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Old Growth in the New Economy

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
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Two year old Madrone Shelton hugs Grandfather TreeReaching capacity, people nestled tightly into Nelson Hall at Humboldt State University eagerly awaiting a lecture sponsored by Pacific Forest Trust entitled “Old Growth in the New Economy.” The lecture featured preeminent Northwest forest ecologist Dr. Jerry Franklin of the University of Washington, and Humboldt State University’s distinguished redwood ecologist Dr. Steve Sillett. The dialog focused on the roles and characteristics of Northwestern old growth forests, the ecosystem functions they provide, and how forest stewardship can benefit climate, wildlife, water, and a sustained resource economy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
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babyRaccoonRyanAnkenyTake Action: On Tuesday, July 22nd, at 1PM, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will discuss the future of Wildlife Services funding.

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

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

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

Wildlife Services Employee Poses for Photo After Killing Coyote

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
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SmithIn response to a lawsuit by EPIC and other conservation groups, Caltrans has agreed to reassess impacts of a controversial highway-widening project in Del Norte County on protected salmon and their habitat along the Wild and Scenic Smith River. A settlement agreement will keep in place a court-ordered halt of construction work until Caltrans completes consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the Order of Stipulation

Click here to view the Official Press Release


Smith River Threatened by Strip Mining

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
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Smith-RiverTake Action! The Wild & Scenic North Fork Smith River is being targeted for a large nickel mine that would devastate the area for recreation, pollute public drinking water in California, damage critical habitat for the federally threatened coho salmon and other fisheries, and destroy the purest waters in the West.

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

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

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

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

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


Old Growth, Climate Change and Connectivity

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
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Old Growth.K.BakerGlobal warming is changing the planet’s ecosystems. The largest oldest trees store the greatest amounts of carbon and play a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The movement to protect our vital forests is building rapid momentum.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full comments.


EPIC in Review

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
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EPIC Kate Wolf 2014-2The Environmental Protection Information Center has no problem keeping busy. This last weekend EPIC staff reached out to thousands of people at the Kate Wolf Festival, gathered hundreds of signatures to Connect Wild Places, and to oppose the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. At this event, we quickly realized that people are deeply concerned with the fate of our environment, and want to know what is going on, and how they can contribute towards safeguarding the ecosystems that we all depend upon. We greatly appreciate these opportunities where we get to know the roots of our community and build the lifelong bonds that fuel our work. For those of you who do not have the opportunity to meet with us in person and get updates on our work, we hope the digest below will keep you informed on some of the most contemporary issues that we are currently addressing.

Federal Forest Carbon Coalition letter to the Obama Administration to mitigate and prepare for climate disruption – Science-based recommendations in response to the President’s November 1, 2013 Executive Order: Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.

Comment letter to Redwood National and State Parks for Bald Hills Road Pavement Project - This letter urges the consideration of an alternatives that would not include paving Bald Hills Road.

Comment letter regarding second growth thinning for Middle Fork Lost Man Creek - A letter of support for thinning over-dense second-growth forest stands in Redwood National Park.

Letter of opposition for the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act of 2014 – S. 2094 is a bill that would perpetuate a regulatory scheme that continues to place the economic burden associated with invasive species on the nation’s taxpayers rather than shifting it to the industry responsible for bringing those species into the nation’s waters. Click here to view the Fact Sheet relating to S. 2094.

Letter of support for the Mokelumne River Bill – SB 1199 would designate the Mokelumne River as a Wild and Scenic River, which would permanently protect 37 miles of river.

Letter opposing the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014H.R. 4899 would undermine how the Department of Interior manages federal lands to prioritize oil and gas development over alternative uses of federal lands and waters.

Letter of appreciation to the California Fish and Game Commission thanking the Commission for taking action to protect the gray wolf under the California Endangered Species Act.

Letter to Oregon Water Resources Department opposing the Red Flat Nickel Corporation’s mining proposal - The mining company has requested to use water for mining activities in the National Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River and Baldface Creek watersheds.

Comment letter regarding AB 2082 - The bill proposes minimum resource conservation standards or minimum stocking standards pertaining to forest practices on private forestlands in California.

