Dear Santa: Save our Beautiful Wild Rivers from Strip Mining

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Santa and river image for alertTake Action: All we want for Christmas is a mineral withdrawal

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

Here’s what’s at stake:

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

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

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

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

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



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

EPIC Arts Arcata and Membership Mixer December 12

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

EPIC Membership SlideCelebrate Arts Alive at the EPIC office on Friday, December 12th from 6-9pm! Meet our Board and Staff and hear about our exciting new programs for 2015. Local artist and film-maker, Thomas Dunklin will feature his photography that focuses on local fisheries. At 7pm we will be presenting a slideshow outlining recent accomplishments, and new projects we will undertake in the coming year. 

We will offer art, wine, snacks and a raffle prize, so come visit our workspace, listen to some music, check out local photography and connect with the Northern Humboldt forest protection community at 145 G Street, Suite A in Arcata!

Click here to invite your friends on Facebook!

EPIC Unveils New Strategic Plan

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Biodiversity and the resilience of the environment are deeply intertwined.

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

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

Connecting Working and Wild Forests

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

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

Collaborate with conservation allies, including tribal representatives;

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

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

Ensuring Best Management of Public Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Address threats to wilderness resources from unmanaged cattle; and

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

Ensuring Best Management of Private Industrial Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Institutional Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPIC Banner_Because Life Depends on Healthy Forests_ 700x116

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

Friday, December 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Caltrans claimed the highway-widening project was needed to accommodate large-truck travel, but acknowledged that the portion of road in question was already designated for larger trucks and did not have significant safety problems. The agency did not establish that the project was necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy. Smaller-sized commercial trucks have travelled through the grove for years to deliver goods to Humboldt County, and legislative exemptions have functioned to allow the passage of oversize trucks.

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

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

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

EPIC Richardson Grove Press Release 12.5.14

EPIC Evening at the Palm Dec. 6

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

An EPIC Evening at The Palm, brings Eclectic Art, Sultry Jazz, Spicy Burlesque and a Cocktail Dance Party to the Historic Eureka Inn.

Burningleaf Productions is proud to present, An EPIC Evening at the Palm, a grand and swanky cocktail party fundraiser for the Environmental Protection Information Center. EPIC is dedicated to the protection and restoration of the forests of Northwestern California.

BadablingCome out in your glamour and glitz to sip some cocktails, enjoy eclectic art, listen to live jazz, be seduced by burlesque and dance the night away at the Palm lounge in the Historic Eureka Inn on December 6th. Hosted by the newly crowned “Mr. Humboldt”, Comedian, John McClurg, will entertain and enliven throughout night.

Start out the evening early and come celebrate Arts Alive! with a collaborative art show including four local artists exhibiting their works beginning at 7pm. Live music will the fill the air with a classy Jazz trio comprised of Brigette Brannan, Marcia Mendels and Chris Manspeaker .

DJ COPPERTON3 will bring the party to the next level at 9pm, as the audience prepares to be enraptured by Southern Humboldt’s Bada Bling! Burlesque. Bringing a sizzling array of performances to this intimate setting will certainly spice things up on this vivacious occasion.

DJ Jsun, founder of the Deep Groove Society will keep things shaking with his flirty and fluid house music. And to top the night off, everyone’s favorite Brazilian, DJ Marjo Lak brings a buttery bounce with her eclectic, tribal fusion, swinging house beats.

Tickets for an EPIC Evening at the Palm available at the door. Tickets will be on sale at the door at 518 7th St in Eureka for a sliding scale of $15-$25. Art Reception opens at 7pm with live jazz. Doors for Burlesque show & DJ’s 9pm. This is a 21 and over event. Special room rates offered at the Eureka Inn. Call (707)497-6093 to inquire. For more Information contact Jenny Metz at 707-223-3849 or Evening4.png

EPIC in Review

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Redwood Tree Sit

As usual, EPIC is busy upholding environmental laws both at home, and across the nation. Over the past few months our staff has advocated for the protection of old growth in the Klamath National Forest, opposed the Federal Drought Bill and bad forestry bills, requested endangered species protections for monarch butterflies, requested action to protect families from harmful pesticides and submitted petitions on behalf of tens of thousands of people to protect wildlife and wild places. This list of documents is a sample of the many ways we engage with agencies and elected officials to make this world a better place, one issue at a time. Thank you to all of our members who take the time to make individual comments on these issues and for getting engaged with environmental protection on a deeper level. We are in regular contact with officials and it is clear that the agencies are listening and our comments are making a difference in the management of our natural resources.

Westside Scoping Comments – EPIC submitted substantive scoping comments to the Klamath National Forest on November 14, 2014.  The post-fire project proposes logging over 40,000 acres, of which 20,000 acres are within Late Successional Reserves.  Logging is also proposed in Wild and Scenic River Corridors, within watersheds critical for salmon recovery and within vital wildlife corridors.

Jess Petition - EPIC submitted 1,143 petition signatures to oppose logging old growth trees and vast forest canopy removal proposed on the North Fork Salmon River within the Klamath National Forest.  Thank you for taking action.

Sage Grouse Rider Letter – Supporting an amendment to strike the Sage-Grouse Endangerment Rider from the 2015 appropriations bill, which would delay federal protection for sage-grouse, and threaten efforts to protect their habitat.

