Public Lands

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

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
By

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
By

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
By

Photo by Amber Shelton

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.


Action Alert: Congress Threatens Public Input for BLM Lands

Friday, February 17th, 2017
By

Headwaters Forest Reserve 20 Anniversary Hike

Take Action Now: The Senate is considering S.J. Res 15, a resolution to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” land-use planning rule, which gives the public a voice in large-scale planning for public lands. If the resolution is passed, public input in the management of our public lands would be drastically limited. the U.S. House of Representatives already voted in favor of the resolution, and the Senate will be voting any day. Senators need to hear that we value our public lands and we should have a say in how these lands are managed.

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of land mostly within Western states, with over 15.2 million acres in California, and 86,000 acres in Humboldt County alone, including the King Range National Conservation Area and the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Arcata and Redding BLM Field Offices are currently undergoing their Resource Management Plan updates for managing 20-25 years out, and they have combined updates to create a more regional approach for Northwest California planning, which is referred to as the Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan.

Hunters, anglers and conservationists support Planning 2.0 because the rule ensures important migration corridors and other intact habitats are identified so these areas can be conserved throughout the planning process.

Click here to send a letter to your Senators asking them to preserve public participation in the planning process for public lands by voting no on S.J. Res 15. Its best if you personalize your letter to reflect your experiences and highlight the places you care about.

OR for those of you in California, please send your comments to the email addresses below, or call:
Senator Feinstein’s office: Kenneth_Rooney@feinstein.senate.gov 202-224-3841
Senator Harris’s office: Nicole_Burak@harris.senate.gov 415-355-9041 and 202-224-3553


Action Alert: Say No to Climate Denier and Yes to Science

Monday, January 30th, 2017
By

Holm_Fay_date2008-04-09_time16.02.45_IMG_8035 copy

Trump Chooses Climate Change Denier to Head Department of Agriculture

Take Action to stop climate change denier from taking cabinet position. On January 19th, Donald Trump selected conservative Republican and climate change denier, Sonny Perdue, to be his Secretary of Agriculture. In 2014, Perdue wrote an opinion article describing climate change as “…a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”

If confirmed, Mr. Perdue would be the head U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency with a $155 billion budget that is charged with oversight of our national forests and grasslands, which make up 279,000 square miles of public lands. Additionally, he is tasked with matters relating to Wildlife Services, overseeing farm policy, food safety, and the food-stamp program.

The former governor of Georgia who once ran a grain and fertilizer business, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies that help chemical companies and large agriculture conglomerates at the expense of the environment and small farmers. As governor, Perdue championed the expansion of factory farms and pushed against gas taxes and EPA efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act.

Perdue’s nomination must now be vetted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which will examine Perdue and vote on whether or not to recommend him for confirmation by the Senate.

Click here to take Action now to ask your Senator to ensure that climate change deniers like Perdue are not confirmed leading roles in our government.

 


Keep California Great!

Thursday, January 26th, 2017
By

img_4386California did not exist at the founding of our country, but we are the future of America.

Look: we are going to experience losses at the federal level. Since our federal environmental laws were passed, they have been chipped away at; now, they be wiped off the books entirely. We can no longer rely on federal environmental law to protect the clean air and water, biodiversity, and ecosystem health that we need and cherish.

Now is time for California to take charge and ensure that our state environmental laws are strong enough to keep California great.

EPIC calls on the Legislature to review and revise California’s foundational environmental laws—the California Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, among others—to ensure that we have a safe and healthy California, for all its residents (both humans and critters alike).

California has led the nation before in setting environmental policy. California was among the first to move to protect biodiversity, passing the California Endangered Species Act in 1970, three years before the federal Endangered Species Act. Before the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, California recognized the public importance of our forests and charged the Board of Forestry, first founded in 1885, with the enforcement of forestry laws.

What we do in California has an outsized importance not just in our country, but around the globe. If it were its own country, California would boast the 6th largest economy in the world—ahead of France and just below Great Britain. Our laws can help shape federal environmental policy, even if they only apply within our own state.

