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EPIC & Allies Petition State Water Board to Step In Over Elk River Mess

Monday, February 4th, 2019
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The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) has made an even bigger mess of the situation in Elk River by failing to revisit and revise sediment pollution waste discharge permits for Green Diamond and Humboldt Redwood Company in the watershed as directed by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board).

To add insult to this injury, the Regional Board continues to allow Green Diamond and Humboldt Redwood Company to enroll Timber Harvest Plans under the old permits while it continues to kick-the-can down the road on the required revisions.

In May 2016, the Regional Board adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Upper Elk River Watershed designed to address logging-related sediment impairments chocking the watershed and endangering the lives, health, and safety of Upper Elk River residents. The Load Allocation, or amount of additional sediment pollution from human-caused activities acceptable under the TMDL was set at zero, after a 2015 Technical Sediment Analysis (Tetra Tech 2015) found that the Upper Elk River had no further capacity to intake and assimilate sediment pollution.

On August 1, 2017, the State Board ratified the Upper Elk River TMDL adopted by the Regional Board. In doing so, the State Board clarified its understanding of the TMDL zero Load Allocation and directed the Regional Board to ensure attainment of zero new logging-related sediment input as soon as possible, but by no later than 2031. To accomplish this, the State Board also directed the Regional Board to revise and update the sediment pollution waste discharge permits for Green Diamond Resource Company and Humboldt Redwood Company as soon as possible, but by no later than January 2019.

With no revisions done to the sediment pollution waste discharge permits and no certainty of an end to this in sight, EPIC and our allies took action and filed a Petition for Review with the State Water Resources Control Board that included a Motion for Stay of the current Green Diamond and Humboldt Redwood Company permits in the Upper Elk River, and a Request for Hearing before the State Board. Upon hearing, and finding that the Regional Board failed to act, EPIC and our allies are asking the State Water Board to take up the matter of revising the HRC and Green Diamond permits and to take this away from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Both HRC and Green Diamond filed suit against the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board over its adoption of the Upper Elk River TMDL for Sediment, and this lawsuit has been cited by Regional Board staff as a reason for the delay in required sediment pollution waste discharge permits.

The State Water Resources Control Board has 90-days in which to respond to our Petition and to decide if it will hold a Hearing.

Click here for press release.

Click here to read the petition.


Lawsuit Targets California Permit for Clearcutting Endangered Marten Habitat

Thursday, January 31st, 2019
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Photo courtesy of Mark Linnell, US Forest Service.

Clearcut Logging Increases Extinction Risk for Rare Carnivore

Conservationists today sued the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to challenge its “Safe Harbor Agreement” that would allow Green Diamond Resource Co. to harm state-endangered Humboldt martens by clearcutting the endangered animal’s habitat.

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the agreement because it provides no net conservation benefit for martens. Fewer than 200 of the forest-dwelling carnivores survive in California, and clearcut logging is the primary threat to their recovery.

The suit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Biological Diversity, both represented by Earthjustice.

“It is disheartening that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has betrayed the best interests of the marten in order to appease the rich and powerful timber industry,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “The permit will result in long term harm to the marten by allowing the same behavior that is causing the marten to go extinct: large-scale clearcut logging.”

Green Diamond is one of the largest timber companies in the marten’s current range and owns a key piece of land between the principal surviving population of martens and Redwood National and State Parks, an area key to their long-term survival.

“This weak agreement pushes the Humboldt marten toward extinction instead of increasing protection for the feisty little fluffball and its habitat,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even a progressive state like California would rather let the last truffula tree be cut than stand up to the timber industry.”

The Humboldt marten was listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act in 2018, following a 2015 petition seeking state protection for the rare mammal, a relative of minks. During the delay in the state listing, the Department of Fish and Wildlife entered into the agreement with Green Diamond allowing ongoing clearcutting of marten habitat, against the recommendation of its own scientific experts.

Under California law, the agency can only issue a Safe Harbor Agreement if it finds that the activities covered would benefit the species, either by increasing population or by protecting habitat. Agency emails obtained through a California Public Records Act reveal that scientists determined the permit would harm marten habitat with only speculative benefit. But supervisors disregarded their own scientific experts and approved the permit.

“The Department of Fish and Wildlife has not upheld its duty under the law,” said Heather Lewis, attorney at Earthjustice. “Safe Harbor Agreements are supposed to protect and preserve endangered species, but this agreement undercuts state efforts to save the Humboldt marten.”

Martens have been wiped out from 93 percent of their range by logging and historic trapping. They require dense shrub underbrush characteristic of older forests, and are particularly sensitive to clearcut or “even-aged” logging, because it inhibits dispersal and increases predation risk.

Lands owned by Green Diamond Resource Co. were previously identified by the state as essential for habitat connectivity for the species. The permit would permit logging of identified marten habitat in exchange for minimal changes to Green Diamond’s logging practices and a promise to fund a new marten relocation study, the benefits of which are dubious.

Martens are proposed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, but the federal proposal also includes an exemption for the state-issued Safe Harbor Agreement.

Photos are available for media use.

Click here to read the complaint.

Click here for media contacts.


Court: Gray Wolves Can Keep California Endangered Species Protection

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019
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Trail cam photo of Lassen Pack pup.

Judge Finds No Merit in Pacific Legal Foundation, Rancher Challenge

SAN DIEGO, CA – On January 28th a state court judge upheld protection for gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act. The ruling rejected a challenge from the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation.

“We’re so glad the court got it right and kept protection in place for California’s recovering gray wolves,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center for Biological Diversity’s West Coast wolf advocate. “The Pacific Legal Foundation’s case was the worst kind of grasping at straws. This is a great result for the vast majority of Californians who want wolves to recover and who understand their importance to healthy ecosystems.”

