Eye on Green Diamond

EPIC Advocates for Northern Spotted Owl Using Best Available Science

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
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NSOEPIC relies upon an integrated science-based approach to environmental advocacy. Consistent with our mission statement, we apply the best available science at the legislative, regulatory, and policy levels of government and industry. In our ongoing efforts to protect, enhance, restore, and conserve the Northern Spotted Owl, EPIC uses the best available science to inform our advocacy and decision-makers.

As part of our efforts to see the spotted owl listed as either a “threatened” or “endangered” species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), EPIC has commissioned a wildlife researcher  to conduct an independent status review and prepare an independent status report to be submitted to the California Fish and Game Commission. This report is based upon the best available science regarding the status and population trends and threats for the spotted owl, and will consider possible management recommendations designed to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore the spotted owl in California.

EPIC has pursued this independent review and report to allow for critical evaluation of the available evidence, including scientific, and timber industry-based information. The report will be subject to rigorous outside independent peer-review from a broad array of stakeholders, including independent scientists, researchers, and even timber industry biologists.

This report will be defensible and credible.

The independent review and report will be juxtaposed against the status review and report produced by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The Department is charged by CESA with conducting a status review and preparing a status report that will include a recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission as to whether or not it believes the listing “is warranted.” EPIC has chosen to commission an independent review due to the highly political nature of the inner workings of the Department, which has been evidenced in its recent recommendations against species’ listings, most notably the Gray Wolf. In the case of the Gray Wolf, the Department erroneously based its decision on a lack of ‘certainty’ in the science surrounding the wolf, thus dismissing the numerous threats to the species and the enormous opportunities for wolf restoration and conservation in California. Such rationale on the part of the Department leaves many questions as to its ability to review and consider the best available science and to make recommendations regarding species’ listings that are not politically-charged and influenced.

EPIC’s independent status review for the spotted owl is a key cog in our efforts to see the species listed under CESA. The benefits of CESA listing are many. Such benefits include requiring all state boards and agencies to work to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore the spotted owl in California. The practical effects of CESA listing would include the reintroduction of independent agency biologists into private lands timber harvest project review, and to impart upon the state a mandate to consider appropriate management activities to protect, enhance, restore, and conserve the spotted owl, including potential management activities aimed at addressing some of the major threats to the species in California, including the aggressive and invasive barred owl.

The State of California has a responsibility under CESA to protect, enhance, conserve, and restore “threatened” and “endangered” species in California. The best available science, which clearly demonstrates the threats to the species and identifies opportunities for conservation and enhancement supports the proposition that listing “is warranted” under CESA.


Who Will Stand Up for the Northern Spotted Owl?

Monday, April 7th, 2014
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9-OwlBanding-FWSIn the remote forests of Northwest California dwells an iconic raptor seemingly from a bygone era. The Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) stealthily inhabits old growth and ‘mature’ forests, preying on wood rats, flying squirrels, and other small mammals in the dead of night with its keen vision and devastating talons.

Once an abundant and prosperous species, the Northern Spotted Owl has been in decline since at least the 1970’s and 80’s, primarily resulting from the logging of its old growth and mature forest habitat on both public and private lands. The Northern Spotted Owl was listed as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in June of 1990, thus becoming the poster-child for the ongoing timber wars in the Pacific Northwest.

In May 1991, Federal Judge William Dwyer ruled in favor of environmentalists who challenged the adequacy of the U.S. Forest Service’s 1986 Forest Management Plan, enjoining 75 percent of the proposed timber sales on public lands in spotted owl critical habitat, and ultimately leading to the development of the Northwest Forest Plan. While the Northwest Forest Plan has somewhat curtailed logging of suitable owl habitat on public lands, habitat loss on these lands is still ongoing, while habitat loss for the owl on private lands continues virtually unabated to the present day.

When the Northern Spotted Owl became a federally-listed species, the State of California’s Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board of Forestry) scrambled to enact Forest Practice Rules that would avoid “take” of the owl as defined under the federal Act on private forestlands in the state. In the beginning, the implementation and enforcement of the Forest Practice Rules by CAL FIRE was augmented by consultation with the then-California Department of Fish and Game (now the California Department of Fish and Wildlife). In 1999, CAL FIRE requested that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) provide “technical assistance” to the Department and private landowners to ensure that implementation of the Forest Practice Rules would not result in “take” of the owl.

The Service provided technical assistance to CAL FIRE and private landowners until 2008. At that time, the Service determined that it did not have the budget to continue providing technical assistance to CAL FIRE and private landowners, and requested that the budget-strapped state pay for the technical assistance program. When the state declined, the Service dropped out of providing technical assistance, and left the entire burden of review, implementation, and enforcement of individual timber harvest plans up to CAL FIRE.

In 2009, the Service provided CAL FIRE with a scathing review of existing Forest Practice Rules and the ability of the Rules to avoid “take” of the owl as defined under the ESA. This document, entitled Regulatory and Scientific Basis for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Guidance for Evaluation of Take for Northern Spotted Owls on Private Timberlands in California’s Northern Interior Region” provided a review of the best available science related to the owl, and detailed the Service’s years of experience with providing technical assistance to CAL FIRE and private landowners. The Service concluded:

…our combined experience with hundreds of THPs indicates that the cumulative effects of repeated entries within many NSO home ranges has reduced habitat quality to a degree causing reduced occupancy rates and frequent site abandonment. In a large proportion of technical assistance letters to CAL FIRE and industrial timberland owners during the past five years, we noted the lack of NSO responses at historic territories, and described habitat conditions considered inadequate to support continued occupancy and reproduction”(emphasis added).

The Service also provided CAL FIRE and private landowners with “take” avoidance guidelines that the agency believed would serve the needs of the owl better than existing Rules. This guidance, however, is only voluntary, and is not codified in existing regulation. Thus, private landowners have the alternative of relying on the existing and inadequate Rules.

Meanwhile, CAL FIRE, an agency with virtually no biological expertise, and virtually no independent biological experts, has been left to navigate the treacherous landscape of ensuring “take” avoidance on its own, knowing that existing Rules are not be adequate, but that the guidance provided by the listing agency is only voluntary. CAL FIRE thus finds itself in the precarious position of needing to determine that “take” has been avoided, while not having the expertise or authority to determine the likelihood of whether or not “take” will occur. What’s more, CAL FIRE has been left without the input of either the US Fish and Wildlife Service or the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The latter agency has virtually abandoned its review of projects that may affect the Northern Spotted Owl since the late 90’s.

While most private landowners have voluntarily shifted towards compliance with the Service’s “take” avoidance guidelines, some landowners, most notably Sierra Pacific Industries, have stubbornly clung to the old, and largely out-of-date existing Forest Practice Rules. Since the Service transitioned out of providing technical assistance, SPI has continued to clearcut log thousands of acres of suitable NSO habitat without the benefit of independent scientific expertise reviewing its projects.

The latest and best available science on the condition of Northern Spotted Owl populations indicates that the species is reeling from a precipitous decline in recent years, both in California and across the species’ range. In particular, apparent survival and reproductive rates are alarmingly low. Here on the redwood coast, as with elsewhere in the owl’s range, the incursion of the aggressive and invasive barred owl has likely contributed to these declines. In addition, the advent of increased use of rodenticides in egregious cannabis agriculture operations and other rural residential and industrial activities is now documented to be a significant problem for the owl. Meanwhile, habitat loss through timber harvest and fire continue to confound owl conservation and recovery efforts.

The science shows that the Northern Spotted Owl is in increasing peril. The decline of the owl is indicative of over a century of intensive forest management that has depleted our forests and inexorably altered the landscape that the owls once knew.

EPIC Steps Up To Advocate for the Owl

In 2010, EPIC launched its Northern Spotted Owl Self-Defense campaign. This campaign aims to use a multitude of tactics to conserve the owl. These tactics include monitoring, commenting on, and challenging logging projects that may affect the owl on both public and private lands, engaging with the Board of Forestry to improve rules regarding owl protections, and launching a campaign to end the use of “super-toxic” rat poison in cannabis agriculture operations. EPIC has also filed a petition with the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) requesting that it list the owl as either “threatened” or “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), parallel to filing a petition with the Service requesting that it “reclassify” or “up-list” the owl from a “threatened” to an “endangered” species under the federal ESA. Few organizations in the Western United States are as active in working for better protections for the owl than EPIC has been in recent years.

