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Clever Gov’t Tricks Undercut Marten Protections

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
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Last week was bittersweet. On Friday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the Humboldt marten as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. I should have been thrilled—this was the culmination of eight years work and one successful lawsuit—but instead I was infuriated. Through a crafty trick, the Service cut a big hole in the protections for the marten, perpetuating some of the same threats which are forcing the marten to extinction. Here’s how the Service sided with the timber industry to sell out the Humboldt marten. As a warning: this might get somewhat wonky.

Let’s start with the Endangered Species Act. The Act has two tiers of protections. “Endangered Species,” those closest to extinction, receive the most stringent protections, including a broad prohibition against “take”—i.e., harming the species or the habitat it requires. “Threatened Species,” those species not quite as imperiled as Endangered Species, get most of the same protections, except for one major caveat: the Service can exempt activities from the “take” prohibition. (These exemptions are called “4(d)” rules after their section of the ESA.)

So to reduce the sting of the listing decision, the Service is proposing to list the marten as “threatened” (not as “endangered,” the more scientifically defensible category) and with a 4(d) rule that largely exempts timber harvesting from the Act’s reach. This matters because timber harvesting is one of the most pressing threats to the marten, as logging not only directly removes marten habitat but also increases predation of martens by creating better habitat for the generalist predators, like bobcats, that like to munch on martens. A press release issued by the Service makes this 4(d) rule sound minor—that “certain forestry management activities associated with this species, while causing some take of martens, actually benefit population and are necessary for public safety.” Sure, in theory, EPIC could agree with this mealy statement. But the rule goes farther than the Service is willing to admit to the press.

In the actual proposed rule, the Service would exempt “[f]orest management activities includ[ing]…Safe Harbor Agreement[s]…approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife….” Avid readers will remember that the Department already approved a Safe Harbor agreement for Green Diamond that gave the company a free pass to continue their logging practices without any substantive changes. So the Service has doubled down on this faulty state decision.

The decision is also darkly amusing because the Service has previously rejected the same measures contained within the Safe Harbor Agreement as inadequate when Green Diamond tried to get these rolled into a new federal Habitat Conservation Plan for the marten. Why? The Service found that there was too much “uncertainty concerning the benefits” of the Agreement to approve.

So here we are; timber influence continues to trump species protection. Despite this challenge, EPIC won’t stop advocating for our favorite mustelid until it is safe.


Salt in the Wounds – Act Now to Defend Mature Forests!

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018
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On the heels of California’s largest wildfire complex in history the Grindstone Ranger District (RD) on the east side of the Mendocino National Forest recently released a scoping notice for the Salt project. In essence, timber planners are looking to kill trees to save them from insects and disease. The project is within the Salt Creek watershed, where up to 3,000 acres could be logged with limited review of environmental threats, such as increased fire risk, and minimal opportunity for public involvement and legal recourse.

The 2014 Farm Bill, through changes made in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, allowed the US Forest Service in some areas to use a Categorical Exclusion (CE). This means no thorough environmental assessment. The Grindstone RD has already used this same CE authority, where industrial-logging techniques, such as overstory removal, were proposed on over 1,000 acres concentrated in one steep watershed.

The stated purpose of the Salt project is to improve forest health by conducting restoration treatments and the need is to benefit timber production and wildlife habitat. As wildlife disperses from the nearly adjacent fire area to find new territory and foraging areas to survive, it is imperative that all suitable habitat in the Salt project is protected.

The best available science tells us that large mature trees are more resistant to fire, create the best habitat and are essential to storing carbon and providing important hydrological functions. Common sense and science also shows that industrial logging techniques that greatly open forest canopies, increases wind speed and solar radiation which dries out the understory, increases brush growth and subsequently increases ground fuels and fire risk. Rather than target large trees and forest canopy removal, selective thinning of smaller diameter trees with underburning can in some instances improve forest conditions.

To use this CE authority, projects must be “collaboratively developed and implemented”! Unless interested people call the district, this scoping period for public comment is the only and best opportunity to influence how the project is carried out. It is important that the Grindstone RD hears from you. Please urge the Grindstone RD to incorporate your comments into project planning by retaining all mature trees, adequate forest canopy and wildlife habitat in the Salt Creek watershed.

Click here to take action now!

PLEASE personalize your message so that it will not be counted as bulk mail!

If you have a personal experience or know someone affected by the recent fires, add your story.


Honoring Jene McCovey for a Lifetime of Environmental Work at EPIC Fall Celebration

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018
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EPIC is honored to present the 2018 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award to Jene McCovey, on Saturday, November 10th at the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland. This year, EPIC will celebrate 41 years of environmental activism with Folk trio No Pardon, who will play some toe-tappin’ fiddle tunes and Sue’s Organics who will be cooking up a delicious feast as EPIC family and friends reminisce about the old days and strategize for what’s to come. Doors open at 6pm, Dinner at 7, Music at 9.

No one is more deserving of the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award for Environmental Activism than Jene McCovey. Whenever there is an issue of concern, Jene is right there in the forefront, supporting, speaking, and representing people, places and wildlife in an effort to make our community, and the world a better, more conscientious place. Last Year, Jene shared her powerful story with us, which was published as an EcoNews Kin to the Earth article, as well as on the KMUD environment Show. You can read about her inspirational journey below or click here to hear the radio interview.

Jene McCovey is a respected Yurok Elder who has been involved in North Coast environmental issues for decades. Currently, Jene is the Board President of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, a Board Member of Tri Valley Communities Against Radioactive Environment, advisor to the Yurok Tribe’s Social Service and Natural Resource Advisory Committee, and advisor to the Humboldt County In-Home Supportive Services. She has worked to un-dam the Klamath River, fought to protect Headwaters Forest and Dillon Creek, opposed offshore oil rigs, and regularly speaks at hearings and rallies. Her passion to be involved with environmental and social justice issues stems from her experience of being raised in Hoopa and having her family exposed to toxic aerial spraying of chemical herbicides from the timber industry.

“I grew up in Hoopa. I’m a Yurok Tribal member from the Klamath River; I’m Chetco from the Chetco River, Tolowa from the Smith River, and Chilula from Redwood Creek. I’m thankful to have left Creator to come here to be who I am at this time. As human beings we choose how to walk back to Creator. In my young life, I choose to walk for five of my relatives who aren’t here. Two of them were small babies who failed to thrive due to exposure of aerial spraying of herbicides 2,4,5-T and Agent Orange, and three of my cousins spontaneously aborted their babies from exposure to the herbicides. They would have been the same age as my daughter Daisy Etta, who is 42 years old,” says Jene.

Jene has trained with the Smithsonian Institute, Traditional Circle of Native American Youth and Elders, and has presented at the United Nation’s 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing China 1995, given workshops on indigenous and environmental issues ranging from pesticides, water quality, the Klamath dams and indigenous hunting and fishing rights. In 2014, Jene was honored by the Women’s Intercultural Network with the Circle of Courage Award that was presented by Representative Pelosi for being a mover and shaker.