EPIC is heartened to hear that Governor Brown has pledged to take up the slack left by the Trump administration and join with other states and countries to fight climate change and the declaration by California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon that California will “set an example for other states to follow.


Grazing Reform Project Works Toward Responsible Grazing Practices

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
By

bigmdws_cattle-trail-in-wetlands-2EPIC is excited to announce the launch of the new website for our Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California, located at www.grazingreform.org. On the site you can access lots of information about the impacts of public land grazing, including 28 photo-illustrated reports which span the seven years during which Project volunteers have monitored and documented the manner in which livestock grazing, all by cattle, is being (mis)managed within 15 separate grazing allotments in wilderness areas and on other national forest lands within the Klamath, Rogue-Siskiyou and Shasta National Forests. If you like the work we are doing, please consider making a donation to the Project.  All donations will keep our intrepid grazing monitor, Felice Pace, out in the field documenting problems. We are also looking for volunteers to help perform grazing monitoring, in particular grazing allotments in the Mad River Watershed of the Six Rivers National Forest.

On the website you can access, read and download reports which document the poor manner in which public land grazing is managed and the resulting degradation of water quality, riparian areas and wetlands. On the site you can also access research on grazing impacts, best management practices for managing grazing, specialist reports, like the report of hydrologist Jonathan Rhodes on the Big Meadows Grazing Allotment in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, and several videos Felice and other Project volunteers have made in the field to highlight the negative impacts of grazing on riparian areas, wetlands, water quality and meadows.

Click here to donate to the grazing monitoring project

Click here to volunteer

A little background: 

The Project to Reform Public Land Grazing started over seven years ago in support of water quality testing by the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR) in streams like Shakleford Creek and East Boulder Creek in the Scott River Basin. Using an environmental justice grant from the EPA, QVIR began testing water quality in streams issuing from grazing allotments within the Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps Wilderness Areas. QVIR testing documented violation of water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria and excessive nutrients; both are associated with water pollution from poorly managed grazing.

Inspired by this QVIR effort, our project coordinator, Felice, decided to go onto the grazing allotments themselves to document the bad grazing management that resulted in the water pollution QVIR found and to use that information to advocate for improved grazing management. Over the past seven years, we’ve logged 1,210 hours monitoring grazing on-the-ground in our national forests—that’s over 150 person days of volunteer grazing monitoring!

While it is certainly impossible to eliminate all the negative impacts of grazing on water quality, riparian areas and wetlands, negative impacts within Northern California’s wet meadow headwaters could be substantially reduced if Forest Service managers would require that grazing permit holders implement modern grazing management methods, including regular herding to rotate grazing among the various pastures on an allotment. Presently, however, permit holders place their cattle on the public lands in the spring or summer and don’t return until mid to late October when the snow flies and cattle must be taken to the home ranch. Some grazing permit holders have become so lax that they do not even collect their cattle in the fall. Instead they allow their livestock to wander home on their own while continuing to graze on national forest land.

Allowing cattle to remain unmanaged on public land for months on end always leads to degraded water quality, trashed riparian areas and trampled wetlands. This is just one of the many instances of lax Forest Service grazing management which the project hopes to change. Trampled springs like the one in the photo below are a common sight on Northern California’s public land grazing allotments and a clear indicator of inadequate Forest Service grazing management.

Donate Now!

Sign up as a volunteer!


Bringing Back the Condor

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
By

800px-californcondor-scott-frierThe Yurok Tribe has spearheaded an effort in conjunction with the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a condor restoration program and release facility in Redwood National Park, to return condors to their historical range in Yurok Ancestral Territory, where they have not been seen for more than a century. We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but just in case: this is fantastic and EPIC wholeheartedly supports condor reintroduction. As part of the project, five public scoping meetings will be held this month in northern California and Oregon to receive input on the California Condor Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment, including one in Eureka on January 26th.