Letter regarding Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement that evaluates an amendment to the 2008 Tongass National Forest Plan - This coalition letter encourages a land management plan for Tongass National Forest that ends large-scale old-growth logging.

 

 

 

 


Now Accepting Nominations for EPIC Board of Directors

Friday, June 20th, 2014
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join now buttonWANTED: Professional, assertive, creative, problem-solvers interested in joining the EPIC Board of Directors.

We are looking for people with experience in the following areas:

  • non-profit governance;
  • conservation science;
  • financial management;
  • environmental law;
  • policy development;
  • fundraising; and
  • event planning.

Current EPIC Members* may apply to become a Board Member between July 1 and July 31 for the next Board of Director’s year, which begins on January 1.

Prospective candidates are asked to fill out an application (available online or in hard-copy format at the office), describing qualifications, skills, and what they would bring to the Board. Applications must be submitted to the Executive Director (natalynne@wildcalifornia.org) by August 1.

Current Board of Directors can be viewed here.

EPIC Bylaws Amended

Shared democracy, transparent decision making and active community participation are important to EPIC.  Because of these values the Board of Directors proposed changes to the section of bylaws dealing with the nomination and election of the Board of Directors. In June, the membership voted and approved the changes. Click here to read the amended bylaws.

*Current member: an individual who has donated $35 or more between November 1 and to the following December 31 (14-month period).


Take Action to Stop the Bay Delta Conservation Plan

Thursday, June 19th, 2014
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USBR Construction of pump station at Delta-Mendota Canal

USBR Construction of pump station at Delta-Mendota Canal

Take action now to stop the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The $67 billion infrastructure project proposes to construct two massive tunnels that would funnel water from Northern to Southern California. The Plan calls itself a comprehensive conservation strategy aimed at protecting dozens of species of fish and wildlife, but in reality the 40,000 page document fails to disclose major irreversible impacts to fish, rivers and the economic stability of the state of California. River systems throughout California have been experiencing extreme drought conditions, and historic water rights have not been honored due to the lack of water in our rivers and reservoirs. Building two giant tunnels to transport water from the San Joaquin Delta is not going to carry out either of the Plan’s two main goals: to reliably transport more water to San Joaquin farms and Southern California cities, or to restore the fisheries and ecology of the delta.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/S) uses models based on over-allocated water rights to analyze the Plan’s environmental impacts, which would result in severe environmental consequences. Building more irrigation infrastructure, as the Plan proposes, is not going to fix drought problems in California. Instead, these projects will exacerbate drought conditions, resulting in greater impacts to endangered fish by reducing flows to impaired watersheds, draining estuaries that are essential to healthy river ecosystems, and allowing the continued operation of pumps that will kill fish that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The “conservation plan” should instead reduce exports that take water out of rivers, prioritize delta recovery, and improve water conservation measures.

EPIC is part of the Environmental Water Caucus (EWC), which is a collective of environmental and water rights organizations that have joined forces to deal with water issues throughout the state of California. The comments we have developed are abbreviated and adapted from the EWC’s collective comments on the massive DEIR/S that has stirred controversy over the state’s scarce water resources. Help us stop this damaging project before irreversible harm is done to our rivers, fish and the state’s economic stability. Please click here to submit your public comment.

 


EPIC in Review

Friday, June 13th, 2014
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20140531_164412

Over the past few weeks, EPIC has worked to protect wolves in California, stood up to big timber companies, advocated for the Wild and Scenic rivers and endangered species, protected Northern Spotted Owls, opposed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, requested amendments to groundwater legislation, and worked to protect water quality on timber lands. The documents below are a sample of our efforts to protect the wildlife, forests and watersheds of the North Coast. Several of these documents are the product of larger groups that we work with to develop coalition letters, and other documents are original works produced by EPIC staff. We hope that sharing these works with our readers will bring an awareness of some of the issues that we are addressing to protect the environment that we are rooted in.

EPIC Comments Regarding “Scorpion King” and “Boomer.” These two THPs are proposed by Sierra Pacific Industries and would result in take of Northern Spotted Owls as a result of the cumulative effects of multiple harvest entries over a short time.

