Industrial Forestry Reform

Action Alert: Defend Public Lands; Defeat Trump’s Environmental Agenda

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
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TAKE ACTION! On the 4th of July, you can help save our forests by halting bad legislation. A new bad forest bill, the ironically named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (HR 2936), is quickly heading to a vote. The bill recently escaped the House Natural Resources Committee through a party line vote. Now, Trump’s lawless logging bill will soon come up for a vote before the House.

This is the worst federal forest legislation in EPIC’s lifetime. And scarily, it might pass. Here’s four reasons why we are freaked out:

(1) Up to 30,000 Acres of Lawless Logging

The bill gives a free pass to lawless logging by exempting logging plans up to 30,000 acres—nearly 47 square miles—that are developed through a “collaborative process” from having to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). By comparison, under the existing law only logging projects 70 acres or less are exempted from NEPA. In one fell swoop, Congress could rollback decades of work by EPIC and allies to protect federal forests.

(2) Weakens Endangered Species Act Protections

Under current law, whenever the Forest Service proposes a project that could harm threatened or endangered species, the agency needs to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposed legislation would change the law to remove this consultation requirement by allowing the Forest Service to choose whether or not to consult on a project. Further, the bill would exempt other forest management activities entirely from the Endangered Species Act.

(3) Closes the Courthouse Doors

The bill also limits the ability of citizens to challenge bad agency action in court. The bill would prohibit temporary injunctions and preliminary injunctions against “salvage” logging projects, virtually guaranteeing that logging will occur before a court can hear a challenge. The bill prevents plaintiffs from recovering attorneys’ fees if they win. While money is never the object of a lawsuit, the ability to recover fees is critical to enable public interest environmental lawyers to take cases for poor nonprofits like EPIC. Finally, it moves many forest management activities out from our federal courts to a “binding arbitration” program, whereby an agency-appointed arbitrator’s decision would decide the fate of projects.

(4) Shifts Money from Restoration to Logging

In a sneaky move, the proposed legislation would move money earmarked for forest restoration projects to logging. By adding one small phrase—“include the sale of timber or other forest products”—the bill would mandate timber sales as part of at least half of certain stewardship projects.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP BAD FOREST LEGISLATION


Base Camp Reflections

Thursday, June 15th, 2017
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Over the weekend, EPIC staff and volunteers and ventured out into the remote wildlands of the Klamath Mountains for EPIC Base Camp; a three day “groundtruthing” training that focused on data gathering to help reform grazing and timber sale practices on public lands. Outdated laws allow for private timber companies and ranchers to use public lands for private profit, and the fees collected for these destructive activities do not cover the costs of the impacts, regulation, or oversite associated with the practices.

Because regulatory agencies tasked with protecting our natural resources are under staffed, they do not have the capacity to visit all of the sites in a timber sale or grazing allotment, so they depend on public citizen monitoring to report inconsistencies between what is proposed and what is happening on the ground. In essence, agencies are complaint driven, meaning that they don’t act unless someone files a formal complaint.

Day 1: Grazing Monitoring and Timber Sale Sleuthing

On Saturday, June 10, Felice Pace, Project Coordinator of the Grazing Reform Project took the group on a field tour of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment, and the Horse Creek post-fire timber sale in the Klamath National Forest. A site visit of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment revealed illegal felling of a large old-growth tree that had been cut  and likely used for fire wood. Environmental impacts, including damage to water quality, impairment of meadow hydrology and degradation of fish, amphibian and wildlife habitat are a common occurrence in these allotments, which are located on public lands.

Next, the group ventured up into the mountains to monitor the Horse Creek timber sale, which was burned in the 2016 Gap Fire. These burned areas were already regenerating with tree seedlings and new plants sprouting up all over the forest floor. In the units that were visited, the landscape was extremely steep with a slope of 30%-70%. It was clear that logging, tractors, skid trails, and new roads would tear up and compact these steep fragile soils, resulting in erosion and delayed regeneration of the fragile post-fire ecosystem years to come. The low gradient of Horse Creek makes it one of the best coho salmon habitats in the Klamath Basin. Logging and road building above critical coho habitat will result in sediment entering the stream, which degrades salmon habitat and smothers baby salmon. The total amount of logging in the Horse Creek watershed is massive.

Several of the timber sale units were located within Late Successional Reserves. The objective of Late-Successional Reserves is to protect and enhance conditions of late successional forests (think: old-growth), which serve as habitat for old-growth dependent species, including the northern spotted owl. However, most of the largest trees visible from the roadway within these areas were marked for logging, a violation of the law.

The federal timber sale is immediately adjacent to massive private timber operation, compounding the impacts to fish and wildlife. As of June 1st EPIC identified 21 emergency notices in the Gap Fire area totaling 4,863 acres from private land owners (primarily Fruit Growers Supply Company) in addition to the Horse Creek timber sale. Emergency notices are private post-fire logging projects that are exempt from environmental review. On the way to investigate Unit 115.34 of the Horse Creek project, the neighboring parcel, owned by Fruit Growers Supply Company, was being actively logged under an exempt emergency notice. Volunteers noted that the riparian areas within Fruit Growers’ land were being logged. Emergency timber operations can be conducted in riparian areas, including adjacent to streams known to provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species without environmental review by the CAL FIRE or agencies responsible for administering the California or Federal Endangered Species Acts.

Day 2: Timber Monitoring Continues

On Sunday, June 11, EPIC volunteers braved the weather and poor roads to investigate the largest timber sale unit. Volunteers walked a road proposed to be punched in to facilitate logging. Again, life was everywhere in this “dead” forest. Hardwoods were sprouting from stumps, conifer seedlings provided a green carpet, and many trees the Forest Service considers to be dead were alive, with green boughs and branches. After hours of documenting the forest, EPIC volunteers ended the weekend with a cheer and a promise to return.

It is important to note that most projects like these don’t get monitored, and therefore private companies get away with violating environmental laws and standards that are in place to protect common pool public resources, like clean water we rely on for drinking, critical habitat for species such as salmon that feed our local communities, forests that provide us with clean air, and other ecosystems that support the web of life that we all depend on.

THANK YOU! 

Although EPIC has been groundtruthing for years, this is the first EPIC Base Camp. Our inspiration came from Bark, an Oregon based non-profit that has held an annual Base Camp event for years. Bark was kind enough to send expert ground-truther, Michael Krochta, to share techniques, and lead some of the trainings. EPIC would like to thank the 17 volunteers who came out to the boonies in a rain storm to document these projects, and the information they gathered, will be used in our comments to improve the Horse Creek project to minimize impacts to these wild places. EPIC has the best members. THANK YOU!

If you would like to check out our timber sale unit notes click here.

To view the photos we took in the project areas, click here.

Photos by Amber Shelton.

 

 


Westside Update: EPIC Back in Court to Fight for Project Remediation

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
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For more articles about the Westside Timber Sale, click here.

EPIC is back in court to ensure that promised logging remediation will occur. EPIC is seeking to amend our original lawsuit to target some of the unfulfilled promises made by the Forest Service. The amended complaint is here and our motion to amend is here.

Broadly speaking, the Westside Timber Sale consisted of two components: a timber sale and project features to “recover” the forest post-fire and post-logging. The first part, the logging, has occurred. But the second, the recovery actions, may never occur because of the Forest Service’s failures.

Through the Westside Timber Sale, the Forest Service has denuded around 6,000 acres of mostly steep and unstable slopes in the Klamath National Forest. In its wake, the Forest Service has left a mess. Slash and logging debris litter the landscape. Roads are collapsing and washing into the Klamath River. Forest fuel conditions are worse than when the project started. (In short, this is what EPIC predicted would happen. But no one likes an “I told you so.”)

As promised to the public in their environmental impact statement, the Forest Service indicated that it was going to come back in and clean up this mess through fuels reductions projects and treatment of “legacy” sources of sediment pollution. The Forest Service predicated this remediation work on selling timber for exaggerated prices—$240 per thousand board feet of timber. In reality, the Forest Service sold owl critical habitat for as low as $.50 per thousand board feet, as the market for these fire-killed trees dried up. (At that price, a log truck full of trees would cost less than a cup of coffee.)

When the Forest Service realized that the project was no longer economically viable, it should have stopped logging and reevaluated the Project. It didn’t. Now EPIC is asking the court to force the Forest Service to think critically about what it can feasibly do by revisiting its environmental impact statement.