Ranching groups had challenged gray wolves’ endangered status based on the erroneous claim that the wolves in California are the wrong subspecies. They also wrongly argued that the listing was improperly based on a single wolf’s presence, and that wolves can’t be endangered in the state as there are plenty elsewhere in the world.

“Wolves are coming back to California, and today’s decision gives them a red carpet to return home,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center.

In 2011 a wolf known as OR-7 crossed the border into California from northeastern Oregon, becoming the first confirmed wild wolf in the state in 87 years. The Foundation had argued, however, that OR-7 was from a subspecies that never existed in California.

The court rightly concluded that the California Fish and Game Commission has the authority to list at the species level and that OR-7 and subsequent wolves that have come into the state share a genetic history with wolves that once were widely distributed across California.

“State protections for wolves are critical given the animosity toward the species at the federal level, “said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “It is a shame that this species, and many others, have been subjected to these political games.”

The court found that the state’s endangered species law protects species at risk of extinction in California and the commission need not consider the status of gray wolves globally. It found that threats to wolves necessitate their protection and the commission has the discretion to protect native species that were historically present based on visitation by even one animal, given the wildlife agency’s projections that more will likely arrive.

“There can be no question that gray wolves in California are endangered and need protection,” said Heather Lewis, an attorney at Earthjustice. “The gray wolf’s return to California is a success story we should celebrate, and we look forward to wolves continuing to recover in the Golden State.”

California has seen the establishment of two packs since OR-7 made his star appearance before returning to Oregon to settle down with a mate. The Shasta pack was discovered in 2015 but by mid-2016 had disappeared. The Lassen pack was confirmed in 2017 and produced pups for the second year in a row in 2018.

“Wolves are not yet close to recovered in California. At a time when the Trump administration is hostile to endangered species conservation, it is critically important that the state of California help recover wildlife like the iconic gray wolf,” said Joseph Vaile, executive director of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Click here for press contacts.

Click here to read the court’s ruling.


BREAKING: Federal Court Halts Illegal Logging in Sensitive Forests

Monday, January 28th, 2019
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Attorney Brodia Minter of KS Wild assesses damage from the Seiad-Horse Project

Post-Fire Logging in the Siskiyou Crest Mountains would Degrade Water Quality and Irreparably Harm Wildlife Habitat

SACRAMENTO, CA—Late Friday, Judge Troy L. Nunley halted plans for post-fire, clear-cut logging in northern California’s Klamath National Forest. The court held that the Seiad-Horse timber sale project would illegally and irreparably harm aquatic resources with increased sedimentation, violate the Northwest Forest Plan’s restrictions on large snag removal from a late-successional reserve, and violate the National Environmental Policy Act for failing to analyze the effects of the project.

“We wish the Klamath National Forest would join with stakeholders and communities to reduce fuels around homes and ranches in Siskiyou County rather than pushing an extreme backcountry clearcutting agenda,” said Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center. “This legal victory will halt destructive oldgrowth clearcutting in the backcountry while allowing strategic fuels work along roads and near private property.”

Following the 2018 Abney Fire, the Klamath National Forest authorized over 1,200 acres of clearcut “salvage” logging in the Seiad-Horse timber sale located within a protected “late successional reserve” that is not part of the timber base. While surrounding national forests focused on emergency wildfire recovery and hazardous fuels reduction efforts along strategic roadways and near homes and communities, the Klamath National Forest threw out the rulebook and proposed logging in botanical areas, inventoried roadless areas, late successional reserves, essential wildlife habitat, and streamside riparian zones.

“We want to work with the Forest Service to thin dense second-growth timber plantations that exacerbate fire behavior,” said George Sexton, Conservation Director for KS Wild. “The Seiad-Horse timber sale would have increased fire hazard by removing old-growth forests and replacing them with dense tree farms. The court’s ruling protects wildlife, watersheds, and nearby communities from an egregious timber grab.”

“This is a win for Klamath River salmon and clean water” noted Kimberly Baker, Executive Director of the Klamath Forest Alliance “While this is a preliminary stage in the proceedings, we appreciate the court’s detailed and salient ruling.”

“For years the Klamath National Forest has ignored needed fuels work in the wildland urban interface zone while pursuing post-fire clearcutting in the backcountry. That ends now,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Let’s change course and all pull together to protect forests and communities.”

Click here to read the full Order Granting Motion for Injunctive Relief.

Click here for press contacts.

 


SoHum Community Meeting: Green Diamond & Sproul Creek

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
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EPIC staff will provide a 20-minute presentation that contains information and visuals about the Sproul Creek property and Green Diamond’s land ownership and logging practices. A question and answer session will follow the presentation. All ages welcome. Donations graciously accepted at the door.

The meeting will be held at Ganas, located at 901 Redwood Drive in Garberville, on Wednesday, February 13, from 5-7pm. Open to the public. All ages welcome. Donations encouraged.


Trump’s Shutdown Threatens Public Lands, Wildlife and Human Health

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019
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US/Mexico border wall. Photo by Jamie Scepkowski.

The government shutdown continues over Trump’s “ecological disaster” border wall.

For our federal public lands, the shutdown stinks. The Feds are the largest landowner in the county—by far—with about 640 million acres, including over five million acres in Northwest California. While these lands largely remain open, there are reports at parks across the country of overflowing human waste and trash. Without caretakers, people are already wreaking havoc. In Joshua Tree National Park, vandals have hacked apart the iconic trees.

Our wildlife is suffering. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service employees aren’t looking for poachers, funding habitat restoration, or continuing science.

Our health is at risk. EPA pollution inspectors are not on the job. FDA food inspectors are going without pay and many routine food inspections are not occurring.

While most government workers are stuck at home, guess who Trump is keeping on the job?

Two weeks ago, the Department of the Interior recalled employees to continue processing coal, oil, and gas permits, already accepting over 125 lease applications and 100 nominations for public lands to be drilled.