Background

Since time immemorial, the Yurok Tribe has viewed the condor as a sacred animal, using their feathers and singing their songs in the World Renewal ceremony. As part of the Yurok Tribe’s obligation to heal the world, and return balance to Yurok Ancestral Territory, returning the condor to the region is spiritually and biologically imperative.

The California condor is the largest North American land bird primarily found in rocky shrub land, coniferous forests, and oak savannas. Condors are a keystone species, because their sharp beaks allow them to tear into tough skins of large mammalian carcasses that other scavengers cannot break down. Although fossil evidence shows that condors were once prevalent across North America, the end of the last glacial period reduced their range to the American Southwest and West Coast. In 1967 the species was federally listed as endangered, and in 1971 it was listed as an endangered species by the State of California. By 1987, habitat destruction, poaching and lead poisoning pushed wild condors into extinction, when all 22 remaining wild individuals were caught and put into captive breeding programs and in December 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recorded a total population of 435 condors, consisting of 268 wild and 167 captive individuals.

Public Meetings

January 23: Sacramento, CA  6-8pm at the Federal Building, 2800 Cottage Way

January 24: Eureka, CA 6-8pm at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way

January 25: Klamath, CA 10am-12pm at the Yurok Tribal Office, 190 Klamath Blvd

January 25: Medford, OR 6-8pm at the Jackson County Auditorium, 7520 Table Rock Road, Central Point Oregon

January 26: Portland, OR 6-8pm at the Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Road

How to Comment

Public scoping comments will be accepted until February 28, 2017 and can be submitted at the meetings or you can click here to submit comments online. Comments will be used to determine the scope of environmental issues and alternatives that will be addressed in the subsequent Environmental Assessment, which is scheduled to be released in summer of 2017. We encourage our members to support the program and highlight the importance of bringing the condor back to the Pacific Northwest by ensuring that the species has the habitat and protections necessary to reestablish their populations in the region.


Three Victories for the Crown and Coast of California!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
By
mark-harris-3

Lost Coast Headlands. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is expanded to 100,000 acres! Before leaving office, President Obama added 48,000 acres to the monument, which lies mostly in southwestern Oregon and now includes 5,000 acres in Northern California. The expansion will provide vital habitat connectivity and added landscape scale protection. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges, the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyous, has created a truly unique landscape, home to many rare and endemic plants and animals. It is the first monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity.

mark-harris2

Trinidad Head. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

The California Coastal National Monument now includes six new sites totaling over 6,230 acres. Three of them are in Humboldt County, Trinidad Head, Waluplh-Lighthouse Ranch and 440 acres of Lost Coast Headlands south of Eureka and the Eel River. The other areas include the 5,785-acre Cotoni-Coast Dairies parcel on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Piedras Blancas lighthouse in San Luis Obispo County; and offshore rocks and small islands off the Orange County coast. The monument designation ensures the protection of all islets, reefs and rock outcroppings along the entire 1,100-mile long coastline of California within 12 nautical miles.

A recent Public Land Order has secured a 20-year Mineral Withdrawal just north of the state border in the Klamath Mountains. Covering 100,000 acres of land managed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Bureau of Land Management the order will protect some of the region’s most pristine rivers from large-scale strip mining and new mineral development, although it does not prohibit ongoing or future mining operations on valid pre-existing mining claims. The defining characteristic of the proposal is the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Smith River, which originates in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and runs through the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

The crown of California, also known as the Siskiyou Crest, is an extremely ecologically important east to west biological corridor that straddles our neighboring state of Oregon. With the newly designated National Monument to the east and added protections for roadless lands to the west, the crown jewel of the state just got wilder! Together in combination with the addition of the culturally significant areas along the coast to monumental status is a real win for the people, plants and wildlife of our wild places.