Letter Opposing Senator Feinstein & Representative McCarthy’s “Federal Drought Bill” –  The bill directly undermines key statutory protections for fish, wildlife and groundwater protection, including water transfers from wildlife refuges and critical fish habitat of North Coast rivers.

Omnibus Letter – Encouraging committee on appropriations to pass a spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2015 that is free of policy riders that put polluting interests ahead of our air, water, lands, wildlife, public health and climate.

Nongame Fur Bearing Hunting Contest Comments EPIC submitted a petition containing 15,787 signatures to the California Fish and Game Commission in support of its proposed rulemaking to end inducements for hunting contests for nongame fur-bearing mammals.

Monarch Support Letter – Requesting support for that legal petition and protecting the monarch butterfly as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Letter to Governor Brown – Requesting that he take significant steps to protect California families from pesticides that have devastating consequences for children and their families.

Coalition Letter Opposing Bad Forestry Bills – The National Forest Jobs and Management Act of 2014 and the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act pose a serious threat to environmental stewardship, public involvement, wildlife conservation and the rule of law in our National Forests.

Non-profit Letter to Water Board – Supporting the restoration of freshwater flows from the San Joaquin River and its tributaries to the estuary.

Letter to Chief of the U.S. Forest Service –  Supporting the Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program.

Organization Comments on “Effective Use of Programmatic NEPA Reviews” - Urging the Council to add clarification and direction in the final guidance making it clear that large-scale programmatic reviews without additional site-specific reviews are insufficient in the vast majority of cases.

Coalition Letter to Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board Regarding Land Retirement Benefits to Grasslands Bypass Project – Encouraging the retirement of 9,200 acres of irrigated land in the San Joaquin Delta, which would result in an estimated reduction of 14,000 acre feet of drainage, 92,000 tons of salt, 8,100 pounds of selenium and 282,000 pounds of boron discharges to aquifers and groundwater. This land retirement project would save water, prevent selenium contamination and reduce further impacts to endangered species.

Comment Letter to Forest Service Regarding  Proposed Rule Governing Use by Over-Snow Vehicles -Rrequesting that the final regulation protect resources, promote safety and minimize conflicts between other uses.

Passenger Pigeon Proclamation Request Letter – Requesting a presidential proclamation commemorating the centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon and reminding Americans of the need to be continued good stewards of wildlife and nature.







Giving Local Tuesday Dec. 2

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

GivingLocalTuesdayEPICEPIC and the Northern California Association of Nonprofits have teamed up with several local organizations to bring Giving Local Tuesday to the north coast region. Taking place December 2, 2014 – the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – the Giving Tuesday campaign aims to harness the power of social media to create a national movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become synonymous with holiday shopping. The organizations are seeking to inspire a spirit of generosity, personal philanthropy and greater levels of giving to local organizations during the holiday season.

“We need to cultivate our generosity out of appreciation for the services provided by nonprofits and out of reverence for the future of our community,” said Natalynne DeLapp, Executive Director of EPIC. “We all have a choice in how we spend our hard-earned money; during this season of thanks and generosity I encourage people to give to your local public interest organizations because you value and benefit from their missions, and because you believe in our collective ability to positively impact the world.”

The Northern California Association of Nonprofits includes more than one hundred local nonprofit organizations that provide key services to the community. Member organizations exist to solve social problems and advance important causes. Local nonprofits have genuine interests in making our communities better places to live, help create a vibrant arts and culture scene, work to protect the environment, defend human and civil rights, provide safety net services, and assure access to information in the form of public media.

“It is our hope that people across the region realize that they have the power to make significant differences in the community through their gifts to local organizations – whether that be through a donation of $5 or $5,000,” shared Amy Jester, NorCAN Program Manager. She continued, “Giving Local Tuesday is a fun way to inspire people to act and to encourage them to lovingly motivate their social networks to give money, time or needed resources.”

The Giving Tuesday movement was started in 2012. Seeing an opportunity to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season to inspire action around charitable giving, a group of friends and partners, led by the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in New York, came together to find ways to promote and celebrate the great American tradition of giving and the beginnings of the campaign were born. 92Y worked with partner organizations to harness the power of social media to create a national movement around the holidays dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are, today, synonymous with holiday shopping. Local organizations have adopted the campaign with the twist of giving local.

“The retail industry has long benefited from seasonal shopping that symbolically kicks off with “Black Friday” – a day that has since inspired “Small Business Saturday” and “Cyber Monday.” Giving Tuesday, then, serves as a celebratory, fully connected day to kick off the giving season by making generous holiday and end-of-year charitable gifts,” said Denise Marshall, Director of the McLean Foundation. “The chance to give only begins with Giving Local Tuesday. We are encouraging people to think of the entire month of December as an opportunity to lend some year-end support to the numerous organizations that do such great work in our beloved community.”

“Giving is also good for businesses. “Positive community relationships as well as marketing opportunities can come from business participation in Giving Local Tuesday. It can also be a way to boost employee engagement, morale and team work,” said Fawn Scheer of Greenway Partners, an Arcata based consulting firm that operates The Link, a business incubator and collaboration space.

