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Kin to the Earth

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
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Kim of the Earth_This month, EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, and Executive Director of Klamath Forest Alliance — Kimberly Baker– was interviewed by Natalynne DeLapp for the Econews ‘Kin to the Earth’ column.

An insatiable curiosity and passion for the forest, and its wildlife, is what inspired Kimberly Baker to begin her conservation advocacy work. Originally from Georgia, by way of Alaska, she moved to Sandy Bar Ranch, on the Klamath River, in 1998. “California’s Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion is widely recognized as a global center for biodiversity,” said Kimberly. “Our forests shelter an incredible complex of rare and unique species found only in this region.” It was while living on the river that she began to see what was happening to the national forests—old growth logging and the destruction of native wildlife habitat. “I started as a volunteer doing forest watch monitoring national forest timber sales and realized that even one person could make a big difference,” said Kimberly.

“Public involvement absolutely results in better management of our forests,” said Kimberly. “By paying attention to what projects are being developed by the U.S. Forest Service, watching out for plans that target big trees, understanding science, basic ecology and environmental laws, and by providing substantive place based comments—forests can be protected.”

Getting into the back county, out on the ground and seeing exactly what is being proposed and where is one of the most important components of timber sale monitoring. “One of the first projects I worked on was the Elk Creek Timber Sale. One of the units was proposed for tractor logging, and upon walking into the unit I saw springs and pools of water everywhere, —and because of my comments the unit was dropped,” said Kimberly. “It also it made me realize why it is so important to ground truth forest service projects.”

When asked what inspires her, Kimberly said, “I draw my inspiration from all of the wildlife inhabiting these mountains and watersheds, —the beautiful and amazing communities out in the forest—that is what I work to protect.”

One of Kimberly’s favorite places is the Garden Gulch Trail on the North Fork Salmon River. “Although it is not the most spectacular old growth, it’s a particular stand that has been targeted three or four times by different timber sales and every time we’ve been able to save it, said Kimberly. I like going there, being in that forest, and knowing that it is still standing. The trees are all marked up with multiple different colors of paint from the various timber sales the agency has attempted—it reminds me that caring people make a difference.”

In the past twenty years, Kimberly has seen changes in how National Forests are managed because of different forest leadership and changing cultural values. I asked her what does she see happening as she looks ahead. “It could go either way, the Six Rivers National Forest is making great strides by incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and working toward long-term solutions to return fire back to our landscapes, and by working with the people in the communities,” said Kimberly. “We know so much from the decades of intensive study, how biodiverse northern California is, how many endemic species are here, and how globally important our forest are. So I see the future going either way, either we protect it and follow the best available science, or we don’t. Which for example is what the Klamath National Forest is doing, where it is cutting trees at any cost to the environment, and not considering science or the people in the community. It is working to reach timber targets without regard for wildlife or water quality. We either make the change or we don’t. With the recent congress forest and wildlife management has been ruled by politics and misguided opinions rather than science based.”

When asked what needs to happen, Kimberly said, “I think the key to species survival is landscape connectivity. We need connect wild places by protecting the remaining roadless areas, mature forests and high quality habitat and restoring cut over forests. It is time enact policy that will implement climate adaption strategies—which is why I am working with leaders in office and in forest, water and wildlife management to make the necessary shifts in order to conserve our quality of life, wildlife and wild places.”

It is because this courage and determination that thousands of acres of ancient forest are still standing, and it is with this same level of determination that Kimberly will continue to advocate for the future of the forests and wildlife of northwest California.

 


Elk River Update—Deciding to Decide

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
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Elk River flowing over road. Photo courtesy of Elk River Residents Association

Elk River flowing over road. Photo courtesy of Elk River Residents Association

Decisions, decisions, decisions…It has happened to all of us, surely, at one time or another. It can seem so complicated to make even the most basic of decisions, at times. We can talk ourselves into a state of paralysis, turning over the relative merits of one choice over another. In the end though, regardless of how much we debate, we eventually have to make decisions and live with the consequences.

On May 12, 2016, the Regional Board finally moved to adopt a sediment impairment remediation and watershed recovery plan for the Elk River, some 14 years after its self-imposed deadline. The tale of the “how’s,” and “why’s,” that this has taken so long, can be untangled when looked at through the lens of history, politics, and fear of backlash.

Background

The Elk River watershed was severely damaged in 80’s and 90’s by the reckless and irresponsible liquidation logging of MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company. Then, the combination of this reckless logging and the advent of the 1996/1997 New Year’s storms that brought heavy rains to the North Coast, saw the river system and the upland watershed begin to unravel as massive landslides, streambank failures, road and road infrastructure failures introduced overwhelming amounts of sediment pollution to the river system.

In the wake of the obvious devastation, in 1997, an inter-agency team conducted field investigations of the Elk River watershed and four other Humboldt County watersheds, finding in every case that these systems were “significantly adversely cumulatively impacted from sediment with logging as a contributing factor.” The Elk River watershed was designated as sediment impaired and placed on the 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies under the federal Clean Water Act. The federal and state water management agencies both agreed that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board would take the lead on preparing the remediation and recovery plan for Elk River, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and would complete it and adopt it by 2002.

The Wait is the Hardest Part

In the 18 years since the 303(d) designation of Elk River, not only has the Regional Water Board failed to produce the TMDL, but the impaired and polluted condition of the so-called “impacted reach,” i.e. the reach of the river where massive amounts of logging-related sediment pollution have been stuck and languishing for nearly two decades, is actually continuing to worsen, not improve. And despite changes in ownership and management practices, the timber industry’s own Report of Waste Discharge to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on its sediment pollution discharges in the Elk River watershed actually shows that contemporary timber harvest activities in the watershed are still contributing new pollution to the river system, incrementally compounding the problem.

The sediment pollution has caused unnatural and frightening increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding in residential areas, resulting in impairment of domestic and agricultural water supplies, loss of traditional land-based economic activities, the flooding of roads, homes, and properties, and threaten the very health, safety, and lives of local residents, as the flood waters prevent ingress and egress from the neighborhood.

Local residents and fisheries and environmental advocates have struggled for nearly two decades to compel state and federal regulatory agencies to act to restrict further logging and logging pollution, clean up the mess left behind by MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber, and begin to restore the Elk River watershed. However, bureaucratic lethargy has virtually stymied citizen’s and citizen group’s efforts at every turn. The weapon being used to forestall the process has not been lawsuits, but largely the planting of seeds of doubt and insisting on “certainty” in the science and analytical documentation detailing watershed conditions and root causes.

Paralysis by Analysis

After the initial inter-agency investigation in 1997, a litany of studies and reports have been produced, almost all of which have come to essentially the same conclusion: logging practices have resulted in massive an incomprehensible amounts of sediment pollution being introduced to the river system, and that massive quantities of this sediment pollution are now stored in the lower reaches of the watershed, the so-called, “impacted reach,” the virtual ground-zero for local residents in the watershed.

However, after 18 years of science and bureaucratic process, the most basic, and fundamental finding of all the study and analysis—that the watershed is crippled with impairment from logging-related sediment pollution—has never actually changed. What has transpired can be characterized as a battle of the experts, with the agencies, the timber industry, and the general public alike marshalling scientists to study, re-study, critique, tweak, and study again, the studies and reports generated to serve as the basis for the actual decisions to be made about how to resolve the sediment pollution problem.

In 2013, Janet Parrish, representing the EPA, wrote a letter to the Regional Board to chide its lethargy and inaction to stem the tide of sediment pollution from logging and begin the process of recovering the river and its water quality. Parrish described the heel-dragging and delays as “paralysis by analysis.” The quest for “certainty” obfuscated the essential facts of the situation and the clear legal mandates of the Regional Board to act to correct the problems.