Jene’s activism began in her early twenties, when her daughter was of school age. “I went to a public meeting in Klamath regarding the toxic effects of herbicide spraying near Margaret Keating Elementary, Jack Norton, and the Weitchpec Schools. These three schools were ‘non-target species’ and sprayed multiple times by aerial herbicides used as defoliants. In the ‘70s, aerial spraying of herbicides was a best management practice. To mitigate climate change, we have to realize we cannot clear-cut trees, defoliate the land or denude the terrain. Natural ecosystems have to be recognized as needed.” Jene is also strengthened from the history of her people. Here is her historical account of what she and her people have experienced:

When the miners, soldiers and settlers came to California, there was already a long history of Indian killing in America, and they had already broken treaties with tribal people. California entered the union as a non-slave state but had Indian indentured servitude laws. They took children away from their families and put them in boarding schools. The U.S. government made 18 treaties in California, but the first two California Senators sequestered the treaties and they were never ratified.

My strength comes from my grandparents and our ‘World Renewal Dances’ which is our religion. I can stand up for our people and for those who have no voice; the four-legged ones, the finned ones, the feathered ones and the one-footed ones (plants). I sit here thinking of the importance of continuing to work around the pain that brings tears to my eyes when I think of how badly we have been treated and our Mother Earth.

When we saved Headwaters forest I thought, it should be Native American Earth First! I am an Earth Firster! I feel welcomed and I pray for the protectors who were standing up for those with no voices. I was really affected when Gypsy was killed and realized how important it is to follow your heart and die for it. Part of this is recognizing the warriors in all of us.

Today, Jene is inspired by people like Lauren Reagan, of the Civil Liberty Defense Center for “helping the youth recognize the power to find purpose and help one another to make the world a better place and to recognize that clean air and water is a human right.” Jene recited a quote from Thomas Banyaca a Hopi Man, who once told her, “What is in your heart is your spirit. It’s your soul so be mindful of what you say, because it is your spirit that comes out into the physical.”

Jene urges folks to stand behind the people on the front lines and support the protectors who are standing up for the environment. “We have people who are just, kind and compassionate. We just need to be happy campers and take the high road. Sometimes just breathing clean air is enough.”

Jene McCovey will be receiving the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award at the EPIC Fall Celebration on Saturday, November 10th at the Beginnings Octagon in Briceland. We hope that you will come out and join us in supporting Jene and the environmental community that has worked for decades to protect the ancient forests, rivers and wildlife that make the North Coast so special.

Celebrate with us! Click here to purchase your tickets now!

Spread the word! Click here to “attend” and invite your friends on Facebook!

Support us! Click here to make a financial contribution!

Tickets for dinner, awards and music will be $50 in advance or $60 at the door.

Tickets for awards and Music (no dinner) will be $20.

Tickets are available online or in person at Redway Liquor or Wildberries Market.


Wild and Scenic Rivers Act Turns 50!

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a law that has preserved 12,754 miles of 209 different rivers in 40 states (including Puerto Rico)! This act was created by congress and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson in 1968. While Teddy Roosevelt was heralded as one of our country’s most famous conservationists, surprisingly Lyndon Johnson has quite the track record as well, signing more than 300 conservation measures into law in his term. This iconic law sought to preserve certain rivers with, “outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

Now there are three classifications of rivers under this act each with different criteria that define them. The first classification is wild (or natural) river areas, which are free of impairments typically only accessible by trail whose watersheds/shorelines are primitive with no pollution. The second classification is scenic river areas, which are rivers (or sections of rivers) free of impoundments (i.e. not confined by reservoirs or other man-made structures) with shorelines/watersheds that are primarily undeveloped but accessible by road. The final classification is recreational river areas, which are rivers (or sections of rivers) easily accessible by road or railway that may have had developments, impoundments, or diversions in the past. Congress or the Secretary of Interior (at both the state and federal level) utilize these three classifications and standards to determine which rivers deserve classification, and of those deserving rivers, which class they fall under.

We collectively benefit from this act as there are rivers in Humboldt County that have been classified and protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System act, including both the Klamath and Eel rivers. Governor Jerry Brown mandated that his Secretary of Interior Cecil Andrus designate sections of both the Klamath and Eel rivers as wild, scenic, and recreational in 1981. Currently, 398 miles of the Eel river are classified as wild (97 miles), scenic (28 miles), and recreational (273 miles) while the Klamath river has 286 miles of wild (11.7 miles), scenic (23.5 miles), and recreational (250.8 miles) respectively. This ensures that no more dams can be created within the span of those designated areas as, “it prohibits federal support for actions such as the construction of dams or other instream activities that would harm the river’s free-flowing condition, water quality, or outstanding resource values”, but unfortunately, it does nothing to address dams currently on these rivers. This act is important for the conservation and preservation of endemic fish species such as coho and Chinook salmon as well as steelhead trout, as these animals are incredibly important biologically, culturally, and recreationally.

However, the agenda of our current administration could very likely put these river systems at risk. Loosening environmental standards and regulations has become commonplace. For example, removal of Obama era regulations on hydraulic fracturing and allowing offshore oil surveying and drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans threaten groundwater and ocean systems across the country. The 2016 moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land was also rolled back, allowing for the development of new coal power plants (because everyone knows coal is the energy of the future right?). These power plants use massive amounts of water, and certain plants that utilize a “once through” method that sucks up water, heats it up, and discharges it back into the same system it was taken from. This water returns at higher temperatures, creating thermal pollution (i.e. it makes the water warmer, surprise surprise), which can reduce fertility in fish as well as increase their heart rates. So while regulations surrounding our river systems haven’t been directly threatened yet, it seems the current administration is creating policies to maximize the utilization of our natural resources at the expense of loosening environmental regulations. These loose regulations threaten these areas and ecosystems, so it is up to us to contact our local and state representatives and show our support for laws like the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

This article was written by Kieran Hanson-Schiffgens


EPIC Fail: Oregon Denies Protection for Gravely Imperiled Humboldt Martens

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
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On September 14, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to deny state Endangered Species Act protection to the fewer than 200 Humboldt martens estimated to remain in the state. Once again, Oregon proves that it is a few steps behind California when it comes to conservation policy.

The Commission rejected a June petition from six conservation groups to protect the rare carnivore that would have required a review of its current status in Oregon.

The Commission’s decision runs starkly against the best available science. Only two isolated populations of Humboldt martens survive in Oregon — one in the Siskiyou National Forest and another in the Siuslaw National Forest. The lack of mature forest habitat on state and private forests stretching between the two populations has isolated them and put them at high risk.

Though martens were once common in the coastal mountains from the Columbia River south to Sonoma, California, logging of old-growth forests and fur trapping decimated and separated their populations. Southern coastal populations are now threatened by severe wildfires and rodent poisons used in marijuana cultivation. Populations on the central coast are threatened by vehicle mortalities on Highway 101 and lack of suitable mature forest habitat for dispersal.

A 2018 study concluded that Humboldt martens on Oregon’s central coast could be wiped out within three decades with trapping or road kill of just two or three individuals annually.

Earlier this year conservation groups petitioned the state to ban marten trapping west of Interstate 5. The state has agreed to implement future trapping restrictions for Humboldt martens, but the extent of the new guidelines is currently unknown.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under court order to publish a decision on federal protection for the Humboldt marten by September 30th.

Oregon, like always, is behind us enlightened Californians. In August the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to protect the marten as endangered in the state. Martens in California face a similar level of imperilment as those in Oregon, with fewer than 200 surviving in two populations.

If you care about the martens, please consider contributing to our biodiversity and endangered species defense fund. 


Murrelets in Monument Ridge Wind Farm?

