Blog

Headwaters Trail Stewardship Day a Success!

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
By

On Sunday, June 12th, ten communities members joined EPIC staff and representatives of the BLM Headwaters Forest Reserve management for a volunteer Trail Steward Day on the South Fork Elk River Trail in the Headwaters Forest Reserve. The all-day event entailed 11 miles of hiking, a tailgate lunch session at the work site, and approximately three hours of work repairing a failing trail segment, located approximately 4.5 miles from the trailhead. The community members provided the muscle, and the BLM provided the tools, as a dangerous section of trail was recontoured, stabilized, and fallen logs and branches removed to allow for easier access. Fallen brush was also cleared from several other spots along the trail on this very successful volunteer work day in Headwaters. EPIC wishes to thank all those that came out to help make this day a success!

 

 

 

 

 


Public Rally Against Westside “Salvage” Logging Calls on Forest Service to “Stop Westside”

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
By

StopWestSide_brookeanderson-23Public locked out of National Forest while private companies log for $2.50 a truck load – Despite rains, about 20 people gathered at the Grider Creek Campground to protest the massive clear-cut logging plan and forest closure in the Klamath National Forest. The timber sale that will purportedly take 102 Northern Spotted Owls, possibly result in a localized extinction of coho salmon, and negatively impact salmon bearing creeks and rivers is ironically called the Westside Fire Recovery Project. The timber sales are being sold for as little as fifty cents per thousand acre board feet to private timber companies, who are logging behind locked gates where members of the public are not allowed to enter or document the destruction that is taking place. The price for these forests amounts to $2.50 for an entire truck load of timber, from public forest lands containing endangered species, salmon bearing streams and old growth forests.

The Grider Creek Campground where the rally took place is surrounded by the project area and is located along the Pacific Crest Trail, where many backpackers were passing through and camping. The week before the rally was held, the Klamath National Forest’s website said the campground was open, and a phone call to the Klamath National Forest headquarters and Happy Camp offices verified that they were open. However, the day before the rally, Forest Supervisor, Patricia Grantham notified the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath Riverkeeper (rally organizers) that the campground was closed, but that she would issue a permit for the group to assemble. During the group picnic a Forest Service employee who regularly tends the campground said that the campground is and has been open.

As part of the Westside project, most of the largest trees in the campground had already been logged, and only large stumps remained along the creek. These stumps were likely marked as “hazard trees,” but it was clear that only the large marketable trees had been taken, and other potentially hazardous trees that were less marketable were left teetering over the trails.

Background

The Karuk Tribe, whose ancestral territory is within the project area, as well as environmental groups have been trying to work with the Klamath National Forest to promote a less environmentally destructive alternative, which has been proposed as the Karuk Plan, a plan that focuses on strategic ridge top fuel breaks, roadside hazard treatments, and minimizes the amount of large-scale salvage logging that would impact rivers, salmon and Northern spotted owls.

Since the inception of the Westside Project, Native American tribes, environmentalists and river communities that would be affected by the project have actively expressed opposition to the project, which is one of the largest timber sale projects ever proposed in the history of Klamath National Forest.

About two months ago, a protest took place along Walker Creek Road, a main artery into the Walker Creek Timber Sale, and a couple days later Klamath National Forest announced that a huge area surrounding the timber sale had been closed to the public. Many individuals and groups have tried to obtain permits to enter the closure area to “ground truth,” which consists of walking the project area and fact-checking to see if the logging on the ground is consistent with the Project Design Features, but to our knowledge, these requests have been denied.

After gathering at the Grider Creek Campground, the group went up to the end of Walker Creek Road, where the forest closure begins, and was greeted by Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers who were guarding the closure area and told the group they could only enter the closure area if they had a permit from the Forest Service office. Many members in the group had previously requested permits, but had been denied.

Our public forests are being auctioned off to private companies at dirt cheap prices, and endangered species habitat and old growth forests are being logged despite a pending court case that has been filed by the Karuk Tribe, EPIC, Klamath Riverkeeper, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Thanks to Brooke Anderson for taking these awesome photos!


EPIC in Review & Annual Report

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
By

Annual Report 2015-2016CoverOver the past several months EPIC has been working countless hours collaborating with citizens, advocacy groups, agencies and politicians on a variety of local, national and international issues. The list below includes letters or comments in which EPIC, alongside fellow NGO’s and agencies support or oppose various proposed or existing programs, laws and acts to protect our environment.  EPIC business includes the most updated independently run efforts brought on by the EPIC staff. Also, in case you have not seen our annual report, which details our activities for 2015, you can check it out here. The list below was comprised by EPIC intern Briana Villalobos. Thank you Briana for dedicating a large chunk your summer to helping EPIC!

Letters of Support

Letter of Support – Night-time Hunting & Trapping in Wolf Territory Petition – EPIC joins conservation and animal advocates in writing a letter to the California Fish and Game to support regulations to ban night-time hunting and lethal trapping in gray wolf territory.

Letter of Support – Congress Mitigation – EPIC joins conservation groups across the country in writing a letter to Representatives  in support of the Presidential Memorandum to promote appropriate mitigation to protect our natural resources.

Letter of Support-FWS CCAA – EPIC joins conservation groups in commenting on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) draft Environmental Assessment for a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances between FWS and Sierra Pacific Industries. The CCAA would allow “take” for killing 60 fishers and clear cutting 338,800 acres of uneven-aged forest habitat within 10 years.