More locally, on the Seiad-Horse Project, loggers continue to fall trees without the fisheries biologists, hydrologists, or wildlife biologists on staff to ensure compliance.

Resources for Furloughed Workers

EPIC loves our public servants and work with them on a daily basis. Below are some resources we’ve collected, in case you need a hand while you are furloughed:

Government assistance programs are available for you, so please use them! Apply for CalFresh online (it takes less than 10 minutes).

Coast Central Credit Union is offering interest-free loans for federal employees affected by the shutdown.

Relax and keep in shape! Pali Yoga is offering free passes to furloughed workers.

The Eureka Theater is offering free tickets to federal employees. (Check out The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension on Friday, Jan. 25.)

The Central Labor Council and Cooperation Humboldt are giving away gift cards to the Coop! Gift cards can be obtained by contacting Cooperation Humboldt at 707-362-0333 or email cooperationhumboldt@gmail.com.

Food for People is available for everyone who is in need of sustenance. Click here to find out more!


Clean Water or Industrial Waste Ditch—The Future of Elk River Still Hangs in the Balance

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019
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Flooding on Elk River Road.  Photo Credit: Salmon-Forever.org

Elk River and its residents, human and otherwise, continue to play second-fiddle to the industrial timber ensemble of Humboldt Redwood Company and Green Diamond Resource Company when it comes to state agency enforcement and regulation of logging.

EPIC expects this from CAL FIRE, an agency that seemingly never met a THP it didn’t like and want to approve. What’s more disappointing is the 20-years and-counting of heel-dragging by the North Coast Regional Water Board to develop and implement a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and TMDL Action Plan for Elk River, and to develop logging sediment pollution regulatory and permitting frameworks that will protect and recover the Elk River.

Elk River was listed as water quality-impaired in 1997 due to excessive sediment, turbidity and flooding resulting from intense second-cycle logging conducted by the Pacific Lumber Company under MAXXAM and the now-defunct Elk River Timber Company. In 2002, the North Coast Water Board and the EPA reached a Memorandum of Understanding in which the North Coast Water Board agreed to prepare a TMDL to address sediment impairments in Elk River.

Fast-forward to 2016, when the North Coast Water Board, eventually adopted a TMDL to address sediment impairments in Elk River. What happened in the interceding years? Studies, studies of studies, synthesis of studies, critiques of studies, then, more studies, and more synthesis of studies. As if all this isn’t frustrating enough, all the studies ever done on sediment impairment, with the exception of one, commissioned by PALCO, have concluded that the river is sediment impaired and that the logging was and continues to be the primary cause.

It took the Regional Water Board three attempts before it was able to finally adopt the TMDL to address sediment impairment in Elk River. The limit established in the TMDL, known as the Load Allocation is zero, meaning that the Elk River cannot intake or assimilate more sediment as it is currently overwhelmed with sediment.

The Regional Water Board also adopted a TMDL Action and Implementation Plan that relied on three major components to arrest sediment pollution inputs and to recover the beneficial uses of water: permits for continued industrial timber harvest for both Humboldt Redwood Company and Green Diamond Resource Company were to be re-visited and revised to ensure consistency with the new TMDL. A Recovery Assessment that would study the feasibility of in-stream and near-stream sediment remediation and removal projects was the second component and the third was to be a Watershed Stewardship Group to facilitate communication and cooperation among landowners and stakeholders in the watershed.

On August 1, 2017, the State Water Board ratified the Elk River TMDL and Action Plan. In doing so, the State Board strengthened the TMDL by requiring that the zero Load Allocation applied specifically to anthropogenic activities, like industrial logging operations. The State Board also issued a directive to the Regional Board to ensure a full attainment of the zero Load Allocation by no later than 2030. To accomplish this, the State Board directed the Regional Board to go back and revisit and revise as necessary the sediment pollution control permits for both HRC and Green Diamond by February 2019.

The Elk River Recovery Assessment Framework Draft paper has only recently been completed and released. And, while a few small and discrete remediation projects are underway, the Regional Board is entirely dependent on the large industrial timberland owners, most notably HRC to either fund or match funds to ensure project implementation. Meanwhile, the first version of the Elk River Stewardship Group crashed and burned spectacularly under the ill-fated leadership of Humboldt County. This group is not yet back up and running.

Even if the Recovery Assessment and its actions were fully and independently funded, basic questions remain as to the real goal of such remediation: is it to recover the river, or is it to increase the assimilative capacity of the river to facilitate yet more logging and more aggressive logging?

Meanwhile, nuisance conditions continue to prevail in Elk River, as heavy winter rains cause heavy overbank flooding that delivers sediment into salmon spawning grounds and continues to threaten the health, safety, ingress and egress of local residents, as well as the safety of public facilities like roads and bridges.

The North Coast Water Board is set to miss its directive deadline to adopt revisions to the sediment pollution control permits for HRC and Green Diamond and those timber operations in the Elk River watershed by the end of January 2019. Astonishingly, the North Coast Regional Water Board is still accepting permit enrollment applications for both companies under the old permitting frameworks while the clock continues to run.

40-years and counting, EPIC is keeping its watchful eye on the Elk River and will continue to fight for clean water and enforcement of the law.


Action Alert: Arcata’s People-First Plaza?

Monday, January 14th, 2019
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Put People First! Sign Now! Our friends at the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities have an important petition on their website to prioritize pedestrians the Arcata Plaza. We at EPIC urge you to sign on. (We did!)

As a local resident, you know that the Arcata Plaza is the heart of the city. During a Farmer’s Market, it is great—alive and vibrant—but most other times, it can be a drag. The Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities wants to “pedestrianize” the plaza—redesign the plaza so that people, not cars or corporations, are put first.

