Blog

It’s Official: Humboldt County Opposes Offshore Oil Drilling!

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
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We are a forest group, but sometimes we get moved to work on issues a little outside of our normal stomping grounds. In January, Interior Secretary Zinke proposed issuing 47 new offshore oil leases—including two from Mendocino to Del Norte. The thought of oil derricks off our shore (and oil spilling onto our coast) moved EPIC to act!

EPIC has teamed with Humboldt Baykeeper and the Northcoast Environmental Center to take on any proposed offshore oil drilling. Together, our organizations have pledged that we will fight any attempt to open offshore oil and gas development. As we stated in our open letter:

The Trump administration announced that it would open offshore oil drilling for nearly all continental waters in the United States, including here along our North Coast. Trump will have to go through us first. Our organizations, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Humboldt Baykeeper, and the Northcoast Environmental Center, pledge that we will do everything in our power to fight offshore oil and gas development in Northern California.

We are proud to report that we’ve made progress. On Tuesday, February 27, 2017, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors issued a formal resolution opposing offshore oil and gas developing. What’s more, the Board of Supervisors have pledged to work with the California Coastal Commission to redo our “Local Coastal Plan” to ban all onshore support facilities for offshore oil as well.

EPIC would like to thank the Board of Supervisors, particularly Supervisor Mike Wilson, for taking a leadership role on this issue.


Remembering Ruthanne Cecil

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
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Our merry gang of misfits and troublemakers is one smaller with the passing of Ruthanne Cecil. Ruthanne was there at the beginning, organizing community members to fight the aerial spraying of herbicides. EPIC was quite different back then—a completely volunteer organization that was once based out of an abandoned step van in Southern Humboldt.

Her son, Donovan Cecil, graciously provided EPIC with this remembrance of his mother:

Ruthanne Cecil passed away unexpectedly at her home in Arcata on Feb. 13, 2018. She was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Sept. 15, 1945 to Lester and Ruth Josephs, joining her older sister, Beverly. She is survived by her son, Donovan Cecil (Annie); Donovan’s ex-wife, Alicia Renata; grandsons, AJ Mcreynolds and Devon Cecil (Amorette), as well as her sister, Beverly Galvan, of Portland. Also grieving her loss are her dear friends Cynthia Packard, Nathan Muus and Lillian Hoika.

She met Vayne Cecil when she was in college at Wheaton, Chicago, in 1965. They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area together, where they had their son, Donovan, in 1967. They separated around 1973, although she always spoke of him with love and affection. Vayne passed away in 1999.

She came to Humboldt County in 1974, fell in love with the area, as so many did, and bought property in Ettersburg. She was very proud of having built her cabin while trying to go back and forth from the Bay Area, settling here permanently in 1976.

She was a very active member of the community, serving in many organizations over the years. She was a founding member of EPIC (Environmental Protection Information Center), worked on the Redwood National Park Trails project with RCDC (Redwood Community Development Council), and published a newspaper (the Country Activist). She also served as Executive Director of CEED (the Center for Environmental Economic Development) and helped with many other groups that protected our local environment.

She earned a law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 1997, where Janet Reno gave the Commencement Speech. She wrote her Doctoral Thesis on Global Income Inequality, and, as a result of this, gave a talk at the United Nations on that topic. Most recently, she served on the Arcata Council Energy Commission.

Always interested in her roots, she joined several groups relating to her Finnish/Saami heritage and traveled to Finland and Sweden to explore the history of our family and culture. One of her major projects was researching the history and genealogy of the members of the Alaskan Saami Reindeer project. Ruthanne attended many North American Saami events, where she was a “valued and much loved friend with her quick wit and extensive knowledge.” She felt privileged to be an “Honored Elder” and deeply valued her friends and colleagues.

The family would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support we have received. She affected so many people’s lives and was an inspiration to many, although she would never have described herself as such. She was a humble, self-effacing woman who valued her independence, and lived her life in accordance with the values she espoused. She was very much loved by her family and will be greatly missed.

If you would like to honor Ruthanne, please consider donating to the Sami Cultural Center of North America. There is also a GoFundMe page to help the family with funeral expenses. Or any local charity or group of your choice.

Also be informed and vote!

A memorial will be announced at a later date.


Happy Nineteenth Birthday to the Headwaters Forest Reserve!

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018
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Headwaters EarthFirst! 20th Anniversary Reunion Hike

The Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south of Eureka, CA celebrates its nineteenth birthday anniversary on March 1, 2018. The 7,500-acre Reserve was established at the climax of the nearly 15-year-long campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, and stands today as a critical ecological refugia and linage to the primeval past for many critically-threatened and endangered species. The Headwaters Forest Reserve also stands today as a place for pioneering redwood forest restoration, a place for connecting community and visitors to stories of the past, and to a better vision for the future.

Nineteen years after the controversial last-minute consummation of the landmark Headwaters Forest Agreement, known to most activists and conservationists as “The Deal,” on March 1, 1999, the landscape that now embodies the Headwaters Forest Reserve in many ways bears little resemblance to the landscape, or the times when it was first established.

The so-called, “Death Road,” constructed into the heart of Headwaters Grove by Pacific Lumber Company, has been removed and decommissioned. Once raw, the barren clearcuts authored by Pacific Lumber Company and Elk River Timber Company are beginning to regrow and heal. The young, over-dense, biologically-sterile forest plantations established in the wake of the industrial clearcuts have been thinned, restoring both stem count, species composition, and stem density ratios to a more natural and healthy condition.

Today, the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a place where people and history can intersect, and where stewards of the future can learn the lessons from the stewards of the past. The Headwaters Forest Reserve is alive with educational events, living history reenactments, and thousands of visitors annually on the publicly-accessible trails in the Reserve. There is active stewardship as well. BLM volunteer-docents offer guided interpretive tours, and the young, burgeoning Friends of Headwaters Group hosts public trail maintenance days, tree-planting days, and invasive weed removal days. For the last two years, the Friends of Headwaters Group has also helped orchestrate the wildly popular and successful Halloween at Headwaters event in cooperation with the BLM.

Back in 1999 when the Headwaters Forest Agreement was signed, few, if any could have envisioned what the Headwaters Forest Reserve is and has become today. The success and longevity of the administration and public support for the Headwaters Forest Reserve is a great testament to the visionary work of activists at EPIC, Trees Foundation, The Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Sierra Club California, and the larger Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, which embroiled thousands of ordinary citizens and forest activists in the fight to save the last remaining significant uncut old-growth redwoods in private hands left on the planet.

While our campaign certainly did not get everything it wanted, there yet lies within the struggle, the loss, and the failures, an irreplaceable ecological gem that can still serve as the nucleus and blueprint toward a different and better future.

Our friend Ken Russell uploaded the video below last fall. It was taken on September 15, 1996 at the Protest to Save Headwaters Forest in Carlotta, California, featuring Brian Tripp, Judy Bari, Darryl Cherney, Bonnie Raitt, Starhawk, and 6,000 others in the largest civil disobedience action in the history of the forest preservation movement.