The politics around conservation of the Northern Spotted Owl remain fraught with a reluctance on the part of both the Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to ‘rock the boat’ in terms of enforcing the tenants of the ESA and CESA on private forestlands in California. The Service has thus far failed to provide us with an initial 90-day finding on our petition to “reclassify” or “up-list” the owl, despite the fact that the petition was filed over a year and a half ago. Meanwhile, the Commission, after much delay, voted to accept EPIC’s petition to list the owl under CESA in August 2013, with a one-year CESA “candidacy” period initiated in December 2013. Despite the “candidacy” for the Northern Spotted Owl under CESA, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has informed CAL FIRE that it intends to rely on existing rules and regulations to protect the owl against illegal “take” resulting from timber harvest activities on private lands.

So, who will stand up for the Northern Spotted Owl? With both responsible agencies either unwilling or incapable of reviewing plans for proper implementation and enforcement of CESA and the ESA, and CAL FIRE left virtually on its own to ensure that these laws are enforced, business as usual seems to be the mantra of the day for the timber industry. Meanwhile, the owl, faced with a wide-array of threats to its survival in the wild, hangs on the precipice, a precarious ledge, from which there may be no return.

The health of the Northern Spotted Owl is indicative of the health and condition of our forests, and indeed our watersheds. EPIC will continue its multi-faceted approach to owl protection and conservation, with the goal of seeing larger, older trees on the landscape, an elimination of the use of “super-toxic” rat poisons in our communities, and a return ultimately of more owls in the forest. EPIC aims to protect, conserve, and restore the owl in California and beyond.

Please join our efforts to protect, conserve, and restore the Northern Spotted Owl and our forest landscapes. The plight of the owl is a harbinger of peril for all of us. We must all work together to restore our forests and protect our wildlife.


Northern Spotted Owl Abandoned to Whims of CAL FIRE

Friday, February 7th, 2014
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NSO ratThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has chosen to defer to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) timber harvest plan review and approval process in hopes of preventing “take” of Northern Spotted Owls as defined under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) during the candidacy period for the species. EPIC considers this to be an incorrect decision, a violation of public trust, and an inappropriate abandonment of duties considering the new lumber tax that has been imposed upon California consumers to specifically fund CDFW review of timber harvest plans for private lands logging in the state.

In a letter dated January 16th, 2014, to CAL FIRE, the CDFW, signed by Department Director Charleton H. Bonham, indicates that it intends to rely on the existing regulatory framework (i.e. the California Forest Practice Rules (CFPRs)) for review and approval of timber harvest plans to ensure that “take” of NSO is avoided on a plan-by-plan basis. The CDFW letter states that the agency believes that the current regulatory framework as administered by CAL FIRE is adequate to prevent “take” of NSO, and that no additional protective measures for the species will be required during the one-year candidacy period under CESA.

However, the best available science and regulatory guidance provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service clearly points to a failure of the existing CFPRs to prevent “take” of NSO. Indeed, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms on private forestlands in Northern California is one of a myriad of reasons why EPIC filed the petition to list the NSO as either “threatened” or “endangered” under CESA. The 2011 federal NSO Revised Recovery Plan for the NSO continues to identify inadequate regulatory mechanisms as a major factor driving the recent and precipitous declines of the NSO; this is true in California as well as other pacific states that are host to NSO.

This decision by CDFW ignores that even CAL FIRE itself has acknowledged that existing CFPRs are largely out-of-date, do not reflect the best available science or guidance, and that the agency does not in fact even rely on the existing CFPRs due to their lack of effectiveness. The CDFW’s initial evaluation of our petition to list NSO under CESA indicated that the agency believes that the influences of management-related activities are “varied and complex,” and that further study and consideration of these effects is necessary.

EPIC has responded to the CDFW’s letter by writing to the Department in order to remind the agency of its responsibilities under the California Endangered Species Act, the California Fish and Game Code, and the California Environmental Quality Act. These responsibilities should not and cannot simply be deferred to another agency, particularly an agency such as CAL FIRE that possesses no independent biological expertise, and that has no authority to make determinations as to the potential for “take” of species listed by responsible wildlife agencies.

The CDFW is failing to discharge its public trust, legal, and regulatory responsibilities by summarily relying on CAL FIRE and antiquated CFPRs to ensure that the NSO is protected, enhanced, and restored in Northern California. It is also important to recognize that with the passage of AB 1492 by the California legislature in 2012, a lumber tax was imposed in the State of California in order to insure that CDFW has the necessary resources to fulfill it’s obligations to carry out tasks related to timber harvest plan review. This decision by CDFW to pass the buck on review of logging plans and to not provide analysis of how the NSO as a CESA candidate species may be affected by timber harvest is particularly egregious in light of the agencies new revenue stream based in taxing wood product consumers. EPIC will continue to challenge the CDFW on this basis, and will continue our efforts to seek CESA protections for the NSO.


California Department of Fish and Wildlife Gives Green Diamond a Free Pass

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
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green diamond logging in little river 2008

Green Diamond logging in Little River 2008

Green Diamond Northern Spotted Owl HCP Deemed “Consistent” with CESA

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently declared the Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRCo) federal Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) “consistent” with the provisions of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The issuance of a so-called “Consistency Determination” by the CDFW to GDRCo leaves the company in the cat-bird seat in terms of CESA compliance when compared to other timber companies.

California Fish and Game Code section 2080.1 allows for private landowners who have already obtained federal HCPs and associated Incidental “Take” Permits (ITPs) to apply for Consistency Determinations with the CDFW for their otherwise lawful activities. Despite the fact that the statue characterizes the process of obtaining a Consistency Determination as an “application,” California state courts have ruled that issuance of these determinations does not constitute a “discretionary” project, and therefore are not subject to fully review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  This means that there is no opportunity for the public to review or comment on the Consistency Determination application, and that there is no recourse for the public to challenge the issuance of these determinations, either administratively or legally.

The CDFW has found the GDRCo HCP for NSO consistent with CESA despite the fact that standards for achievement of incidental “take” under the federal Act and state Act are quite different.  The federal ESA in section 10(a)(2)(B) of the Act provides that any “take” of listed species pursuant to a federal ITP “will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impacts of any such taking.” CESA, meanwhile, in section 2081(b)(2) of the California Fish and Game Code provides that the impacts of any “take” be minimized and “fully mitigated.”  A correct application of the “fully mitigated” standard under CESA would provide for a higher bar for the achievement of an ITP under the state Act.

The GDRCo NSO HCP, issued in 1992, is based on the premise that “take” will occur as a result of both direct and indirect displacement of NSO, at a rate of approximately 3 pairs per-year for direct displacement, and 2 pairs per-year due to indirect displacement.  Such “take” was intended to be minimized by the implementation of certain precautionary measures, and by the creation of “set-asides,” where no harvest would be allowed.

There are two basic fundamental premises underpinning the GDRCo NSO HCP.  These are 1) NSO habitat will increase over the life of the permit, and that harvest rates will not proportionally exceed such increased habitat growth, and 2) NSOs displaced by timber harvest activities would be replaced on the landscape as new habitat comes on line and new sites are established.

However, GDRCo’s own 20th annual report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) notes that approximately 55 owls have gone “missing” in recent years. Further, as indicated by Forsman et al. 2011, apparent survival rates for NSO on GDRCo lands is showing a continuous decline.  Finally, GDRCo’s own report to the USFWS admits that the fundamental premise that owl sites lost to timber harvest would be replaced has borne out to be false: “The fundamental premise of the spotted owl HCP is that sites lost through timber harvest will be replaced in other areas as stands become mature and suitable for occupancy by owls. However, newly colonized sites have not offset the number of net displacements and other abandoned sites” (GDRCo 2012).

Clearly, despite the basic premises of the GDRCo HCP, the company’s activities pursuant to this permit have not “fully mitigated” the effects of “take” on NSO populations on its lands.  This runs contrary to the intent of CESA, and leaves substantial questions as to the approach of the CDFW in reviewing Consistency Determinations and ITPs.

Meanwhile, Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) also holds a federal HCP and associated ITP for NSO.  Unlike the case of GDRCo, HRC will be required to augment its HCP in order for it to be deemed “consistent” with CESA.  HRC lands, like GDRCo lands, has shown a consistently low reproductive rate for NSO over the last several years, thus triggering re-consultation with the federal and state wildlife agencies over its 1999 federal HCP.

GDRCo continues to maintain that NSO populations are either stable or increasing on its lands, despite low apparent survival rates, low reproductive rates, lack of recruitment of new sites to offset lost sites, and the slow growth of new suitable habitat for the species. Issuance of a Consistency Determination for the GDRCo federal NSO HCP by the CDFW virtually ensures that these alarming trends will continue, and raises serious questions about public notification, process, and involvement in the issuance of these determinations.  It also raises further questions about the integrity of the GDRCo’s certification as a “sustainable” forestry operation by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as a significant portion of the FSC certification award was based upon the Green Diamond HCP.

