and issues of forestland management are unlikely to be at the top of their minds.

While most of the rumored candidates are from the world of Big Ag, that doesn’t mean our forestlands will be safe. For years, logging lobbyists have been crowing that federal environmental laws have been at the expense of good paying jobs, and that if we “streamline” laws, we can have “healthy forests” and “healthy communities.” Expect assaults on NEPA and expectations to “get the cut out.”

*EPIC is not opposed to hunting, per se, but is opposed to trophy hunting.


Westside Update: EPIC Before Ninth Circuit to Defend Owl, Coho Habitat

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
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westside-legal-team-sf-11-15-16EPIC was back in court on Tuesday before to stop the Westside Timber Sale, a series of clearcuts totaling around 6,000 acres on steep and unstable slopes above the Klamath River near Happy Camp, CA. EPIC was before the Ninth Circuit challenging the denial of a temporary restraining order sought last spring. Logging has continued all summer, resulting in the destruction of northern spotted owl habitat. There is no timetable for a decision.

While much of the logging may be completed before a court ever rules on the merits of the case, EPIC is committed to seeing this litigation through. The Westside Timber Sale sets a dangerous precedent, especially as we expect illegal logging projects like Westside to increase under a Trump administration.

EPIC filed this lawsuit because of concerns to wildlife, including the northern spotted owl, coho salmon, and the Pacific fisher. The logging will destroy northern spotted owl habitat, resulting in the “take” of up to 103 owls—2% of the total species population. Logging will result in more sediment being released into the already overloaded Klamath River. Karuk fisheries experts have testified that they believe that the logging could result in the localized extinction of coho salmon in the mid-Klamath watershed. Logging is also set to take the large trees that the Pacific fisher needs. EPIC is currently in litigation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to protect the fisher under the Endangered Species Act as the fisher is in continued decline because of logging projects like Westside.

Courthouse News – 9th Circuit Urged to Stop NorCal Logging Project


EPIC Secures Victory for Clean Water in Elk River

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016
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AElk River flowing over road. Photo courtesy of Elk River Residents Associationnother EPIC victory in court! A Sonoma County Superior Court judge sided with clean water and good government last week in dismissing a lawsuit brought by Humboldt Redwood Company’s (HRC) lawsuit against the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board over a disputed Timber Harvest Plan (THP) water quality permit enrollment in the heavily impacted Elk River watershed. EPIC and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the Regional Water Board in order to support the ability of the Board to exercise its independent authority under the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act to restrict, limit, or prohibit discharges of sediment pollution into the heavily impaired Elk River watershed. The Sonoma County Superior Court ruled in favor for EPIC and the Regional Board on all counts and dismissed the case.

HRC filed suit in Sonoma County Superior Court against the Regional Water Board in August 2015 seeking to compel the Regional Board to authorize discharges of sediment pollution into the Elk River watershed in conjunction with timber operations. The Regional Board declined enrollment of the THP in the current waste discharge permitting program at the time it was requested, citing significant sedimentation from timber operations currently impairing the Elk River watershed, and the ongoing efforts of the Regional Water Board to adopt a new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and new Watershed-Wide Waste Discharge Requirements (WWDR) for HRC timber operations in the upper watershed.

The Sonoma County Superior Court found that the Regional Board’s decision was not a denial of enrollment and coverage of sediment discharges in conjunction with timber operations on Unit 1 of the McCloud-Shaw THP as HRC contended; what’s more, the Court found that even to the extent the decision of the Regional Board could be construed as a denial, that the weight of the evidence in the record pertaining to pre-existing sediment impairments, and the risk of further discharges of sediment pollution that would further threaten water quality and public health and safety would have supported a denial of coverage for further sediment pollution discharges.

HRC’s lawsuit against the Regional Board is set against the backdrop of ongoing efforts by the Regional Board to adopt a long-overdue TMDL Action Plan for Upper Elk River aimed at constraining sediment pollution into the river system. As found by a recent technical sediment analysis (Tetra Tech 2015), the Upper Elk River watershed is overwhelmed with logging-related sediment pollution, to the point that the river now has a “zero assimilative capacity,” i.e., the river system cannot intake further anthropogenic sediment discharge inputs. In May 2016, the Regional Water Board at long-last adopted a TMDL Action Plan to constrain and remediate the sediment pollution problem in Upper Elk River, and established a zero load allocation target—in other words, the objective is to prohibit any new sediment pollution discharges while efforts are undertaken to remediate and restore channel capacity in Upper Elk River.

The Regional Board is also working to adopt a new, and more restrictive WWDR permit for HRC timber operations in Upper Elk River in light of the findings of the technical sediment analysis and new TMDL target objectives. The newly proposed WWDRs would include greater restrictions on wet-weather road use, and propose enhanced Riparian Management Zone buffers and protection measures above and beyond the prescriptions currently in place for the Upper Elk River watershed.