In response to rabble rousing by the Coalition and others, the City has created the Plaza Improvement Task Force to examine alternatives and recommend changes to the City Council. The Coalition is going to present its ideas—and this petition—to the Task Force on Thursday, January 17, and wants to make a strong showing that the community is behind a people-first plaza. They have almost 500 signatures. I’m hoping EPIC can help put them over a thousand. You in? Sign the petition now!

Even if you don’t care about the Arcata Plaza, the principles behind redesigning the Plaza matter for our forests. Think that’s a stretch? Here’s why: population pressure is causing the majority of new housing in Humboldt County to be built outside of our urban core of Arcata and Eureka. The antidote to sprawl is densification of our urban core, and a required component of densification is to prioritize pedestrians. As study after study has shown, building more walkable neighborhoods is good for public health, reduces crime, improves local businesses and reduces greenhouse gases. The petition calls for the city to prioritize people over cars—over 62% of the Plaza is currently spent on parking—and to make Arcata a more walkable, livable place. Please sign today.


Action Alert: Green Diamond Clearcuts Threaten Humboldt Marten in Klamath Glen

Thursday, January 10th, 2019
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Take Action: Green Diamond clearcuts—that’s pretty clear-cut. What’s not, perhaps, are the consequences of its clearcuts, as the company strives to spin whatever mythology it can muster to convince agency regulators and the public at-large that there’s nothing to be seen and no harm being done.

In late November 2018, Green Diamond submitted THP 1-18-177DEL, “Arrow Mills,” THP, totaling 125 acres of timber harvest in Upper and Lower Turwar Creek at Klamath Glen, just up-river of the town of Klamath, CA. Of the total 125-acre THP, 104 acres is proposed for clearcutting.

The “Arrow Mills” THP threatens significant adverse impacts to a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species, including northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, osprey, and even ruffed grouse, all of which are known to exist and have been observed in the vicinity of the THP. Of particular concern to EPIC are the potentially significant adverse impacts the THP will have on the critically-imperiled Humboldt Marten.

The “Arrow Mills” THP and its over 100 acres of clearcutting are proposed within the known Extant Population Area (EPA) for the Humboldt Marten, and within a Green Diamond-designated, “Marten Special Management Area,” (MSMA). Sadly, there’s absolutely nothing “special” about what Green Diamond will do here, as its clearcuts will not be modified in any way to accommodate the known-presence of Humboldt Martens.

Indeed, the only thing that’s “special” in any way in this scenario is the treatment afforded to Green Diamond by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). In late 2018, and nearly simultaneously with the California Fish and Game Commission’s determination that the Humboldt Marten warranted listing as an “Endangered Species” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), the Department gave away a “Safe Harbor Agreement” to Green Diamond that gives the company a pass on protecting the Humboldt Marten or having to change its management practices in any meaningful way.

The “Safe Harbor Agreement” framework in the California Fish and Game Code was created with the caveat that any such agreements entered into with private landowners by CDFW must be shown to afford a, “net-conservation benefit,” during the life of the agreement for the agreement to be valid. Safe Harbor Agreements, unlike Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) under federal law or Native Communities Conservation Plans (NCCPs) established in the California Fish and Game Code, allow landowners and CDFW to agree to actions that result in a net-conservation benefit during the life of the agreement, with the understanding that the landowner has the right to return the lands under the agreement back to the baseline condition when the agreement expires or is terminated.

Green Diamond timberlands in the Lower Klamath and Upper Redwood Creek watersheds are critical habitat connectivity areas and areas important for natural dispersal, and perhaps eventually, assisted re-introduction and dispersal of Humboldt Martens between two of the only three known Extent Marten Population Areas on the Six Rivers National Forest to the east, and Redwood National and State Parks to the west.

The “Arrow Mills” THP will create clearcuts that will create massive dead-zones in marten connectivity and dispersal opportunities and could result in direct mortality and indirect mortality of Humboldt Martens known to exist on Green Diamond lands and on adjacent conserved lands on both sides.

The “Arrow Mills” THP is currently still under review lead by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the CEQA Lead Agency for approving private timber harvesting plans in California. CAL FIRE cannot approve a THP that will violate other applicable laws under its authority, even if another agency, like CDFW, reaches agreement with a private timberland owner on certain practices.

Click here to request that Cal Fire to deny Green Diamond’s plans to log Humboldt marten habitat!

 


Breaking: EPIC in Court to Defend Old Growth in Klamath National Forest

Thursday, January 10th, 2019
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Today EPIC is in court asking for an injunction on the Seiad-Horse Project, which is a timber sale proposed in the Klamath National Forest. The project targets over 1,000 acres on the Siskiyou Crest for clearcut logging. The proposed timber sale is located within an inventoried Roadless Area, a Late Successional Reserve and other areas that are critical habitat for species like the Pacific fisher and northern spotted owl.

The federal case was filed in the Eastern District of California and is being heard by the Honorable Judge Nunley. Nunley asked probing questions about the project, showing that he was well acquainted with the project. He said he would take it under advisement and did not issue a ruling from the bench. We don’t know when the judge will rule, but as soon as a decision is made, we will update our readers.

Click here to read about our previous efforts on the Seiad-Horse Project.

 


EPIC Files Formal Complaint and Appeal of Green Diamond Certification by Forest Stewardship Council

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
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EPIC filed a formal Complaint to appeal the decision of the Re-Certification of Green Diamond Resource Company as in conformance with the standards and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) on December 24, 2018.

The Complaint and Appeal were presented to the independent certification company, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), based in Emeryville, CA. SCS initially certified Green Diamond in 2012 amidst great local opposition and controversy, and then re-certified Green Diamond in early 2018.

FSC certification, monitoring, and issuance of additional specific criteria to maintain FSC conformance and certification, known as “Corrective Action Reports” are all conducted and administered by independent third-party certification companies, like SCS. SCS is also the certification company responsible for Humboldt Redwood Company’s FSC certification.