EPIC is dedicated to the conservation of the Northern Spotted Owl across the landscape in Northwestern California.  The precipitous decline of this iconic species due to a broad range of threats is indicative of a much larger ecosystem failure, and sounds the alarm for us all to consider.

For more information see

Department of Fish and Wildlife Solicits Comments and Information on Status of Northern Spotted Owls in California

EPIC Staff Squash Timber Industry Shenanigans at Fish and Game Commission

Northern Spotted Owl Achieves Candidacy Status Under California Endangered Species Act


EPIC Position Statement on Experimental Barred Owl Removal to Study Effects on Northern Spotted Owls

Monday, January 27th, 2014
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The experimental lethal removal of Barred Owls from forested areas previously or currently inhabited by the native Northern Spotted Owl has received a fair amount of media coverage, and has even been the topic of a segment on the well-known Comedy Central show The Colbert Report (see embedded video below). EPIC has been approached on several instances by media outlets, conservation community colleagues, and members and supporters of our organization requesting an articulation of our position on this experimental lethal removal project. The text following the video is an EPIC position statement on this rapidly changing and important issue.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

EPIC Position Statement on Experimental Barred Owl Removal to Study Effects on Northern Spotted Owls

EPIC chose not to oppose the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) proposal to experimentally remove barred owls from the wild to study the effects on Northern Spotted Owls (NSO). Our organization has assessed the project plan, and monitored implementation. EPIC has come to the conclusion that the proposed use of lethal removal methods is cruel, will most likely prove to be ineffective over the long term without very serious habitat conservation mechanisms, and failing to prioritize habitat conservation the lethal removal of barred owls will most likely prove over time to be extremely expensive to implement. We also have come to the conclusion that the use of non-lethal removal methods remains impractical. Fundamentally, the USFWS has incorrectly chosen to focus its efforts on trying to solve the barred owl invasive competition problem, while failing to include adequate recovery measures to address chronic and ongoing NSO habitat loss. The USFWS has failed to provide NSO critical habitat designation to millions of acres of private industrial forestlands across the northwest, and has failed to provide adequate protective measures for NSO habitat on public lands. These failures assure that NSO habitat loss will continue to be the primary threat to the survival and recovery of Northern Spotted Owls in the wild. Recovering the NSO requires a more aggressive effort to protect existing habitat, on public and private lands. EPIC therefore recommends that the USFWS focus its efforts, as well as limited financial resources, on improving recovery measures and regulatory mechanisms to protect Northern Spotted Owl habitat across the landscape.


Department of Fish and Wildlife Solicits Comments and Information on Status of Northern Spotted Owls in California

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014
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NSO fem&juv _0397On January 21st, 2014, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued an announcement soliciting comments on the proposed listing of Northern Spotted Owls (NSO) as either “threatened” or “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The comment period is designed to allow stakeholders and the general public to provide input to the Department to be considered as part of its status review for NSO in California. Comments must be submitted to the CDFW by May 1st, 2014 in order for the information to be considered by the Department as part of its status review and preparation of a status report.

In September 2012, EPIC filed a petition with the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) requesting that the Commission list Northern Spotted Owls as either “threatened” or “endangered” under CESA.  In August 2013, the Commission voted to accept EPIC’s petition, finding that the requested action “may be warranted” thus making NSO a candidate species for listing under CESA. In December 2013, the Commission adopted its formal findings for the decision, thus triggering a one-year period in which the CDFW is charged with conducting a status review for NSO in California and preparing a status report with a recommendation for the Commission to consider at the final listing decision hearing.

“We are confident that the best available science and information will show that Northern Spotted Owls face a multitude of severe threats to their survival in the wild in California, and that listing the species under CESA will be deemed warranted by the CDFW” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Advocate. “All of the numbers indicate that NSO are in real trouble in California and indeed range wide. Listing under CESA is clearly a necessary component of our approach to conservation of this iconic and imperiled species range wide.”

Prior to making its final listing decision, the California Fish and Game Commission will solicit further comments on the status report produced by the CDFW. EPIC will continue to engage in this process and will continue to advocate for listing NSO under CESA, and for conservation and recovery of this iconic species in the wild in California and range-wide.

Visit http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/cdfw-seeks-public-comment-related-to-northern-spotted-owl/ for more information.

 


EPIC Staff Squash Timber Industry Shenanigans at Fish and Game Commission

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
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Photo by Jeff Muskgrave

Photo by Jeff Musgrave

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That seemed to be the approach of the timber industry before the California Fish and Game Commission in San Diego last week. This time, it was the imperiled Northern Spotted Owl at risk.

At their August 2013 meeting the Fish and Game Commission had accepted a petition filed by EPIC to list the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) as either “threatened” or “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), and designated the species as a candidate for listing pending a full status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Candidate species under CESA are fully protected from “take” unless a project proponent secures an Incidental Take Permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), or a Consistency Determination from CDFW for pre-existing federal Habitat Conservation Plans that cover the candidate species.

As you might expect, there’s additional red-tape associated with the owl candidacy becoming official and effective.  First, the Fish and Game Commission must draft and adopt findings for the candidacy decision. It took the Commission until their December 2013 meeting to prepare the findings for adoption, but the Commission ultimately adopted them. Still, there is another hoop. The State Office of Administrative Law must review the findings and assure that they are consistent with the requirements of the state Administrative Procedures Act. Whew!

So, back to the timber industry. Having been thwarted in its attempts to prevent the Commission from designating Northern Spotted Owls as a candidate for listing under CESA and offering the species interim protections under state law, the industry decided to turn its attention to securing regulations that would allow the killing of owls under specified circumstances during the one-year candidacy period. So, the industry, led by the California Forestry Association, filed a petition with the Commission asking for the regulatory body to authorize “incidental take” (i.e. the killing of owls) on an emergency basis. The regulations they proposed to use as “incidental take” regulations? Why none other than the California Forest Practice Rules, which are purportedly designed to avoid “take” (i.e. the killing of owls) as a result of timber operations.

A little over a year and a half ago, the industry had filed a nearly identical petition to allow the killing of then-listing candidate Black-backed woodpeckers on an emergency basis. In the case of the Black-backed woodpecker, the petitioners, Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project, filed suit against the Commission for adopting the petition on an emergency basis. The argument: The industry could not show that an actual “emergency” existed under the definition attributed under California law. Long story short, the Commission declined to defend itself, and agreed to a Stipulated Judgment that set aside the regulations instituted as a result of the emergency petition.

So, back to San Diego last week. The Fish and Game Commission was to consider adopting the industry’s emergency regulations proposal for NSO. EPIC staff made the long trip to San Diego. This, it appeared, was a great surprise to the timber industry. Calforests was not expecting the grassroots and community based EPIC, clearly short of resources for a travel budget, to be at the meeting. At the hearing on the petition, EPIC staff presented the argument that, as with the Black-backed woodpecker, the timber industry could not show an emergency as defined under California law.

The timber industry, lead by the California Forestry Association, Green Diamond, and SPI, all attempted to persuade the Commission to adopt the petition. What’s interesting here is that not one of those that testified for the industry actually used the word “emergency” in the context of their testimony.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the California Forestry Association representative, in the midst of his testimony in favor of the petition, announced that the industry would retract it. The CFA representative also said that the industry would come back with a new more “narrowly focused” petition for the Commission to consider at the February Fish and Game Commission meeting in Sacramento. So, while now twice slain, this beast will rise again, or it appears.

The importance of this development cannot be understated. The timber industry was vying to gain permission under state law to kill Northern Spotted Owls during the candidacy period for the species.  EPIC’s success in this matter means that the full protections of the California Endangered Species Act will be afforded to Northern Spotted Owls, while the Department of Fish and Wildlife conducts its status review and prepares a full status-report for the species.

Northern Spotted Owls face a wide array of threats to their survival and recovery in California. From habitat lost to timber harvest on both private and public lands, to competition from invasive barred owls, to the ingestion of rat-poison laden prey that is the increasingly toxic fallout from egregious cannabis agriculture operations, to adapting to climate change and drought, this species finds itself on the edge. The position of EPIC is that the State of California has a responsibility to offer the protections of state law to this species. EPIC staff will continue to persevere and monitor the ongoing events at the Fish and Game Commission related to Northern Spotted Owl, until a final listing decision is made.


Forest Stewardship Council Audits Green Diamond’s Certification

Monday, October 14th, 2013
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IMG_1583The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) audit team (Scientific Certification Systems – SCS Global Services (SCS)) was back in Humboldt County recently conducting its first annual surveillance audit of Green Diamond Resource Company’s (GDRCO) certification award.