 Letter of Support – AK NWR – EPIC joins over 70  organizations in a letter to USDI  Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe of the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s  to applaud the proposed changes to regulations governing Alaska refuges under 50 C.F.R. Part 36 as part of the proposed rule titled “Non-subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.”81 Fed. Reg. 887 (Jan. 8, 2016). If finalized as proposed, the new regulations would ensure that Alaska’s national refuges are managed in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) mandates to conserve species and habitats in their natural diversity and ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the NWR system are maintained for the continued benefit of present and future generations of Americans on over 76 million acres.

Letter of Support – CFOSCP FY17 Appropriations Request – EPIC joins a broad coalition of conservation and forestry organizations and municipal agencies, in writing to representatives to express strong support for the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

Letter of Support – Oak Flat Apache Stronghold – EPIC joins other in signing a letter of support to the Apache Stronghold  for the February 26-27, 2016, march from San Carlos to Oak Flat to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Apache Stronghold’s efforts to protect Oak Flat.

Letter of Support – Pesticide Reform – Telone Exposure  – EPIC joins the statewide coalition Californians for Pesticide Reform in urging the Director of Pesticide Regulation to put the health of Californians first when taking action on the soil fumigant 1,3-dichloropropene, also known as Telone and to adopt the strongest possible risk management plan.

Letter of Support – President Obama-ESA – EPIC joins over 150 conservation groups in signing a letter to President Obama asking him to oppose all policy “riders” that would undermine the Endangered Species Act during negotiations on final funding legislation for Fiscal Year 2016.

Letter of Support – Regional Haze Ruling– EPIC joins 82 conservation and public interest organizations, representing millions of members and supporters, to urge the Administrator of the EPA to strengthen the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule to restore clean air to national parks and wilderness areas and their neighboring communities.

Letter of Support – HR 3843 – EPIC joins others in writing to congress to urge them to oppose HR 3843, the Locatable Minerals Claim Location and Maintenance Fees Act of 2015. Rather than solve the estimated $50 billion taxpayer liability for cleaning up our nation’s inactive or abandoned hardrock mines, this bill allows mining companies to profit under the guise of “Good Samaritan” clean up.

Letter of Support – US Forest Service’s Deputy Chief Weldon  – EPIC joins others in writing to the US Forest Service’s Deputy Chief to commend the efforts to move the Forest Service road system to a more sustainable condition.

Letter of Support – CFOSCP FY18 – EPIC joins representatives of a broad coalition of conservation and forestry organizations and municipal agencies, we are writing to express strong support for the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

Letter of Support – Monitoring Network Final Letter – Epic joins the Californians for Pesticide Reform and 43 other organizations in writing a letter to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation in seeking modifications to the Air Monitoring Network to make sure that monitoring resources are used most effectively to capture true community exposure.

Letter of Support – SBRM Final Letter – EPIC joins others in urging NOAA Fisheries to withdraw its proposed rule for implementing the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) provision of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

 

Letters of Opposition:

Letter of Opposition – 5-year Offshore Leasing Program – EPIC joins 78 organizations to call on land management leaders to remove all offshore oil and gas lease sales from the final leasing program.

Letter of Opposition – Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Managment Act of 2016 -EPIC joins others in writing to Senate members to express strong opposition to provisions in the discussion draft legislation, “Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act of 2016,” that could perpetuate harmful old growth logging on the Tongass National Forest, America’s largest rainforest.Lett

Letter of Opposition – UTTR Expansion NDAA – Epic joins others in writing to the congressional Armed Services Committees to express opposition to S.2383/H.R. 4579, the Utah Test and Training Range Encroachment Prevention and Temporary Closure Act, and to urge the committees to oppose any effort to add these bills to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.

Letter of Opposition – Road Through Izembek – EPIC joins others in writing a letter to congress to reaffirm steadfast opposition to construction of a road through the heart of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

Letter of Opposition – California Offshore Fracking – EPIC joins 129 groups to oppose off shore fracking along California’s coast.

Letter of Opposition – Wilderness Act Amendments – EPIC joins over 100 conservation groups in a letter to congress asking them to reject amendments to the Wilderness Act.

Letter of Opposition – ESA Amendments to Senate Energy Bill – On behalf of millions of citizens, Epic joins others in a letter to ask the Senate to vote NO on amendments undermining the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that have been proposed for S. 2012, the “Energy Policy and Modernization Act.”

Letter of Opposition – Blocking New Parks in Amendments 3023/3126  – EPIC joins over 100 organizations in signing a letter in opposition to Senator Lee’s  amendments that would undermine the Antiquities Act

Letter of Opposition – NEPA Waiver in S. 2240 – Epic joins conservation organizations in writing to Senators to express strong opposition to Section 6(c) of S. 2240, the “Federal Lands Invasive Species Control, Prevention, and Management Act,” which would seriously compromise public input and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act

Letter of Opposition S 2902 – Epic joins 20 other organizations in writing to the California air Resources Board to express opposition to the proposed inclusion of International Sector-based Offsets in Californian’s Capand-Trade Program.

Letter of Opposition – Grizzly Endangered Delisting Proposal_ – Epic joins  8o organizations, to  oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to remove grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) as threatened from the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Letter of Opposition – Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee S 2807 – Epic joins conservation organizations in writing to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asking them to oppose  S. 2807 which  would greatly harm 88 coastal national parks from Alaska to Washington, from Florida to Maine.

Letter of Opposition – Wildfire Budgeting Response and Forest Management Act  – On behalf of millions of people, EPIC joins others in writing to the energy and Natural Resources Committee to highlight serious concerns with the Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act policy discussion draft that was released for public comment on May 25, 2016.