EPIC’s Complaint to SCS comes out of an investigation into Green Diamond’s re-certification under FSC for forest management and the legitimacy of Green Diamond’s network of “High Conservation Value Forest” (HCVF). FSC standards require certified companies like Green Diamond to establish and maintain an HCVF network of lands classified as “core-interior habitats,” and to voluntary conserve, enhance, and maintain all lands designated as HCVF.

EPIC found that Green Diamond is not including lands in its HCVF network that do not meet the definition of a “core interior habitat,” such as the Riparian Management Zones (RMZs) established along Class I and Class II watercourses on Green Diamond lands. These RMZs are thin strips of forested lands left behind after Green Diamond clearcuts. Even if Green Diamond’s RMZs are appropriate to include in its HCVF network, evidence found in SCS’s own audit and certification and re-certification reports indicates that the total acreage of RMZ accounted by the company as HCVF has steadily declined since 2012, and that thousands of acres once accounted as RMZ HCVF have not been maintained as HCVF and instead have been subject to active commercial timber management.

EPIC further found that Green Diamond was accounting something it calls, “NSO Core-Areas,” as HCVF. Aside from the fact that no clear definition of “NSO Core-Areas” seems to exist, there is also no indication of where these areas are located on the Green Diamond commercial timber landscape, or if they exist at all. And, if all that’s not suspicious enough, SCS’s own audit and certification reports show a steady decline in the acres accounted by Green Diamond as “NSO Core Areas” in its HCVF network since 2012. It appears that thousands of acres of “NSO Core Areas” once accounted by Green Diamond as part of its HCVF network have since been lost to active commercial timber management, which is expressly antithetical to the requirements to protect, enhance, and maintain lands designated as HCVF and to preclude active commercial timber management in such areas.

EPIC also Appealed Green Diamond’s re-certification by SCS under FSC standards on the basis that the company has not lived up to FSC standards or genuinely addressed Corrective Acton Reports calling on the company to create a program to solicit, intake, and integrate input into its management practices from a broad spectrum of public and community stakeholders. Green Diamond claims that the funding of local civic clubs and recreational community sports teams are sufficient to meet the letter and intent of FSC’s standards for intaking and integrating public stakeholder input. Suffice to say, EPIC disagrees.

SCS has initiated its process to formally investigate and respond to EPIC’s Complaint and Appeal of Green Diamond’s 2017-2018 re-certification under FSC’s standards and has promised to provide a full written response from its investigation within 90-days of the filing date.

Nobody peels back the layers of the onion like EPIC. We do the dirty work in-the-trenches, all to protect our forests, fish, wildlife, water and this amazing place we call home.  Click here to support our efforts.


CA Considers Petition to ESA List Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook Salmon – Comments Needed!

Friday, January 4th, 2019
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Spring Chinook photo courtesy of Michael Bravo

Action Alert: The Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council have petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to place Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawystscha) on the state’s Endangered Species List. Listing would afford new protections and opportunities to fund habitat restoration.

Spring Chinook (King) Salmon were once the most plentiful salmonid in the Klamath system, with hundreds of thousands of fish returning to spawn each year. More than a century of dam building, irrigation diversions, mining, and logging have destroyed or denied access to much of their historic habitat. Today these fish number in the hundreds of individuals.

Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are genetically Distinct from Fall Chinook

Prior listing attempts failed as geneticists were unable to distinguish Spring Chinook from their Fall-run counterparts; however, recent studies reveal that the two are indeed genetically distinct from one another. This is the basis of the new petition to list.

Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are Culturally Important

Spring Chinook were a staple for countless generations of Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Shasta, Modoc, and Klamath people. The return of Springers initiates the ceremonial season for Klamath Basin Tribes and signals the end of winter. Today, Karuk ceremonial leaders struggle to harvest a single fish necessary to host the annual first salmon ceremony.

Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are Prized by Anglers and Consumers

Spring Chinook enter the river in the spring and navigate ice cold snow melt to the headwaters of the Klamath system. In order to make the journey, Springers enter the river with a much higher fat and oil content than Fall Chinook which gives them the extraordinary flavor appreciated by sport fishermen and consumers.

Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are part of a Complex Ecosystem

Spring Chinook spend part of their life cycle in the open ocean where they are an important part of the diet of at-risk populations of killer whales. When they return to rivers to spawn and die, they transport ocean nutrients inland providing an important source of protein and nitrogen to forest ecosystems.

Genetic Diversity is Key to Species Survival

Differences in migration timing is an evolutionary strategy for Chinook salmon’s long-term survival. It allows Chinook populations to use a wider range of spawning habitats within a watershed and to enter freshwater at different times of year. This allows the population to survive stressful habitat conditions that may be temporary or limited to a subregion of the watershed. Loss of this genetic information increases the risk that we will lose Chinook salmon runs entirely!

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT COMMENTS TO THE FISH AND GAME COMMISSION NOW!

Written comments due by 5 p.m. on January 24. You may submit comments by clicking the link above or mail comments to:

California Fish and Game Commission

P.O. Box 944209

Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

Tell the Commissioners in person to protect Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook at the California Fish and Game Commission hearing on February 6 at 8:30 a.m. The meeting is at:

California Natural Resources Building

First Floor Auditorium
1416 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

For more information contact Toz Soto at tsoto@karuk.us or Craig Tucker at craig@suitsandsigns.com.

 


2018: Another EPIC Year

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019
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2018 was another EPIC year. The numbers don’t lie: We have nine ongoing lawsuits, two rulemaking petitions, and commented on over 30 projects—all with a staff of just five! Here are some of our highlights from 2018.

Year of the Marten: 2018 was the year of the marten. We successfully listed the marten under the California Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the marten under the federal Endangered Species Act. But not all is well for the marten. Shady backroom deals threaten to undermine future protections for the marten. (Sounds like something EPIC) should work on in 2019, right?)