De Ja Vu All Over Again

Regional Board staff have brought at least two or three other action proposals before the Board Members to address problems in Elk River over the last 18 years, all of which have been rejected, mostly on the basis that further study and refinement of the studies has been necessary before final action can be taken.

On April 7, 2016, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board met in Eureka, poised to decide whether or not to finally adopt the TMDL for Elk River, now some 14 years tardy, and whether or not to adopt a new pollution regulation and control permit for the primary timberland owner in the Elk River watershed, Humboldt Redwood Company, successor to the now-bankrupt MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company.

After hours of testimony, hearing, and deliberations on the proposed adoption of the TMDL, members of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, weary and blurry-eyed from over 12 hours of meeting, decided to defer making a decision, long after a substantial number of hearing participants and interested parties had succumbed to the attrition of the day. The rest of the agenda, including the new pollution and control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company, was kicked down the road.

Then, on May 12, 2016, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board once again made the journey to Humboldt County, again poised to decide whether or not to decide. After considerable deliberation and vociferous decent from certain Board Members, the Regional Board finally, at long-last, adopted the Elk River TMDL. As for the new pollution regulation and control permit for HRC? The Regional Board, after much public testimony and deliberations, decided once again to defer, or to not decide, until a later date. The reason? The Regional Board members want to study and consider the permit further, before finally deciding to decide.

The Regional Board is poised to meet again on June 16, 2016 and perhaps this time it will finally decide to decide. After some 25 years or more of engagement and advocacy for the forests, watersheds, wildlife, and downstream residents of the Elk River watershed, EPIC knows all too well that sometimes it is vigilance, and not discretion, that constitutes the better part of valor.

Click here to read the Times-Standard article about Elk River.


EPIC Redwoods Spring/Summer Hikes 2016

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
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5/24 UPDATE: Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park Hike has changed from Friday, June 10th to Saturday, June 11th.

Salmon Pass Trail Headwaters Reserve RDCome out and join the staff of EPIC for a series of spring and summer excursions in our majestic and critically-important redwood region parks and reserves, home of the tallest trees on earth. Hikes will be led by EPIC staff, and are free and open to the public. Topics to be covered will include the ecology, sociology, history, management, protection, and conservation of our public parks and reserves in the redwood region of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.

All hike dates and times are subject to change, pending inclement weather, or other factors, so be aware! As always, if you come, please be prepared for our local conditions and for the conditions generally found in our forests. Please wear appropriate clothing and foot ware, bring food, and water, and anything else you may need to be comfortable and safe in the forest. Hikes are of varying lengths and difficulty levels, so please check out the descriptions below, and know your limits! All hikes will originate from our office in Arcata, CA, at 145 G Street, Suite A, at 9 a.m., unless otherwise noted. Space may be limited, so please RSVP if you plan to attend an individual hike.

Click on the hike date to join individual events on Facebook. For more information, or to RSVP for an individual hike, please call us at (707) 822-7711, or e-mail: rob@wildcalifornia.org.

Headwaters Forest Reserve Salmon Pass Trail

April 8, 2016: Salmon Pass Trail, Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Please join EPIC staff for this fascinating hike along the Salmon Pass Trail, in the Headwaters Forest Reserve, and relive the history of the struggle to protect Headwaters, while learning about the contemporary challenges for management, conservation, and restoration, in the reserve, and elsewhere in the redwood region.

Distance: The Salmon Pass Trail, on the south end of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, is a 3-mile loop hike.

Difficulty: The difficulty of the hike on the Salmon Pass Trail is rated as “easy,” and should be accessible to most hikers of most skill and ability levels.

Anticipated Time Commitment: Plan on budgeting about 4-5 hours for this hike, inclusive of meeting, carpooling, driving, and hiking time.

IMG_3031May 6, 2016: Lady Bird Johnson Grove, Redwood National Park.

Join EPIC staff for a relatively short and leisurely hike in the picturesque Lady Bird Johnson Grove, one of the crowned jewels of Redwood National Park. The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop Trail is designed to be accessible to almost anyone, and is a perfect way to get a taste of what it’s like to be in an old-growth coastal redwood forest.

Distance: This hike is on the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop Trail, which totals 3 miles.

Difficulty: The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop Trail is rated as “easy,” and should be accessible to most hikers of most skill and ability levels.

Anticipated Time Commitment: Plan on budgeting about 4-5 hours for this hike, inclusive of meeting, carpooling, driving, and hiking time.

June 11, 2016: Stout Grove, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. (PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED FOR JUNE 10)

Join EPIC staff for a walk back in time, as we traverse through the spectacular scenery of Stout Grove, in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, nestled along the alluvial flats of the Wild and Scenic Smith River, in Del Norte County, CA.

Distance:

The Stout Grove loop is a very short, and easy 0.6-mile hike through giant old-growth redwoods along the spectacular alluvial flats of the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Depending on group size and inclination, this trip may also visit other trail sections in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, so this is subject to change!

Difficulty: The Stout Grove Loop hike is rated as “easy,” and should be accessible to most hikers of most skill and ability levels.

Anticipated Time Commitment:

Plan on budgeting at least 4-6 hours for this trip, as the drive to Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and back, will take a minimum of 1 hour and 45 minutes, each way.

July 8, 2016: Tall Trees Grove, Redwood National Park.

Come join EPIC staff on a hike to one of the hidden jewels of the Redwood National and State Park system, the spectacularly diverse Tall Trees Grove! The “discovery” of what is now Tall Trees Grove by unsuspecting explorers from National Geographic Magazine in the late 1960’s formed the impetus from the preservation and establishment of what is now Redwood National Park. Tall Trees is nestled away deep in the recesses of the park, and is set along the nutrient-rich alluvial flats of Redwood Creek, and contains some of the tallest trees left on earth, while offering unrivaled diversity and scenic beauty.

Distance:

The access to Tall Trees Grove is restricted to vehicular traffic. For this hike, we will access the Tall Trees Grove loop by driving the Tall Trees access road, located off the Bald Hills Road, which runs through Redwood National Park. Permission from Redwood National Park, and access to the gate combination for the Tall Trees access road will be required, and secured in advance. One we arrive at the Tall Trees Grove access road parking area, the hike is a total of approximately 4-miles, which includes 1 ½ miles each way into and out of the grove, and the 1-mile Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail.

Difficulty:

This hike to Tall Trees Grove is rated as “moderate,” although it may be “difficult,” for those without much regular hiking experience. The access trail into the Tall Trees Grove loop is located on a fairly steep grade, and is downhill on the way in, and uphill on the way out.

Anticipated Time Commitment:

Plan on budgeting 4-5 hours for this hike, inclusive of meeting, driving, and hiking time.

Contact: The number of participants in this hike may be limited due to the logistical challenges. RSVP is highly encouraged. For more information, or to RSVP, please call (707) 822-7711, or e-mail: rob@wildcalifornia.org.

August 12, 2016: Bull Creek Flats, Rockefeller Forest, Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

For our final hike of the season, please join EPIC staff for a day-long adventure on the Bull Creek Flat Trail, located in the Rockefeller Forest, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The Bull Creek Flat Trail offers a traverse along Bull Creek, and the scenic South Fork Eel River, through some of the biggest, and most majestic coastal old-growth redwood forest stands left on earth.

Distance:

The Bull Creek Flat Loop Trail comprises a total of 9-11 miles of possible hiking. Be prepared to spend the day on the trail for this hike! Ultimate distance will depend on size and inclination of the group.

Difficulty:

The Bull Creek Flat Loop Trail is rated as, “easy,” as it is entirely located along the alluvial flats of Bull Creek. Be advised, however that this trail does involve crossing Bull Creek. Humboldt Redwoods State Park does install seasonal footbridges for the summer months in the park, but don’t presume the bridges will be there, and plan accordingly!