 

 


Government Delays a Bad Sign for Humboldt Marten

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
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CA Dep’t of Fish and Wildlife Delaying Listing of the Humboldt Marten

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is playing political games with the Humboldt marten. The Department is holding up the listing of the critically endangered Humboldt marten. Why? Because it wants to blunt the impact of the listing on the timber industry by fast tracking a “Safe Harbor Agreement.” We expect this level of chicanery when dealing with the federal government, but we are sorely disappointed when it comes from the Brown Administration.

In 2015, EPIC petitioned to list the Humboldt marten under the California Endangered Species Act—a necessary step to protect the marten because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally failed to list the species. (As a recap: we sued USFWS and won, with a judge finding the federal agency relied on bad logic and science, ordering a redo by the agency.) The Fish and Game Commission moved to make the marten a “candidate” species in February 2016, triggering a legal duty on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop a “status review and recommendation” to the Commission within one year. This status review is supposed to be the best science on the species, and the Department is supposed to then recommend whether the Commission list the species.

Fast forward one year: the Department returned to the Commission and said it wouldn’t be ready in time and asked for a six month extension. By law, the Commission is only supposed to grant an extension when it is necessary to complete peer review on the status review. The Department was then given a new deadline of August 2017 to complete the status review. August came and went. EPIC inquired about the progress of the status review and were told that the Department had not even begun peer review and that they could not provide a date by which they thought they would have the status review complete and delivered to the Commission. In other words, the Department illegally obtained an extension and is now ignoring their duty to produce the status review and recommendation.

In the meantime it has come to light that the Department has been putting considerable effort into developing a “Safe Harbor Agreement” with Green Diamond Resource Company, the primary private property owner that would be impacted by the marten’s listing. The practical effect on the status review of the “Safe Harbor Agreement” is that Green Diamond would not be subject to the “take” prohibition of the California Endangered Species Act. EPIC has not even been provided a draft version of the Safe Harbor Agreement—we’ve had to ask and have filed a Public Records Act request—but the secrecy under which the agency is developing the agreement is alarming. EPIC is likewise afraid that the Department will finalize the agreement and then use it as a cudgel against listing the marten, a move that the Department could have learned from the greater sage grouse debate; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list that species after it had extracted a voluntary management plan that it said negated the need for listing. Thus, the Department could (and it is obvious that the timber industry will) use the existence of the Safe Harbor Agreement to argue that additional conservation measures are not necessary.

There are less than 100 Humboldt martens left in California. Unless drastic action is taken, the marten will go extinct. Now’s not the time to be playing political games.


Road to Nowhere—Humboldt Redwood Company Making a Mess of the Mattole

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
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Photo courtesy of ‘Save the Mattole’s Ancient Forest’

Humboldt Redwood Company doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons handed down by its predecessor, the now-bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company. Faced once again with community and activist resistance to its plans to log previously-unharvested and extremely rare upland Douglas-fir forests, the Company is resorting to some very Hurwitz-era tactics by proposing to construct over 1,000 feet of new road along Long Ridge in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole Watershed for seemingly the sole purpose of circumnavigating community and activist resistance to its logging plans.

HRC has proposed a major amendment to THP 1-12-026HUM, the “Long Ridge Cable” THP, erroneously arguing that the new road segment is necessary to facilitate greater access to the Mattole property for timber management and fire suppression activities, without offering any explanation or rationale as to why the pre-existing road network, which it has already used to conduct partial harvesting operations, is not sufficient to do the job.

Behind the scenes is a live and real controversy over the company’s claim that the forests to be logged are not “primary forests,” as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), triggering additional conservation requirements and HRC’s refusal to entertain a proposal by the local community to purchase the land for conservation purposes. Why? The answer seems to be that HRC bought damaged goods from Pacific Lumber on the whole as a property investment, and the forests of the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole represent the last of the best of what the company has left to work with to meet the financial bottom-line for their owners, the San Francisco-based billionaire Fisher family, which is notorious for the Gap clothing company.

HRC, EPIC, and Mattole community interests and activists have spent the better part of the last five years interacting over the potential fate and management of the North Branch of the North Fork Mattole holdings, with Humboldt Redwood Company once-promising an open and transparent collaborative solution-based process. For years, HRC honored that agreement and we made headway in addressing the controversy. Forest defenders came out of the woods and there was a truce. That has unfortunately ended, as HRC announced that it plans to move forward, simply announcing its findings and decisions without any effort to collaboratively or openly solve the continuing disputes through direct dialogues.

Faced with Mattole community and activist resistance to the logging it proposes, HRC has chosen to forge stubbornly ahead and to propose what is clearly unnecessary additional road construction under false and erroneous pretenses.

Because the amendment to allow the road construction to go forward constitutes a major change to the Long Ridge Cable THP, HRC must go through the normal THP review process, including allowing CAL FIRE and other agencies and the public to inspect and comment on the proposed new road construction. EPIC has submitted comments to CAL FIRE pertaining to the legality and legitimacy of the road construction amendment. Our comments on the Long Ridge Cable THP can be viewed here.

EPIC urges HRC to abandon this ill-conceived and pigheaded approach to community engagement and to return to the table with EPIC, Mattole community interests, and activists to orchestrate a more genuinely collaborative and legitimate outcome for the rare, unique, and critically-threatened upland Douglas-fir forests of the North Branch North Fork Mattole.


Action Alert: Stop Pesticide Contamination in Smith River Estuary

Monday, February 19th, 2018
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By Greg King, Siskiyou Land Conservancy

Take Action: After many years the California North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has finally released a long awaited report that provides new and devastating data from the Smith River estuary: From 2013-15 state scientists found 17 highly toxic pesticides in surface waters of the lower Smith River. They also found at least ten instances of that water being so toxic that it destroyed the invertebrates that make up the basis of the salmonid food chain (aka “acute and chronic reproductive toxicity”).

Perhaps more devastating, though, is the state’s response to the contaminated waters of California’s healthiest and arguably most important remaining wild fishery: Water Board officials say that the water’s toxicity is not the result of the 17 pesticides (most of which are used on surrounding bottom lands to grow Easter lily bulbs and are highly toxic to fish), but stem from the water’s “lack of hardness.”

In other words, the state Water Board is currently in the process of abandoning the vital Smith River to the whims of agriculture, where lily farmers annually apply 300,000 pounds of pesticides on bottomlands that surround the Smith River estuary — some of the heaviest concentrations of pesticide applications in California. State officials are now even saying that they may not get around to developing a “discharge permit” for the lily growers, without which the farmers are technically operating illegally (as they have since 2003). Rather, the risk of further pesticide destruction of threatened and endangered estuary wildlife — home to coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, and the world’s northernmost population of Endangered tidewater goby — will be addressed via the lily growers’ voluntary measures and “best management practices.”

Since its founding in 2004, the Siskiyou Land Conservancy has worked to reduce and eliminate pesticide contamination in the Smith River estuary, the most vulnerable reach of a watershed that is otherwise one of the wildest, healthiest, and most beautiful rivers in the world. Never has there been a more egregious, and Orwellian, abrogation by the state of its duty to protect wildlife in this isolated corner of California. The pesticides are also impacting the health of 2,000 residents in the town of Smith River, according to the Smith River Community Health Assessment conducted by SLC in 2016.