State Initiates Pilot Watershed Study of Timber Harvest Plan Process

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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campbellcreek_bw

The State of California has initiated the first of three planning watershed-scale pilot studies to evaluate the adequacy utility, and methods of representation and assessment of information that informs the modern-day Timber Harvest Plan review process. The Campbell Creek Planning Watershed Pilot Project is a subsidiary to the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program that was created in the wake of 2012’s Assembly Bill 1492, that calls for ensuring efficiency, accountability, and transparency in the THP process, and the eventual development of “Ecological Standards and Performance Measures,” to ensure the overall effectiveness of the THP administration program.

The concept behind the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is to evaluate pre-existing information in Timber Harvest Plans over history in a specific planning watershed and to then “truth” the value, utility, clarity, and representation of the information against the physical on-the-ground conditions in the watershed via field examination. The study will evaluate the ability of the information as represented to accurately depict field conditions, identify and design mitigation measures, and to identify restoration opportunities and prioritization of restoration activities and funds. The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is the brain-child of long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study for Campbell Creek, a tributary to the Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County, is being conducted by the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Working Group is comprised of an agency leadership team, a team of agency technical staff, and an appointed group of non-governmental stakeholders, including land owners, Registered Professional Foresters, scientists, fisheries restorationists, environmental non-profits including EPIC, and a tribal liaison from the Pomo tribe. The concept of having “multi-disciplinary” team and approach to evaluation is critical to the premise of the pilot project concept.

Another, though understated objective of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study, is to evaluate the ability of existing information in the THP process to inform and guide methods of assessment and develop necessary mitigations to address cumulative environmental impacts of past and contemporary timber harvesting activities on private lands in the State.

The Pilot Project Working Group held its first meeting in Fort Bragg in December 2016. The location allows for easy access to field site visits in the Campbell Creek watershed on its timberlands. Timberlands in Campbell Creek are presently primarily under the ownership of Lyme Timber. Lyme is a Timber Investment Management Organization (TIMO), and is the successor to Campbell Global, itself a TIMO. Campbell Global acquired the property from Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County is one of the last vestiges of remaining native wild-run coho salmon in the Central California Coast, and is thus a critical watershed for study and assessment of restoration opportunities.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study concept has been subject of other legislative efforts in the past that subsequently failed, but is now built into the rubric of the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program, with the hope that the study will contribute valuable information to the larger program, and aid in the development of Ecological Standards and Performance Measures. Ecological Standards and Performance Measures can be thought of as “Thresholds of Significance,” in the CEQA parlance, a set of objectives and measureable criteria to aid in the identification and avoidance of adverse cumulative environmental impacts from timber harvest and related activities on private lands in the State.

EPIC’s participation in the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group is a circling back to the landmark 1986 court decision, EPIC v. Johnson, in which EPIC sued CAL FIRE for approving the logging of old-growth in the Sally Bell Grove in what is now the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, without evaluating the cumulative impacts of successive harvests and the subsequent cumulative loss of old-growth forests.

While EPIC prevailed in forcing private forestry to be subject to evaluation of cumulative impacts via the creation of the modern-day cumulative impacts assessment process in the Forest Practice Rules, the requirements are weak at best, and in the present-day have resulted in little more than cut-and-paste boiler-plate conclusionary statements that are passed off as an “evaluation,” to support a finding of no cumulative impacts. In the 30 years since EPIC v. Johnson, CAL FIRE has never denied a Timber Harvest Plan on the basis of a finding of adverse cumulative impacts, despite the wide-spread loss of old-growth, continued declines in populations of threatened and endangered fish and wildlife, the listing of almost every major North Coast stream as water quality impaired, and now the advent of global climate change.

Long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger, has been advocating for a truly multi-disciplinary evaluation of the THP process and the information upon which is predicated for decades, and his vision and prints are all over the concept and structure of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study and the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Pilot Project study is a foundational element to building an understanding and developing an information-based critique of the current process, identifying opportunities for much-needed reform.

40 years, and still going strong, EPIC is working as hard as ever to protect our forests, fish, air, water and wildlife against the damaging impacts of industrial-scale timber harvest on private forestlands in the State. Far from being finished, EPIC will hang tough and stay strong and vigilant in working for the place we love and call home.


Trump Administration Troubling for Public Lands

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
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trump-digs-coal-the-guardianOur nation’s public lands are more than just pretty places. Our public lands provide clean drinking water, are “home” to wildlife, clean our air and sequester carbon dioxide, and are the backyard in which we play. They are the crown jewel of America and our greatest legacy we pass down through generations. The Trump Administration is a threat to our public lands.

Trump says that he wants to “drain the swamp.” EPIC has two problems with this. First, it’s a bad turn of phrase—doesn’t he know that wetlands are critically important? Second, Trump is filing his administration with the same Washington insiders and industry apologists that already plague our political system.

Two picks in particular, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, are the most important to our public lands

The Department of the Interior

Trump’s choice for the Department of the Interior could be his most impactful. Within the Department of the Interior are three major landowners: the Bureau of Land Management, which owns forest and rangeland across the West, and has earned the moniker the “Bureau of Livestock and Mining” do to the coziness with the ranching and mining communities; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who are not only charged with implementing the Endangered Species Acts, but also manage our federal wildlife refuge system, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and the National Park Service, the crown jewel of America’s public lands.

The consensus frontrunner for the job is Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma. Gov. Fallin is a cheerleader for the oil and gas industry. Her track record as Governor is scary. She’s questioned climate change, outlawed local jurisdictions from regulating fracking, cut taxes on Big Oil (at the expense of public schools), and signed an executive order stating that Oklahoma would not follow the Obama power plant regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If her record is any indication, our public lands may be auctioned off to the highest bidder. As Governor, she shuttered 18 parks; reducing the number of public outdoor spaces from 50 to 32 in a single day. In 2005, as Lieutenant Governor, she spearheaded an effort to sell 750 acres of Lake Texoma State Park to private developers—who just happened to be campaign contributors—to construct a billion dollar resort on the lake.

There have been other rumored candidates. Harold Hamm and Forrest Lucas, both oil and gas company executives, have been floated. From the Bundy public lands giveaway camp, Rob Bishop—the chief agitator in favor of giving away public lands and gutting the Endangered Species Act—is a favored candidate. Donald Trump Jr., a trophy hunter himself*, is another potential pick and could be the most pro-conservation pick. (What a world where I cross my fingers for Trump Jr. to be elevated into a position of power!)

Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Forest Service is, somewhat surprisingly, within the Department of Agriculture. This is an anachronism from when our federal forests were concerned primarily with timber production and not the full suite of values, from recreation to wildlife that our forests are now charged with promoting.

Most rumored candidates are from Big Ag. At the moment, there isn’t a clear frontrunner. Names that have been floated include Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Chuck Conner, former Deputy Secretary of the Interior under George W. Bush. Both men are not from the West and issues of forestland management are unlikely to be at the top of their minds.

While most of the rumored candidates are from the world of Big Ag, that doesn’t mean our forestlands will be safe. For years, logging lobbyists have been crowing that federal environmental laws have been at the expense of good paying jobs, and that if we “streamline” laws, we can have “healthy forests” and “healthy communities.” Expect assaults on NEPA and expectations to “get the cut out.”

*EPIC is not opposed to hunting, per se, but is opposed to trophy hunting.


California’s Forests and Global Climate Change—Changing the Game

Thursday, October 27th, 2016
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California’s forests can help us fight climate change— if we let them. By recognizing the value of healthy, intact forests, we can use regulations and incentives to invest in the preservation and restoration of our forests—not only curbing climate change, but preserving clean air and water while protecting and restoring native habitat and biodiversity.

California’s forests can store (or “sequester”) carbon dioxide while mitigating the increasingly extreme environmental effects of global climate change. Incredibly, scientists have shown that deforestation and other forest resource extraction techniques that deplete forestland productivity are the second-largest source of global carbon dioxide emissions after fossil fuel combustion. Carbon dioxide emissions from forest resource extraction activities are known to account for as much as 20 percent of annual totals both globally, and in the State of California.