Letter of Oppostion – Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill – EPIC with allies joins others in writing to members of congress to urge them to reject anti-environmental policy riders that threaten our air, land, water and wildlife on the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill.

Letter of Opposition – PROMESA – Vieques and Title V – Epic joins conservation groups in writing a letter to members of congress to strongly oppose two environmentally-damaging provisions in the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).  The first, Section 411, aims to take thousands of acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge away from the American people thereby placing nationally-protected endangered species habitat under threat of bulldozers and development and encouraging efforts to sell off public lands for private gain. The second, is Title V of the draft legislation which eliminates citizen input, public scrutiny, environmental review, and limits judicial review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for large-scale projects chosen by an unelected board.

 

EPIC Business

Final Comments on FWS Draft Prioritization Methodology – EPIC urges the US Fish and Wildlife Service to strongly support prioritizing the protection of our nation’s most critically endangered species, and moving as quickly as possible to fully protect those species under the Endangered Species Act.

Final EPA Comments on Forest Roads – EPIC joins others in writing to the EPA to stand up for clean water and skein them to regulate and limit storm water discharges from forest roads to protect water quality.

BLM Mineral Withdrawal Final Letter – Epic advocates further protections for the greater sage grouse by joining organizations in a letter to the BLM Director to support the proposed withdrawal of federal mineral estate which is proposed to protect key habitats and to urge federal agencies to expand the withdrawal in areal extent and scope.

CALFIRE Support in Suspending Post-Fire Logging Final Letter – EPIC condemns post-fire logging by Fruit Growers Supply Company in Siskiyou County which likely resulted in the “take” of northern spotted owls. EPIC calls on CALFIRE to suspend all logging and conduct a full investigation.

Waste Transfer Station Final Letter – Original EPIC Comments on the Revised DEIR for the Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station.

EPIC Letter of Opposition for House Amendment S.2012 – EPIC urges Representatives to oppose the House amended version of S.2012. The amended bill fails to cut carbon pollution, invest in job-creating clean energy technologies, and modernize our energy infrastructure while maintaining environmental safeguards.

EPIC Compliance Manual – In 2016, under new state and local laws and regulations,medical cannabis farmers can now take steps to obtain licenses to sell their product. In response, EPIC comprised a handbook intended as a tool to provide the basics of how to comply with state and local laws and regulations that govern cannabis production. The regulatory landscape is changing quickly.
This handbook represents our best efforts to encompass state and local regulations at the time of printing, as well as provide an abridged look at some of the most important facets of the new regulations.

EPIC Letter of Support for Pomo Tribes  – EPIC’s letter of support for the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Sherwood Valley Band of Pomo Indians who are requesting government to government consultations between the Tribes and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).


Action Alert: Help Re-open the Klamath National Forest; Broad Closures Hurt Local Communities!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
By

Salvage LoggingAll eyes are on the Klamath National Forest as clear cut logging continues within the Westside Project area. The damaging project subsidizes the destruction of spotted owl and salmon habitat above the Klamath River and could result in the “take” of up to 103 northern spotted owls – two percent of the species entire population. The controversial project drew a record 14,000 comments in opposition and the timber sales that were so unattractive the Forest Service reduced their price to $2.50 per log truck load. To make matters worse, Klamath National Forest has issued an unconstitutional closure order.

We have two ways you can help reopen the Klamath National Forest:

1) Click here to send a message to decision-makers

2) Join a rally Friday 7/8 to expose timber welfare on public lands

KNF is shutting the public out of tens of thousands of acres of national forest under the guise of public safety. This is unacceptable. Closing controversial areas surrounding logging operations is used frequently by the Forest Service, to shield itself from scrutiny and attempt to prevent protests. On principle, closures like this one defy the values that set aside national forest land for use—our national forests were established for the enjoyment and benefit of the people; closing them to benefit timber interests is antithetical to that purpose. Closures have a real impact on the rural, river-dependent communities of the Klamath and all people who enjoy the area.

Land that comprises the Klamath National Forest is within Karuk Ancestral Territory, where cultural practitioners frequently gather medicine and basket weaving materials that thrive in post-fire areas, including within the closure area. Other users of the forest have been shut out of popular trail systems leading to the Marble Mountain Wilderness area, and still others are blocked from traveling the road system and collecting firewood during dry summer months. Klamath National Forest is the backyard for many and this closure impacts the ability to recreate and enjoy our public lands.

The Klamath National Forest claims that the closure is necessary to protect public health. This claim falls apart under any scrutiny. If the closure is necessary to protect public health, then why is the Klamath National Forest closing areas where logging is not set to occur? Why is the order in effect for one full year, even though logging is set to wrap up in the fall? If logging is so dangerous, why only close areas which have drawn public protests? And why issue it now, when logging began in March?

The Klamath National Forest has something to hide. Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center has documented failures by the Klamath National Forest to implement key mitigation measures they promised to implement to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based on these violations, the Klamath National Forest has been put on notice that it will be sued under the Endangered Species Act.

Click here to ask Klamath National Forest to re-open the closure area.

The rally for public lands will be at Grider Creek Campground to raise awareness of industrial logging activities hidden behind locked gates on public lands. Bring a snack for our noon picnic potluck, and a poster to express your love for our public lands. This is a family-friendly public rally, all are encouraged to come.

