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Sign Petition to Stop Westside – One of the Largest Timber Sales in US History!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
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Westside photo 2

Westside unit looking into Grider Creek Roadless Area next to a dozer line.

 

Click here to take action now. The Klamath National Forest is proposing one of the largest timber sales in US history!  Over 30,000 acres of post fire habitat are at risk of elimination.  These steep and rugged watersheds support the most productive wild salmon and steelhead fisheries outside of Alaska, the largest acreage of unprotected low elevation ancient wild forest remaining on the West Coast, a high concentration of Wild and Scenic rivers and are world renowned for their rich biodiversity with many rare and endemic native species.

The recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement contains multiple action alternatives, however none of them are ecologically sound. The project proposes to log between 100 -200 million board feet from 6,800 acres in larger forest stands, 650 miles of roadside equaling 20,500 acres, another 3,000 acres on ridge tops and outside of private property. The project also proposes to re-open decommissioned roads as well as create 22.6 miles of new roads requiring at least 14 new stream crossings.

Nearly half of the treatment area is within mature forest reserves, which were designated to protect and enhance mature forest ecosystems that serve as habitat for old growth dependant species.  A vast amount of the project is within Critical Habitat for the Northern spotted owl and would remove over 1,000 acres of habitat.  Other rare species such as the marten, fisher and the endemic Siskiyou Mountain salamander are in danger. Visual quality and fisheries on six Wild and Scenic Rivers are threatened, as well Key watersheds deemed vital for salmon survival and Critical Habitat for Coho salmon. The project would negatively affect six different Inventoried Roadless Areas, which are vitally important because they are the last large tracts of un-roaded wild lands outside of wilderness.

westside photo

North Fork salmon River Salmon Salvage Timber Sale 2013

The Westside project considers logging in three distinct fire areas but fails to analyze them separately. The Beaver Fire area is north of the town of Scott Bar near the Oregon border.  Here the public land is intermixed with forests long abused by industrial timber management.  In fact, the entire area has been logged and replanted since 1955.  The Happy Camp Fire area, on the Klamath River contains one of the most important wildlife corridors on the North Coast, the Grider Creek watershed, which is threatened by the proposed project.  The Whites Fire, on the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River, burned within and adjacent to the Russian Wilderness.  The entire watershed has been impacted by two years of fire, fire suppression and multiple timber sales.  The Salmon River watershed is a stronghold for the last remaining viable run of Spring Chinook salmon.

The project would multiply the damage already incurred by last summer’s fires and fire suppression, which cost taxpayers $195 million dollars.  Nearly 200 miles of ridgelines were bulldozed to bare earth leaving behind swaths of clearcuts and huge amounts of slash.  Hundreds of thousands of gallons of fire retardant coated entire ridgelines and the heavy use of roads and fire effects caused severe sedimentation into salmon bearing creeks.

Comments on the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement are due April 13th.  Because vital wildlife information has not been released but is referenced in the document, EPIC is asking for an extension on public comment.

Please tell the Klamath National Forest that the ecological costs of the Westside project are too high.  Our forests have higher than monetary value. Our communities, wildlife and watersheds deserve better.

Click here to voice your opposition and share your concerns- Sign the petition and please attend a public meeting hosted by the Klamath National Forest Tuesday April 7 @ 5:30 at Six Rivers Headquarters by the Bayshore Mall.


Action Alert: Speak Up for Rare Mendocino County Pygmy Forest

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
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Mendocino Cypress Pygmy Forest Photo Credit:  hidesertdi1 (Flikr)

Mendocino Cypress Pygmy Forest Photo Credit: hidesertdi1
(Flikr)

Click here to take action. The supposed inevitable march of progress of modern society over the last 150 years in Northwest California has left a landscape that has largely been logged, converted, scarred, or otherwise fragmented. This dynamic is most acutely understood in the context of the loss of nearly 95 percent of the original old growth redwood forests. However, other forest and vegetation types have experienced similar detrimental impacts and precipitous declines.

Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands, otherwise known as “pygmy forests” have been subject to significant conversion, logging, and other varieties of development. These unique and rare forests require a combination of environmental factors—including highly acidic and nutrient-depleted soils with an underlying layer of hardpan rock or dense clay—which stunts the trees’ growth. Some estimates put the total remaining acres of Mendocino pygmy forests at 2,600 acres or less, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that approximately 70 percent of what remains is under some sort of non-protective status.

Now, the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority is proposing a solid waste transfer station for the City of Fort Bragg on a 17-acre parcel of undeveloped Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodland and Northern Bishop Pine Forest—another rare forest type—along state highway 20. The 17-acre parcel is currently owned by the state, and is being managed as part of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, but the proposal involves a land-swap that would transfer it out of state ownership for the purposes of the proposed development.

The proposed conversion of these forests for a waste transfer facility runs contrary to several land management mandates that are built into the Mendocino County General Plan, and even runs contrary to tenants of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest management plan, which calls for protecting and maintaining the current extent and distribution of pygmy cypress forest types.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the project fails to adequately assess potentially significant adverse environmental impacts resulting from the conversion of these rare forest habitats, and fails to present or adequately analyze feasible alternatives to the project that would either avoid or substantially lessen the potentially significant adverse impacts of the conversion.

In a letter dated February 28, 2014, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that it believes the project will have a significant adverse impact on pygmy forest, stating: “[g]iven this project has the potential to remove acres of high quality habitat in a rare, threatened, and declining vegetation type, CDFW finds it is highly likely this project will result in significant impacts to Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodland.”

Click here to take action now. Tell the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority that you oppose placement of the solid waste transfer station on lands currently occupied by rare Pygmy Cypress Woodland and Northern Bishop Pine Forest. Tell the Mendocino Solid Waste Management Authority that it must properly evaluate the potentially significant adverse impacts of the proposed waste transfer station location, and that it must develop and consider feasible and meaningful alternatives to the proposed location that would avoid or substantially lessen the potentially significant environmental impacts of the project as proposed.


One Plan to Rule Them All

Monday, March 23rd, 2015
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NWFP LogoOver the next few weeks and months, EPIC is going to focus in depth on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions for the U.S. Forest Service. Each week we will bring you a new topic. To catch up on what EPIC has previously written, click here.

Species like the northern spotted owls don’t respect political boundaries. For that reason, the original Northwest Forest Plan was a regional forest management plan. The Plan amended the forest plans for 26 separate forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service, across 24 million acres of the American West. As a single, regional, interagency plan, the Northwest Forest Plan allowed for an ecosystem management approach to account for the needs of multiple listed species across three states through a system of wildlife reserves.

The Plan, by and large, has worked. Recent science has reaffirmed the importance of the Northwest Forest Plan as a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation, particularly the reserve network. Forest growth as a result of the Plan has turned the forests of the Pacific Northwest from a significant annual source of CO2 to a carbon sink. The reserve system has mitigated the impact of logging and the invasion of the barred owl on the northern spotted owl. Water quality has significantly improved due to the plan’s emphasis on watershed restoration and system of riparian buffers.

Now 20 years into a 100 year restoration plan, the Northwest Forest Plan is at risk. There is pressure to ditch the single, regional format of the Plan and go back to the old days where each federal agency and each forest was managed differently. This plan to go it alone puts at risk all of the gains made, particularly for the imperiled northern spotted owl which depends on the system of interconnected wildlife reserves.

We urge the Obama Administration to keep the Northwest Forest Plan as a consistent, interagency ecosystem management plan to manage all of the federal public forests of the West. The reserves work; going it alone doesn’t.

NOTE: The first CA listening session will in Redding, CA on Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Red Lion Hotel. We hope to see you there! If you are planning on attending, please let Tom know by shooting him an email at tom@wildcalifornia.org.


Caltrans District 1: Wake up and smell the 21st Century

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
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It is time for a change. Now is time to rein in Caltrans. Last year, an independent report—the SSTI Assessment and Recommendations, authored by the State Smart Transportation Initiative—was released. Commissioned at the behest of Governor Brown, the report found that Caltrans is stuck in an “era of [i]nter-state building” despite calls (since the 1970’s) for more multimodalism, sustainability and less reliance on auto-mobilty. The study also finds that Caltrans has not developed sufficient communications skills and procedures to either explain its own decisions or to take into account important material from communities and partners; and has not fully adapted to the multi-stakeholder environment in which it finds itself. The pattern of inadequate response to community concerns about social and environmental impacts of highway development, as well as a lack of legal accountability becomes apparent when a series of projects are looked in their entirety.