Redwood forest resource depletion is troubling because of the impact it has on forestland productivity, carbon sequestration, maintenance of clean water, impacts on air quality, healthy soil preservation, and biodiversity. In the redwoods, forest wood fiber and biomass in managed landscapes in the redwoods have been depleted to at most 10-15 percent of historic levels. According to a recent study, California’s forests are currently emitting more carbon dioxide than they sequester. Sixty-one percent of the overall reduction in forestland carbon dioxide storage is associated with losses in carbon density per-acre, i.e., less wood fiber and biomass is growing per-acre today than has grown in the past.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In 2016, research conducted via Humboldt State University found that the coast redwood forests of Northern California are capable of sequestering more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per-acre than any other forest type on earth due to amount of relative biomass density and their well-renowned capacity for fire, drought, and insect resistance. Changes in public land management as a result of the Northwest Forest Plan, namely the protection of large trees, have turned the public lands of the Pacific Northwest from a major carbon source to a carbon sink.

Recognizing the handwriting on the wall regarding our current climate crisis, the State of California has moved to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and to seek out ways to store or “sequester” more carbon dioxide. In 2006, the California Legislature passed, and then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed, Assembly Bill 32, the “California Global Warming Solutions Act.” AB 32 established a state-wide carbon emissions reduction target aimed at dialing emissions rates back to 1990 emission levels by the year 2020. The 2020 target is established as the first step in achieving a much larger long-term objective of an 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels by the year 2050 established by Executive Order of then-Governor Schwarzenegger. Ten years later, the State legislature enacted and Governor Brown has signed Senate Bill 32, which calls for reduction in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 in order to keep the state on-track to meet the larger 2050 reduction goal.

AB 32 implementation has been placed under the charge of the California Air Resources Control Board, a subsidiary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CARB is using a combination of regulation, innovation, and incentives to attain greenhouse gas reduction targets in many industry sectors in California. For example, a low carbon fuel standard and a light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standard have been adopted, energy efficiency programs have been strengthened and expanded, building and appliance standards have been strengthened and expanded, and a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has been adopted along with regional transportation-related greenhouse gas reduction targets. “Cap and Trade,” CARB’s market-based program under AB 32, is predicated upon limiting or “capping,” emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses with individual targets based on industry sector, with reductions in the overall and individual emissions “caps” each year. For each ton of emissions allowed under a cap, the state issues a permit. Businesses can sell or trade the permits on a secondary market as well. As the cap declines, the number of permits declines and the overall value of the permits, as well as the reductions, increases.

CARB also set a net carbon sequestration target for California forests in its first Scoping Plan.

However, the California forest products industry sector, and its regulating entities, the Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry, have been slow to respond and get on the bandwagon of addressing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with industry harvesting activities, while also moving to up the ante on the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered through the growing of more, larger, older trees.

In 2012, the State Legislature enacted AB 1504, legislation designed to light a fire under the Board and Department, and the forest products industry generally, to start critically evaluating and changing, as necessary, modern legal, regulatory, policy, and industry standards to insure reductions in industry greenhouse gas emissions—to go, “above and beyond the status quo” to ensure California’s forests serve to sequester more carbon dioxide. AB 32 implementation requires a break from the so-called “business-as-usual” mentality; however, a combination of legal, regulatory, and incentive-based program changes are necessary to get the forest products industry moving in the right direction.

EPIC is engaging in AB 32 implementation at several levels. First, EPIC has been involved in stakeholder working groups and other discussions surrounding the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan by the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT), an inter-agency working team tasked with creating the roadmap for forestry in California in the future. EPIC is also engaging in critical review of existing forest practice legal and regulatory frameworks in preparation for upcoming advocacy at the State Board of Forestry as it works to ensure compliance with AB 32, AB 1504, and other climate-related legal requirements.

Protecting the redwood forest into the future means addressing global climate change and human contributions to it. Thankfully, it is the redwoods themselves that provide us with the opportunity and roadmap for doing so, if we can manage to see the forest for the trees. Change can be arduous and slow, frustrated by industry sectors invested in perpetuated “business as usual.” But the din created by everyday citizens and groups like EPIC that stand up for the natural world, the public, and the public’s interests, must accordingly be louder, bolder, and more committed than ever if we are to preserve what remains, and work to heal and restore the rest.


Meet the Man Who Discovered Headwaters Forest

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
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Photo by: Mary McKernan

Photo by: Mary McKernan

Greg King is the 2016 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. In addition to discovering Headwaters Forest and leading the fight to save the largest remaining patch of old-growth redwoods in private hands, Greg has worked as a journalist, activist, and environmental professional, including founding and running the Siskiyou Land Conservancy. His lifetime of work is an inspiration to us all. The following excerpt is taken from an interview with Greg from the EcoNews Report on KHSU. Greg will be receiving the Sempervirens Award at EPIC’s Fall Celebration, at the Mateel Community Center on Friday, November 4th 2016, with musical performances by Joanne Rand, Woven Roots and Object Heavy. Click here to purchase your tickets to the event.

Natalynne: You’ve devoted over 30 years to the environmental movement, what caused you to become an environmentalist? 

Greg: When I got out of college in 1985, I started to work for a newspaper called, “The Paper.” I discovered that this beautiful second-growth redwood grove on the Russian River had been flagged for logging. So that was when I got into investigating timber politics and that led me to understand logging laws and timber harvest laws. I discovered that Louisiana Pacific was regularly violating state logging laws. I learned by talking to Sharon Duggan, EPIC’s attorney, that this was how things were going in timber politics.

Then, in late-1985 Maxxam took over Pacific Lumber, and everyone knew that Pacific Lumber had the world’s largest ancient redwood groves left on earth that weren’t in parks. So again, I was talking to Sharon and I said “I think I want to look into that” and she said “Yeah you probably should, somebody needs to look into that”—the takeover had just happened.

Early on in ‘86 it was clear that that was what was happening, this dismantling of the last ancient redwood grove on earth, with the complete rubber stamp of the state, and county officials just bending over for Maxxam. It was really actually disgusting how little internal dissention there was for what was clearly illegal logging and an illegal take over [of Pacific Lumber]. So I started writing to the Department of Forestry and going to Humboldt County in early ‘86 to explore the woods. I went for my first hike into the ancient redwoods held by Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber, in what we now call “Owl Creek Grove,” which was 1,000 acres of untouched ancient redwoods. I was so taken aback by the power of this place—I had been to redwood groves all of my life, and all of them had the mark of humanity, the trails, the signs etc.—but this was wild redwood forest, and I felt the difference. Then I realized that Maxxam was going log this place, so I came out of the woods prepared to stop them. That’s where I met Darryl Cherney, and he and I then co-founded Humboldt County EarthFirst! and we began to organize demonstrations.

N: In addition to the publication, what strategies were you and Darryl using to get this information out to the public?

Greg King self portrait: practice climb 1998. ©2016 Greg King

Greg King self portrait: practice climb 1998. ©2016 Greg King

G: By the mid- late ‘86 we myself, some Humboldt State students, and others, like Molokai, Larry Evans, Nina Williams, and Danielle Felipa, and several other people began mapping the redwood groves. In early 1987 we put out a publication called, “Old Growth in Crisis,” and the centerfold was a map showing the size and location of these groves for the first time in public. That was a significant event to get this information out. There were the demonstrations; the first ones were in Arcata, San Francisco and Scotia in ‘86. We were taught how to climb trees by rock-climbing guru, Kurt Newman, so that’s what we did, tree sitting in large part. In May of 1987 we had a national day of direct action were we had activists storm Pacific Lumber and Maxxam sites in Houston, Wall Street, San Francisco, and Humboldt County. We did a lot of direct action—no equipment sabotage ever, no tree spiking ever—we only put ourselves on the line, tree sitting, sitting in front of bulldozers, rallying, [and] protesting. We did a lot of public outreach, a lot of good professional work to let people know what was at stake.

N: You were saying there was lets just say bullying by the Department of Forestry, and this political will to take out the forests. What do you think that was based on, why was the state rubber-stamping this? Did they have something to gain from allowing this to happen?

G: I think the incentive came from the network. I hate to use the term “good ol’ boy network,” it’s cliché, but they all went to the same forestry school mostly here at HSU. Basically the idea was to not disallow logging, and not to disallow maximum profits, so we continued to see that, and we understood that this was the way it had always been. Really it is extraordinary to me that this [was a] kind of criminal enterprise—and that’s really what people have to understand, that this was a criminal enterprise from the beginning from the takeover of PL, all the way through to the logging, through the liquidation of the assets, the bulking of the share holders.

