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A Bunch of Bull: Grazing on Our Public Lands

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014
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Fragmented, degraded and top-browsed willow wetland, Big Meadows, June 2014

Fragmented, degraded and top-browsed willow wetland, Big Meadows, June 2014

Wilderness areas are those left “untrammeled by man;” but what about cows? This past summer, whenever wildfires permitted, EPIC was in the field to monitor the impacts of destructive cattle on our public lands. In its fifth year of existence, EPIC’s Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California is dedicated to reforming grazing in wilderness areas through documenting its harmful effects and advocating for better industry management.

Documenting the Destruction

At 5,600 feet, Felice Pace scans the meadows of Buns Basin on the north side of Medicine Mountain in the Marble Mountain Wilderness. He likes what he sees—thickly growing willows, which provide habitat for the endangered Willow flycatcher, bear and Roosevelt elk tracks, and clear alpine ponds and streams. He also likes what he doesn’t see: cows. You see, cattle grazing results in the fragmentation of willow habitat and degradation of watersheds.

One of the most significant negative impacts of poorly managed national forest grazing that EPIC’s Project to Reform Grazing has documented is the degradation, fragmentation and drying out of willow wetlands. Fragmentation is mainly the result of grazing cattle pushing into and through willow stands in order to access the tender grasses and sedges below. As the stands become fragmented, bovines also browse within them further exacerbating fragmentation. As the interior of willow stands become progressively more accessible, top browsing further degrades individual willows and the stands. In the most severe cases, willow wetlands are being converted into grasslands.

In many grazing allotments that the Project has monitored, EPIC has seen the deleterious impacts of cattle on watersheds. Without active management, there’s nothing stopping cattle from trampling banks, springs, and wetlands, and defecating in the water. As a result, once crystal clear alpine streams quickly turn into a quagmire, complete with blue green algae, fecal coliform bacteria, and high sediment loads.

And we citizens are paying for this destruction too. Through below-cost fees, grazing programs on federal lands receive almost $445 million in annual subsidies. While private rangeland typically rents for around $11.90 per cow and calf per month, public lands can only charge $1.35 per cow and calf per month (a price which has only gone up by 12 cents since 1966). According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, just to break even the Forest Service and BLM would need to charge between $7.64 and $12.26 monthly.

Working Towards a Solution

Ending grazing is no easy task since grazing is “grandfathered in” to our wilderness and other public land laws. As a result, efforts to end grazing in the West have been met with limited success. That’s why we’ve decided to try a different strategy: to encourage decision-makers to require active management.

EPIC, together with coalition partners Klamath Forest Alliance and Wilderness Watch, advocates that National Forest managers require grazing permit holders to ride the range on a regular basis in order to move their cattle from preferred to un-grazed locations and to keep them from trashing springs, stream banks and willow wetlands. While theoretically required, regular herding rarely takes place.

You Can Help

We encourage EPIC members and others to get involved. Grazing allotments are spread across Northern California public lands; citizens who use those lands are urged to visit local grazing allotment and take photos documenting cattle trashed springs, streams and wetlands. Then send us the photos at tom@wildcalifornia.org  along with location information and we’ll use them to pressure federal and state officials to require real changes in how public land grazing is managed.


Fall Celebration featuring House of Floyd

Monday, September 15th, 2014
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You’re invited! Join the EPIC family to celebrate 37 years of forest & wildlife protection in Pacific Northwest California at the 37th Annual Fall Celebration. Dinner, auction and dance for the Wild featuring a Farm to Table Dinner followed with music by San Francisco based House of Floyd. Friday, November 7, Mateel Community Center in Redway.

montford-farmers-market-dinner-pic

Bringing people together to share a family style dinner

buy tickets

 

 

Tickets are $50 for adults, $25 for kids 12 and younger.

The 4 course, family style meal – a true farm to table event – will be prepared by chef Luke Patterson of the Other Place and Luke’s Joint. That means delicious and F R E S H! The ingredients will come straight from local farmers and fishermen.

Enjoy happy hour from 6:30-7:15pm with local beer, wine & cocktails, and live music. Guests are seated for dinner at 7:15pm, for a family-style dinner service. Menu to be announced…

Presentation of the Sempervirens Award for lasting achievement in environmental advocacy.

Don’t miss the silent & live auctions and much, much more! Space is limited. Please purchase your tickets by October 31. The ticket price rises to $60 at the door if we’re not already sold out.

Redwood Sponsorship $1,500 and up

  • Receive 8 evening tickets
  • Reserved seating named by the Sponsor
  • Two bottles of wine
  • Commemorative etched Fire and Light plate
  • Gift basket

Northern Spotted Owl Sponsorship $1,000 and up

  • Receive 8 evening tickets
  • Reserved seating named by the Sponsor
  • Two bottles of wine
  • Commemorative etched Fire and Light plate

Wild and Scenic Sponsorship $500 and up

  • Receive 8 evening tickets
  • Reserved seating named by the Sponsor
  • Two bottles of wine

 

HOUSE OF FLOYD LOGO SEP 2013 V2The Pink Floyd Concert Experience starring House of Floyd

The S.F. Bay Area’s HOUSE OF FLOYD performs the music of Pink Floyd, and has gained a strong following for their unique ability to enthuse both the hard-core fans of the early adventurous Floyd and those who enjoy the songs and soundscapes that later brought them widespread appeal. They capture the essence of each of the various Pink Floyd eras from the formative Syd Barrett days, through the 70’s and the final post-Waters era.

HOF Photo 2014House of Floyd is a 7-piece band that includes 2 bookend multi-instrumentalists that double on saxophone, keyboards and guitar, and 2 excellent female background vocalists. House of Floyd has been performing in concert venues for over 10 years in the U.S. and abroad including a recent month long tour of India.

In the Pink Floyd tradition, a HOUSE OF FLOYD concert incorporates sound effects, screen projection, moving lights & state of the art laser show. The set lists on any given night might be from an actual Pink Floyd concert, or a custom HOUSE OF FLOYD mix. You may even see a giant inflatable pig!

Can’t make it this year? You can still donate to support EPIC’s work protecting the forests, rivers, and wildlife of northwest California. The Annual Fall Celebration Dinner is EPIC’s biggest fundraising event of the year. We depend on your support to plan for the year ahead. Please contribute what you can. Just $5 or $10 makes a huge difference.

Tickets are available at the EPIC office at 145 G Street in Arcata. If you have any questions or would like to volunteer for the event, please call: 707-822-7711.


Wild and Scenic Film Festival

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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WildScenicFilmFest1Tuesday, October 7th at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.

Click here to buy tickets

The Wild & Scenic Film Festival is a call to action. At Wild & Scenic, film goers are transformed into a congregation of committed activists, dedicated to saving our increasingly threatened planet. We show environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty, the challenges facing our planet, and the work communities are doing to protect the environment. Through these films, Wild & Scenic both informs people about the state of the world and inspires them to take action. Wild & Scenic raises resources and awareness for EPIC’s initiatives to recover Northwest California’s native species and to protect and restore the redwood forest ecosystem.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the EPIC Office at 145 South G Street, Suite A in Arcata. Call 822-7711 for more information.

Doors open at 6pm. Prices are TBA.

2014 Film Selections

From The Spawning Grounds Thomas B. Dunklin

Plunge into the clear cold water of the Salmon River and get a fish-eye view of the river and its inhabitants. The underwater footage of salmon and steelhead is accompanied by a song and poem from Karuk artist Brian D. Tripp. (USA, 2011, 3 min)

Fixing the Earth – One Watershed at a Time Thomas B. Dunklin

The Yurok Tribe’s Fisheries Program use ancient cultural ethics to manage and restore the Chinook and Coho salmon of the Klamath River. This film presents the historic context of the tribe’s struggle to affirm their fishing rights and to fully participate in the management Klamath fisheries today and into the future. (USA, 2013, 19 min)

Sacred Headwaters Paul Colangelo

The shared birthplace of three salmon rivers in Northern Canada, the traditional territory of the Tahltan First Nation, and home to an incredible ecosystem of large mammals, the Sacred Headwaters is at risk of losing all that makes it sacred to resource extraction. (Canada, 2012, 4 min)

Kara Women Speak Jane Baldwin

A Kara woman muses about her concerns for the survival of her people. The Kara are a community of indigenous people living along the Omo River in Southwestern Ethiopia. Ethiopian government projects now threaten these areas and their populations. The construction of the foreign financed Gibe III hydroelectric dam, being built on the upper Omo River, and vast tracts of rich farmland have been leased to foreign corporations, displacing indigenous people from their ancestral land without compensation. Her words reflect the uncertain fate of all agro-pastoralists living in the Omo River-Lake Turkana watershed. www.karatribe.com (Ethiopia, 6min)

Environmental Lawyers and the Protection of Sharks Jeff Litton

Sharks are amazing animals that provide healthy ocean ecosystems, and a billion dollar dive industry. Yet 3 sharks are removed from our ocean every second, and Planet Earth can’t keep up. While supply and demand mean life or death for shark species, this innovative film targets environmental lawyers as the key players to stop illegal fishing, and bring about environmental justice for sharks. (Ecuador, 2013, 13 min)

A Brief History of the 5cent Bag Tax Craig Schattner, Adam Walker, Emil Superfin

When your city is overflowing with plastic bags, how will you react? Jack Green, head of the Department of the Environment, is on a mission to rid the city of its plastic bag scourge. (USA, 2013, 2 min)

COMPOST-a-lujah! Christopher Paetkau, Trevor Gill

Let’s face it: composting isn’t the most glamorous of topics or activities. It can be dirty, rotten, and smelly. But it doesn’t have to be. Meet Linda Olsen – master composter. (Canada, 2012, 3 min)

The Ground to the Clouds Denise Zmekhol

Fifty years ago Jane Goodall set out to study the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania with little more than a pair of second-hand binoculars, some pencils and a notebook. Now her team uses mobile devices, satellite imagery and cloud-based mapping technologies to create a comprehensive picture of the conservation challenges in the Congo Basin. This transformational approach to habitat conservation is part of a global effort to monitor natural resources … and is giving hope to the survival of endangered chimpanzee populations. (Tanzania, 2013, 8 min)

Raptor Blues Ian Timothy

A musical stop motion animation explaining the dangerous effects of rodenticides on birds of prey in a way that everyone can understand. (USA, 2013, 2 min)

The New Environmentalists: Fractured Wilderness John Antonelli, Andrew Black, Todd Miro’

Jonathan Deal is leading a concerted campaign against a fracking project that threatens the Karoo, where sparse desert and majestic mountains converge to create an agriculture heartland and flourishing wildlife reserves in South Africa. (USA/S.Africa, 2013, 4.5min)