GDRCO was certified as a FSC ‘sustainable’ timber operation in 2013, despite overwhelming community outcry and grave concerns over how the Company conducts business.  SCS and FSC have argued that GDRCO meets or exceeds certification standards, leaving substantial questions about the integrity of the audit process and concerns about the integrity of the FSC certification scheme itself.

Since receiving FSC certification in early 2013, GDRCO has continued to engage in practices that confound logic and would seem prima facia, to violate the intent of the FSC standards. At the heart of the conflict is that GDRCO continues to practice intensive evenaged management (i.e. clearcutting), while maintaining the bare minimum of trees required by FSC’s certification standards.  What’s more, GDRCO is concentrating its tree retention in areas such as watercourse buffers and unstable areas that are largely off limits as a result of its Aquatics Habitat Conservation Plan (AHCP).  Thus, GDRCO has changed little, if anything, in the way of its silvicultural and business practices in response to acquiring certification by FSC.

In addition to this, shortly after receiving FSC certification, GDRCO jointly filed a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) with Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), California’s largest private industrial forestland owners and one of California’s worst timber industry actors. The “Nacho Libre” THP proposed clearcutting of old growth within a known Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) nesting area.  Shortly after the plan was filed, EPIC filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue GDRCO and SPI alleging that “take” of Northern Spotted Owls would occur if the plan were to be clearcut as proposed. GDRCO immediately withdrew the THP, but reserved the right to re-file the plan if it could determine that the operations proposed were consistent with its newly acquired FSC certification.

There are lingering social concerns about the impacts of GDRCO practices as well. Shortly after receiving FSC certification last February, GDRCO held a public meeting to announce the certification, and to hear the concerns of the greater community about its management practices.  The February 2013 meeting amounted to little more than a ‘dog ‘n’ pony’ show, with GDRCO failing to follow up with any community members, and failing to change any of its practices in response to feedback received from the community.  Indeed, the fact that GDRCO has filed plans to clearcut in the heavily impaired Elk River watershed, as well as adjacent to the immensely popular hiking spot at Strawberry Rock, despite outcry from local residents and the larger community, exposes the truly hollow nature of GDRO’s commitment to achieving a socially sustainable operation.

Finally, very serious economic concerns remain outstanding.  GDRCO continues to manage on short, intensive, evenaged rotations that fundamentally undercut the value of redwood forest products in markets nationally and internationally.   Furthermore, GDRCO continues to extract a great deal of wealth from Humboldt County that is hence funneled to corporate offices in Seattle rather than put back into the company or the local community.

EPIC submitted comments to SCS on September 30th 2013 raising these and other points, while reiterating our concerns that FSC’s indicators, standards, and overall audit process have been greatly devalued by the certification of GDRCO.  In sum, FSC standards allowing for evenaged management in the Pacific Northwest under certain conditions has opened the door for certification of GDRCO, and leaves substantial questions about what can truly be considered ‘sustainable’ in the context of industrial forestry operations.

EPIC will continue to monitor GDRCO and participate in the audit processes as they occur annually, as well as developing more integrated strategies for engaging with the FSC governance processes to bring our concerns to light and to have greater influence over the design of FSC standards and guidelines. EPIC maintains the position that clearcutting has no place in the redwoods, and that certification of such practices leaves a substantial stain on the FSC label.


Northern Spotted Owl Achieves Candidacy Status Under California Endangered Species Act

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
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NSO-self-defenseThe California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) has moved to make the iconic Northern Spotted Owl a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  On August 7, 2013, the Commission voted 3-2 to advance the owl to candidacy status in response to a petition filed by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) requesting the listing of Northern Spotted Owls as “threatened” or “endangered” under CESA, finding that the petitioned action “may be warranted.” This is an important procedural step in the listing process for endangered species under California law.

The Northern Spotted Owl is under siege on many fronts. Northern Spotted Owls are threatened with extinction by past and ongoing habitat loss, primarily to timber harvest, which can exacerbate competition from the aggressive and invasive Barred Owl. The increasingly rare and old growth forest adapted owls are now understood to be at risk from the use of rodenticides and other poisons used in large scale trespass marijuana operations, and there is increasing concern about what the impacts of climate change will be on the forest ecosystems that the owls call home.

“This is an important first step for the recovery of spotted owls,” said Rob DiPerna EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Advocate. “The fact that the Commission moved to promote Northern Spotted Owls to candidacy status clearly shows that we have made a fair argument that the species is under extreme threat, and that protections under CESA are necessary to abate the risk of extinction.”

The Northern Spotted Owl is considered an “indicator” species, in that the presence or absence of the owl is a direct indicator of the health of the forest ecosystems in which the species resides. Due to the continuing decline of the owl through out its range, and a worrisome population trend forecast within its range in California, EPIC petitioned for CESA listing of the owl in August 2012. Though the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) had recommended the status review, the Commission postponed action earlier this summer, choosing to wait to grant the owl candidacy status at their August meeting.

The CESA candidacy period will remain in effect until the Commission makes a final determination as to whether or not listing of the spotted owl under CESA is warranted. At the direction of the Commission, the CDFW will now conduct a full status review of the owl to aid the Commission in making its final determination. The Department has one year to complete this review. EPIC will continue to monitor and engage in this process to ensure that Northern Spotted Owls are given a protected status and listed under California state law. In parallel to this initiative to increase protections for the owl under California state law, EPIC has also p

For additional information contact: Rob DiPerna, rob@wildcalifornia.org 707-822-7711 or 707-845-9528

Click here to view EPIC’s Spotted Owl Achieves CESA Candidacy Press Release.


CAL FIRE and Water Board to Approve Green Diamond Clearcuts in Elk River

Thursday, May 9th, 2013
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GDclearcut2The California Department of Forestry (CALFIRE) has recently indicated that it will move to approve Green Diamond’s plans to conduct damaging clearcut logging in the heavily impaired Elk River watershed.  Timber Harvest Plan 1-12-113HUM “McCloud Creek East #5” was recommended for approval at the local level on Thursday May 2nd.

Unlike other land managers in the Elk River watershed, Green Diamond continues to propose intensive clearcutting, road construction, and potentially the use of toxic chemical herbicides.  Clearcut logging as proposed will result in decreased canopy interception and transevaporation, resulting in increased water production and sediment transport to a watershed already suffering from intensive sediment impairment.  Please refer to our December 18th blog post for greater detail about the plight of Elk River and the destructive details of Green Diamond’s new McCloud Creek Timber Harvest Plan.

The recommended approval of the “McCloud Creek East #5” THP comes as a result of the near complete capitulation of the Regional Water Quality Control Board to Green Diamond’s contentions that the Company’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and property-wide waste discharge requirement waiver agreement will ensure that no adverse impacts occur as a result of the proposed logging.  The Regional Board’s staff had requested that Green Diamond provide quantitative data to address how the harvest plan will avoid contributing to the ongoing significant adverse and cumulative watershed effects in the Elk River watershed.  Green Diamond failed to provide any data, and instead simply provided a narrative argument describing how its HCP and WDR order would avoid significant impacts to beneficial uses of water and water quality.

The recommended approval also comes in light of the impending release of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) document by the Regional Water Board.  A TMDL is required by the federal Clean Water Act when water quality and beneficial uses of water are impaired due to some anthropogenic cause.  In the Elk River, excessive sediment generated as part of intensive timber harvest and other timber management activities has resulted in significant impairment and has lead to substantial increases in nuisance flooding of downstream residents’ property.

Once again, the State of California and its regulators are found to be complicit to the likelihood that the “McCloud Creek East #5” THP will add to the already impaired conditions of Elk River, and will likely continue to impede the slow recovery of the system.

EPIC will continue to challenge this damaging THP and others like it, and will continue to advocate for restoration and recovery in the Elk River watershed.

EPIC and Humboldt Baykeeper Comment Letter

 


EPIC Vigilance and Legal Action Cancels Harmful Logging Project in the Mad River Watershed – Adios “Nacho Libre”

Thursday, March 28th, 2013
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SPI1-300x231-2Life can be precarious for imperiled species and old trees on an industrial forestry landscape, particularly on lands managed by Green Diamond Resource Company (GDRC) and Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).  Even though these gigantic, privately-held companies spend massive amounts of capital on marketing schemes and public perception management, they are still teaming up to log old-growth redwoods and harm the few remaining imperiled denizens of the redwood temperate rainforest.