BLM Seeking Input for Public Land Management in NW CA

Monday, January 9th, 2017
By

Full page photo

The Bureau of Land Management will be holding public scoping meetings to seek comments to help shape the Northwest California Resource Management Plan (NCIMP) and Environmental Impact Statement for public land management over the next 15 to 20 years. The plan process is expected to take up to four years to complete and would govern 400,000 acres of public lands and resources in Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, Tehama and Butte counties. Several meetings will be held throughout the region, including one in Eureka on Wednesday, January 11th at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center at 911 Waterfront Drive from 5 to 7 p.m. Other meetings will be held in Redding, Weaverville, Garberville, Willits, Chico and Yreka.

The planning area includes lands that are comprised of wilderness trails, hunting areas, off-highway riding areas, mountain bike trails and scenic vistas. Many of these lands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as resource uses including mining, timber production, livestock grazing, and firewood collecting. Click here to find background documents that provide information about the planning area.

Specific areas of interest include Elkhorn Ridge, South Fork Eel River, Yolla Bolly, Middle Eel Ishi and Yuki Wilderness Areas as well as Samoa Dunes Recreation Area, Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, Lost Coast Headlands and Ma-l’el Dunes. We are urging our members to come out and advocate for habitat connectivity on these public lands as well as the protection of wildlife and vital ecosystems that could be affected by the plan.

We encourage our members to provide specific landscape-level comments and rationale including how you would like to see these places managed

Click here to comment and or find a meeting near you.


Public Land Giveaway

Monday, January 9th, 2017
By

Sally Bell GroveOn the first day of Congress, the House of Representatives made it easier to give away public lands. In passing a “rules package”—the rules that are supposed to govern the rules for the 115th Congress—House Republicans included a provision that allows for the transferring of public lands without an accounting of the value that these lands provide.

Previously, rules required the Congressional Budget Office, a research arm of Congress, to determine how much a transfer would cost the U.S. Treasury by calculating the potential lost revenue from grazing fees or timber sales. Before a transfer could be approved, Congress would need to make budget cuts in other federal programs equivalent to the value of the land. The new rule change assumes that public lands are literally worthless, thereby eliminating the budgetary barrier to transfer land.

“It is alarming that giving away our public lands is apparently among the top priorities for this new Congress,” said Tom Wheeler, Program Director at EPIC. “Attempting to slip sneaky language into little-read legislation is not going to fly. We are watching.”

Our public lands are our nation’s key jewel, what filmmaker Ken Burns called, “America’s best idea.” Not only are our public lands a source of beauty and a backyard for recreation, they are key wildlife habitat and the source of clean drinking water. Public polling has shown that the vast majority of Americans are opposed to giving away our public lands, which helps to explain why Congress is trying to hide their actions in seemingly innocuous and mundane legislation.

Also worrisome, Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Ryan Zink (R-MT) voted for the rule change. Zink has previously stated that he is opposed to transferring ownership of federal lands to states, tribes, or private entities and his office said that, despite the vote, his position has not changed. To be fair, the land transfer provision was part of a larger rules package which included many other measures.


California Wolf Plan Sets Road Map for Conserving Small Population

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
By
California Wolf Pups 1-jpg

California Wolf Pups. Courtesy of California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Two Breeding Pairs for Two Straight Years Could Trigger Reduced Protections

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has released its final plan to guide conservation and management of a small population of gray wolves well into the future. One of the strengths of the plan, which was released late Tuesday, is its emphasis on nonlethal methods to deter conflicts with livestock. But it would also seek to reduce wolves’ federal protection status from “endangered” to “threatened” when the population reaches a threshold of only two breeding pairs for two consecutive years — far fewer than what independent scientists say is needed for a secure population.

In response to public comments on the proposed wolf plan, the agency stepped back from plans to initiate delisting of wolves once their population reached only 50 to 75 wolves. The agency also included in the final plan additional, current, best available scientific literature on key issues such as the vital ecological role of wolves.mmm

But conservation groups say the final plan should have included specific protections to shield wolves from clearly identifiable threats such as being mistaken for coyotes during coyote-killing contests. And the plan failed to identify key wolf habitat conservation priorities like connectivity corridors crucial to building healthy, sustainable populations — a feature that would benefit not only wolves but other California wildlife as well. The plan also proposes to initiate aggressive management actions, which could include killing wolves, for ungulate population declines “presumed to be influenced by wolf predation” without a scientific assessment to determine if wolves, in fact, are the cause.