The New Environmentalists: Weaving A Movement John Antonelli, Barry Schienberg, Todd Miro’

When Indonesian marble mining companies began to exploit the pristine mountains surrounding her West Timor homeland, Mama Aleta Baun organized the villagers in a weaving protest that lasted months and received international recognition. (USA/Indonesia, 2013, 4.5min)

The New Environmentalists: Marshland Dreams John Antonelli, Andrew Black, Todd Miro’

Iraq’s Mesopatamia Marshes had been a vital life force for centuries until Saddam Hussein destroyed them with a devastating military maneuver. Azzam Alwash has taken on the challenge

Damocracy Todd Southgate, Tolga Temuge, Doga Dernegi

Damocracy is a short documentary that exposes the myth of dams as ‘green’ energy through two examples from Amazonia and Mesopotamia: the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil and the Ilisu Dam in Turkey. The documentary shows the potential disasters these dams would cause on cultural heritage, wildlife and local communities who rely on the rich natural resources provided by the Tigris and Xingu rivers. The film also questions the sanity of climate change solutions that depend on the destruction of ‘the lungs of the Earth’ and ‘the cradle of civilization’. It is a call to action to save this priceless natural and cultural heritage being gambled for the interests of a few. No Awards (Brazil & Turkey, 2012, 34 min)

Hidden Rivers of Southern Appalachia Jeremy Monroe, David Herasimtschuk

Biodiversity. It’s in the rivers of the Amazon, the jungles of Borneo, the coral reefs of Belize… oh, and the creeks of Tennessee. That’s right, southern Appalachia is a littleknown hotspot for aquatic life and is home to some wildly diverse fish, mussels, salamanders, crayfish and other critters. Hidden Rivers takes an immersive look at the little-known creatures of these waters, their striking beauty and extreme vulnerability. The films also reveal how some Southerners are finding new ways to explore and celebrate this precious life, and reminding us all that biodiversity is everywhere and rivers are always deeper than you think! (USA, 2013, 4 min)

A world on Notice: Women at the Front Lines of Climate Change Terra Nyssa, Osprey Orielle Lake

We are headed toward a potential 4 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature over the next decades that will create unprecedented havoc for our children and future generations. Women are no longer willing to stand by when so much is at stake. Women are on the front lines of Climate Change Solutions. Fierce and compassionate women worldwide are committed to making a difference in the urgency of climate change. Join the journey as the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN International) is heating up! (USA, 2013, 9 min)

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Trespass Grows and Wildlife on Public Lands

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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6,500 gallon cistern in wilderness backcountry. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

6,500 gallon cistern in wilderness backcountry. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

We have seen it all before—boom and bust resource production and extraction in Northern California has been the norm since the beginning of European settlement. From the timber boom to the gold rush, we have now entered the era of the so-called ‘green-rush,’ the high-time of marijuana production.  Marijuana growing in Northern California has traditionally been a cottage industry-scale economy. However, with the recent surge in industrial-scale production has also come an increased awareness of the potentially significant environmental harms to forests, fish, and wildlife from large-scale egregious grows, both on private and public lands.

EPIC has been at the forefront of advocacy and education efforts aimed at exposing the potentially significant environmental damage that can result from industrial-scale, and particularly trespass marijuana production in Northern California. Of particular concern are egregious trespass grows on our National Forests, where paramount concern must be given to the protection of forests, fish and wildlife resources.

Earlier this month, EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service aimed at acquiring documents detailing the effects of trespass marijuana growing on public lands, and their impacts on forests, fish, and wildlife. EPIC has requested information regarding the number and size of trespass grows, the status of the Forest Service’s monitoring and enforcement efforts, and the amount and type of toxic chemicals found at individual grow sites. EPIC has also requested information pertaining to how the existence of these trespass grows has hampered the ability of the Forest Service to conduct essential survey and monitoring activities from threatened and endangered wildlife species, most notably the Northern Spotted Owl.

Bear paw print in chemicals. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

Bear paw print in chemicals. Photo by Mourad Gabriel

Of particular concern regarding trespass marijuana production on public lands, is the use of anticoagulant rodenticides that can have a deadly effect not only on the rodents targeted for eradication, but also on other wildlife species that prey on these rodents. Anticoagulant rodenticides can persist in forest ecosystems, and can infect the food chain that supports a myriad of threatened and endangered wildlife species, such as owls, fishers and martens.

EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act request will help to evaluate the monitoring and enforcement efforts of the Forest Service,  provide a window into the amount of illegal and egregious trespass marijuana agriculture on public lands and serve to inform the public about the nature and extent of this problem and its associated effects on threatened and endangered wildlife species, and public lands resources in general.

EPIC is dedicated to combatting these egregious and illegal marijuana cultivation activities on public lands as a significant threat to watersheds, forests, fisheries and wildlife. EPIC is also dedicated to shedding the light-of-day on these activities in order to inform, and engage the public and decision-makers. Trespass marijuana agriculture on our public lands pose an ominous threat to our wild California, and to the essential and irreplaceable resources that our public lands support. EPIC will continue to advocate for small-scale and sustainable marijuana agriculture that honors the importance of our public lands, as well as our water, forests, fish, and wildlife.


Groundwater Legislation is Not Strong Enough

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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IMG_0440

Sprinklers water grass fields at 1pm, during in the hottest part of the day.

The recent drought that has been experienced throughout the west has brought much needed attention to the mismanagement of water resources, particularly in the State of California, which currently lacks groundwater regulations. With rivers drying up and drought conditions worsening, there is a clear need for regulation to address the ongoing extraction of groundwater resources. However, the currently proposed legislation falls short because it relies too heavily on local agencies, fails to prescribe adequate timeframes for compliance, fails to take into account beneficial uses of water, fails to establish a clear path for the public and local agencies to evaluate the potentially significant environmental effects of groundwater extraction, and fails to challenge the efficiency of a groundwater management plan.

The State of California is poised to enact landmark sustainable groundwater management legislation. Faced with an unprecedented drought, and the acknowledgment that existing laws do not adequately meet the public’s interest in sustainable groundwater management, the state legislature has proposed three bills aimed at creating a new framework for the management of groundwater resources.

Senate Bill 1168 (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act), Assembly Bill 1739 and Senate Bill 1319 together propose to establish a new framework for the creation of sustainable groundwater management plans to establish minimum standards for sustainable groundwater management, provide local groundwater agencies with the authority and technical assistance necessary to sustainably manage groundwater, to avoid subsidence, to increase groundwater storage and remove impediments to recharge, and to maximize local management of groundwater basins while minimizing state intervention.

The purpose of the law is to require development of “groundwater sustainability agencies” and “groundwater sustainability plans,” and to provide procedures for their creation, implementation and enforcement measures by state agencies if the plans are not being effective. All other state resource agencies, and effectively cities and counties in the general planning process, are required to consider the policies of the law and any groundwater sustainability plans when revising or adopting their own policies, regulations, criteria, or even when issuing orders or determinations.

The legislation further requires the designation of high-and-medium priority groundwater basins as of January 1, 2017. These basins shall be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan or coordinated sustainability plans by January 31, 2020. All other high or medium-priority groundwater basins not covered by that provision shall be managed by the required plans by January 31, 2022. Development of sustainability plans for low and very-low priority basins are encouraged, but not required. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is required to categorize each basin as high, medium, low or very low priority by not later than January 31, 2015. If, after initial categorization, a basin is elevated to a medium- or high-priority basin, a local agency shall have two years after that reprioritization to either (1) establish a groundwater sustainability agency and five years to adopt a groundwater sustainability plan, or (2) two years to satisfy the requirements of the legislation.

The so-called “groundwater sustainability agencies” can be one or a combination of local agencies, which are to be identified by statue. Existing agencies designated in the proposed law can opt out of their role as a groundwater sustainability agency, thus paving the way for the creation of an alternate groundwater sustainability agency.

The legislation relies heavily on local entities and agencies such as county and other local government entities to develop groundwater sustainability plans. The legislation provides that local groundwater sustainability agencies must ‘consider’ beneficial uses of water in the identified basins. The term ‘consider’ in this context is somewhat ambiguous and non-directive. As we have seen over the years with the California Forest Practice Act’s requirement to give ‘consideration’ to public trust resources, the use of the term ‘consider’ can generate a great deal of debate as to its meaning and what is actually to be required. The legislation gives wide-ranging rulemaking power to local sustainability agencies in order to implement the provisions of these Acts. These powers include the ability to require registration for groundwater extractors, and the ability to establish fees for permits allowing for groundwater extraction.

Of particular concern with the impending legislation is the fact that the entire process has been deemed to be exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). What’s more, the legislation is unclear as to what, if any recourse a member of the general public or a public interest group may have to challenge the adequacy of the locally-promulgated groundwater sustainability plans.

There are also questions regarding the funding for these programs. While the proposed law gives the local agencies the right to charge fees for the cost of its groundwater sustainability program, there are no criteria or guidance provided to define the reasonableness or level of fees set.

Additionally, the timelines for designation of high-and-medium priority groundwater management basins, and the promulgation of groundwater sustainability plans are pushed well out into the future. Given the unprecedented drought conditions, and the ongoing extraction of groundwater for domestic and agricultural uses throughout the state, the timelines to achieve compliance with these statues appears to be ‘too little, too late.’

Finally, the state’s role in this process provides little actual oversight; while DWR may review plans, it need do so only within two years after submission, and then only provide an “assessment.” There is no clear criteria to permit the public to initiate a challenge to an adopted plan.

EPIC supports the concept of sustainable groundwater management, but the currently proposed legislation simply falls short due to its lack of public oversight, and absence of enforceable mechanisms that would regulate water in a way to ensure the conservation of resources. EPIC will continue to advocate for stronger sustainable groundwater management provisions that comply with existing environmental laws, and which provide for adequate oversight from the state and the general public.


State of Water

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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Eel River by Ferndale, Photo by Amber Shelton

Eel River

Here on the North Coast, our six rivers are running dry. The Bureau of Reclamation’s recent releases from Lewiston Dam, aimed at preventing another massive Klamath fish kill  shows how scientifically-based citizen advocacy can be successful. However, much more action is needed to implement a lasting solution to the mismanagement of water supplies, especially during drought conditions.