 

WestsideRallyPoster1


Documenting Bovine Degradation in Wilderness: A Call for Volunteers From the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
By
Project Volunteer Luke Ruediger surveys bank trampling and riparian shade reduction on the Silver Fork of Elliot Creek within the Siskiyou Ridge portion of Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

Project Volunteer Luke Ruediger surveys bank trampling and riparian shade reduction on the Silver Fork of Elliot Creek within the Siskiyou Ridge portion of Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

By Felice Pace, Project Coordinator

This summer and fall volunteers with the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California will again be in the field monitoring conditions on public lands where cattle and other livestock are permitted to graze. Our task will be to document with photos, measurements and field notes how the cattle are managed and the resulting degradation of water quality, riparian and wetland habitats.

This will be the seventh year Project volunteers are in the field. So far we’ve monitories 17 grazing allotments on three national forests; many allotments we’ve monitored multiple times and in multiple years. Here’s what we’ve found: District Rangers, the Forest Service officials responsible for assuring that grazing on their districts is done responsibly, are not getting the job done. Those officials are allowing livestock owners to place cattle on public land and leave them there, without management, until the snow flies and it is necessary to bring the cattle to lower elevation. That results in degradation of water quality, riparian areas and wetlands, and that is what the Project aims to stop.

Project monitors record their observations and document the destruction photographically. We then use those observations and findings in monitoring and other reports and presentations which we provide to agency grazing managers and regulatory agencies. Project sponsor organizations like EPIC and me as the Project’s coordinator use that documentation to advocate specific management changes on the allotments volunteers monitored and for systemic grazing management reforms. We especially target the State Water Resources Control Board and Regional Water Boards which are responsible for assuring that public land management complies with the Clean Water Act. We want the State and Regional Water Boards to tighten Clean Water Act requirements for public land grazing, including requiring modern rest-rotation grazing management systems, regular herding and other best management practices.

Our ability to monitor public land grazing is limited by the number of volunteers working with the project. That’s where you could play a role. If you are familiar with the wilderness and able to walk off trail in the mountains you could monitor with the Project; or you could train with the Project and monitor grazing on your own and with friends. Often national forest grazing takes place in spectacular wilderness environments. And one can usually find a quite place, away from the destructive bovines, to camp. Many grazing allotments can be monitored via day trips from wilderness trailheads.

Monitors are especially needed for the Mendocino, Six Rivers, Lassen and Modoc National Forests and for BLM administered public lands. The more places we can document poor grazing management resulting in water quality, riparian and wetland degradation, the better the case we can make that systemic reform of public land grazing management is needed.

The destruction

When cattle are left unmanaged for months in mountains where the headwaters are replete with springs, wet meadows and willow wetlands, the result is a disaster. The photos below tell the tail to some extent, but photos can capture the full impact.

Season-long grazing without herding results in the elimination of dry meadow bunchgrasses and the trampling of springs. 

Streambanks are trampled, riparian vegetation destroyed and headwater willow wetlands are fragmented and dried out

Neglectful management of national forest grazing violates water quality standards, including EPA limits on nutrient pollution and the North Coast Regional Water Board’s limits on fecal bacteria pollution. Water quality monitoring by The Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, a federal tribe, citizen groups and the Forest Service itself show that wilderness streams which should provide the highest quality waters are instead being fouled at the source.

Wilderness headwater basins that should produce critical late summer and fall baseflow in salmon streams below are being relentlessly trampled year after year by cattle weighing up to1200 pounds. When wet headwater meadows are degraded in that way they dry out; their ability to store water for slow release during the dry season is damaged and, if the trampling continues long enough, destroyed. As hydrologist Jonathan Rhodes and Fish Ecologist Chris Frissell point out in a recent report, one of the three best ways to restore California’s dry season water supply would be to eliminate grazing from Northern California’s national forest headwater basins.

Our Strategy

Our Project does not insist that grazing be eliminated from Northern California public lands. But we do insist that those who enjoy the privilege of grazing their livestock on the people’s land manage those livestock responsibly.

We want Forest Service and other public land grazing managers to require modern grazing strategies like rest rotation grazing and best practices like regular herding and seasonal fencing to keep livestock out of wetlands, prevent them from trashing streams and protect riparian vegetation and streambanks.

Because both managers and regulators have refused for six years now to reform grazing management which is clearly inadequate and irresponsible, we are going up the line to supervisors and considering administrative and legal challenges.

We are determined to see modern grazing management brought to Northern California’s public lands. If livestock producers want the privilege of grazing in the public’s meadows and headwaters they must be willing to manage their animals responsibly, including riding the range regularly, moving cattle out of wetlands and rotating grazing to prevent degradation of land and water.

If the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management required modern grazing methods, we believe most individuals and corporations now permitted to graze livestock on public lands would voluntarily relinquish the permits. They would not be willing to incur the time and expense necessary to graze livestock responsibly in mountains that are replete with springs, streams, wet meadows and willow wetlands.

If you want to volunteer with the Project or just want more information contact me, Felice Pace, by email (unofelice@gmail.com) or by phone (707-954-6588). And please take the time to get out and enjoy the lands we all own together.

Happy trails!


Fences Finally Removed in Tolowa Dunes State Park

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
By

ElkAfter years of assessment, documentation, mapping and planning, abandoned livestock fences in the Tolowa Dunes have finally been removed, and now a small heard of wild elk have been sighted in the area that was previously leased for cattle grazing.

Tolowa Dunes State Park is made up of ancient sand dunes, swales, dune forest, and an ephemeral wetland bottom called the Smith River Plain, along the coast of Del Norte County. The Park is used as a Pacific flyway stopover for migratory birds, serves as critical rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and provides grazing opportunities for wild ungulates. Tolowa Dunes State Park is also sacred to the Tolowa people, who once had a village there, a village that was the site of a horrible massacre of the Tolowa people in 1853.