“Because California is only in the early stages of wolf recovery, we need to give these animals a chance to become established in sustainable numbers rather than prematurely rushing to end protections that are vital to their survival,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But we support the plan’s initial emphasis on restoring wolves to the Golden State and reliance on nonlethal methods to reduce loss of livestock.”

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the arrival in California of wolf OR-7, the first known wild wolf in the state in 87 years. His arrival launched the development of a state wolf plan with input from a stakeholder group representing conservation, ranching and sports-hunting interests. OR-7 eventually returned to Oregon, where he found a mate and has since sired three sets of pups. In August 2015 state wildlife officials confirmed the establishment of California’s first wolf family in nearly a century: the Shasta pack in Northern California’s Siskiyou County. And just last month, a pair of wolves was confirmed in western Lassen County. DNA-testing of scat collected from the pair shows that the male is a young adult from one of OR-7’s litters, while the female is of unknown origin.

“The ongoing arrival of wolves in California is cause for celebration and makes the state wolf plan’s provisions all the more important,” stated Kimberly Baker, public land advocate for the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “Wolf recovery will bring the essence of wild back to California and reiterates the need for landscape connectivity.”

The plan proposes a phased management approach, in which establishment of four wolf packs for two consecutive years will trigger consideration of more aggressive management of conflicts. After establishment of eight wolf packs for two consecutive years, management actions will become even less protective of wolves. Conservation groups say the reduced protections come too quickly under the plan, and call for an ongoing emphasis on time-proven, research-based nonlethal measures to minimize conflicts with livestock.

“It’s exciting that nonlethal methods of reducing wolf-livestock conflicts are such a foundational element of this plan, because we know they work,” said Damon Nagami, a senior attorney in NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program. “We want to give these magnificent animals every possible chance to survive and thrive here in California. So we look forward to working with the Department to ensure that happens.”

The agency received significant public input last year when it released a draft plan for public comment. Changes requested included the need to acknowledge the best available current science on managing conflicts, social tolerance, the importance of protecting wolves from illegal killings, and wolves’ critical ecological role. During the comment period, 19 conservation organizations submitted a joint comment letter on behalf of 2.9 million California residents highlighting 27 key issues of concern in the draft plan. The vast majority of Californians wants wolves protected and also fully supports the joint efforts of the state, conservation groups, ranchers and hunters to implement nonlethal conflict-prevention measures.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment.

Sierra Club California promotes the preservation, restoration, and enjoyment of California’s environment, and enables chapters and grassroots activists to speak as one voice to promote California conservation.

Click here to view the official Press Release, which includes press contacts.


Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
By
Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed's only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com

Low severity fire in upper Buckhorn Creek. Small snag patches such as this one in upper Buckhorn Creek are being targeted for logging by the KNF. The damage to soils, forest regeneration, and habitat complexity will degrade some of the watershed’s only remaining old-growth forest. Photo courtesy of Luke Ruediger www.siskiyoucrest.blogspot.com.

Take Action Now: Meet the Horse Creek Project, the Klamath’s new boondoggle that will log sensitive areas while losing taxpayer money. (There’s something in it for everyone to hate!)

The Klamath National Forest cannot let a fire go to “waste.” Following the 2016 Gap Fire, the Klamath National Forest is trying to log areas that should be off-limits: Late Successional Reserves, forests set aside from commercial timber harvest so that they can develop into old-growth forests; Riparian Reserves, areas around streams that are supposed to be off-limits to logging to prevent water pollution; and northern spotted owl habitat. The Klamath National Forest argues that logging large diameter snags, (which will stand for decades until new forests grow up around them all the while providing critical wildlife habitat) is good for the forests and for wildlife—paradoxical logic that has been rejected by both science and the courts.