The Regional Water Board will hold a hearing on Wednesday, November 30, at City Hall in Eureka, to consider adopting the new WWDR framework and constraints for HRC timber operations in the Upper Elk River watershed.

EPIC and PCFFA intervention into the HRC lawsuit against the Regional Water Board has served to bolster the independent authority of the Board to regulate, constrain, or prohibit further sediment pollution discharges resulting from HRC timber operations in Upper Elk River. EPIC will continue to advocate for clean-up and remediation of the impacted condition in Upper Elk River, and for stiff constraints on further sediment pollution discharges in conjunction with timber operations in the upper watershed.


EPIC Thank you for the Fall Celebration

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016
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epic-fall-celeb-2016The staff and board of the Environmental Protection Information Center would like to thank all of the attendees, businesses, sponsors, volunteers and artists who helped make this year’s Fall Celebration a fun and successful event. Each year we look forward to this event that resembles a family reunion for those of us who are the heart and soul of the environmental movement of the Pacific Northwest. The legacy that the EPIC family has made lives on through generations of grassroots activists and continues with the vibrant new energy of those who seek our efforts out to help keep our little corner of California the special place that we all know and love. Attendees included past and current staff, board, volunteers, colleagues, sempervirens award winners, and fresh new faces that are eager to participate in the contemporary environmental movement.

Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement for Environmental Activism Award Winner Greg King

greg-king-hugs-familyWe were honored that Greg’s family, friends and colleagues attended the event and gave such eloquent and heartening accounts of Greg’s past and current grass roots activism. We loved the stories from his days as a young reporter investigating the Headwaters scandal to his current efforts with Siskiyou Land Conservancy protecting the Smith River from toxic pesticides. Greg is an inspiration to us all, and we were glad to honor someone who is still working so hard to tackle our contemporary environmental issues.

Volunteer of the Year

briana-vilalobosIt was with great pleasure to recognize Briana Vilalobos for her ongoing dedication to environmental protection through her volunteer work with EPIC throughout the past year. Briana is a pleasure to have in the office, with her positive outlook and cheery personality, she flawlessly handles just about every task we have asked of her. Thanks to Briana for showing up and being motivated to get stuff done, its people like her who make this organization possible!

img_1427A huge thanks goes out to all of our volunteers and the bands for their contributions that made this another successful EPIC event! Woven Roots and Object Heavy rocked the house, keeping people on the dancefloor into the wee hours of the morning. We were also very grateful to Chef Elizabeth and the Uniquely Yours Catering team for preparing the gourmet vegetarian meal that we were able to share while we dined and laughed with our colleagues, friends and the EPC family.

 


Fall Celebration With Woven Roots, Object Heavy & Joanne Rand – Friday November 4th

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
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EPIC Fall Celeb 16 Master

The Environmental Protection Information Center proudly presents the 39th Annual EPIC Fall Celebration at the Mateel Community Center on Friday, November 4, 2016. This year EPIC will honor Greg King with the Sempervirens Award and feature some of our favorite local musicians: Joanne Rand, Woven Roots and Object Heavy.

EPIC's Fall Celebration 2015SCHEDULE:

6PM: doors open for cocktail hour with music by Joanne Rand

7PM: Sempervirens Award Ceremony honoring Greg King will be accompanied by a gourmet vegetarian dinner catered by Uniquely Yours.

9PM: Music by Woven Roots and Object Heavy

SEMPERVIRENS AWARD CEREMONY:

Photo by: Mary McKernan

Photo by: Mary McKernan

This year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Headwaters campaign, and the 20 year anniversary of the largest forest protection actions ever, we thought that it would be most appropriate to honor Greg King for dedicating a lifetime of work to environmental activism. Greg discovered Headwaters Grove, named it, and was the impetus for the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest. He is now the Director at Siskiyou Land Conservancy where he continues his efforts to protect the environment throughout the region.

The-Reggae-PartyMUSICAL TALENT:

Joanne RandJOANNE RAND For 30 years visionary songsmith Joanne Rand has brought her “Psychedelic-Folk-Revival” across the United States. Matrix Magazine calls Rand’s stage presence “electrifying,” Portland Southeast Examiner calls her “An unforgettable force of nature,” and the N.Y.Times-owned Santa Rosa PD called Rand’s music “Nothing short of brilliant.” This year Rand released her 14th CD of original songs, Still a Real World, co-produced with Stephen Hart (David Bowie, White Stripes, Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan) and featuring violinist Jenny Sheinman (David Byrne, Ani DiFranco, Norah Jones).    

Woven RootsWOVEN ROOTS harmonizes rich roots reggae and dub styles from the deep wilderness of Humboldt county. Inspiration for the powerful lyrics and beats comes from living close to the earth in the beautiful woodlands of the Pacific Northwest. This young group of musical visionaries are on a quest to create original music using nature as a model of how to maintain the continuity of life on earth. Stepping away from the mainstream path of exploitative and destructive technologies of advanced industrial economies, Woven Roots seeks to use music as a vessel to spread a message of love and understanding for our planets finite resources.