Life-sustaining fresh water is categorized as either surface water or groundwater. While the molecules themselves don’t hold neatly to this distinction, it does call our attention to a few facts. First, groundwater accounts for much of the world’s supply of fresh water (over 90%, not including glaciers and ice sheets). Ecosystem services provided by groundwater include water purification, climate resilience, erosion regulation, flood control and water supply reliability. In most states, groundwater is regulated, but California’s groundwater has gone completely unregulated. Unsustainable groundwater pumping practices have led to serious consequences for everyone. More energy is required to find and extract water by its primary consumers. Downstream there is less, and in some cases, no surface water and higher concentrations of pollutants. Meanwhile, the ground itself is subsiding as the aquifers compress, degrading infrastructure on a massive scale.

For those of us who are involved in agriculture, there are opportunities directly correlated to the scale of our operations. The Northern California Farmer’s Guide – Best Management Practices is a great resource for local growers small or large, regardless of their crops. The Best Management Practices include water catchment in the rainy season, integrated pest management, proper use of amendments and disposal of potting soils, and responsible surface water diversions and ground water pumping. For those whose agricultural dependence is secondary, we can develop relationships with our farmers through Community Supported Agriculture and Farmers Markets. We are incredibly lucky to have a surplus of these opportunities in our region. Yet the limits on our ability to affect a more substantial change can be frustrating.

This might lead us towards denial or other forms of avoidance but these do little to address the problem. Nothing short of a systemic change seems to be required. Often, the finger is pointed at an individual to divert the attention from the machine. Opting-out of taking excessive showers, using appropriate landscaping (native and drought resistant species) or supporting responsible farming will help, but it is a drop in the sea of our current water systems crisis. Just what can be done about at this level?

There is much that we all can do to be a force for positive change in the future of our world. It is important to remember that systems are perpetuated by people and we do have the ability to change them. It is our task to remember that our opponents are human beings with legitimate interests. By striving for civil discourse, it is easier to see our shared interests in sustainable water and resource use. Whether we are motivated more by economic or environmental factors, we all have an interest in figuring out how to live on this planet in such a way that doesn’t jeopardize its future. As stated in the Best Management Practices: “most people want to do the right thing.” Whether or not that will be done, in the end, seems to come down to individual empowerment and identification with the whole leading to action that reinforces these sentiments.

This article was written by Devin Paine


50 Years Wild: Connecting Wild Places

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
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sawtoothpeak

Sawtooth Peak, Trinity Alps Wilderness

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, EPIC and conservation partners submitted 50,000 messages from our membership to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and to all California National Forest and BLM Supervisors, and elected delegates, asking them to protect and connect wild places.

Signed in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Wilderness Act enables wild lands to be set-aside for permanent preservation and protection. Starting with 9.1 million acres, and now totaling more than 100 million acres, Wild Places are part of our nation’s heritage.

As we take time to celebrate what has been accomplished over the years, it is also important to consider what still needs to be done. Through years of environmental advocacy work in the Pacific Northwest and reviewing current science, we have learned that in this rapidly changing climate, the best thing we can do is protect all remaining old growth and mature trees, and establish a well-connected network of wildlife corridors. These wildlife corridors serve as a link between Wilderness Areas and provide refuge for many rare native plants and animals, and are a source of clean water and air.

Protecting and connecting wild places will create the “Climate Refugia” essential for species survival.

A majority of wildlife corridors, managed by the US Forest Service (USFS) within California’s’ 18 national forests remain unprotected and open to multiple threats, including logging, fire suppression and road building. Northern California forests are some of the most carbon dense forests on the planet, with the largest oldest trees storing the greatest amounts of carbon and playing a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The main reason for the current global mass extinction rate is habitat loss. Well over half of California’s fish, amphibians and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.”

California offers an amazing opportunity to establish an interconnected intact landscape, especially in the Pacific Northwest. The state’s 53 Wilderness Areas, mostly high elevation, 25 national and 270 state parks and beaches offer islands of refuge for wildlife. Roadless Areas, rivers and ridges that contain vital lower elevation cool carbon dense forests are passageways that allow wildlife to move freely to search for food, find a mate, migrate, to keep genetic diversity strong and to seek refuge in response to climate adaption.

Global warming and human impacts on the landscape threaten our and come with devastating ecological costs to current and future generations, but we know what needs to be done to in order to prevent further degradation. It is time to enact policy and implement climate adaption strategies. Our leaders in office and in forest, fish and wildlife management need to make a major shift in policy and practice to conserve our quality of life, wildlife and wild places.

EPIC and Klamath Forest Alliance are building a campaign called Connecting Wild Places to tackle this challenge head on seeking to:

  • Safeguard all remaining older forests;
  • Create a well-connected landscape; and
  • Reform antiquated resource extraction practices.

In order to raise awareness of the campaign, build alliances with other advocacy groups, and generate support from elected officials it takes tremendous amounts of energy and resources.There are many ways you can help:

We must never lose sight of the importance of wilderness and wild places, and with that in mind we are appealing to you to join us in pursuing a more interconnected, protected, and climate resilient future. Let us say thank you to the generations before us for having the foresight to leave America a legacy we can all be proud of. Happy 50th Anniversary to the Wilderness Act!


Victory: Wildlife Habitat Protected

Thursday, August 21st, 2014
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GardenGulchCritical habitat and old-growth reserves saved from post-fire “salvage” on the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River!  EPIC and allies with Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, successfully stopped logging in some of the best habitat proposed in the Salmon Salvage timber sale.  Our efforts ultimately resulted in the elimination of larger stands of “salvage” and a renewed focus on roadside hazard treatments. This is great news for naturally recovering forests.

After decades of defending the old-growth surrounding Garden Gulch Trail from road building and logging, this perfect post-fire forest stand will again be spared.  The area serves as Critical Habitat for the Northern spotted owl and provides a linkage for wildlife under a swath of green canopy cover leading into the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

WARNING: If last year’s fires are any indication of what’s to come, we are sure to see more post-fire logging projects after the smoke clears from this year’s fires.  Burning in the North Fork Salmon River the 2014 Whites Fire is now twice as large, over 32,000 acres, as the 2013 Salmon Complex Fire.  EPIC will be providing updates from the multiple fires burning this summer and any proposals that may ensue.  Thanks to all of you who responded to our action alerts and submitted comments in defense of natural fire recovery.

More on the Salmon River Watershed

The Salmon River Watershed, located entirely within the Klamath National Forest, is within the heart of the Klamath Siskiyou Bioregion. This Bioregion is a global center of biodiversity and is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and an Area of Global Botanical Significance by the World Conservation Union.  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.  The Salmon River 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. The Wild and Scenic Salmon River is one of the most sought after world-class whitewater rafting trips in the countryIt 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 Garden Gulch 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 provides habitat to many rare species, including Pacific fishers and pine martens.  Some of the most important features within the watershed, older forest stands and anadromous fish habitat, are considered at risk and need protection or enhancement.

You can review more pictures and past posts at: http://www.wildcalifornia.org/action-issues/fire/

 


Rally to Save Klamath Salmon

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
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IMG_0277About 200 tribal members and river activists traveled from the Klamath River Basin to the Sacramento Valley on Tuesday to ask the Bureau of Reclamation to release more water to prevent a fish kill. The rally targeted David Murillo, who is the Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation — the individual who has the authority to order more water to be released into the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. The Bureau of Reclamation controls reservoir water and is currently sending about 85% of the water out of the Klamath Basin over to irrigators in the Sacramento Valley, and only 15% into the Trinity River.

The Klamath River is home to one of the most spectacular salmon fisheries on the planet, but in recent weeks, fish have been washing up dead and diseased. Several instances of dead fish have been reported near Klamath tributaries, but by the time scientists arrive to verify the carcasses, they are gone, likely eaten by scavengers. In July, during the Salmon River Cooperative Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead Surveys, more salmon deaths were documented than had ever been seen in the thirty year period of record. According to Nat Pennington, member of the Klamath Fish Health Assessment Team, “these early signs of fish stress in the river are reminiscent of 2002, when the Klamath River was host to the largest fish kill in U.S. history. Many of the indicators, poor fish health and river conditions, that I remember in 2002 are considerably worse this year, if preventative measures are not taken, large-scale mortality is likely.”

So far, the Bureau has announced that they will not release preventative flows, which would prevent a fish kill. Instead, they have said they will only release emergency flows, which would only be triggered by verifying large numbers of dead or diseased fish. Once the deaths are reported, it takes at least 4 days to get water from the dam to where the fish are, which scientists say would be too late. When the 2002 fish kill happened and 60,000 fish died, once the fish started washing up, they all died within a few days. “The Klamath fish kill of 2002 was devastating for our tribal communities and to the West Coast Fisheries. Previously, Tribes, fisheries scientists, and the Department of the Interior have worked together to avert fish kills by releasing preventative flows during drought years,” said Frankie Myers of the Yurok Tribe Watershed Restoration Program, “We need these releases now more then ever.” After meeting with tribal members on Tuesday, Murillo said he would reconsider preventative flows, and would make an announcement later this week.

The health of Klamath salmon runs are used to determine ocean harvest levels in California and Oregon and are of great importance to the Klamath Tribes who depend on them for subsistence, and for a way of life. “Klamath Salmon runs significantly affect ocean fishery regulations, another fish kill in the Klamath would be devastating for our livelihoods, and fishermen feed America,” said Mike Hudson, President of Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fisheries Association.

The poor river conditions negatively affecting the Klamath salmon are caused by four dams that breed toxic algae, heat water and block fish passage. In April of 2013, a final environmental impact statement recommended that all four aging hydroelectric dams be removed from the Klamath River to help struggling wild salmon runs. A Congressional bill titled the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act, which is in committee now, would remove all four hydroelectric dams, but the prognosis indicates it only has a 5% chance of passing through U.S. Congress.

EPIC advocates for the protection and restoration of Klamath River Basin and the fish that depend on the health of the River. Our staff has been reaching out to tribes, elected officials and resource agencies to do everything we can to get water into the river and avert another fish kill. If you have not done so already, please send a letter to decision-makers and let them know that fish need water.

 

 

 

 

 


Take Action to Avoid Another Catastrophic Klamath River Fish Kill

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
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DSCF3762Click here to take action now: Right now, an estimated 93,000 fall Chinook salmon are in the ocean off the Northern California Coast waiting to enter the Klamath. The conditions they will be met with as they begin their journey to reproduce are currently equivalent to a death sentence. In 2002, low flows and warm water temperatures caused by dams and diversions in the Klamath Basin resulted in the largest fish kill in U.S. history, when an estimated 60,000 fall Chinook perished. Since the fish kill, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has released a preventative pulse flow into the Trinity River from Lewiston Dam when conditions existed that were similar to 2002. Currently, Klamath River flow is lower than it was in 2002 and temperatures are consistently higher than the acute stress level for Chinook, 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If this trend continues, a large-scale fish kill is likely and the Klamath could lose the entire run, which would have huge implications, environmentally and economically, costing taxpayers millions in relief and mitigation costs.