Four Caltrans projects on California’s North Coast stand as examples of this “stuck-in-the-past” project planning.

Richardson Grove

richardson_grove_bikes

Richardson Grove State Park. Photo credit: Caltrans

The highway “realignment” through Richardson Grove State Park seriously threatens mammoth ancient redwood trees—a fact confirmed by the 1st District Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2012 that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the impact of its proposed project on the ancient redwoods. This should have come as no surprise to Caltrans. In 2010, by Caltrans own admission, the agency found the project, as proposed, “may cause significant adverse impacts to old growth trees in this unique natural community.” California State Parks likewise expressed concern in its comments to the Draft Environmental Assessment, “The Draft EA does not provide an assessment of the number of trees that will have their structural root zone compromised. Without such an assessment the State Parks cannot adequately assess the proposed action’s impacts on old-growth redwoods and other mature trees. Caltrans therefore must assume that the proposed action will result in significant adverse effects to old-growth redwoods and that adequate mitigation needs to be developed.” (Emphasis added.)

Caltrans initially informed the public that the purpose of project was to enhance safety and goods movement; however it changed tack during the environmental review process, and ultimately concluded that the Proposed Project is not a safety project and concluded that the economic impacts of the proposed project on Humboldt County businesses and trucking firms would be negligible.

After seven-years and three lawsuits Caltrans has rescinded its approval of the Richardson Grove Project and withdrawn its federal Finding of No Significant Impact. Now the project cannot proceed until additional environmental analysis about the impacts of the project on the environment are completed and approved by the courts.

It didn’t have to be this way. Richardson Grove is world-class state park and the ancient redwood trees it protects deserve the fullest protection under the law—and yet, Caltrans repeatedly failed to follow the law. Instead the agency and Humboldt County advanced a public relations campaign to promote highway expansion saying that the project would be good for business and have “no significant impact,” despite the fact that to date it has not provided the public with any legitimate evidence, criteria for decision making, meaningful explanation why or analysis to substantiate that conclusion. Instead of properly analyzing viable alternatives that better reflect the needs of Californians and the environmental realities of our times, Caltrans has wasted time and money trying to prove its project is benign.

Caltrans estimates that new documentation will be available in fall 2015 and public comment will be re-opened. EPIC is committed to taking all steps to preserve Richardson Grove State Park’s old-growth redwoods and looks forward to reading and analyzing Caltrans’ next iteration of documentation.

Willits Bypass

Winter Willits WetlandThe Willits Bypass is draining 90 acres of precious wetlands for a giant interchange made for a four-lane freeway that will do little to relieve local congestion. Caltrans’ implementation of the Bypass has seen a laundry list of environmental permit and cultural violations including being charged with violating the U.S. Clean Water Act when erosion at the site sent pollution streaming into a protected creek and destroying a known Native American archaeological site that was supposed to be protected by law. The impact is so severe that Caltrans is required to do the largest environmental mitigation in its history to compensate. But Caltrans has had trouble meeting permit and mitigation requirements. In June 2014, Caltrans was so far behind in its environmental requirements the U.S.

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permit and shut down most work on the bypass for more than 3-weeks. Then there was the stunning collapse of a 150-foot section of the Bypass viaduct on January 22, 2015, dumping cement and debris right into Haehl Creek! More recently Caltrans requested an additional $64.7 million in funding from the California Transportation Commission for what it calls “unforeseen issues.”

If compelled, Caltrans could implement design changes to the northern interchange such as reducing the footprint from 4-lanes to 2-lanes, which would reduce environmental impacts, damage to cultural sites and save money.

Smith River Highway 199

Smith River Hwy 199

Smith River Hwy 199

A highway development project planned for Highway 199 and 197 in the northwestern-most corner of California poses direct and indirect threats to our redwood parks and the unparalleled salmon habitat of the wild Smith River in Del Norte County. In response to a lawsuit by EPIC, Caltrans has agreed to reassess impacts of the highway-widening project 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.

Four Bridges Project

Elk Creek Bridge

Elk Creek Bridge

Lastly, Caltrans’ Four Bridges Project is proposing to upgrade four existing bridges along the Avenue of the Giants, a world-famous scenic drive through the ancient redwood groves of Redwood State Park. EPIC found that the agency’s initial release of the project proposal violated the California Environmental Quality Act as it failed to adequately provide the public with access to various environmental studies, which the agency relied on to justify its conclusion that the project would have no significant impact and that further study wasn’t needed.

The North Coast community deserves an honest, transparent, and open discussion about the impacts of highway development on its irreplaceable natural treasures, and about the costs and the benefits of this infrastructure development. This discussion must include recognizing the viability of alternatives that will meet needs for goods movement and transportation, as well as protect the rare and sensitive environments.

Rally in Sacramento

Rally in Sacramento

Yet, Caltrans has refused to be forthright with residents about the direct impacts of its highway development projects, much less been willing to engage the public in a productive manner when concerns are raised. In the absence of credible leadership by Caltrans, EPIC has challenged the legality of these projects with the immediate intent of protecting rare and sensitive environments, and with the long-term goal of leveraging successful court action into political momentum that will lead to a serious reform of the agency and change in culture. A major restructuring of the Caltrans is under way as a result of the SSTI Report; the question remains whether the recommendations of the independent review combined with the reality check of the court orders will be sufficient impetus to bring Caltrans out of the past.

Last Chance Grade

Last Chance Grade AerialCaltrans may have an opportunity to get it right with Last Chance Grade—a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City which sits precariously high above the Pacific Ocean and experiences frequent landslides due to the geological instability of the area Caltrans is in the beginning stages of planning for the Last Chance Grade Project along Highway 101. The agency is considering possible alternatives and reroutes in an attempt to find a long-term solution for the Last Chance Grade. U.S. Congressman Huffman’s office is working to develop a stakeholder group for facilitated discussions regarding potential projects to address Last Chance Grade. This group would work to identify one or two alternatives for a project that would ensure that U.S. Highway 101 is protected from a serious failure of the roadway and environmental harms are reduced. The group’s discussions would parallel and inform the current public process Caltrans has embarked on.

There is no question that Caltrans needs significant reform to bring it into step with best practices in the transportation field, with the state of California’s policy expectations and the true needs of North Coast residents. While the lawsuits are effective for enforcing the law, they do not permanently stop projects, and reform is what will lead to sustainable transportation solutions for rural communities. This reform is not only the demand of citizen organizations like EPIC; it is the recommendation of one of the nation’s leading authorities on sustainable transportation. The time has arrived to rein in Caltrans.


EPIC Digs in on Northwest Forest Plan Revisions

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
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Holm_Fay_date2008-04-09_time16.02.45_IMG_8035 copyAncient forests of Douglas fir, hemlock, western red cedar—and in our lucky corner of California, the majestic redwoods—once stood proudly on the landscape. These forests, nurtured by the warm, wet climate, supported an amazing diversity of life; from salmon to northern spotted owls, Pacific fishers to grizzley bears, many species evolved to depend on these verdant lands.

And then came European settlors and everything changed. Decades of logging largely stripped these ancient forests from the landscape. By the late 1980’s there wasn’t a whole lot left and what still remained was going fast. The critters that evolved to depend on these big, old trees were on the brink of extinction—most notably the poster child of old growth forests, the northern spotted owl. In 1990, the spotted owl was listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Locally, 1990 was the start of “Redwood Summer,” a movement of environmental activism devoted to protecting the last remaining stands of old growth redwoods.

The listing had near immediate effect; logging on national forests containing owls was enjoined in 1991. But the issue was far from resolved. Indeed, it was only heating up. A back-and-forth fight ensued between pro-timber interest on one side and pro-forest forces on the other.

