Pisces Party Tradition Celebrates Work of Richard Gienger

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

salmon pisces transparent bkgrndThe 11th Annual Pisces Party will be held Friday, March 8, at the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland. The Pisces Party tradition has become an EPIC community ritual and harbinger of the coming spring. The event is an annual fundraiser to honor and support EPIC adviser and mentor Richard Gienger’s ongoing work restoring the forests and watersheds of the region.

Doors will open at 6 PM for a dinner prepared by Sue’s Organics, with cocktails, beer and wine to be served through the evening. Entertainment for the evening will feature one of our favorite local songwriters Jan Bramlett, and a rousing and rocking headline performance by Casey Neill and the Norway Rats. Dinner and the show is $25, while the show is only $10, with tickets available at the door. You can purchase tickets in advance by clicking here, or if you are unable to attend the party, but would like to support Richard’s work, you can make a secure online donation by clicking here.

RICHARD6Richard Gienger is without question one of the State of California’s most authentic and dedicated restoration experts and advocates. His efforts were recognized in 2010 with the presentation of the EPIC Sempervirens Award for Lifetime Achievement–an award that now carries with it Richard’s name. Richard is a rare talent who has been able to make restoration happen on the ground as well as moving policy in the halls of power in Sacramento. Sometimes controversial, and at other times a key facilitator in the resolution of conflict, Richard has been making contributions to the recovery and stewardship of the watersheds in our bioregion for four decades.

EPIC staff recently caught up with Richard to run some questions by him about his work to reform the analysis of cumulative watershed effects and the organization and availability of critical information. We asked Richard to explain and simplify the concept of cumulative effects and how they are currently analyzed. The following Q and A is an excellent window to the essence of Richard’s work that will be supported through the funds raised at this year’s Pisces Party.

loggingroadQ1)  Can you explain the concept of cumulative effects?

A1) Cumulative effects are those effects which are a combination of single effects which may affect a given area or situation in ways that are capable of significantly altering conditions such that entire established relationships and conditions for that area or situation are transformed.  For instance, to use a common example for forested watersheds:  One failed road stream crossing is likely to not overwhelm the productive capacity of fish habitat in a given watershed, but a number of failed stream crossings in that watershed (which can happen over time) could contribute levels of sediment that could impair the productive capacity of the fish habitat in the whole watershed – a significant cumulative effect.  Usually cumulative effects are assumed to be adverse, although that isn’t necessarily the case – for instance the cumulative replanting of conifers in conifer depleted riparian zones could lead to improved  water temperatures and fish habitat.  Cumulative effects can happen, and do happen, over a range of space and time.  An example of adverse cumulative effects on wildlife would be the case of the Marbled Murrelets which depend on very large branches of old growth forests relatively close to the ocean for their nesting habitat.  The logging of such old growth, if scattered in location and size and over long periods of time may not significantly threaten the overall populations of Marbled Murrelets, but at a certain point, if the old growth removal is extended over large areas in a relatively short period of time, the cumulative effect will be to jeopardize the reproduction and survival of the species –  taking their habitat needs beyond the threshold of conditions necessary for the species to thrive or even survive.

Q2)  Can you summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the current assessment methodology?

A2) The strengths of the current assessment methodology include the requirement in Section 916.4 of the Forest Practice Rules for the forester (or their designee) to walk every watercourse and describe and/or map features that adversely affect that watercourse and riparian zone in the area of a submitted Timber Harvest Plan (THP).  Another strength is that the evaluation of cumulative effects is required covered all past, current and foreseeable seen future cumulative impacts – impacts of all kinds, not just logging effects, as they affect the appropriate evaluation area.  Cumulative Watershed effects are almost always required to be, and justifiably so, evaluated at the CalWater Planning Watershed scale – usually an area of 5,000 to 10,000 acres.  This is the same scale that the Department of Fish & Wildlife recommend that recovery plans, determination of limiting factors, and organization of information be done at in the 2004 Coho Recovery Strategy.

The weaknesses of the current assessment methodology include, but are not limited to:

  1. The failure to have a Planning Watershed scale evaluation that appropriately incorporates the Section 916.4 type of evaluation required for THPs.
  2. There are no standard templates (specific maps at specific scale, specific descriptions in a specific framework etc.) required for the necessary information that would give a credible cumulative effects evaluation that.
  3. Information is not currently organized by Planning Watershed but is by county.  CalFire is trying to gradually get information at that scale, but all the stakeholders need to be able to ‘click’ on the Planning Watershed number and get the information they need on their computer screen.
  4. Most landowners lack the kind multidisciplinary expertise, access to information, and funds to adequately consider and respond to significant adverse cumulative effects.
  5. Even the best “consideration” of cumulative effects required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) seldom, if ever, respond with what needs to be done to reduce those effects to insignificance.

Q3)  Can you talk about the nuts and bolts of capturing and organizing information?

A3) A “nuts and bolts” way of doing this, that I have been pushing on for more than two decades is through having multidisciplinary, multiagency, and multistakeholders to conduct pilot projects that determine what information is needed and how it should be organized.  A central part of this is to have that information be “user-friendly’ and electronically accessible to all stakeholder – from the THP submitter to the reviewing agencies and to the public.

Q4)  How do you anticipate that the gathering of this information will inform or influence decision-making?

I think this information – if adequate in content, organization, standardization, and accessibility – will  make for better decisions that can actually lead to correction of adverse cumulative effects, better forestry, and recovery of wildlife, fisheries, and human communities duet to legacy and current impacts  on forestland.  Of course this information will only provide a foundation on which better decions can be made.  The actual right decisions will be difficult and painful, but without adequate information one would be unable to gain “a toe-hold” to leverage the kind of changes that are needed.

Q5)  What is your ideal outcome?

A5)  My ideal outcome is the right decisions will start being made through the multidisciplinary, multiagency, multistakeholder processes described above.  Check out a current attempt in the California Legislature, AB 875 – go to  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html  and put in the bill number.  Let’s get solutions into the “light of day”.

Q6) What are your feelings about the Pisces Party?

A6)  I feel great about the Pisces Party — always an inspiration with good, music, food, fellowship, community fun & goodwill. Thanks EPIC and friends!