Click here to take action! Tell the Water Board that heavy applications of highly toxic pesticides have no place on bottomlands that that surround the vital Smith River estuary.

Once you take action at the link above, send copies of your correspondence to your elected officials:

 

Hon. Jared Huffman

1406 Longworth House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

john.driscoll@mail.house.gov

(707) 407-3585

 

State Sen. Mike McGuire

1303 10th Street, Room 5061 Sacramento, CA 95814

Robert.christensen@sen.ca.gov

916-651-4002

 

Assembly Member Jim Wood

State Capitol P.O. Box 942849 Sacramento, CA 94249-0002

Deanna.hansen@asm.ca.gov

(916) 319-2002


Hey, Governor Brown, EPIC’s Here to Help!

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018
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Jerry Brown Addressing Headwaters Rally in 1997. Photo by Nicholas Wilson.

Governor Brown to Convene Forest Task Force

In his final State of the State address, Governor Brown highlighted the need for reforms to how California’s forests are managed and directed the creation of a “task force composed of scientists and knowledgeable forest practitioners to review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires.…[and] consider how California can increase resiliency and carbon storage capacity.”

Hey, Governor, EPIC agrees and we are here to help! We will gladly serve on your task force. And not to toot our own horn, but no one’s better suited than EPIC. Since 1977 we’ve been one of the prime advocates in revising our Forest Practice Rules. We have brought over 100 lawsuits—lawsuits that resulted in the discussion of cumulative effects in a Timber Harvest Plan, forced timber companies to plan for a sustained harvest of timber products, and protected sacred ancient forests. Heck, our longtime attorney, Sharon Duggan, literally wrote the book on California’s Forest Practice Rules.

We totally agree that a task force is necessary. For too long, the Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE have been dominated by the timber industry, and look at the result: species that depend on mature forests, like the northern spotted owl and Humboldt marten, are headed towards extinction; we have replaced fire-adapted forests with overly dense fiber plantations; and mismanagement of our forests have turned them from carbon sinks to sources! It is a sorry state of affairs. We did not arrive at this place by chance, but by mismanagement. We need a revised approach to how we regulate forestry.


The Elk Death Trap

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018
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A herd of elk has gone extinct in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Why? Poor road design.

The Boyes elk were first documented in Boyes Meadows in 1937. By the late 1940s, their population ballooned to around 100, taking advantage of the newfound forage to jump in size. Over time the population settled; between 1950 to the late 1990s, the population fluctuated between 20-60 individuals. In 1998, there were 30 elk. By 2011, the herd was extinct.

In 1984, Caltrans began planning for a bypass around the old-growth of the park—today, we call the original road the “Newton B. Drury Bypass.” The original road, just two lanes through enchanting old-growth redwoods and elk-filled meadows—made traffic slow. The new 101 route was twice as big, four lanes, and allowed cars to zip by at 65 mph.

This “improvement” came at a cost. The new road opened in 1992. Construction of the road created meadows and clearings which were soon utilized by elk. Increased road kill soon followed. In places, the road is quite steep. Cars heading downhill (southbound) may find it difficult to stop or evade elk in the roadway. Similarly, elk may find avoiding humans more difficult.

In 2003, Caltrans installed a barrier to separate north and southbound lanes. The barrier, intended to keep cars from cross lanes, was also likely effective in limiting elk mobility, making attempts by elk to evade or avoid vehicles more difficult. Elk and other ungulates have a difficulty assessing vehicle speeds and distance, perhaps making last minute maneuvers, and things that inhibit that flight response, more important. Furthermore, these elk were habituated to humans, and the elk may have had difficulty determining which vehicles detected them and wanted to slow to observe and which vehicles did not detect them or wanted to poach them.

The road also facilitated poaching. The original road was square in the park; this new section of Highway 101 is remote and dark. Poachers have a low risk of getting caught. Again, the habituation of elk likely further enabled poachers by reducing the elk’s usual fear of humans.

Things may be getting better for elk in the area, but not thanks to Caltrans. The meadows along Highway 101 are slowly giving way to forests, as young conifer species and other successional plants began their invasion.

It may take a while before Boyes meadow is home to another herd of elk. A female elk could leave her herd and travel to Boyes meadow to give birth. After birth, the young could stick around with their mother (and potentially other mothers) to start a new herd. This possibility is thought to be “far flung.” Alternatively, the meadow could be recolonized—a small number of colonizing elk, pushed to the meadow by some disturbance, like a fire, and determine that they like it and way to stay. Or an existing elk herd could expand their home ranges, although this too is regarded as unrealistic as other elk herds are separate by a fair distance of thick forests.

For more on the Boyes herd and our fascinating Roosevelt elk, please read “Population Ecology of Roosevelt Elk: Conservation and Management in Redwood National and State Parks” by Dr. Butch Wekerly.


EPIC Membership Mixer

Thursday, February 1st, 2018
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Want to learn more about forest conservation on the North Coast?

EPIC members, volunteers, and tree lovers are encouraged to meet the local environmental community for a mixer, February 9th from 6-9pm at the EPIC office (145 G Street, Suite A in Arcata). Meet our Board and Staff and hear about our exciting new programs for 2018.

In celebration of Arts! Arcata, EPIC’s own Forest and Wildlife advocate Rob DiPerna will feature his photography highlighting the region we work to protect.

At 7pm we will be presenting a slideshow outlining recent accomplishments, and new projects we will undertake in the coming year. Learn how to get involved!

Get the latest update on EPIC’s work all while enjoying some drinks, snacks, and beautiful photography!

Please “attend” and invite your friends on Facebook!


Action Alert: Restore Sacred Site and Protect Redwood National Park

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
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Take Action Now: The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) is proposing to construct three 199 foot tall radio and microwave towers on several of the highest peaks in and around Redwood National Park. The newly proposed tower locations would replace the Red Mountain communications site, which must be removed because it is located within the Helkau Ceremonial District, a site that is sacred to the Yurok Tribe and other Native Americans.

The three towers identified for the Proposed Project/ Alternative 1 include:

  1. Rodger’s Peak (a prominent mountain within Redwood National Park);
  2. Rattlesnake Peak (owned by Green Diamond); and
  3. Alder Camp, which is a state-owned prison work camp.

None of the proposed tower locations would offer improved cell phone coverage to the general public as the towers are only for use by “officials” and emergency services.

EPIC supports the removal of the existing tower away from the sacred site on Red Mountain, but we believe that Redwood National Park is not an appropriate location for the 199 foot tower either.