GDRC and SPI plotted, joined forces and filed the “Nacho Libre” timber harvest plan (THP) in late 2012, curiously choosing a name from a Jack Black movie without any explanation or due credit.  Unlike the movie, however, the “Nacho Libre” THP was a cynical attempt at humor that fell flat in the face of ecological reality and clear legal precedent.  The plan proposed to target old-growth trees for removal and to directly harm a breeding pair of Northern Spotted Owls by destroying important habitat within their immediate nesting territory.  EPIC sounded the alarm over the “Nacho Libre” THP earlier this year and mobilized available resources to contest the plan.

The public trust agencies tasked with reviewing this timber harvest plan (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife) all recognized the rare and unique values of this remnant stand of old-growth in a watershed that has been severely and repeatedly logged.  The Department of Forestry and Department of Fish and Wildlife were in agreement that the forest stand was likely “late successional forest” habitat with a substantial old growth component within the meaning of the California Forest Practice Rules.   According to the Water Quality inspection report, old growth redwoods of six to ten feet in diameter were observed in the stand and threatened with felling.  Due to these facts, not only were Northern Spotted Owls in harm’s way, but the structural components of the forest stand are also suitable for the extremely imperiled Marbled Murrelet, a seabird that only nests in old-growth forests.

In the face of this impending threat, on March 18, 2013, EPIC filed a formal letter to GDRC and SPI notifying the companies of violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and requesting that “Nacho Libre” THP be withdrawn immediately.  Under the relevant laws and regulations, the proposed plan would have resulted in illegal “take” of Northern Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelets in violation of Section 9 of the ESA.  In clear violation of the law, GDRC and SPI attempted to skirt around disclosure requirements and use an outdated incidental take permit to harm wildlife on the brink of extinction.

The very next day, on March 19, 2013, GDRC and SPI officially withdrew the “Nacho Libre” THP.  Caught in the act, GDRC and SPI had no other choice but to abide by the law, however, the companies reserved the right to re-file the harmful plan, but likely under a different name next time.

Today and during this breeding season, a productive pair of Northern Spotted Owls living up in the Mad River watershed can rest a little easier—for now anyway.  The withdrawal of the “Nacho Libre” THP comes on the heels of another recent victory for owls and murrelets after SPI withdrew the “Hiker’s Parade” THP in the Redwood Creek watershed.  EPIC’s continued vigilance in monitoring and commenting on industrial timber operations is absolutely essential to upholding the law and recovering endangered species.


Green Diamond and SPI Team Up to Log Old Growth Redwood and Harm Spotted Owls

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
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SPI Clearcut

SPI Clearcut

It is said that politics makes for strange bedfellows.  However, in the instance of the timber industry on the North Coast of California, it is not surprising to our team at EPIC to find Green Diamond Resource Company and Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), two of the state’s worst industrial timber sector actors, joining forces to destroy old growth redwoods and harm native species.  Despite all the green-washing rhetoric spewing from the public relations and perception management departments of each company, both are revealing their true nature as they hold hands conspiring to violate the law and harm spotted owls and native forests in the recently filed “Nacho Libre” THP.

Timber Harvest Plan (THP) 1-12-114HUM “Nacho Libre” was recently filed jointly by SPI and Green Diamond.  The property is located in the Cannon Creek state planning watersheds high up in the Mad River basin.  SPI owns the land, but Green Diamond recently bought the timber rights.  The THP covers 87.4 total acres, including 58.8 acres of proposed clearcutting.

Of particular concern is Unit A of the plan, a proposed 38.1-acre clearcut threatening to eliminate a Northern Spotted Owl activity center.  Spotted owl activity center HUM0301 “Freeman” is contained within this unit.  This owl site has been active since the early 90’s with several nesting trees located in the clearcut unit. While the individual nest trees will be left, the rest of the unit is to be clearcut, which will result in “take” of spotted owls as admitted in the THP itself.

How is this possible, you ask?  The answer is quite insidious.  Since Green Diamond bought the timber rights to the unit, they and SPI are claiming that the Green Diamond Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) can be employed in order to invoke the company’s Incidental Take Permit (ITP), thus allowing the companies to “take” the owl site.  Activity center HUM0301 “Freeman” to this point has been protected from outright “take” by SPI, as SPI has never complied with federal law to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for their extensive properties in California.  Now, SPI intends to use Green Diamond’s ITP to drive the birds from its property.

If this weren’t bad enough, a pre-harvest inspection conducted by CAL FIRE discovered that Green Diamond and SPI hid the fact that there is a substantial old growth component to the unit.  In fact, CAL FIRE indicates that the unit in question likely qualifies as “Late Successional Forest” under the Forest Practice Rules definition.  It also turns out that the unit may provide suitable Marbled Murrelet habitat in addition to providing essential habitat for Northern Spotted Owls.

Logging of old growth and “taking” Northern Spotted Owls is completely contrary to the public statements made by Green Diamond indicating that the company would not log old growth and that they are committed to maintaining owls on the landscape.  Furthermore, teaming up with the likes of SPI further damages the public credibility of Green Diamond and shows the true “profit by any means necessary” philosophy of both companies.

EPIC staff will continue to monitor the progress of the “Nacho Libre” THP as a key element of our work to expose the green-wash hypocrisy and underhandedness of Green Diamond and SPI’s behavior. Stay tuned for more updates as we involve our members in protecting wild forests and endangered species on the North Coast of California.


Forest Products Marketing Firm Commits Major Blunder in the Redwoods

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013
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FSC Certifies Clearcuts?

FSC Certifies Clearcuts?

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to certify more than 270,000 acres of climate destroying clearcuts in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest

On February 11, 2013, Green Diamond Resource Company (formerly Simpson Timber Company), SCS Global Services (SCS), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) issued a joint press release declaring a major milestone in the progression of forest management on California’s North Coast.  Unfortunately, the only major milestone here is that a once respected forest certification standard, FSC, is now squarely in danger of losing a significant measure of credibility.

SCS Global Services, an international corporation that provides certification contracting services to a number of industries, conducted, on behalf of the FSC, the evaluation, or audit, of Green Diamond Resource Company’s logging practices.  SCS then published the partial results of the audit in the form of a public report, failing to disclose a significant amount of information about the process, information which at this juncture remains secret.  EPIC’s review of the public report reveals a number of serious weaknesses, enough so that EPIC now questions the decision making process that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond.  It is imperative that the public be given full and open access to the whole certification record in a timely manner.

By certifying over 270,000 acres of clearcutting in the redwoods, FSC has knowingly risked the credibility of its brand.  As a consumer reference, FSC has had a reputation for legitimately identifying forest products that are produced in a manner to reduce social, economic, and environmental impacts. The general weakening of FSC standards, and the deterioration of meaningful access and participation for local communities in the FSC certification process, are widespread criticisms of FSC at a regional and global scale.  What is particularly troubling is that such a mistake could have been made in the Redwood Temperate Rainforest of northern California.

“The spin doctors have once again succeeded in performing life-saving surgery on Green Diamond Resource Company, formerly Simpson Timber” remarked Andrew Orahoske, Conservation Director at the Environmental Protection Information Center.  “With the ongoing climate crisis, the restoration of the great redwood forests is absolutely essential to mitigating the negative impacts of global warming.  It is deeply disappointing that a forest products marketing firm like FSC is blind to these realities.”

Early indications leading to the recent decision to put an FSC stamp on Green Diamond clearcuts were evident long before the logging giant’s press release.  In the fall of 2011, EPIC submitted comments in opposition to a proposal to change FSC standards allowing for even-aged management (clearcutting) in Pacific Coast region, including the Redwood Temperate Rainforest.  EPIC sounded the alarm over where this train wreck was headed; however, FSC ignored our comments and quietly changed the standard to allow for more large industrial landowners on the Pacific Coast to take advantage of the FSC brand and access to markets.  During the Green Diamond audit in June 2012, EPIC again warned of the potential hazards of FSC lowering certification standards to accommodate Green Diamond.  There is little evidence that EPIC’s and other stakeholders’ comments were provided any substantial weight in the decision making processes, heightening concerns that affected local communities are being ignored globally.

EPIC is in the process of conducting a more thorough investigation of the decision to grant FSC certification to Green Diamond Resource Company.  Our initial review is summarized below:

Climate Ignorance
In the year 2013 FSC still fails to take the climate crisis and the essential role of the world’s forests in sequestering atmospheric carbon into account. This is particularly egregious when considering the Redwood Temperate Rainforest Ecosystem enormous potential for capturing carbon and sequestering for thousands of years is unparalleled.  By certifying clearcuts in the redwood forests, FSC is squandering an opportunity to encourage forest management that will assist our society in responding to the present climate crisis.