Environmental Water Caucus Comment Letter on the 40,000 page Bay Delta Conservation Plan and EIR/EIS. This 259 page comment letter was developed by a coalition of water and conservation advocacy groups including EPIC. The letter outlines environmental impacts to endangered species populations, rivers, the San Joaquin Delta and to the state’s overall water supply.

EPIC Motion for Stay filed with the State Water Resources Control Board. The motion requests a stay of the effect of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of a property-wide forest operations Waste Discharge Requirement permit (WDR) order for Green Diamond property back in 2012. The motion for stay is in response to the State Board’s failure to address a petition to review the Regional Board’s approval of the order that EPIC filed in 2012.

HR 4272 Opposition Letter. The Forest Access in Rural Communities Act would modify motor vehicle use on public lands, which would tie the hands of Forest Service managers across the country who work to protect public safety, recreational experiences, and endangers protections for drinking water resources, wildlife and forest resources.

Northern California Prescribed Fire Council letter of support for AB2465. The bill would officially recognize the benefits of prescribed fire in California’s fire-adapted landscapes and facilitate new levels of professionalism for private lands burners throughout the state.

Letters to Senator Pavley and Assemblyman Anthony Rendon requesting amendments to ground water legislation to address the impact that groundwater extraction can have on California’s streams.

Letter of opposition for four House of Representatives bills that would damage the Endangered Species Act. These bills “would undermine the essential protections of the Endangered Species Act by obstructing the development and use of scientific research, squandering agency resources and chilling citizen enforcement.”


Tour of Mattole Timber Harvest Plans

Friday, June 13th, 2014
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group mattole

The group discussing forest policy.

This week, EPIC staff and interns visited active and proposed timber operations on Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) lands in the Mattole Valley. Logging operations on HRC lands along the north fork the Mattole River have been at the center of recent protests and public scrutiny.

The controversy over HRC’s timber harvest operations on Long Ridge in the Mattole Valley has arisen out of concerns that the company is logging old growth and harvesting in unentered forest stands. HRC, for its part, insists that it is not logging old growth trees, and that harvesting in previously unentered stands will not alter the ecological function of those stands.

HRC agreed to a tour inviting EPIC, concerned members of the public and forest activists. Activists guided the tour, taking the group to the harvest areas of concern spending the entire day in the field viewing the active Long Ridge Cable and proposed Long Reach Timber Harvest Plans.

decadent fir

Unique and decadent trees such as this fir are marked Leave.

The group unanimously confirmed that the Long Reach THP intends to harvest in unentered stands of mixed age-class with varied types of hardwood and fir trees on steep and unstable slopes; however we saw no evidence that the company intends to log individual old growth trees or in old growth stands. The most unique, interesting and largest trees were marked with an “L” for leave and the late successional characteristics of the stand are to be preserved after harvest.

The question of whether or not previously unentered forest stands should automatically qualify as old growth or otherwise be protected is at the crux of the issues surrounding HRC timber harvest operations in the Mattole.

While HRC has a voluntary policy against the logging of individual old growth trees or in old growth stands, the company currently has no policy prohibiting the harvest of previously unentered stands if they do not meet the criteria of an old growth stand (age, size, structural component and density requirement of 6 or more per acre).

While large, these trees were between 100-120 years old.

While large, these trees were between 100-120 years old.

Also of great concern is the safety of forest activists while protesting in active logging areas. HRC has offered that forest defenders can observe timber operations from a safe distance and with appropriate safety gear.

EPIC commends Humboldt Redwood Company’s old growth protection, and efforts to continue working toward building positive community relationships. We are immensely grateful to the forest activists for their watchful monitoring, dedication to the protection of nature, and their ability to keep all parties honest and accountable.

We are committed to continuing to work with community members and Humboldt Redwood Company. Given the unique characteristics of the Mattole Valley, and especially Long Ridge, EPIC would like to see additional protection measures developed in the future for unentered forest stands.