Maggie Kraft, Executive Director of Area 1 Agency on Aging explained, “We are participating in Giving Tuesday because coordinated giving efforts can have great impacts in communities,” she continued, “If you have money, please give, even if just a little. If you have time, there are so many ways to give it. It isn’t hard and it doesn’t hurt. Look around and just join in. Giving evokes gratitude, its contagious, and there have been several studies that show that giving is actually good for your health!”

Our goal at EPIC is to build upon the already strong culture of philanthropy to further strengthen the resiliency of the non-profit sector. If all groups become stronger, EPIC will become stronger and more capable. EPIC is focused on connecting working and wildland forests into whole healthy landscapes for flourishing nature and wildlife, in order to safeguard our valuable living resources in a changing climate for current and future generations. Click here to donate to EPIC.

For more information about Giving Local Tuesday, visit

Advocate for Real Recovery

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014


Take Action: The Klamath National Forest recently proposed a massive post-fire logging operation throughout some of the most important watersheds on the north coast. The Westside project targets up to 43,338 acres concentrated in Late-Successional Reserves (old forests), Riparian Reserves (streamside forests), in Wild and Scenic River corridors and within Northern spotted owl critical habitat.

This summer, fire burned through 200,000 acres of the Mid Klamath watershed, three-quarters of which were low to very low severity. While the fires burned—a necessary and important forest process in the Klamath Mountains—fire suppression efforts left a long-lasting mark on the landscape. Bulldozers marched through the forest creating wide and often ineffective firebreaks stacked with slash and denuding untold miles of ridgelines.

While the proposed cuts are bad in their own right, they are especially egregious in light of the recent past fires and intense fire suppression activities surrounding the Marble Mountain Wilderness Area. Further, there are past, present and proposed future timber sales throughout the region. The additional logging proposed in the Westside project would diminish crucial wildlife connectivity, like the Grieder Creek corridor that links contiguous habitat to and from the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

The Klamath National Forest is central to the Klamath/Siskiyou bioregion and is a treasure worth protecting. It is a biodiversity hot spot, supporting a wide variety of unique animals and plants including the endangered Northern spotted owl, Pacific fisher, Humboldt marten, and California wolverine. The cool, clean waters of the area protect California’s most robust salmon runs. Preserving intact forests in this region is also a local solution to climate change. The bioregion contains some of the highest biomass-dense forests in North America, sequestering carbon and storing carbon long after a fire.

Fire is a necessary component of healthy forest ecosystems. EPIC is currently engaging with the Klamath National Forest on a programmatic and project-by-project level to ensure sensible fire management. Post-fire logging is devastating for our wildlife, and wild places. The agency should engage with local community partners like the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership to work towards long-term fire strategies. Comments are due by November 14th. We need your help. Please help us advocate for real recovery.

Click here to take action now!

For more information on fire’s role in our forests and the harmful effects of post-fire logging, please visit our website.

Fall Celebration Thank You

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Fall Celebration Dinner 2014

On Friday, November 7th, several hundred North Coast community members celebrated 37 years of forest and wildlife protection with EPIC at their annual Fall Celebration. The staff and board of EPIC would like to thank all of the community members, volunteers and businesses that made it possible to throw an incredibly entertaining and successful event!

A HUGE thank you to Chef Luke Patterson, owner of The Other Place for designing and coordinating the Farm to Table Dinner. Friends and neighbors shared an exceptionally prepared and locally sourced feast, much of which was donated by Humboldt County farmers, while listening to the musical stylings of singer-songwriter Joannne Rand. Dave Bergin owner of Bergin-Siplia Winery and Lina Carro owner of Violet-Green Winery provided an amazing selection of wines to complement the evening’s dinner offerings.

David and Ellen Drell, founders of the Willits Environmental Center, received EPIC’s 2014 Sempervirens Award to honor their lifetime achievement in environmental activism. The Drells are best known for their efforts opposing Caltrans’ Willits Bypass, they are also lifelong forest protectors and wilderness advocates who successfully campaigned to add more than 140,000 acres of forest into the Federal Wilderness System. David and Ellen are an inspiration to us at EPIC for their commitment to the community, and to each other—thank you for all of you do for the planet!

Thank you to the Bay Area’s HOUSE OF FLOYD who rocked the house with an elaborate concert and laser show that immersed the audience in the atmospheric authenticity of light and sound of the original Pink Floyd. Thank you to KMUD for providing airtime and publicity for the event. We thank all of our volunteers who worked tirelessly on this event, and we really can’t thank them enough. They came early, stayed late, worked with aching feet, scrubbed dishes, helped raise money, contributed money, and did their absolute best to make our event wonderful while keeping smiles on their faces even after ridiculously long hours. A special thank you to Kelly Karaba for emceeing the event with style and grace; and congratulations to EPIC’s 2014 Volunteer of the Year, Kellie St. James, for her willingness to tackle any task with enthusiasm.

We are profoundly grateful for the financial and emotional support of our community who keeps EPIC strong and healthy. As we move forward into 2015 and beyond, we will work together to create a healthy and connected forested ecosystem with clean air, ample cold water, abundant native flora and fauna and to ensure our quality of life for now and for future generations.