Due to over 600 scoping comments in the spring of 2017, the initial scope of the project, (which only proposed one option that included a tower in Redwood National Park), has been expanded to analyze several other alternatives that would not include Rodgers Peak, which is within Redwood National Park. New alternatives considered in the Draft EIR/EA are as follows:

  • Alternative 2: Same as Alternative 1, except Rodgers Peak site would expand clearcutting from 1.5 acres to ~3.9 acres to install a solar array as a primary power source.
  • Alternative 3: Rodgers Peak would not be developed under this alternative. Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp would be the same as Alternative 1 and Green Diamond 1 and Orick sites would also be developed for a total of 4 towers. Orick site is forested and located within the Coastal Zone.
  • *Alternative 3a: Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 1 sites would be developed. Green Diamond 1 site is clearcut.
  • Alternative 3bIdentical to Alternative 3a except Green Diamond 2 site would replace the proposed Green Diamond 1 site. The Green Diamond 2 site is clearcut but located within the Coastal Zone.
  • Alternative 4: No Project Alternative. Decommissioning activities would be implemented at Red Mountain, and the sacred site would be restored consistent with existing permits issued to the State by the USFS. None of the proposed sites would be developed.Public comment deadline for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment for the Relocation of the Red Mountain Communication Site is January 29th, 2018

* Alternative 3a would provide emergency communication services with the least impacts since the Green Diamond 1 site is already clearcut and is outside of the Coastal Zone.

Public comment deadline for the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment for the Relocation of the Red Mountain Communication Site is January 29th, 2018.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION and urge Office of Emergency Services to choose an alternative that does not include Redwood National Park.

 


Green Diamond Proposes Multiple Clearcuts Near Local Neighborhood

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
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Will Green Diamond Resource Company ever kick its addiction to managing forests for young, evenaged, industrial fiber-farm plantations? Sadly, the answer appears to be clearcut. Green Diamond Resource Company seems to be hooked on clearcutting redwoods, and the consequences for our forests, wildlife, watersheds, climate, economy and community will continue to be felt for decades if not centuries.

Green Diamond Resource Company THP 1-18-004HUM, “Van Cleave,” demonstrates just how addicted to clearcutting the company is, and just how callus its disregard for local communities and local safety and aesthetics can be. The “Van Cleave” THP totals 195 acres of proposed harvesting, with 113 acres of this total slated to be accomplished via multiple large clearcut units that will startle both sides of the Fickle Hill Road in the Lower Jacoby Creek watershed area, and just over the ridge and hydrologic divide onto the Powers Creek watershed, which drains into the Mad River. The “Van Cleave” THP also proposes to clearcut and destroy habitat for known northern spotted owls in the Fickle Hill Road vicinity; these owls are likely to use or be seen in and on adjacent properties, including the Arcata Community Forest.

The result of the “Van Cleave” THP, if approved would be as many as seven clearcut units on both sides of Fickle Hill Road, and an untold period where local neighbors will be forced to endure the industrial din of chainsaws, bulldozers, log trucks and other heavy machinery whizzing up and down tight and narrow local community roads and streets, and right through many otherwise quiet local neighborhoods. Why? Because Green Diamond just can’t seem to stop clearcutting the redwoods, in favor of making the bottom-line profit-margin demanded by its parent company, Kamilche Co. based in Seattle, Washington. And, the cold, hard, truth is that State forestry laws and regulations not only allow this, but greatly incentivize it, while, as we know, State regulators at the Department of Forestry have a long and shameful history of enabling and acting as accomplice to the destruction of our forests and future by a voracious and rampantly destructive private industrial timber industry.

The time has long-since come to stop the brutish and arcane practice of clearcutting redwoods on short, evenaged rotations to maximize private profits while setting back and damaging vital public resources for decades or even centuries. Other timberland owners, like Humboldt and Mendocino Redwood Companies, while clearly not perfect in some respects, have unequivocally shown that redwoods can be managed selectively and sustainably and still produce viable crops of commercial timber now and into the future. The balance contemplated in California’s Forest Practice Act between private profit and public benefit has been wildly skewed towards private profit for far too long, and with the climate crisis now constituting a clear and present danger to the survival of the human species, we must insist that Green Diamond Resource Company bring its forestry practices into line with the realities of the 21st century.

EPIC is dedicated to fighting against Green Diamond’s clear-cut addiction and industrial-profit-driven forest management. Please join us if you can!


Tower Proposed in Redwood National Park- Public Meetings Jan 10 & 11

Thursday, January 4th, 2018
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Rodgers Peak, Redwood National Park. Proposed location for 199 foot cell tower and microwave dish. Photo Credit Rob Diperna.

The California Office of Emergency Services (OES) has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Assessment that proposes to construct new communication towers on three of the highest peaks in and around Redwood National Park and Yurok ancestral territory to replace the Red Mountain communications site, which must be removed because it is located within the Helkau Ceremonial District, a site that is sacred to the Yurok Tribe and other Native Americans and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The proposed project (Alternative 1) includes three new sites: Rodgers Peak (in Redwood National Park), Rattlesnake Peak (undeveloped land privately owned by Green Diamond), and Alder Camp (a state-owned prison facility in a developed area). The proposed towers would not offer improved cell phone coverage to the general public, as they are only for use by “officials” and emergency services.

For all of the sites, the proposed project (Alternative 1) requests approval for:

  • 12-14 months of construction and ongoing operation, maintenance and monitoring activities;
  • Site preparation activities including clearing trees and grading land (6.8 acres of clearing at Rattlesnake Peak, .62 acres of clearing at Rodgers Peak, and .28 acres of clearing at Alder Camp. Although, the aerial photo of the site layout maps seem to show vegetation in areas that are identified as “existing clearings”);
  • A 199 foot free standing galvanized steel lattice tower with antennas, microwave dishes and lightning rods on a 50 square foot concrete foundation with a depth of 8-12 feet;
  • Ten foot tall 30 by 50 foot Building(s) and/or vault facilities to house electronics, batteries and generator(s);
  • Graded aggregate surface parking for several vehicles;
  • A 6-8 foot tall security fence surrounding the communication facilities with a single drive through locked gate for maintenance purposes; and
  • Power sources for each location including commercial power at Alder Camp, solar arrays at Rattlesnake Peak and generators at Rodgers Peak (propane or diesel backup generators and associated fuel tanks would also be installed as backup power sources); and
  • Access roads (Rattlesnake peak would require 1.7 miles of new road construction on Green Diamond Land. Other sites would use existing roads through county, state and private land).

Due to numerous comments from EPIC and our allies in 2017, the initial scope of the project has been expanded to include several other alternatives that would not include Rodgers Peak, which is within Redwood National Park. New alternatives are as follows (and pictured in the map below):

  • Alternative 2: Same as Alternative 1, except Rodgers Peak site would expand clearcutting from 1.5 acres to ~3.9 acres to install a solar array as a primary power source.
  • Alternative 3: Rodgers Peak would not be developed under this alternative. Rattlesnake Peak and Alder Camp would be the same as Alternative 1 and Green Diamond 1 and Orick sites would also be developed for a total of 4 towers. Orick site is forested and located within the Coastal Zone.
  • *Alternative 3a: Rattlesnake Peak, Alder Camp and Green Diamond 1 sites would be developed. Green Diamond 1 site is clearcut.
  • Alternative 3bIdentical to Alternative 3a except Green Diamond 2 site would replace the proposed Green Diamond 1 site. The Green Diamond 2 site is clearcut but located within the Coastal Zone.
  • Alternative 4: No Project Alternative. Decommissioning activities would be implemented at Red Mountain, and the sacred site would be restored consistent with existing permits issued to the State by the USFS. None of the proposed sites would be developed.