For more information on this topic, tune into KMUD’s Environment Show on Tuesday, June 24th, from 7-8pm. We will be talking about the Mattole, Humboldt Redwood Company and taking calls from listeners.

Looking at the 200-acre High Conservation Value Forest on the north-slope of Long Ridge, immediately adjacent to the THPs in question.

Looking at the 200-acre High Conservation Value Forest on the north-slope of Long Ridge, immediately adjacent to the THPs in question.


Protect the Wild Salmon River – Stop “Salvage” Logging

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
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Photo#1_KellyGulchTake Action! The Wild and Scenic (W&S) North Fork Salmon River is threatened with post-fire “salvage” logging. The Salmon/Scott River Ranger District of the Klamath National Forest (NF) is proposing to streamline logging on over 1,000 acres of steep slopes, including road construction over trails and overgrown roads.  Over 60% of the project area is within Critical Habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl.  The W&S North Fork Salmon River is designated a Key watershed, meaning it is critical for salmon recovery.  The river is also listed under the Clean Water Act as being impaired. This project jeopardizes the wild and rugged nature of the North Fork Salmon River.

The Klamath NF Environmental Analysis of the Salmon Salvage project continues to claim that no new roads are needed, however one of the “existing” roadbeds, nearly a mile long, has not been used for decade. It is grown over, laden with landslides and located on a steep and unstable hillside. Heavy equipment and severe earth moving would be required to make it ready for 18 wheeler logging trucks. Where there are roads, there are landings to accommodate heavy equipment.  Landings are bulldozed flats that are 1/2-acre to up to two-acre openings.

Photo#2

Kelly Gulch A Spur “Existing” Road

Photo#3_LookCloseFlaging

Same “road” look close for flagging, which indicates location of the road

Over 300 acres of the project is within larger forest stands.  One of these areas along the Garden Gulch Trail provides high quality Critical Habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, and is a popular gateway that leads into the Marble Mountain Wilderness.  EPIC and the conservation community have been defending this beautiful forest stand for a decade, first fighting the Knob Timber Sale, and then recently in opposition to the Little Cronan Timber Sale.  The agency is calling the trail an “existing” road, and now proposes to open the Garden Gulch trail, which is adjacent to a creek, to 18-wheeler logging trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

Garden Gulch Trail next to the creek and proposed road location

Garden Gulch Trail next to the creek and proposed road location

This particular forest stand, Unit 345, contains hundreds of big older trees, many of which are still very alive and green. It provides a vital link for wildlife connectivity and exemplifies high quality mixed conifer post-fire habitat.  The area burned at moderate to low severity contributing to the ecological quality of this ideal post-fire forest stand.  These trees are providing shade and valuable wildlife habitat, creating a healthy complex forest structure, all part of a natural process. Bulldozers, trucks, roads and landings do not belong on this trail or in this showcase post-fire habitat forest stand.

Southern Boundary next to the Garden Gulch Trail

Southern Boundary next to the Garden Gulch Trail

There are five Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) home ranges within the project vicinity.  Recent science shows that the owls benefit from burned forest stands and that post-fire logging has the potential to increase extinction rates, especially when done within core areas.  The NSO species Recovery Plans calls for “conserving and restoring habitat elements that take a long time to develop (e.g., large trees, medium and large snags, downed wood).

In their rush to implement this ecologically damaging project, the agency has sought an Emergency Situation Determination (ESD) from the regional forester.  If the request for an ESD were to be granted it would mean that trees can be cut down as soon as a decision is issued and a contract is signed, despite any appeal or claims brought in court.  Seeking an ESD circumvents judicial review, eliminating the public’s recourse in challenging poor decisions that threaten our public lands.

Take Action Today to Stop the Salmon River Salvage Project! Let Patricia Grantham, Forest Supervisor of Klamath National Forest know that you oppose post-fire logging that results in habitat destruction and road construction in designated Key watersheds like the North Fork Salmon River. Post-fire landscapes are considered to be one of the most rare, endangered, and ecologically important habitats in the western U.S.  They are rich, vibrant and alive and often provide more biodiversity than green forests.  Read more about the environmental effects of post-fire logging.  Take a walk in Garden Gulch.   See the overgrown unused Kelly Gulch A Spur Road on steep and unstable hillsides proposed for re-construction.  View more photos here.