If history is any guide, the Klamath National Forest will lose money in logging owl habitat—what’s known in Forest Service parlance as a “deficit sale.” Burned forests are worth more to owls and fishers than they are to timber mills. To make a profit, timber companies need to purchase trees from the Klamath National Forest for next to nothing. In several timber sales from earlier this year, the Klamath National Forest sold a logging truck’s worth of timber for about $2.50—less than the price of a cup of coffee. The Klamath will lose untold thousands or millions of dollars on this timber sale, money that could go to protecting local communities or improving wildlife habitat.

The Klamath National Forest has also tied important measures such as the removal of roadside hazard trees and the reduction of fuels near private property, to the controversial logging units. By doing so, the Klamath National Forest will not only delay this important work by several months through more complicated environmental review, but may tie up this work for years in court.

EPIC urges the Klamath to focus on the priorities. Protect local communities and drop logging in Late Successional Reserves, Riparian Reserves, and occupied owl habitat.

Take Action Now: Let the Forest Service know you oppose losing taxpayer money to log sensitive areas.


Trump Administration Troubling for Public Lands

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
By

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.


Wild Horses of Modoc National Forest

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
By

dsc00836The Modoc National Forest is home to the largest wild horse herd in California. There are an estimated 2,200 wild equines living within the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, which comprises over 360 square miles of federally managed land in the northeast corner of the state.

The Territory

The Devil’s Garden Plateau, also known as “The Smiles of Gods” by the Native people, lies in the heart of the Modoc Plateau. This mile-high prehistoric lava flow is sparsely vegetated with sagebrush flats, native grasses, and the nations largest expanse of juniper. Thought to have formed some 25 million years ago, the Modoc Plateau is a semi-arid region, covered with rough broken lava rock and covers approximately a half-million acres. While very dry most of the year, after the snow melts, the area is covered with hundreds of ephemeral pools and carpeted with wild flowers in the spring.

Further north, the dryness gives way to more pine forested areas, which host some of the largest mule deer in the region. The Garden is home to Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, turkeys, and sage grouse. It is also habitat for the gray wolf. The wild horse territory is overlapped by eight grazing allotments, which creates competition for forage and water. The plateau is part of the Pacific Flyway where hundreds of thousands of waterfowl stopover in the wetlands during their migration from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

The Horses

The Devil’s Garden horses are known around the country for the type of horses it produces. They even have a dedicated Facebook page. Wild horses, also called mustangs, are known for their sure-footedness, strength, intelligence, and endurance. Herds on the eastern side of the territory have some draft horse influence in their genes. The western herds have distinct characteristics some with a unique white coloring also known as roan and other herds that are mostly black. The horses arrived here140 years ago with early settlers and they have been legally protected since the passing of the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

In 2013 the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan was updated and it set an “Appropriate Management Level” at a maximum of 402 horses. The evaluation used to determine this number did not take into account the over 1,500 cows grazing within the public lands of the wild horse territory. The updated plan also reduced the size of the territory by 37 square miles.

dsc031572016 Gather

In late September the Modoc National Forest conducted a six-day helicopter roundup and captured 290 wild horses. The mustangs were gathered mainly from adjacent private land, Pit River Tribal land, but also within the boundary of the territory. The roundups started in the early morning to avoid running the horses down in the afternoon heat. Multiple sweeps would happen each day, brining in anywhere between 5-40 mustangs at a time.

yound_stallionsPressured by the low flying aircraft, the wild horses were herded and trapped into small pens. Soon after, the horses were brought to nearby Willow Creek Ranch, a historic property within the wild horse territory. There they were sorted by age and gender. At the end of each day, mustangs age five and under were shipped to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Litchfield Facility near Susanville, CA. A total of 200 horses were brought to Litchfield to be freeze branded, vaccinated, and put up for adoption.