From 1996-2011, about 230 acres of the bottoms along the Yontocket Slough were leased from Tolowa Dunes State Park for cattle grazing to the adjacent land owner, Alexandre Dairy, which modified the area with heavy equipment and built extensive fence lines throughout the Park. This area was heavily grazed and the dairy’s barbwire and electric fences remained after the termination of the grazing permit, preventing the movement of wild animals, including local wild Rosevelt elk populations.

With funding from the California State Parks Foundation, EPIC worked with Tolowa Dunes State Park, Tolowa Dunes Stewards and biologist Adam Canter to map livestock fencing and rare species, and to help plan and prioritize ecological restoration and livestock fence removal projects within Tolowa Dunes State Park. EPIC began working on this project in 2010, helping to end the illegal livestock grazing permit on State Park Lands, and now, six years later, the fences have finally been removed and wild elk have returned to the former grazing area of the park.

 


Forest Rules a Self-defeating Glut

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
By

Holm_Fay_date2008-04-09_time16.02.45_IMG_8035 copy

By Paul Mann, Mad River Union

Timber industry officials and environmental activists warn that the state’s logging safeguards have become a bureaucratic snarl that can drag out rule-making for a decade and a half and more.

Experts say that 43 years after the enactment of the Forest Practice Act, timescales are so out of joint that the pace of environmental damage far outruns preventive action on the ground. The 1973 act’s rule book has swollen to 300 pages.

Formulating a Timber Harvest Plan for a given property is expensive – $15,000 to $60,000 per plan, says Dee Sanders of Trinity Lumber.

Critics say the regulatory framework has recoiled on itself, leaving the system effectively broken.

“There’s no doubt about that,” Sanders declared in a telephone interview.

This forbidding reality demands a legislative overhaul, according to Natalynne DeLapp, executive director of the nonprofit Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), and her colleague Rob DiPerna, California forest and wildlife advocate. They  have documented what they view as an “unnavigable tangle of politics, paper and process” studded with regulatory thickets. EPIC serves the five counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Siskiyou and Trinity.

One of the worst holdups stemmed from a set of “road rules” first bruited by the state Board of Forestry in 1999 to ward off the impact of construction on the North Coast’s fast-declining salmon and steelhead populations. The rules did not take effect until January, 2015, a 16-year hiatus.

In another instance, the forestry board took almost 10 years, until 1994, to act on regulations to address the cumulative impacts of logging on private lands. When the panel finally did act, it issued guidance that is merely “voluntary and suggestive,” not a real regulation, according to DeLapp and DiPerna.

Neither a 10-year nor a 16-year wait is the outside limit. The watershed of the Elk River, one of Humboldt Bay’s largest tributaries, was designated impaired in 1998 under the Clean Water Act.

Yet it took the regional water board until this past month to adopt a recovery plan – a lag of 18 years. That’s typical, said DiPerna, of the voluminous and time-consuming paperwork associated with rule making. He called it a “Frankenstein’s Monster.”

The tangle can add dozens of pages to a single Timber Harvest Plan. EPIC statistics show that a harvest blueprint averages 250 to 300 pages in length and sometimes many more. Formulating a plan is an arcane, costly and laborious exercise that balks public understanding and bedevils all the stakeholders, whether landowners, foresters, scientists or citizens.

By rights, drafting a plan should take 45 to 60 days, DiPerna estimated, but some of them get stuck in the system for years. Sanders said Oregon’s system, less rigorous than California’s, takes about two weeks.

Time is not the only debit. According to DiPerna, the average base cost of a Timber Harvest Plan for a given landowner has climbed to $30,000, midway between Sanders’ $15,000 to $60,000.

The $30,000 average does not include the many more thousands of dollars spent by state agencies such as CalFire for a harvest plan’s review, approval, administration and enforcement.

There is also concern that the public is shut out. DiPerna wrote in a recent EPIC monograph, “It is nearly impossible for the average citizen to read, navigate, understand or provide meaningful comment or engagement in the Timber Harvest Plan process.” It has taken him some 20 years to become fully informed about the issue.

Ironically, the purpose of the relevant statutes, like the California Environmental Quality Act and the Forest Practice Act, was to ensure that private citizens had meaningful information about, and open access to, the management decisions that affect air, forests, water and wildlife.

Exactly the opposite, said DiPerna and DeLapp. Forest protection plays third fiddle to an Orwellian regulatory chorus which fails in any meaningful way to effect “operational change or on-the-ground protection, enhancement, restoration or conservation of public trust resources.” The bureaucracy exalts legalism, they contend.

DiPerna freely acknowledged that EPIC’s lawsuits can at times, “unwittingly, actually make the [regulatory] situation worse,” generating more time-consuming analysis and explanation. But the avenues in the environmental laws “are really all we have,” he pleaded in extenuation.

DeLapp refuted accusations that EPIC is financed by lawsuits, saying it is funded by membership donations and private foundations. The only reimbursements received are for the costs of attorneys, many of whom work pro bono. “We do not recoup costs for staff time,” she added.

The intent and effectiveness of California’s landmark environmental laws have been co-opted by state agencies that are protecting themselves, DeLapp charged. “They insulate themselves from litigation not only by public interest groups, but by private industry and contractors as well.”

Moreover, “I find it offensive when public agencies blame public interest organizations for ‘costing taxpayers money’ when they lose court cases,” said DeLapp. “When courts find in our favor, it means the agencies failed to uphold their end of the bargain. Blaming us for catching them is 100 percent inappropriate.”