*We believe that Alternative 3a would provide emergency communication services with the least impacts since the Green Diamond 1 site is already clearcut and outside of the Coastal Zone.

EPIC agrees that the Red Mountain site should be decommissioned to restore the Yurok Tribe’s use of and access to the Helkau Ceremonial District and that that emergency communication services are essential to nearby communities. But we recognize that these services will come at a cost to the viewshed of places sacred to the Yurok Tribe, as well as Redwood National Park resources.

We need to show project proponents that our community does not support building new telecommunication towers in and around Native American sacred sites or Redwood National Park.

How You Can Help:

  1. Attend Public Meetings! Two public information meetings on the proposed project will be held on:  January 10, 2018, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center, Arts and Crafts Room, 321 Community Park Way, Arcata, California and on January 11, 2018, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Klamath Community Center, 219 Salmon Road, Klamath, California. Click here to share our Facebook Event Page for the Arcata meeting!
  2. Submit Comments on the Project! Keep an eye out for EPIC’s upcoming action alert, which will include comment on the project. The comment deadline for this project is 5:00 p.m. on January 29, 2018. Comments can also be emailed to environmental@dgs.ca.gov, subject line: “Red Mountain Project.”
  3. Tell your friends. Before EPIC got involved, there were only 4 comments on the project. Because we sent out an action alert, over 619 of our members and supporters also commented on the project. (Thanks to all who took action, we made a difference!!!)
  4. Make a Contribution. It takes weeks to read and develop comments on environmental documents that contain thousands of pages. EPIC relies on people like you to make donations so that we can compensate our staff, keep our lights on and advocate for the voiceless.

This is not over yet, with your help, we can pack the upcoming public meetings and load the record with thoughtful and effective comments to protect Redwood National Park. Stay tuned and sign up for our updates and the upcoming action alert for this project in the coming days.

 


ACT TODAY: Save the Siskiyou Crest!

Thursday, January 4th, 2018
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Forest stand proposed for clear cutting near Copper Butte and Cook and Green Pass. Photo compliments of Luke Ruediger

Action Alert! The Klamath National Forest (KNF) is proposing to eviscerate one of the most important wildlife corridors and backcountry areas in California. The Siskiyou Crest is targeted for massive clearcut post-fire logging. The highly controversial and inappropriately named Seiad-Horse Risk Reduction Project is currently in scoping and is aimed at 2,000 contiguous acres of some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world.

As the Abney Fire moved over the border to California, fire crews lit backburns during high winds that blew up and sent the flames over fire lines on the Pacific Crest Trail and into Seiad and Horse Creeks, tributaries to the Klamath River. The fire then grew and burned intensely through plantations that were created after the 1987 fires, which in turn lit off adjacent old growth forest stands. Now the KNF is working to make the same mistakes again, thirty years later.

Project units are just an eighth of a mile from the Pacific Crest Trail, in an area that provides vital wildlife habitat connectivity between the Condrey Mountain and Kangaroo Roadless Areas. The entire project is also within Late Successional Reserves, which are designated to protect and restore old growth forest ecosystems. By creating vast swaths of clearcuts the forest service would be destroying complex late and early seral habitat while increasing future fire severity, endangering threatened species and landscape connectivity and harming water quality and streams that are critical to the survival of wild salmon.

Forty-one miles of roadside hazard logging is also proposed, which consists of live and green trees. This includes the poorly maintained Bee Camp Road, which is technically within the Kangaroo Roadless Area. This road should not be subjected to logging and should be closed to all motorized use.

This region has suffered from fire suppression impacts and extreme industrial logging in recent years. Together with the Westside and Horse Creek “salvage” projects the KNF continues to plan post-fire projects that are massive and controversial and that will set back ecosystem processes for decades if not longer. As it stands, it is likely that the combined effects of post-fire logging on the KNF and nearby private lands will result in a mortality sink for northern spotted owls and move the entire Siskiyou Crest area toward a landscape trap where fire regimes, water quality, ecological integrity and resilience and biodiversity are greatly diminished.

The public scoping comment period ends today so please click here to Save the Siskiyou Crest!


Year End Highlights

Thursday, January 4th, 2018
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2017 was another EPIC year: we stopped a train from being built through a potential wilderness area, we saved hundreds of acres of old growth on public lands from chainsaws, and we beat the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in court for failing to protect the Humboldt marten. In case you missed anything, check out our highlights below!

New Faces at EPIC: EPIC began 2017 with some new staff and a change in jobs. Tom Wheeler, EPIC’s Staff Attorney, took over as Executive Director from Natalynne Delapp. Briana Villalobos, EPIC’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year, joined the EPIC team as our new Communications and Outreach Director. Longtime board member, Dian Griffith, is retiring after 17 years tour of duty as both a staff member and a board member. We’d like to welcome Judith Mayer to the board!

Another Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Post-Fire Logging Project: The Klamath National Forest is back with another terrible “salvage” logging project. For those keeping track at home: this is the third terrible salvage project in three years! Take action today to help fight back!

EPIC Saves Old Growth! Because of EPIC’s objection to the Horse Creek Project, the Klamath National Forest dropped hundreds of acres of old growth from logging along the Siskiyou Crest and imposed a limit on logging large, old trees in other areas of the project. An EPIC win!

Bring Back Our Beavers! Did you know that beavers are one of the best ways to restore salmon habitat? And did you know that Wildlife Services kills hundreds of beavers every year in California? EPIC has started our fight to bring our beavers back, changing the rules to make beaver restoration easier and beaver trapping harder.

Victory for Humboldt Marten: EPIC scored a victory for the Humboldt marten by forcing US Fish and Wildlife Service to go back and issue a new decision by October 2018. Hopefully this time the agency will listen to science and not timber lobbyists. If not, EPIC will be there again to fight for our favorite mustelid.

Stinky Zinke! Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is on a quest to gut National Monuments, rollback environmental laws, and open up public lands for development. In honor of his legacy, EPIC held a press conference to announce that, in recognition of his legacy on public lands, we would rename vault-style toilets after him: Stinky Zinkes! Our press stunt was picked up by the national news, including Trump’s favorite Breitbart.

EPIC Tells Court, “Greenhouse Gas Accounting Matters”: In our first court case of the year, EPIC filed an amicus brief to let the court know that accurate accounting of greenhouse gases matter in our statewide effort against global climate change.

Stopped a Destructive Railroad Proposal in its Tracks: EPIC fought against a grant to study a railroad from Eureka to Gerber that would cross Wilderness Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers. EPIC helped rally the good people of Trinity County to demand that the County not move forward with its proposal. Because of the massive groundswelling of support, the Trinity Board of Supervisors listened and voted down the railroad!

EPIC Back in Court to Protect Richardson Grove: EPIC is back in court to defend the old-growth redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park against a highway widening proposal that would cut and pave over their root structure. We’ve filed two cases, one in federal court and one in state court, to defend the grove. If history is any predictor, the groves will be okay; each time we’ve filed a lawsuit challenging the project, we’ve been victorious. 1000+ year old trees are too precious to risk by cutting their roots.