Gray Wolf gets California Endangered Species Protections!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
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OR-7's pups_stephenson_usfws cropped

Two of OR-7′s pups peek out from behind the log. Rogue National Forest. Photo courtesy of USFWS.

Great news for wolves! Early this afternoon, the California State Fish and Game Commission voted three to one to grant protections to Gray Wolves under the California Endangered Species Act.

The decision came after three hours of testimony from nearly two hundred members of the public, many of who were dressed in gray and wearing paper hats shaped and painted like wolves. One especially endearing comment, which made the entire hall smile, was delivered by two-year toddler Madrone Shelton who clearly stated to the Commissioners, “protect wolves.”

Cuteness was in the air when a new photo from the Oregon Department of Wildlife surfaced that verified California’s famous wandering wolf, OR-7 and his new mate, had successfully sired a litter of puppies!

This announcement further cemented the need to list the wolf under the California Endangered Species Act. It is likely that OR-7 and his family will travel back into California once the pups are old enough, and protections under the law will help ensure their future safety.

The serendipitous humor of OR-7′s activities could not be better timed. Back in February, the very day that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told Commissioners that listing was not warranted because there were no wolves present, OR-7 jumped the border back into California; and again, as if on cue, today’s news of OR-7′s puppies happened within minutes of the Department’s stating that there is still not a breeding pair of wolves in California and that the other wolf that has been spotted with OR-7, may not be female.

We think OR-7 was trying to tell us something—that California is wolf country and that we will have wolves within our state in the very near future, so be prepared!

Meanwhile, the process for developing a California Wolf Management Plan is still underway. EPIC, and other groups representing a diverse set of interests, are helping the Department of Fish and Wildlife develop a management plan that balances the biological needs of wolves and the needs of society.

For more than two years, we have worked to get protections put in place for Gray Wolves. We could not have done it without you. Together we have sent more than 4,000 comments to Commissioners and today we were delivered a sweet and satisfying victory for wildlife protection.

Let us celebrate this announcement by sending out a collective howl for the future of California’s wolves, “Ahh-wooooooo!”

Wolf Pack 2


EPIC In Review

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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HolmFayMG_8852-copy-1024x682When it comes to getting work done, our little organization packs a giant punch.  In recent days, we have been involved in numerous campaigns and are excited to be a part of these grass roots efforts that are shaping our environment and our future. To keep you informed of our happenings, we have provided a sample of the work that we have been involved with over the past few weeks.

Comments to urge Del Norte County to better analyze the Tryon Bridge replacement project - As proposed, this project would result in impacts to the Smith River and steelhead, coho and chinook salmon populations.

California Drought Bill letter - The Drought Bill (HR 3964), proposes to waive major elements of state and federal environmental laws and de-designates a portion of the Merced wild and scenic river. EPIC has joined the Environmental Water Caucus in calling on Representatives to reject this environmentally damaging legislation.

Letter of Support for Humboldt County No GMO Ordinance - This letter urges Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance that would ban GMOs in Humboldt County. The County had the opportunity to enact the ordinance without going before voters, but voted instead to put it on the November Ballot.

Environmental Coalition Letter to Feinstein and Boxer - As written, Senate Bill 2198 would exacerbate impacts on the environment and the salmon industry without addressing the underlying causes of water shortages. This letter urges Senators Boxer and Feinstein to ensure that their legislation reduces the impacts of the drought on California’s environment and the salmon fishery.

Grassroots Fracking Letter - This coalition letter urges members of the California Legislature to support SB 1132, which will impose a moratorium on fracking, acidizing and other will stimulation techniques.

Request for comment time extension of Bay Delta Conservation Plan - As proposed, BDCP is lacking an implementation agreement, which defines obligations, provides assurances, ensures adequate funding, specifies responsibility for implementing measures, provides for enforcement and remedies for failure, and establishes the process for changes. In this letter, EPIC and others request an extension of the public comment period since the BDCP is incomplete without the implementation agreement because it does not specify any commitments the parties have made to fund and promote mitigation measures.