What results from bureaucratic overkill is classic “analysis paralysis,” DiPerna noted, as occurred in the Elk River fiasco. None of the staff’s fundamental findings – that the river was impaired by logging – ever changed, he said, across “reports and studies and studies of reports and peer reviews and hearing after hearing on the same issues, over and over again!”    

DeLapp stated that the solution lies in the consensus among timber harvest stakeholders, both industry exponents and conservationists, that the system needs a rebuild.

“Since we all agree what the problem is, we can figure out a way to turn this over. The system is designed for us to be diametrically opposed, conservation versus industry, economics versus ecology. Instead, we should be able to collaborate and mutually develop our own solutions.”

Fresh legislation could make them a reality.


Taking Stock, Taking Cover—Redwood Restoration, Reconnection, and the Humboldt Marten

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
By
Google Earth Image of Redwood National Park VS. Green Diamond clear cuts

Google Earth Image showing stark difference between protected lands in Redwood National Park adjacent to Green Diamond Resource Company land. An area containing one of the two remnant Humboldt marten population segments in California.

The coast redwood forests of Northern California are often perceived as a remnant of paleo-history, a land, and a place seemingly lost in time, and sheltered from the modern age by the pale shadow of the redwood curtain. For many across the country and the world, the coast redwood forests are a dark, impenetrable, and primeval place, where one may at once be lost, and found.

Sadly, the wild and iconic vision of a vast, mighty, and vibrant forest ecosystem set-aside from time and the march of human progress is far more hyperbole and fantasy than present-day reality here in the redwoods. A forest type that once spanned the majority of the northern hemisphere, growing and evolving for 18 million years or more, and that spanned some 2 million acres across Northern California’s rugged and scenic coastline has been reduced to small, isolated and disjunct remnant fragments in less than 200 years since European-American settlement. Today, Save-the-Redwoods League estimates that approximately 120,000 acres, or five percent, of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains, with 95 percent of the land now in a previously-logged condition, and bearing scant resemblance to the forest that once was.

The vast majority of remaining old-growth coast redwood forest is now contained in our redwood parks and reserve systems, which according to estimates from Save-the-Redwoods League, constitutes only 23 percent of the original forest land-base. Slauson (2012) estimates that greater than 50 percent of the land-base in our redwood parks and reserve systems is actually comprised of previously-logged stands of second and third-growth forest and not old-growth.

Restoration of the forest itself in the range of the coast redwoods is a monumental and daunting task that is only now beginning to take place, and the art, science, and economic viability of forest restoration in the redwoods is experimental, at best. Slauson (2012) aptly describes the importance of this work, stating, “The management of second growth forests to accelerate the restoration of late-successional and old growth characteristics will be one of the greatest challenges for conservation in the redwood region over the next century.”

Marten map

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection GIS Map of Marten Population. Published April 7, 2016.

Enter the most unlikely of creatures, the seemingly long-forgotten resident of our coast redwood forest ecosystems, the Humboldt marten. The story of the Humboldt marten serves as a synergistic metaphor that runs parallel and is very complimentary to that of our coastal redwood forest ecosystem. The marten was trapped extensively for its pelts in the early years of European-American exploration and settlement in the redwoods, and with the advent of aggressive logging of the vast majority of the redwood forest old-growth, upon which the Humboldt marten depends, it was once thought that this small, cat-size member of the weasel family had been lost. That is, until 1996, when this stealth, highly allusive, and unassuming creature was accidentally captured on a wildlife survey camera in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park, one of the four parks that in the present-day make up the jointly-administered Redwood National and State Parks system. Contemporary monitoring and research suggests that the Humboldt marten, like the old-growth coast redwood forest, has been extirpated from 95 percent of its original range; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2015) now estimates that less than 100 total individuals persist in the wild today, and that these individuals represent only two very small, extremely isolated population segments in California, and a small population along the coast in Southern Oregon.

Isolation and fragmentation of the coast redwood forest landscape, associated increases in road-densities, and the resultant degradation of the ecological integrity of the forest are as dangerous and damaging for the survival and recovery of the Humboldt marten as they are for our remnant coastal old-growth redwood forests. Logging and conversion of the vast majority of our complex old-growth redwood forest assemblages to young, even-aged, sterile, and homogenous early seral plantations threaten to cause the extinction of both the original redwood forest as a functional ecosystem, and of the Humboldt marten, whose small, fragmented and isolated populations are highly vulnerable to single catastrophic events, such as wildfire, due to the loss of ability for movement, dispersal, inter-breeding, and exchange of vital genetic diversity for the species.

The Humboldt marten relies on complex old-growth forest assemblages here in the range of the coast redwoods, which are often characterized by far more than the iconic giant old-growth trees. In addition to the large, old trees, the marten also relies on large dead trees, both standing snags, and downed logs, branches, and other forest woody material in order to feed, breed, rest, and find cover. Additionally, the marten is known to prefer old-growth forest areas with thick, dense, and complex under growth layers comprised of ferns, forbs, berries, and flowers. Such features, while common in an old-growth setting, are not prevalent in previously-managed forest stands in the coast redwoods. This is not only bad for the marten, but also for the forest itself, as well as our bioregional and global climate. Old-growth coast redwood forests are now world-renowned for their tremendous densities of biomass, and incomparable ability to store and sequester carbon dioxide. These critical forest ecosystem processes are just as depended upon biomass comprising of the herbaceous undergrowth as they are upon the giant trees we all know and love.