Anticipated Time Commitment:

Plan on allotting a minimum of 5-6 hours for this hike, inclusive of meet-up, driving time, and hiking time.

Redwood Hike Schedule

 


Thank You Compliance Workshops

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
By
Photo by Jesse Dodd

Photo by Jesse Dodd

This spring Mad River Alliance (MRA) and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) planned, organized, and produced a series of six Cannabis Farmer’s Compliance Workshops in the Eel, Mattole, Trinity, Mad and Humboldt Bay watersheds. The workshops informed the public of the steps necessary to achieve legal status under newly mandated state, regional and local medical marijuana laws, and provided educational resources to implement management practices that will help mitigate existing damages and protect environmental resources. Each of the 475 + participants took part in a day long course and walked away with a handbook full of detailed information and resources designed to guide them down the path of successful regulatory compliance.

EPIC and MRA tackled this project because we believe that if we work together to help local people make the transition from an unregulated, quasi-legal cannabis industry to a regulated and legal one—we will protect our fish and forests, families and small farms.

The success of this campaign is not due to any one person or group, but rather the strength in collaboration. This powerful group includes: MRA, EPIC, Humboldt Green, California Growers Association, Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Humboldt County Planning & Building Department & Supervisors, High Tide Permaculture and Pacific Watershed Associates. These community partners made the workshop series successful.

Additionally, we’d like to give a special thank you to our supporters: Biovortex, California Growers Association, Dazey’s Supply, David Simpson and Jane Lapiner, Dirty Business Analytics, Ed Denson Attorney, Emerald Family Farms, Emerald Magazine, Ford 20 Insurance, Gallegos Law Firm, Gangier, Graphic Heart Design, High Tide Permaculture, HMBDLT, Honeydew Farms, Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, Humboldt Green, Humboldt Sun Growers Guild, Janssen Malloy Law Firm, Kathleen Bryson Law, KMUD, Lost Coast Communications, Mattole Restoration Council, Mattole Sustainable Farmers Guild, North Coast Horticulture Supply, Omsberg Preston Engineers, Pacific Watershed Association, Paul Hagen Attorney, Royal Gold, Samara Restoration, Trim Scene Solutions, Verdant Bridge Enterprise, and Wonderland Nursery.

The 2016 Cannabis Farmers’ Workshop Series was inspired by the “Growing Green in 2014 Workshop” led by Mad River Alliance, and by the “Northern California Farmers Guide to Best Management Practices” produced by the Trees Foundation. This year’s Cannabis Farmers’ Compliance Workshop began with a partnership between the Mad River Alliance and Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. The Water District took the opportunity, for the first time ever, to partner with a nonprofit to co-produce a Compliance Workbook and a Workshop in the Mad River watershed. To expand the impact of the project, Mad River Alliance contacted Steve Gieder of Humboldt Green, who was instrumental to the 2014 Growing Green workshop, and partnered with EPIC to produce a total of six Cannabis Farmers’ Workshops in five watersheds! EPIC’s Executive Director, Natalynne DeLapp, took on the task of leading the sections on the Humboldt County ordinance, laying out the workbook, and coordinating with state agencies and community members to realize our vision.

EPIC and MRA are grateful that we were able to produce the Cannabis Farmers’ Handbook & Workshop—thank you to everyone who attended, supported, volunteered, and participated!

Additional resources including the digital copy of the Cannabis Farmer’s Compliance Handbook can be downloaded here.

Like the Cannabis Farmer’s Workshop Facebook page for additional information and updates.

 

 


Action Alert: Stop The Great Forest Giveaway

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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Whites Gulch after 2014 Whites fire burned and cleared understory. Photo by Kimberly Baker.

Whites Gulch after 2014 Whites fire burned and cleared understory. Photo by Kimberly Baker.

Call it “Christmas in May”; the Klamath National Forest is set to give a big gift to the logging industry at the expense of taxpayers, wildlife and watersheds.
Take Action Now. The Klamath National Forest is offering to “sell” old-growth forests for logging in the Middle Creek and Whites timber sales for as little as 50 cents per thousand board feet. To put this amount in perspective, timber trucks will roll out of the forest for less than the price of a cup of coffee. While 50 cents cannot buy a newspaper anymore, it can buy a lot of timber.The cost of this giveaway is extraordinary.

First, these timber giveaways come at an extreme ecological cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the Westside Project may result in the “take,” which includes potential death, of up to 103 northern spotted owls. To put this number in perspective, 103 owls would be approximately 1-2 percent of all northern spotted owls in existence (at a time when owl occupancy is declining at nearly 4% a year). Furthermore, the clear cut timber sale is likely going to result in sediment pollution and landslides into Klamath River tributaries that provide critical coho salmon habitat. The coho population in the project area is on the brink of extinction and this project could be the final straw.

Second, these timber “sales” come at great cost to taxpayers. As a “deficit” sale, meaning that the revenue from the sale will not cover the costs incurred by the Forest Service in offering it, taxpayers are going to subsidize logging of northern spotted owl habitat and the degradation of critical salmon habitat. What’s more, taxpayers will also pay to clean up the mess after logging is completed. The Klamath National Forest estimates that it will cost $27 million to treat slash from logging and “reforest” after operations damage the chance for natural regeneration. In contrast, the Klamath National Forest estimated that the project will only bring in $800,000. In other words, taxpayers will be on the hook for over $26 million dollars.

National forests are our public lands. We shouldn’t give them away to appease the timber industry.

Click here to send a letter to the Forest Service and elected officials to stop the giveaway of our public forests.
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Klamath River Timber Sales Offered at Lowest Price in Recent History

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
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Rejuvinated forest stand after the 2014 Whites Fire burned at low intensity. Photo by Kimberly Baker.

Rejuvinated forest stand after the 2014 Whites Fire burned at low intensity. Photo by Kimberly Baker.

Klamath National Forest to subsidize clear cut logging by charging approximately $2.00 per log truck load

On Thursday, May 5, the Klamath National Forest is set to auction away critically important forests for pennies on the dollar. The agency will accept sealed bids on two Westside Project timber sales, Whites and Middle Creek, for the lowest price in recent memory. At $.50 per thousand board feet, a full log truck would be valued less than a cup of coffee. The auction comes amid protests delaying operations and an active lawsuit challenging the post-fire logging project.

“There is no other way of looking at this, Klamath National Forest is giving away our public forests,” said Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The public and future generations will pay the real cost, including lost wildlife and even more dangerous fire conditions.”

Because of the rock-bottom prices, Klamath National Forest will lose money on the sale—it will cost more for the agency to issue the sale than will return in revenue. In effect, taxpayers will subsidize private timber companies to log on public land above critically important salmon streams in the Klamath Watershed and remove northern spotted owl habitat. At 50 cents per thousand board feet, the agency cannot cover the costs incurred in cleaning up residual debris or “slash” after logging operations, necessitating that taxpayers bear the burden.

“The Klamath National Forest is selling old-growth trees to their buddies in the timber industry for $2 a log truck load,” said George Sexton, Conservation Director at the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “That doesn’t even cover the cost of cup of coffee the Forest Supervisor sips while she signs the decision to clear cut our public lands.”

To date, four of 14 timber sales that comprise the controversial Westside Project have been awarded for prices ranging between as low as $6.00 per thousand board feet, once thought to be record low prices for public land timber sales. Siskiyou Cascade Natural Resources, who purchased two of the sales, started logging and hauling last week, before legal claims can be adequately heard in court.