In 1993, the Clinton Administration intervened, beginning a series of hearings and reports. By 1994, a plan was developed: The Northwest Forest Plan, a set of federal policies and guidelines amended 26 land use plans, spanning 24 million acres of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service-managed lands in Northern California, Washington and Oregon. The plan, designed to protect the northern spotted owl by setting aside large swaths of land, “Late-Successional Reserves,” while still providing for some limited timber extraction in so-called “Matrix” lands.

In has been 20 years since the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted. Revisions to the land use plans which constitute the Plan are either underway or are about to begin. The BLM has begun to create new management plans for the forests they manage. The Forest Service is just beginning listening sessions for their forest plan revisions.

Over the coming weeks and months, EPIC is going to talk about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. We will keep you abreast in ongoing discussions, provide critical evaluations of the success (and failures) of the original Plan, and will preview important revisions and principles EPIC will champion in forest plan revisions. So stay tuned. And thanks for your support.

NOTE: The first CA listening session will in Redding, CA on Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Red Lion Hotel. We hope to see you there! If you are planning on attending, please let Tom know by shooting him an email at tom@wildcalifornia.org.


Marbled Murrelets Protected Again

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
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MAMU_AlaskaFWSThe DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected yet another attempt by the timber industry to remove federal endangered species protections from the marbled murrelet. The appeal was the timber industry’s fifth attempt—and fifth loss—in the past decade to eliminate protections for the old growth forests that marbled murrelets call home, despite undisputed scientific evidence that has shown murrelets are continuing to disappear from the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California.

On appearance alone, the marbled murrelet doesn’t appear to be very remarkable. The murrelet is a small seabird mottled with streaks of brown, grey and white—the timber industry dismissively compares the murrelet to a pigeon. But looks can be deceiving—the marbled murrelet is quite extraordinary. Murrelets make their home in old growth forests and travels daily up to 50 miles from the coast to return home. (Let’s see a pigeon do that!) Each year, breeding murrelets return to the same home forest. The murrelet does not build a nest; females lay a single egg in mossy deposits high in old growth trees.

Marbled murrelets are near the brink of extinction in California. Only a few nesting areas remain in the whole state. But EPIC has their back. Since the marbled murrelet was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992, EPIC has zealously defended the murrelet and its remaining habitat. In 1995, EPIC’s instrumental victory in Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt was instrumental in the creation of Headwaters Forest, one of the last intact tracts of murrelet habitat. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision is yet another victory benefitting the murrelet and the big, old trees on which it depends.

Despite five consecutive losses, we are sure that the timber industry will continue to try to delist the murrelet by any means possible. That’s where we come in: EPIC will continue to stand guard against industry attacks on the murrelet and the ancient forests it calls home.

This work is made possible by people who value big, old forests and want to see that the wildlife that inhabit these forests receive the best possible protections. Make a donation now and help EPIC continue to fund groundbreaking litigation to protect marbled murrelets and old-growth forests.


Update on Caltrans’ Last Chance Grade Project

Thursday, February 19th, 2015
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Drilling Last Chance Grade

Caltrans recently held a series of public workshops seeking input from the public as the agency considers possible alternatives and reroutes in an attempt to find a long-term solution for the Last Chance Grade — a stretch of U.S. Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously high above the Pacific Ocean and experiences frequent landslides due to the geological instability of the area.

lcg_preliminary-alternativesThe road-building agency is currently examining a number of preliminary alternatives that would reroute Highway 101 to the east through Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park and private timberland. The reroutes would impact old-growth, mature and young redwood forests, coastal spruce forests and Mill Creek, which provides the best spawning habitat for the federally endangered Coho salmon  in the Smith River basin. The price tag for these projects run between $200 million to over $1 billion.

There is little question among the staff at EPIC that the project has a legitimate need: to maintain motorist safety and to connectivity of the major highway between Oregon and California; but we believe that all viable options for avoiding impacts to our natural resources must be thoroughly studied, and these studies must be made available to the public, before the project proceeds.

Specifically, studies regarding the feasibility of using the existing right of way for the project – through more permanent stabilization efforts than are currently taking place, use of a viaduct, or other measures – must be conducted and made available to the public. Despite what Caltrans officials said at the public meetings, EPIC does not consider this to be a “no action” alternative. Instead, we would like to see the feasibility of taking action within or near the existing roadway first. If a study concludes that this is infeasible, Caltrans should select an alternative that avoids impacts to old-growth redwoods to the greatest extent possible. For impacts that are truly unavoidable, Caltrans should implement mitigation that enhances old growth redwood and salmon habitat values. EPIC supports keeping the project as a 2-lane, 55mph road.

As this project unfolds, EPIC will continue to advocate for full public transparency and protection of old-growth redwood forest and salmon habitat values.

Click here to be redirected to Caltrans’ website for technical documents.


EPIC in Review

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015
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salmon-river-spring-M-Aaron CowanEPIC in Review, a summary of original comments submitted and letters signed to support conservation across the state and nation.

EPIC submitted substantive comments on the Draft Working Group Charters for the California Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program. The California Natural Resources Agency (CRNA) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CAL EPA) are implementing the provisions and intent of Assembly Bill 1492. EPIC has reviewed the draft working group charters for Ecological Performance, Data and Monitoring and Administrative Performance Measures. The draft charters lack fundamental foundation definitions, goals, and objectives; and EPIC does not believe it to be a true public process designed to deliver necessary change. If ecological standards and performance measures are intended to secure vibrant forests, healthy rivers, and abundant, self-sustaining wildlife populations, then measurable objectives must be defined and monitored. They must be science-based, and done out-in-the-open in a collaborative process using the input of stakeholders from outside of the usual agency and industry suspects. EPIC supports the concept of a comprehensive review and analysis of the existing forest practice regulatory system.

Six Rivers & Klamath National Forest road maintenance plans: EPIC submitted scoping comments on the Six Rivers Road Maintenance Project. The project proposes to maintain and treat portions of up to 2,682 miles of National Forest Transportation System roads on Six Rivers National Forest and Klamath National Forest. We urge the agency to scale down the project either in size, timing or by other means to allow a sufficient analysis to the impacts.

Grazing leases in the King’s Range: EPIC joined with Western Watersheds and submitted comments on the proposed renewal of Grazing Leases in the King’s Range National Conservation Area.  The HJ Ridge grazing lease includes 1,160 acres of public land with approximately 1,000 acres in wilderness. The Spanish Flat grazing lease includes 9,100 acres of public land, all entirely within wilderness. EPIC believes that livestock grazing is degrading wilderness character, impacting cultural and ecological resources, and recreational experience. With ongoing drought and climate change issues, and lack of water for livestock, the Bureau of Land Management should be working with the public to close these allotments to further commercial livestock use. We urge the BLM to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement before renewing these leases.

EPIC Submitted comments in support of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rule to list the West Coast Distinct Population Segment of the Pacific Fisher as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The letter encourages the Service to designate Critical Habitat for the Fisher at the time of listing.

Vote NO on H.R. 161, the Natural Gas Pipelines Permitting Reform Act: EPIC co-signed a letter urging representatives to oppose HR 161, a bill that would spread pipelines into parks, forests, and private property, across the country thereby fragmenting forests and causing loss of critical habitat. HR 161 seeks to rubber-stamp Federal Energy Regulatory Committee permits, superseding states’ authority to provide their own protection under the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Protection Act.

EPIC signed a coalition letter opposing H.R. 399, the “Secure our Borders First Act of 2015.” Under the guise of enhancing border security, H.R. 399 would further militarize areas already glutted with walls and roads; undermine environmental laws, and allow more damage to the fragile border environment. Sections 3 and 13 would only harm wildlife, and communities on the border while doing nothing to increase border security.

EPIC signed on in support of Booker’s Amendment #155 to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, S.1. This amendment ensures agencies disclose any significant new circumstances or information on the environmental, public health, social, and other impacts resulting from the project and that the Keystone XL Pipeline is subject to the same requirements as all other major pipelines.

EPIC signed on to letter challenging unmitigated Navy Testing and Training in the Pacific Northwest: The Navy shows a continued failure to protect whales, dolphins and other marine life from behavioral disruptions such as the separation of mothers and calves, and injury such as permanent hearing loss. They must develop alternatives and mitigation measures in a wholesale revision of the DEIS.

