Legal Highlights

Here are some examples of EPIC’s legal achievements:

EPIC et al v. California State Department of Transportation, and Cindy McKim in her official capacity as Director of the State of California Department of Transportation

EPIC and our allies secured a Preliminary Injunction in Federal Court, temporarily halting the  Richardson Grove project. On April 4, 2012, the Northern District of the US Federal Court ordered Caltrans to create new maps that accurately describe the project area and to reassess their conclusion that the project would result in no significant impact to the ancient redwoods in the park. Hearings on the state court challenge to the Caltrans project in Richardson Grove were held on March 29, 2012, and a decision on that case was made at the end of June 2012.  The state decision was favorable to Caltrans, but it did nothing to change the results of the previous federal court decision that forced Caltrans back to the drawing board on the project.  Plaintiffs continue to consider all their options in the legal defense of the ancient redwoods against the unnecessary highway development proposed by Caltrans, and in December 2012 filed a formal appeal of the Humboldt County Superior Court decision that favored Caltrans. The case will now be heard on appeal in San Francisco. In addition to a legal strategy in both state and federal court to protect the famed old growth redwoods at Richardson Grove, a broad coalition of community activists has organized a public campaign to underscore the growing movement forming to protect this stand of ancient trees. The Rein in Caltrans campaign at EPIC has grown to include challenges to the massive Caltrans Willits By Pass project in Mendocino County, as well as opposition to the Caltrans Highway 197/199 widening project on the Smith River in Del Norte County.

EPIC v. CalFire; Pacific Lumber Company; et al (Sustained Yield Plan Case)

After decades of legal wrangling, EPIC emerged victorious in a California Supreme Court case that promises improved protection for California’s endangered species and industrial forestlands. The case is the culmination of a challenge to the permits issued as part of the Headwaters Deal in 1999 and centered on endangered species protection and sustainable forestry mandates. It holds state agencies responsible for upholding these protections. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno ruled that Pacific Lumber failed to submit a “sustained yield plan” for its Humboldt-area holdings, as required by the Headwaters Agreement. The court also chastised the agency for approving a document that did not actually exist. The court also ruled that the Department of Fish and Game broke the law by assuring Pacific Lumber that it would not need to do additional conservation if new species become endangered in the future. The court ruled that those who hold endangered species permits must work to “fully” protect these animals and plants, especially if their behavior enhances the effects of natural disasters on animal or plant life. The state must approve adequate sustained yield plans to ensure companies have enough timber resources to protect wildlife and maintain the local economy, the court ruled.

EPIC v. Johnson

Our premier lawsuit sought to preserve the last old-growth redwood and Douglas fir grove on the Sinkyone coast, Sally Bell Grove. This landmark case established that California state agencies must consider the cumulative effects of logging in a watershed on water quality, soils, and wildlife habitat when reviewing logging plans. Since this victory, EPIC has successfully enforced this ruling in nearly two dozen lawsuits to protect biodiversity, endangered species and the redwood ecosystem. The Sinkyone land is currently stewarded by a consortium of North Coast tribes and will become the first ever Inter-Tribal Park where people can learn about California Indian traditional land stewardship and practice land restoration.

Sierra Club and EPIC v. Pacific Lumber Company (Headwaters Forest Case)

A unanimous California Supreme Court decision held that the Board of Forestry cannot approve logging plans which fail to include information requested by environmental agencies regarding the presence of old-growth dependent wildlife species. Significantly, the Court held that in approving a logging plan the Board must comply with the provisions of the Forest Practices Act and California Environmental Quality Act, thus affirming the standard previously established in EPIC v. Johnson. This case involved Pacific Lumber plans to cut unentered old-growth redwood in the Headwaters Forest area.  Humboldt State University has compiled EPIC archives relating to the Headwaters case and has made them available to the public. 

Marbled Murrelet and EPIC v. Pacific Lumber Company (Marbled Murrelet Case)

In EPIC’s first federal lawsuit we celebrated a tremendous victory for the marbled murrelet, who depends on the pristine groves in Headwaters to survive. The ruling permanently enjoins logging in the Owl Creek Grove of Headwaters Forest in order to protect this rare seabird. The strongly worded decision condemns Pacific Lumber’s fraudulent wildlife surveys and sets a powerful precedent that the Endangered Species Act should indeed protect species and critical habitat on private lands. The decision states that harvesting in any significant portion of the marbled murrelets’ critical nesting habitat in Humboldt County could cause the species to become extinct in this region.  EPIC believes that protection of ecosystems, diversity and rural communities is integral to the long-term health of the Redwood region. Our legal, educational and advocacy work will continue to defend the forests as we strive to protect endangered species and their habitat. As timber corporations try to liquidate the last ancient forests, it is crucial to support strong grassroots organizations like EPIC working to preserve biodiversity.