“Klamath salmon and clean rivers are worth much more than this,” said Kerul Dyer of Klamath Riverkeeper. “The Forest Service has no business liquidating forests for the timber industry – especially when the deals will degrade water quality in the Klamath River and its important tributaries.”

The record low prices come at an extreme ecological cost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected that the Westside Project may result in the “take” of up to 103 Northern Spotted Owls—as many as two percent of the species of owls listed under the Endangered Species Act for protection. Logging on steep slopes above tributaries in the Klamath River will also increase sediment pollution, and could result in a local extinction of Klamath coho salmon according to the Karuk Tribe’s Fisheries Department.

“We could have had an economically viable project had the Klamath National Forest worked with, instead of against, the Karuk Tribe,” said Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe. “The Karuk Tribe submitted a plan, with support from the conservation community, to the Forest Service that would have produced revenue for the local economy and protected the environment. These giveaways have shown the Forest Service’s true intentions: subsidizing big timber interests.”

The Plaintiffs are taking their case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to seek an emergency stay and preserve the status quo while legal questions can be resolved.


Westside Update

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
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Stump of "hazard" tree in Grider Creek Campground. Photo by Rob DiPerna.

Logging is underway for the Westside Project on two separate units, Slinkard and Walker Creek. Two more units, Salt Creek and Blue Mountain, have received a high bidder, although the units have not yet been awarded. There is good news too. Most timber sale units have not received high bids. Absent new bidders, these areas may be saved from the chainsaw and will continue to provide habitat for Pacific fishers and northern spotted owls.

To pump the brakes on logging and maintain the status quo until a more in-depth hearing on the merits could be had, plaintiffs submitted a request for a temporary restraining order to stop salvage logging. On Monday, Judge Maxine Chesney denied plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order. EPIC has not given up the fight. The Klamath National Forest is too precious a resource to waste through ill-conceived timber sales. EPIC will continue to push all legal avenues to protect our wild “Klamath Knot.”

Below are some images of the post-fire landscapes that EPIC is working to protect. We will keep you up to date on further developments.


Save the Endangered Species Act

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
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The Endangered Species Act—the “bulldog” of environmental laws—is about to go extinct. Like most extinctions, there are many causes. And like most extinctions, it is entirely avoidable.

The Act, dating to 1973, was a bi-partisan effort. Richard Nixon, a Republican, called on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to protect and restore threatened and endangered species. A team of scientists and lawyers, headed by the then-Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, crafted the draft legislation. The Senate passed the Endangered Species Act unanimously and the House voted overwhelmingly in favor: 390–12. The law was then signed by President Nixon on December 28, 1973.

Today, the Endangered Species Act is a favorite punching bag for politicians, most often Republican but also many Democrats, looking to shift blame. In the 114th Congress, which began January 3, 2015 and ends January 3, 2017, anti-conservationists have launched 100 attacks on the Endangered Species Act. These attacks are often hidden, attached as “riders” to must-pass legislation like the authorization bill for the U.S. Department of Defense, or appropriations bills for the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies. Nearly half of the bills prohibit the protection of individual species, such as the grey wolf or the Northern long-eared bat.

The Endangered Species Act is also being dismantled from within. At critical leadership positions, the Obama Administration has chosen individuals uncommitted to preserving biodiversity. It starts at the top. The Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service has, for example, stated that we must live with less biodiversity.

This belief is reflected in new policies designed to minimize the importance of the Act. From redefining terms, like “significant portion of its range,” to produce anti-conservation results, to throwing new roadblocks to listing a species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service have been hard at work to gut the law from within.

The actions of D.C. big-wigs let down the rest of the agency. Local agency employees are, by and large, dedicated and thoughtful stewards. (You don’t go in to wildlife biology for the money or prestige.) These employees, who are the on-the-ground experts for many species, are not happy with the direction of the agency. According to a survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, employees within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service believe that politics plays too big a role in decision-making at the agencies.

agency politics2

This failure to make scientifically-grounded decisions has been reflected in recent controversial decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On April 7, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to list the Humboldt marten, a rare carnivore in the weasel family. The Humboldt marten is so rare that it was thought to be extinct in California until it was rediscovered in 1996. Today, the Humboldt marten totals around 100 individuals in California and two small populations in Oregon. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the marten warranted listing, the Service denied listing claiming that the marten was fine. As a colleague from a sister conversation group wrote, “The unthinkable has happened.” Rumors and rumblings have it that recommendations made by local staff to list the marten were overruled by regional administrators concerned about the impact of listing on the timber industry. EPIC and allies have filed suit over the marten, which is pending in federal court.

We need to save the Endangered Species Act, not only from politicians who threaten the Act in Congress but also from the agencies that administer the Act. This shouldn’t be hard. An overwhelming majority of Americans, some 90%, support the law; if we speak out, politicians and bureaucrats will be forced to listen.


Fish and Game Commission Delays Spotted Owl Listing Decision

Monday, April 25th, 2016
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northern-spotted-owls-USFWSThe California Fish and Game Commission, the regulatory body responsible for administration of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), has decided to delay its decision on whether or not listing the northern spotted owl is warranted until its next regularly scheduled meeting, to be convened in June, in Bakersfield.

The three-person Commission panel voted unanimously to delay rendering a final determination on whether or not the listing of the critically-imperiled spotted owl is warranted, in favor of directing the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to begin the process of developing a stakeholder working group to address the management needs for the fast-disappearing species.

The Commission’s decision to delay comes on the heels of almost universal agreement at its April 14, 2016 meeting, among a broad array of stakeholders that provided testimony, all of which clearly indicates that the northern spotted owl is in peril in California, and that additional management actions are likely necessary to prevent the extinction of the species in the short-term. However, instead of determining that the listing is warranted on the basis of the insurmountable mountain of rigorous scientific evidence showing that the owl is in trouble, the Commission chose to defer to the concerns of the timber industry over the possible additional regulatory constraints that would result from listing of the owl under CESA, despite the fact that the act of listing itself does not actually result in any change in regulation on the timber industry.

Astoundingly, during Commission deliberations, the President of the Fish and Game Commission, Eric Sklar, all but acknowledged that the plain language of the law likely compelled the Commission to make a “warranted” determination on the listing petition, but, instead of doing so, Sklar and the Commission decided to defer to the interests of “the people” that would supposedly be adversely affected by the listing determination economically.

CESA listing of a species as “threatened” or “endangered” does not automatically result in regulatory changes to any industry sector or entity that may adversely affect the habitat of a listed species; any actual regulations changes that could potentially affect private lands forestry operations must be fully noticed, vetted, and adopted by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, an entity that is in no way beholden to change anything simply as a result of a warranted listing determination under CESA for any species, the spotted owl included.

The Commission’s decision to delay making a final listing determination on EPIC’s petition for the northern spotted owl comes in the wake of a series of delays, legal and otherwise, perpetrated by both the Commission itself, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, that have stymied the listing process for nearly four years now, despite overwhelming and compelling evidence that the spotted owl is in rapid and precipitous declines in California and elsewhere, and that the rate of decline is increasing, with a veritable laundry list of stressors and threats confounding management, conservation, and recovery of the species in the wild.

The Commission will again take up the question of whether or not listing of the northern spotted owl is warranted at its June 23, 2016 meeting in Bakersfield, California. EPIC staff are diligently preparing, and will be present, in hopes of persuading the Commission to act to list the spotted owl in accordance with the standards of applicable California law.

Click here to watch EPIC’s Forest and Wildlife Advocate, Rob DiPerna speak for the Northern Spotted Owl at the Fish and Game Commission’s hearing.