Last week, the BOR announced that it would not release the preventative flows needed to avert a fish kill. Instead, they will wait until salmon show signs of disease and start dying, and would only release an “emergency flow” that would take at least four days to reach infected salmon in the Lower Klamath. It is widely accepted fact that once salmon are diseased and dying to the extent that the emergency flow criteria is met, an attempt to minimize losses will be too late and a large-scale fish kill in the Lower Klamath would already be well underway.

The water is available, but according to the BOR saving the lives of 93,000 spawning salmon is not a priority. Of the 2,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) flowing through the Trinity system from Clair Engle Lake, only 490 cfs are being released into the Trinity River downstream of Lewiston Dam, roughly 17%. The BOR is sending the rest of the available water, roughly 2400 cfs or 83% to the Central Valley Project to meet the demands of large-scale agriculture like the Westland’s Water district, and to meet recovery requirements for the endangered Delta Smelt that are facing extinction due to large ag interests including Westlands diverting water in the Smelt’s native habitat—the Sacramento and San Joaquin Deltas.

The Klamath River is home to the third largest salmon run on the West Coast and is thought to have the highest potential for complete salmon recovery in the United States. Currently, the Klamath River is blocked by six dams. Efforts are underway to remove the four largest dams that obstruct fish passage through historic agreements between tribes, environmental groups, fishing groups, government agencies and the company that owns the dams, PacifiCorp.  The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Basin Hydro-Settlement Agreement have been combined and introduced in Congress as the Klamath Basin Community and Economic Recovery Act. While these worthy efforts are underway and the prospect of a restored Klamath Basin is becoming a reality, it is critical that the remaining salmon and steelhead runs are protected until the dams come out, which is expected to happen around 2020.

Klamath salmon need your help! We need to convince the Bureau of Reclamation, the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and President Obama to release preventative flows into the Trinity River to save the fall salmon run from river conditions that are even more severe than those that caused the country’s largest fish kill in 2002. Please click the link below to send a letter to decision-makers, asking them to reduce flows to irrigators and increase flows into the Trinity River from Lewiston Dam, and into the Klamath River from Link River Dam.

Click Here to Take Action!


EPIC Advocates for Northern Spotted Owl Using Best Available Science

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
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NSOEPIC relies upon an integrated science-based approach to environmental advocacy. Consistent with our mission statement, we apply the best available science at the legislative, regulatory, and policy levels of government and industry. In our ongoing efforts to protect, enhance, restore, and conserve the Northern Spotted Owl, EPIC uses the best available science to inform our advocacy and decision-makers.

As part of our efforts to see the spotted owl listed as either a “threatened” or “endangered” species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), EPIC has commissioned a wildlife researcher  to conduct an independent status review and prepare an independent status report to be submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission. This report is based upon the best available science regarding the status and population trends and threats for the spotted owl, and will consider possible management recommendations designed to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore the spotted owl in California.

EPIC has pursued this independent review and report to allow for critical evaluation of the available evidence, including scientific, and timber industry-based information. The report will be subject to rigorous outside independent peer-review from a broad array of stakeholders, including independent scientists, researchers, and even timber industry biologists.

This report will be defensible and credible.

The independent review and report will be juxtaposed against the status review and report produced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Department is charged by CESA with conducting a status review and preparing a status report that will include a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission as to whether or not it believes the listing “is warranted.” EPIC has chosen to commission an independent review due to the highly political nature of the inner workings of the Department, which has been evidenced in its recent recommendations against species’ listings, most notably the Gray Wolf. In the case of the Gray Wolf, the Department erroneously based its decision on a lack of ‘certainty’ in the science surrounding the wolf, thus dismissing the numerous threats to the species and the enormous opportunities for wolf restoration and conservation in California. Such rationale on the part of the Department leaves many questions as to its ability to review and consider the best available science and to make recommendations regarding species’ listings that are not politically-charged and influenced.

EPIC’s independent status review for the spotted owl is a key cog in our efforts to see the species listed under CESA. The benefits of CESA listing are many. Such benefits include requiring all state boards and agencies to work to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore the spotted owl in California. The practical effects of CESA listing would include the reintroduction of independent agency biologists into private lands timber harvest project review, and to impart upon the state a mandate to consider appropriate management activities to protect, enhance, restore, and conserve the spotted owl, including potential management activities aimed at addressing some of the major threats to the species in California, including the aggressive and invasive barred owl.

The State of California has a responsibility under CESA to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore “threatened” and “endangered” species in California. The best available science, which clearly demonstrates the threats to the species and identifies opportunities for conservation and enhancement supports the proposition that listing “is warranted” under CESA.


EPIC in Review

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
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Hole in Headwaters Hike ReducedAs the summer heats up, so have some of EPIC’s ongoing projects. This past week, EPIC along with other environmental organizations, wrote letters opposing H.R 1363 and H.R. 4742, two bills that seek to circumvent the National Environmental Policy Act process and threaten fisheries. Additionally, H.R. bills 5021 and 2363 attempt to open loopholes in the environmental review process and public involvement that undermine our checks and balances. The EPIC team is hard at work trying to ensure that the appropriate avenues continue to exist so that we can fight for the wild. The importance of protecting a legal framework cannot be understated when saving our ecosystems, and our natural resources. The input, concern, and passion from the community help drive the campaigns we fight for. For more on the projects we’ve been up to lately, check out the links below.

EPIC Bay Delta Conservation Plan Comments 

Comments have been submitted fighting for the abandonment of the Bay Delta Conservation Project. An antiquated, disingenuous, and grossly expensive project that’s based on over-allocated water rights and serves only to benefit large industrial agriculture. The 67 billion dollar, Bay Delta Conservation Project, a grand misnomer, severely threatens the habitat of a number of threatened and endangered species from the salmon runs of Northern California to the Delta Smelt in San Francisco Bay.

Letter to Evans & Chesbro Regarding Groundwater Regulations

Letter to California Senator Noreen Evans and Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro requesting assurance that the Scott River will be removed from the list of basins exempted from groundwater planning and regulations.

Community Letter Opposing H.R. 1363

EPIC and other environmental organizations, have sent a letter opposing section two of H.R. 1363 for blatantly violating the processes in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that fully disclose the impacts of an action.

Oppose HR 4742 Community Letter

In this letter, we urged a no vote on H.R. 4742. The bill strives to weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Act and halt the rebounding of many fisheries that have benefited from recent conservation efforts.

Oppose the Anti-National Wildlife Refuge Rider

The potential for expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge system is coming under fire in the form of a 2015 appropriations bill. The rider would require congressional approval for new refuges when congress already controls the financial backbone. This shift goes against the spirit of the original bill and could open the door up to refuges being used in political horse-trading.

Oppose Toomey Amendment

The Toomey Amendment to H.R. 5021 seeks to avoid any environmental review or consideration for reconstruction efforts in areas after a disaster. Currently, there are already proven avenues for post disaster construction that are more environmentally friendly, transparent, and flexible.

Opposition letter S 2363 Sportsmens Act 2014 – 7.8

This letter also opposes the Senate Bill 2363 and represents the option of a large coalition of 105 groups from around the country. The so-called “Bi-partisan Sportsmen’s Act” seeks to roll back various environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and the National Forest Management Act. In addition, the bill removes the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to control toxic substances in ammunition or fishing equipment.

Sage Grouse Rider Letter

Representative Moran of Virginia is seeking to prevent a delay in protection for declining Sage Grouse populations. Next year’s appropriations bill, in its current form, includes a rider that would postpone U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s inclusion of Sage-Grouse in a final Endangered Species Act listing.

TRI_Slider_comments

EPIC has submitted comments regarding the “Slider” Timber Harvest Plan (THP) that underlines the inadequacies in CAL FIRE’s assessment of significant impacts. Additionally  CAL FIRE fails to disclose the correct information pertaining to the pre and post harvest stock levels required for demonstration of Maximum Sustained Production (MSP).

Native American Notification Comments EPIC

Comments have been submitted regarding rules for the notice of harvesting in Native American archeological sites. EPIC is calling for rules to be amended so that seven business days or ten total days of notice are given before timber harvesting commences.

Passenger Pigeon Proclamation Request Letter from 137 Organizations and Institutions

In conjunction with 136 organizations, EPIC is urging President Obama to issue a proclamation recognizing the centennial of Martha, the last Carrier Pigeons’, death. The overall goal is to raise awareness of the cost of our environmental actions and to remind Americans of their civil duty to be good stewards of wildlife and nature.

OSV Rule – Comment Letter

Along with a number of organizations, EPIC submitted comments to the National Forest Service regarding proposed rules for over-snow vehicles (OSV). Regulating OSVs on Forest Service land itself isn’t called into question but rather, the scale, types of impacts and violations of a number of executive orders resulting in unenforceable policies.

Thanks to EPIC Interns Nathan Fisch and Taylor Morrison for developing content for this page.

 

 

 


Tolowa Dunes State Park Fence Mapping, Removal and Restoration Project Report

Monday, August 4th, 2014
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photo6

Tolowa Dunes State Park, in Del Norte County, is an ancient dune system that provides important habitat for migratory wildlife. EPIC and other conservation groups see a need to remove old livestock fencing from the Park for wildlife, cultural, and wilderness aesthetic improvements. This report, written by Biologist Adam Canter, documents current ecological restoration and livestock fence removal efforts.

Project Abstract and Goal

Primary tasks completed during the project included mapping and first phase removal of old livestock fence line and debris occurring on Tolowa Dunes State Park land, from the Smith River mouth area by Yontocket Slough south to Cadra Point. Site locations, fence lines, and fence debris were mapped using a Garmin GPS unit. Other sites of biological interest, including wildlife sightings, rare species, and invasive species were also opportunistically noted and mapped when warranted or observed. Research on prior grazing practices was conducted. Data from this phase of the project will be used to plan and prioritize future ecological restoration projects and livestock fence removal.

Introduction

EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center) had successes in 2013 working with Tolowa Dunes State Park (TDSP) on a project which focuses on restoration and improvements of natural and cultural resources in the park. A private funder along with public support from the Park, Tolowa Dunes Stewards (TDS) and other concerned citizens saw a need to remove old livestock fencing from the park for wildlife, cultural, and wilderness aesthetic improvements. One area with high priority for fence removal is Yontocket slough, which is an important wildlife site, but also a cultural sacred site to the Tolowa people who once had a village there. This was the site of the horrible massacre of the Tolowa people in 1853.