Older equines, age six and up, not adopted that week were released back onto the wild horse territory. The total included 68 stallions and 1 mare. There were 20 older mares that received the PZP fertility control vaccine at the Litchfield Facility who were then shipped back and released. Any of the younger horses that are not adopted from BLM Litchfield Facility after nine months will also be released back onto the territory.

For more information about adopting a wild mustang from the Modoc National Forest’s Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory contact the BLM Litchfield Facility

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/eaglelake/wild_horse_and_burro.html

Photos of Modoc wild horse roundup by Kimberly Baker:

 

Photos of horses in holding facility by Coni Lehr:


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

Thursday, October 27th, 2016
By

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.


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

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
By

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.


Help Protect Pristine Smith River Waters

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
By

SmithR by Casey RobertsTake a moment to help safeguard the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Public comments are being accepted by the Oregon Water Resources Department to protect the Smith River watershed in Curry County, Oregon for instream purposes. The classification would provide protection for fish, wildlife and recreation. Click here to send a letter of support for this very important action.


New: Videos showing local National Forest Grazing damage available online!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016
By

By Felice Pace, Coordinator for the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California

This fall for the seventh straight year volunteers with the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing are on the ground in Northern California’s national forests documenting the manner in which public land grazing is being managed or, as is usually the case, mis-managed. What is different this year is that we have video documentation available online. Check out the public land grazing videos on my You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Unofelice .

Here is our most recent grazing video, from the Carter Meadows Allotment:

Once again volunteer monitors are finding that water quality has been degraded, riparian areas and other wetlands are damaged and wildlife values are sacrificed all to the benefit of private livestock operations. EPIC sponsors the Project and EPIC donors fund my work using the Project’s documentation to push for grazing management reform.

The Projects first intern and EPIC volunteer Victor Ruether examines a cattle-trampled spring in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Victor is now an environmental lawyer in Oregon.

The Project’s first intern and EPIC volunteer Victor Ruether examines a cattle-trampled spring in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Victor is now an environmental lawyer in Oregon.

Even when it is well managed, livestock grazing, like all human activities, entails some environmental impact. But proper application of modern grazing management practices and systems, including regular herding, spring and riparian protection, and rest-rotation grazing, can limit those impacts in order to comply with the Clean Water Act and other applicable laws, plans and regulations.

Unfortunately, Forest Service and BLM managers do not require modern grazing management; instead they condone the long-discredited practice known in range management circles as passive, season-long grazing. When using this grazing non-system, livestock owners move their animals, which are typically cattle but may be sheep, horses, goats or even llamas, to meadows and headwater basins on national forest or BLM-managed public lands at the beginning of the grazing season. The owners don’t herd or move their livestock again until the snow flies and it is time to take the animals back to the home ranch or to a feed lot; most owners don’t even visit the grazing allotments on which their animals are grazing for the entire three to six month grazing season.

Left unherded for months on end, livestock in general and cattle in particular find locations they prefer and remain there until all available forage and desirable browse has been consumed. That invariably leads to degradation of water quality, riparian areas, meadows, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

Rural westerners have a colorful term for this type of management; they call it Christopher Columbus Grazing because ranchers release their cattle onto the public lands in spring or summer and don’t discover them again until snow drives the livestock to lower elevation, which is typically sometime in the fall.

Christopher Columbus style grazing results in degraded riparian areas. This is Alex Hole, an Applegate River headwater basin located just north of the Siskiyou Ridge on the California portion of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

Christopher Columbus style grazing results in degraded riparian areas. This is Alex Hole, an Applegate River headwater basin located just north of the Siskiyou Ridge on the California portion of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

Passive Season-Long Grazing often results in cattle grazing for long periods in the headwater basins of forest streams, including many within designated wilderness as well as within key salmon watersheds. When headwater springs, seeps, wet meadows and streambanks are trampled every year for 3 or more months the result is hydromodification: streams become broader and shallower and the water table drops; riparian vegetation is damaged or removed; wetlands dry out and eventually disappear and late summer and fall base flow in streams below is reduced. In this way, grazing in Northern California’s wilderness headwater basins is producing negative consequences for salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, tailed frogs, Pacific Giant salamanders and the other critters that depend on cold, high quality water. It is ironic that those wilderness basins which should be producing the nation’s highest quality water are so often degraded and diminished as a result of unmanaged grazing.