Object HeavyOBJECT HEAVY is one of our local bands based out of Arcata, California. Their music draws from the sound of soul music. Inspired by the parameters of Rock, Funk, Blues, R&B and Hip Hop, the band features Two voices which really capture their versatility with lyrics, reminding us of a world in need, a world to love and a place to be free. Their self-titled 1st album features Bill Summers, percussionist of the acclaimed “HeadHunters”. DJ Logic shows up on two tracks, and you’ll get to hear the Legendary Fred Wesley with his signature trombone.

TICKETS

You can purchase tickets for this not to be missed event at Wildberries Market Place, Redway Liquor or online at Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2600874

$60 for dinner, awards and music beginning at 6pm or
$20 for music only after 9pm.

GET INVOLVED!

If you can volunteer or if you have an item that you can donate for our silent auction, we would love to hear from you! Please email amber@wildcalifornia.org or call our office at 707-822-7711.

 JOIN US

Please join, share and invite your friends to the event on Facebook 🙂
We can’t wait to see all of you there!

EPIC Staff

EPIC Staff

Kimberly, Natalynne, Amber, Tom & Rob


Wild Horses of Modoc National Forest

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
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dsc00836The Modoc National Forest is home to the largest wild horse herd in California. There are an estimated 2,200 wild equines living within the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, which comprises over 360 square miles of federally managed land in the northeast corner of the state.

The Territory

The Devil’s Garden Plateau, also known as “The Smiles of Gods” by the Native people, lies in the heart of the Modoc Plateau. This mile-high prehistoric lava flow is sparsely vegetated with sagebrush flats, native grasses, and the nations largest expanse of juniper. Thought to have formed some 25 million years ago, the Modoc Plateau is a semi-arid region, covered with rough broken lava rock and covers approximately a half-million acres. While very dry most of the year, after the snow melts, the area is covered with hundreds of ephemeral pools and carpeted with wild flowers in the spring.

Further north, the dryness gives way to more pine forested areas, which host some of the largest mule deer in the region. The Garden is home to Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, turkeys, and sage grouse. It is also habitat for the gray wolf. The wild horse territory is overlapped by eight grazing allotments, which creates competition for forage and water. The plateau is part of the Pacific Flyway where hundreds of thousands of waterfowl stopover in the wetlands during their migration from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

The Horses

The Devil’s Garden horses are known around the country for the type of horses it produces. They even have a dedicated Facebook page. Wild horses, also called mustangs, are known for their sure-footedness, strength, intelligence, and endurance. Herds on the eastern side of the territory have some draft horse influence in their genes. The western herds have distinct characteristics some with a unique white coloring also known as roan and other herds that are mostly black. The horses arrived here140 years ago with early settlers and they have been legally protected since the passing of the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

In 2013 the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan was updated and it set an “Appropriate Management Level” at a maximum of 402 horses. The evaluation used to determine this number did not take into account the over 1,500 cows grazing within the public lands of the wild horse territory. The updated plan also reduced the size of the territory by 37 square miles.

dsc031572016 Gather

In late September the Modoc National Forest conducted a six-day helicopter roundup and captured 290 wild horses. The mustangs were gathered mainly from adjacent private land, Pit River Tribal land, but also within the boundary of the territory. The roundups started in the early morning to avoid running the horses down in the afternoon heat. Multiple sweeps would happen each day, brining in anywhere between 5-40 mustangs at a time.

yound_stallionsPressured by the low flying aircraft, the wild horses were herded and trapped into small pens. Soon after, the horses were brought to nearby Willow Creek Ranch, a historic property within the wild horse territory. There they were sorted by age and gender. At the end of each day, mustangs age five and under were shipped to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Litchfield Facility near Susanville, CA. A total of 200 horses were brought to Litchfield to be freeze branded, vaccinated, and put up for adoption.

Older equines, age six and up, not adopted that week were released back onto the wild horse territory. The total included 68 stallions and 1 mare. There were 20 older mares that received the PZP fertility control vaccine at the Litchfield Facility who were then shipped back and released. Any of the younger horses that are not adopted from BLM Litchfield Facility after nine months will also be released back onto the territory.

For more information about adopting a wild mustang from the Modoc National Forest’s Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory contact the BLM Litchfield Facility

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/eaglelake/wild_horse_and_burro.html

Photos of Modoc wild horse roundup by Kimberly Baker:

 

Photos of horses in holding facility by Coni Lehr:


California’s Forests and Global Climate Change—Changing the Game

Thursday, October 27th, 2016
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California’s forests can help us fight climate change— if we let them. By recognizing the value of healthy, intact forests, we can use regulations and incentives to invest in the preservation and restoration of our forests—not only curbing climate change, but preserving clean air and water while protecting and restoring native habitat and biodiversity.