Monday, September 24th, 2018
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It was a cold and blustery morning at the top of Monument Ridge. EPIC staff were in the field to investigate a proposed wind project, between 45-70 turbines churning out 135 megawatts of power, and their potential impacts to the marbled murrelet. The murrelet, a seabird that lays its eggs on oldgrowth branches, is threatened with extinction because most of its habitat has been logged. Although this project would not cut any murrelet nest trees, the project could still endanger the bird by killing birds as they commute between their inland nest sites and the ocean, where they feed.

Murrelets in the project area are thought to come from nest sites in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and other pockets of residual oldgrowth in the Eel River watershed. Though murrelets often follow river valleys toward the ocean, sometimes they will jump over ridges for a distance-saving detour. Here, the concern is that murrelets from Humboldt Redwoods State Park may follow the Eel River for a time before jumping over Monument Ridge to connect with the Bear River, a more-direct flight path to the ocean.

Terra Gen, the project developer, has recognized the threat, and in response, has begun to study how murrelets use the project site—are there particular areas of high murrelet use, how high are they flying, and how many are making the trip across Monument Ridge. This information, according to Terra Gen, will inform placement of wind turbines to avoid and minimize impacts to the seabird. Using radars adapted from oceangoing vessels, Terra Gen has been scanning the skies for signs of the bird. EPIC was there to check out their survey efforts first hand.

Our first stop was at a trailer perched on Monument Ridge Road, near a low saddle where biologists  suspected that murrelets might jump between the Bear and Eel Rivers. On the trailer were two open array radar units—spinning bars that emit a radiowave that travels at the speed of light until they hit an object and are reflected back to the radar unit, which receives the radiowaves and locates the object. One of the radar arrays was parallel to the ground, in a way that you might see on the mast of a ship in Humboldt Bay. This radar was to pick up where the birds were flying—did they preferentially choose particular areas or were their flight paths random? The second radar array was mounted perpendicular to the ground, sending off radio waves to pick up how high the murrelets flew as they crested the ridge.

The radar is so sensitive that skilled technicians can tell the difference in the birds that they pick up based on the shape of their radar signature and the speed of movement—murrelets, for example, need to constantly pump their wings in flight and produce a fairly large “blip” on the screen and move incredibly fast, up to 100mph.

Though we were there before the break of dawn, survey station monitors were there earlier. Just prior to our arrival the survey station recorded a potential murrelet: a blueish blip on the screen traveling through the project area. Before the sighting is confirmed as a murrelet, the survey team will send its data back to headquarters to look at the flight speed and radar register of the bird.

Our tour took us to other bird survey sites throughout the project, each spaced to provide a cumulative complete look at the ridgeline, to bat survey sites, and to meteorological stations. By the time we left, the cold morning cleared to a sunny September day.

EPIC was pleased to see the science being conducted for the project, although seeing that blip on a September morning was concerning. Murrelets cross the project area ridges to some degree, something that we know based on survey information for a past wind proposal that partly overlapped  the proposed Terra Gen project area. We will soon learn the degree to which they use this site. The best case scenario is that their use of the project area is low but consistent and predictable, which can enable Terra Gen to better avoid or minimize impacts. If murrelets consistently use a particular area of the project for travel, impacts may be avoided or minimized through strategic placement of wind turbines. Or if murrelets consistently move through the project at certain times of day, impacts may be minimized through shutting down spinning turbines at strategic times. The worst case scenario is that murrelets may use the site almost randomly but very frequently, which would make efforts to minimize impacts far more difficult.

Time will tell. The full results of the survey will not be ready for two years, the standard survey protocol time, although preliminary results from the first survey year should be available earlier.


Gypsy Remembered

Monday, September 24th, 2018
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Photo courtesy of HAVOC.

This month is the 20th anniversary of the death of David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain, a forest activist killed by a tree felled by a logger employed by the Pacific Lumber Company. This sad anniversary offers a moment for reflection—on the gains extracted by activists like Gypsy, and on the battles not yet won.

The legacy left by Gypsy and other forest defenders is written not only in the forests that they protected but in the rules by which timber must operate. This may not sound true—especially when looking out at a fresh clearcut—but California has the strictest forest practice rules in the country. We are the envy of the Pacific Northwest, and at EPIC, we often field questions from friends across the country about how our rules operate. These rules were borne from struggle—from forest activists blocking timber sales to legal advocates winning lawsuits.

The rules tell the story of the Timber War in the North Coast. For example, consideration of cumulative impacts (such as it is) was a product of the Sally Bell Grove campaign. When timber companies threatened to log the last remaining old-growth in Little Jackass Creek, a note went up on the marquee on the Garberville Theatre: “G-P Cutting Sinkyone. Help Now. EPIC.” The next day, loggers were surprised by 40 forest defenders and a Eureka television news crew. The forest defenders stalled loggers long enough that EPIC was able to obtain an injunction from a judge against logging. In the end, EPIC would win the day against Georgia-Pacific in the famous EPIC v. Johnson, in which the California Supreme Court affirmed the obligation that timber companies consider the cumulative impacts of their logging.

This anniversary also provides an occasion to reflect on how far we still have to go. Humboldt Redwood Company is threatening to log an unentered stand in the Mattole watershed and have only been thwarted by courageous forest defenders. In response, the company took a page out of the old timber playbook, hiring a private paramilitary contractor to make citizen arrests of activists. Green Diamond continues to clearcut with abandon, currying sweet deals from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bypass endangered species protections.

The life of David Chain is a reminder of the value of the struggle. In this struggle, we become our best selves. We test our mettle and discover we are stronger than we thought. We commit ourselves to higher principles and find purpose and fulfillment. The struggle gives shape and meaning to an otherwise transitory and fleeting existence. In it we become fully human.

On this 20th anniversary, let’s redouble our efforts and spirit to take on the timber beast again. And let’s do it in Gypsy’s style: with gusto, with humor, and with love and compassion for all beings.

To donate to the David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain scholarship, please visit http://www.hafoundation.org/GypsyChain


EPIC Summer Events

Saturday, September 15th, 2018
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Each Summer, EPIC’s staff, board, and volunteers share their love for the wild all across the North Coast! Catch us tabling at your favorite music festival, leading a bilingual hike along your favorite swimming spot, and hosting our second annual EPIC Base Camp. We are pleased to present new merchandise for the summer season—including car bumper stickers, and a re-release of our beloved “Save Richardson Grove” t-shirts. We will update our online store as soon as possible, so keep your eye out if you’re interested in ordering through our website. Our hikes and workshops fill up fast, so be sure to register!

Here’s a list of the EPIC happenings this summer:

May 19th: Packers Bay Invasive Weed Pull. Our breadth of work takes us far and wide.  In a modest victory, the Shasta-Trinity National Forest has agreed to partner with EPIC and the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center to pull and cut Scotch broom in areas growing near creeks and Shasta snow-wreath populations. Join EPIC this Saturday, May 19 from 10am-3pm in an effort to remove invasive Scotch broom to protect native Shasta snow wreath populations . Meet at the Garden Gulch Trailhead, which can be reached from the Packers Bay exit on Interstate 5 (from northbound I-5, take the O’Brien exit, get back on I-5 heading south, then exit at Packers Bay).

June 2nd-3rd: Benbow Summer Arts & Music Festival. What better way to kick off the summer than dancing among the redwoods and swimming in the majestic Eel River. The Benbow Summer Arts Festival features more than 150 handmade craft, food, and non-profit vendor booths, a Kid Zone with arts & crafts, dancing, and fun for the whole family. Join us, and pick up the latest EPIC swag!