Humboldt Marten at Bait StationThe conversion of the vast majority of our forested landscape to early seral conditions has resulted in a one-two-punch effect for the Humboldt marten. On the one hand, historic and contemporary logging and conversion of the forest from old-growth to early seral conditions have significantly reduced the range and available habitat for the species, and at the same time facilitating expansion in the historic range of two of the marten’s primary predators, the Pacific fisher, and the bobcat. Slauson (2012) theorizes that restoration in the coast redwood forest can and must go hand-in-hand with habitat connectivity and restoration for the Humboldt marten, stating, “[s]uccessful restoration of the old-growth forest mesocarnivore assemblage in the redwood region will require an increase in the amount and connectivity of old forest conditions and reduction of road densities which should result in the expansion of the remnant Humboldt marten population and decreases in the range and abundance of the fisher and bobcat.”

Restoration, regeneration, and reconnection of our coastal old-growth redwood forests simply cannot be accomplished by focusing on our pre-existent parks and reserves alone; similarly, conservation and recovery of the Humboldt marten cannot be accomplished by focusing on our public lands alone. Landscape-level restoration and connectivity across land use designations and ownership classifications and boundaries, public and private alike, will be necessary to protect and reinvigorate critical and highly-imperiled ecological functions and processes in our remnant fragments of old-growth redwood forest, and to maintain the biological and genetic viability of the Humboldt marten.

At first glance, it may seem that the solutions to how restoration and connectivity in the coast redwood forest can be accomplished are as stealth and allusive as the Humboldt marten, given that so little old-growth remains, and that vast tracts of our redwood forestlands are now privately-owned and primarily managed for industrial timber production. Here, the Humboldt marten may unwittingly be the devisor of its own rescue plan, and thereby the rescuer of our old-growth coast redwood ecosystems as well.

One of the key remaining small, but highly isolated populations of the Humboldt marten is quietly hanging on along the interface between the coast redwood forest and the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Here, lands are owned and managed by the Redwood National and State Parks system, the Yurok Tribe, Six Rivers National Forest, and Green Diamond Resource Company. The overwhelming majority of the redwoods surrounding and adjacent to the Redwood National and State Parks system are owned by either Green Diamond or the Yurok Tribe. These lands are critical for the viability and recovery of both the Humboldt marten and our coastal redwood forests.

Since 2010, EPIC has advocated to protect and recover the Humboldt marten, and by extension, creating an impetus for landscape-level restoration and connectivity in the coast redwoods. We have used existing environmental laws designed to protect imperiled species like the marten as a proxy for trying to affect landscape management regime changes. EPIC’s 2010 petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Humboldt marten as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act spurred the creation of the Humboldt Marten Conservation Group, a working group comprised of agency, land owners, and scientists, all of whom are now working to draft a long-term conservation and recovery plan for the marten, a vital underpinning that involves landscape level forest habitat restoration and reconnection to help marten populations stabilize, facilitate greater movement and dispersal, and eventually help facilitate recovery.

In 2015, EPIC also petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the Humboldt marten as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act, hoping to marshal the resources and direct involvement of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and create greater opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and create more avenues for available funding through state-generated processes.

The old quip that humans “can’t see the forest for the trees,” at times, serves as a sobering allegory as we revisit the history and implications of past intensive logging of our old-growth trees in the coast redwoods. Fortunately, if we look closely enough, there yet remains, hiding quietly and patiently in the deep, dark shadows, the most unlikely of creatures that can serve as the impetus for us to restore, rebuild, and reconnect.


Lawsuit Initiated Over Politically Motivated Decision Denying Protection to Pacific Fishers

Monday, June 13th, 2016
By

Pacific Fisher FWS.govRare Carnivore Has Been Reduced to Two Populations in California, Oregon

EPIC and our allies filed a notice of intent today to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision in April to deny Endangered Species Act protection to Pacific fishers, the latest species to fall victim to the Service’s efforts to cater to industry. Closely related to martens and wolverines, Pacific fishers are severely threatened by a number of factors, including habitat loss caused by logging and the use of toxic rodenticides on illegal marijuana growing sites. Although the Service had recently proposed federal protections for Pacific fishers, the agency reversed course at the last minute in a bow to the timber industry.

“Fishers are staring extinction in the face, so it’s deeply disheartening to see Fish and Wildlife deny them the protection they need to survive,” said Justin Augustine, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Science, not politics, is supposed to drive these kinds of decisions, and that didn’t happen here.”

Fishers once roamed from British Columbia to Southern California, but due to intense logging and trapping, only two naturally occurring populations survive today: a population of 100 to 300 fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada and a population of 250 to a few thousand fishers in southern Oregon and Northern California. They have been reintroduced in three populations in the northern Sierra, southern Cascades and Washington State.

The decision to deny protections to the Pacific fisher is the latest in a string of politically motivated decisions from the Fish and Wildlife Service, in which regional staff overruled decisions by Service biologists to protect species. Two months ago a federal judge in Montana criticized the Service for bowing to political pressures in illegally reversing a proposal to protect the estimated 300 wolverines remaining in the lower 48 states. And in December 2015 conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Service for inexplicably denying protection to Humboldt martens, another rare West Coast carnivore on the brink of extinction.

A survey conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists last year indicated many Service scientists believe that increasingly there is inappropriate interference with science within the agency.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s denial of their own stated concerns and threats to this rare forest carnivore strongly suggests the agency has lost its professional courage to uphold its mission to protect biodiversity due to political pressure. Politics has no place in listing decisions,” said Susan Britting, executive director of Sierra Forest Legacy.

”Service scientists recently found that Pacific fishers are on the brink of extinction and face increasing threats from logging, climate change and especially from the indiscriminate use of toxic rodenticide poisons on marijuana grow sites,” said George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “The Service acknowledged these challenges supported the need for federal protection before deciding that politics was more important than the survival of the species.”