EPIC Defends Wolf Protections: In 2014, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the gray wolf in California (based on a petition brought by EPIC!). In 2017, Big Beef took aim at those protections. The California Cattlemen’s Association filed suit to strip the wolf of protections. EPIC and allies intervened to give the wolf a voice and defend their protection. The case is still pending, but in the meantime, another wolf pack has been established. If we can hold wolf killers at bay, wolves will return home!

Getting Fire and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Back on the Ground: Kimberly Baker, EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, is a regular presence on the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership collaborative, a group that helps the Forest Service develop smart forest management projects. EPIC’s work is starting to pay off, as the Six Rivers National Forest is moving forward with a project developed in collaboration with WKRP! The Somes Bar Integrated Fire Management Project works to return fire’s role on the natural landscape, a job that will help to protect the wildlife and clean water of the Klamath Mountains.

On the Ground Monitoring Saves Big, Old Trees: When EPIC’s Conservation Advocate, Amber Shelton, bushwhacked into logging units to examine the Jess Project, she immediately knew something was wrong: trees were marked for logging immediately adjacent to streams. Amber quickly alerted the Forest Service to their mistake and marking crews returned to “black out” dozens of big, old trees. These trees will continue to provide habitat for owls and will help to preserve the cold, clean water of the Salmon River. 

Spotted Owl Advocacy Gets Results: In 2016, EPIC successfully listed the northern spotted owl under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing has already generated results. The Board of Forest and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are looking at ways forestry rules can be improved to protect the owl. Hope is on the way for our favorite forest raptor.

EPIC Brings Legal Fight Against Massive Timber Sale: EPIC is back in federal court to challenge a massive timber sale on the Klamath National Forest, the Westside Project. This is the largest timber sale EPIC has fought in over a decade, with over 6,000 acres of logging proposed and the “taking” of more than 100 northern spotted owls.

First Annual EPIC Base Camp: EPIC staff and members braved harsh weather to investigate the propose Horse Creek Project, a post-fire logging project on the Klamath National Forest. Information gained in the trip helped EPIC write detailed comments concerning individual logging units. On the ground monitoring is a hallmark of EPIC’s work. We hope that all those that attended will continue to put their activist skills to good use.

EPIC Petitions to End Sale of Invasive Ivy: EPIC, together with our friends at the Humboldt No Ivy League, submitted a rulemaking petition to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ban the sale of the invasive English ivy. Ivy is more than just a nuisance, it limits the biodiversity of our coastal forests by outcompeting native vegetation.

Fall Celebration! Boy, it’s great to have such wonderful members. EPIC celebrated our 40th Anniversary in style with our annual Fall Celebration at the Mateel Community Center. EPIC present the Sempervirens award to the late Judi Bari and our Volunteer of the Year award to Molly Gilmore. We ate delicious food from Sue’s Organics and danced the night away with Joanne Rand, Casey Neill and the Norway Rats, and Alice DiMicele. Thanks to all for attending!


EPIC’s Staff New Year Resolutions

Thursday, January 4th, 2018
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Happy New Year! The dawning of a new year offers a chance to start fresh and recommit ourselves. At our last staff meeting, EPIC’s staff went around and gave their resolutions for 2018. What’s your resolution?

In 2018, I resolve to get out of the office more and engage with our members and allies! My highlight of 2017 was Base Camp, our weekend-long field examination of a proposed timber sale. Base Camp yielded tons of good on-the-ground information that helped us reform the project.

– Tom Wheeler, Executive Director

 

My New Year’s Resolution is to defend the wildlife and wild places in the Pacific Northwest forests of California! I will do this by working with the Western Klamath Restoration Partnership, FireScape Mendocino, the Smith River Collaborative, the Pacific Wolf Coalition and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Strategic Habitat Conservation planning. Connecting Wild Places is key to species survival and climate adaption. It also includes challenging and changing ecologically damaging projects on our national forests. I also strive to work closer with small communities to attain fire-readiness in order to restore fire to our watersheds and change the practices of the fire industrial complex. 

– Kimberly Baker, Public Lands Advocate

 

For the New Year, I resolve to help save more wild places by venturing out into the field and training people to monitor logging projects and other industrial activities. In my experience, I have found that site visit documentation of a project has proven to be the most effective way to protect clean water, old growth forests and wildlife habitat. If we don’t pay attention to our wild back yards, who will?

– Amber Shelton, Conservation Advocate

 

In 2018, I resolve to do more teaching, workshops, slide-shows, and skill sharing. Private forestlands make up a huge part of California’s iconic natural landscapes, and it is my goal to empower more people and more communities to understand and effectively navigate the critical decision-making processes.

– Rob DiPerna, California Forest and Wildlife Advocate

 

My New Year resolution is to continue advancing EPIC’s dialogue on environmental justice and to create more opportunities for underrepresented communities to connect with nature. By partnering with local groups, I hope to create more volunteer and leadership roles for our community to be involved in forest advocacy. A movement is powered by the people, and together we can make a difference!

– Briana Villalobos, Director of Communications and Development


Why Beavers are Worth a Dam!

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
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Beavers are a keystone species, playing a critical role in biodiversity and providing direct benefits to surrounding ecosystems as well as fish, wildlife and people. Dams created by beavers create wetlands that help decrease the effects of damaging floods, recharge drinking water aquifers, protect watersheds from droughts, decrease erosion, stabilize stream banks, remove toxic pollutants from surface and ground water and many threatened and endangered species rely on the wetland habitat created by beavers. They also produce food for fish and other animals, increase habitat and cold water pools that benefit salmon, repair damaged stream channels and watersheds, preserve open space, and maintain stable stream flows.

Over the last century, beaver populations in North America have declined from over 60 million to as few as 6 million, just 10 percent of their historic size. However, there are no current population assessments of beavers in California, and their population numbers and distribution are not monitored in the state. Beavers have struggled due to the one-two punch of population decimation and habitat loss. Historically, beaver populations declined due to aggressive hunting of their soft silky fur and castor glands, which were used for trade and to be converted into medicine and perfume, and because beavers’ tree harvesting and waterway flooding affect urban and agricultural land uses, but now the primary threat to beavers is habitat destruction and degradation. Human development has resulted in serious impairments to watersheds that beavers depend on.

Consequently, incised stream channels, altered streamflow regimes, and degraded riparian vegetation limit the potential for beaver re-establishment. For these reasons, preventing further habitat degradation and restoring degraded habitats are key to protecting and restoring beaver populations.

Ecosystem Engineers

Beavers are unique because they can create or modify their habitat by building dams and lodges, therefore, reestablishing beavers may help to restore degraded systems. Relocating beavers is effective to restore extirpated populations, expand current ranges, and bolster low population numbers. The beaver itself is one of the major sources for wetland development in the United States, and since 3 out of 10 endangered animals in the United States rely on wetlands, beaver restoration should be a priority.