Tolowa Dunes State park, an ancient dune system, is composed of open and vegetated dunes on its western edge with the wave slope. Moving eastward from the Pacific Ocean these dunes transition into different successional communities, from dunal swales to dune forest and finally to a vast ephemeral wetland bottom (Smith River Plain) on it eastern border with the Alexandre Dairy. These bottoms adjacent to the Dairy, including the historic Yontocket Slough feature of the Smith River, were the primary areas grazed by permission of the State Park under illegal permit from 1996-2011 (230 acres).

Fence Inventory Summary

The highest priority areas for mapping and removal of the illegal grazing fence occur around Yontocket Slough, as suggested by TDSP and TDS. This area was heavily grazed and even modified by heavy equipment by the Alexandre Dairy under the illegal TDSP grazing permit (TDSP staff comm.). The slough itself acts as a water catchment and corridor for wildlife in the park, as well as being a cultural site of the Tolowa people.   Currently Yontocket Slough is bordered on all sides by the Alexandre’s five-stranded electric wire fence (currently powered off) (see photos and map).

Photo 1. Central Yontocket Slough with Alexandre fence obstructing lush wetland forage from megafauna.

Photo 1. Central Yontocket Slough with Alexandre fence obstructing lush wetland forage from megafauna.

Photo 2.  Alexandre Dairy electric wire fastening, Yontocket Slough.

Photo 2. Alexandre Dairy electric wire fastening, Yontocket Slough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is important to note that only the Alexandre livestock fencing and other old livestock fencing were mapped during this project. Park perimeter and infrastructure fencing were not mapped other than for “ground-truthing” with official state GIS layers.

The primary extent of Alexandre’s fence in the Yontocket area consists of a continuous line running south from approximately 0.25 mile west on the service road from the trailhead to the Yontocket Cemetery massacre site, around Yontocket Slough all the way to the historic and closed “Horse Camp” site. There is a small break in the fence just south of Horse Camp, which appears to provide one of only two small corridors for the Tolowa Roosevelt elk herd to commute between the dune forest, ponds, and swales and the forage of the vast Smith River Plain grass and wetland around Yontocket Slough (see photos 3-5 below). The span of Alexandre Dairy fence before the first accessible corridor for elk at Horse Camp is over 1.5 miles in length.

 

Photo 3 & 4. Two of the only small breaks and corridors in Alexandre fence at Yontocket, limiting and concentrating elk movement in the park.

Photo 3. The only small break in Alexandre fence at Yontocket, limiting and concentrating elk movement in the park.

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Photo 4. The only corridor in Alexandre fence at Yontocket, limiting and concentrating elk movement in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two perpendicular (west to east) segments of Alexandre Dairy livestock fence occur southeast of Horse Camp. South of East Pond, old barbwire fence runs along the forest/wetland edge for ~0.25 mile to Silva Road (see photo 5).

Photo 5.  Treacherous corridor for elk to enter the forest in TDSP lands north of Silva Rd. Notice the rust and forgotten barbwire by a public trail.

Photo 5. Treacherous corridor for elk to enter the forest in TDSP lands north of Silva Rd. Notice the rust and forgotten barbwire by a public trail.

South of Silva Rd., the old barbwire fencing continues along the ecotone for ~0.5 mile or more. The origin of this barbwire is unknown. It is likely that some of this fence is from before 1996 and may have been old park perimeter fence. The forest ecotone and grassy wetland just south/southwest of Silva Rd. was the most heavily used elk area observed during fieldwork for this project (Oct-Dec. 2013). One section in particular had visible sign of high use by elk, where decrepit barbwire impeded easy escrow to and from the forest (see photos, map). This small section (~200 ft.) of fence was removed by project efforts in January 2014, making the corridor more inviting to elk and other wildlife. This barbwire may continue along the ecotone all the way to Kellogg Road (~1.5 miles), but was not fully mapped during this phase of the project due to budget constraints. Mapping of old barbwire fence in this area may be a high priority in the second phase of this project, dependent on funding.

Other areas noted by TDSP and TDS with high priority for mapping included a survey for old fence on the northwest side of the park, in the open dunes and swales. No significant fence or fence waste were discovered in this part of TDSP from Yontocket to Kellogg Road, other than posts marking trail junctions and some mostly rotten and decomposed piles. Due to the large area of dunescape in this part of the park and budget constraints, it is estimated that ~80% of the area was inventoried. This area could be further surveyed in phase two.

Cadra Point, in the southern part of TDSP, is one of the only areas to have had fence removal take place at current date, primarily by TDS volunteers with park permission (Wendell Wood, Jeff Bombke (pers. comm.). This spectacular landscape, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, Lake Tolowa, and Lake Earl is a crown jewel of both the State Park System and Del Norte County. Management of the peninsula is split between TDSP on primarily the west side of Cadra Loop Road, with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) lands on the north and east side (Lake Earl Wildlife Area).

Several old fence debris piles from TDS fence removal activities have never been hauled off TDSP lands, as staff ascertain, “They were too difficult to locate” (Jeff Bombke, pers comm.). At the request of TDSP, these piles were located and mapped to assist with the refuse removal, as they are a hazard to people and wildlife. Along with mapping these piles, TDSP perimeter fencing was “ground-truthed” with a CDFW grazing parcel bordering it to the north, adjacent to Lake Tolowa. While some fence was removed from the within TDSP by the CDFW border, posts are still deployed and need to be removed (map). Ironically, this profoundly scenic, ecologically, and culturally significant CDFW parcel is the only one in the public lands complex to still allow a grazing allotment, which was grossly overgrazed (Nov. 2013, see photos 6 and 7 below).

Photo 6.  CDFW grazer fencing by scenic Lake Tolowa.

Photo 6. CDFW grazer fencing by scenic Lake Tolowa.

Photo 7. Overgrazing sign in CDFW parcel (adjacent to TDSP lands).

Photo 7. Overgrazing sign in CDFW parcel (adjacent to TDSP lands).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CDFW also has a service barn along the Cadra Point trail by McLaughlin Pond which is unkempt with old refuse piles, posts, and debris scattered about (photos 8 and 9).

Photo 8. Refuse pile in scenic area by CDFW barn.

Photo 8. Refuse pile in scenic area by CDFW barn.

Photo 9.  Debris around CDFW barn.

Photo 9. Debris around CDFW barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevlti) and other Wildlife Observations

The Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevlti) once ranged from San Francisco to Alaska along the West Coast. They were hunted to near extinction to the point that in 1925 the only remaining herd in California numbered as few as 15 individuals (Elk in the Redwoods, 2004). This small remnant herd, which survived in Prairie Creek State Park in Humboldt County, slowly re-populated the North Coast. Tolowa Dunes is blessed to host a herd of Roosevelt elk, numbering an estimated 35-40 individuals. This herd has recently immigrated to TDSP, and at the time of this writing there is little knowledge about their demography and behavior other than personal accounts and data from this project.

Photo 10. Roosevelt elk in ecotone southwest of Silva Rd.

Photo 10. Roosevelt elk in ecotone southwest of Silva Rd.

The elk herd was sighted on the first day of fieldwork, 15 October 2013, grazing along the border of TDSP and Alexandre property, in the grassy wetland plain south of Silva Road (see map). The herd occupied the same area on 28 October 2013, when several behavior and location observations were made. Rutting behavior and bugling were also observed from bulls on this day in the dune meadows, just west of Horse Camp. The herd was observed using a small corridor through an abandoned and treacherous barbwire fence, just southwest of the Silva Rd. residence (noted in previous section).

Photo 11. Giant King Bolete, Tolowa dune forest.

Photo 11. Giant King Bolete, Tolowa dune forest.

It was apparent from the heavy use of the elk trails at this low-spot in the fence-line, that this was a major egress for the elk herd between the lush forage of the wetland plain and the cover habitat of the dune forest (photo 11). Elk were observed using the North and East Pond trail system, which is a highly diverse habitat matrix of hypermaritime conifer forest, riparian hardwood forest, wetlands, and ponds. This area stands out as being the densest area of forested habitat in TDSP, with the greatest amount of interior forest conditions. This habitat provides critical cover and resting areas for the elk. It also provides alternate and additional forage sources other than grass and forbs, such as huckleberry, salmonberry, salal berry, mushrooms (i.e. Boletus edulis, photo), and lichens. This variety of forage and cover types at TDSP makes it exceptional habitat for elk on the North Coast. The Tolowa elk heard was observed in the park from Oct.-Dec. 2013, but were not seen during the January 2014 visit.

Photo 12. Elk hair snagged in old barbwire, primary corridor near Silva.

Photo 12. Elk hair snagged in old barbwire, primary corridor near Silva.

Photo 13. Elk corridor with old barbwire obstruction, near Silva Rd.

Photo 13. Elk corridor with old barbwire obstruction, near Silva Rd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Wildlife Observations

Tolowa Dunes is a Mecca for wildlife due to the variety and quality of habitat found there. Several notable sightings occurred for species other than Roosevelt elk, which are worth mentioning.

By far the most exciting and significant wildlife sighting during this project was that of a yellow-haired porcupine(Erethizon epixanthum ssp. epixanthum). This sighting took place in the late afternoon on 14 January 2014 in an isolated patch of riparian hardwood and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) within the grassy Smith River plain wetland, about 0.3 mile north of Silva Rd., near the TDSP border with the Alexandre Dairy (photos 14 and 15 below).

Photo 14. Yellow-haired porcupine at TDSP.

Photo 14. Yellow-haired porcupine at TDSP.

Photo 15. Porcupine in Sitka spruce riparian habitat at TDSP.

Photo 15. Porcupine in Sitka spruce riparian habitat at TDSP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porcupines have become a less common sight in California in recent years, sparking concern from biological experts throughout the state. For example, in 2011 the entire Sierra Nevada range had only 13 reported sightings (Weiser 2012). Porcupines that were commonly seen in similar habitat to TDSP, at nearby Lanphere Dunes on Humboldt Bay, have not been sighted for over a decade now.

Correspondences and metadata about this sighting were made with the Northern California Porcupine Project. This project is a recent effort to assess the status of porcupines in northern California, run by wildlife biologist Tim Beam, PhD at Humboldt State University, who expressed enthusiastic interest about the sighting. Dr. Beam also hypothesized that Tolowa Dunes may be the current local hotspot for porcupines on the North Coast (pers. comm.).