Joanne Rand Band CD Release & EPIC Benefit Bash Nov. 13

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Joanne RandThe Environmental Protection Information Center is proud to present the Joanne Rand Band at the Arcata Playhouse on Thursday, November 13th! Come experience one of our region’s finest independent artists of psychedelic-folk revival and support EPIC’s work to protect the forest ecosystems of the North Coast. Doors open at 7:00 and music starts at 7:30. Tickets will be $8-15 at the door, and all proceeds will benefit the amazing landscape we cherish, as well as, people working together to protect the forests that make the north coast so special. Spirits and delicious snacks will be available. Call the EPIC office at 707-822-7711 for more information or click here to visit the event page on Facebook!

Joanne Rand Band EPIC Poster

Jess Say No—Take Action to Save Forest Canopy and Wildlife Trees

Monday, November 10th, 2014


Take Action: The Jess timber sale would remove vast amounts of forest canopy, disturb riparian reserves and targets old growth and mature wildlife trees within Critical Habitat for the Northern spotted owl. The project would cut nearly 1,000 acres of north facing slopes within the North Fork Salmon River watershed on the Klamath National Forest, adding to the cumulative effects of 45,000 acres of wildfire, extreme impacts from firefighting and post-fire logging from the 2013 Salmon Complex Fire.

The Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River is one of the most important rivers for the last remaining wild-run of spring Chinook salmon and contains habitat vital to rare and threatened species. These north facing native stands offer cool microclimates that contain precious remnants of older trees and are generally less susceptible to severe fire events. Removing 70% of the forest canopy, as proposed would be detrimental to wildlife and would increase fire behavior in the long-term.

The recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not consider the massive impacts from recent two years of fire activity. Nearly the entire road system in North Fork watershed has seen considerable traffic from large trucks and heavy equipment. The prolonged high-use of roads has caused sediment to flow into creeks throughout the watershed. In the Jess project area, approximately twenty miles of ridge top fire lines were bulldozed to bare earth during the 2014 Whites Fire and are now covered in slash. Further, wet weather post-fire logging has occurred roughly 1,000 acres of steep erodible hillsides directly across the river.

The Jess DEIS did not consider the newly proposed Westside post-fire project introduced by the agency last month, which targets up to 43,883 acres of fragile post-fire habitat throughout the Klamath National Forest. Within the Whites Fire footprint, directly across the river, 7,600 acres of Late Successional (mature trees) Reserves, Riparian Reserves and the North Fork Salmon Wild and Scenic River corridor are threatened.

Please urge Klamath National Forest decision makers to protect our wildlife and wild places and to work proactively and collaborate with local communities, partnerships, watershed restoration and fire safe councils to create an alternative that would follow the recommendations in the Salmon River Community Wildfire Protection Plan and would accomplish fuels reduction, forest health and fire resiliency objectives in a way that retains forest values.

Click here to sign a petition now!

Or submit your own comments through the Forest Service Portal November 17th.

Dozer lines in the proposed Jess timber sale project area from the 2014 Whites Fire

Canopy removal with leave tree mark- all trees not marked with orange would be cut

Jess Project forest stands

Wildlife trees

Klamath Chainsaw Masacre

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

IMG_1337The Klamath National Forest has been going batty eliminating wildlife habitat and damaging sensitive post fire soils on one of the most important rivers for salmon fisheries on the north coast. While EPIC was able to get some of the best wildlife habitat protected, acres of post-fire logging continue in other areas on the North Fork Salmon River.  Wet weather has not stopped the large heavy equipment from operating on these steep slopes, and mitigation measures for protecting wildlife and watershed values have not been completed or implemented, resulting in horrific impacts to this sensitive watershed.

If you think this is scary, the Klamath National Forest is proposing an additional, 60,000 acres of post-fire logging, which is now in the planning stage. Stay tuned for EPIC alerts to help stop the carnage on the Klamath.

Click to view larger images of the photos below:

Welcome Additions to the EPIC Team

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Two new north coast forest protectors! Tom Wheeler and Lucy Allen recently joined the EPIC team to advocate for the science-based protection of northwest California’s forests. Using their expertise in environmental law, Tom and Lucy will help ensure that EPIC continues to fulfill its role as environmental watchdogs in defense of nature.

EPIC is focused on connecting working and wildland forests into whole healthy landscapes for flourishing nature and wildlife, in order to safeguard our valuable living resources in a changing climate for current and future generations.

Tom Wheeler 2Tom Wheeler is EPIC’s Program and Legal Coordinator. He serves as an anchor for our conservation advocacy efforts and is responsible for shaping implementation strategies to achieve EPIC’s mission and goals. Tom graduated from the University of Washington School of Law with a concentration in Environmental Law. While in school, Tom was President of the Environmental Law Society and served as Articles Editor of the Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. A native-Washingtonian, Tom previously helped defend old-growth and endangered species at the Washington Forest Law Center.

Prior to law school, Tom attended Green Mountain College in Vermont, graduating with a Bachelor of Art in Philosophy & Environmental Studies. When he’s not nerding out over the Endangered Species Act (his all-time favorite law), Tom is probably plunking the banjo, playing ping-pong with wife, Jenna, or petting his cats, Fatty and Trim.