California has lost more wetlands than any other state. Agricultural and urban uses have altered our rivers by diking, levying, channeling, and canalizing waterways that were once extensively braided river systems. For example, in the Sacramento / San Joaquin Rivers only 7% of historic floodplain area and 9% of stream length remains. It’s time to rebuild those wetlands with a little help from our furry friends.

Beavers are a cost effective and sustainable wetland habitat restoration tool overflowing with water conservation benefits of surface water storage and groundwater recharge. The ecosystem services that beavers provide cannot be replicated by humans and the benefits they provide are irreplaceable.

Beavers Need Help

While the North Coast Region has a beaver deficit, every year hundreds of beavers are killed in California’s Central Valley by Wildlife Services, a federal agency tasked with (lethal) “removal” of “problem” or “nuisance” animals because landowners view them as a pest. The Department of Fish and Wildlife also issues depredation permits for landowners to trap and kill nuisance beavers on their property.

Instead of trapping and killing beavers that are unwanted in other regions, it is imperative that a relocation program is created, so that beavers can be relocated to North Coast rivers and other places to help restore streams and wetlands. Beaver reintroduction is a sustainable cost-effective strategy, but we need to work with stakeholders to navigate the political, regulatory and biological frameworks to safely restore their populations.


Klamath National Forest’s Latest Projects

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
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EPIC is sharpening our pencils because we have a lot of work to do: three new destructive projects from the Klamath National Forest have arrived in our mailbox in three days. We have a new massive salvage sale, plans for roadside logging (where there shouldn’t even be roads!), and road construction on public land to facilitate logging on private land. Ugh.

Here’s a brief glimpse of what we have in store:

Another Huge Post-Fire Logging Project

Another year, another terrible, horrible, no good, very bad post-fire logging project: the Seiad-Horse Project. The project consists of five different components: Roadside hazard tree removal; fuel reduction along private property; post-fire logging; and replanting; and underburning. Some things—such as fuels work near private property and underburning—are things that EPIC (generally) can support. Others, like the massive post-fire logging, make us spitting mad! Like the controversial Westside Project, the Siead-Horse Project proposes massive clearcuts—around 1,726 acres—in areas that logging should be prohibited. An initial look at our owl maps shows that much of the project is within occupied northern spotted owl habitat.

To make matters worse, the Forest Service is attempting to evade federal environmental law by shortcutting environmental review. As a warning: we are about to get wonky. The project is being pushed through an Environmental Analysis (EA), which takes a light look at the potential environmental impacts of a project instead of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that should be required. By skirting a more thorough look at the impacts, the Forest Service evades the crucial public review of the impacts of the project—all to speed up the timeline ever so slightly. Because we know the Forest Service reads our blogs, let me be clear: this approach will backfire. Do a full EIS.

There are some positive signs that the Forest Service is listening to our comments (and our lawsuits). The project proposes replanting, but only in areas where natural reforestation could be impacted, such as in large patches of high-severity fire where there is a general lack of nearby trees to reseed the forest. And we are encouraged that underburning is a component of the project, something that EPIC has been advocating for many years.

Salvage Logging Under Another Name

The Klamath National Forest has proposed a second salvage logging project, the “Oak Fire Roadside Hazard Tree Removal Project,” although here the logging will be limited to the roadside along 39 miles of roads near Happy Camp. To the extent that our society (and our tax dollars) supports salvage logging projects, this is the type of project that the Forest Service should pursue.

Again, while this is the type of project that the Forest Service should pursue—it is important for forest users to be safe on public roads—and many of these roads should be closed and decommissioned. The roadside logging will occur through areas where roads—and logging projects—are inappropriate, such as Late Successional Reserves (lands that are to be managed for the protection and development of old growth characteristics) and Inventoried roadless areas (duh, right?).

Like the Seiad-Horse Logging Project, the Forest Service is attempting to avoid compliance with federal environmental laws, pushing this project through a “categorical exclusion,” meaning that the Forest Service will conduct no formal environmental review on the project. The timber industry has been pushing for more of this lawless logging through bills that are currently making their way through Congress.

Public Road Construction for Private Profit

The Hancock Road Access Project would allow the construction of a new forest road just so that a private timber company could log its land easier. A road already exists to the property; this new road—across our public lands—is just to increase private timber profit. Welcome to the world of Trump’s Forest Service.

The new road would be punched in along a ridgetop and will be visible from Mount Ashland, among other places. This new road violates directives in the Klamath National Forest’s Management Plan to limit these types of projects and to minimize impacts to viewsheds. Although this project is relatively minor in comparison to the large scale salvage projects proposed above—only 34 trees will be cut in total—it is still distressing to see (another) sweetheart deal for timber companies.


Timberland Productivity—A Promise Unfulfilled

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017
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There are some 33 million acres of forestland in the State of California. Prior to European-American intervention, California boasted some of the most magnificent and ecologically unique, diverse, and critical forest types on the planet; from the giant sequoias of the south-western slopes of the Sierra, to the forests of the Cascade and Klamath Mountains in the north, to the coast redwoods standing sentinel watching over the rugged and expansive Pacific Coastline, California’s forest richness and diversity was unrivaled.

Nearly 200 years of intensive and mostly unregulated timber harvesting and forest land conversion and fragmentation, combined with the damaging effects of fire exclusion and forest ecosystem simplification for industrial plantations has sculpted a landscape that is very different and would likely be unrecognizable to pre-European-American indigenous populations.

California has made several attempts to reign in and constrain logging and timber harvesting on private forest lands since the earliest days of State government establishment. The very first State Board of Forestry and State Forester positions were created by the Legislature as early as 1887, with the first attempt at a State Forest Practice Act occurring in 1945. These early attempts to control logging of California’s forests were enacted to address well-recognized depletion of forest productivity and timber supply, as the original “old-growth” forests of the State were being stripped off the landscape at a frightening pace.

The modern-day Z’Berg-Negedly California Forest Practice Act of 1973 was enacted by the State Legislature in response to continual and rapid forest and timber supply depletion from over-aggressive extraction and profit-only-minded logging on private forestlands. The 1973 Act attempted to strike a precarious balance between the influence and power of the private timber industry and the needs of the State with the goal of forest management on private lands to achieve, “Maximum Sustained Production of High-Quality Timber Products,” while giving consideration to a suite of environmental, economic and social objectives, including protection of fish, wildlife, soil, water quality, employment, economic viability, and aesthetics, among other things.

Forty years later, it is clear that the careful balance contemplated has not been achieved, and that neither the productivity of our precious and irreplaceable forestlands, nor the viability of our fish, watersheds, wildlife, soil, employment and regional economies have been protected from an over-rapacious timber industry.

What happened? Agency administrative and regulatory frameworks have failed, plain and simple. To start with, the Board of Forestry never acted to adopt rules or standards to define Maximum Sustained Production of High-Quality Timber Products or to establish limits on harvest in relation to growth, or to even define acceptable standards and methods for silvicultural applications. That is, until it was forced to do so in 1994, some 20 years after creation of the Act, as a consequence of the landmark lawsuit brought by the Redwood Coast Watershed Alliance (RCWA).