EPIC signed on to a Letter to Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior re: the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) of the Northwest Forest Plan: The ACS is largely responsible for higher quality aquatic habitats, enhanced water quality, sustenance of imperiled salmon and associated recreational and commercial fisheries, restoration of sediment and hydrologic regimes, increased floodwater retention, and countless other ecological and economic benefits that flow from healthy watersheds. Emerging science on climate change, stream conditions, nutrient retention and other issues justify more, not less, protection, yet despite its success, the ACS is under attack. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the land management agencies charged with its administration, are being pressured by Congress to dismantle or significantly weaken the ACS.


Moonalice at the Mateel Community Center, March 27

Sunday, February 1st, 2015
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Moonalice_Psychedelic_Bob-Minkin

The event, formerly known as the Pisces Party, benefits EPIC’s efforts to restore the forests and watersheds of the North Coast of California. The Pisces Party is a celebration to welcome the coming spring and honor local activists who are working to create a healthy, sustainable forested landscape for flourishing nature and wildlife, and to safeguard earth’s valuable living resources in a changing climate for current and future generations.

In addition to celebrating long-time Pisces activists such as North Coast restoration advocate Richard Geinger as well as Sharon Duggan, Sue Malony, Greta Montagne, Bear Behr, Sam Johnson, Shawnee Alexandri, et al., EPIC will honor the Eel River Clean-up Project for their efforts to clean up trash and abandoned home encampments along the Eel river in Southern Humboldt County. The Eel River Clean-up Project is a collective of committed individuals who have shown remarkable dedication and garnered enormous success over the past several months.

Come early for drinks and a delicious dinner of mouth watering creations from Sue’s Organics!

Click here to buy tickets.

Moonalice is a band of hippie musicians from California with no label, no manager, no problems, and lots of fans. They’re made up of seasoned players exploring new musical territory with a passion. Bringing their heady brew of roots, rock, rhythm-and-blues, peppered with spirited doses of improvisation and surprise to the North Coast to benefit forest protection and restoration in Northwest California.

  • Doors open at 6pm for dinner and music by Diane Patterson
  • Moonalice performs at 8pm
  • Tickets: $20 for concert, dinner an additional charge TBD

Moonalice is known for integrating multi-sensory experience of lights, visuals, music, art, dance and sound highlighted by extended improvisations in the tradition of the Grateful Dead into every show. A new psychedelic poster is created for each concert and gifted to guests to memorialize the show.

Band members: Barry Sless (Phil Lesh & Friends, David Nelson Band), Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Rod Stewart), Roger McNamee (Flying Other Brothers), and John Molo (Bruce Hornsby, Phil Lesh & Friends). Plus manager/road scholar/medicine man Big Steve Parish, the man who was Jerry Garcia’s guitar tech for 25 years introduces every show. For posters, music and videos of all shows visit Moonalice.com

diane.maui_Doors open at 6pm for drinks and a delicious dinner prepared by Sue’s Organics. Opening set by folkadelic, singer-songwriter, Diane Patterson. Diane sounds like a cross between “Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and a young Pete Seeger.” She is a modern day folk goddess singing the world awake with strong voice, rocking guitar, sweet ukulele, and revolutionary lyrics. Her sincere spirit and wild heart joyfully plant seeds of love and light in every listener.

Tickets for sale at Redway Liquor, Blue Moon Gift Shop, Wildberries, the EPIC office (145 G Street Suite A, Arcata, Ca), or online at Brownpapertickets.com. For more information wildcalifornia.org or call 707-822-7711.


Action Alert: Tell Caltrans to study impacts before advancing the Four Bridges Project

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is proposing to upgrade four existing  bridges along the Avenue of the Giants, a world-famous scenic drive along old Highway 101, through the ancient redwood groves of Redwood State Park.

Take Action: Tell Caltrans that it needs to adequately study impacts, and adequately inform the public, before they move forward with the project.

Elk Creek Bridge

Elk Creek Bridge

Caltrans released an Initial Study with Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration for the “Avenue of the Giants – Four Bridges Project” over the holidays, comments are due on Monday, February 2.  (A “Mitigated Negative Declaration” is a CEQA document that essentially says that environmental impacts will be mitigated below significant levels, and therefore that further study of the project impacts is unnecessary.) As proposed, this project would involve upgrades to bridge and guard railings and repaving of the existing roadway on each side of four bridges on Avenue of the Giants/Route 254, and all of this work would occur within and around ancient redwoods and important salmon habitat. Yet, despite the precious resources potentially threatened by this project, Caltrans is pushing the project through without adequately analyzing or disclosing to the public the impacts of the project.

 Tell Caltrans:
* Impacts to redwoods need to be fully analyzed, and all conclusions need to be fully explained to the public, before work begins in and around their roots.
* Adequate, and fully explained, measures to avoid spills or other stream disturbances need to be developed before Caltrans begins working over streams with important fish habitat.
* Caltrans needs to recirculate the Initial Study with Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration with all underlying studies and documents in order to be transparent with the public about the project and its potential impacts to public resources, and in order to comply with CEQA which requires that the public be provided this information for comment.

Impacts to Trees
Caltrans maintains that the project area contains 46 coastal redwood trees. While the Initial Study and Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration notes that “[i]t is difficult to develop a mitigation strategy that adequately offsets a project’s impacts to old growth redwood trees, due to their size and age,” it nevertheless concludes that the study will have “less than significant” impacts on these trees. The impacts on each tree in the area were rated on a 0-6 scale corresponding with the magnitude of impacts of the projects on the tree: eleven trees were rated “0” (no effect); fourteen were rated “1” (effect of root zone disturbance is extremely minor with no decline in foliage density or tree health); and twenty-two were rated “2” (effect of root zone disturbance is very slight with no decline in foliage density or tree health). Exactly how this rating system was developed, or how the trees were rated, however, was not disclosed. For trees rated “2,” for instance, the Initial Study indicates that there may be project activities closer than 10 feet from the base of these trees. Caltrans needs to explain why it believes that this work occurring so close to the trees would cause only “very slight”  root zone disturbance.

Various avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures are proposed to reduce impacts to redwoods. Many, however, contain inadequate descriptions regarding how they will be carried out. For example, one such measure is “no roots greater than two inches in diameter will be cut,” however the Initial Study does not describe how work crews will achieve this.

In short, Caltrans has not demonstrated that it takes seriously the great responsibility of working near our precious ancient redwoods, and that it deserves our trust when they say that the project will leave these trees unharmed.

Impacts on Fish
The bridges at issue span Ohman Creek, Elk Creek, Bridge Creek and Bear Creek, all four of which provide habitat for Chinook and Coho salmon, among other aquatic creatures. As with its analysis of impacts on redwoods, Caltrans concludes that the impacts of the project on fish will be “less than significant,” but it provides little evidence to support this conclusion.

Furthermore, the document acknowledges that unexpected impacts to fish can occur from “unintended spills, increased sedimentation, and alteration of pH.”

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

Collapse Jan. 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Steve Eberhard Willits News

As we have unfortunately learned from the recent collapse of the overpass at Willits Bypass, which spilled wet concrete into a nearby stream, raising the pH of the stream to a level that can kill fish immediately, unintended events can have huge impacts. But the “avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation measures” provided in the Initial Study for the Four Bridges Project for potential impacts to anadromous fish are vague and inadequate. Before starting work above and around these streams, Caltrans should provide additional assurances that spills and other disturbances of the creeks in the project area will be prevented, and it should develop and circulate for public review a site-specific emergency response plan for spills or other disturbances of the streams.

CEQA violations
CEQA requires that all documents referenced in a proposed mitigated negative declaration be made available to the public. (See Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21092; CEQA Guidelines  § 15072). In this Mitigated Negative Declaration, however, many conclusions rely entirely on referenced documents and surveys, which were not made publicly available, in clear violation of CEQA.

While ultimately it may be that Caltrans believes it has put adequate measures in place to reduce environmental impacts of this project to acceptable levels, it needs to prove this to the public by publicly releasing all underlying documents so that the public – as a participant in the process for informed decision-making – can review and comment on all the information.

This must be done before Caltrans can act to decide this project.