LLucy Allen ucy Allen is a Berkeley Law Public Interest Fellow. Lucy received her law degree from U.C. Berkeley School of Law with an Environmental Certificate. Before that, she worked at an environmental nonprofit focusing on water policy. During law school, she worked for a variety of environmental organizations including Natural Resources Defense Council. She also clerked for California Indian Legal Services. She holds a B.S. from U.C. Berkeley in Conservation and Resource Studies. Lucy grew up in Humboldt County and is thrilled to be back and serving the community.

We are grateful to long-time staff attorney, Sharon Duggan, for her commitment to mentoring the next generation of environmental advocates!




Mendocino Activists Ellen and David Drell to receive EPIC’s 2014 Sempervirens Award

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

ellen drell

Ellen and David Drell, founding directors of the Willits Environmental Center, will receive the 2014 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement of Environmental Activism Award at EPIC’s 37th Annual Fall Celebration Friday evening, November 7th. Perhaps best known for their efforts opposing Caltrans’ Willits Bypass, the Drells are lifelong forest protectors and wilderness advocates whom successfully campaigned to add more than 140,000 acres of forest into the Federal Wilderness System.

Born in Ohio, Ellen Drell attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, graduating in 1970 with a liberal arts degree and a major in music. After college, she dabbled in archeology and geology. On her way home to Ohio from a summer field course in geology, Drell stopped to visit a friend living the “back-to-the-land” life north of Covelo. She stayed, and for a year hiked the mountains and swam in the streams from Covelo to the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. It was the first time she was fully immersed in wilderness and at that time she just fell in love with the rocks, the trees, and the rivers and became so passionate about them she knew she had to work protect what she loved.

In 1977, Ellen sent her rocks back to Ohio and stayed in California with the mountains. When she learned that the forests that she had fallen in love with were under threat from logging, agency mismanagement and other controversial projects, she had to get involved. It is during this effort that she met the man who would become her lifelong partner and husband, David Drell.

The couple educated themselves about environmental laws, public resource agencies, electoral politics, forestry, economics, and citizen organizing. In 1984, their group succeeded in adding 40,000 acres of public lands to the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. The 1984 Wilderness bill was a statewide effort with David and Ellen heading to Washington DC to advocate for the forest. “The influence of the public was way more significant in 1984. Regular people could influence congressman and federal senators. There were real champions, real statesmen and women who worked for the forests because they knew it was the right thing to do,” said David. “When we went back in 2006 to fill in some gaps in the wilderness protections, the strangle hold that corporations and lobbyists had was palpable. Getting support in Congress in 2006 was very different.” Despite the difficulties in working with Congress, the Drells helped add an additional 100,000 acres of public land in Mendocino County to the federal Wilderness system in 2006.

The Drells’ effort to protect the forests of Mendocino County is a lifelong pursuit. In the late 1980s, with David and Ellen’s help, the community of Willits banded together to stop a wood-fired power plant from being built in downtown Willits. After successfully defeating the power plant project and inspired by the Mendocino Environmental Center, in 1990, Ellen, David and others founded the Willits Environmental Center to give environmental advocacy a public face in Willits. Their goal was to have an organization that would be able to quickly organize the community to respond to destructive projects. Within a year, the Drells and the WEC were deeply involved with the California Department of Transportation’s Willits Bypass Project. For fourteen years, David and Ellen have tried to convince Caltrans, their elected officials and the community that there is a better, safer, less expensive, less environmentally damaging solution to traffic congestion in Willits than constructing a four-lane freeway bypass through the wetlands and streams of Little Lake Valley.

When final approval for the project came in 2012 and still failed to include any substantive recommendations from WEC, reinforcements were needed. A legal challenge was filed in federal court by EPIC, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the Willits Environmental Center. Despite the best efforts of the legal team, the judge did not grant an order to halt construction of the project before the case would be heard, and in January 2013 construction for the project commenced.  Throughout 2013, a combination of direct action opposition and legal initiatives slowed construction of the Willits Bypass, garnering widespread attention and scrutiny of the project. Activists and agencies that identified shortcomings in the project’s ability to adequately protect environmental and cultural resources further strengthened the movement and made the sting that much harder when the Federal judge found in Caltrans’ favor allowing the project to move forward.

The disappointing ruling came despite the fact that construction has destroyed and damaged sensitive wetlands, the headwaters of salmon-bearing streams, oak woodlands and endangered species habitats. The effort to compel Caltrans to reduce the size, impacts and costs of the four-lane freeway bypass segment of Highway 101 around Willits continues, organized by community groups: Save Little Lake Valley, Redwood Nation Earth First! and the Willits Environmental Center.

Over the years of struggle and victory, the Drells and the community members of Willits have forged friendships that will last a lifetime. “During embattled campaigns, the strength from our willingness to be there with each other when we go through tragic defeat and celebrate the victories is what keeps a movement going,” said Ellen Drell. “You can’t do this work by yourself. It is always a group effort, people raising their voices in unison to bring dreams into a reality.”

EPIC is proud to recognize David and Ellen Drell for their Lifetime Commitment to Environmental Protection and Activism. They will present David and Ellen with the 2014 Sempervirens Award at their 37th Annual Fall Celebration on Friday, November 7th at the Mateel Community Center.  Guests will be served a gourmet four-course farm-to-table, family style meal prepared by Chef Luke Patterson, owner of The Other Place. Dinner and the awards ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by music by San Francisco based House of Floyd, playing the music of Pink Floyd. Doors open for the concert at 8:45p.m. Tickets are $50 for adults, free for children under 12, for the dinner and awards ceremony, and $20 for the concert. For more information and to purchase tickets click here, or call 822-7711.