The RCWA lawsuit forced the Board of Forestry to adopt rules to address Maximum Sustained Production; not by defining limits, but by allowing individual timberland owners to define their own productivity levels, constraints on productivity and their own means of achieving the self-prescribed productivity levels. What’s more, the Board of Forestry did not define “High-Quality Wood Product” claiming that forest products markets would self-define and constrain wood product quality.

The Board of Forestry created three voluntary options for private timberland owners to address how Maximum Sustained Production would be realized. For large, “industrial” timberland owners of 50,000-acres and greater, options (a) and (b) were created. “Option-(a)” directs the industry to produce the yield of timber products specified by the landowner. Which has been the primary vehicle used in the last 20 years by industrial timberland owners as opposed to “Option-(b)” a Sustained Yield Plan, and this is no small wonder. Sustained Yield Plans require preparation of an Environmental Impact Report, require assessment of cumulative impacts, and requires protection of soils, fish, wildlife, and watershed resources; “Option-(a)” requires none of this. Further, Sustained Yield Plans require public disclosure of all information and analysis considered as part of the EIR process; “Option-(a)” does not.

“Option-(a)” requires no monitoring of the proposed plan’s implementation, requires no reporting, and withholds from public disclosure almost all the information that might inform the how’s and why’s of the plan on the basis that the information is considered, “confidential trade secrets.”

Even the Department of Forestry itself, an agency always under the pressure of industry-capture, has urged the Board of Forestry several times in recent years to harmonize the options for Maximum Sustained Production and to do away with “Option-(a).” Since the Option-(a) rules don’t require provisions for monitoring, enforcement, administration or re-assessment as-necessary, CAL FIRE has a program wrought with inconsistencies and that lacks parody in application and administration.

The consequences of allowing the timber industry to self-define, self-attain, self-monitor and self-report its own forestland productivity plans is the continued depletion of forestlands and the continued depletion of timber supply, environment, infrastructure and economy. Native, diverse forests continue to be converted into sanitized mono-culture industrial fiber farm plantations that are far more susceptible to insect infestation, disease, fire, and inhibited growth from decades of soil biotic depletion. Instead of native and diverse forests, California continues to see what Sierra Pacific Industries owner Archie Aldis, “Red” Emmerson referred to as “toothpicks and match sticks,” cultivated on our hillsides.

EPIC is working to challenge the failed forest policy of allowing the industry to self-define and self-regulate its productivity standards. EPIC is actively working to question and challenge individual “Option-(a)” plans through the THP process, and is working at the policy level to persuade the Board of Forestry to take a fresh look at modernizing and harmonizing its rules governing Maximum Sustained Production. The hill is tall and the pathway is tangled in the weeds of the words, but EPIC is there, untangling the web and demonstrating to the Board and the agency that the time has come for change.

California’s forests are the best weapon the State has to combat climate change, as forests can capture or store or “sequester” carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere and keep it in living green biomass such as trees and plants; however, two centuries of state-enabled forest mismanagement means that we are capturing and storing far less carbon than we should be. Taking back the reins of forestland productivity from the timber industry may be the only way to reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon and to stabilize and mitigate mass deforestation, which is increasing the greenhouse gas effect and driving climate change.

EPIC is dedicated to changing the game for our private forests, and hopefully, changing the ending when it comes to forest productivity and climate change.


Give the Gift of Public Lands

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
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I am sure you’ve seen the news: President Trump, acting upon Interior Secretary Zinke’s recommendation, has announced the shrinking of two national monuments: Bears Ears—created last December by President Barack Obama—by about 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante—designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton—by nearly half. Now Zinke is recommending drastic changes to our local Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, reducing the size to exclude lands coveted by Big Timber.

You have a right to be pissed off—these are public lands and should be protected for the benefit of all, not just special interest. Thankfully, Native American tribes and conservation groups are taking Trump to court over this illegal use of power.

When Zinke first recommended reducing the size of our national monuments, EPIC held a press conference to “officially” rename toilets “Zinkes” in honor of our Interior Secretary, because he’s leaving a crappy legacy on our public lands.

If you donate $100 today, you can get your own commemorative Zinke sign! Each Zinke sign is handmade by our Executive Director, Tom Wheeler, out of reclaimed wood. All proceeds will go to EPIC’s Public Lands Defense program, which has commented on every major timber sale in our region for the past 15 years. Our public lands defense program, led by Kimberly Baker, has the highest rate of success against the U.S. Forest Service in the country—winning over 60% of all cases.

We encourage all of our members to take up the name. For example, you can say, “Wow, that’s a stinky Zinke,” upon encountering a particularly smelly toilet. Or before hitting the trail, you can tell your hiking partner, “Hold on, I need to hit the Zinke.” Or, if the Zinke is nearing capacity, you can let someone know, “That Zinke is full of crap.”

Give the gift of public lands this Christmas. If you ask nicely, we’ll even gift wrap it for you! Donate by December 15th in order to ensure your sign arrives in time for Christmas!


Three Takeaways from the Draft California Elk Management Plan

Thursday, November 30th, 2017
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Rosevelt Elk photo by Rob Diperna

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife have released their Draft Elk Conservation and Management Plan. For us elk fanatics—we have a couple of them in the office, including the author—we have been anxiously awaiting this report. (Read it yourself here!) Here are four quick takeaways from the report and how they can affect our wildlife and land management decisions.

Elk Need Fire!

Elk like to graze on young brush and shrubs. Before European colonization, fire helped keep a steady supply of young, tender and nutritious browse available. The history of fire suppression has reduced the habitat quality of our lands. With fire suppression, forests have become more dense with trees and our shrubs have become more mature. Helping to reestablish fire on the landscape will benefit elk by improving their habitat. (As if we needed another reason to end the war on fire!)

Wolves Will Need More Elk!

Wolves are back in California! This is GREAT news, but to sustain wolf packs (and to reduce incidents of livestock predation), we need more elk. Wolves preferentially prey on elk over deer, when present, but will eat deer when elk are not present. Here’s the rub: we don’t have elk like we used to. California was once home to an estimated 500,000 elk; today, there are ~12,900. California’s elk populations are also significantly smaller and patchier compared to other western states where wolves have become reestablished. Wolves’ backup food option, deer, are suffering a long-term statewide decline. To help our wolves (and our elk), we need to get serious

The Elk Management Plan calls for increasing elk populations by 10% by 2028 (in areas where human-elk conflicts are expected to be minimal). The Elk Management Plan also calls for the careful monitoring of individual “Elk Management Units” to watch out for thresholds indicating a serious impact to localized elk populations, such as if a population decline greater than 25% over three years.

Connected Landscapes are Important!

Long-term viability of California’s elk requires a well-connected landscape. Large mammals, such as elk, require interconnected habitats and populations. Absent these connections, we run the risk of genetically isolated populations, increasing the susceptibility to disease and the development of genetic defects. (Think of the problems that royal families have had when inbreeding goes too far….)

The Elk Management Plan highlights that the identification of current elk movement corridors—plus envisioning what corridors the elk might need in a changing future landscape. This is key and something that EPIC has been working on for a LONG time. (Anyone out there remember EPIC’s MAP RAP project from the early 1990s?)