Click here to be directed to Caltrans’ website for technical studies.


Take Action—Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service to Protect the Pacific Fisher

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
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Pacific FisherAfter 15 years of delays and subsequent litigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the West Coast population of the Pacific fisher, a small, weasel-like forest carnivore, as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act. In 2000, EPIC and 16 other conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to list the West Coast population of the Pacific fisher under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Now, the end is almost in sight; our goal is almost achieved.

The Pacific fisher faces many threats to its survival and conservation. From logging to roads, stand-replacing wildfires and overly-aggressive fuel reduction programs, and the explosion in illegal marijuana growing and the associated use of anticoagulant rodenticides, the small, isolated populations of West Coast fishers have long needed the protections afforded by the ESA. However, EPIC is concerned with certain proposals put forward by the Service and big-timber interests.

First, EPIC is concerned about the designation of critical habitat for the fisher and the development of a subsequent fisher recovery plan. The ESA normally requires the Service to designate critical habitat for a listed species concurrently with a listing determination. The Service has indicated it will not do so for the fisher. Instead, the designation of critical habitat will be pushed out into the future. In developing future critical habitat, it is essential that the Service pay close attention to the conservation needs of the fisher and not rely on the conservation strategy for the northern spotted owl to adequately protect the fisher.

Like the northern spotted owl, the fisher primarily relies on old, mature forests and complex forest structures, like snags and mistletoe brooms, for denning, feeding, and dispersal behaviors. Because of these similarities, there is pressure to rely on the conservation strategy developed for the northern spotted owl—most notably, relying on northern spotted owl critical habitat and the system of late-successional reserves on our public lands for the conservation of the fisher. However, reliance on the extant conservation strategy for the northern spotted owl will not likely be sufficient to protect and conserve the fisher across the species’ range. While the owl and the fisher do use some similar habitats, the best available research shows us that the habitat for these two species does not entirely overlap, and that conservation of the fisher will rely on a more comprehensive strategy.

Second, EPIC is concerned with attempts to redefine which populations should be afforded protection under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering several listing configurations for the west coast population of the fisher. When only a portion of a larger species is proposed for listing, the ESA provides for the ability to list what is known as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS). At present, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether or not to include the entire West Coast population of the fisher into one DPS, or if it will break out the Sierra, Northern California, and Washington and Oregon populations into smaller listable units. EPIC supports the designation of the entire West Coast population of the fisher as a single DPS. Listing of the entire West Coast population of the fisher under the ESA will increase the likelihood that the small, isolated populations of the fisher can persist, and perhaps even reconnect. In addition, listing of the West Coast population of the fisher will serve to improve landscape management, which in turn, will aid in our goals of protecting and connecting our wild and forested landscapes.

Lastly, EPIC is concerned that the Service may attempt to weaken the normal protections afforded to a threatened species to lessen the sting of the ESA on industries which degrade fisher habitat. In addition to the failure to promptly designate critical habitat for the fisher, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that it is considering the promulgation of a “4(d) rule” which would allow the Service to weaken the default ESA protections for the fisher in favor of promoting so-called “fisher-friendly forestry.” EPIC opposes any such rule which serves only to weaken ESA protections afforded to the fisher.

Action:

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

  • Listing of the West Coast population of the fisher is a warranted action.
  • List the entire West Coast fisher populations as a single Distinct Population Segment.
  • You oppose any rule that would weaken Endangered Species Act protections for the fisher in favor of “fisher-friendly forestry.”

Send Comments to Federal eRulemaking Portal:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FWS-R8-ES-2014-0041-0148


Massive Timber Sale Proposed for Klamath National Forest – Public Meetings Announced

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
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Photo by Nat PenningtonA massive 43,883 acre post-fire logging project is being proposed by the Klamath National Forest. Almost half of the project is within areas that are supposed to be set aside to protect and enhance old growth forest ecosystems called, Late Successional Reserves. The Forest Service is planning to streamline this unprecedented timber sale, which would shorten public comment opportunities, and speed up the environmental review process.

The proposal is dubiously named the Westside Fire Recovery Project, but instead of acting as a prescription for recovery; the proposal would devastate old growth forests, watersheds, salmon, sensitive animal and plant species, and proposes to plant 20,000 acres of even aged plantation forests that would increase the potential for high intensity fires in the future.

Recent post-fire “salvage” logging projects that have been carried out by the U.S. Forest Service on Klamath National Forest have not followed mitigation measures and have failed to implement project design features put in place to protect wildlife and fisheries, resulting in negative impacts to fish and wildlife.

We recognize the need for hazard tree removal for roadside safety along primary roads, defensible space around homes and communities, and strategic fuel breaks. However, proposed logging in the Westside proposal targets mature forests that are located on steep slopes with unstable soils in high value watersheds for at-risk salmonid populations. This is a region where salmon populations are already heavily impacted by many other factors including dams, diversions and drought, and millions of dollars have been spent on fisheries restoration projects. These irreplaceable ecosystems should not be traded for short-term economic gains.

Forests need fire. Post-fire landscapes are more biologically diverse than unburned forests are considered to be one of the rarest and most ecologically important forest habitats. Historically, Native Americans would use fire as a means to thin out the understory, open up the forests for fruit and nut producing shrubs, and enhance prairie grasslands and to cultivate basket weaving materials. Decades of fire suppression combined with post-fire logging, and uniform tree planting, has allowed for much of the region become densely overgrown and the forests have become less biologically diverse. After a fire burns through a forest, the large old growth trees usually don’t die, the small overcrowded trees are cleared out, the snags that are left become wildlife habitat, and the downed trees hold the slopes together, enhance soil complexity and eventually become fish habitat when they fall into the waterways. However, when roads are made on the sensitive burned soils and many of the largest marketable trees are logged, large sediment loads are sent into watersheds, and the soils, forests and watersheds have a difficulty recovering.

We need your voice to advocate for real recovery! The Forest Service has scheduled informational meetings to allow for public input on the Westside Project. Please come out and voice your concerns for this unprecedented large and hurried process that targets some of the most productive and best habitat for the last remaining run of wild spring Chinook salmon and other rare plant and wildlife species.

Westside Fire Open House Meeting Schedule:

Yreka– Friday, January 30 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Klamath National Forest Headquarters Office

Scott Valley- Saturday, January 31 from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Fort Jones Community Hall

Klamath River- Tuesday, February 3 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Community Center

Happy Camp- Wednesday, February 4 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Karuk Senior Nutrition Center

Scott Bar- Thursday, February 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Community Hall

Sawyers Bar- Friday, February 6 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Salmon River Restoration Council

Seiad– Friday, February 6 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Seiad Fire Hall

Please come to these meetings and be a voice for the wild!


Save Richardson Grove: Think Globally, Act Locally

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
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Madrone Hugging Ancient RedwoodIf everyone cared for their own wild back yard, the world would be a better place. Northwest California is known for having some of the wildest lands, including the Lost Coast and the tallest trees on the planet, which have been preserved behind the redwood curtain since time immemorial. With less than three percent of the planet’s old growth redwood trees remaining, it is imperative that every ancient tree is protected, especially if they are entrusted into a park system, which has vowed to protect them in perpetuity.

Since 2007, EPIC has been working to protect some of the most well-known giant redwoods in the world from the California Department of Transportation’s destructive highway-widening project. A grass roots coalition of community members, business owners, economists, conservation and Native American groups have opposed the Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project, which proposed tree removal and destruction of the root systems of ancient redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park – trees that are supposed to be protected by the state park system.

Richardson Grove is the first cluster of old-growth redwoods people see as they head up the coast on Highway 101, it is essentially the “redwood curtain” that has allowed Humboldt County to retain its rural character. The redwoods in Richardson Grove also serve as critical habitat for Marbled Murrelets, Northern Spotted Owls and streams going through the Grove are critical habitat for endangered Coho Salmon. Maintaining the integrity of these trees is incredibly important not only to the ecosystem, but to the community, since these trees are the pinch point that do not allow for larger trucks serving corporate chains that are characteristic of sprawling urban areas, and which many people feel would change the essential character of Humboldt County.