These efforts would not be possible without your financial contributions. Please consider making a donation to help us continue protecting your wild back yard.

 


Wolf Night Teach-in & Fish and Game Commission Hearing

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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wolf-event-flyer-final-CS5Join us for our “Wolf Night and Teach-in” on Monday, June 2nd, from 6-8pm at the D-Street Neighborhood Center (1301 D Street in Arcata), featuring a film screening, guest speakers, sign making, and tips on speaking to the Commission. This event is designed to prepared people for the upcoming California Fish and Game Commission hearing. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.

The California Fish and Game Commission is coming to Fortuna and wants to hear from you. Attend the hearing in person on Wednesday, June 4th, at 8:30am at the Fortuna River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Drive in Fortuna), and ask Commissioners to give wolves full state protection under the California Endangered Species Act. Come early for a rally starting at 7:30am, bring signs and wear gray to show your support for listing.

All events are kid friendly, free and open to the public.

Hosted by: the Environmental Protection Information Center, Bird Ally X, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Northcoast Environmental Center.


Nesting Eagles Harassed with Helicopter Logging

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
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IMG_2140Last week the Klamath National Forest took a calculated risk to knowingly harass a pair of Bald eagles and their babies with helicopter logging just 1,500 feet from their nest. Logging this close to the nest occurred continuously for over a week and is expected to continue in this general area.

A Happy Camp resident who has been observing this pair raising their young every year for the past 24 years, alerted EPIC last week. The adult eagles have shown very erratic behavior and have been heard screeching in distress every day logging has occurred. We contacted the ranger, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the wildlife biologist to understand why and by what legal authority allowed the Klamath National Forest to risk killing the nestlings.

Although there were limited operating periods designed and put in place to protect the nestlings, logging was taking place just outside of a Bald Eagle Management Area set up for this particular nest site. Eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act but are still protected by the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which can bring criminal and civil penalties for any person or organization taking or disturbing them. A violation of the Act can result in a criminal fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.

Management recommendations from the 2007 Bald Eagle Management Plan does allow some level of disturbance and is very lenient. Because of the public outcry and immediate attention from our organization the Happy Camp Ranger District has a wildlife biologist monitoring the nest during logging activity. The biologist has seen one nestling and the eagles are still tending to their babies.

Disruptive activities in or near eagle foraging areas can interfere with feeding, reducing chances of survival. Young nestlings are particularly vulnerable because they rely on their parents to provide warmth or shade, without which they may die as a result of hypothermia or heat stress. If food delivery schedules are interrupted, the young may not develop healthy plumage, which can affect their survival. Interference with feeding can also result in reduced productivity (number of young successfully fledged). Older nestlings no longer require constant attention from the adults, but they may be startled by loud or intrusive human activities and prematurely jump from the nest before they are able to fly or care for themselves. Once fledged, juveniles range up to 1⁄4 mile from the nest site, often to a site with minimal human activity. During this period, until about six weeks after departure from the nest, the juveniles still depend on the adults to feed them.

Where a human activity agitates or bothers roosting or foraging bald eagles to the degree that causes injury or substantially interferes with breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior and causes, or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest abandonment, the conduct of the activity constitutes a violation of the Eagle Act’s prohibition against disturbing eagles. If observations show that the logging has resulted in any of these negative affects EPIC will look into pressing charges for violations of the Bald Eagle Protection Act.


Speak up for the Future of California’s Gray Wolves!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
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lone-wolf-or7-portland-mate-01_79908_990x742

A remote camera captured this photo of OR7, aka Journey, on May 3, 2014, in Jackson County, Oregon.

Take Action: Urge the California Fish and Game Commission to list the Gray Wolf under the California Endangered Species Act.

It is only a matter of time before wolves fully reestablish themselves in California and they need the fullest protection under the law to be able to be able to recover.