Cecilia Lanman before arrest Carlotta rally 1996 ©2016 Greg King

Cecilia Lanman before arrest Carlotta rally 1996 ©2016 Greg King

Maxxam had excellent attorneys, they easily determined that we are going to be able to do what we want in the forest without any oversight or impediment of the state. I don’t think they expected EPIC though. I mean EPIC really was heroic, the efforts of EPIC at that time. Cecilia Lanman—I mean you can’t pull out just one person, so many people, including this great volunteer run board of directors that still continues today—but Cecilia just sticking with it, through difficult times, unpaid, and just not letting it go, and that made a huge difference. 

N: So bringing that up, there was a very symbiotic relationship between EPIC and Humboldt Earth first, could you describe what that relationship was like?

G: The relationship was always necessarily kept in a philosophical realm and, physical in terms of it being the same issues. But of course EPIC could not do anything with illegal activity, and we were getting arrested all the time, for good reason. The relationship between EPIC and EF! was mostly philosophical, but also physical in which we were fighting for the same thing; the last of the redwoods, and not just the last of the redwoods, the last of the salmon, the last of the steelheads, the last of the marbled murrelet’s, the last of this type of habitat. Now what we need to do is lock up these “lesser cathedrals,” a horrible name for these ancient redwoods left just outside of Headwaters Forests Preserve. These are about 1,500-2,000 acres maybe of untouched redwoods, and a large swath of connected habitat land that needs to be protected very soon.

N: There’s definitely room for organizations like EPIC, Siskiyou Land Conservancy, and North Coast Regional Land trust to work with Humboldt Redwood Company to really lock up these lands. You’re now currently executive director of the Siskiyou Land Conservancy, can you describe the Siskiyou Land Conservancy?

G: We aim to create a land trust that would take title to, and hold conservation easements on, private properties not served by other land trusts — usually meaning small parcels that hold, and connect, important riparian and terrestrial habitats. In this work we have been successful. Siskiyou Land Conservancy also is the only organization dedicated to eliminating excessive pesticide use on bottomlands that surround the vital Smith River estuary, in Del Norte County. Nobody else has uncovered this terrible crime against the people in the environment there like we have, and we’ve been doing since ’04. And now we’re starting to get somewhere with the state, and the federal government is doing an investigation as well, so things are progressing.

N: So you have been on the front lines of the environmental movement for 30 years, and we know there is a lot of burn out in this line of work. How did you manage to sustain your drive for so long, and do you have any recommendations to young activists for sustaining their fight.

G: I have ebbed and flowed a lot. But what sustains me is to just get out in it, as Ed Abbey and David Foreman both kind of recommended. You have to enjoy the wild, in order to protect the wild.

Click here to listen to Greg King’s interview on the KMUD Environment Show

Click here to listen to Greg King’s interview on the KHSU EcoNews Report


We need you to show your support for Greg King, EPIC and for the beloved forests of the North Coast. Help us fill the Mateel Community Center to meet our fundraising goals for the year, by purchasing your tickets now to join us on Friday, November 4th for EPIC’s 39th Annual Fall Celebration. Act now by clicking here or on the image below. Thanks!

 


Breaking: Lawsuit Filed Over Feds’ Denial of Endangered Species Protection to Pacific Fishers

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016
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donate-button-save-what-matters-fisherRare Mink-like Carnivore Threatened by Logging, Poaching, Poisoning

EPIC and our allies filed suit today in U.S. District Court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unexpected decision in April to deny Endangered Species Act protection to Pacific fishers. Closely related to minks, martens and wolverines, Pacific fishers are severely threatened by logging, use of toxic rodenticides by illegal marijuana growers and incidental capture in fur traps. Although the Service proposed federal protection for the fisher in 2014, the agency reversed course and withdrew the proposal in 2016 even though the fisher’s poor status remained largely the same.

The decision to deny protections to the Pacific fisher is the latest in a string of politically motivated decisions from the Fish and Wildlife Service, in which regional staff overruled decisions by Service biologists to protect species. In December 2015 conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Service for inexplicably denying protection to Humboldt martens, another rare West Coast carnivore on the brink of extinction. In April 2016 a federal judge in Montana criticized the Service for bowing to political pressure in illegally reversing a proposal to protect the estimated 300 wolverines remaining in the lower 48 states. And in June the groups filed notice of their intent to bring today’s suit against the Service over its failure to protect the Pacific fisher.

“We first petitioned for protection of fishers more than 20 years ago,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a travesty that after finally acknowledging the precarious status of the fisher in 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to the timber industry and declined to protect these beautiful carnivores.”

Fishers once roamed from British Columbia to Southern California, but due to intense logging and trapping, only two native populations survive today: a population of as few as 100 fishers in the southern Sierra Nevada and another small population in the coastal mountains of southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. Fishers have also been recently reintroduced in the northern Sierra, southern Cascades and Washington state, but it is unknown whether these new populations are sustainable.

pacific-fisher-lawsuit-filedScience, not politics, should determine whether a species deserves protection,” said Tom Wheeler, program director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We are excited for our day in court to show that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bent over backwards to appease industry interests that would prefer the fisher go extinct.”

The Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned to protect the fisher in 1994, and again in 2000, along with the three other groups on the lawsuit filed today. Rather than provide protection, the Service added the fisher to a candidate list in 2004. In 2011 the Center reached a settlement agreement with the Service requiring a protection decision for the fisher in 2014, when it was proposed for protection as a “threatened” species. But the Service abruptly withdrew its proposed rule in April of this year.

“It’s gotten to the point where no amount of scientific evidence is ever enough for the Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the conservation groups. “At the rate we’re going now, Pacific fishers will be extinct and the Service will still be debating the extent to which the species can survive in a clearcut.”

“The Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains have the potential to be a key refuge for this imperiled species, yet the BLM recently committed itself to a land-management plan that dramatically increases logging and road building throughout Pacific fisher habitat. Without protections from the Endangered Species Act federal timber planners may drive this rare species into extinction,” said George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Filing the suit are the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Sierra Forest Legacy. They are represented by Earthjustice.

 

Without people like you, our work to protect the Pacific fisher would not be possible. Please consider helping us continue our efforts by making a donation today. 


Climate Change, California’s Forest Carbon Plan, and the “Point of No Return”

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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Clearcut logging in the Westside Timber SaleAs the calendar turns to October 2016, global climate change scientists have recently announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide content levels have now officially surpassed 400 parts-per-million, a threshold scientists have dubbed, “the point of no return.” Scientists say our planet has entered into a new epoch in global history, called the Anthropocene, or the, “Age of Man,” in which human-induced changes to the physical environment and natural world are so extreme that we have now surpassed the point when we can reasonably correct or fully undo the damage to our planet and its vital ecological life-support systems.

California has committed—on paper at least—to reducing greenhouse gases. In 2006, the State Legislature passed AB 32, titled the “the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” which mandated that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels by 2020. Earlier this year, the legislature raised the stakes: SB 32, which requires that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a far more ambitious, albeit necessary reduction target.

As dictated by the legislature, California is to make a two-pronged attack: first minimize greenhouse gas emissions; second, store, or “sequester,” more carbon dioxide on-the-ground. California’s timber products industry affects both—cutting trees releases carbon and growing trees stores carbon—that’s why AB32 required the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan to be developed by the inter-agency Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT). The California Forest Carbon Plan is supposed to provide the roadmap for California’s forest products industry sector to meet state-mandated reduction targets for the forestry and working lands industry sectors to complement and augment greenhouse gas reduction targets and objectives state-wide.

California’s forests can, and should, play a large role in sequestering carbon dioxide. By changing forest management and objectives to grow more wood fiber, commonly referred to as “volume,” California can store more carbon dioxide to offset and mitigate ongoing emission of greenhouse gases. How will we get there? A combination of rule changes and new incentives will need to be developed.