California’s forests can store (or “sequester”) carbon dioxide while mitigating the increasingly extreme environmental effects of global climate change. Incredibly, scientists have shown that deforestation and other forest resource extraction techniques that deplete forestland productivity are the second-largest source of global carbon dioxide emissions after fossil fuel combustion. Carbon dioxide emissions from forest resource extraction activities are known to account for as much as 20 percent of annual totals both globally, and in the State of California.

Redwood forest resource depletion is troubling because of the impact it has on forestland productivity, carbon sequestration, maintenance of clean water, impacts on air quality, healthy soil preservation, and biodiversity. In the redwoods, forest wood fiber and biomass in managed landscapes in the redwoods have been depleted to at most 10-15 percent of historic levels. According to a recent study, California’s forests are currently emitting more carbon dioxide than they sequester. Sixty-one percent of the overall reduction in forestland carbon dioxide storage is associated with losses in carbon density per-acre, i.e., less wood fiber and biomass is growing per-acre today than has grown in the past.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In 2016, research conducted via Humboldt State University found that the coast redwood forests of Northern California are capable of sequestering more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per-acre than any other forest type on earth due to amount of relative biomass density and their well-renowned capacity for fire, drought, and insect resistance. Changes in public land management as a result of the Northwest Forest Plan, namely the protection of large trees, have turned the public lands of the Pacific Northwest from a major carbon source to a carbon sink.

Recognizing the handwriting on the wall regarding our current climate crisis, the State of California has moved to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and to seek out ways to store or “sequester” more carbon dioxide. In 2006, the California Legislature passed, and then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed, Assembly Bill 32, the “California Global Warming Solutions Act.” AB 32 established a state-wide carbon emissions reduction target aimed at dialing emissions rates back to 1990 emission levels by the year 2020. The 2020 target is established as the first step in achieving a much larger long-term objective of an 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels by the year 2050 established by Executive Order of then-Governor Schwarzenegger. Ten years later, the State legislature enacted and Governor Brown has signed Senate Bill 32, which calls for reduction in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 in order to keep the state on-track to meet the larger 2050 reduction goal.

AB 32 implementation has been placed under the charge of the California Air Resources Control Board, a subsidiary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CARB is using a combination of regulation, innovation, and incentives to attain greenhouse gas reduction targets in many industry sectors in California. For example, a low carbon fuel standard and a light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standard have been adopted, energy efficiency programs have been strengthened and expanded, building and appliance standards have been strengthened and expanded, and a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has been adopted along with regional transportation-related greenhouse gas reduction targets. “Cap and Trade,” CARB’s market-based program under AB 32, is predicated upon limiting or “capping,” emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses with individual targets based on industry sector, with reductions in the overall and individual emissions “caps” each year. For each ton of emissions allowed under a cap, the state issues a permit. Businesses can sell or trade the permits on a secondary market as well. As the cap declines, the number of permits declines and the overall value of the permits, as well as the reductions, increases.

CARB also set a net carbon sequestration target for California forests in its first Scoping Plan.

However, the California forest products industry sector, and its regulating entities, the Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry, have been slow to respond and get on the bandwagon of addressing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with industry harvesting activities, while also moving to up the ante on the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered through the growing of more, larger, older trees.

In 2012, the State Legislature enacted AB 1504, legislation designed to light a fire under the Board and Department, and the forest products industry generally, to start critically evaluating and changing, as necessary, modern legal, regulatory, policy, and industry standards to insure reductions in industry greenhouse gas emissions—to go, “above and beyond the status quo” to ensure California’s forests serve to sequester more carbon dioxide. AB 32 implementation requires a break from the so-called “business-as-usual” mentality; however, a combination of legal, regulatory, and incentive-based program changes are necessary to get the forest products industry moving in the right direction.

EPIC is engaging in AB 32 implementation at several levels. First, EPIC has been involved in stakeholder working groups and other discussions surrounding the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan by the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT), an inter-agency working team tasked with creating the roadmap for forestry in California in the future. EPIC is also engaging in critical review of existing forest practice legal and regulatory frameworks in preparation for upcoming advocacy at the State Board of Forestry as it works to ensure compliance with AB 32, AB 1504, and other climate-related legal requirements.

Protecting the redwood forest into the future means addressing global climate change and human contributions to it. Thankfully, it is the redwoods themselves that provide us with the opportunity and roadmap for doing so, if we can manage to see the forest for the trees. Change can be arduous and slow, frustrated by industry sectors invested in perpetuated “business as usual.” But the din created by everyday citizens and groups like EPIC that stand up for the natural world, the public, and the public’s interests, must accordingly be louder, bolder, and more committed than ever if we are to preserve what remains, and work to heal and restore the rest.


Zombies Haunt the Redwood Forests

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
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Albino Redwood. Photo by Amber Shelton

Photo by Amber Shelton

Zombies haunt the redwood forests. These zombies are trees, albino redwoods to be exact—so named because instead of normal green needles, the albino redwood is a shocking white! Lacking chlorophyll, the green compound in leaves that plants use to turn sunlight into carbohydrates, these mutant redwoods should be dead as they cannot produce any food. But they are not. The ashen trees survive by feasting on their brethren…Okay, that’s kind of hyperbole—more scientifically speaking, the albino redwoods obtain sugars from neighboring trees through their root structures.