Beat Back Beaver Batterers: In December, EPIC sent a notice of intent to sue to Wildlife Services, the taxpayer-funded wildlife-killing arm of the USDA, because of the agency’s problematic beaver “management.” By killing beavers that were improving salmon habitat, without consulting with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency violated the Endangered Species Act.

Saving Shasta Salamanders: EPIC, together with our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for dragging its feet in considering whether to list the Shasta salamander under the Endangered Species Act. Why the foot dragging? The Service anticipated making a final decision in 2022, two years after a dam raising project would imperil the salamander’s habitat. We hate this malarkey so we are in court!

Defense of Richardson Grove Continues! Another year of defense of the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park in the bag. So far we have held back the bulldozers for 11 years and we won’t stop until Caltrans follows the laws!

EPIC Sues over “Salvage” Timber Sale Scam: The Klamath National Forest is back with another dumb/wasteful/corrupt/harmful (pick your favorite negative adjective, they all work!) timber sale. The Seiad-Horse Project is all about getting big bucks for timber companies, selling off old growth for record low prices. EPIC, together with our friends at KS Wild, are challenging the timber sale in federal court.

Last Chance for Last Chance Grove? EPIC was on the ground in the summer to look at a potential re-route of Highway 101 around Last Chance Grade that would cut down acres of old-growth. Check out Last Chance Grove before it is too late but looking at our photo gallery.

EPIC Celebrates Jene McCovey with Sempervirens Award: Activist Jene McCovey was honored at the Fall Celebration for her lifetime of work on behalf of the people and lands of the North Coast. Luckily, Jene is not slowing down. We see her at every protest and government meeting, leading the charge. We are so grateful for her work.


EPIC Delivers Early Christmas Present to California Beavers **WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS**

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018
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Today, EPIC and the Western Environmental Law Center notified the federal wildlife-killing program Wildlife Services of their plans to legally challenge the program’s beaver killing in California over its harm to endangered salmon. Wildlife Services, a program under the Department of Agriculture, killed more than 1.3 million non-invasive animals in 2017, including 956 beavers in California. The challenge aims to force the program to reconsider its lethal beaver management and to recognize the crucial role beavers play in the health of endangered salmon populations.

A strong body of scientific research shows beavers benefit salmon and steelhead by building better habitat conditions, including creation ponds used by salmon and by increasing stream flow in summer months. Beavers’ role is so important that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) included beaver population restoration as a goal of the recovery plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho salmon. The challenge alleges Wildlife Services failed to consult with NMFS over impacts to endangered salmon from lethal beaver removal, as required by the Endangered Species Act.

At a time when we are spending millions of dollars a year to improve salmon habitat, including the construction of ‘beaver dam analogues,’ human-made facsimiles of beaver dams designed to help improve stream flow and create more and better salmon habitat, it is absurd that we are spending taxpayer money to kill more beavers.

Help support this groundbreaking litigation by donating to EPIC today.

***WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES OF BEAVER TRAPPED AND KILLED BY WILDLIFE SERVICS BELOW***

 

 

California beaver trapped by Wildlife Services. Photo Credit – APHIS

California beaver killed by Wildlife Services. Photo credit – APHIS

Family of California beavers killed by Wildlife Services. Photo Credit – APHIS


Action Alert: Shasta Dam Raise Would Destroy Imperiled Salamander Habitat and Sacred Sites

Monday, December 10th, 2018
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Westlands Water District has issued a Notice of Preparation to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Shasta Dam Raise Project, formerly known as the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation, which EPIC previously submitted comments on. The proposed project would increase the height of the Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.

Shasta Dam is the largest reservoir in the state and the proposed project would expand the capacity of Shasta reservoir by 7 percent ( only .2% of the state’s total capacity). Raising the shasta dam would inundate National Forest Lands that are within habitat of the imperiled Shasta salamander and the ancestral territory of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. Increasing the water capacity of the reservoir would also put new demands for water on Northern California’s already strained watersheds and the communities that depend on them.

The area surrounding Shasta Lake is rich in biodiversity and is home to many rare and endemic species such as the Shasta salamander, Shasta snow-wreath and the Shasta Chaparral snail. The Shasta snow-wreath is a rare native shrub that is only known to exist near the shores and canyons around Shasta Lake, and many of the populations were lost when the Shasta dam was originally constructed. Current efforts to list the Shasta salamander under the federal Endangered Species Act are underway; however, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been delaying the process. The Service failed to act on listing petitions that were filed 2012 to protect the species under federal law, and now a lawsuit has been filed against the Service to force the federal agency to make a determination on whether to protect the salamanders. If a positive finding is made, and the salamanders gain protections, the Bureau of Reclamation would have to avoid raising the dam without harming them.

The McCloud River is home to many sacred Native American sites belonging to the Winnemem Wintu tribe, who have already lost more than 90 percent of their lands when the Shasta Dam was constructed. The cultural considerations describing the inadequacies of this project cannot be understated. Raising the Shasta Dam would destroy 39 of their remaining sacred sites, and almost all of their remaining lands, including Children’s Rock and Puberty Rock, which is used in coming-of-age ceremonies, and a burial place for victims of the Kaibai Creek Massacre. This is of significant cultural value to the already displaced Tribe, which has been seeking federal recognition for over a century.