It has already been ten years since the legislature created the framework for a California Forest Carbon Plan. Attempts to force action have been slow-going, to put it nicely. While the Plan is being developed by the FCAT, but actual changes to forestry regulations will ultimately have to be adopted by the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. The FCAT intends to release its draft of the Forest Carbon Plan in the coming weeks, with an eye on codifying the Plan by the end of 2016 to meet legislative mandates. Many questions remain, however, as to the actual contents of the plan, the implications of those contents, and whether, to what extent, or how, any of what is eventually included in the Plan can be made legally binding and enforceable so as to actually change forest products industry practices, and bottom-line orientations.

EPIC has been working at the Board of Forestry to remind it of the mandates of the legislature, and its obligations under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and has begun strategic engagement on a project-by-project basis, critically evaluating the landscape-level planning mechanisms of the timber products industry as it pertains to increasing forestland productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and calling for enhanced sequestration of carbon dioxide, along with other public environmental, social, and economic values.

Moving into 2017, EPIC’s private lands forest policy advocacy work will shift substantially towards heavy engagement in the development and implementation of law, policy, and regulation changes aimed at ensuring that the state’s forest products industry makes the necessary changes to meet and exceed legislatively-prescribed sector-specific, as well as state-wide greenhouse gas reduction and carbon dioxide sequestration objectives.

For more information about the California Forest Carbon Plan and opportunities for public involvement, visit the FCAT website: http://www.fire.ca.gov/fcat/ or e-mail Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s California Forest and Wildlife Advocate, at rob@wildcalifornia.org.


Headwaters Forest Reserve, Home, at Last

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
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Headwaters Forest Reserve 20 Anniversary HikeFormer U.S. President, and patriarch of American Wilderness, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “Believe that you can do something and you are half way there.” On a recent Saturday, seventeen-and-a-half years after the Headwaters Forest Reserve was established as a part of the BLM National Conservation Lands system, I had the distinct honor of guiding a group of individuals who had fought hard to save this place from the saw. This was the very first hike ever into Headwaters for some of the 50 hikers who had spearheaded the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest from 1986-1999.

There is so much that remains so completely unlikely and unbelievable about the Headwaters Forest Reserve, for myself, and for just about everyone else I spoke with on the hike and over that weekend. First, the fact that there is such a thing as the Headwaters Forest Reserve is still very astounding and quite unbelievable in many respects. And the fact that there is the Reserve, and that the Reserve has a community-docent program, and that I, of all people am one of them, is a story that had it been told by basecamp bonfires 20 years ago, simply no one, myself included, would have ever believed it.

I moved to Humboldt County in the spring of 1997, and almost immediately found myself embroiled in the struggle to Save Headwaters Forest; 19 years later, I was at the head of the line, opening the locked logging gate at Newburg Road in Fortuna, which had been the site of thousands of arrests over the two decades of the struggle. On this day I was there to legally take into the Reserve 50 of the people who worked to protect Headwaters many for whom it was the very first time.

Headwaters 20 Yr Anniversary Gathering RD2I was quite moved and astounded to find that this tremendous community with a fighting spirit and a heart of gold was grateful that I am among those serving as an educational docent for Headwaters in the present-day. It seemed to give many comfort in knowing that the Reserve they fought so hard to create was in good hands, and that the spirit and legacy of the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest is being carried forward in the Reserve, and on into the future.

As Margret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small, dedicated group of people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The Headwaters Forest Reserve is a testament to the spirit of this principle manifested, and for many of us that attended this hike into the old-growth, we have finally made it all the way home, at long last.

 


Leave A Legacy! Westside – Old Growth and Implementation

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
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DSC00534The Klamath National Forest (KNF) repeatedly stated in its Westside documents that all legacy trees would be kept standing. From what we have seen, KNF has been cutting and removing these biological legacies at a rapid pace and more are threatened.

Legacy trees, i.e. old growth snags and live trees are defined as disproportionately large diameter trees that are often remnants of the previous stand on a given site. They are old standing trees that have persisted on the landscape after man-made and natural disturbances. For example, large trees containing one or more of the following characteristics: split or broken tops, heavy decadent branching, large mistletoe brooms, otherwise damaged to the degree that a cavity may form such as basal fire or lightning scars, or other features that indicate decay or defect. If the legacy component tree or snag was to be felled for safety reasons it was supposed to be left whole on the ground.

The alternative that KNF chose was specifically developed because of the effects of logging on spotted owl and fisher habitat, habitat connectivity, and legacy components and concerns about treatments in late-successional reserves. This alternative was chosen because it was supposed to emphasize the development of future late successional habitat, habitat connectivity, northern spotted owl habitat and legacy habitat components within the post fire landscape. It was designed to retain legacy components for future habitat development, reduce effects to owl nests, and lessen the effects of clearcut logging on watershed connectivity.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have also had concerns about the logging of legacy trees. In fact the Biological Opinion and the non-jeopardy decision for Northern spotted owls was partly based on the assumption that old growth trees would be left on the landscape. To date, the issue of removing legacy trees has not been resolved and they continue to be cut without public oversight – due to forest closure – or immediate action from the USFWS. EPIC has been communicating these concerns to the USFWS and has sent the KNF a notice of intent to litigate on this matter, which would be in addition to our current lawsuit.

Legacy tree retention is not the only issue currently going wrong with Westside implementation. In early August this year EPIC requested a visit to see if the project design features were being adequately implemented. We saw; many old growth trees stacked for hauling, no dust abatement, logging in Riparian Reserves as well as trees stacked in the reserves, damaged soils, no washing stations for equipment to deter the spread of non-native invasive plant species, roads and hillsides on the verge of wash out and more. Below is a photo gallery showing the current implementation of the Westside project, which was documented by EPIC staff on August 4th 2016.

Below is a photo gallery of legacy trees still standing, but critically threatened as they are not marked for saving, in the Grider and Cold Springs Westside Timber Sales and implementation as of August 4 in the Walker Creek watershed, which includes Walker, Salt, Slinkard and a small portion of Blue Mountain Timber Sales.

 

 


Westside Rip-off

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
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The Westside salvage logging project on the Klamath National Forest (KNF) is having more than severe ecological costs. The Forest Service forecasted making over ten million dollars in timber sale revenue. In reality, the agency brought in less than 5% of that estimate. Timber corporations paid $457,000 to log 13,000 acres in the heart of the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

“Required costs to restore the project landscape through site preparation, planting and fuels reduction are estimated as $27,487,000.” -Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

That leaves twenty-seven million more dollars needed to pay for 8,000 acres of replanting, 23,000 acres of fuels reduction treatments and for cleaning up logging slash. Replanting clear cuts, known as plantation forestry, creates highly flammable conditions for decades. The KNF claims it is accelerating reforestation and recovery; however natural regeneration is and was already taking place. Fuels reduction on 23,000 acres is needed to remove the smaller trees and shrubs with no commercial value, which will likely not happen, due to a lack of funding. It is these smaller and finer fuels that are shown to exacerbate fire behavior. The entire premise of the project was based on fuels reduction. Less than 2% of the money needed for these activities was made though timber sale receipts.

Westside logging implementation newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside logging implementation: newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Patty Grantham, KNF Supervisor and decision-maker for Westside, stated in a recent federal court declaration that without restoration (plantation creation) and fuels treatments, the area would remain at heightened risk for landslides and burning again at high severity. She stated that, funding for fuel reduction work is tenuous, typically very limited and must be appropriated by congress (your tax dollars), and therefore not guaranteed. Grantham also said that, a primary purpose of treating the project area is to restore the forest.

On top of those costs, the cost of repairing one third of the nearly 1,000 legacy sediment sites in the project area, which are road related chronic sources of sediment to our waterways, was estimated at over twelve million dollars. All 802 miles of the rivers and streams, including 101 miles of Coho critical habitat in the Westside project are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, which means that current conditions do not meet water quality standards. The KNF stated that, controlling legacy sediment sources and design features would offset much of the increase in cumulative disturbance. In order to get a water quality waiver, the Forest Service came up with a schedule for repairing only 350 legacy sites over the next twenty five years without a guarantee for any funding.

The Westside: Record of Decision; the EIS; all of the supporting reports (hydrology, geology, wildlife, aquatics, recreation, botany et.); consultation with US Fish and Wildlife; National Marine Fisheries Service and approval by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board all relied on plantation creation, fuels reduction and legacy sediment site repair actually taking place.