First, documented in 1866, albino redwoods have long proved a chin-scratcher for scientists. For a long time, scientists have regarded the albino redwood as a parasite, but emerging research suggests that they may play a symbiotic relationship by filtering out heavy metals, such as cadmium, copper and lead, as well as other toxins, much like a liver would do in the body. The albino redwoods needles have faulty stomata, pores which the plant uses to breathe, which causes the albino redwood to use far more water than an ordinary redwood. As a result, the albino redwoods are able to draw in and capture much more heavy metals. Their ability to draw in toxins have caused some to speculate that albino redwoods could help clean up contaminated areas.

While their green neighbors may reach heights of over 300 feet—the tallest redwood still standing, “Hyperion” located in Redwood National Park, towers at 379.1 feet—albino redwoods top out below 60. Albino redwoods will never be more than runts. One of the larger known albino redwoods, known informally as the “Christmas tree,” tops out at just 30 feet.

Want to see an albino redwood? You’ll have to ask around because, like the tallest redwood trees, the precise location of these albinos is a secret for their safety. Heavy foot traffic can damage the roots and unthinking visitors may break off souvenirs.


Meet the Man Who Discovered Headwaters Forest

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
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Photo by: Mary McKernan

Photo by: Mary McKernan

Greg King is the 2016 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. In addition to discovering Headwaters Forest and leading the fight to save the largest remaining patch of old-growth redwoods in private hands, Greg has worked as a journalist, activist, and environmental professional, including founding and running the Siskiyou Land Conservancy. His lifetime of work is an inspiration to us all. The following excerpt is taken from an interview with Greg from the EcoNews Report on KHSU. Greg will be receiving the Sempervirens Award at EPIC’s Fall Celebration, at the Mateel Community Center on Friday, November 4th 2016, with musical performances by Joanne Rand, Woven Roots and Object Heavy. Click here to purchase your tickets to the event.

Natalynne: You’ve devoted over 30 years to the environmental movement, what caused you to become an environmentalist? 

Greg: When I got out of college in 1985, I started to work for a newspaper called, “The Paper.” I discovered that this beautiful second-growth redwood grove on the Russian River had been flagged for logging. So that was when I got into investigating timber politics and that led me to understand logging laws and timber harvest laws. I discovered that Louisiana Pacific was regularly violating state logging laws. I learned by talking to Sharon Duggan, EPIC’s attorney, that this was how things were going in timber politics.

Then, in late-1985 Maxxam took over Pacific Lumber, and everyone knew that Pacific Lumber had the world’s largest ancient redwood groves left on earth that weren’t in parks. So again, I was talking to Sharon and I said “I think I want to look into that” and she said “Yeah you probably should, somebody needs to look into that”—the takeover had just happened.

Early on in ‘86 it was clear that that was what was happening, this dismantling of the last ancient redwood grove on earth, with the complete rubber stamp of the state, and county officials just bending over for Maxxam. It was really actually disgusting how little internal dissention there was for what was clearly illegal logging and an illegal take over [of Pacific Lumber]. So I started writing to the Department of Forestry and going to Humboldt County in early ‘86 to explore the woods. I went for my first hike into the ancient redwoods held by Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber, in what we now call “Owl Creek Grove,” which was 1,000 acres of untouched ancient redwoods. I was so taken aback by the power of this place—I had been to redwood groves all of my life, and all of them had the mark of humanity, the trails, the signs etc.—but this was wild redwood forest, and I felt the difference. Then I realized that Maxxam was going log this place, so I came out of the woods prepared to stop them. That’s where I met Darryl Cherney, and he and I then co-founded Humboldt County EarthFirst! and we began to organize demonstrations.

N: In addition to the publication, what strategies were you and Darryl using to get this information out to the public?

Greg King self portrait: practice climb 1998. ©2016 Greg King

Greg King self portrait: practice climb 1998. ©2016 Greg King

G: By the mid- late ‘86 we myself, some Humboldt State students, and others, like Molokai, Larry Evans, Nina Williams, and Danielle Felipa, and several other people began mapping the redwood groves. In early 1987 we put out a publication called, “Old Growth in Crisis,” and the centerfold was a map showing the size and location of these groves for the first time in public. That was a significant event to get this information out. There were the demonstrations; the first ones were in Arcata, San Francisco and Scotia in ‘86. We were taught how to climb trees by rock-climbing guru, Kurt Newman, so that’s what we did, tree sitting in large part. In May of 1987 we had a national day of direct action were we had activists storm Pacific Lumber and Maxxam sites in Houston, Wall Street, San Francisco, and Humboldt County. We did a lot of direct action—no equipment sabotage ever, no tree spiking ever—we only put ourselves on the line, tree sitting, sitting in front of bulldozers, rallying, [and] protesting. We did a lot of public outreach, a lot of good professional work to let people know what was at stake.