June 28 – July 1st:  Kate Wolf Music Festival.  For the 9th year in a row, EPIC joins our friends among the beautiful black oaks of the Hog Farm in Laytonville. This festival is a must for those who enjoy classic rock, country, and bluegrass music. Sign our latest petition postcards and learn more about what EPIC has in store for 2018 and beyond.

July 16th: Bilingual Redwood Hike-Hiouchi Trail, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Join EPIC for a Redwood hike through Hiouchi Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. This hike will meander through an enchanting forest landscape watched over by towering giants. The stunning old growth and pristine Smith River along the Hiouchi Trail makes it one of the most beautiful places on the North Coast. This 3 mile loop is well-maintained trail and designed to be accessible to almost anyone. Please come prepared with water and hiking shoes, as well as swimming gear so that you can fully enjoy the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Click here to register! 

September 7th-9th: EPIC Base Camp. Mark you calendars for EPIC’s second annual Base Camp. Join us for a weekend of ground-truthing trainings, workshops, and more! More updates soon.

September 15th-16th: North Country Fair. Join us along the coast for our last festival of the year. It always feels good to end a busy summer season at home on the coast. Don’t miss your chance to buy our latest summer merchandise!

September 23rd: Bilingual Redwood Hike-Trillium Falls Trail, Redwood National Park.  Don’t miss our last hike of the series! One of our staff favorites, this hike will explore the misty hallways of an ancient redwood home. The stunning old growth, vast creeks, and 10 ft. waterfall make it the most popular and awe inspiring trail in Redwood National Park. This 3 mile loop is a well-maintained trail and designed to be accessible to almost anyone. Click here to register!


EPIC Base Camp: Groundtruthing Last Chance Grade Alternatives

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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This last weekend EPIC staff and volunteers ventured out into ancient redwood forests and coastal scrublands to explore two of the six alternatives (Alternative A2 and Alternative L), which are being considered for rerouting Highway 101 around the unstable cliff side along Last Chance Grade, a section of Highway 101 that is sliding into the Pacific Ocean.

Alternative A2

On Saturday, Base Campers traversed through the pristine, ancient redwood forest section of Alternative A2, which was located within Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. This was one of the most spectacular places any of us had ever experienced in our lifetimes. The vast size of the magnificent old growth trees was humbling, and as we traversed the pristine redwood forest floor, we became emotional with the thought that these ancient trees were numbered and could potentially be sacrificed to build a road. Ancient forests can’t be grown in our lifetimes. Redwoods live to be 2,000 years old. The forest communities they create are irreplaceable and with less than 5% of the original old growth redwoods remaining on the planet, primarily in protected state parks, we need to do everything in our power to prevent them from harm. Bisecting an ancient redwood forest would not only fragment the habitat they create, it would also degrade the remaining forest community that has taken thousands of years to develop.

Based on preliminary geotechnical investigations, Alternative A2 is one of 6 routes that is being considered, which would reroute 3.2 miles of Highway 101, creating an 85 acre construction footprint, including 3 acres of old growth redwood in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. Additionally, this alternative would also include 2 creek crossings, 10 culverts and two bridges. It is EPIC’s position that this alternative, if selected, would result in the largest environmental impact to irreplaceable old growth redwood forest.

Alternative L

On Sunday, we set out to groundtruth Alternative L, which was adjacent to the coastal trail that had sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. The landscape through this proposed route is made up of mixed coastal shrub, grassland and speckled with some good sized coastal spruce trees, and the northern end of the proposed route contains approximately 1 acre of old growth redwoods, with 2.2 miles of the proposed realignment going through Redwood National Park land. Caltrans hopes that further development of this alternative can eliminate any logging of old growth forests.

History

EPIC is a member of the Last Chance Grade Stakeholder Group, which is made up of regional tribes, agencies, companies and organizations. Last Chance Grade is a 3 mile segment of Highway 101 between Orick and Crescent City beginning just north of Wilson Creek. Road failures and landslides have plagued the roadway for over a decade, and with ongoing sea level rise and coastal erosion, it is just a matter of time before the road will fall into the Pacific Ocean. EPIC recognizes that a safe and reliable alternative route is needed, and has pledged to work with the stakeholder working group to advocate for the least environmentally harmful alternative.

Last Chance Grade Alternative Comparison Chart

Alternative Acres Old Growth Affected New Construction Footprint in Acres Cost in millions Travel Time Added Length within Park Timeline
Existing Allignment 0 0 $2M/year 0 0 Ongoing
A1 1.5 80 $672M 1 minute .8 miles 4 years
A2 3 85 $240M .8 minute .6 miles 3.5 years
F 1.5 4.5 Up to $200M 1 minute N/A 7 years
L 1 47 acres $220M 2.2 minutes 2.2 miles 3.5 years
X 0 20 $150M 1.1 3.5

Groundtruthing

EPIC staff and volunteers went into the field to document the path of proposed road realignment. The photos below were taken and plotted on a georeferenced project map marking the location of the photos with a GPS stamp using the Avenza Maps application. Every affected tree was marked with a small round metal tag that had a number on it to identify the tree. The proposed roadway was identified with wooden stakes and/or white flagging.

EPIC would like to thank Caltrans for their assistance in making Base Camp a reality. Caltrans has been forthright with information, including staking of the potential alternatives prior to our Base Camp, and has provided EPIC will all documents needed to study the alternatives. EPIC is heartened by the open and transparent process under which these alternatives are being developed.

 

 

 


Logging, Not Wildfires is a Greater Threat to Northern Spotted Owls

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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Science in action: Defying current assumptions, a new scientific review of northern spotted owl studies discovered that current forest management practices meant to protect them may instead be hurting them. In a recent meta-analysis, Pennsylvania State University researcher and quantitative ecologist Dr. Derek E. Lee examined 21 published scientific studies on the spotted owl and found that wildfire impacts were less than previously believed, challenging the narrative that fuel-reduction logging is necessary or helpful for their survival. The study found that mixed-severity fires may in fact be beneficial to their habitats

This summer, as the West Coast continues to be scorched by multiple infernos, the wildfire risks to human life and property are not to be underestimated. Wildfires (or the mere potential for them) near cities and towns can be extremely deadly, and must be proactively managed for human safety. However, in the wilderness and away from human habitation, mixed-severity fires may actually have complex ecological effects that warrant a second look.

On wildfire impacts to the spotted owl, Dr. Lee writes, “[These results were] not a surprise to me as this species has been living with forest fire for thousands of years. But, it was fascinating to see the positive effects of wildfire on the owls. The positive effects of forest fires on spotted owls indicate mixed-severity fires, including so-called mega-fires, such as have been receiving lots of media attention lately, are within the natural range of variability for these forests. The fact that spotted owls have adapted to these types of fires over evolutionary time tells us that they have seen this before and learned to take advantage of it.”

Click for full infographic by Derek E. Lee. Used with permission.

In the examined studies, fewer than 1% of spotted owl breeding sites were found to be affected by fires. In contrast, the wildfires produced mixed habitats that drew in new owls (increased “recruitment”) and provided more foraging opportunities in the recently-burned areas.