Shasta Dam raise project operation would also have long-term impacts to flow and water temperatures in the lower Sacramento River and the Trinity River, including impacts to fish species of primary management concern. The Klamath River’s largest tributary is the Trinity River, which contributes cold water flows to the main stem of the Klamath River below their confluence. Steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon depend on these cold water flows from the Trinity River into the Lower Klamath watershed, and increased demand on Trinity River water flows to supply additional Shasta reservoir capacity, would harm the salmon fisheries that depend on the Trinity’s cold water flows during dry months. Diverting Trinity River flows away from the Klamath would result in lower flows and higher water temperatures that cause lethal conditions to the salmon fisheries that depend on clean cold water. Coho salmon are already listed as Endangered, and the Karuk Tribe recently submitted a petition to list the Klamath’s spring-run Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act. Shasta Dam raise operations would cause irreparable harm to these ecologically, culturally, and economically important fisheries, which would impact the entire North Coast community, and would result in significant harm to the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk Tribes that have subsisted on salmon since time immemorial.

According to the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation EIS, the proposed project would have significant and unavoidable impacts including:

  • Conversion of forest lands;
  • Harm to species and/or habitat for Shasta salamanders, bald eagles, northern spotted owls and Pacific fishers, yellow-legged frogs, tailed frogs, northwestern pond turtles, purple martin, special –status bats, American marten, ringtail terrestrial mollusks, willow flycatcher, Vaux’s swift, yellow warbler, yellow-breasted chat, long-eared owl, northern goshawk, Cooper’s hawk, great blue heron, osprey, Shasta snow wreath and other species;
  • Inundation of the ancestral territory and sacred sites of the Winnenem Wintu and Pit River Madesi Band Tribes;
  • Conflict with existing land use goals and policies;
  • Inconsistency with guidelines for visual resources in the National Forest Resource Management Plan; and
  • Affect the McCloud River’s eligibility for listing as a Federal Wild and Scenic River.

ATTEND THE PUBLIC MEETING:

An open house, presentation and public scoping meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 from 5:00-7:00PM. Written public comments on the proposed project are due at 11:59pm on January 4, 2019 and can be submitted via the following methods:

  • U.S. mail (postmarked by Jan. 4, 2019) or hand-delivery:

Shasta Dam Raise Project

c/o: Stantec

3301 C Street, Suite 1900

Sacramento, CA 95816

  • Email: shastadameir@stantec.com

Take Action Now: Click here to submit your comment on the Shasta Dam Raise Environmental Impact Report!


Green Diamond Purchases 9,400-acres of Timberland in Sproul Creek

Monday, December 3rd, 2018
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Green Diamond Resource Company recently purchased 9,400-acres of commercial timberland in the Sproul Creek Watershed in Southern Humboldt County. Sproul Creek is a tributary to the South Fork Eel River. The purchase was orchestrated between Green Diamond and the Boyle Forest LP, (formerly Barnum Timber Company).

In a separate transaction, Boyle Forest LP agreed to donate a conservation easement over the 9,400-acres of Sproul Creek property prior to the sale to Green Diamond. The donated-conservation easement facilitated by the North Coast Regional Land Trust covers a full divestment of rights to any development or any sub-division of the Sproul Creek property. The Conservation Easement does not address or constrain in any way forest management activities, either by Boyle Forest LP, or by the new owners, Green Diamond Resource Company.

While the likelihood of whether or not the Sproul Creek property ever would have been sub-divided or developed is speculative, what will happen to the property now under the ownership of Green Diamond Resource Company is not. All Green Diamond seems to know how to do is clearcut, and clearcut on a self-established maximum 45-year rotation, meaning every 45-years, Green Diamond will clearcut the exact same pieces of ground.

The Sproul Creek property now under Green Diamond’s ownership is largely comprised of well-stocked forest stands composed primarily of redwood and Douglas fir, both long-lived tree-species with the capacity to potentially grow to be hundreds of years old or more. That is, unless Green Diamond is in charge.

Green Diamond’s purchase of the Sproul Creek Property is a major cause for concern for the salmon fisheries of this major South Fork Eel River tributary, among other aquatic and terrestrial concerns. And, Green Diamond clearcuts mean Green Diamond herbicide applications during the site preparation and pre-emergent seedling establishment phase of the reforestation process.

Green Diamond Resource Company is not locally-owned, does not operate its own mills, and employs only some of its own Licensed Timber Operators, and so the vast majority of the wealth and profit extracted from the company’s nearly 400,000-acres of timberland leave our community and head north to corporate headquarters in Seattle, WA.  

EPIC has had its eye on Green Diamond for some time now, and we will be re-doubling our efforts to keep the company accountable in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.

 


Will HRC Ever Give Elk River A Rest?

Monday, December 3rd, 2018
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600,000 cubic yards of sediment. That’s how much dirt is estimated to still be clogging up the Elk River, and that’s just in the so-called, “Impacted Reach” between the confluence of the North and South Fork and downstream to Berta Road. Oh, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board has designated that the Elk River is suffering from a “Nusiance,” condition, aka, wildly excessive rates and frequencies of overbank flooding that continues to endanger the ingress, egress, health, safety and livelihoods of Upper Elk River residents. To this day, HRC continues to truck water to Upper Elk River residents because the water in the river itself is so inundated with fine sediment and silt it has become unusable and undrinkable. Furthermore, Elk River is Humboldt Bay’s largest tributary and once served as high-quality habitat for steelhead, Chinook and Coho Salmon and listed as the highest priority for recovery and restoration efforts within the Coho Recovery Plan.

In April of 2016, the Regional Water Board finally adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Upper Elk River to address the overwhelming sediment impairment caused by upstream industrial logging, particularly second-cycle logging of the 1980’s and 1990’s conducted by the Pacific Lumber Company under ownership of the MAXXAM Corporation. However, HRC’s logging over the last decade isn’t making things better; in fact, the Upper Elk River Sediment Analysis (Tetra Tech 2015), clearly demonstrated that sediment impairment conditions are worsening, not improving, and that the conditions in Elk River continue to deteriorate.