For eight years EPIC and allies have organized community support, provided comments, and filed substantive lawsuits that convinced a federal judge to grant an injunction halting the Richardson Grove project citing that the agency had been “arbitrary and capricious” in its use of what the court called “faulty data.” This past December Caltrans revoked its approval of the project. If the agency decides to pursue the project, a complete and comprehensive environmental review and approval process will have to start over. This is a victory, we can all breathe a sigh of relief and rest assured that the trees in Richardson Grove State Park will not be harmed for now.

An important lesson has been learned because of this case, that Caltrans consistently breaks the rules, violating environmental laws and risking important public trust resources. For this reason, EPIC will continue to engage with Caltrans and hold them accountable to the environmental standards that have been put in place to protect our natural treasures.

A related proposal that should be watched closely is Caltrans’ “Last Chance Grade” project, located along Highway 101 ten miles south of Crescent City where the roadbed is sliding into the Pacific Ocean. Caltrans is in the beginning planning phases of this project and is looking at potential alternative routes to the east, away from the sliding cliffs, which includes multiple alternatives that would go through the middle of Redwood State and National Parks. EPIC is committed to finding the least environmentally destructive project alternative that meets the needs of the community, while holding Caltrans accountable to environmental laws.

The loss of large tracts of intact wild lands may be the single biggest threat to our way of life. Climate disruption will only compound the threats that future generations face. In order to secure a sustainable future, it is clear that protecting and restoring Northwest California’s forest ecosystems will provide necessary habitat, clean air and water, carbon sequestration, and improve quality of life for people and native wildlife for generations to come.

In order to hone EPIC’s effectiveness in protecting wild forestlands within our bioregion, we have restructured the organization, added two new attorneys to our staff, and developed a new strategic plan to focus on three primary campaigns:

•Achieving permanent connectivity of working and wild forestlands, a campaign called “Connecting Wild Places;”

•Ensuring best management of public forestlands; and

•Ensuring best management of private industrial forests with an emphasis on the Elk, Mattole and Freshwater watersheds.

With your help, we can protect wild places and ensure that public and private lands are managed responsibly to maintain healthy intact ecosystems. We have our work cut out for us, but we are dedicated and determined to leave our children with a legacy we can all be proud of.

 


Caltrans Setting Sights on Redwood National Park

Thursday, January 15th, 2015
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Last Chance GradeCaltrans is in the beginning stages of planning for the Last Chance Grade Project along Highway 101 (10-miles south of Crescent City), where the highway is slipping into the Pacific Ocean. This project would have significant environmental impacts, as the highway would likely be rerouted to the east through Redwood State and National Parks.

EPIC is committed to finding the least environmentally destructive alternative for this project and will work tireless to hold Caltrans to the law. We need your help. Please attend the meeting most convenient to you. We need to show Caltrans that the community is paying attention to this project and let them know we will protect our ancient redwood forests and coho salmon-bearing streams. Click here to learn more about the project.

A series of community workshops will be held to get public input and ideas on a range of possible alternatives for Last Chance Grade. Come to a workshop to learn more and share your ideas:
Crescent City – Monday, January 26, 2015
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Del Norte County Fairgrounds
Arts & Crafts Building
421 Highway 101 North

Eureka – Tuesday, January 27, 2015
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Wharfinger Building
Great Room
Eureka Public Marina, #1 Marina Way

Klamath – Wednesday, January 28, 2015
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Yurok Tribal Office
Klamath Community Room
190 Klamath Boulevard

These meetings are being characterized as a series of workshops, with small breakout groups. There are six different preliminary alternatives for consideration that will be further analyzed as part of the design engineered feasibility study that will be completed by July 2015. All meetings will be verbally recorded so that the content is sufficiently captured. We have seen no notification to the public regarding these meetings.


Spotted Owl Told to Wait (Again)

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
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Owl-Self-Defense-wings-shadow-296x300The Northern Spotted Owl is an iconic corner-stone species that has called the forests of northwest California home since time immemorial. Despite over 20 years of enhanced protections afforded by the listing of the owl under the federal Endangered Species Act, the best available science continues to show alarming and precipitous declines in NSO vital statistics across the species’ range.

EPIC’s Northern Spotted Owl Self-defense Campaign has sought to achieve enhanced protections for the owl in California and beyond. Given the myriad and immediacy of threats to the species, EPIC believes that urgent actions are needed to prevent the extinction of the NSO.

In 2012, EPIC filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ‘up-list’ or ‘reclassify’ the NSO from a “threatened” to an “endangered” species under the federal ESA. Despite statutory obligations to produce an initial 90-day finding on our petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to fulfill its responsibilities under the ESA. In 2014, EPIC reached a ‘handshake’ agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service had committed to publishing its initial 90-day finding on our petition by December 12, 2014. However, the Service failed to meet this specified deadline, now indicating that it does not intend to publish the 90-day finding until March 31, 2015.

Meanwhile, EPIC also submitted a listing petition for the NSO under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) in 2012. After a great deal of delay, the California Fish and Game Commission considered the petition in August 2013. The Commission found that the proposed listing action ‘may be warranted,’ thus initiating a one-year ‘candidacy’ period for the NSO under CESA, during which time the species would be treated as if it were listed. The NSO is thus currently protected under California state law.

CESA requires the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to ‘promptly’ commence a full status review of the NSO in California, and to produce a status report for submission to the Fish and Game Commission to inform the Commission’s final decision on the listing proposal. The Department of Fish and Wildlife’s status review and report were to be completed by December 2014. However, the Department has sought, and successfully received a six-month extension for the submission of its status report for the NSO. The new release date for the Department’s status report is now June 26, 2015.

The failure of the wildlife agencies to address our listing petitions and the increasing threats to the NSO in a timely manner bodes poorly for the prospects for survival of the owl in California and elsewhere in the species’ range. Despite the fact that existing conservation measures for the owl have clearly failed, both the state and federal governments have shunned their responsibilities to ensure the conservation, survival, and recovery of the NSO in the wild. Instead, business as usual prevails in both our public and privately-held forestlands.
Preventing the extinction of the NSO is key to maintaining forest ecosystem health, maintaining species’ biodiversity in the forest, and for protecting and connecting our wild places and managed landscapes. EPIC will continue to use the tools available to advocate for the conservation and recovery of the Northern Spotted Owl.


Thank You Jared Huffman!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
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HuffmanEPIC would like to thank Representative Jared Huffman for his outstanding work on environmental issues affecting Northern California. Huffman has a long history of championing environmental causes. Prior to serving California’s Second Congressional District, he worked as an environmental attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Since first being elected in 2012, Representative Huffman has:

  • Protected Humboldt County’s water rights from encroachment from Central Valley irrigators;
  • Expanded the California Coastal National Monument off the Mendocino coast;
  • Fought trespass marijuana grows in public forestlands; and
  • Defended the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development.

For these things, and many more, EPIC is thankful. Help us thank Representative Huffman by calling his D.C. office at (202) 225-5161 and telling him to continue the good fight!


2014 EPIC Year in Review

Friday, December 19th, 2014
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grandfather treehuggerWhen it comes to getting things done, EPIC churns out one campaign after another in the pursuit of making our world a better place. Over the past year, we have taken on almost every project you can imagine, from getting protections for the Grey Wolf, to banning rodenticides, to protecting wild places, to thwarting Caltran’s attempts to harm ancient redwoods, our team is proficient in bringing about changes to better the environment and quality of life.  The list below takes a look at some of our most notable accomplishments from 2014. We could not do all of this work without the support from our members, interns, volunteers and activists, so we would like to thank you for all that you do to fuel our efforts into the future.

PUBLIC LANDS

Filed a third lawsuit to prevent Caltrans from vandalizing the ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park, convincing Caltrans to rescind its approvals for the project. Caltrans must now restart the full environmental review of the project if they choose to move forward with the proposal. Earlier in the year, the California Appeals Court ruled that Caltrans Failed to Consider Highway Project Impacts on old-growth redwoods.

Secured a preliminary injunction halting Caltrans’ 199/197 Highway-widening proposal in Del Norte County along the Wild and Scenic Smith River, 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.