According to Dr. Lee’s press release, “The idea behind these logging projects is that the risks from wildfire outweigh the harm caused by additional logging, but here we show that forest fires are not a serious threat to owl populations and in most instances are even beneficial. This reveals an urgent need to re-evaluate our forest management strategies.”


David “Gypsy” Chain 20th Anniversary Memorial Fundraiser

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018
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Monday, September 17th marks the 20th anniversary of the death of David Nathan “Gyspy” Chain. Chain tragically lost his life while trying to prevent illegal logging in an Earth First! Action near Grizzly Creek in the Van Duzen River watershed.

To honor his death, friends and family have established the David Nathan “Gyspy” Chain Memorial Scholarship Fund in support of the next generation of environmental stewards. Administered by the Humboldt Area Foundation, this fund will provide an annual scholarship of $1,000 for a local high school student or first year student at Humboldt State University or College of the Redwoods who has demonstrated commitment to issues of forest ecology through volunteer or academic projects.

We invite you to join us Sunday, September 16th for the David “Gypsy” Chain 20th Anniversary Memorial Fundraiser at the Historic Eagle House in Eureka.  Enjoy an evening of music, refreshments, and a silent auction full of artesian goodies!  All proceeds will benefit the David Nathan “Gypsy” Chain Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Tickets are $25 at the door.

Doors open at 7pm. Featuring the fine art and craft silent auction, refreshments, and a no host bar.

Music at 8pm. Hosted by Julia “Butterfly” Hill. Featuring appearances by Darryl Cherney, Joanne Rand and Rob Diggins, Francine Allen, David Simpsonand Jane Lapinr, Berel Alexander and Kira Weiss, Jerry Martien, Joan Dunning, Naomi Steinberg, Paul Woodland, and many more!

We are in need of a few volunteers! If you’re interested, please contact Judith Mayer at jmayer@sonic.net

To donate directly to the scholarship fund please visit hafoundation.org/gypsychain or call (707) 442-2993


California Gray Wolf Update 2018

Thursday, August 9th, 2018
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The Lassen Pack has grown! Up to five pups, two confirmed, were born this spring. The wolf family now includes the new puppies, three yearlings and the alpha pair. The pair was first spotted traveling together in 2016. The alpha male (CA08M) is now four years old. He is the son of famous OR-7 of the Rouge Pack. Genetics of the alpha female (LAS01F) indicate she may have traveled from Idaho. In June 2017 she was captured and fit with a GPS collar weighing in at seventy-five pounds. Surveys for the pup count are ongoing.


California’s first wolf pack, the seven-member all black Shasta Pack was established in Siskiyou County in 2015. Later that year, the pack seemed to have vanished and it was thought they had all been illegally killed. That is until May 2016, when a yearling male (CA07M) was detected near several pup-rearing sites the pack had used in 2015. In November of 2016, the young wolf was then spotted just west of the Black Rock Desert. He was the first confirmed wolf in Nevada since 1922. It is suspected that he is the lone black wolf that’s been observed within the Lassen Pack territory.


While the Rogue Pack territory is in southern Oregon, it deserves an honorable mention. The nine-year old alpha male, OR-7 was born into the Imnaha Pack in 2009. He was the first confirmed wolf in the Golden State in nearly 100 years. In 2011 and 2013 he roamed over 4000 miles before eventually finding a mate and establishing a territory in 2013. The Rouge Pack has had successful litters for four years in a row; at least four of his progeny have been detected in California this year and last.

OR 54 of the Rogue Pack

In January and February, another of OR-7’s daughters, OR-54 traveled over 500 miles through four California counties before returning to her pack. She covered much of the same ground her famous father did from 2011 to 2013. She roamed back to California April 15 and by the end of June she traveled through Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Plumas, Sierra, and Nevada counties, covering nearly 750 miles in 76 days. OR-54 is now only two-years old and she weighed 83 pounds when she was collared in October 2017. In June, she was spotted a mile away from Interstate 80 just north of Lake Tahoe.

OR-44 entered California this year in March. He is a two-year old male that dispersed from northeastern Oregon’s Chesnimnus Pack in fall 2017. The battery on his radio collar is no longer working. Between March and the end of May the young male wolf traveled a minimum of 450 miles between Siskiyou and Del Norte Counties.

There is evidence of other dispersing wolves currently roaming the golden state. Gray wolves in California are listed under both the federal and state Endangered Species Act. Recovery of canis lupis will greatly depend on the ability of people to accept living with wolves.


Green Diamond HCP

Thursday, August 9th, 2018
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Green Diamond’s Clearcuts in Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Baker.

Green Diamond does it again! The company has gotten another sweetheart deal that allows them to clearcut with impunity, once again proving that the rules don’t apply to the big boys. Previously we reported on a deal struck with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that would exempt the company from protections for the Humboldt marten. Today’s story is similar: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has just released a draft Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would allow Green Diamond to clearcut more northern spotted owl habitat than otherwise permitted in exchange for a promise to shoot barred owls. We think this deal stinks. Here’s why:

Green Diamond is currently operating under an older HCP for owls, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992. Under that HCP, Green Diamond set up a series of 40 “reserves,” no-cut areas set aside for the benefit of the owl, totaling 13,243 acres and ranging from approximately 60 to 2,000 acres each. The set-asides were designed to be large enough to support multiple pairs of owls and were spread out across Green Diamond’s ownership.

Under the new HCP, the set-asides disappear in favor of a “dynamic” reserve system. Under the dynamic reserve system, the company will “protect” 44 owl nest sites, but just barely. The company will set aside 89 acres of forest around individual nest sites that are at minimum 46 years old and 233 total acres within .5 miles of the nest that are at least 31 years old.

You might think, “at least they have agreed to protect some habitat. Surely that’s better than nothing!” Sorry pal, you are mistaken. Absent the HCP, Green Diamond would presumably have to follow take avoidance guidance established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for THPs in the redwood region. That take avoidance guidance would preserve 500 total acres of habitat within .7 miles of a nest site, including the 100 acres of the highest quality habitat near the nest site. In other words, we would preserve more habitat for owls if we did nothing and Green Diamond had to follow the law that everyone else is bound by.

A Habitat Conservation Plan is supposed to be what the name suggests: a plan to conserve habitat. Congress created these plans to incentivize landowners with protected species to manage their land to provide additional benefit to the species. In exchange, the landowner would be permitted to incidentally “take” (that is, kill, harm, harass, etc.) protected species. Here, there’s no habitat value added.

Why did the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agree to this? Green Diamond has agreed to kill barred owls on their property. Barred owls are a problem for our spotties and a limited experiment on Green Diamond land has shown that barred owl removal can help reestablish owl sites abandoned to barred owls. But is this deal enough? Under the worst case scenario, Green Diamond’s poor habitat retention would allow the number of owl sites to shrink from 196 sites to just 47.

The northern spotted owl is going extinct before our eyes. The rate of owl decline is increasing and in some areas, the owl has entered an “extinction vortex,” whereby owl declines reinforce processes that further hasten the owl’s decline, leading ultimately to its total extinction.

EPIC is on the case. We are drafting comments right now on the HCP and are mobilizing our legal and biological experts to help. This special treatment for Green Diamond has to end.


Martens Need Your Support August 23 in Fortuna!

Thursday, August 9th, 2018
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Humboldt Marten caught on trail camera. Photo by Mark Linnell U.S. Forest Service.

Take Action Now! The Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended that the Humboldt marten be listed as “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act. This is huge news and the culmination of over three years of work by EPIC. (Phew!)