The Regional Water Board’s TMDL sets the “load allocation” (the amount of additional anthropogenic sediment inputs legally allowed) at “zero,” meaning that the Elk River’s capacity to assimilate more human-caused sediment has been overwhelmed. The Regional Board, however, continues to permit timber harvesting that is resulting in sediment inputs into the Upper Elk River watershed for HRC, and for the other large industrial timberland owner in the upper watershed, Green Diamond Resource Company. The “zero,” the Regional Board argues, is not physically possible to attain, even in the absence of new logging, so it might as well permit further logging as an incentive to the companies to fix ailing sores and road facilities on the landscape. And so, the “zero load allocation” for new logging-caused sediment inputs isn’t translating into zero logging-related sediment inputs, as both HRC and Green Diamond proceed with timber operations in the Upper Elk River Watershed.

Right after Thanksgiving, HRC filed a new THP for Elk River, located in the Lower South Fork of Elk River, directly adjacent to the river and the Headwaters Forest Reserve and the South Fork Elk River Trail in the Headwaters Forest Reserve. The Lower South Fork of Elk River sub-watershed has been designated in the Regional Water Board’s TMDL and in HRC’s currently-deficient Watershed-Wide Waste Discharge Requirement (WWDR) for the Upper Elk River as a “High-Risk Sub-Watershed,” for having sensitive geology and a high-risk of exacerbating and accelerating sediment inputs in association with logging activities.

THP 1-18-167HUM, “The Pond” covers nearly 300 acres of timber harvesting along the South Fork of Elk River and directly adjacent to the boundary with the Headwaters Forest Reserve. While HRC does not employ clearcutting, it is still physically impossible for the company to conduct industrial-scale timber operations and not result in additional new sediment inputs to the South Fork Elk River.

HRC is currently operating under a WWDR for the Upper Elk River that is in great dispute, and for which EPIC still has a Petition for Review before the California State Water Board, challenging the adequacy of the contents of the WWDR as well as the inappropriate procedural means by which it was adopted in August, 2016. Two other petitions from other conservation interests are also before the State Water Board disputing the adoption of the current HRC WWDR. As of the date of this writing, we do not have a full accounting of the acres of timber harvest enrolled under this disputed framework.

On August 1, 2017, the State Water Board ratified the Upper Elk River Sediment TMDL and directed the Regional Water Board to go back and revisit and revise WWDRs for both HRC and Green Diamond in the Upper Elk River by January, 2019. The Regional Board has to-date taken no action and will almost certainly miss this deadline.

HRC has argued that it cannot forego logging in the Upper Elk River Watershed due to the company’s financial constraints, and has warned that if the Regional Board moves to prohibit logging for any period of time, that this will trigger an inability on the part of HRC to fix current and legacy landscape issues causing further sediment inputs to bleed into the Upper Elk River system.

EPIC has been watching and working for Elk River for over 25 years, and will continue to press HRC, Green Diamond, and the Regional and State Water Boards to do the right thing, clean up the mess, and turn of the taps of new and additional preventable logging-caused sediment inputs into the Upper Elk River system.

 

 


Richardson Grove Update

Monday, December 3rd, 2018
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On November 28, Richardson Grove supporters packed Judge Alsup’s courtroom to witness the latest oral argument in EPIC’s federal lawsuit to defend Richardson Grove. This was the third time before Judge Alsup, who previously found that Caltrans relied upon inaccurate data and failed to document the likely harm to the root structure of old-growth redwoods in the park. The judge was notably impressed by the large turnout in support of the grove.

The case focused on whether Caltrans had adequately considered the environmental impacts of the proposed road widening. EPIC and co-plaintiffs argue that Caltrans’ most recent environmental analysis document shares the same fatal flaws that doomed their previous two attempts: the information was either inaccurate or misleading and therefore did not fully consider the potential environmental impacts.

Judge Alsup was engaged and interested in the case, asking sharp questions to both EPIC and Caltrans that demonstrated his close reading of our arguments and his intimacy with the issues. Our attorney team was excellent, per usual. Stuart Gross led the oral arguments for EPIC, assisted by Sharon Duggan, Camilo Artiga-Purcell, and Phil Gregory. The case is now under consideration by the judge, but there is no anticipated date for a ruling.

Friend-of-EPIC, Karen Pickett, was there in the courtroom and spoke to KMUD radio about the oral argument. You can listen to her interview here.

For 11 years, EPIC and allies have stopped bulldozers from wreaking havoc in Richardson Grove State Park. We are putting up a full court press defense of these towering ancient trees. Thank you for your support.


Rally to Protect Strawberry Rock!

Monday, November 26th, 2018
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Just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, Green Diamond submitted a proposal to log the controversial area adjacent to Strawberry Rock, near the town of Trinidad. The new Timber Harvest Plan is NE of Trinidad and within the coastal zone. The THP proposes 84.6 acres of clearcutting. Strawberry Rock is culturally and spiritually sacred to the Yurok Tribe, but Green Diamond claims that the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) units do not contain any archeological or historical sites of significance.

A 45-acre proposed conservation easement for the forest trail and Strawberry Rock itself is being pursued by the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust. In addition to the cultural significance of Strawberry Rock, there are several listed species or their habitat that are known to occur in the area of the proposed THP including northern spotted owls, Humboldt martens, osprey and red-legged frogs, the THP is also within a coho salmon watershed.

 


You’re Invited! EPIC Holiday Membership Mixer

Thursday, November 15th, 2018
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Join the EPIC staff and Board for some holiday cheer on Friday, December 14th at 6pm. This is our annual membership meeting, where you can come hear about EPIC’s work, learn about ways to get involved, and meet fellow treehuggers! EPIC will be giving away sweet surprise presents throughout the night and will have plenty of swag for sale for your Christmas stockings.

Did we mention that there would be boozy hot chocolate?

Join us on Friday, December 14th at 6pm at the EPIC offices (145 G St., Ste. A, Arcata, 95501)