While porcupines do eat the living cambium of trees, which can lead to tree mortality, there was no obvious sign of this in TDSP. Porcupines do utilize other types of forage, “including raspberry stems, grasses, flowering herbs, and a large amount of apples. Herbivory has an effect on the sodium metabolism of porcupines, which results in a lust for salt. Porcupines will chew on the wooden handles of human tools, other human-made wood structures, and areas of collected roadside salt runoff” (Roze, 1989). Due to the hypermaritime environment at TDSP, salt is readily deposited by fog and wind on vegetation, which may provide salt to porcupines.   It has been noted that porcupine in the Pacific Northwest prefer lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) to other conifers. TDSP is unique on the North Coast in having one of the largest populations of beach pine (Pinus contorta ssp. contorta) in California, a close relative and subspecies of lodgepole pine. Possibly the presence of this conifer along with other diverse forage options that TDSP provides (and protects) contribute to the porcupine’s success and persistence there, as it may have been extirpated from some other regional habitat types.

Avifauna, particularly birds of prey, have notable abundance and diversity at TDSP. Sightings that stand out include two bald eagle observations, one around Yontocket and one by the Cadra Point CDFW parcel. A barn owl was seen flying south from the forest edge by the Yontocket Massacre Memorial Cemetery. Accipiters seen included Cooper’s and sharp-shined hawks. The small aggressive falcon, the merlin, was sighted on several occasions. Other raptors worth mentioning include the white-tailed kite, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, and the northern harrier. This diversity of raptors is supported by the abundance of waterfowl and small mammals that TDSP hosts which facilitates a healthy food web.

One species of fowl which was not noted, that once used the Smith River plain as winter feeding grounds, is the Aleutian cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia). This goose was at the brink of extinction by the 1970s due to Arctic fox introductions by Russian fur trappers, which easily predated the geese. Conservation efforts and removal of the foxes helped the geese to rebound and they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2001. From 1996-2011 the Alexandre Dairy along with TDPS used a permitting scheme, where “the Department allowed the Dairy to graze cattle on these 230 acres by impliedly extending a Temporary Use Permit that was first issued in 2006, even though its stated purpose is no longer valid. The stated purpose of the 2006 Permit – and, by incorporation, the amended version and all subsequent implied extensions – was “to provide a high quality habitat for Aleutian Canada [Cackling] Geese (Letter, 16 May 2011). Ironically, Alexandre continued to graze this 230 acres under this permit (to enhance Aleutian goose habitat) even though there is documentation that the Dairy heavily hazed the Aleutian’s off his pastures and those belonging the to TDSP from 2001-present, possibly contributing to their emigration from the Smith River plain. Also ironic is that the Alexandre Dairy credits themselves on their website that this “plan has ultimately taken the goose off the Endangered Species List…and this environmental success story is yet another example of the Alexandre’s ability to maintain an environmentally-friendly agricultural business.” (Alexandre EcoFarms Dairy 2008). In 2001, in an interview with the L.A. Times, Alexandre had a different tone stating that the goose repopulation is “Obviously not sustainable. It’s got to be fixed,” Blake Alexandre said. And if it isn’t? “We’ll chase the geese out of this community.” (Boxall 2001). The observations, or lack of rather, show that the Dairy may have done just that after they grazed State Park land under the guise of Aleutian Goose Enhancement (for free) from 1996-2011.

Finally, the Smith River willow riparian buffer, just north of Yontocket, is known for hosting the largest colony of Banks swallows in northwestern California, a threatened species in the state. This population attracts many birders and tourists from out of the area who come to witness its unique ecology (pers. comm., Rob Fowler).

Invasive and Native Plant Observations

Though floral observations were not a component of this project, several opportunistic sightings were made that are worth noting, including further proof of a recent species range extension.

One management issue in the Yontocket area is the invasive reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) which is abundant and even a monoculture in some parts of the Yontocket wetland. While livestock grazing has been used as a form of “greenwashing” management for a way to deal with this invasive grass, elk could also consume this forage, which is more akin to their preferences for heartier sedges, rushes, and forbs, than are cattle.

The invasive European beach grass (Ammophila arnaria) forms a monoculture in the open dunes and foredunes. Invasive species noted in the forest included cotoneaster, English ivy (Hedera helix), and English holly (Ilex aquifolia). Some small patches of ivy and cotoneaster were mapped and removed in route to fence mapping areas.

Photo 16. Erysimum concinnum. Yontocket. 11 Nov. 2013.

Photo 16. Erysimum concinnum. Yontocket. 11 Nov. 2013.

Uncommon native plants that were noted include Viola adunca, the symbiont with the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly (Speryeria zerene hippolyta). Sceptridium multifidum, a primitive fern in the Adders tongue family, is abundant throughout TDSP swales and forest. The entire TDSP seems to host excellent habitat for the bluff wallflower, (Erysimum concinnum), which is listed by the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) as a 1B.2 plant, being rare, threatened and endangered in the state. This wallflower was found blooming in several places during the late/early season field work for this project. One site was along the forest ecotone near Yontocket. The other site which is worth noting, was in the Cadra Point CDFW grazing parcel (see map). This parcel was being actively grazed during the period of wallflower observation, which could severely impact or extirpate the plants in that area. Considering the threatened status of Erysimum concinnum, this type of mixed management in a habitat that is mandated to protect such species seems negligent.

Photo 17. Two Chimaphila menziesii individuals with Russula mushroom, Usnea sp. And cyanolichens, near Yontocket.

Photo 17. Two Chimaphila menziesii individuals with Russula mushroom, Usnea sp. And cyanolichens, near Yontocket.

One of the more exciting and unexpected plant discoveries during the project field work at TDSP was that of the Little Prince’s Pine, (Chimaphila menziesii). While this plant is listed as uncommon, occurring in montane conifer forest, according to the Jepson Manual (2012), the plant was discovered in the North Coast sub-region of Northwest California at Lanphere Dunes in Humboldt County in 2011. The Humboldt coastal population was only the second known coastal site in California (the other being the Big River estuary, Mendocino Co.), while the only other known coastal site doesn’t occur for over a thousand miles north, in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia (Canter 2012). This detection at TDSP is only the forth documented C. menziesii population along the immediate west coast. The population was detected along the forest/swale ecotone along the N/S trail just southwest of Yontocket Cemetery. Habitat was a beach pine (Pinus contorta ssp. contorta)/wax myrtle (Myrica californica) overstory with a sparse herbaceous layer consisting of rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia), cyanolichens, and bryophytes. Only 12 total individuals in 3 separate groups were observed. The Humboldt State Herbarium is being contacted about this observation to further document its range extension into the North Coast sub-region. It is worth mentioning that native tribes used C. menziesii for renal problems and kidney stone removal (Pojar and MacKinnon 1994). Both the TDSP site by Yontocket and the Humboldt Bay populations are located by known native village sites.

Discussion

Yontocket and TDSP are clearly shown from this short (3 month/part time) field project to serve as a key habitat sanctuary for many species, including Roosevelt elk, porcupines, endemic wallflowers, rare butterflies, and unusual and rare plant communities. Beyond these resources, Yontocket, TDSP, and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area are cultural sacred sites and homelands to the native Tolowa people, where in 1853 most of their remaining society was massacred by white settlers.

The village of Yontocket was burned along with living babies and many of the dead were thrown into Yontocket Slough (Norton 1979). Today this slough is obstructed and defaced by the illegal private property of the Alexandre Dairy. Not only is the fence an obstruction to megafauna, such as elk, and park recreationists, but it serves as a constant reminder of the white domination and genocide upon the Tolowa people at Yontocket (Burnt Ranch Massacre).

While the importance of infrastructure fencing is critical to protect TDSP from OHV use, the Alexandre’s old livestock fencing does not serve this function and is a relic of the illegal grazing that took place there from 1996-2011, under the guise of Aleutian goose habitat enhancement. This fencing limits wildlife movement in and around a critical ecotone/edge corridor between the forage of the Smith River plain and the protective cover and alternate forage sources of the dune forest and swales. The cultural and ecological impacts of the Alexandre livestock fencing are in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Coastal Act, and various California State Parks Statutes.

Data from this project would not have been collected without the funding and concern of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Sperling Foundation, Tolowa Dunes Stewards (TDS), and Tolowa Dunes State Park (TDSP). It is clear that this project benefited from having a vigilant biologist in the field, who was able to make significant opportunistic observations of animal and plant species of concern. Work will continue to remove the illegal fence in the next phase of the project, which would not be possible without the support of the North Coast Redwoods State Parks District and the California State Parks Foundation.

Literature Cited

Alexandre Family EcoDairy. Stone Cold Media, 2008. Aleutian Canadian Geese. http://www.ecodairyfarms.com/Goose.html (March 12, 2014).

Boxall, Bettina. “Taking a Gander at Geese’s Comeback”. The Los Angeles Times. 10 April 2001. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/10/news/mn-49209 (March 12, 2014).

Canter, Adam. 2012. Noteworthy Collection, Chimaphila menziesii. Madroño. Vol. 59, No. 4: p. 220.

Horrel, Holly and Sibris, Debra A. Private Grazing on Tolowa Dunes State Park Lands in Violation of State Law. 2011. Standford Law School Environmental Law Clinic letter. http://www.wildcalifornia.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/EPIC-Letter-to-Parks-and-Recreation-Final-Version.pdf (March 12, 2014).

Elk in the Redwoods 2004, brochure, Redwood National and State Parks, National Park Service. Department of Interior http://www.nps.gov/redw/planyourvisit/upload/elk.pdf (March 12, 2014).

Norton, Jack. 1979. Genocide in Northwestern California: When Our Worlds Cried. San Francisco: Indian Historian Press.

Pojar, J. and MacKinnon, A. 1994. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Vancouver, BC: Lone Pine Press (p. 226).

Roze, U. 1989. The North American Porcupine. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Weiser, Matt. “Porcupines an increasingly rare sight in California forests, scientists say.” The Sacramento Bee. 03 March 2012.   http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu/static/documents/2012/03/28/Porcupines_an_increasingly_rare_sight_in_California_forests_scientists_say.pdf. Web. (March 12, 2014).

 


Third Lawsuit Filed to Prevent Caltrans From Vandalizing Ancient Redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park

Monday, July 28th, 2014
By
Photo by Juan Pazos

Photo by Juan Pazos

SAN FRANCISCO— Following two previously successful federal and state court legal actions, conservation groups and local residents filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging Caltrans’ renewed approval of a controversial highway-widening project that would endanger ancient and irreplaceable redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County. Due to Caltrans’ flawed environmental-review process, the project to cut into and pave over the roots of old-growth redwoods along Highway 101 was halted by a federal court ruling in 2012 and a state court decision earlier this year.

“The shortsightedness of this project is dumbfounding,” said Peter Galvin with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Does Caltrans really expect the public to accept a multimillion dollar project that would needlessly damage this iconic grove of giant redwoods?”

