Cannabis

Cannabis Farmers Workshop Series

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
By

EPIC and Mad River Alliance are partnering with Humboldt Green, California Growers Association and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District to produce a series Cannabis Farmers Compliance Workshops. The purpose of these workshops is to help educate people about: a suite of new laws and regulations for commercial medical cannabis agriculture, the steps necessary to have farms comply with the new laws, and how to protect the health of our forests, water, and quality of life here on the North Coast.

At these workshops, there will be presentations by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and experts on state and county laws there to answer citizen’s questions.

Upcoming Workshops: 

Sunday, March 13 at the Mateel Community Center in Redway

Saturday, March 19 at the Bigfoot Country Club in Willow Creek

Sunday, April 3 at the Mattole Grange in Petrolia

Sunday, April 17 at Redwood Acres “Cannafest” in Eureka

Sunday, April 24 at Ruth Lake Community Services Hall in 

People attending the workshops will also receive the 2016 Compliance Handbook outlining these new laws including California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Waiver of Waste Discharge for Cannabis.

The 2016 Compliance Handbook was created by EPIC in conjunction with Mad River Alliance, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish & Wildlife and Humboldt County. Creating this handbook was a labor of love. We literally distilled hundreds of pages of regulations into 22 pages—into the essence of what is needed for people to understand and comply with the law.

Why trust us? We are not the government. We are not trying to sell people anything. We are apart of this community and here because we want to see people in this region as part of the solution. We want to help people navigate this task and series of laws and ordinances because it will be good for the environment. We believe it honors the original spirit of the back-to-land people and founding farmers of this unique region. We also hope it will help to keep our families and communities safer as we move into the future.

Presentation by California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Presentation by Tom LeRoy of Pacific Watersheds & Associates “Transitioning from a Grower to a Farmer

Presentation by Natalynne DeLapp on the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Land-Use Ordinance

Presentation by Dan Mar of High Tide Permaculture “Water We Doing?

tabloid 2-26-16


Cannabis Ordinance, an Important First Step

Friday, February 5th, 2016
By

frog on marijuanaA long time in the making, and sorely needed, Humboldt County now has the first land use ordinance in the state of California to regulate commercial cannabis agriculture. This is an important first step to begin rectifying the environmental destruction associated with unregulated cannabis cultivation, and providing a legitimate framework for legal economic activity that can benefit farmers and the general public. Only now can the divide between cultivators, regulators, and communities start to close, and mutual distrust begin to fade, as we work together to shape the industry’s future with our social and environmental values.

This is a monumental step taken at the behest of cannabis farmers, conservationists, government officials, members of the public and many others, who for the last five years have openly dialogued, deliberated, and educated the community about the problems of unregulated cannabis, while looking for solutions.

For nearly two decades, since cultivation for medical use was decriminalized, there have been very few rules and regulations to govern which activities are and are not acceptable. Unfortunately, few government officials outside of Humboldt County were willing or able to help find solutions to statewide problems associated with unregulated cannabis, such as water withdrawals, herbicide and pesticide use, threats to consumer and public safety, law enforcement and beyond.

Thanks to the efforts of a few brave cultivators, and Assembly member Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire, California adopted the California Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act in 2015, which at last provides a comprehensive statewide framework to regulate commercial cannabis. In addition, last summer the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its groundbreaking water quality order, the first regulation by a California state agency designed to address environmental impacts from cannabis cultivation.

Finally, the components for effective regulation had to come together— Humboldt County could develop its own local ordinance to regulate land use, and what was accomplished was no small feat. The community came together to engage in the public process; and the Humboldt County Supervisors and planning staff accomplished the difficult task of balancing the needs of the environment, the industry, and the public. Having witnessed the process, I can say it is an example of the government and its citizens successfully working together to create a set of rules that most everyone can support.

The Humboldt County Commercial Medical Marijuana Land Use Ordinance establishes rules and performance standards designed to mitigate the harms associated with the unregulated existing industry. To be fully permitted as a legal commercial cannabis farmer, all twenty requirements must be satisfied, which include: enrollment in the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board water quality order; compliance with the streambed alteration program from the Department of Fish and Wildlife; water storage requirements to prevent dry season pumping; and strict rules for water trucking. Performance standards will begin to address noise and light pollution associated with generator use and mixed-light grows; streamside set-backs were incorporated to further protect water quality; and processing plans and allowance for off-site centralized processing centers were developed to increase safety for workers while reducing negative impacts associated with trim scenes. The Retirement, Relocation and Remediation Program incentivizes relocation of poorly situated grows to flat agricultural lands; and indoor cultivation is limited to on-the-grid power in existing structures. No new grows are allowed on forest resource lands i.e. TPZ, FR or U zones; and a sunset clause is included that limits enrollment in the county’s permitting plan to applicants who apply by December 31, 2016. In addition, the Supervisors have publically committed to completing a full Environmental Impact Report before expanding the breadth of the ordinance.