N: You were saying there was lets just say bullying by the Department of Forestry, and this political will to take out the forests. What do you think that was based on, why was the state rubber-stamping this? Did they have something to gain from allowing this to happen?

G: I think the incentive came from the network. I hate to use the term “good ol’ boy network,” it’s cliché, but they all went to the same forestry school mostly here at HSU. Basically the idea was to not disallow logging, and not to disallow maximum profits, so we continued to see that, and we understood that this was the way it had always been. Really it is extraordinary to me that this [was a] kind of criminal enterprise—and that’s really what people have to understand, that this was a criminal enterprise from the beginning from the takeover of PL, all the way through to the logging, through the liquidation of the assets, the bulking of the share holders.

Cecilia Lanman before arrest Carlotta rally 1996 ©2016 Greg King

Cecilia Lanman before arrest Carlotta rally 1996 ©2016 Greg King

Maxxam had excellent attorneys, they easily determined that we are going to be able to do what we want in the forest without any oversight or impediment of the state. I don’t think they expected EPIC though. I mean EPIC really was heroic, the efforts of EPIC at that time. Cecilia Lanman—I mean you can’t pull out just one person, so many people, including this great volunteer run board of directors that still continues today—but Cecilia just sticking with it, through difficult times, unpaid, and just not letting it go, and that made a huge difference. 

N: So bringing that up, there was a very symbiotic relationship between EPIC and Humboldt Earth first, could you describe what that relationship was like?

G: The relationship was always necessarily kept in a philosophical realm and, physical in terms of it being the same issues. But of course EPIC could not do anything with illegal activity, and we were getting arrested all the time, for good reason. The relationship between EPIC and EF! was mostly philosophical, but also physical in which we were fighting for the same thing; the last of the redwoods, and not just the last of the redwoods, the last of the salmon, the last of the steelheads, the last of the marbled murrelet’s, the last of this type of habitat. Now what we need to do is lock up these “lesser cathedrals,” a horrible name for these ancient redwoods left just outside of Headwaters Forests Preserve. These are about 1,500-2,000 acres maybe of untouched redwoods, and a large swath of connected habitat land that needs to be protected very soon.

N: There’s definitely room for organizations like EPIC, Siskiyou Land Conservancy, and North Coast Regional Land trust to work with Humboldt Redwood Company to really lock up these lands. You’re now currently executive director of the Siskiyou Land Conservancy, can you describe the Siskiyou Land Conservancy?

G: We aim to create a land trust that would take title to, and hold conservation easements on, private properties not served by other land trusts — usually meaning small parcels that hold, and connect, important riparian and terrestrial habitats. In this work we have been successful. Siskiyou Land Conservancy also is the only organization dedicated to eliminating excessive pesticide use on bottomlands that surround the vital Smith River estuary, in Del Norte County. Nobody else has uncovered this terrible crime against the people in the environment there like we have, and we’ve been doing since ’04. And now we’re starting to get somewhere with the state, and the federal government is doing an investigation as well, so things are progressing.

N: So you have been on the front lines of the environmental movement for 30 years, and we know there is a lot of burn out in this line of work. How did you manage to sustain your drive for so long, and do you have any recommendations to young activists for sustaining their fight.

G: I have ebbed and flowed a lot. But what sustains me is to just get out in it, as Ed Abbey and David Foreman both kind of recommended. You have to enjoy the wild, in order to protect the wild.

Click here to listen to Greg King’s interview on the KMUD Environment Show

Click here to listen to Greg King’s interview on the KHSU EcoNews Report


We need you to show your support for Greg King, EPIC and for the beloved forests of the North Coast. Help us fill the Mateel Community Center to meet our fundraising goals for the year, by purchasing your tickets now to join us on Friday, November 4th for EPIC’s 39th Annual Fall Celebration. Act now by clicking here or on the image below. Thanks!

 


Breaking: Lawsuit Filed Over Feds’ Denial of Endangered Species Protection to Pacific Fishers

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016
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donate-button-save-what-matters-fisherRare Mink-like Carnivore Threatened by Logging, Poaching, Poisoning

EPIC and our allies filed suit today in U.S. District Court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unexpected decision in April to deny Endangered Species Act protection to Pacific fishers. Closely related to minks, martens and wolverines, Pacific fishers are severely threatened by logging, use of toxic rodenticides by illegal marijuana growers and incidental capture in fur traps. Although the Service proposed federal protection for the fisher in 2014, the agency reversed course and withdrew the proposal in 2016 even though the fisher’s poor status remained largely the same.