Endangered Species
By Green Diamond’s own admission, the so- called Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Northern Spotted Owl has clearly failed the species. The HCP has allowed the company to continue to destroy owl habitat, resulting in an undeniable decline in the number of owl nesting sites on Green Diamond property.  Nevertheless, FSC relies on this failed Green Diamond HCP as evidence of the company’s responsible forest management.

Toxic Legacy
Green Diamond has made a commitment to eliminate the use of atrazine, the pesticide likely to be banned nationally in the near future due to well-documented public health hazards.  However, in addition to thousands of pounds of atrazine used by Green Diamond on their property in the past, the company will continue to use many thousands of pounds of other harmful pesticides, such as 2, 4-D, imazpyr, and triclopyr. These substances threaten aquatic species and domestic water supplies, including the Mad River which provides municipal drinking water to tens of thousands of people.  In a 2011 Biological Opinion, the National Marine Fisheries Services has concluded that the use of 2,4-D jeopardizes the continued existence of Pacific Coast salmonids.

Community Conflicts
The award of FSC certification comes at a time of heightened local community conflicts over Green Diamond logging.  This includes the controversial plans to clearcut at Strawberry Rock near the town of Trinidad, and their proposal to clearcut in the immediate vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, further exacerbating conflicts with local residents threatened with flooding downstream from Green Diamond holdings on the Elk River.

Transparency and Accountability
In reviewing the public report questions have been raised as to how community concerns and comments were integrated and weighted in the audit process.  EPIC will demand access to the full record on deliberations that led to FSC certification for Green Diamond.  Guaranteeing full and open access to information is a key tenant of environmental democracy and EPIC will continue to defend this fundamental right.

EPIC encourages affected community members and stakeholders to ask questions about the process that led to FSC certifying Green Diamond clearcuts in the redwoods.  In the meantime, we will continue to oppose damaging logging and watchdog forest certification schemes in northern California.  Exposing greenwash and public relations spin campaigns that are designed to hide the true environmental and social costs of logging and other industrial activities in Northwest California is an increasingly important job for the organization. The award of FSC certification to Green Diamond has very serious implications for the future of the Redwood Temperate Rainforest, and suggests an unraveling of credible forest management certification processes.  EPIC is committed to exposing the weaknesses of these certification schemes, while advancing policies based on the best available science.

Local North Coast residents who may have feedback to share with Green Diamond should be sure to come out this Wednesday night, February 13, from 6:30 – 8:30 for a public meeting at the Bayside Grange on Jacoby Creek Road outside of Arcata.

Click here to learn more about how EPIC is keeping an Eye on Green Diamond.

 


Green Diamond To Host Public Meeting to Receive Community Feedback

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
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GDclearcutwebEPIC and others have recently received notice from Green Diamond Resource Company (ex-Simpson Timber) that the company intends to convene a public meeting to solicit feedback from the community on its forestry practices. The public meeting is to be held on Wednesday, February 13th, at the Bayside Grange (2297 Jacoby Creek Road), from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

This Green Diamond public meeting has been scheduled against a back-drop of growing discontent in the community at large with Green Diamond’s green-wash and double-speak.  While Green Diamond aspires to portray an image of itself as a responsible forest manager and upstanding member of the community, the company at the same time continues to propose forest management that completely contradicts the companies’ public relations statements.

Examples of this include a Timber Harvest Plan, approved in 2011, which would allow 80 acres of clearcutting outside of Trinidad along the popular and picturesque Strawberry Rock trail.

Further evidence of Green Diamonds indignant disregard for ongoing stakeholder involvement in maximizing the conservation potential of globally important protected areas with the use of restoration forestry techniques is the companies’ proposal to clearcut 70 acres in the heavily impacted Elk River watershed within a short distance of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

In response to the proposed Green Diamond clearcutting along the Strawberry Rock trail, a community-based group has convened a campaign to protect the site, and has proposed a public meeting to discuss possible options.  The Friends of Trinidad Forest Strawberry Rock meeting will be held on Saturday, February 9th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Trinidad town hall. Please attend this meeting to learn more about the threats to Strawberry Rock, and to prepare for the Wednesday, February 13th public meeting to be hosted by Green Diamond.

Green Diamond continues to operate under the bogus certification standard of the industry-driven Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). EPIC has worked vigilantly to expose the company and the SFI label as unsustainable and, ultimately, a national case study in “greenwash” contrived to hide the truth about the destruction of the redwoods on Green Diamond lands.

EPIC encourages the community to attend this upcoming Green Diamond public meeting and to tell the company exactly what you think of its forestry practices.  The company needs to hear loud and clear from our community that its antiquated and unsustainable practices are no longer tolerable.  We will see you there!

 What: Green Diamond Resource Company hosted Public Meeting

When: Wednesday February 13 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: Bayside Grange, 2297 Jacoby Creek Road, outside of Arcata

Why: To communicate concerns about Green Diamond practices, and to propose solutions that will reduce and eliminate the ecosystem and climate damage being caused by Green Diamond’s intensive clearcutting of the redwood temperate rainforest.


Action Alert! Tell Green Diamond: No Clearcuts in Elk River

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013
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Green Diamond: Stop ClearcuttingTake Action Now! Green Diamond Resource Company (formerly Simpson Timber Company) is proposing intensive and damaging clearcut logging in the heavily impacted Elk River watershed.  Timber Harvest Plan 1-12-113 HUM “McCloud Creek East #5” proposes over 70 acres of clearcutting in the McCloud Creek watershed, a tributary to the South Fork Elk River, a stone’s throw away from the globally important Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Unlike other land managers in the Elk River watershed, Green Diamond continues to propose intensive clearcutting, road construction, and potentially the use of toxic chemical herbicides.  Clearcut logging as proposed will result in decreased canopy interception and transevaporation, resulting in increased water production and sediment transport to a watershed already suffering from intensive sediment impairment.  Please refer to our December 18th blog post for greater detail about the plight of Elk River and the destructive details of Green Diamond’s new McCloud Creek Timber Harvest Plan.

Take action now and you will be a part of the growing momentum to curb the greenwashing excesses of Green Diamond (ex-Simpson). Tell Green Diamond to stop clearcutting in Elk River and through out their properties.  Tell Green Diamond that intensive evenaged forest management in the Elk River watershed is no longer acceptable, a relic practice from the past that has been shown to result in intensive environmental damage.  Tell Green Diamond to manage for forest and watershed restoration recovery, not for intensive extraction and profit.  Tell Green Diamond to Be a Good Neighbor and to Respect the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Click Here to Take Action Now!


Green Diamond’s Holiday Gift to Headwaters: Clearcuts, Roads and Herbicides

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
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Atrazine_article_clearcut_south_of_korbel_sized

Atrazine applied on clearcut near Korbell. Is this what Green Diamond wants to do next door to Headwaters?
Photo by Jen Kalt

As the holiday season approaches, most of us are thinking about how we can give back to our friends, families, and communities. Apparently, Green Diamond Resource Company has something a little different in mind for the Elk River and Headwaters Forest Reserve. Instead of giving the landscape surrounding Headwaters much needed forest and watershed restoration, Green Diamond has opted instead to give clearcuts, roads, and herbicides. Comic Scrooge and Grinch-like characterizations of Green Diamond’s holiday behavior aside, there is nothing funny about the lump of coal that Green Diamond is stuffing in the holiday stocking of the ancient forest refuge of Headwaters with their new proposed logging activities in the Elk River watershed.

Specifically, EPIC’s monitoring of the timber industry on the North Coast of California reveals that Green Diamond has filed a new Timber Harvest Plan that threatens more than 70 acres of clearcutting in the upper reaches of McCloud Creek, a tributary of Elk River, and at a stone’s throw of the hard fought over Headwaters Forest. The destructive potential of this proposed industrial forestry operation merits a quick history lesson in the evolution of forest management in the Elk River watershed surroundings of the globally important Headwaters Forest Reserve.

The Elk River watershed, located south east of Eureka, is a tributary to Humboldt Bay.  The Elk River watershed has been heavily logged over the last century and a half, with only fragments of the original forest such as the Headwaters Forest remaining.  Though the Headwaters Forest Reserve provides protection for one of the worlds last remaining intact remnants of the ancient redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem, the rest of the watershed is a myriad of young, recovering forest and regenerating clearcuts.

In the 1990s, the now infamous MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company began the process of liquidating the remaining old growth and mature second growth in the Elk River watershed.  This second cycle logging resulted in intensive road building, tractor yarding, and clearcutting throughout the watershed.  Eventually, with the advent of the 1996/1997 winter storms, the sensitive geology of the Elk River watershed began to unravel, suffering from the combined effects of weather and intensive logging.