We know of one occasional visitor, iconic wandering wolf OR-7 also known as “Journey,” but there maybe other wild wolves in the state that we don’t know about. Coming from Oregon, these charismatic predators will disperse into California’s long unoccupied, high-quality habitat full of deer and other game. The return of wolves to California’s landscape will bring invaluable benefits to ecosystems, and conservation of these apex predators is a must.

Good News:

Lone wolf, OR-7, doesn’t appear to be so lonely any more. Remote cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon indicate that Journey has found a mate and the two have likely denned with puppies. In his travels, Journey has staked out a territory in southwest Oregon’s Cascade mountain range with occasional forays into California. It won’t be long before this new pack travels back into California!

Click here to read EPIC’s comments from March 28, 2014 to the Commission.

Click here to read EPIC’s supplemental comments to the California Fish and Game Commission, May 22, 2014.

 


Federal Court Halts Caltrans Highway-widening Project Along Smith River

Monday, May 5th, 2014
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SmithCites Potential Impacts to Smith River, Coho Salmon in Granting Injunction

Northern District Court judge James Donato issued a preliminary injunction late Friday enjoining Caltrans from any further work on a controversial highway-widening project along the wild and scenic Smith River Canyon, until a court hearing scheduled for November 19. The judge cited substantial procedural violations of the Endangered Species Act and the potential for irreparable harm to endangered coho salmon and their critical habitat in the Smith River if the project goes forward.

“Caltrans should let this expensive and unneeded project die. Major excavation shouldn’t occur on such steep slopes along narrow, rural roads and within critical salmon habitat,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court agreed that halting the project is in the public interest to protect endangered salmon.”

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

“This project with its huge cuts in our narrow Smith River Canyon, was ill-conceived from the start, as is confirmed by Judge Donato’s decision,” said Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte. “The Coho Salmon Recovery Plan, when implemented, will have a much greater positive economic impact on our local economy than allowing oversized trucks to have unsafe access to our local highways.”

Friends of Del Norte, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed lawsuits in state and federal court in 2013 challenging Caltrans’ approval of the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project” due to inadequate review of the environmental impacts. Caltrans began cutting trees and removing vegetation close to the Smith River in January 2014 and was scheduled to begin major earth-moving and construction work this month.

“This decision by the federal court should be a wake up call to our elected officials regarding public concerns about Caltrans playing fast and loose with environmental laws,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of EPIC. “A thorough and adequate review process is needed to resolve the environmental and public safety concerns that our communities have about this project.”

The judge ruled that there is a risk of irreparable harm to the Smith River if the project were to proceed before the case is heard on its merits. The court also ruled that there a valid argument has been raised by plaintiffs that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the federal Endangered Species Act by failing to properly analyze whether the project will jeopardize protected coho salmon or their critical habitat. The court characterized both agencies’ biological assessment documents for the project as “contradictory and unclear,” citing “serious questions about the adequacy of the ESA review and consultation process” raised by the plaintiffs. The court noted that it “cannot rubber-stamp a haphazard consultation process.”

Caltrans tried to downplay the threat project construction poses to salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River and failed to look at safety hazards from increased truck traffic. Caltrans has thus far refused to consider alternatives besides widening the highway and ignored the cumulative impacts of numerous other associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. Despite NMFS own data concerning the imperiled status of coho salmon in the Smith River, the agency rubber-stamped the project without giving it anything close to a sufficient review.

Background

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

Highway 197 is a 7-mile, two-lane country road that runs north to south along the lower Smith River, just northeast of Crescent City. It is a rural-residential route with 72 driveways directly entering onto the road. In order to avoid Jedediah Smith State Park at the western edge of the project, oversized trucks would divert off Highway 199 and travel along Highway 197 to the north of Crescent City to reach Highway 101.

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

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

Order Granting Preliminary Injunction

EPIC Press Release: Federal Court Halts Caltrans Smith River Project


2013 Annual Report Now Available

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
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annual reportWe are proud to share with our members, supporters and extended family the 2013 Annual Report, which contains a wealth of information about what our grassroots environmental activist organization has been up to in the past year. For 36 years, our staff has worked tirelessly to advocate for the protection of the wild places and creatures that make up the unique redwood bioregion of wild California.