But it ain’t over yet! The California Fish and Game Commission will make the final decision on Thursday, August 23rd at their meeting in Fortuna. EPIC expects that the timber industry will be out in full force to oppose the listing of the marten. We need to show the Commission that the people stand behind saving the Humboldt marten and support science-based decision-making!

Two ways you can help:

  1. Send the Commission a letter!

Click here to send a quick letter to the Commission showing your support for our Humboldt marten. *Bonus points: forward this email to your friends and urge them to sign too! You’ll be doing the marten a BIG favor. 

  1. Show your support in person!

The Fish and Game Commission will be meeting from 3-6pm at the River Lodge in Fortuna on Thursday, August 23rd to decide the marten’s fate. Given that this is in EPIC’s own backyard, let’s draw a crowd! Come to the commission and testify in favor of our Humboldt martens. More details are here.

Want to make a sign and educate yourself about the marten? EPIC is throwing a sign making potluck party Wednesday, August 22nd from 6-9pm. Come meet fellow wildlife enthusiasts, eat some delicious food, and make a cute sign.

For more on the marten, check out our website.


A New Era of Timber Wars?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
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Several trusted sources have reported that Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) has hired Lear Asset Management Company , a private security firm, to conduct paramilitary operations against forest protectors in the Mattole watershed. Last week, Lear security guards turned out in full force using dogs and tasers, ultimately making a citizen’s arrest of three people.

One forest defender reported that Lear employees were shaking the life line of an occupied treesit, risking the life of the treesitter that eventually came down and was “arrested” by Lear employees.

What’s at Stake?

The Mattole watershed has a unique forest composed of a mix of fir and hardwood compared with the majority of surrounding predominantly redwood forests in the region. A few years ago, HRC had promised to collaborate with local stakeholders, including EPIC, regarding management of the un-entered primary forests in the Mattole. These forests arguably fall outside of the company’s old-growth retention policy, but to EPIC and forest defenders, these areas warrant protection given their unique and wild nature. However, HRC never made any official commitments to protect these lands, insisting that the community should trust its promises. Now, paramilitary forces are being sent in to extract anyone in the way of the company’s logging plans. EPIC is disturbed by the sudden unrest in the forest and the heavy-handed tactics, reminiscent of Hurwitz’s PALCO.

History and Ownership

In 2008, after Pacific Lumber Company liquidated its assets, turning old growth redwood forests into denuded clearcuts, the Fisher family—owners of the Gap Clothing Company—took ownership of the 209,300 acres of redwood and Douglas-fir forests. The Gap/Fisher family gave the company a new name, Humboldt Redwood Company, and a new public relations strategy: to make nice within the community that had been left in shambles after Pacific Lumber went bankrupt. EPIC Has been closely following this controversy and will continue to monitor the project site. To read more about what’s going on in the Mattole, check out our previous articles: Road to Nowhere – HRC making a mess of the Mattole, Dead End – HRC Mattole Road Proposal Fails to Make the Grade & Tour of the Mattole Timber Harvest Plans.

A Call to Action

There are a few ways that you can support the Mattole River Watershed.

  1. Attend the rally at Humboldt Redwood Company office in Scotia for the preservation of the Mattoles’ ancient forests. The rally will be at 10am on Thursday, August 2nd.
  2. Call on Humboldt Redwood Company to sever its contract with Lear and find a way to work with community members in a humane manner.
  3. Post your photos of Humboldt Redwood Company’s logging and private security practices on social media. Tag it with #wearegapinc and #defendthesacred

 

 

 


2018 EPIC Base Camp

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018
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OVERVIEW

EPIC Base Camp will focus on the Last Chance Grade Project alternatives, in and around Redwood National and State Parks September 7-9, 2018. Base Camp attendees will have the opportunity to participate in groundtruthing, map and compass orienteering, environmental policy, know your rights trainings, and more! Sign up for this event at the link below, as space is limited!

GROUNDTRUTHING

Groundtruthing is simple. Visit a proposed project site and document what the project looks like on the ground. This information enables EPIC, and you, to compare what the agency is planning on the ground and comparing it with what is stated in environmental documents. Past groundtruthers have found discrepancies in agency information and documented rare plants and animals that have led to the cancellation of some or all of the proposed project. Groundtruthing is an important tool used to monitor large scale projects and other industrial activities on public lands. The information gained from groundtruthing allows EPIC to provide the public with information needed to understand, and engage in, decisions affecting public forest lands, watersheds and wildlife. Information from on-the-ground monitoring also helps EPIC challenge destructive projects or actions that degrade the environment.

REGISTER NOW

Space is limited! Please RSVP for this event ahead of time by signing up below.

LOCATION

EPIC’s 2018 Basecamp will be focusing on groundtruthing the Last Chance Grade Project and the various Highway 101 route alternatives in and around Redwood National Park. We will be camping at Rock Creek Ranch on the wild and scenic Smith River, about 30 minutes east of Crescent City, 1 hour from the project site, and 2 hours from Arcata. Click here to view directions to Rock Creek Ranch and to register for Base Camp. Our campsite can accommodate a maximum of 30 people. The campsite features tent camping areas, picnic tables, a campfire ring, toilets, potable water, a fully functional kitchen, solar showers and river/beach access trail.

CARPOOL

Shuttles will be provided between Arcata and Rock Creek Ranch as well as to the project site at Last Chance Grade (LCG). Please check the Carpool Page to reserve a space on a shuttle, or to offer passenger space in your vehicle. Before your carpool leaves please call the office to see if there are supplies you can help transport to camp! (707)822-7711. If you plan to drive please review EPIC’s Expectations for all Drivers, here.

SCHEDULE

Friday, September 7: Camp Setup

  • 2-4pm shuttles leave from EPIC office in Arcata and arrive at Rock Creek Ranch
  • 4-6pm Camp check in and setup
  • 6-7pm Dinner
  • 7-8pm Last Chance Grade Project Overview
  • 8-9pm Campfire activities and free time

Saturday, September 8: Set Up and Groundtruthing Training

  • 8-9am breakfast/ make sack lunches
  • 9-10am project overview and ground truthing training
  • 10-12 shuttle caravan to LCG project site (Meet at 12 at DeMartin Beach Picnic Area)
  • 12-1pm orientation, ground rules, paperwork signing, and lunch
  • 1pm divide into teams, get field routes prepared & depart into the forest
  • 1-3 LCG project field monitoring
  • 3-5pm shuttle caravan back to camp
  • 5-6pm: free time
  • 6-7pm dinner
  • 7-8pm Debrief and
  • 8pm campfire and legal rights training

Sunday, September 9: Groundtruthing Training and Field Work

  • 8-9am: breakfast/make sack lunches
  • 9-10am: project overview and ground truthing training
  • 10am-11am: break down camp and shuttle/caravan departure
  • 11am-1pm: Shuttle caravan to project site
  • 1pm: Meet at 1pm at DeMartin Beach Picnic Area divide into teams, prepare field routes & depart into the forest.
  • 1-3pm: project field monitoring
  • 3-5pm: Farewell and shuttle caravan back to EPIC office in Arcata