The decision to deny protections to the Pacific fisher is the latest in a string of politically motivated decisions from the Fish and Wildlife Service, in which regional staff overruled decisions by Service biologists to protect species. In December 2015 conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Service for inexplicably denying protection to Humboldt martens, another rare West Coast carnivore on the brink of extinction. In April 2016 a federal judge in Montana criticized the Service for bowing to political pressure in illegally reversing a proposal to protect the estimated 300 wolverines remaining in the lower 48 states. And in June the groups filed notice of their intent to bring today’s suit against the Service over its failure to protect the Pacific fisher.

“We first petitioned for protection of fishers more than 20 years ago,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a travesty that after finally acknowledging the precarious status of the fisher in 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to the timber industry and declined to protect these beautiful carnivores.”

Fishers once roamed from British Columbia to Southern California, but due to intense logging and trapping, only two native populations survive today: a population of as few as 100 fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada and another small population in the coastal mountains of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. Fishers have also been recently reintroduced in the northern Sierra, southern Cascades and Washington state, but it is unknown whether these new populations are sustainable.

pacific-fisher-lawsuit-filedScience, not politics, should determine whether a species deserves protection,” said Tom Wheeler, program director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We are excited for our day in court to show that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bent over backwards to appease industry interests that would prefer the fisher go extinct.”

The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned to protect the fisher in 1994, and again in 2000, along with the three other groups on the lawsuit filed today. Rather than provide protection, the Service added the fisher to a candidate list in 2004. In 2011 the Center reached a settlement agreement with the Service requiring a protection decision for the fisher in 2014, when it was proposed for protection as a “threatened” species. But the Service abruptly withdrew its proposed rule in April of this year.

“It’s gotten to the point where no amount of scientific evidence is ever enough for the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the conservation groups. “At the rate we’re going now, Pacific fishers will be extinct and the Service will still be debating the extent to which the species can survive in a clearcut.”

“The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains have the potential to be a key refuge for this imperiled species, yet the BLM recently committed itself to a land-management plan that dramatically increases logging and road building throughout Pacific fisher habitat. Without protections from the Endangered Species Act federal timber planners may drive this rare species into extinction,” said George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Filing the suit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Sierra Forest Legacy. They are represented by Earthjustice.

 

Without people like you, our work to protect the Pacific fisher would not be possible. Please consider helping us continue our efforts by making a donation today. 


Climate Change, California’s Forest Carbon Plan, and the “Point of No Return”

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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Clearcut logging in the Westside Timber SaleAs the calendar turns to October 2016, global climate change scientists have recently announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide content levels have now officially surpassed 400 parts-per-million, a threshold scientists have dubbed, “the point of no return.” Scientists say our planet has entered into a new epoch in global history, called the Anthropocene, or the, “Age of Man,” in which human-induced changes to the physical environment and natural world are so extreme that we have now surpassed the point when we can reasonably correct or fully undo the damage to our planet and its vital ecological life-support systems.

California has committed—on paper at least—to reducing greenhouse gases. In 2006, the State Legislature passed AB 32, titled the “the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” which mandated that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels by 2020. Earlier this year, the legislature raised the stakes: SB 32, which requires that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a far more ambitious, albeit necessary reduction target.

As dictated by the legislature, California is to make a two-pronged attack: first minimize greenhouse gas emissions; second, store, or “sequester,” more carbon dioxide on-the-ground. California’s timber products industry affects both—cutting trees releases carbon and growing trees stores carbon—that’s why AB32 required the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan to be developed by the inter-agency Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT). The California Forest Carbon Plan is supposed to provide the roadmap for California’s forest products industry sector to meet state-mandated reduction targets for the forestry and working lands industry sectors to complement and augment greenhouse gas reduction targets and objectives state-wide.

California’s forests can, and should, play a large role in sequestering carbon dioxide. By changing forest management and objectives to grow more wood fiber, commonly referred to as “volume,” California can store more carbon dioxide to offset and mitigate ongoing emission of greenhouse gases. How will we get there? A combination of rule changes and new incentives will need to be developed.

It has already been ten years since the legislature created the framework for a California Forest Carbon Plan. Attempts to force action have been slow-going, to put it nicely. While the Plan is being developed by the FCAT, but actual changes to forestry regulations will ultimately have to be adopted by the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. The FCAT intends to release its draft of the Forest Carbon Plan in the coming weeks, with an eye on codifying the Plan by the end of 2016 to meet legislative mandates. Many questions remain, however, as to the actual contents of the plan, the implications of those contents, and whether, to what extent, or how, any of what is eventually included in the Plan can be made legally binding and enforceable so as to actually change forest products industry practices, and bottom-line orientations.

EPIC has been working at the Board of Forestry to remind it of the mandates of the legislature, and its obligations under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and has begun strategic engagement on a project-by-project basis, critically evaluating the landscape-level planning mechanisms of the timber products industry as it pertains to increasing forestland productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and calling for enhanced sequestration of carbon dioxide, along with other public environmental, social, and economic values.