Stepping Up for Earth Day – It Takes a Village to Save a Planet

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
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grandfather-treehugger Madrone LoraxFinal1Within the North Coast region, there are many individuals who have stepped up to protect our wild places. There are groups like EPIC who work within legal parameters to write comments on projects that threaten our environment and communities, provide testimony at public meetings, develop public awareness campaigns, organize rallies and file lawsuits. When legal tactics don’t work, and a place is threatened with imminent destruction, there are individuals who get out on the ground and take direct action like staging blockades, tree-sits, lock-downs, civil disobedience, guerilla restoration and other creative demonstrations. Many of these people get arrested or accrue large fines, and although a non-profit can’t legally participate in this type of strategy, we realize that many of our protected places would not exist without the efforts of individuals who took action to save our planet.

This past Monday, environmental activists from six continents were honored with the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s largest environmental award honoring grassroots leaders for their efforts to protect the environment and make positive changes in their communities. The story of Leng Ouch the Goldman Prize winner from Cambodia was truly inspiring. He went undercover to document illegal logging and exposed the corruption of vast deforestation and displacement of indigenous people from their land. His documentation eventually led to the government cancelling logging contracts and exposing criminal collusion between timber companies and government officials. The stories told by Leng and the other prize winners show that it doesn’t take a political figure, tons of money, or fancy technology to make a difference, all it takes is showing up and doing what needs to be done.

Being on the front lines of an environmental movement and standing up to large corporate interests, corrupt governments and unjust laws takes courage. Many activists are threatened, harassed, slandered and even killed, as was last year’s Goldman Prize recipient Berta Cáceres, a woman who rallied the indigenous Lenca people in a successful grassroots campaign that pressured the world’s largest dam builder Sinohydro to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam. We don’t have to go far to find examples of fallen heroes in our own community. The untimely deaths of Judy Bari and David “Gypsy” Chain devastated the activist community, but like Berta, their efforts didn’t die, they multiplied.

The people who make sacrifices for our environment and for future generations, are the true heroes of our time and more of these people should be honored, supported and celebrated. Most activists burn the candle at both ends, they work hard and make little, but the work needs to be done so they continue carrying the torch because they know that our future depends on it.

Because we all share this irreplaceable planet with each other and future generations, it is crucial that we work together to find and apply solutions to protect the intact wild places that still exist. Scientists have revealed that fragmentation and loss of natural habitats are the main factors threatening plant and animal species with extinction. Our forests provide essential ecosystem services like food, air purification, clean water, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, erosion and flood control, but because there is no dollar value placed on these services, they are often disregarded by corporate interests who seek to make money from extractive practices that fragment our forests and destroy our ecosystems. The science is clear, but a social revolution is needed to change the system.

The existing system protects corporate interests and incentivizes  governments to sacrifice the environment and the communities that depend on them to sell off their land and resources for short-term profits, it criminalizes activism and creates a culture of fear for those speaking up for the land, water, air, animals and future generations. Not too long ago genocide was promoted, it was legal to have slaves and steal indigenous land and it was illegal for people of color and women to vote. Today, it is still legal to decimate old growth forest ecosystems, build dams that destroy rivers and fisheries and permits are still given to “take” endangered species. Although the science is clear that human activities are directly responsible for climate change and the ongoing mass extinction of species, our actions have not significantly changed.

It took a strong community of brave people to protect many of the places we know and love.  If not for the actions of dedicated grassroots activists in our local community, we would not have the Headwaters Forest Reserve, Sinkyone Wilderness, Owl Creek or Luna, and the Klamath dams would not be coming out.

Even the smallest of actions can make a huge impact. This Earth Day, think about what part of your natural environment means the most to you and what you can do to help protect it for our children’s children. We need all the help we can get, so while you are participating in an Earth Day event in your community, start a dialogue with your neighbors and friends and decide how you can act locally to make a global impact.


Klamath Dam Removal to be Complete in 2020

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
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IMG_8159On April 6, 2016, history was made on the Klamath River: diverse stakeholders from the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, PacificCorp, the states of Oregon and California, the Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa and Klamath Tribes, irrigators, environmental groups and river communities gathered to celebrate the signing ceremony for the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement, an agreement that, pending approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will remove four dams from the Klamath. In removing these dams, salmon will be able to access over 400 miles of habitat that has been off limits since the dams were constructed. According to the agreement, dam removal will begin January 1, 2020 with a “target date of December 31, 2020 for completion of Facilities Removal at least to a degree sufficient to enable a free-flowing Klamath River allowing volitional fish passage.”

IMG_2275This agreement was not met without obstacles. There were false starts. Signatories had joined three previous agreements to make up the Klamath Basin Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act of 2015—the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement and the Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement. But, unlike the most recent agreement, these previous efforts explicitly required Congressional approval before January 1, 2016. However, House Republicans blocked the bill and killed the deals. After the deadline passed, many began to lose faith in the settlement process. As a testimony to the strength of the relationship forged in developing the previous agreements, the signatories continued to talk and work together after the deadline. Because of their dedication and hard work, four dams will fall!

While dam removal is the single biggest action that can be taken to help save the remaining Klamath River salmon, salmon are not safe yet. Adequate summer flows, among other problems, are still a major issue that will need to be addressed in the future. This dam deal is only the start of ensuring the mighty Klamath’s salmon recover and thrive. Moving forward from this momentous occasion, EPIC will be there. As much of the Klamath watershed consists of national forest land, EPIC will be there doing what we do best—reducing the bloated forest road network, reforming or stopping bad projects that would degrade the steep forested slopes of the Klamath and its tributaries, and keeping the Forest Service accountable for the impacts projects such as the massive Westside timber sale would have on salmon and rivers.

EPIC Klamath Dam SigningEPIC was honored to attend the ceremony, although our contribution to dam removal pales in comparison to the hard work of many others. In particular, we are deeply indebted to the hard work of the tribes, the willingness of PacificCorp, the support of the Obama administration, the states of Oregon and California, District representatives like Huffman and the tireless efforts of activists all along the river who have diligently fought for dam removal. Honored and missed from the ceremony were some of the champions of this effort were Troy Fletcher, Tim McKay, Ronnie Pierce and Florence Conrad, all of whom laid the cornerstones for this momentous agreement but did not live long enough to see its signing.

 


Action Alert: Protect the Smith River with “Outstanding Waters” Designation

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
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Smith River by Amber Shelton

Take action to defend the North Fork Smith River from strip mining and other harmful activities by giving the river the best protection possible. A petition before the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission seeks to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as “Outstanding Natural Resource Waters” to protect public health and welfare, wildlife, fish and aquatic life, and many beneficial uses of the state’s waters. This designation would also protect the river and its tributaries from a strip mine that is proposed in Baldface Creek watershed, a tributary to the North Fork Smith River. Comments are due by April 19th.

The Wild and Scenic Smith River is one of the last undammed major rivers in the U.S. and deserves the best protection that can be given to ensure its pristine condition is maintained for future generations. The protected waterways of the Smith River provide as habitat for Coho salmon and the last uninfected stands of Port Orford cedar in the world. The Smith River is considered one of the crown jewels of the region as the river winds through the old growth forests of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. The North Fork Smith River and its tributaries serve as valuable wildlife habitat corridors providing connectivity between protected wilderness and park areas.

There are currently no waters in Oregon that are designated as Outstanding Natural Resource Waters, but there is no better candidate than the Smith River. Designation as “Outstanding” would help protect it from a proposed strip mine. In recent years, the Canadian based Red Flat Nickel Corporation has proposed a nickel strip mine near the river. While the proposal was denied, the foreign corporation has appealed the process. The best way to protect the river into the future from this threat and others is to designate it as an Outstanding Natural Resource Water.

Click here to submit your letter of support to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries as Outstanding Natural Resource Waters. This is a comment portal, so you may want to copy the content below to support your request.