Since 1977, using an integrated science-based approach that combines public education, citizen advocacy and strategic litigation, EPIC has been working to ensure that state and federal agencies follow their mandate to uphold environmental law. If you are not already a member, please support our work by making a donation to help us protect and restore the ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries and endangered species in Northwest California. Our organization has survived this long thanks to the support of our dedicated members who have continually believed in our work and ability to protect the environment that we all depend upon.

Click here to download the 2013 Annual Report


Wolf Recovery an Imperative for Ecosystem Restoration

Monday, April 28th, 2014
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Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack. -Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack.
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

The importance of recovery of viable populations of wolves on the landscapes of Northern California has been clear to EPIC since before the first time the famous lone wolf “Journey” crossed over into California two years ago. Since that moment, EPIC has dedicated important time and resources to engaging in stakeholder processes and endangered species advocacy in order to contribute to a broadly shared conservation community objective of seeing wolves return to the wild and thrive in California. Our organization is part of a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to have the gray wolf listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), and North Coast wildlife advocates will have an unprecedented opportunity to provide public comment in support of CESA protections for the Gray Wolf when the Fish and Game Commission meets on Wednesday, June 4th at the River Lodge in Fortuna. EPIC has also had an active role in a nationwide coalition challenging the scientifically unfounded and clearly untimely proposal to remove Federal Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf throughout the majority of the predator’s current and potential range in the continental United States.

These advocacy actions for the wolf are imperative. At EPIC we see wolf recovery as an important goal of its own accord, as well as being an indispensable watermark for measuring progress towards objectives of true restoration of ecosystems in Northern California. What has become clear to those of us working for the wolf is that wolf recovery is an absolute necessity in California because bringing back the wolf would be one of the most attainable landscape level wildlife restoration accomplishments for working towards the reestablishment of natural processes, including predator-prey relationships, in our extended bioregion.

When comparing wolf recovery with the recovery of wild salmon runs, we believe that there is strong evidence that getting the wolf back onto the landscape is probably going to be much easier than bringing back the salmon. Thus, if we cannot as a society bring back the wolf it is highly unlikely that we will bring back the salmon. And taking this a step further, if we cannot bring back the wolf, and thus cannot bring back the salmon, it is pretty much impossible to contemplate a time in the future when we will be able to restore populations of grizzly bear to California wildlands.

Bringing back the griz would certainly require an amazing amount of preparation and planning, as well as commitment and willpower, on a cultural and political level. We now understand better than ever before, however, that if we cannot succeed in bringing the wolf back to California, then it is impossible to even contemplate bringing back the griz. Thus, wolf recovery is the moment of reckoning for Californian’s, because as goes the wolf so will go the grizzly. With the icon of the grizzly an integral part of state symbolism, especially with the grizzly is so prominently displayed on the state flag, this is not an irrelevant matter. What does it mean to have a world renowned symbol of wildlife on our flag when there is a total absence of vision or commitment on the part of California residents and our state government to make the griz more than just a colorful symbol and to restore the great bear to it’s rightful place on the landscape? This is why at EPIC we believe that recovery of the wolf is so important, because it comes at the crossroads of the myth vs. the reality of our wild California, one in which wildlife is glorified, but little is done to rectify the disappearance and absence of that wildlife from our ecosystems.

It is with a wry smile that we say then that we must bring back the wolf, we must bring back the salmon, and we must bring back the griz — and if we cannot commit to bringing back the griz, let’s get it off our flag! Let’s stop playing make believe games about how wild our state really isn’t. Now is the time. Bring back the griz– or get it off the flag. And the first step to keeping the grizzly on our flag and eventually someday back on to our landscapes is to show our commitment to having top predators in the wildlands of our state, and to commit fully to wolf recovery now. There is not a moment to lose.

SAVE THE DATE! California Fish and Game Commission will take public comment regarding the petition to have the Gray Wolf listed as “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act when the Commission meets at the River Lodge in Fortuna on Wednesday, June 4. Plan now to come out on June 4th in Fortuna and “howl” for restoring wolves to California wildlands!