The claimed purposes of the Westside “recovery” project are for public and firefighter safety for community protection, economic viability, benefiting local communities and restored and fire-resilient forested ecosystems. Without further funding, river communities are more at-risk of high severity fire and have not benefitted, the economics are not viable, thousands of acres of natural restoration and recovery are being damaged and forest ecosystems are less resilient with a higher risk of severe wildfire, chance of landslides and loss of soil stability. At two dollars per truckload of the largest trees, the only benefit went to timber corporations.

The ecological costs of Westside salvage logging deserve attention. Westside will harm or kill an important source population of the Northern spotted owl, which was known to be one of the most productive populations in the entire range of the species. Creeks providing cold water refuge for wild and suffering salmon will be affected. The Caroline Creek bald eagles are expected to abandon their nest site, after decades of re-populating the mid-Klamath region. Endemic Siskiyou Mountain Salamanders, fishers, hawks and nearly every wildlife species in these watersheds may be negatively impacted. Logging is within Wild and Scenic River corridors, mature forest reserves, streamside areas, adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail and on 2,000 acres of unstable slopes. Implementation of the project will disturb water quality, landscape connectivity and natural recovery. The loss of big trees impacts complex forest structure, carbon storage, shade, cooler microclimates, soil nutrients, and high quality habitat and slope stability.

Beyond the thousands and perhaps millions of dollars taxpayers spent planning the project; we are now on the hook for forty million dollars more to pay for restoration and fuels reduction. Wild places, wildlife, water quality and communities are paying an immeasurable and long-term cost, while timber corporations benefit. The irreversible damage to the value of intact complex forest ecosystems and the services they provide has not been calculated. The Westside salvage project adds up to an unnecessary colossal waste and possible environmental catastrophe.

Click here to learn more about the ecological costs of the Westside project.

 Natural recovery taking place around these trees proposed for extraction in the Westside project. Photos courtesy of Kimberly Baker.


Environmental Groups Move to Intervene in Elk River Water Quality Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
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Elk River Flooding

Flooding of Elk River

Arcata, Calif. – The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Association (PCFFA), and the Institute for Fisheries Resources (IFR), filed paperwork this week to intervene in a lawsuit to defend clean water from logging pollution.

EPIC and allies seek to defend the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s May 20, 2015 decision to not authorize discharges of sediment and other associated waste into waters of the Elk River watershed from logging operations under Humboldt Redwood Company “McCloud Shaw” Timber Harvest Plan (1-12-110HUM). Humboldt Redwood Company brought suit in Sonoma Superior Court to force the Water Board to allow it to pollute.

The Elk River watershed, located just south east of Eureka, California, was declared significantly adversely and cumulatively impacted by discharges of sediment and other waste as a result of reckless and poorly-regulated timber harvesting operations conducted in the watershed by the then-Pacific Lumber Company, under the ownership of MAXXAM Corporation and Charles Hurwitz.

Water quality impacts include significant reductions in stream and channel capacity resulting from overwhelming sedimentation, resulting in increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding and destruction of traditional domestic and agricultural water supplies, and the destruction of salmon habitat. Because of its impaired state, the Elk River watershed was added to the list of impaired waterbodies in Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act in 1998. An October 2015 report on the conditions of the river and sediment impacts from ongoing logging now being conducted by Humboldt Redwood Company found that the company’s timber operations are still polluting the Elk River, and that the watershed’s condition continues to worsen.

Elk River Rd Flooding

North Fork Bridge on Elk River Road at intersection with Wrigley Road. Note, only the guardrails of the bridge are visible. Photo taken by Kristi Wrigley on January 17, 2016

In the nearly 20 years since the declaration that the watershed is cumulatively impacted and the 303(d) listing, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state agency responsible for administering the PorterCologne Water Quality Control Act, and protecting, enhancing, maintaining and restoring the quality and beneficial uses of waters of the state, has undertaken a 2 number of regulatory and non-regulatory actions aimed at addressing the sediment impacts and correcting the ongoing discharges of sediment and other waste resulting from industrial timber operations in the watershed.

“The time is long past due to address the sources of pollution and recover the Elk River,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s Forest & Wildlife Advocate. “The forest, and the watershed and its residents have suffered long enough.”

Humboldt Redwood Company’s lawsuit comes against the backdrop of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s plans to adopt a Total Maximum Daily Load for Elk River, and to adopt a newer, and more restrictive water quality control permit for the company, at its April 7, 2016 meeting, to be held in Eureka, California.


Exposed: Post-fire Logging Harms Endangered Owl

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
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ScottHarding-KlamathNF-SHP_9598

Mixed-severity fire, like that shown, provides functional habitat for northern spotted owls. Photo credit, Scott Harding.

Private landowners, in particular Fruit Growers Supply Company, recently cut thousands of acres of northern spotted owl habitat, likely killing or harming the protected owl in violation of both federal and state law. And they got away with it. Here’s the story of how a timber company likely violated the law and how no one caught it.

Spotted owls utilize post-fire landscapes, including those that burn at high-severity—that is the conclusion of numerous recent scientific papers. High-severity areas, marked by significant numbers of dead or dying trees, provide excellent foraging grounds for spotted owls. The surge of dead wood and new shrub growth forms ideal habitat for wood rats, deer mice, and other spotted owl prey. The standing dead trees, or snags, provide branches for owls to roost while scanning for dinner. And because fires generally burn in a mixed severity pattern, with high-intensity burns close to areas that fire barely touched, there are often nearby trees for the owls to roost. This is informally known as the “bedroom/kitchen” model of habitat usage.

This finding, that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests, is somewhat new. It also runs counter to generalized statements about spotted owl habitat, which has generally been associated with complex mature forests. The Forest Practice Act was certainly written before this was well recognized.

While most logging in California is accomplished through a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), substantial logging can evade the environmental review provided by a THP. Under an “emergency notice,” a timberland owner can clearcut an unlimited number of acres by declaring an “emergency”—a broad loophole, which includes almost all conditions that render a tree “damaged, dead or dying.”

In 2014, the Beaver Fire burned some 32,496 acres, including 13,400 acres of private timberlands in Siskiyou County, much of which is owned by Fruit Growers. Based on the available information, between 2014 and 2015, Fruit Growers filed 32 emergency notices with CALFIRE totaling 8,644 acres. Other nearby landowners similarly filed emergency notices totaling 1,166 acres.

From surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, we know that individual owls were harmed in violation of federal law by Fruit Growers. After the fires but before most logging had begun, a curious male northern spotted owl, identified as KL0283, responded to the hoot of an owl surveyor; he had survived the fire and was living amongst the dead trees. KL0283 was proof that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests.

Sadly, the Forest Service reports later surveys attempting to locate KL0283 after logging failed to yield any positive survey results. The Forest Service notes that logging reduced the owl’s habitat far below minimum acceptable levels, and given the lack of nearby habitat, it was unlikely that he had moved to somewhere better. KL0283 is likely dead, killed by the impacts of logging.

On a facial level, Fruit Growers followed the law—they filed emergency notices telling CALFIRE that they were planning on logging and logged pursuant to those notices. However, upon investigation, it appears that Fruit Growers harmed northern spotted owls in violation of both federal and state law. How was Fruit Growers able to log spotted owl habitat without detection for so long? Turns out, it was pretty easy.

First, it is unclear whether Fruit Growers knew it was violating the law. In each emergency notice, it wrote, “Due to the severity and intensity of stand replacing fire, [the] area can no longer be considered Suitable NSO Habitat.” As explained above, this is a common misunderstanding. By regarding all burned forest as non-habitat, it provided Fruit Growers an easy way to avoid having to evaluate and state the potential impacts to spotted owls.

Second, CALFIRE dropped the ball. It is CALFIRE’s job to evaluate emergency notices and reject any notice which may cause more than a minimal environmental impact. CALFIRE obviously failed at this.

Third, it is unclear whether anyone else was paying attention. It does not appear that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews emergency notices—the Department only recently was able to hire sufficient staff to even review ordinary THPs, let alone emergency notices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged under federal law with the protection of the owl, does not review California timber harvest implementation. EPIC, I freely admit, failed to put the pieces together until too late.

But never again. EPIC is on a mission, spurred by the likely death of KL0283, to reform post-fire logging on private land in California. For more on the environmental impacts of post-fire logging, please visit wildcalifornia.org.