1997 Flooding on the Elk RiverPhoto Credit: Salmon-Forever.org

1997 Flooding on the Elk River
Photo Credit: Salmon-Forever.org

It was not until after these historic storms of 1996/1997 that State agencies began to stand up and take notice of the damaging effects of the contemporary forest liquidation of MAXAAM/Pacific Lumber Company.  In fact, in 1997, an interagency team determined that Elk River, along with four other watersheds heavily managed by MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, were significantly, adversely, and cumulatively impacted, with timber harvest being a contributing factor.

The results of the intensive forest management of the MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, as well as other ownerships in the watershed, such as Elk River Timber Company and what was then the Simpson Timber Company (now Green Diamond), were significant landsliding related to both harvest and roads, and significant channel capacity modification in the Elk River itself, leading to high instances of nuisance flooding that threaten the health and safety of downstream residents.

 With the creation of the Headwaters Forest Reserve in 1999, a new management regime began to be employed in the Elk River watershed.  The BLM immediately began removing roads and selectively managing second and third growth forests in the Reserve in an effort to grow larger trees faster, and to manage for older forest to compliment the newly protected ancient groves.  After the MAXAAM bankruptcy of the Pacific Lumber Company, and the subsequent ownership change to the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) in 2008, an even greater land base in the Elk River watershed would be managed selectively and for the purpose of growing older, bigger trees faster, with the goal of restoring the watershed to a more natural, unevenaged forest.

Though serious concerns remain related to the volume of HRC harvest in Elk River, the company has without question taken a sophisticated approach to restoration potential and selective forestry in the watershed, and has engaged in an open manner with local and statewide stakeholders with an interest in the long history of industrial forestry reform around Headwaters. In particular, HRC has been attentive to conservationist interest in maximizing the ecological potential of forest management activities in those areas closest to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Headwaters Preserve

Headwaters Forest Reserve 2012

Unfortunately, Green Diamond has chosen to follow the destructive path of their Simpson Timber roots, and the ecologically and economically bankrupt MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, rather than the forward-looking and selective approach of HRC and the BLM.  In late November 2012, Green Diamond filed THP 1-12-113HUM “McCloud Creek East #5.”  In this THP, Green Diamond proposes to clearcut 70 acres within McCloud Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of Elk River.  The THP is located adjacent to a Green Diamond Northern Spotted Owl set-aside, which is adjacent to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.  Instead of managing to grow big trees faster, Green Diamond plans to intensively manage for young, evenaged homogenous tree plantations through the application of clearcuts. These practices can cause significant modification to drainage patterns in the watershed and will result in the generation of a significant amount of surface erosion.  These effects will in turn be felt downstream as channel capacity in the Elk River proper is continually compromised.

The State, for its part, has been shown to be complicit to Green Diamond’s plans to intensively manage its holdings in such a sensitive and cumulatively impacted watershed.  CAL FIRE has thus far shown every inclination that it will approve the THP as written.  Meanwhile, the Regional Water Board, in adopting Green Diamond’s property-wide programmatic Waste Discharge Requirement permit in the fall of 2012 (a permit that EPIC has challenged to the State Water Board), placidly accepted the fact that Green Diamond would intensively manage for clearcuts and short harvest rotations in its Elk River holdings near Headwaters. To add insult to injury, the permitting of this new Green Diamond THP will be financed by common consumers through the new lumber tax on retails sales of wood products in the state of California that the legislatures passage of AB 1492 made into law.

Despite Green Diamond’s appearance of compliance with the law through acquisition of Habitat Conservation Plans and other programmatic agreements, the company continues its rapacious march to convert recovering native forests into homogenous evenaged tree plantations.  The proposal by Green Diamond to clearcut in the direct vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve is more evidence of how Green Diamond is a nationally relevant case study of “green washing,” and that underneath their public relations campaigns the company really has no inclination or commitment to becoming a responsible forest manager now or into the future—and that the State of California is a willing partner by playing along with their “green washing” politics by providing regulatory cover for their activities.

In conclusion, the filing of THPs such as the “McCloud Creek #5 East” show that Green Diamond is not sensitive to the needs of watersheds or its neighbors, and that the privately-held company is far more concerned with its short-term bottom line than with the long-term well being of the redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem.  EPIC will vocally expose the threat that this type of forest management continues to present to the public interest, to local residents, and to the ecological integrity of the most threatened temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet. Stay tuned for more news and actions from EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform program as we prepare to challenge this destructive logging proposal, and to protect the integrity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

If it were not for EPIC, the destructive activities of Green Diamond Resource Company (ex-Simpson Timber) would go unexposed and unchallenged. No other organization is watchdogging the timber industry in Northwest California like EPIC does. Your year-end donation can make all the difference for giving EPIC the resources we need to keep up this crucial work to continue to defend Headwaters for the future generations. Please consider donating today!


Final Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Rule Restores Federal Lands, But Excludes Redwood Region

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
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Northern Spotted Owls, by Peter Carlson

9.6 Million Acres Protected as Critical Habitat for Northern Spotted Owls

Decision Reverses Controversial Bush Administration Cuts to Habitat

WASHINGTON— Conservation groups today hailed protection of 9.6 million acres of critical habitat for the threatened northern spotted owl across federal lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California, but were deeply disappointed by the exclusion of all private and most state lands, resulting in a 4.2 million cut from the proposed designation. The owl has continued to decline since being protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1990, in part because of continued loss of habitat on private and state lands.

“The forests that owls depend on are the same forests we cherish for clean drinking water, habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and outdoor recreation with our families,” said Joseph Vaile, program director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, Ore. “We need to focus on protecting and restoring our remaining mature and old-growth forests across all lands, so we can recover endangered wildlife and produce sustainable jobs in rural communities.”

Today’s designation replaces a 2008 designation by the Bush administration that had ignored years of scientific evidence showing that spotted owls in the Pacific Northwest needed more, not less, old-growth forest habitat protection, and had slashed a 1992 designation of nearly 7 million acres by more than 1.5 million acres. This cut of critical habitat was based on a recovery plan for the owl that was widely criticized by the scientific community and revealed in congressional hearings to have been the product of direct political interference designed to undermine the protective measures of the Northwest Forest Plan. Conservation groups successfully challenged the 2008 designation, resulting in today’s designation, which is a substantial increase from both previous designations.

“In restoring extensive protections on federal lands, today’s decision, protecting millions of acres of habitat for the spotted owl, marks the end of a dark chapter in the Endangered Species Act’s implementation when politics were allowed to blot out science,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is, however, deeply disappointing that the Obama administration has elected to exclude all private and most state lands, which are absolutely essential to the recovery of the spotted owl and dozens of other wildlife species.”

While the final rule restores protections to essential federal lands, it fails to fully account for and implement the recovery goal of critical habitat because it proposes to exclude far too much habitat on non-federal lands. Many of these lands provide essential habitat for the owl; many private lands in the “Redwood Coast” region, for example, are absolutely essential because the owl can nest in younger trees with redwoods and the owl’s productivity is consistently higher in the redwood zone as compared with the remainder of the range.

“The evidence is overwhelming that redwood forests are essential to the conservation of the species. Leaving them out of the final rule is a big mistake,” remarked Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center.

Conservation groups also remain concerned about statements in the proposed critical habitat rule calling for “active management” of spotted owl critical habitat, including logging. The scientific basis for logging existing spotted owl habitat to benefit the species remains questionable, at best, with numerous studies demonstrating the owl is sensitive to logging of its mature and old-growth forest habitat.

“The owl needs these areas of protected habitat to survive,” said Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy. “We remain concerned, however, that Fish and Wildlife may allow increased logging in critical habitat, which could also imperil the threatened marbled murrelet, and help the spotted owl’s competitor, the barred owl.”

At most, 20 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s original old-growth forests remain. In addition to providing critical habitat for spotted owls, salmon, steelhead and other species, mature and old-growth forests are important sources of clean water and help reduce global warming.

“Independent scientific peer reviews have been crystal clear on owl recovery being tied to protection of old forest habitat especially as competition with the more aggressive barred owl increases and climate change further stresses spotted owl populations,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist and former member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006-2008 recovery team who initially raised concerns about lack of habitat protections under the Bush proposal.

Conservation groups, represented by Kristen Boyles, attorney with EarthJustice, successfully challenged the 2008 designation, resulting in today’s designation.