“We will not allow Caltrans to put Richardson Grove’s ancient trees at risk,” said Natalynne DeLapp with EPIC. “Caltrans owes the public a full and honest account of how its highway-widening plans could damage this irreplaceable state park.”

The lawsuit filed in federal court for the Northern District of California alleges serious violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The plaintiffs are the Environmental Protection Information Center, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, as well as local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Bruce Edwards, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen.

The so-called “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project” would require cutting into and paving over the roots of many of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, some of which have stood for as many as 3,000 years, measure as much as 18 feet in diameter and reach heights of 300 feet. The project is being undertaken solely to benefit passage for large commercial trucks. While originally promoted by Caltrans as a safety project, the agency was not able to offer any evidence of safety concerns along the narrow, one-mile stretch of roadway through the state park.

The plaintiffs first sued in federal and state courts in 2010 when Caltrans certified inadequate environmental review documents and adopted a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” In 2012 the federal court stopped the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and stating that the agency had been “arbitrary and capricious” in its use of what the court called “faulty data.” The California Court of Appeal in January 2014 ordered Caltrans to reevaluate the environmental impacts of the project under state law, finding that it had failed to fully assess impacts on ancient redwoods or provide measures to reduce potentially severe harm to the trees.

Today’s lawsuit was triggered when earlier this year Caltrans approved a “supplement” to its federal environmental review and renewed the project approval, while refusing to consider public concerns about the issues raised in the previous lawsuit. The complaint alleges that Caltrans failed to fix the numerous errors in mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods that were cited by the federal judge in his order.

Background

Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwoods in the world. The park also contains essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the highway-widening project in 2007. Opposition to the project has grown substantially, led by the Save Richardson Grove Coalition, a diverse group of community members including economists, business owners, scientists and Northern California tribes with longstanding ties to the grove.

Caltrans claims the highway widening project is needed to accommodate large-truck travel, yet the agency has acknowledged that this portion of road is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. Even with its “supplement” to the environmental review, Caltrans has not established that this project is necessary for safety or will benefit the local economy. Smaller-sized commercial trucks have travelled through the grove for years to deliver goods to Humboldt County, and legislative exemptions have functioned to allow the passage of oversize trucks.

Plaintiff Trisha Lotus is the great-granddaughter of Henry Devoy, who in 1922 transferred to California the redwood forest that became Richardson Grove State Park. Jeffrey Hedin is a disabled Vietnam veteran and a volunteer responder with the Piercy Fire Protection District. Bruce Edwards is a licensed contractor who frequently travels through Richardson Grove. Bess Bair is the granddaughter of Bess and Fred Hartsook, who for many years owned the Hartsook Inn resort next to Richardson Grove State Park. David Spreen is a long-time resident of Humboldt County and has extensive business experience negotiating rates and scheduling shipping of flooring materials in the North Coast region, nationally and internationally.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs are Philip Gregory and Pete McCloskey of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP; Stuart Gross of Gross Law; and Sharon Duggan, a long-time expert on environmental law.

 Click here to download the complaint.


Old Growth in the New Economy

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
By

Two year old Madrone Shelton hugs Grandfather TreeReaching capacity, people nestled tightly into Nelson Hall at Humboldt State University eagerly awaiting a lecture sponsored by Pacific Forest Trust entitled “Old Growth in the New Economy.” The lecture featured preeminent Northwest forest ecologist Dr. Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington, and Humboldt State University’s distinguished redwood ecologist Dr. Steve Sillett. The dialog focused on the roles and characteristics of Northwestern old growth forests, the ecosystem functions they provide, and how forest stewardship can benefit climate, wildlife, water, and a sustained resource economy.

Moderator Andrea Tuttle of Pacific Forest Trust began the discussion with the question: “What are old growth forests.” Dr. Steve Sillett jumped in and responded, “Old growth forests are extraordinary forests that contain 300 feet or taller trees, a mixture of tree ages, and a complex forest structure.” He emphasized, “The complex forest structure characteristic of old growth forests provide diverse habitat and high biomass production.” As his response further developed, he explained that old growth forests display high tree productivity, which results from their complex forest structure. Adding, “Total leaf area and tree vigor are the foremost determinants of tree productivity in old growth forests.” Naturally, old growth redwoods are highly productive. Dr. Sillett jubilantly added that a redwood he recently studied had an astounding two acres of total leaf area!

As the discussion progressed, both speakers described the many ecosystem services old growth forests provide, such as essential habitat, soil retention, and sources of human pleasure and education. Additionally, old growth forests play a major role in a region’s climatic phenomenon, most familiarly the redwoods and fog in our backyard. Furthermore, and perhaps the most effective tool to combat rising carbon dioxide levels and mitigate climate change, they are vital carbon sinks, providing enormous carbon sequestration potential. In fact, according to Dr. Sillett, “redwoods are the leaders in carbon sequestration, sequestering up to three times the amount of any other tree.” Dr. Sillett explained that redwoods have huge capacities to store carbon because they produce decay resistant heartwood which retains carbon for long periods of time. “Enough,” adds Dr. Franklin, “to make a significant difference in the global carbon budget.” Clearly old growth forests are vital components of Earth’s biosphere.

However, in order to protect and harness the full potential of old growth forests they must be sustainably managed for the long-term and protected for posterity. Dr. Franklin stated a fundamental rethinking of what forestry management means is needed. He stated we need to redefine the concept of forest rotation, from one of single-tree, even-aged tree management systems to a system where continuity of tree generations is preserved. He insisted forest management that focuses on enhancing productivity and biodiversity while also sustaining and retaining continuity leads to an increasingly resilient forest ecosystem, beneficial for both forest critters and humanity alike. Additionally, Dr. Sillett stated that a return to natural fire cycles is essential for effective management. Before the lecture was opened to audience questions, the future of old growth forests was discussed. Both Dr. Sillett and Dr. Franklin expressed the urgent need for a federal, but preferably international, forest stewardship policy that preserves and protects these extraordinary old growth forests into the future.

EPIC is a member of the Federal Forest Carbon Coalition—a new first-of-a-kind consortium of over 60 national, regional and local organizations. The coalition recently issued a suite of science-based recommendations to the Obama Administration entitled Modernizing Federal Forest Management to Mitigate and Prepare for Climate Disruption. The recommendations for our public lands include permanently protecting all high-biomass forested areas (older forests; live, dead and fallen) from logging, recognizing carbon as a significant public resource, increasing carbon storage, restoring mature forests, promoting more natural fire regimes and a moratorium on fracking.

We are working to promote better management practices of public and private working forest landscapes because we know that large, old, fire-resilient trees are the guardians of our air, water, wildlife and need diligent protection and conservation. EPIC ensures that environmental laws, which provide the framework and safeguards necessary to protect the thousands of species that make up the web of life, are upheld and improved and that native forests are managed using the best available science.

Please make a donation today so that we can continue to do this important work.

Thanks to EPIC Intern, Jason Landers for writing this article.


Take Action: End Taxpayer Spending on Wildlife Killing (Caution: Graphic Content)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
By

babyRaccoonRyanAnkenyTake Action: On Tuesday, July 22nd, at 1PM, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will discuss the future of Wildlife Services funding.

On Monday, July 21st, from 6-9PM, join EPIC and Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/Bird Ally X at the D-Street Community Center (1301 D Street, Arcata) for a “Teach-in” and film screenings. Click here to be redirected to the Facebook Event Page.

The County has approved Wildlife Services funding since the early 20th century. Under the contract, the County and federal government have a cost-share agreement for the provided services. The proposed agreement now before the Board would have the County allocate about $67,000 for every year of service.

According to the Washington Post, Wildlife Services, a federal agency, killed more than 4 million animals last year alone, including 75,326 coyotes, 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,700 foxes, 973 red-tailed hawks, and 419 black bears. The agency uses snares, traps, poisons, aerial gunning and dogs to kill wild animals, often killing pets and other non-target animals by mistake. An investigative series by the Sacramento Bee found that between 2000 and 2012, Wildlife Services “accidentally” killed more than 50,000 non-problem animals, more than 1,100 dogs, and several imperiled species – including bald and golden eagles. In addition to endangering recreationists and their companions, these services serve to only disrupt the natural balance of wildlife, degrade habitat, leave orphaned animals, increase the risk of disease, and lead to the loss of many ecosystem services that benefit human society directly and indirectly.

Wildlife Services Employee Poses for Photo After Killing Coyote

USDA Wildlife Services Employee Jamie P. Olson Poses for Photo After Killing Coyote

Despite these large numbers of animal killings, there are non-lethal alternatives such as those practiced in Marin County, Sonoma County, and the City of Davis which are time-tested and cost less while being more effective in protecting private property. Marin County ended its contract with Wildlife Services in 2000, choosing instead to develop and implement its Livestock and Wildlife Protection Program, which assists ranchers with livestock protection in a non-lethal manner. The Marin County Agricultural Commissioner calls it a “good move” that substantially reduced livestock losses to predators, saying it cost more to operate in the beginning than today, but it now operates at about half the cost as it did under the Wildlife Services contract. The City of Davis voted unanimously to end its contract with Wildlife Services in January 2013 after the agency killed five coyotes, including four pups, without consulting City staff, which “did not concur that these animals exhibited behavior that warranted removal.

Counties have a duty to review the impacts of activities that affect California’s environment, including wildlife. Currently in Humboldt County, the Department of Agriculture’s APHIS-Wildlife Services (Wildlife Services) is not in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. Likewise, it relies on antiquated and cruel methods to kill wildlife and it operates under a heavy veil of secrecy despite being funded by taxpayer dollars. In addition, Wildlife Services operates with a complete lack of transparency or oversight of its actions, and has steadfastly refused requests from the public, lawmakers, and others to disclose details on the lethal methods it employs, the poisons it uses, and how its money is spent. Bipartisan members of Congress, including Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif. are calling for national reforms and requested a congressional investigation of the program. Due to related questions and controversies, the Office of Inspector General is now conducting an audit of Wildlife Services.

Humboldt County citizens are known for their environmental ethics and forward-thinking ideas. Join EPIC and other wildlife advocates on Tuesday, July 22 at 1PM at the Eureka Courthouse in the Supervisors Chamber to voice your opinion on whether or not Humboldt County should end its contract with Wildlife Services.

EPIC is pleased to be partnering with Humboldt Wildlife Care Center/Bird Ally X, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Project Coyote, Natural Resources Defense Council, Animal Welfare Institute, and Mountain Lion Foundation to address the issues associated with Wildlife Services and their excessive killing of wild animals across the country.

This article was written by EPIC interns: Taylor Morrison, Nathan Fisch and Jason Landers.