Sample letter:

Dear Commissioners,

I respectfully request that the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission initiate rulemaking to designate the North Fork Smith River and its tributaries and wetlands as “Outstanding Resource Waters of Oregon.”

The pristine Wild and Scenic Smith River is one of the last un-dammed rivers in the country. With stretches within several protected state parks, the important, unique and ecologically sensitive North Fork Smith River has been recommended by numerous environmental organizations, and senior staff of the California North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, as deserving the highest water quality designation of Outstanding National Resource Waters. Designating the North Fork Smith River as an Outstanding National Resource Water will protect the ecology of the river as well as the other use values we currently enjoy. Designation as Outstanding National Resource Water will close antidegradation policy loop holes to prevent degradation of the River from pollution.

The Outstanding National Resource Waters designation would better safeguard national values that include: protection of critical habitat for the West Coast’s last Coho salmon and a botanical riparian legacy of the last uninfected stands of Port Orford Cedar in the world; enjoyment of a recreational treasure, including small water craft boating and fishing; the longest stretch of National and State Wild and Scenic River (over 300 miles); and an aesthetic focal point for both Redwood National and State Park, which is an UNESCO world heritage site, as well as Smith River National Recreation Area, which traverses wilderness and roadless areas. Also included in this long list of beneficial uses is supplying most of Del Norte County with the highest quality drinking water, and an important cultural heritage resource of the Tolowa Native American Tribes. All of these features place the Smith River as a top quality Outstanding National Resource Water.. It is our duty to take action to ensure this pristine river is protected for future generations.

 

Thank you,


Cannabis Workshops Getting Results

Thursday, April 14th, 2016
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Blue Lake workshopFor nearly 40 years, EPIC has been at the forefront of forest protection, ensuring that state and federal agencies follow their mandate to uphold environmental laws to protect forestlands, water quality and endangered species from industrial land management activities. During the past decade, we witnessed an increase in cannabis agriculture as it spread across forestlands previously devastated by industrial timber management. Unfortunately, until very recently, the political will did not exist within state government to have the conversations to address the expanding, unregulated cannabis industry, and its environmental and social impacts. After years of effort, as of January 1, 2016, California and Humboldt County now have laws to regulate commercial cannabis agriculture.

These days, one of EPIC’s projects is working with environmental groups, local businesses, and county and state agencies to educate people about new cannabis laws and regulations. In particular, we are working with Mad River Alliance and Humboldt Green to host a series of six informational workshops, all across Humboldt County, that are designed to provide educational resources for cannabis farmers to achieve responsible land stewardship and come into compliance with state, regional and local enviromental laws. We are doing this because it will be good for our community and our environment.

At these workshops, there are presentations by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and experts on state and county laws to answer citizen’s questions.

Front Page Compliance Handbook 2016People attending the workshops received the 2016 Compliance Handbook outlining these new laws including California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge for Cannabis.

The 2016 Compliance Handbook was created by EPIC in conjunction with Mad River Alliance, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish & Wildlife and County of Humboldt. Creating this handbook was a labor of love. We simplified hundreds of pages of regulations into 22 pages—into the essence of what is needed for people to understand and comply with the law. The Compliance Manual can be downloaded here.

So far, we have presented to more than 365 people at four workshops and given out more than 1,000 Compliance Handbooks—and we have two more to go! So far, it appears that the workshops are making a difference, in the North Coast Region, 372 people have enrolled under the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge—with nearly two thirds of those coming from Humboldt County! While it is heartening to see that some farmers are coming into compliance with the new laws, we are only just beginning to scratch the surface—there are an estimated 15,000 cannabis farms between Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity Counties!

Why is EPIC doing these workshops? We are doing this because we are a part of this community and we are working on this project because we want to see people in this region become part of the solution. We want to help people navigate this task and series of laws and ordinances because it will be good for the environment. We believe it honors the original spirit of the back-to-land people and founding farmers of this unique region and we hope it will help to keep our families and communities safer as we move into the future.

For the past few years, EPIC has been fully engaged in the dialogue, deliberation and education as to the problems associated with unregulated cannabis. We have worked with cannabis farmers, conservationists, government officials, members of the public and many others seeking to find solutions that will help shape the industry’s future with legal, responsible social and environmental values. We see these new laws as an important step to begin rectifying the environmental destruction that has become associated with unregulated cannabis cultivation, and to provide a legitimate framework for legal economic activity that can benefit farmers and the general public. Throughout the public processes that have unfolded, EPIC has been participating on behalf of our membership and the environment. We expressed our views and needs, and provided input and expertise; we understand why various decisions were made, and once the processes were completed we found that we could accept the directions that were set as the best way for our community to move forward.

We fully acknowledge that these regulations and laws are not perfect and are incomplete. The community must continue to work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials as the implementation of the new rules are seen to either be effective or ineffective, and amendments are required to bolster the efficacy of the laws and regulations. As this new paradigm of legal commercial medical cannabis unfolds, EPIC will be ever watchful ensuring that environmental laws are upheld, while at the same time available to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation.


4/20 Pints for Non-Profits ~ Celebrate Earth Day and All Things Green!

Monday, March 28th, 2016
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EcoNews Ad for Pints for NonProfitSMALL(Click here for upcoming Redwood Hikes)

Celebrate Earth Day and All Things Green with your Green Buddies! Join the Environmental Protection Information Center, Mad River Alliance the Northcoast Environmental Center at the Mad River Brewery for Pints for Non-Profits.

Wednesday, April 20th from 6-9pm.

Dance the night away with music by the Kingfoot String Band and don’t forget to bring some extra green for the raffle and silent auction!

All proceeds go to support local non profits working together to protect and restore the beautiful North Coast region.

Special thanks to Mad River Brewery for offering this opportunity, and to Cannifest & Green Week for partnering with us to promote this event!

Click here to visit the Facebook event page to join and invite your friends!

Pints for nonprofits Poster SMALL

 


Film Screening of “Tree-Sit: The Art of Resistance” April 7th at Arcata Playhouse

Thursday, March 17th, 2016
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Tree Sit Poster FinalSmall (2)The Environmental Protection Information Center will host a film screening of Tree-Sit The Art of Resistance on Thursday, April 7th from 6-9pm at the Arcata Playhouse. Tree-Sit is an inspirational film that documents the North Coast environmental movement that led up to the Redwood Summer era and efforts to protect some of the last old-growth redwood forests on the planet, including the famous old growth tree that was named “Luna,” a tree-sit that was occupied by Julia Butterfly Hill.

After the movie, film-maker James Ficklin and other cast members will hold a discussion regarding past and current forest protection efforts. Beer, wine and snacks will be available. Tickets will be available at the door and cost $10 or $5 for students.

Help us get the word out by sharing and inviting your friends to the event on Facebook!

About the film from 1999:
TREE-SIT The Art of Resistance

A film by James Ficklin (120 min.)

Music by Sean Andrews, Nedd Mud, Black Fire, Jim Page, Casey Neil , Land of the Blind

This controversial documentary takes place amidst the redwood rainforest of Humboldt County where a ragged band of young activists have taken the art of resistance to new heights. Surrounded by clearcuts while perched in the high canopy of ancient forests for extended periods of time, activists such as Julia Butterfly Hill (and dozens of others), have used creative, non-violent, direct action and civil disobedience to slow down the chainsaws and bring attention to the destruction of old growth forests.

A powerful, poignant look inside the Earth First! movement in Humboldt County. Here is the inside story that sets the context for this modern day myth. From the struggle to “Save Headwaters Forest; the assassination attempt of Judi Bari; the pepper spray torture of young activists; to the establishment of permanent “tree-villages” hundreds of feet up; and culminating in the WTO protests on the tear-gassed filled streets of Seattle, this film is historical, exhilarating, informative, and intense!