NSOCriticalHab_PR_11-21-12

Associated Press/Times-Standard article from Nov 22, 2012 – Feds aim to double habitat for spotted owl

Redding Record-Searchlight article from Nov 22, 2012 – Feds’ spotted owl ruling sparks criticism; 9.5 million acres for birds excludes private forest lands


Green Diamond Exposed as National Case Study in “Greenwash”

Thursday, November 8th, 2012
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The active summer of clearcut logging on Green Diamond private forestland holdings has raised the eyebrows and ire of many North Coast residents, as well as visitors to the area. The phones at the EPIC office often ring with questions, observations, and complaints about industrial activities from many different corners of our bioregion. The intensity of clearcut logging on Green Diamond lands in Northern Humboldt County has been the subject of several phone conversations with concerned locals phoning into the EPIC office with questions and concerns about what was going on “back there.”

Yet, it wasn’t until we had new photos from the air of Green Diamond holdings in upper Maple Creek and in the upper North Fork of the Mad River that we were able to fully confirm what many residents had been calling in to ask about–that the hardcore Green Diamond logging of the summer of 2012 was almost exclusively based in extensive fresh clearcutting of the redwood forest ecosystem.

We felt it was urgent to share the newest images of Green Diamond forest destruction with the broad community of people all around the state, the country, and the world that have communicated their interest in protecting the redwood temperate rainforests of the North Coast of California.

The photos rapidly caught the attention of our friends and colleagues at ForestEthics. ForestEthics is spearheading a national campaign to expose the “greenwash” of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification scheme. When we told them our story of Green Diamond’s SFI certified redwood forest destruction, the team at ForestEthics was, without a better way of saying it, absolutely disgusted. They decided to turn that disgust with SFI certified redwood forest destruction into action, and promptly published an action alert that features Green Diamond’s SFI certified clearcuts as a national case study in “greenwash.” 

In a blog post titled “Seeing Red: Green Diamond and SFI Greenwash Forest Destruction” the scandal of the SFI certified clearcuts of redwood forest on Green Diamond holdings in Northern California is denounced as an “attempt to mislead us when we as consumers are trying to do the right thing.”  This statement gets to the core of the insidious nature of Green Diamond’s misrepresentation of their forestry practices as “sustainable”–most consumers do not want to pay for forest products that come from destructive clearcut forestry. It is only through massive PR (i.e. “greenwash”) that Green Diamond is able to hide the reality of the impacts that their forestry practices have on endangered species and the most endangered temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet, the redwood forest. The kind of national exposure that this recent ForestEthics action will give to the situation on the ground in the redwood forest will assist in unmasking Green Diamond and SFI as partners in “greenwash,” and help consumers across the country develop the skills necessary to decipher (and avoid) the destruction that is behind the false eco-labels.

Check out the ForestEthics blog and their new action — Seeing Red: Green Diamond and SFI Greenwash Forest Destruction — and stay tuned for more news from EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Program.


Sacramento 2012 – Banana Republic Politics and California’s Timber Aristocracy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
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California’s political establishment demonstrated a clear capacity in 2012 for crony capitalism environmental politics. The closure of the legislative session in Sacramento this year would seem to have been better set in a mythical country where societies biggest land owners, and the politicians that they own, conspire in back rooms to develop and pass legislation that consolidates the landowners power over public trust natural resources. Repeated votes past midnight on the last day that the legislature was in session, arm twisting by high end corporate lobbyists, water carrying for the rich by established career political operatives, and the crowing of the landed elite about the “significant reforms” contained in the new anti-democratically designed law are all elements of a scene from the most corrupt of countries. But this scene of banana republic politics is from sophisticated California, a scene from the land of wine and solar panels, a scene from Sacramento in all it’s self-important glory.

These banana republic politics are the backstory to what will become known as Governor Brown’s timber industry legacy giveaway, AB 1492, a law that extends the length of time for executing timber harvest plans and relieves big landowners from liability due to fires they start on their own lands. This new law also removes all permitting fees for timber harvest by the biggest landowners, while imposing a new 1% consumer tax on the retail sale of wood products in the State of California, regardless of their origin, to fund the permitting process. Governor Brown signed the law into effect this week, and promptly released a joint press statement with Red Emmerson of Sierra Pacific Industries, billionaire twice over and largest land owner in the state, to celebrate the Democratic governor’s legacy gift to the landed elite of the State of California.

While EPIC appreciates that this new law reduces timber harvest permitting costs for small and medium landowners and operators, the fact is that it is the large-scale intensive and clearcut dominated silviculture model that costs the state so much money for timber harvest plan review and regulation, as well as restoration. The cost of permitting and recovering from this damaging clearcut industrial forestry model is now passed on to the consumer more so than ever before, and the opportunity to use a fee schedule to reward small and sustainably envisioned timber businesses with permitting relief while forcing damaging industry to pay for their short sited and destructive practices has now been lost. Also, the way things are set up now, those land owners who choose to sell their raw logs for export will be totally subsidized by the regular consumer in California, further eroding the establishment of a sustainable and dignified timber industry in California. These are just a few of the reasons that EPIC opposed AB 1492, and did not turn a blind eye to the machinations of banana republic timber politics.

And we can say Banana Republic politics because, other than Sierra Pacific Industries and Green Diamond Resource Company, another clear winner with this Governor Brown give away to the landed timber aristocracy is the Fisher Family, owners of the Gap clothing empire (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic), and more than 400,000 acres of prime redwood region timber land in Northern California. Enshrining in law that the common consumer pay a tax on lumber to pay for timber harvest permitting is clearly a direct gift from the Governor to the Fisher Family. No other industry in the state enjoys this vaunted status of paying nothing for permitting fees.

As if this were not enough banana republic politics, it is important to remember that the California Natural Resources Agency will be the direct beneficiary of the revenue of this new lumber tax, even though one of the biggest financial scandals of the year was exposed within the Agency at State Parks, with millions of dollars of stashed cash appearing after illegal vacation payouts by top level staff were revealed by reporters at the Sacramento Bee–even as parks were being closed and services seriously reduced. This financial scandal and the absolute violation of public trust that it represents was not even sufficient cause for pause and reconsideration of the management of natural resources by the political establishment in Sacramento. Though some of the better news for EPIC in our efforts to advocate for sustainable environmental planning came in the form of bills that passed that will retain and develop democratic funding sources for our treasured State Parks, our organization is very disappointed in the lack of willingness thusfar from the Sacramento political establishment to address this inexcusable mismanagement issue in a holistic manner through the Natural Resources Agency. The parks finances scandal and the lack of a thorough response by entrenched interests in Sacramento is an indictment of the top heavy reality of the California Natural Resources Agency, a bureaucracy that shows no sign of willing reform.

Corruption, mis-management, back-room deals, and late-night after hours legislative shenanigans, these are the watermarks of Sacramento in 2012. Those who are in the inner circle in Sacramento may applaud their cleverness and agility as they position and jostle within The Building to exercise their esoteric knowledge of how the system is rigged, but they are only pawns in the game. Governor Brown’s legacy timber industry give away only confirms who it is that the government in Sacramento is intent on serving. The real winners continue to be the landed timber aristocracy, and their business interests. The losers are the natural resources of this state and their protection for this and future generations.


Stop AB 1492 – Timber industry giveaway saddles Californians with an unnecessary tax

Monday, August 13th, 2012
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CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW!  Please contact your California State Senators, Assemblymembers and Governor and urge them to vote NO on AB 1492.  This embarrassing piece of legislation is poised to fly through the California legislature this week without any substantive debate whatsoever.  It is clearly a cynical attempt by wealthy timber barons at Sierra Pacific Industries and Green Diamond Resource Company to hoodwink the public into paying for damaging logging plans and to tie the hands of prosecutors that attempt to bring claims against the timber giants for causing forest fires that threaten communities and California’s public forests.  Read what long-time forest activist Richard Gienger has to say about AB 1492.

EPIC has been tracking this atrocious proposal since its beginning at the Governor’s office, where we sent a formal letter of opposition.  Again, more recently, we expressed our opposition to the proposal with a letter to the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly.

Logging on private lands in California is significantly subsidized by taxpayers, because timber companies pay very little for public agency review and approval.  The value of these services is estimated at over $20 million dollars per year.

Now, the Legislature and Governor want to impose this expense on the consumer, by charging a tax on all wood products sold in the state. The timber industry will continue to receive free services from state agencies, while the homeowner and builder will subsidize the profits of logging companies.  To sweeten the pot, the bill also reduces fire liability to eliminate ecological concerns in determining the damage, a provision initiated by timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries.  Sierra Pacific recently settled a high profile federal prosecution for negligently causing the Moonlight Fire.  While SPI ultimately settled its obligations, it has secured favor with the Governor to insulate it and other large timber companies from similar liability in the future.

This timber industry give away is anti-democratic, restricts the public’s rights, and saddles Californian’s with an unnecessary tax.

Please take action now and tell your state legislators to vote NO on AB 1492!