Happy Howl-O-Ween from the EPIC Team

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

wolf donate buttonIt’s the time of year for tricks and treats, for things that go bump-in-the-night, and for howling at the moon with the mysterious and wild. It’s the time of year not only for ghosts and goblins, but for wolves, fishers, and martens too; a time to contemplate and celebrate our vision of wild California.

EPIC’s work to protect and connect our forestlands and wild places is manifested in our successful campaign to see the Gray Wolf protected under the California Endangered Species Act. Protecting wolves means working for intact, connected landscapes, and advocating for best land management practices. EPIC has confronted the frightful threat of habitat fragmentation and loss of biodiversity in our bioregion by working to restore the integrity and connectivity of our landscapes.

The need to provide large tracts of intact habitat, wildlife linkages, biodiversity, and climate resiliency is freakishly important. EPIC’s integrated approach to defend and restore forestlands on both public and private ownerships provides the silver bullet for slaying the beast of degraded, fragmented landscapes that have resulted in loss of species diversity, population connectivity, and genetic viability. EPIC is dedicated to the protection and connection of our watersheds and wild places across ownership classes and boundaries.

Please join us in celebrating the wolf and the wild. Give a big howl for protecting and connecting our wild places and our wildlife. Have a happy howl-o-ween!


House of Floyd, Gourmet Feast and Extravagant Silent Auction

Friday, October 24th, 2014

House-of-FloydJoin us for EPIC’s 37th Anniversary Fall Celebration on Friday, November 7th at the Mateel Community Center! Share a gourmet four-course Farm-to-Table, family style meal with the forest protection community and enjoy a cosmic music and light show by House of Floyd. This event is a fundraiser for EPIC’s ongoing work to protect wild places and the forests that characterize the one of a kind redwood region that we all know and love.

buy ticketsDuring dinner, EPIC will hold an award ceremony to present the Sempervirens Award for Lifetime Achievement in Environmental Advocacy to activists Ellen and David Drell who have dedicated a lifetime of work to the environmental movement, while Chef Luke Patterson will be presenting a locally sourced farm-to-table dinner feast that will include this mouth watering menu: EpicMenu

Seating is limited and dinner tickets must be purchased by October 31, so don’t wait — get them while they last!

Click here to purchase dinner and music tickets: $50 for adults, $25 for kids 12 and younger.


Click here to purchase $20 House of Floyd concert only tickets ($25 at the door)

Local crafters, vendors, and artists have donated a wealth of items for this year’s silent auction, with something for everyone. This will be great place to get your holiday gifts for your family and friends with proceeds going to an increasingly important cause. The extravagant silent auction will feature literally hundreds of items including gift baskets, books, hats, candles, massage oils, paintings, pottery, jewelry, a hand-painted guitar, clothes, carvings and more! Click here to learn more about the event.


Sierra Martin

Spotted Owl Self-Defense—EPIC Files Petition to Challenge CAL FIRE’s Use of So-Called “G-plus” Methodology

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Owl Self-Defense wings shadow

EPIC has filed a petition with the California Office of Administrative Law alleging that the California Department of Forestry is illegally employing a so-called “underground regulation” via its use of an unpromulgated review and approval standard for Timber Harvest Plans that have the potential to adversely impact Northern Spotted Owls.

For the last several years, EPIC’s Northern Spotted Owl self-defense campaign has been focused on challenging the use of antiquated and inadequate California Forest Practice Rules (FPRs) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has decried as inadequate and likely to result in “take” of this federally-listed species. In particular, the provisions of so-called “option-(g)” (section 919.9(g) [939.9(g)] of the FPRs) have been called out by the Service as inadequate to prevent loss of occupied NSO territories on private lands resulting from timber harvest activities.

In February 2013, EPIC presented a petition to the California Board of Forestry requesting that it delete the offensive provisions of option-(g). At the initial hearing on the petition in March of 2013, the California Department of Forestry (CAL FIRE) acknowledged the outdated nature of option-(g). Representatives of CAL FIRE testified that in light of the fact that option-(g) was understood to be inadequate, CAL FIRE has since developed an enhanced review and approval process above and beyond that prescribed in the FPRs it dubbed “g-plus.”

However, the so-called “g-plus” methodology employed by CAL FIRE has never been fully described, either to the Board or to the public, and it has never been subject to any type of formal rulemaking as prescribed by the state Administrative Procedures Act (APA).

The lack of transparency in the review and approval process for Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) utilizing option-(g) or “g-plus” effectively constitutes what is known as an “underground regulation.” An underground regulation exists when a state body or agency employs rules, guidance, evaluation criteria, or supplements to rules that have not been subject to the formal rulemaking procedures prescribed by the APA. EPIC and its membership are adversely affected by the use of such underground regulation because it prevents our regulated members from being able to comply with rules that are unspecified, and because it prevents EPIC staff from being able to effectively engage in the conservation of the NSO as part of the THP review process.