WHAT TO BRING TO BASE CAMP

  • Tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad (bringing an extra tarp is recommended)
  • Trash bag (for trash and/or wet clothes)
  • A flashlight or headlamp and extra batteries
  • Extra warm clothing & rain gear (just in case!)
  • Swim suit and hot weather clothes & river sandals
  • Personal medications
  • A camp chair or other comfort needs
  • Boots are necessary, and a spare pair of shoes
  • Day pack
  • Sunscreen/chapstick/hat
  • Bug repellant
  • Toilet paper
  • Musical instruments/song books
  • Books/articles that spark discussion, pen & paper
  • First aid kit
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, personal hygiene needs
  • A “mess kit” (water bottle, mug, bowl, fork and spoon)
  • Compass and whistle (if you have one)
  • FOOD: extra snacks and/or food to share appreciated! *We are providing light breakfast and dinner, but if your diet is very restricted, please plan appropriately.  Bring non­perishable food (nuts, trail mix, oranges, apples, etc.), especially snacks and easy-­to-­carry items.
  • If you have a smart phone or tablet, bring it and download the Avenza Maps Application and
  • Upload this map into the application: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/105498_FSPLT3_3906998.pdf  — Avenza Maps is an application that uses satellite technology to geo-reference photos you take, so you don’t need cell reception to utilize this app. You can download project maps that are proposed by agencies and GPS reference yourself, photos and notes on that map through the Avenza Map application.

MEAL SCHEDULE

Friday:

Dinner: TBA

Saturday:

Breakfast: TBA

Lunch: Hummus vegetable tortilla wraps

Dinner: Thai vegetable curry

Sunday:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, nuts, raisins, coffee

Lunch: Peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches

BASE CAMP DONATIONS WISH LIST

Donating any of these items to EPIC will ensure that we can provide a safe, effective, high-quality camp in the forest this year! Contact amber@wildcalifornia.org if you can help us plan a successful camp by making a donation!

Suggested food donations:

  • COFFEE!
  • Veggies: fresh produce will be essential!
  • Bread (gluten-free and regular)
  • dried fruit
  • rice noodles
  • almonds
  • Eggs
  • Apples (other fruit)
  • Cheeses and tofu
  • Peanut butter and Jelly
  • Honey
  • Coconut milk
  • Veggie Broth    

Suggested gear donations:

  • Digital cameras (for us to borrow or to keep)
  • GPS devices
  • Working compasses (especially ones with which you can measure slope!)
  • Notebooks (partially used is ok!)
  • Backpacks
  • Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast field guide by Jim Pojar 

Group camp donations:

EPIC BASE CAMP GROUND RULES

Ground Rules for Attendees of EPIC’s Summer Campouts.

All participants are expected to follow the ground rules set below.

  • No dogs
  • No alcohol or federal & state-determined illegal drugs allowed
  • Don’t talk substantively to Law Enforcement Officers; direct them to LEO liaison or EPIC employee
  • Respect and follow posted Forest Service/ State Park orders, such as burn bans
  • Do not damage/destroy any property or equipment

Regarding Camp Safety and Happiness

  • Participate in group activities & help with communal camp chores
  • Notify group leader of problems/dangers/concerns
  • Always check in/out with camp host when arriving or leaving camp
  • Respect Basecamp materials and equipment
  • Keep camp clean and dispose of trash properly
  • Don’t drink untreated water
  • Refrain from picking vegetation or creating unnecessary damage to the forest
  • Quiet in common area from 10pm to 7am
  • No smoking in common areas (dispose of butts properly!)
  • No individual campfires

 Regarding Interpersonal Respect

  • We reserve the right to ask individuals to leave
  • Discrimination or oppressive behavior will not be tolerated
  • Be mindful and respect people’s physical and emotional boundaries (e.g. don’t touch people/belongings without permission)
  • Respect the judgement and requests of group leaders
  • Watch out for other campers and help when needed
  • Ask for what you need (within reason) and know your limits
  • Be mindful of space you take up in group settings

CONNECT WITH OTHER BASECAMP ATTENDEES

After you have registered below, share the event on social media and invite your friends!!


Green Diamond Strikes “Killer” Agreement for Martens

Monday, July 23rd, 2018
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Humboldt marten photo courtesy of Keith Slauson.

Despite the recent spate of good news for the Humboldt marten—California is recommending they be listed under the California Endangered Species Act, EPIC petitioned to list the critter under the Oregon Endangered Species Act, and EPIC has filed a rulemaking petition to prohibit marten trapping in coastal Oregon—we have some major bad news to report. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has given a permit to Green Diamond Resource Company that would make marten recovery much more difficult. Under the so called “Safe Harbor Agreement,” Green Diamond only has to make minimal changes to its forest practices to get around the teeth of the California Endangered Species Act.

What does the Agreement do? Not much and a whole heck of a lot at the same. In exchange for minor tweaks to Green Diamond’s management practices, Green Diamond gets a complete pass on “take” of martens under the California Endangered Species Act. And given that timber management—in particular Green Diamond’s preferred method of clearcutting the bejesus out of an area—marten conservation has taken one step forward but two steps back.

Let’s go into the details. To get a permit, Green Diamond had to show that they were improving on the “baseline”—that is, the forest as it would likely exist into the future. Green Diamond claims that it is improving the baseline by increasing the age class of the forest. (Although age class is not a recognized indicator of marten habitat, so why would we choose this indicator?) Green Diamond claims it is going to increase the average age of some of their forests. But not because of this Safe Harbor Agreement. Green Diamond was already planning to do so under its “Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan,” a federal habitat management plan to benefit aquatic species, like coho salmon. So Green Diamond isn’t really improving on the “baseline” because those protections would already exist. In areas not protected by the Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan, the average age is actually decreasing, meaning the areas not around streams are forest sacrifice zones where Green Diamond will push for clearcuts with even shorter rotations!

Green Diamond has made other minor tweaks too. Green Diamond agreed to not harvest in a special “Marten Reserve Area.” A no-harvest area sounds good. The catch? The area is composed of serpentine soils—areas filled with unforgiving ultramafic rock—whose harsh conditions result in stunted growth for conifer trees. In short, there isn’t much timber to harvest. Green Diamond has also agreed to modify their “wildlife score card”—a tool used to retain individual trees with characteristics, like cavities, important to wildlife. According to internal CDFW emails obtained by EPIC as part of a Public Records Act request, the wildlife scorecard improvements would result in approximately one additional tree saved per twenty acres of land. CDFW pushed for a scorecard that would result in more protections in high-priority watersheds but were turned down by the company.

If the Agreement is so bad, why did CDFW sign off? Money. Green Diamond has agreed to pay for part of a relocation program to create a second breeding population on Redwood National and State Parks land. EPIC fully supports creating secondary breeding population to give some redundancy to the marten, but there’s a major hitch: it isn’t clear whether relocation is feasible. With a population this small, biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service will need to ensure that there are enough adults to relocate. The situation is that dire.

EPIC is concerned that the Safe Harbor Agreement will not only harm the marten, but it sets a terrible precedent for other Safe Harbor Agreements in the future. The legislature didn’t intend for landowners to get total legal immunity for minor tweaks to their management to make it slightly less awful; it wanted to induce landowners to actually try and improve wildlife habitat on their land.

Safe Harbor Agreement for Humboldt Marten on Green Diamond Resource Company Timberlands in California


EPIC Objects to Seiad-Horse Creek Post-Fire Logging

Monday, July 23rd, 2018
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All of these old growth trees in northern spotted owl critical habitat and Late Successional Reserve are proposed for cutting.