Working for Reform

Decades of unmanaged grazing have degraded, fragmented and dried out headwater willow wetlands

Decades of unmanaged grazing have degraded, fragmented and dried out headwater willow wetlands

To reverse the degraded condition of Northern California’s grazing allotments, the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing aims to change the way public land grazing is managed. Over the course of the past seven years we’ve produced 27 Grazing Monitoring Reports on 17 national forest grazing allotments located within three national forests. Each report contains recommendations to Forest Service managers, as well as state and federal regulators, on the changes needed to improve grazing management in order to comply with the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and other applicable laws, plans and regulations You can read or download these reports, as well as our annual reports and presentations on Dropbox at this link.

The Project uses photo and field documentation of grazing management problems to advocate that Forest Service managers require that owners of livestock grazing on our national forests implement modern grazing management systems and techniques in order to protect water quality, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. We also use documentation produced by others, including water quality monitoring findings and reports produced by the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation. And we constantly invite Forest Service managers and those who hold public land grazing permits to join with us in a collaborative approach to grazing reform.

However, in spite of seven years advocating public land management reform and clear documentation indicating that current management is not protecting water quality, riparian areas and wetlands, Forest Service officials have so far refused to make the management changes that are clearly needed. And so the Project, EPIC and the Project’s other sponsors have begun to raise the stakes. We are now going over the heads of the District Rangers who are responsible for assuring proper grazing management to the regional forester and state water quality officials, asking them to intervene to require grazing management reform. And we are considering filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General as well as strategic litigation to force the needed reforms.

Forest Serviced grazing managers have stuck their heads in the sand and refuse to see the obvious problems with the manner in which national forest grazing is managed. We aim to force them to remove their heads from the sand and do what is right. If grazing is going to continue on our public lands, managers must require the modern grazing management methods needed to limit negative impacts to water quality, riparian areas, wetland habitats, aquatic species and terrestrial wildlife.

Why not volunteer?

The Project To Reform Public Land Grazing wants more volunteers so that we can monitor more grazing allotments on more Northern California national forests and on BLM administered public land. As the Project’s coordinator, I go out with new volunteers onto grazing allotments they choose to teach them how the Project documents grazing management problems. Volunteers can then monitor on their own or join the Project’s monitoring expeditions into wilderness areas and on other Northern California public lands.

If you would like to volunteer with the Project, or just learn more about what we do and why we do it, give me a call at 707-954-6588. And whether or not you volunteer with the Project, please report to the Project and to EPIC the negative impacts of grazing which you observe while recreating or working on our public lands. If you will share them with us, we pledge to take up your concerns with the Forest Service or BLM managers who are supposed to make sure public land grazing is done responsibly. Use the “Contact Us” link on this web page for a range of contact options.

Public land grazing is deeply entrenched; arguably it is our most intractable public land management problem nation-wide. But by raising the profile of the poor manner in which public land grazing is managed, enlisting Clean Water and other regulators to also advocate for management reform, recruiting other citizens to get involved on-the-ground as reform advocates, and by refusing to accept bad and discredited grazing management, we believe public land grazing can and will be reformed.

If modern grazing management technologies and regular herding were required, those owners unwilling to devote the energy needed to properly manage their livestock on public lands would voluntarily relinquish their grazing permits; those who remain would put in the time and energy required to manage grazing responsibly. That is the Project’s goal: if grazing is to continue on the public’s land it must be managed responsibly.mmm


Headwaters Forest Reserve, Home, at Last

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
By

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.