The FPRs restrict CAL FIRE’s review and approval criteria for THPs to only those that have been promulgated via a formal rulemaking process. CAL FIRE’s development of the so-called “g-plus” approach has served to provide cover for landowners who continue to cling to the antiquated provisions of option-(g), most notably SPI. The use of the so-called “g-plus” methodology gives SPI a competitive advantage over other landowners choosing to comply with the most current guidance provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding NSO “take” avoidance by allowing SPI to continue its practices of intensive harvesting within known NSO home ranges. The result is a landscape which is highly fragmented and homogenized, confounding the ability of the NSO and other wildlife to feed, breed, and migrate.

EPIC’s petition to challenge implementation of the so-called “g-plus” approach is designed to shed transparency on the review and approval process for THPs that may harm the NSO and its habitat, while continuing to challenge the outdated and inadequate provisions of option-(g). EPIC is dedicated to improving forest management in the range of the NSO to allow for the protection, enhancement and restoration of high-quality connected habitats across the landscape.

Vote No on Proposition 1

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

East Fork Salmon River A.SheltonBecause spending billions of dollars on building new dams and reservoirs won’t make it rain, EPIC urges you to vote no on Prop 1. Proposition 1 is a $7.5 billion water bond, that includes $7.12 billion from the current bond and the redirection of previous bond funds that have not yet been spent. Prop 1 will not solve the water problems that the State of California is facing with the pressures of ongoing drought conditions. The proposed water bond would be bad for North Coast Rivers and fish as it proposes to build more ecologically destructive water storage systems, would subsidize more water exports and fails to bring real water efficiency solutions to California.

If approved, Prop 1 would facilitate the diversion of more water from Northern California’s rivers by using taxpayer money to acquire water for Big Agriculture. These funds would also be used to clean up special interest projects that did not employ adequate mitigation measures to offset the impacts of past projects. EPIC is concerned over the precedent Prop 1 would set to further subsidize corporate interests: by allocating money to clean up agricultural and industrial pollution of groundwater, the bond shifts the burden away from industry and on to the citizens of California.

Northern California does not have enough water to supply the entire state. In the beginning of August, 83% of the Trinity River was being diverted to the Central Valley Project while fish downstream were dying of disease and poor water conditions from low flows. Building more infrastructure will not result in more water, it will just facilitate more misuse of the dwindling water supply.

While some conservation organizations have supported the bond because a small portion of the funding earmarked for restoration and conservation, the bond dedicates nearly twice as much funding to dams and storage projects that would benefit business interests and create more ecologically destructive impacts. Additionally, the water bond proposes to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy water for fish, which they cleverly label as funds for “enhanced stream flows.”

It is imperative that regions live within their means, by employing conservation measures that allow a community to thrive without taking water from other ecological systems that are already on the brink of collapse. People must learn to be frugal with scarce water resources, and corporations should be required to clean up our public trust resources that they are polluting for profit; instead of asking taxpayers to borrow money from their grandchildren to clean up after them.

Because our rivers do not have water to spare and because of the bad precedent the bond might set, EPIC recommends voting NO on Prop 1.

Take Action to Urge Protections for Fishers

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

SONY DSCTake Action: Recently, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the West Coast fisher as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. EPIC was one of 16 other environmental groups who in 2000 petitioned for the fisher to be listed across the West Coast. Finally, 14 years and numerous lawsuits later, it appears that the fishers may finally get the protection they deserve. But the fisher still needs your help.

The fisher, the largest member of the weasel family, is no doubt scrappy—it feeds on porcupines of all things—but is still in danger of extinction along the entire West Coast.

Historically, trapping and logging decimated the fisher population, leaving small, fragmented populations. Though it once roamed the Pacific Coast, the fisher is currently confined to two native populations—one in the southern Sierra Nevada and one in our backyard, Northern California-Southwestern Oregon—and a handful of reintroduced populations. Today, new and old stressors continue to threaten the fisher, including logging, wildfires and wildfire management, barriers to movement between populations, rodenticide, and the inadequacy of existing regulations (to name just a few).

You can help ensure the preservation and restoration of the fisher.

1. Sign EPIC’s Petition to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Pacific Fisher

2. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting comments on the proposed “threatened” finding. Add your voice to the chorus of scientists, wildlife advocates, and concerned citizens to say that the West Coast fisher is threatened and worth protecting. Here is the portal for delivering your own unique comments:!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2014-0041-0001  the reference ID that must be included in subject heading is: FWS-R8-ES-2014-0041. The comment deadline is January 5, 2015.

3. Individuals can also submit comments in writing, or in person at the public hearing on November 17, 2014 from 6 to 8pm at the Red Lion – 1830 Hilltop Drive, Redding, California 96002.

Overview of the Klamath-Trinity Flow Augmentation Release Decision

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Trinity Photo by Casey RobertsJudge Lawrence O’Neill recently issued a decision in San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Jewell, a case dealing with the Flow Augmentation Releases to the Klamath River since August of 2013. Click here to view the full decision.

What comes out of the decision is that the Trinity River Record of Decision, which sets limits on flows to restore fish and wildlife, is geographically limited to the mainstem Trinity River, and therefore does not limit Klamath River flows. However, the law that the Federal Government relied on to make the releases (the “1955 Act”) is also geographically specific to the mainstem Trinity River and thus does not provide authority for these releases. The court dodged the tribal trust obligation arguments, so no precedent comes out of the case related to that, which at least means that there is no negative precedent related to tribal trust obligations. Each claim is discussed individually in more detail below.