“Today the Pacific fisher has been isolated to just two locations in the United States,” said Greg Loarie, an Earthjustice attorney who drafted the notice. “If this doesn’t justify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using our bedrock environmental law — the Endangered Species Act — to protect an animal that needs our help to survive, then I don’t know what does.”

Efforts to protect the West Coast fisher have been going on for decades. The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned to protect the fisher in 1994, and the four conservation organizations seeking protection for the species today filed a second petition with allies in 2000. In 2004 the fisher was finally added to the candidate waiting list, when the Service determined that the fisher warranted protection but was precluded by higher priority species. In 2010 the Center sued over the delay in protecting the fisher and the Service agreed under a subsequent settlement decision to issue a decision this year. In 2014 the Service announced a proposed rule that would have protected Pacific fishers as a “threatened” species. But the Service abruptly withdrew its proposed rule in April of this year.

“The fisher has waited long enough for protection,” said Tom Wheeler, program director for the Environmental Protection Information Center. “No amount of agency delay, political pressure or obfuscation of science can change the truth: The fisher is threatened with extinction.”

The groups issuing today’s notice are the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Sierra Forest Legacy. They are represented by Earthjustice.

Fisher Notice of Intent Press Release


Westside Truth on the Ground

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
By
Westside Cutting Boundary

Westside Cutting Boundary

Editor’s note: EPIC proudly presents this article from EPIC member Bryan Randolph. Bryan wanted to see what the Westside Project looked like on the ground, so he went! Many thanks to Bryan for sharing his findings and photographs. If you are interested in groundtruthing, click here  for more information. Just be careful out there and be aware of closed roads, which can be found here.

Until a few weeks ago I was unfamiliar with the term ‘groundtruthing.’ I knew I wanted to help in some way with the opposition of the Westside logging project and decided to use the skills I already have. Backpacking has been one of my favorite outdoor activities for years, so groundtruthing, which combines exploring the backcountry, naturalism, photography and activism quickly became my new favorite activity.

“Thank you loggers for cleaning up the mess”

I saw this sign in a front yard while driving through the small town of Seiad Valley. Located on the Klamath River on Highway 96 about 120 miles north of Willow Creek, Seiad Valley is very close to some of the largest project areas of the Westside project, these areas are also the first to see operations begin. Less than a mile outside of town I pass signs for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), cross the Klamath and head towards Grider Creek. I park my truck, pack my backpack with enough food for the next two days and head into the Salt Creek (a tributary to Grider Creek) watershed. I soon cross into the project boundary marked by a white and blue flag, this area has clearly been hit heavily by the wildfires of 2014; however, I would not describe this landscape as a mess. It was actually very easy to move around in, and very much alive with wildflowers, berry bushes, and oak shrubs sprouting from the base of burned specimen. I imagine deer, elk, and bears being able to move and forage in this area with ease.

A few hundred feet after entering the project boundary, I find two ponderosa pines much larger than the surrounding growth, because these trees did not have any green foliage they are not marked for leave and will be cut. As I pull out my camera and GPS to snap a photo and create a waypoint to go with it, the sound of woodpeckers carving out new homes in these ideal snags, and the babbling Salt Creek fills my ears. Over the next 24 hours I have a run in with the Caroline Creek eagles, document lots of large trees (many on steep slopes) predator and bear scat, roaming deer, and Elk tracks along Walker Creek about 200 feet away from active roadside logging. Although the project areas are all on public land, the forest service has closed the area to the public. Being aware of this I travel off road and along creeks as much as possible. In the Walker Creek area I come up to the road to photograph piles freshly cut logs. Seconds after snapping some photos, Forest Service law enforcement came around the corner and removed me from the area, making it known that the presence of law enforcement has been amped up due to “protestors” and that being here is a citable offense. A few weeks earlier work was stopped in Walker creek by a blockade of forest defenders and Karuk tribe members. As we ride through an active work zone I notice trees of larger size, or merchantable trees, line the road way while the smaller trees were left on the landscape.

“The Language of Industry”

My groundtruthing didn’t end there however, determined to explore other areas I head to the Marble Mountains where the PCT comes close to a few project areas. I hiked to the Tyler Meadows timber sale, bordering the northeast corner of Marble Mountain Wilderness and into the Grider Creek headwaters. Here I find more questionably large and some living trees to be cut on very steep slopes. I can now say I know these areas first hand. I can also say that the language the Forest Service has used goes against everything we know about the forest ecology of the Klamath-Siskyou bio region. The word salvage implies these forests were rendered useless by fire, what I found was a landscape cleared of impassable brush making it friendly to traveling and grazing ungulates (and bi pedal apes!). I found a large variety of plant life (no poison oak!) bursting to life in this post fire ecosystem, I wonder how these plants will fair with the trampling of industry, or the hot summer sun without snags to provide crucial shade. Instead of a thinning, the largest trees will be taken while the small, unprofitable trees will be left on the land. You would expect the opposite from a plan boasting ‘fuels reduction’ and ‘recovery.’

Bringing you the truth on the ground,

Bryan Randolph

 

All photos and text by Bryan Randolph.

 


Kin to the Earth

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
By

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. This article was originally published in the Northcoast Environmental Center’s newspaper, EcoNews.

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
By
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
By

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.

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
By

 

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.
https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http%3A//www.wildcalifornia.org/blog/the-great-forest-giveaway/


Klamath River Timber Sales Offered at Lowest Price in Recent History

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
By
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
By

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
By

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
By

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
By

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.