Agency Delays May Cook Owl’s Chance at Protection

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
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spottedowlhelper_1It is thanksgiving time here in Northwest California, a traditional time for giving, for caring, and for sharing. For the wild creatures that call our forests home, such as the northern spotted owl, it is a time for preparing to endure the long, wet winter. However, as we know, things are much different in the halls of Sacramento government and politics, where the rule of the day seems to be “if you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.”

Such seems to typify the plight of the northern spotted owl in California, a species in precipitous decline with no voice to defend itself against the march of human progress and its disregard for the natural world. For 37 years, EPIC has served as a voice for the voiceless, willing to take the fight to protect our forests and the life that depends upon them to the halls of Sacramento, to the courtrooms, and beyond.

In accordance with our mission to give a voice to the forest, EPIC filed a petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to list the northern spotted owl under the California Endangered Species Act, in September 2012. In California, as with elsewhere in the species’ range, the northern spotted owl is in great peril of extinction as a consequence of human activities that have modified the forests it once knew and widely inhabited. Today, industrial logging practices continue to destroy and degrade habitat for the northern spotted owl on both public and private forestlands, despite over 25 years of federal protections afforded by the federal Endangered Species Act.

CESA protections for the northern spotted owl are warranted and necessary if the species is to continue to persist in the wild. However, after more than three years of advocacy for the owl to be listed under CESA, the listing process has stalled, primarily due to the willful refusal of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a review of the scientific and commercial information to assist the Fish and Game Commission in making a final decision on whether or not the listing is warranted under the law.

CESA calls upon the Department to complete a so-called “status review and report” within one year after a species is designated as a “candidate” for listing to help guide the Commission’s decision-making during the listing process. The status review and report was first due by the Department in December, 2014. The Department missed this deadline. The Commission, at the request of the Department, extended the deadline by six months, to June, 2015. The Department likewise missed this deadline; however, this time the Commission did not authorize additional extensions. EPIC considered suing the Department at this juncture but were dissuaded by the Department’s claims that it was hard at work and a final was forthcoming. This week, EPIC learned that the Department will now also fail to submit its report to the Commission at its upcoming December 2015 meeting, despite assurances that it would do so. Consequently, it appears that the Commission will once again kick the can down the road on deciding whether or not to protect the northern spotted owl.

Behind these seemingly inexplicable delays being perpetrated by the Department, and by extension, the Fish and Game Commission, is the ugly specter of big-money Sacramento politics and timber industry influence to extend the “business as usual” model indefinitely.

Scarcely a month after the Fish and Game Commission adopted findings to ratify its decision that the northern spotted owl may be either “threatened” or “endangered” under California law and afforded it the protections of a “candidate” species, the Department of Fish and Wildlife sent a letter to the Director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the agency responsible for approving private lands logging projects, to assure it that no changes in the existing review process or resultant protective measures would be necessary or required to conserve the northern spotted owl during the candidacy period. What’s more, we know that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has held several meetings and workshops with timber industry groups to discuss the northern spotted owl. None of these meetings were publically noticed or publically accessible. Department of Fish and Wildlife Director, Charlton H. Bonham, openly questioned the necessity of the spotted owl listing petition during the course of a formal Commission hearing on the merits of the petition, further betraying a bias on the part of the agency.

As a consequence of the long and unnecessary delay by the Department in producing a status report to guide the Commission’s decision-making, EPIC has been compelled to take more aggressive actions in hopes of expediting the listing process for the critically-imperiled northern spotted owl. On November 24, 2015, EPIC submitted a letter to the Fish and Game Commission detailing the long and sordid history of delay tactics perpetrated by both the Department and the Commission itself, and requested that the Commission simply proceed with a hearing on the merits of our petition in the absence of the Department’s report. EPIC is considering legal alternatives should this administrative appeal fall short.

And so, as you hunker down to partake in the wonderful feast and bounty of the land this thanksgiving, please remember those that are not at the table, but rather sadly, on the menu.

 


Push for More Logging Under the Northwest Forest Plan

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
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Bugaboo_Creek_Clearcut. wikimediacommonsOur federal forests, including those governed by the Northwest Forest Plan, are directed to be managed for “multiple uses,” such as recreation, wildlife habitat, and timber production.

In the late 1980s, before the Northwest Forest Plan, loggers were pulling 4.5 billion board feet of timber out of federal forests within the range of the forthcoming Plan. This amount was unsustainable, however, and was achieved largely through the liquidation logging of old-growth forests. The Northwest Forest Plan, adopted by the Clinton Administration in 1994, was largely a response to this excess and the ecological harm it inflicted on protected species like the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted, the Forest Service predicted that around one billion board feet of timber could be removed per year under the Plan. This amount, known as the “probable sale quantity” or PSQ, was merely an estimate; it was not a maximum amount which could be removed, nor was it a minimum that must be met, nor was it even a goal of the Plan. Many noted, including Jack Ward Thomas, the future Chief of the Forest Service, that because of the measures to protect wildlife, this billion board foot PSQ was overly ambitious and would not likely be met. (Indeed, the current PSQ was reduced to a 805 million board feet.) Some viewed the PSQ estimate as a political maneuvering—a deliberately ambitious number set to appease the timber industry. The timber industry, however, viewed the PSQ as a promise.

The annual PSQ estimates have rarely been met. There are a variety of causes. First, Congress has not appropriated enough money to the Service to plan projects that could meet the PSQ. Second, as Jack Ward Thomas predicted, the billion board foot PSQ was likely an overestimate. Third, attempts by Big Timber to weaken or remove habitat protect—which were, as confirmed by the judiciary, illegal—stalled normal timber operations resulting in several years of way-below average logging. Fourth, market forces, including the Great Recession and stagnant timber prices, removed demand for federal timber. Fifth, weird math by the Forest Service—for example, that timber removed from the reserve network doesn’t count towards the PSQ—also contributes to low official numbers. Despite all this, the timber industry continues to view the PSQ as a promise.

Big Timber is on the offensive. In the upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revision, the timber industry wants to remove important protective land designations and buffers around salmon bearing streams to open up more land for harvesting. This, they claim, is necessary to fulfill the billion board foot “promise.” They have some powerful friends in Washington D.C. too. In upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions, the conversation is already being framed by decision-makers that weakening the Plan is a necessity. That’s wrong. The Plan is just barely enough. The northern spotted owl continues to decline. Murrelets are nearly extirpated from Washington State. Instead of gutting the Northwest Forest Plan, the conversation must turn to what more must we do to ensure to protect our public lands. EPIC has joined forces with conservation groups across the West Coast to fight off Big Timber and their allies in the upcoming revisions.


CAL FIRE Botches Green Diamond THP Approval

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
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Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

If a timber harvesting permit is approved illegally, and no one is watching, does the landowner still get to log the plan? Apparently the answer, incredulously, is yes, at least if it is Green Diamond Resource Company.

Green Diamond Timber Harvest Plan 1-15-066DEL, in the Turwar Creek watershed in Del Norte County, was approved by CAL FIRE in August, 2015, and is currently under operations, despite the lack of legally-required consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife over potentially significant impacts to federally-threatened and state-endangered marbled murrelets.

The marbled murrelet is a small seabird that has made its nests and reared its young on the mossy branches of old-growth trees along the Pacific Northwest coast for millennia. However, loss of old-growth forests to logging, combined with other ocean-related stressors, has reduced murrelet populations to the brink of oblivion throughout most of the species’ historic range. Murrelets are sensitive to human-induced noise, particularly noise from road use and infrastructural development relating to logging operations.

The Green Diamond THP involves use of a mainline logging road that traverses within 300 feet a known-occupied marbled murrelet nesting stand. The THP contains provisions to allow Green Diamond to conduct operations on the road within the vicinity of the occupied murrelet habitat during the species’ critical nesting season without approved consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

State forest practice regulations require that private landowners seek formal consultation with the CDFW if proposed THP operations may have a significant impact on or may potentially result in “take” of the listed forest-nesting seabird. However, CAL FIRE inexplicably approved the THP back in August, 2015, absent the required-consultation with CDFW for concurrence with the proposals contained in the THP.

According to CAL FIRE records, Green Diamond filed for start-up, and commenced logging on the THP shortly after the plan was approved in August, 2015, squarely in the middle of the defined-nesting season for the marbled murrelet.