Caltrans Agrees to Reevaluate Impacts of Del Norte Highway Project on Endangered Salmon

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
By

SmithIn response to a lawsuit by EPIC and other conservation groups, Caltrans has agreed to reassess impacts of a controversial highway-widening project in Del Norte County on protected salmon and their habitat along the Wild and Scenic Smith River. A settlement agreement will keep in place a court-ordered halt of construction work until Caltrans completes consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act.

“The North Coast community deserves a project that does not put salmon and the Smith River at risk, as well as an honest assessment of the impacts of highway development on the region,” said Natalynne DeLapp with EPIC. “This is an opportunity for Caltrans to reassess whether this project is in the best interests of taxpayers and the environment.”

Caltrans is attempting to widen narrow sections of highways 197 and 199 along the Smith River in California’s remote Del Norte County to provide access for oversized trucks. Construction would increase erosion and delivery of sediment into the Middle Fork Smith River, harming habitat for threatened coho salmon runs that already face a high risk of extinction. The project would undermine public safety by increasing heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the Smith River Canyon; it would hurt tourism and local residents.

“Caltrans should reevaluate the whole premise of this expensive, unnecessary project that would cause erosion and sediment impacts to critical salmon habitat,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Caltrans has already wasted more than $9 million of taxpayer money by starting major construction work along a pristine river without first doing a valid environmental review.”

Friends of Del Norte, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center filed lawsuits in state and federal court in 2013 challenging Caltrans’ approval of the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project” due to inadequate review of the environmental impacts. The state agency began cutting trees and removing vegetation close to the Smith River in January and was scheduled to begin major earthmoving and construction work in May.

“Caltrans and the National Marine Fisheries Service should have pursued a scientific study to start this process rather than pay lip-service to written environmental law, said Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte. “The important issues of highway motorist safety on Highways 199/197 can be addressed on a smaller scale, without the massive erosive bank cuts required to allow STAA truck passage, that endanger the Smith River water quality and threaten our vital fisheries.”

A Northern District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction in early May stopping Caltrans from doing any further work, citing substantial violations of the Endangered Species Act, a “haphazard” consultation process with the federal fisheries agency, and the potential for irreparable harm to the Smith River and salmon habitat. The court characterized both agencies’ biological assessment documents for the project as “contradictory and unclear.”

As part of the new settlement, Caltrans has now reinitiated consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service to properly analyze whether the project would jeopardize threatened coho salmon and their critical habitat in the Smith River or adversely affect the essential fish habitat of all salmon species in the river. The conservation groups retain the right to challenge any further agency decisions or environmental documents for the project.

Caltrans has not considered alternatives besides widening the highway and tried to downplay project impacts on salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River. The agency refused to evaluate safety hazards from increased truck traffic and ignored the cumulative impacts of numerous other associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. Despite the Fisheries Service’s own data on the imperiled status of coho salmon in the Smith, the fisheries agency rubber-stamped the original project without sufficient review. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Stuart G. Gross and Sharon Duggan and the nationally recognized firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Background

Highway 199 is a scenic byway along the Smith River Canyon that passes through the Six Rivers National Forest and the Smith River National Recreation Area and provides access to Redwood National and State Parks. The Smith River is the only undammed river in California, with the longest stretch of designated “wild and scenic” river in the lower 48. A 1989 Caltrans report acknowledged the physical constraints of the narrow, steep and rocky Smith River Canyon and concluded that environmental concerns make Highway 199 “a poor candidate for extensive upgrading.”

Highway 197 is a seven-mile, two-lane country road that runs north to south along the lower Smith River just northeast of Crescent City. It is a rural-residential route with 72 driveways directly entering onto the road. In order to avoid Jedediah Smith State Park at the western edge of the project, oversized trucks would divert off Highway 199 and travel along Highway 197 to the north of Crescent City to reach Highway 101.

Court challenges to the related Caltrans road-widening project through Richardson Grove on Highway 101 in Humboldt County have resulted in rulings determining that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of highway development on the ancient redwoods protected in Richardson Grove State Park.

A recently released independent review of Caltrans called for sweeping reforms of the agency and cited a “culture of fear” within Caltrans when it comes to deviating from standard policies. The statewide Caltrans Watch coalition has highlighted the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input.

Click here to view the Order of Stipulation

Click here to view the Official Press Release


Smith River Threatened by Strip Mining

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
By

Smith-RiverTake Action! The Wild & Scenic North Fork Smith River is being targeted for a large nickel mine that would devastate the area for recreation, pollute public drinking water in California, damage critical habitat for the federally threatened coho salmon and other fisheries, and destroy the purest waters in the West.

Red Flat Nickel Corporation, a foreign-owned mining company, has submitted plans to the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest to conduct exploratory drilling in the Baldface Creek/North Fork Smith River watershed. The company has also applied to Oregon Water Resources Department for a five-year limited license (LL-1533) to extract thousands of gallons of public waters from tributary streams of the North Fork Smith River.

In the plans, Red Flat Nickel Corporation has proposed flying equipment and personnel into the mining site by helicopter to drill 59 three-inch-diameter core samples 50 feet into the ground. The proposed mining site is 3,980 acres of federal mining claims, which are also in the watershed of the Wild & Scenic North Fork Smith River and the Inventoried South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Curry County, Oregon.

The information gathered from this exploration will be used to advance mine development of the area. The EPA says the threat of metal mining is the largest toxic polluter in the United States. If one mine starts operating, thousands of acres of other nickel claims could be developed on nearby federal public lands—impacting designated and eligible Wild & Scenic Rivers, and turning one of North America’s most important rare plant centers, imperative habitat for fisheries, and clean water supplies into an industrial wasteland.

A foreign corporation should not be allowed to pollute and despoil the public waters and land resources relied on by local citizens, fisheries, and our ecosytems. Help protect the Wild & Scenic Smith River from devastating foreign strip mining exploration.

This article was composed by Taylor Morrison, an intern with EPIC for the 2014 summer. Thank you to the Kalmiopsis Coalition and the Smith River Alliance for contributing content for this action alert.


Old Growth, Climate Change and Connectivity

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
By

Old Growth.K.BakerGlobal warming is changing the planet’s ecosystems. The largest oldest trees store the greatest amounts of carbon and play a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The movement to protect our vital forests is building rapid momentum.

More than 75 scientists recently requested that the President direct his Secretary of Agriculture and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to craft a National Old Growth Conservation Policy that fully protects the remaining old-growth forests on all national forests. The signatories include PhD professors from throughout the country and Canada, retired state and federal resource agency biologists and two former USFS Chiefs.

The Federal Forest Carbon Coalition—a new first-of-a-kind consortium of over 60 national, regional and local organizations, including EPIC, focused on forests, biodiversity, fisheries, rivers, faith and spirituality, Native American treaty rights, youth, rural communities and climate disruption—recently issued a suite of science-based recommendations to the Obama Administration. Entitled Modernizing Federal Forest Management To Mitigate and Prepare For Climate Disruption, the recommendations for our public lands include permanently protecting all high-biomass forested areas (older forests; live, dead and fallen) from logging, recognizing carbon as a significant public resource, increasing carbon storage, restoring mature forests, promoting more natural fire regimes and a moratorium on fracking.

The U.S. Forest Service manages some of the highest density carbon stores on earth—our  remaining old growth and mature forests. Large old fire resilient trees are the guardians of our air, water, wildlife and forests.  Connecting and protecting older forests will provide refuge and crucial habitat linkages for a wide range of species, allowing for the movement of plants and animals in response to a warming climate.

Federal forest agencies need to make a major shift in policy and practice. While extensive research and collaborative climate adaption strategies have been completed, there has been no significant change in law. Environmental laws are essential to provide the framework and safeguards necessary to protect the thousands of species that make up the web of life.

Climate Change demands political change. Be part of the movement. Please sign and share the Connecting Wild Places petition.

The goal is to reach 50,000 signatures by Sept. 3, the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.


Off Road Vehicles Proposed by Forest Service in the Smith River National Recreation Area

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
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Smith River NRAEPIC, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and other conservation allies submitted comments regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Smith River National Recreation Area (NRA) Restoration and Motorized Travel Management on June 9th, supporting a travel management decision that protects the outstanding natural values found in the Smith River NRA by reducing road maintenance costs, protecting and restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and reducing the spread of Port Orford cedar root disease through road and route decommissioning.

The Forest Service needs to refrain from adding routes and motorized trails to the road system that occur within occupied sensitive plant habitat as well as fully analyze and disclose the impacts of foreseeable illegal off-road use. In addition, the Forest Service must disclose the actual efficacy of agency road gating, blocking, and closure mechanisms. Furthermore, the final travel management decision must contain meaningful and substantive protections for Port Orford cedar populations across the planning area.

The DEIS for the Smith River NRA Restoration and Motorized Travel Management was released to the public on April 11, 2014. The aim of the project is to make changes to the National Forest Transportation System (NFTS) and Motorized Vehicle Use Maps , including adding, upgrading, downgrading, and decommissioning roads to provide for recreation opportunities, administrative needs, and to reduce risk.

In the Smith River NRA DEIS, six alternatives were identified. The Forest Service prefers Alternative 6. Unfortunately, Alternative 6 is primarily based upon the preferences of a collaborative group whose stated purpose was to determine how to add “high risk” controversial user-created routes to the Smith River NRA NFTS. These “high risk” routes provide no administrative or recreational purpose other than to fulfill the desire to engage in extreme off-road travel. In addition, the preferred alternative would add routes and motorized trails to the NFTS that occur within occupied sensitive plant habitat. It is undeniable that the existing network of roads and routes within the NRA are major causes of chronic sedimentation problems in streams, cause damage to rare and endemic plant populations, contribute to the loss of roadless wildland recreational opportunities, and increase the spread of Phytophthora lateralis (plant pathogen that causes Port Orford cedar root disease). Although the Forest Service acknowledges these problems, it plans to monitor less than 1 in 5 of these “high risk” routes over the next 10 years if funding is even available.

Under the Smith River National Recreation Act, the Forest Service has a responsibility to preserve, protect, and enhance the unique biological diversity of the NRA. EPIC and its supporters feel that the Forest Service’s preferred alternative, which favors the interests of 1.1% of the Six Rivers Forest visitors, does not adequately protect the significant ecological, recreational, and hydrological values the Smith River NRA is charged with protecting. EPIC and its allies  hope that the preferred action is not pre-ordained and that its substantive, technical, and site-specific comments are adequately acknowledged and addressed.

This article was written by Jason Landers, an intern with EPIC for the 2014 summer.

Click here to read the full comments.