Moving into 2017, EPIC’s private lands forest policy advocacy work will shift substantially towards heavy engagement in the development and implementation of law, policy, and regulation changes aimed at ensuring that the state’s forest products industry makes the necessary changes to meet and exceed legislatively-prescribed sector-specific, as well as state-wide greenhouse gas reduction and carbon dioxide sequestration objectives.

For more information about the California Forest Carbon Plan and opportunities for public involvement, visit the FCAT website: http://www.fire.ca.gov/fcat/ or e-mail Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate, at rob@wildcalifornia.org.


Creature Feature: Northwestern Fence Lizard

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
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western_fence_lizard. Wikimedia Commons. Haha196Do you know that we have lizards that live within the redwoods? It’s true! The Northwest fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis occidentalis), a subspecies of the largest Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), roams the forests of the West Coast from the Puget Sound in Washington to Mendocino Coast. Here in the redwoods, you may be able to find them in rocky outcroppings where the lizard can warm its body in the sun.

The Northwestern fence lizard is often called the “blue-belly lizard” because of the sparkling blue belly of males, which can range from turquoise to a deep, almost navy blue. Looking at the lizard from the top, you wouldn’t expect it to have a gem-like underside. The lizard is well camouflaged, with sandy brown to black scales. Males are territorial and show off their bright bellies in a push-up like display to attract mates.

Blue-bellies feed on insects, like crickets and ticks, spiders, and other small lizards—including members of its own species. Blue bellies have many predators, including spiders, snakes, and small mammals like feral cats and martens.

Many kids have tried to catch a Northwesten fence lizard; few have succeeded. The keen lizard is able to sense approaching threats thanks to a “third eye” on the top of its head which can sense changes in light, such as a child’s shadow reaching down to grab. If caught by the tail, the tail may pop off and muscles in the tail will contract causing the tail to flop around, distracting the predator until the lizard can escape with a bobbed-behind. The tail will eventually regrow, but doing so takes a lot of energy. (Remember, wildlife is best left wild! Don’t attempt to capture or catch wildlife, even if it is as cute as a blue-belly lizard.)

A special protein in the lizard’s blood has been shown to cure Lyme disease. In California, deer ticks are responsible for the spread of Lyme disease, and baby ticks are more likely to carry the disease than adults. When these baby, or nymphal ticks, suck the blood of a Western fence lizard, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease dies. Some have hypothesized that California has fewer reported cases of Lyme disease than the Northeast United States because of our healthy Western lizard population! How many other species like the blue belly lizard contain life-saving secrets that we don’t know about yet? Preserving biodiversity is one means of preserving nature’s medicine.

Thankfully, unlike many critters EPIC focuses on, neither the Western or Northwestern fence lizard is endangered with extinction. If you look in the right places, we are practically rife with them and their playful antics are worthy of a watch.


Bag Ban on the Ballot

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
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Green: Ban; Orange: Tax & Purple: Partial tax or ban (municipal or regional levels)

Green=Ban      Orange= Tax     Purple= Partial tax or ban at municipal or regional levels.  (Photo: Wikimedia)

Help California become the first state in the nation to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. Vote Yes on Proposition 67.

Single-use plastic bags, the flimsy variety provided gratis by grocery stores, are one of the most plaguing and persistent types of litter in our natural environment. Not only are plastic bags an eyesore, they are harmful to wildlife. In the ocean, plastic bags resemble jellyfish and hungry sea life, like turtles, eat the bags. Plastic bags are responsible for many deaths, as the animals can starve to death because their stomachs are clogged with garbage. One easy and commonsense solution is to ban this garbage and to help incentive people to bring reusable shopping bags.

California has always led the nation when it comes to sustainability—banning the use of single-use plastic bags is no exception. In 2007, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction to ban the bag. Other jurisdictions, like Mendocino County and the City of Arcata, followed suit. In 2014, Governor Brown signed SB 270, the first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in the nation. The bag ban would not take effect. The plastic industry and an army of signature gathers quickly gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Now it is up to us. By voting yes on Proposition 67, you will uphold the bag ban passed by the California legislature in 2014.

Bag bans work. In San Jose, the city monitored litter before and after a bag ban went in effect. The results were stunning: litter had been reduced 59 percent on city streets, 89 percent in storm drains, and 60 percent in creeks.

Proposition 67 is endorsed by many other conservation organizations, including Humboldt Baykeeper and the California Coastkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Sierra Club California, and many others.

Big plastic is spending big bucks to defeat Proposition 67, outspending supporters nearly 3-1. Under the deceptive moniker, the “Progressive Bag Alliance,” the plastic industry is not opposed to deception and lies, including that banning bags is bad for the environment. Don’t buy it  and Remember to BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag!

Watch and share the video below and vote Yes on Proposition 67!


Help Protect Pristine Smith River Waters

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
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SmithR by Casey RobertsTake a moment to help safeguard the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Public comments are being accepted by the Oregon Water Resources Department to protect the Smith River watershed in Curry County, Oregon for instream purposes. The classification would provide protection for fish, wildlife and recreation. Click here to send a letter of support for this very important action.