The county land use ordinance is an important first step, but it’s only the beginning. The county needs to begin immediately drafting a cannabis excise tax to fund inspection and enforcement, and provide other public services—so that it can be included on the June 2016 ballot for voter approval.

Cannabis thrived without regulation for decades. The time has now come for it to thrive with regulation. We need to help bring farmers into compliance. To assist with this task, EPIC and the Mad River Alliance are partnering with Humboldt Green, California Growers Association and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District to create a 2016 Compliance Manual. We are hosting a series of six workshops across the county with presentations by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and experts on state and county laws. Click here to be directed to the Cannabis Farmer’s Workshop Series Facebook page. 

Through all these steps, we must remember that regulations and laws are not going to be perfect the first time around and that adaptive management strategies must be employed. The community must work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials regarding implementation of the new rules, and whether or not they are effective. EPIC will be there to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation, while ensuring environmental laws are upheld.

Workshops are scheduled for:

* February 28th at the Mad River Grange

* March 13th at the Mateel Community Center

* March 19th at the Willow Creek Country Club

* April 3rd at the Mattole Grange;

* April 17th at  “Cannafest” at Redwood Acres Fairgrounds

* April 24 at Ruth Lake Community Center

Click to view the cannabis compliance workshop flier

Compliance Workshop Flier-1


Update on County Commercial Medical Cannabis Ordinance: Victory on the Horizon?

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
By

IMG_3871Humboldt County is moving forward with regulating medical cannabis production with a final ordinance set to be passed on January 26, 2016. With the language of the ordinance still being solidified by county planning staff, nothing set in stone until the Board of Supervisors takes a final action—however, below is our best reading of the tea leaves of where the Board stands as of the time of press (spoiler alert: it looks pretty decent):

♦ No new operations in forestlands and incentives for cultivators operating in sub-prime locations such as steep terrain, or sensitive upper watershed conditions, etc. to retire, remediate and/or relocate to flatter agricultural lands.

♦ All operations must adhere to strict environmental requirements, including a water withdrawal forbearance period from May 15 to October 31, prohibition on use of non-organic pesticides, prohibition of use of trucked water, and meet specific performance standards.

♦ For commercial outdoor and mixed-light operations, tiered approval with more stringent, site-specific review triggered by higher square footage.

♦ Operations between 500-5,000 sq. ft. will require a zoning clearance certificate (a ministerial permit—after all conditions are met).

♦ Operations between 5,000-10,000 sq. ft. will require a special use permit. A special use permit provides an additional layer of oversight. It is handled by county planning staff, much like a zoning clearance certificate, but affords neighbors the opportunity to provide feedback to staff. If necessary, planning staff or neighbors may request a formal hearing before the Planning Commission.

♦ Operations greater than 10,000 sq. ft. will require a conditional use permit.

♦ For indoor operations, all operations require zero net energy or a carbon offset.

♦ For industrial or commercial parcels, up to 5,000 sq. ft. with ministerial permit and up to 10,000 sq ft. with conditional use permit.

♦ For lands zoned for agricultural production (AG and AE), the ordinance would cap operations at 5,000 sq. ft.

♦ Grows up to 22,000 sq. ft. considered through a master planning process with accompanying EIR.

♦ Set noise abatement standards for generators to a decibel level appropriate to avoid harm to wildlife, likely between 25db and 60db.

Overall, the ordinance is pretty decent—and given the myriad of stakeholders and complexity of the issue—we’ll take pretty decent. And included in the decent is a number of hard fought battles (and victories), most notably no new operations in forest lands, including Timber Production Zone (TPZ) lands!

How did we get here? To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” In October 2014, California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) invited EPIC, the NEC, and SAFE to participate in an early stakeholders meeting for a draft ordinance that CCVH intended to submit to voters. For the next year, CCVH was hard at working developing an ordinance, issuing a half dozen draft ordinances, with environmental voices providing critical review and comment.

While CCVH was hard at work, the State got in the game. On September 11, 2015, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board passed a waiver of waste discharge requirements for commercial cannabis producers, the first real environmental regulation directly applied to cannabis. In fall 2015, the State legislature passed a trio of laws to regulate medical cannabis production (AB 243, AB 266, & SB 642). These laws expressly gave the County permission to regulate commercial medical cannabis production and provided a deadline of March 1, 2016, by which counties were to promulgate local regulations. Just four days later, on September 15, 2015, CCVH decided not to run an independent voter initiative campaign and generously turned their ordinance over to the Board of Supervisors to use as a template.