Developed and launched the Connecting Wild Places Campaign, which sets out to designate, protect and connect habitat areas, wildlife corridors, carbon-dense forest stands and all remaining old-growth in northwest California to build a well-connected network of wild lands to allow for the movement, mating, foraging and adaptation of species in an era of climate change.

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act, we submitted a message on behalf of 50,000 EPIC and conservation partner members asking U.S. Department of the Interior Sally Jewell and California National Forest and Bureau of Land Management Supervisors to protect and connect wild places.

Prepared a legal complaint challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to log over a thousand acres in the Klamath National Forest along the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River. Because of the threat of litigation, the Forest Service withdrew important old growth reserves from the Salmon Salvage timber sale, resulting in the protection of some of the best northern spotted owl habitat in the proposal.

Sent three separate action alerts opposing U.S. Forest Service proposals for post-fire “salvage” logging in the Klamath National Forest:

  • Westside Project (604 comments)
  • Jess Project (1,182 comments)
  • Salmon River Salvage (1,347 comments)

Sent 1,073 comments on the Crawford Timber Sale within the Siskiyou 1 Roadless Area, a proposal that would be damaging to forest health and biodiversity with taxpayers footing the bill for corporate timber profits at the expense of wildlands and wildlife.

Monitored and documented cattle grazing allotments in wilderness areas that have resulted in fragmentation of willows and wetlands and degradation of watersheds. The documentation was then sent to federal and state officials to encourage more effective grazing management to protect our public lands and public trust resources.

Worked with conservation groups, Tolowa Dunes State Park, and Biologists to survey, document and map current fencing and restoration efforts to develop a plan for removing old livestock fencing from the park to improve habitat for migratory wildlife such as elk. The majority of the fencing is scheduled to be removed in early 2015.

Filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service to request documents detailing the effects of trespass marijuana growing on public lands and their impacts on forests, fish, and wildlife.

Participated in Humboldt County’s Cannabis ordinance workshops and Growing Green citizen workshops to advocate for ecologically sustainable solutions for the cultivation of our region’s number one cash crop.

WILDLIFE

Successfully petitioned to protect the Gray Wolf under the California Endangered Species Act. For more than two years we advocated for the wolf, gathered over 4,000 comments, attended countless hearings, hosted teach-ins and testified at the California Fish and Game Commission hearing in Fortuna when it was announced that OR7, California’s wandering wolf had sired puppies and that the species would be granted protections!

Action alert to urge U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to grant protections for fishers as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Encouraged 2,409 epic members to take action ultimately convincing the California Fish and Game Commission to end inducements (cash prizes) for wildlife killing contests.

Launched campaign that resulted in a statewide ban on over the counter sales of dangerous anticoagulant rat poisons that kill countless children, pets and wildlife each year.

Commissioned a wildlife researcher to conduct an independent review of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Northern Spotted Owl initial evaluation of our petition to list the Owl as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. This report will be presented to the Commission to provide scientific evidence that the species is in decline and needs protections.

Filed and settled two separate lawsuits to reform the timing and number of fish released from Trinity and Mad River fish hatchery practices to protect native wild salmon populations from being bred with and preyed upon by hatchery fish.

Joined forces with other groups to file a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for a silvery phacelia, a rare plant that grows in coastal areas along northern California & southern Oregon.

WATER

Submitted comments and gathered 1,207 signatures to urge the Oregon Department of Water Resources (ODWR) to deny the Red Flat Nickel Corporation’s Strip Mining application that was proposed for the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Earlier this month, we learned that the mining corporation has appealed the ODWR’s denial, and now we are urging congressional representatives in Oregon and California to block the proposals by issuing a mineral withdrawn for mining in the sensitive areas of the Illinoi and Smith River, click here to take action.

Participated in workshops that developed into California’s newly adopted Groundwater Legislation.

Attended rally in Sacramento and encouraged 1,880 people to send comments to the Bureau of Reclamation to prevent a fish kill in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. In the end, the Bureau made the decision to release the flows and this year’s salmon runs were one of the largest on record.

Developed comments and an action alert yielding 1,598 comments requesting withdrawal of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a proposal that was based on over allocated water rights that would take more water from Northern California’s rivers threatening the viability of endangered species and native salmon runs only to benefit large industrial agricultural interests.

Attended meeting where we delivered over 10,000 petition signatures opposing the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing Environmental Impact Statement, which proposed the harm, kill or harass more than 500,000 marine mammals with sonar, weapons, and toxic chemicals. The extensive comments submitted during the last public comment period have forced the Navy to write an additional Supplement to the initial Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently being circulated for public comment and includes a series of meetings with one in Eureka on January 16, 2015.

Participated in Sacramento Rally and submitted over 6,000 comments to California lawmakers, asking them to ban fracking in California.

PRIVATE INDUSTRIAL FORESTLANDS

Filed a petition to challenge CAL FIRE’s use of ‘G-Plus Methodology,’ an underground regulation that illegally applies an alternative review and approval standard for private industrial Timber Harvest Plans

Worked with residents, forest defenders and timber managers in the Mattole watershed to assess primary forests and the effects timber harvest proposals would have on the landscape, eventually Humboldt Redwood Company agreed to temporarily halt logging in these controversial places. EPIC plans to continue working with stakeholders in this area to develop a plan that will protect old growth stands and restore the watershed.

In 2014 EPIC has successfully engaged on conservation advocacy issues at the national, state, and local level, and our advances are directly attributable to the consistent support that our small, grassroots and community-based organization receives from our membership. Thank you for a positive 2014, we are well positioned to have a successful 2015. Click here to read our vision for 2015.


Dear Santa: Save our Beautiful Wild Rivers from Strip Mining

Friday, December 12th, 2014
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Santa and river image for alertTake Action: All we want for Christmas is a mineral withdrawal

This Christmas, please join us in asking Santa for something extra special: a mineral withdrawal in southwest Oregon that benefits California too!

Here’s what’s at stake:

  • the purest of waters and wildest of rivers;
  • a stronghold of native salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout; and
  • a treasure trove of botanical diversity with one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in North America.

Mining companies want to develop nickel strip mines in pristine, wild lands in southwest Oregon, including the headwaters of California’s famed Smith River. Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressman DeFazio have long supported withdrawing the fragile watersheds of Rough and Ready and Baldface creeks (headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Illinois and North Fork Smith rivers) from mining, and we’ve urged them to add Hunter Creek’s headwaters—equally fragile—to their roster. Congressman Huffman has joined them to protect the Wild and Scenic Smith River.

There’s not much time. Immediate introduction of legislation to withdraw the area from mining is needed. This will protect these priceless federal public lands by closing them to mining unless there’s a valid existing right.

It’s our best way to protect the crystal clear, salmon-studded waters of the wild rivers coast from damaging pollution.

Take Action: Urge the Oregon and California delegation to introduce legislation to protect this wild and wonderful area from mining!

 

 

EPIC is a member of the Kalmiopsis Rivers group, we would like to thank them for providing the content of this action alert.

EPIC Unveils New Strategic Plan

Thursday, December 11th, 2014
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HeadwatersIt is a great honor to share with you the Environmental Protection Information Center’s Strategic Plan. EPIC is an organization in the process of reestablishing itself as the most effective forest advocacy organization in the north coast California region. Our goal is to build a stronger, more solid, focused organization, and achieve the greatest impact in forest protection.

For nearly four-decades EPIC has held public agencies accountable by upholding environmental laws to protect Northwest California’s native biodiversity. EPIC filed more than 70 lawsuits on behalf of imperiled wildlife species and their habitat, many of which led to the permanent protection of some of the region’s most biologically significant, carbon dense, intact ancient forests.

Building off our past accomplishments and holding true to our principals, we concluded that the most effective thing we can do is focus our energy and resources on achieving three specific goals: (1) Connecting working and wild forests; (2) Ensuring best management of public forestland; and (3) Ensuring best management of private industrial forests. This is not a strategy to do less; it is a strategy to be more focused, rigorous and stable.

EPIC advocates for the science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests.