Parties and procedural overview

The San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Westlands Water District (“Plaintiffs”) sued the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation over Flow Augmentation Releases starting in August 2013, asserting claims under a number of different laws. The Hoopa Tribe, Yurok Tribe, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Institute for Fisheries Resources were Defendant-Intervenors, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife filed an amicus brief.

Endangered Species Act claim

Plaintiffs asserted that the Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to engage in formal consultation procedures before carrying out the Flow Augmentation Releases. This claim was dismissed on the procedural grounds that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim.

NEPA claim

Plaintiffs claimed that the Bureau failed to conduct an environmental assessment, in violation of NEPA. Instead of doing an environmental assessment, the Bureau had invoked an “emergency” exception to NEPA. The court held that the Bureau’s action was “not a continuing practice and unlikely to repeat itself,” and the claim was dismissed as moot.

Central Valley Project Improvement Act Claims:

These claims are complicated, as they involve numerous laws passed over time. The court had to determine how these laws relate to one another and their geographical scope (see below for a list of these laws).

Question 1: Were the releases prohibited?

Plaintiffs asserted that the 1999 Trinity River Record of Decision (TRROD) prohibited the releases at issue, because the TRROD set an upper limit for releases for fishery purposes, and the releases at issue exceeded those limits. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ argument, stating that the Flow Augmentation Releases were not prohibited by the TRROD because the TRROD is geographically specific to the mainstem Trinity River, and thus did not apply to the releases at issue, which were releases to improve conditions in the Lower Klamath River.

Question 2: Were the releases authorized?

While these releases were not prohibited by law, whether the Bureau had the authority to make the releases is a separate question. The Bureau relied on the “1955 Act” as the source of its authority. This act created authority to integrate the Trinity River Diversion with the other features of the Central Valley Project; section 2 of the act authorized the Secretary of Interior to adopt appropriate measures to ensure preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife on the Trinity River. The court held that the 1955 Act is also limited to the mainstem Trinity River, and thus didn’t supply authority for the releases to the lower Klamath.

The Tribes raised tribal trust obligations as an alternative source of federal authority for the releases. The court basically dodged this argument because the Bureau and Department of Interior weren’t asserting it themselves. The Federal Defendants took the position that their trust obligation was “complementary authority” to the 1955 Act, and the court said that it would not consider the tribal trust obligation since the Bureau and Department of Interior wouldn’t assert it as an independent basis of authority for the releases.

California water rights claim

Plaintiffs also asserted that the Flow Augmentation Releases constituted a use of water outside of its permitted place of use, violating California water rights and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. The court held that the Bureau has authority under California law to release water to improve instream conditions for fish and wildlife, and thus the releases did not violate California water law, or the Central Valley Improvement Act, which the court said, just incorporates California water law by reference, as opposed to creating independent federal water law.

Public trust doctrine argument

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife filed an amicus brief  in the case, which is a way for a non-party to a lawsuit to express their opinion to the court, if the court grants permission. In its brief, the Department argued that the Flow Augmentation Releases were consistent with, and authorized by, California’s public trust doctrine. While the court agreed that the releases were consistent with the public trust doctrine, it stated that that doctrine does not affirmatively authorize federal (in contrast to state) action. The judge stated that, “[w]hile the public trust doctrine is relevant, it is not dispositive of any claim in this case.”

Partial list of laws/events at issue:

“1955 Act”: created authority to integrate the Trinity River Diversion with the other features of the CVP; section 2 authorized the Secretary of Interior to adopt appropriate measures to ensure preservation and propagation of fish and wildlife.

1981: Trinity River Flow Evaluation Study was initiated to determine flows appropriate to restore the Trinity River’s fishery.

1984 Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Act: directs the Secretary of Interior to implement a management program for the Trinity River Basin to “restore fish and wildlife populations…to levels approximating those which existed before” the diversion.

1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act: includes purpose of protecting, restoring and enhancing fish and wildlife in the Central Valley and Trinity River Basin.

1996 Reauthorization of the Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Act: reauthorizes and amends the 1984 Trinity River Basin Fish and Wildlife Management Act.

1999 Trinity River Flow Evaluation Study (TRFES) completed: this study recommends dynamic flows, specifically flows ranging from 368,800 acre feet in critically dry years to 815,200 acre feet in extremely wet years, along with seasonal flow variability. This went through NEPA review, resulting in a “Trinity River Record of Decision” (TRROD) that prescribed certain flows depending on the type of water year.

In conclusion, the Bureau’s decision to release flows into the Trinity River to improve conditions in the Lower Klamath River did not violate any laws, but was not specifically authorized. The next step is finding a permanent solution to remedy the need for regular “emergency” flows. In dry water years, the health of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers are reliant upon the choice of a few decision-makers, and a few narrow thresholds that only trigger emergency releases if a fish kill is already well underway. Until the dams come out, we need to develop a system that prioritizes the health of the rivers and the fish, ensuring that we have healthy rivers, before we divert bulk water out of the basin.