On Monday, EPIC formally objected to the Seiad-Horse Project on the Klamath National Forest. The Seiad–Horse project threatens to clearcut over 1,000 acres along the Siskiyou Crest, on the California-Oregon border. It is one of multiple US Forest Service timber sales in the region that is likely to adversely affect threatened species. EPIC’s objection puts the Forest Service on notice that the timber sale violates the law and sets forth what the agency can do to avoid litigation.

Rather than listen to the best available science and work with the public to choose a more ecologically sound alternative, the Klamath National Forest has chosen the most destructive option: log within an Inventoried Roadless Area and other areas containing older forest reserves that serve as critical habitat for species like the northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher. The project runs along the Siskiyou Crest, a unique and vital east to west wildlife connectivity corridor that allows species to traverse between wild intact forest areas. The proposed industrial logging plan would create such large openings it would disrupt the migration and dispersal patterns of rare and endemic animal species.

According to its own models, the Seiad-Horse project will harm water quality and increase sediment into these already impaired mid Klamath River watersheds. These tributaries provide cool water refuge, which are strongholds for threatened coho and Chinook salmon.

The Klamath National Forest refuses to learn from the past and is recreating the conditions that caused areas of the fire to burn at high intensity. The Abney Fire burned hottest in plantations that were created from post-fire logging and replanting thirty years ago. That high intensity fire then moved into adjacent older stands that are currently proposed for cutting. The Forest Service’s plan would perpetuate this flammable ecologically destructive cycle by removing the largest and oldest trees in these forest stands, and replacing them with even-aged tree plantations.

Old growth ponderosa pine in northern spotted owl critical habitat and Late Successional Reserve proposed for extraction.

The next step will be an objection-resolution meeting with the Regional USFS Office. EPIC, with our conservation allies, will be defending the watersheds, wildlife and biological diversity of the Siskiyou Crest and working towards an ecologically sound resolution with the KNF and USFS. Please stay tuned for the outcome.


EPIC Victory for Wildlife in Shasta County

Monday, July 23rd, 2018
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Photo courtesy of Nathan Rupert, Flickr

Responding to legal pressure from a coalition of animal protection and conservation groups, Shasta County officials announced today that the county will suspend its contract with the notorious federal wildlife-killing program known as Wildlife Services. The county’s decision came after coalition members filed a notice of intent to sue Shasta County in June for violating the California Environmental Quality Act. Coalition members include the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Protection Information Center, the Mountain Lion Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Project Coyote, and WildEarth Guardians.

Shasta County’s previous contract authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to kill hundreds of bears and coyotes, as well as thousands of birds and muskrats and other animals in the county every year, without assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives. Peer-reviewed research shows that such indiscriminate killing of wild animals results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity.

Over the past two years, Wildlife Services has killed 72,385 animals in Shasta County using traps, snares and firearms. The agency’s methods also killed non-targeted species — including domestic dogs — and may have harmed threatened and endangered species, such as the tricolored blackbird.

“Wildlife Services is a rogue wildlife-killing agency and California residents deserve better than to have their tax dollars spent on the trapping, poisoning, and shooting of innocent animals,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “We hope Shasta County will now stick to nonlethal options to address wildlife conflicts.”​

Shasta is the latest county in California to discontinue its contract with Wildlife Services amid pressure from animal advocates. In 2013, in response to a letter from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors opted not to renew that county’s contract with Wildlife Services. In 2015, following a lawsuit, Mendocino County agreed as part of the settlement to fully evaluate nonlethal predator control alternatives. Two years later, a California court ruled in favor of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and its coalition partners, finding that Monterey County had to conduct an environmental review process before renewing its contract with Wildlife Services.

“Shasta County is home to dozens of threatened and endangered species that are at risk of being maimed or killed by Wildlife Services’ use of archaic and indiscriminate methods. By discontinuing its contract, Shasta County is helping to ensure that these species, which are already struggling to survive, have a better chance at recovery,” said Johanna Hamburger, wildlife attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute.

“Many non-lethal alternatives exist that effectively reduce if not eliminate conflicts between livestock and predators,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “Shasta County should follow the lead of counties like Marin that decided to adopt a non-lethal cost-share program in place of the USDA Wildlife Services lethal and indiscriminate program. Marin’s Livestock and Wildlife Protection Program is more cost effective, humane, and has proven that non-lethal methods -including livestock guard animals, Foxlights, and better fencing- are effective predator deterrents.”

“This decision is a major victory for Shasta County’s coyotes, bears and other wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, a biologist and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All the latest science shows predator control is expensive, ineffective and inhumane. We’re glad Shasta County recognizes there’s no basis for continuing to shoot, trap and strangle thousands of animals every year.”

“We are encouraged to see counties across California catch up to the best available science indicating the efficacy of nonlethal methods,” said Michelle Lute, PhD, wildlife coexistence campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “As more and more counties like Shasta cancel their contract killing of wildlife, they will see that lives can be saved and livelihoods can be sustained with ethical, effective coexistence.”

Click here to read Shasta County’s response to our notice of intent to sue and letter of termination of wildlife services contract.

 


Inbred Spotted Owls Doomed By Their Own Genes?

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018
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Northern spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest are facing a new threat: decreasing populations and a lack of suitable mates are forcing the owls to breed with their own parents or siblings. This may lead to an “extinction vortex,” where each new inbred generation further amplifies harmful genes from already-inbred parents, resulting in weaker and weaker offspring until a population goes entirely extinct. Once caught in this downward spiral, recovery is difficult without human intervention, like capture-and-translocate programs that shuffle owls between areas to improve genetic diversity.

A recent study published by the American Ornithological Society examined 14,000 owls in Washington, Oregon, and California over a 30-year period, finding that up to 15% of the owls are inbreeding. Stressed by habitat loss and competition from the larger barred owl species, spotted owls populations are shrinking by approximately 4% per year, with some populations already down to a third of their 1985 levels. As these geographically separated populations become smaller and more isolated, inbreeding gets worse and populations become more vulnerable.

Using long-term surveys and new statistical models, the researchers found owls to be most at risk in the Washington Cascades, where an estimated one in eight owls were breeding with siblings or parents. In addition to current conservation programs, the researchers recommend transplanting owls from California to Washington to introduce new mates into the most inbred populations.

Like most animals, spotted owls prefer healthy, unrelated mates. This avoidance of inbreeding is an evolved behavior, common to many species, that helps prevent harmful recessive genes from accumulating and weakening a population. However, this can only take place when there are a sufficient number of healthy mates available. Spotted owls are typically monogamous, and face dangers from logging, barred owl competition, climate change, wildfires, and toxic rodenticides. Together, these threats are decreasing the number of viable mates with every generation, causing population bottlenecks and potentially a “mutational meltdown,” where a critical number of bad genes become “fixed” into the shrinking gene pool, rendering subsequent generations unfit to survive or breed.

EPIC uses diverse tactics to help fight for the owls, including public commentary and legal action. We monitor timber logging plans on public and private lands to ensure operations do not encroach upon Spotted Owl habitat, and take violators to court. We petition state and federal regulators to “up-list” the spotted owl conservation status from “threatened” to “endangered” in the hopes of increasing their protections under the California and federal Endangered Species Acts. For more information, please see EPIC’s Spotted Owl Self Defense Campaign page.

This article was contributed by Roger Tuan, EPIC Intern.