NW Ca Biodiversity 2reducedBiodiversity loss, also known as extinction, may be the biggest threat to life on Earth, as we know it. People are altering landscapes and ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than any other time in human history. Today, a small percent of intact ancient forests remain, mostly in California’s state and national parks, wilderness areas and wildlife refuges. But between these protected biodiversity hotspots, the majority of California’s forests remain unprotected and are constantly threatened by clearcut logging, road building, grazing, trespass marijuana grows, and conversion from working forests to industrial agriculture. The cumulative impact of these activities is devastating to biodiversity. Over the last few years an increasing number of scientists have suggested that the planet’s collapsing biological diversity may well be the largest and most intractable environmental problem we face—even greater than climate change or pollution.

Biodiversity and the resilience of the environment are deeply intertwined.

There is an urgent need to identify new conservation areas—areas that can provide refuge from climate change, corridors of habitat that allow species to migrate and areas where habitat restoration can promote species and ecosystem resiliency to, and adaptation of climate change.

The following are EPIC’s Conservation-advocacy Goals and a forecast of our strategies and campaigns for the coming year of 2015:

Connecting Working and Wild Forests

Corridor Map North Coast1. Achieve permanent connectivity in working and wild forest lands. Our campaign, called Connecting Wild Places, sets out to designate, protect and connect habitat areas, wildlife corridors, carbon-dense forest stands and all remaining old-growth in northwest California by 2019. We will:

Identify, name and develop site “campaigns” for each of 13+ high priority areas on National forestland;

Collaborate with conservation allies, including tribal representatives;

Focus on building relationships and finding pressure points with private industrial timber companies: Green Diamond and Humboldt Redwood Company; and

Work with the U.S. Forest Service and private industry to achieve goal.

Ensuring Best Management of Public Forests

2. Protect public forest lands and ensure best conservation practices to protect forest health, watersheds and wildlife species on the Six Rivers, Mendocino, Klamath, and Shasta-Trinity National Forests, and other public lands in Northwest California.

Watchdog U.S. Forest Service to enforce existing law and regulations. Continue to monitor and comment on Forest Service Projects with an emphasis on projects that would negatively impact endangered species habitat, roadless areas, old-growth forests, and potential wildlife corridors;

Challenge ecologically destructive timber sales and post-fire logging projects;

Implement endangered species habitat protections for the northern spotted owl, Humboldt marten, gray wolf, and pacific fisher;

Target leaders in office and in forest, fish and wildlife management to reform antiquated resource extraction policies;

Participate in project planning and implementation to develop resilient fire-adapted communities;

Address threats to wilderness resources from unmanaged cattle; and

Protect Richardson Grove State Park and the Wild and Scenic Smith River from Caltrans’ road-widening projects.

Ensuring Best Management of Private Industrial Forests

3. Ensure best management practices on private timberlands for species protection, clean water, human communities, and to encourage growth of older forests in order to achieve healthy forests, connected landscapes, and watershed integrity.

Encourage protection of, and sustainable management of “primary forests” in Mattole Watershed; encourage restorative management in plantations; and remediation of adverse watershed conditions in the Elk Watershed;

Track, review, and comment on timber harvest plans and other private lands projects that would negatively impact endangered species habitat, old-growth forests, potential wildlife corridors, and the Elk and Mattole Watersheds;

Engage with State and Regional Water Quality Boards to implement the Clean Water Act as they pertain to Green Diamond and Humboldt Redwood Company’s timber operations especially within Mattole and Elk Watersheds;

Follow through with our effort to list the Northern Spotted Owl under the California Endangered Species Act; and

Influence decision makers concerning timber industry regulation and planning implementation relative to private forestland in Northwest California. Specifically meeting with Governor’s office, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, State Water Board and Department of Fish and Wildlife Services; and continuing to monitor the California Board of Forestry as policy is developed.

Institutional Development

EPIC is developing an integrated vision of what the organization needs to accomplish in terms of advocacy, constituency building, and institutional development. It is imperative in our line of work that our staff has a strong foundation of environmental law and scientific expertise. As of fall 2014, the EPIC team has significantly increased its legal expertise with the addition of two full-time attorneys joining the staff.

2014 Staff & BoardWe hired attorney Thomas Wheeler to fill the position of Program and Legal Coordinator. His role is to assist in the development, implementation and management of EPIC’s campaign strategies. Our staff has been further strengthened with an unexpected and amazingly fortunate addition of attorney Lucy Allen, a Humboldt County native. Lucy was awarded top honors from UC Berkeley Law School and was granted a Public Interest Fellowship to work for any organization of her choosing with her salary paid by the university for one year; she chose EPIC. Sharon Duggan, one of the most effective environmental lawyers in the western states, continues to work with EPIC, providing invaluable experience, mentorship, guidance, and oversight to our legal and political strategies.

Kimberly Baker (Public Lands Advocate since 2006), Amber Shelton (Conservation Advocate since 2009), Rob DiPerna (California Forest and Wildlife Advocate, with more than 8 years working with EPIC) and Richard Gienger (Forest Restoration Advocate since 1977) continue their positions as EPIC Staff.

Executive Director, Natalynne DeLapp, has been with the organization since 2008 and during which time she built relationships with a wide cross-section of people from the region. She is skilled in fundraising, strategic management, public relations, community organizing and team building; her educational background is in environmental science and public policy.

To advise EPIC’s policy-related decisions we have developed a Scientific Advisory Panel consisting of experts from fields e.g. fire ecology, fisheries biology, forest ecology, climate science, etc. Our goal is to have at least eight panel members by March 2015.

Our team is nurturing the organization in a way that cultivates institutional resiliency in what are clearly very challenging times for grassroots organizations. Support from the EPIC Community is critically important for EPIC to reach short-term objectives and long-term organizational goals. More than 60% of EPIC’s funding comes from individual donations from our members and supporters.

CIRCLEWe need your support to accomplish what might be our most ambitious goals yet. 

Together we can ensure Northwest California’s forests will be healthy, connected, and wild; and that sustainable, restorative management practices will be the standard. The forests of our bioregion will help buffer the impacts of climate change resulting in clean air and water, abundant and diverse native flora and fauna, and the natural beauty will be protected for generations to come. Your generous gift can make ALL the difference!

Please contact us for more information about our vision and plans for 2015 and beyond, (707) 822-7711.

EPIC Banner_Because Life Depends on Healthy Forests_ 700x116


Plans Halted for Widening Highway Through Ancient Redwoods in California’s Richardson Grove State Park

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
By

RichardsonGroveAfter years of opposition, Caltrans has rescinded its approvals for a controversial highway-widening project that would endanger ancient redwood trees in Richardson Grove State Park, along Highway 101 in Humboldt County. Conservation groups and local residents this week dismissed a lawsuit they filed in federal court in July in exchange for Caltrans abandoning the project approvals and agreeing to restart the environmental review if the agency pursues the project. Caltrans has been prohibited from any project construction activities by both a 2012 federal court injunction and a recent state court order.

“This is an important victory stopping a nonsensical project that would have done terrible damage to an ancient grove of giant redwoods in our state park,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ll be ready to go back to court if Caltrans decides to pursue the project, and it’ll have to completely start over on environmental review and the approval process.”

Conservation groups and local residents have now won three consecutive lawsuits challenging the “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project,” a proposal that would cut into and pave over the roots of many of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including some that are 2,000 years old, are 18 feet in diameter and reach heights of 300 feet. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to benefit passage for oversized commercial trucks.

“It’s time to investigate the huge amount of taxpayer money Caltrans has wasted pursuing this ill-conceived project,” said Natalynne DeLapp with the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Caltrans should have to answer why the agency continues to pour money down the drain pursuing a project that cannot be legally approved. Regulatory agencies and the public will not allow Richardson Grove’s ancient trees to be damaged.”

The latest lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Bruce Edwards, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen. The lawsuit challenged Caltrans’ violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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 redwood trees in the world. The park also contains essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the 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 claimed the highway-widening project was needed to accommodate large-truck travel, but acknowledged that the portion of road in question was already designated for larger trucks and did not have significant safety problems. The agency did not establish that the project was necessary for safety or would 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.

The plaintiffs first sued in 2010 when Caltrans certified inadequate environmental review documents and adopted a “finding of no significant impact.” In 2012 a 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.

The latest lawsuit was filed earlier this year when 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. 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.

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.

EPIC Richardson Grove Press Release 12.5.14