The soundtrack combines cutting edge “Drum & Bass” electronica, with tribal, pagan folk music. Balance is provided by Native Americans, Rural residents, Loggers, Scientists, Fisherman, and Government agents who all voice their opinions and concerns about the forest and interrelated issues such as Salmon decline, mudslides, flooding, herbicide spraying, labor issues and the globalization of corporate capitalism. Featuring Joan Baez, Bonnie Raitt, Woody Harrelson and Mickey Hart.

Tree Sit Poster Updated


Environmental Groups Move to Intervene in Elk River Water Quality Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
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Elk River Flooding

Flooding of Elk River

Arcata, Calif. – The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association (PCFFA), and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR), filed paperwork this week to intervene in a lawsuit to defend clean water from logging pollution.

EPIC and allies seek to defend the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s May 20, 2015 decision to not authorize discharges of sediment and other associated waste into waters of the Elk River watershed from logging operations under Humboldt Redwood Company “McCloud Shaw” Timber Harvest Plan (1-12-110HUM). Humboldt Redwood Company brought suit in Sonoma Superior Court to force the Water Board to allow it to pollute.

The Elk River watershed, located just south east of Eureka, California, was declared significantly adversely and cumulatively impacted by discharges of sediment and other waste as a result of reckless and poorly-regulated timber harvesting operations conducted in the watershed by the then-Pacific Lumber Company, under the ownership of MAXXAM Corporation and Charles Hurwitz.

Water quality impacts include significant reductions in stream and channel capacity resulting from overwhelming sedimentation, resulting in increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding and destruction of traditional domestic and agricultural water supplies, and the destruction of salmon habitat. Because of its impaired state, the Elk River watershed was added to the list of impaired waterbodies in Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act in 1998. An October 2015 report on the conditions of the river and sediment impacts from ongoing logging now being conducted by Humboldt Redwood Company found that the company’s timber operations are still polluting the Elk River, and that the watershed’s condition continues to worsen.

Elk River Rd Flooding

North Fork Bridge on Elk River Road at intersection with Wrigley Road. Note, only the guardrails of the bridge are visible. Photo taken by Kristi Wrigley on January 17, 2016

In the nearly 20 years since the declaration that the watershed is cumulatively impacted and the 303(d) listing, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state agency responsible for administering the PorterCologne Water Quality Control Act, and protecting, enhancing, maintaining and restoring the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the state, has undertaken a 2 number of regulatory and non-regulatory actions aimed at addressing the sediment impacts and correcting the ongoing discharges of sediment and other waste resulting from industrial timber operations in the watershed.

“The time is long past due to address the sources of pollution and recover the Elk River,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s Forest & Wildlife Advocate. “The forest, and the watershed and its residents have suffered long enough.”

Humboldt Redwood Company’s lawsuit comes against the backdrop of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s plans to adopt a Total Maximum Daily Load for Elk River, and to adopt a newer, and more restrictive water quality control permit for the company, at its April 7, 2016 meeting, to be held in Eureka, California.


Show Your Support for the Northern Spotted Owl

Monday, March 14th, 2016
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NSO fem&juv _0397Take Action NowThe Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), a once-abundant apex nocturnal forest raptor synonymous with the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, has experienced precipitous declines in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the advent of intensive logging of its old-growth forest habitat, and the more-recent incursion of a cunning competitor. The latest long-term range-wide study of spotted owl populations clearly documents that the species continues to decline in the present-day, despite over 20 years of federal ESA protections, and that, alarmingly the rate of decline is increasing.

In August 2012, EPIC filed a petition to list the northern spotted owl as either a “threatened” or “endangered” species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), on the basis that federal protections have not been enough to curtail the declines of the northern spotted owl, to bring about recovery of the species.

On February 10, 2016, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) finally released its long-overdue status report detailing the somber state of the spotted owl’s plight in the state of California, a key step in the process to listing the owl under CESA. The CDFW status report outlines the grim status of northern spotted owl populations in the state, and the myriad and ever-increasing threats to the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. The CDFW status report recommends that listing of the northern spotted owl as a “threatened” species under CESA is warranted, citing past and ongoing habitat loss, the increasing and pervasive adverse effects of competitive presence of barred owls, impacts from cannabis agriculture and exposure to rodenticides, impacts from wildfire, fire suppression, and post-fire logging, changing temperature and weather patterns resulting from global and localized climate change, and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms to protect the owl as reasons for the recommendation.

On April 14, 2016, the California Fish and Game Commission will meet in Santa Rosa to make a final determination on whether the listing of the northern spotted owl under CESA is warranted. The deadline for comments to be received by the Commission on the northern spotted owl listing determination is March 30, 2016. Click here to send a comment to the California Fish and Game Commission or send your own letter to: fgc@fgc.ca.gov.


Cannabis Farmers Workshop Series

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
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EPIC and Mad River Alliance are partnering with Humboldt Green, California Growers Association and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District to produce a series Cannabis Farmers Compliance Workshops. The purpose of these workshops is to help educate people about: a suite of new laws and regulations for commercial medical cannabis agriculture, the steps necessary to have farms comply with the new laws, and how to protect the health of our forests, water, and quality of life here on the North Coast.

At these workshops, there will be presentations by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and experts on state and county laws there to answer citizen’s questions.

Upcoming Workshops: 

Sunday, March 13 at the Mateel Community Center in Redway

Saturday, March 19 at the Bigfoot Country Club in Willow Creek

Sunday, April 3 at the Mattole Grange in Petrolia

Sunday, April 17 at Redwood Acres “Cannafest” in Eureka

Sunday, April 24 at Ruth Lake Community Services Hall in 

People attending the workshops will also receive the 2016 Compliance Handbook outlining these new laws including California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge for Cannabis.

The 2016 Compliance Handbook was created by EPIC in conjunction with Mad River Alliance, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish & Wildlife and Humboldt County. Creating this handbook was a labor of love. We literally distilled hundreds of pages of regulations into 22 pages—into the essence of what is needed for people to understand and comply with the law.

Why trust us? We are not the government. We are not trying to sell people anything. We are apart of this community and here because we want to see people in this region as part of the solution. We want to help people navigate this task and series of laws and ordinances because it will be good for the environment. We believe it honors the original spirit of the back-to-land people and founding farmers of this unique region. We also hope it will help to keep our families and communities safer as we move into the future.

Presentation by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Presentation by Tom LeRoy of Pacific Watersheds & Associates “Transitioning from a Grower to a Farmer

Presentation by Natalynne DeLapp on the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land-Use Ordinance

Presentation by Dan Mar of High Tide Permaculture “Water We Doing?

tabloid 2-26-16


Tribe and Conservationists File Suit to Protect Wild Salmon, Rural River Communities

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
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Westside LawsuitGroups Seek Alternatives to Flawed Forest Service Salvage Plan

Happy Camp, CA – Today the Karuk Tribe, along with the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), Center for Biological Diversity, and Klamath Riverkeeper, filed suit in federal court challenging a massive post-fire logging plan in Klamath National Forest that will increase fire danger, degrade water quality, and harm at-risk salmon populations. The Tribe leads a diverse plaintiff group united by a common interest in restoring healthy relationships between people, fire, forests and fish.

ElkCreek, near Happy Camp, flows into the Klamath River

ElkCreek, near Happy Camp, flows into the Klamath River

The groups seek to protect rural communities from fire risks, restore watershed health, and provide economic opportunities for locals. The group is challenging a post-fire timber sale, the Westside Project, which fails rural river communities by implementing the same management practices that have for decades resulted in a landscape prone to dangerous fire events, degraded water quality, and contributed to declining salmon populations. The suit alleges the Klamath National Forest Plan, as approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, illegally increases the risk of extinction for threatened populations of coho salmon.