Quite amazingly, there is no nexus in the forest practice laws or regulations that would allow CAL FIRE to rescind its approval of the THP, or to call a halt to ongoing timber operations in the absence of citizen-initiated legal action, aside from the commencement of a department-initiated administrative complaint process.

How could this happen? Quite simply, no one was paying attention. And, what can be done now? Apparently, short of federal or state ESA litigation, not much. State laws and regulations restrict citizen’s challenges to the approval of timber harvesting permits by CAL FIRE to a 30-day window following the approval; which means that all of this seems to have slipped through cracks.

EPIC will continue to evaluate potential options for redressing this egregious situation.


State of the Redwoods – Remembering the Past, Envisioning the Future

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
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RNP RDWhat did Jedediah Smith think when he came here as the first-known European-American to explore the majestic coastal redwood forest, back in 1828? Did he know, or care about the Pandora’s Box that he’d opened by leading European settlers into this remote region? When Smith first arrived in Northern California, an estimated two million acres of native old-growth coast redwood forest spanned from Big Sur to the Oregon border, and these were certainly no ordinary forests. The coastal redwood forest is home to the tallest living organisms on earth, reaching over 300 feet tall at their peak. These giant trees live an average of 500-700 years-of-age, and some have been documented to live in excess of 2,000-years-old. These massive trees can grow as large as 25 feet in diameter or more, sequestering huge masses of carbon, while, at the same time, providing essential habitat for innumerable species of plants, animals, birds, lichens, and others species.

The coastal redwood forests are considered part of the larger temperate rainforest system that once blanketed the coast of the Pacific Northwest states. However, European exploration, combined with the gold rush of the 1850’s, ushered in the era of old-growth logging in the redwoods that continues to this day. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, an estimated ten percent of the original forest remained. Today, approximately five percent of the original old-growth temperate coastal redwood forests remain. About 23 percent of the original range of the redwoods is preserved in parks and reserves, while a whopping 77 percent of the redwood region land base is still privately owned and managed. In Humboldt County today, the two largest timberland owners, Green Diamond Resource Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, own a combined 600,000-acres of forestland, much of which constitutes the original range of the coast redwood forest.

After a century-and-a-half of logging, road-building, and urban and agricultural development, the original coast redwoods are a shadow of their former selves. Of the five percent or so that remains of the original forest, the largest chunks are preserved in Big Basin State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the Redwood National and State Parks system. Much of what remains in the Redwood National and State Parks system is fragmented and disjointed.

On private lands, the largest remaining patches of old-growth redwood forest are found on the former Pacific Lumber Company lands, now owned and managed by Humboldt Redwood Company, most of which are “set-aside” and protected from logging for a period of 50 years as a result of the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement. However, these “set-asides” are not protected into perpetuity.

Following the signing of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the commonly-heard narrative was that the redwoods had, at long last been “saved.” However, this is much more myth than fact. Logging, agricultural and urban development, human recreation, and of course, climate change, all remain as stressor on the redwood ecosystem.

The advent of global as well as localized climate change now poses a significant threat to the survival of the coastal redwood forest, and the people, plants and animals that depend upon them. The signs of localized climate change are readily apparent. Fog levels on the north coast have decreased by as much as one-third since the early 20th century, while temperatures continue to rise, and rainfall declines in the face of California’s unprecedented drought. A recent study published by the global research journal Global Change Biology notes that increasing temperatures will likely significantly alter the climate in the southern extent of the redwood region in the coming decades, putting the survival of the redwoods in those regions at-risk. In the northern part of the redwood range, research conducted by Dr. Steve Sillett suggests that old-growth redwoods are currently growing at an unprecedented rate, likely as a result of decreased fog and increased sunlight. However, research on the fate of large, old trees on a global level suggests that climate change, particularly the effects of drought and disease, are an increasing threat to these ancient ecosystems.

The redwoods region’s temperate rainforest is globally significant for its biodiversity, as well as for its potential capacity to resist, adapt to, and become resilient to, the progress of climate change. Here in Humboldt County, we occupy the northern extents of the redwood range, where the opportunities for restoration and connectivity for the redwoods remain strongest.

In 2013, EPIC, along with the Geos Institute and others sponsored and participated in the very first Redwood Climate Symposium, which brought together stakeholders and land managers to discuss possible strategies for steeling the redwood region against the progress of climate change. Symposium participants from diverse backgrounds identified four primary strategies to increasing the resilience of redwood ecosystems in the face of climate change. These included:

  1. restoring old-growth characteristics that protect stands from many stressors;
  2. improving connectivity among intact redwood forest patches throughout the range of redwoods;
  3. reducing stressors that exacerbate the impacts of climate change, such as roads, fragmentation, development, and fire exclusion; and
  4. coordinating management across the redwood range, and across land ownership, allowing for conservation and/or restoration of climate change refuges and areas of connectivity.

These four strategies form the basis of a collective way forward for managing the redwoods into the future, and form the basis of EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign in the region, which largely focuses on existing parks and reserves, as well as privately-held forestlands with significant ecological, connective, and restorative value.

The coastal redwood forest of Northern California has been here for some 20 million years. If it is to persist into the future, a new holistic approach to ecosystem restoration and preservation must take hold. EPIC is dedicated to working towards this more holistic future for the benefit of the forest, the species that depend upon it, and for humanity itself.


Whistleblower Tip Line

Monday, October 12th, 2015
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AGENCY POLITICSGovernment science impacts us daily—whether it is ensuring that the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is pure, or the air we breathe is clean. Yet, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, staff from major federal agencies tasked with protecting our health and environment believe that too often important decisions are made based on politics and not science. At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, 76 percent of respondents indicated that consideration of political interests were “too high.”

This is not a problem confined to federal agencies. In our work, we often see the frustration and disappointment in state agency staff because their work is improperly influenced. We hear from you that you want to share some information, but you are afraid that you may be retaliated against for sharing information. We also hear about techniques employed by agencies to avoid a paper trail that might be discoverable through the Freedom of Information Act or the Public Records

To the government workers or others out there with information you think needs sharing, we have developed two anonymous ways to share information. Both are anonymous and confidential. EPIC commits that it will only reference or otherwise make public information that you give permission to share.

Anonymous Submission via Google Forms

Anonymous Document Submission via DBinbox for Dropbox


No Small Feat—Your Comments Helped Protect Rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Woodlands and Marbled Murrelets

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
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SavedMendocino_Pygmy_Forest_in_Van_Damme_State_Park_2Wikipedia-commons-225x300Thanks to the actions taken by EPIC members, the City of Fort Bragg and the County of Mendocino (collectively referred to as the “Joint Powers Authority,”) have indefinitely postponed the hearing to consider certification of the Environmental Impact Report for the Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project.

The Mendocino Central Coast Waste Transfer Station Project would have taken 12.6 acres from Russian Gulch State Park, which contains extremely rare Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Forests, Northern Bishop Pine Forests, and, as recently revealed, several old-growth Douglas fir trees, which State Park biologist have concluded serve as suitable potential marbled murrelet habitat, and given it to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Currently, the land is protected in the State Parks system in perpetuity. Should this deal have gone down, the lands would be subject to logging operations pursuant to the Jackson Demonstration State Forest’s mandate and management plan and in exchange the State Park would receive lands that were formerly used as a landfill—Hmm, there is definitely something is rotten about this project…

The Joint Powers Authority was poised to approve the EIR for the transfer station project at a hearing scheduled in Fort Bragg in August, 2015. However, comments submitted by EPIC staff, and comments received from 1,209 EPIC members via our Action Alert have caused the agency to postpone the certification of the EIR indefinitely to allow for “further consideration.” The Joint Powers Authority transfer station project will likely now need to go back to the “drawing board.”

EPIC gets results, thanks to you! EPIC staff wishes to thank all our members who participated in our Action Alert, or otherwise provided comments on the transfer station project. Our collective efforts have likely served to protect the rare and unique pygmy forestlands of Russian Gulch State Park.

Your actions, and your donations, make a big difference! Please consider making a gift to EPIC so that our top-notch advocacy for Northwest California’s forests can continue.

Read EPIC’s Comment Letter Regarding the Waste Transfer Station 8.11.15

Listen to the KMUD Environment show hosted by EPIC’s Wildlife and Forest Advocate, Rob DiPerna discussing issues associated with the rare pygmy forest.