The Westside project would clear-cut 5,760 acres on burned forest slopes above tributaries of the Klamath River. This aggressive approach would fail to resolve long-term fire management issues and exacerbate wildfire impacts to recovering watersheds. The steep and rugged terrain contains old-growth forests and nurtures some of the most important salmon habitat on the West Coast. NOAA Fisheries is required to review Forest Service logging plans to determine if such projects will have harmful effects on ESA listed coho. In this case, NOAA Fisheries green lighted the Forest Service plan despite the obvious harm to coho spawning and rearing habitat.

“This project was ill-conceived from the start and failed to adequately take into account the input of the Karuk Tribe which has managed these forests since the beginning of time,” said Karuk Chairman Russell “Buster” Attebery. “We will not allow the Forest Service to further degrade our fisheries, water quality, or sacred sites while ignoring our call for community fire protection.”

The Tribe’s alternative proposal ensures that future fire events will be healthy for the environment and safe for local residents while providing marketable timber. The Forest Service did not analyze the Karuk Alternative because it rushed the environmental review process under the pretense of a “public emergency.”

“Unlike the massive Forest Service clear-cutting plans, the Karuk Alternative focuses on restoration,” explains George Sexton of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “It recognizes the need to restore watersheds and the natural fire regime while protecting homes and communities.”

“The Klamath River and its tributaries are strongholds for struggling salmon populations; they are also home to many rare and endemic species. Logging these steep slopes would only increase the perilous position our fisheries and wildlife are facing,” said Kimberly Baker of EPIC. “The Forest Service plan to clear-cut thousands of acres above the Klamath River disregards the reasonable Karuk Alternative and hurts at-risk salmon and river communities,” said Kerul Dyer of Klamath Riverkeeper. “A healthy Klamath River requires sensible forest restoration that addresses the needs of both fish and people, like that laid out in the Karuk plan.”

“We have a chance right now to restore healthy relationships among people, fire and forests,” said Jay Lininger, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It requires a fundamentally different approach from what the Forest Service put forward.”

The groups are challenging the illegal harm to fish and watersheds that will result from the proposed post-fire clear cutting timber sales in hopes that the federal government will change course. Initial arguments will likely be heard by the District Court in the very near future. The Western Environmental Law Center represents all of the plaintiffs and EPIC is represented by in-house counsel.

Click here to read the complaint


Who’ll Stand Up for the Northern Spotted Owl?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016
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Owl Self-Defense wings shadowFrom way back in time immemorial, a time long-lost in the annals of natural history, the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina), has developed a highly specialized and remarkable niche in the moist primal forests of the redwood coast, the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, and up and down the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. The northern spotted owl is an apex nocturnal forest predator that has evolved into a highly-refined specialist, occupying the deep, dark, dense, and dank forests along the rugged pacific coastline, feeding on small mammals, rearing its young, and helping to maintain the delicate balance of our forest ecosystems.

The northern spotted owl, once-abundant pre-European colonization and settlement in our region, has seen a significant decline range-wide in the 20th and 21st centuries, mostly due to radical human-induced habitat changes, and more recently, the arrival of a cunning competitor. Here, in the redwood region, there were once an estimated two million acres of old-growth primal redwood forest when European settlers arrived in the 1850’s, spanning the rugged and scenic California coastline all the way from Big Sur in the south, to the Oregon border in the north. Almost all the traditional range of the coast redwoods was once home to the northern spotted owl. However, by 1968, scarcely one hundred years later, at the time of the creation of Redwood National Park, only an estimated ten percent of the original old-growth coastal redwood forest remained. Today, only approximately five percent of the original redwood forest remains.

The story is the same, more or less, across the vast Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest ecosystems. European exploration and settlement eventually lead to logging of the old-growth forests, the very unique and irreplaceable ecosystems upon which the northern spotted owl, had come to depend, and to a devastating extent.

On June 26, 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the northern spotted owl as “threatened,” under the federal Endangered Species Act, citing past, and ongoing habitat loss due to logging as the primary reasons for the original listing. In May 1991, Federal Judge William Dwyer ruled in favor of environmentalists who challenged the adequacy of the U.S. Forest Service’s 1986 Forest Management Plan, enjoining 75 percent of the proposed timber sales on public lands in spotted owl critical habitat, ultimately leading to the development of the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994.

The northern spotted owl unwittingly became a “canary in the coal mine,” for the timber industry, on both public and private lands from the late 1980’s and even into the early 2000’s, as the debate over old-growth logging devolved into the so-called “timber wars,” that raged up and down the Pacific Northwest, including, of course, here in Humboldt County’s redwood region.

Here in 2016, despite much-improved forest management on our public lands, the northern spotted owl still finds that there are precious few, and far between, places to hide, let alone thrive, on our private lands range-wide, and here in California. Despite over 20 years of federal ESA protections, very little has changed in terms of private lands forestry practices, even with the advent of the 1973 California Forest Practice Act and associated rules, which govern private lands logging in the state. Today, there are still those who believe old-growth logging is “illegal,” in California, including on private lands. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. What little high-quality habitat remains for the northern spotted owl on our private forestlands is at constant and perpetual risk, with virtually no on-the-ground nexus to protect it.

Recently, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) the agency that regulates private lands logging, admitted that it doesn’t even keep track of how much logging of spotted owl habitat it approves annually via discretionary projects, such as Timber Harvest Plans. This doesn’t even speak to how much logging of spotted owl habitat goes on in California on private lands under non-discretionary or “ministerial,” projects, such as exemption notices, and emergency notices.

As if all this logging of habitat wasn’t bad or alarming enough, the situation is even worse for our protagonist, the northern spotted owl. The arrival of the barred owl (Strix varina), a direct competitor to the northern spotted owl, into our Pacific Northwest forests, has served to combine with and compound the effects of habitat loss, and with grim consequences. The most recent range-wide long-term demographic study on the state of northern spotted owl populations, published in 2015, suggests that the devastating one-two punch of habitat loss and barred owl competition are serving to drive the spotted owl extinct, and at an exponentially-increasing rate in recent years.

EPIC has been at the forefront of advocating for the northern spotted owl, on both public and private lands in Northwest California and beyond, since the original listing. We work from the micro (project-by-project-level), to the macro (listing petitions and regulations/policy changes), providing access to perspective of the voiceless northern spotted owl in the board rooms and meeting rooms of industry and regulators, into the very halls of the legislatures and government, and even into the courtrooms.

In April 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a positive 90-day finding on our petition under the ESA to “reclassify” or “uplist,” the northern spotted owl from a “threatened,” to an “endangered” species, citing ongoing habitat loss, and increasing and devastating effects of barred owl competitive presence. Earlier this month, February 2016, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife finally produced its extremely delinquent status report on the northern spotted owl in California, in response to a listing petition filed by EPIC in 2012 to list the owl under the California Endangered Species Act. The Department found that the northern spotted owl is “threatened” with extinction in California, and has recommended listing the owl under CESA to the California Fish and Game Commission. The final decision on the northern spotted owl CESA listing is anticipated later this year.

In a society where our forests and wildlife are reduced to assets, commodities, and of course, liabilities, by industry and government, it is citizen’s groups such as EPIC, advocating for the rights of the forest, and all the life the depends on the forest, that serve a crucial and understated role in enforcing the law, shaping the policies, and moving the discourse of this so-called “civilized,” world. For the northern spotted owl, of course, the world must seem anything but “civilized,” and instead, more like a world turned upside down. EPIC will continue our tireless efforts to protect, restore, and conserve the northern spotted owl, and the unique forest upon which it depends.