The Humboldt County Supervisors were tasked with striking a balance between competing forces. If cultivators do not participate, no performance standards or environmental mitigations will be followed, which would not help attenuate the problems facing our watersheds and human communities. This is the crux of the issue within the development of Humboldt County’s ordinance—a sweet spot must be achieved that will maximize participation while providing enough oversight and environmental protection.

Collectively, we are in the process of ushering in a new paradigm for commercial cultivation of medical cannabis in Humboldt County. We are preserving local control, beginning to mitigate the adverse impacts of unregulated cannabis production, and providing a legitimate framework for legal economic activity that can benefit both farmers and the public.

Click here to read comments on the cannabis ordinance from EPIC and our conservation allies (1-8-16).

Click here to read comments (12-31-15)


An Ordinance for Humboldt County’s Medical Cannabis Cultivators

Monday, November 2nd, 2015
By

frog on marijuanaTwo comment letters submitted to the Humboldt County Planning Commission responding to the proposed Humboldt County Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis for Medical Use Land Use Regulation. The first letter is a coalition letter from EPIC, NEC, SAFE and Humboldt Baykeeper; the second letter is from EPIC only.

October 30, 2015

Dear Planning Commissioners,

This letter is on behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Humboldt Baykeeper, Northcoast Environmental Center, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment.

We wish to thank the Board, staff, and the Planning Commission for their attention to this matter. We appreciate the opportunity to participate in the development of the county’s commercial cannabis and use ordinance and believe the open inclusion of multiple voices will ultimately result in an ordinance that will result in higher industry participation and ultimately yield greater conservation success.

Based on our review of the existing regulatory landscape, including the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board waiver, new statewide legislation and signing statements, Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations, and current Humboldt County land use regulations, we do not believe the current regulatory regime is sufficient to adequately ensure environmental resources are protected. In developing a land use ordinance, we urge the county to consider the following recommendations:

Place a Cap on Total Number of Operations: We suggest a total cap of operations within the county. We suggest after five years, the county could revisit if and where it could allow new cultivation areas. By limiting the total number of operations, we believe it will provide encouragement for existing operations to come into compliance and will limit the number of legal operations within the county.

Require Water Storage Between May 15 through November 12: Water diversions associated with cannabis production are one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the county. The county’s first draft ordinance proposed a forbearance period from March 1 to October 30. A forbearance period more likely to protect water quality resources should extend from May 15 to November 12.

Discourage “Generator Grows”: Off the grid generator use associated with “mixed light” operations are of great concern. Generators used to power artificial lights produce localized noise, land air pollution—a significant nuisance to neighbors and wildlife—as many off-the grid operations are within the wildland urban interface, and improper fuel storage and/or fuel spills are a threat to water quality. Because of the significant concerns related to so-called “generator grows,” we urge the Board and the Planning Commission to require mixed-light operations be properly contained, connected to the municipal power grid and/or have proof of an adequate supply of alternative energy

No New Cultivation in TPZ: We do not support the further conversion of working forests for commercial agriculture because it threatens our vision of creating a well connected and restored forest ecosystem. That said, we understand that many cannabis cultivators are already on TPZ land. A cursory GIS exercise conducted by our organizations estimates that around 25 percent of cannabis farms are on TPZ land. A successful ordinance should be to bring as many cultivators, including those cultivating on Timber Production Zone (TPZ), who are willing to take immediate action to ensure baseline environmental standards are met into compliance with all applicable laws and stop the further proliferation of cannabis operations on TPZ land by prohibiting new operations.

Discourage and limit Indoor Operations: We are generally opposed to indoor cannabis operations because of the high associated carbon costs. We believe the future of Humboldt’s cannabis economy should be based on sun-grown cannabis. However, given the importance of indoor operations for the cultivation of certain types of medical cannabis, we understand that a full ban on indoor operations is undesirable and that a full ban would likely go ignored, pushing otherwise responsible cultivators to the black market. As a reasonable compromise, we suggest the following responsible additional regulations designed to minimize impacts from indoor operations.

The county ordinance should restrict indoor operations to areas zoned commercial or industrial. By limiting indoor to these areas, we can ensure that prime agricultural land will not be converted to other uses.

The county should require all indoor operations be connected to the municipal power grid and to a municipal water supply with adequate surplus water to support indoor operations. By requiring connection to the grid, the county can limit impacts associated with generators and by requiring connection to a municipal water supply with adequate surplus water, the county can ensure that communities, such as Redway, who already struggle to supply adequate domestic water to their residents, will not add additional users it cannot support.

Lastly, the county should limit the total size of indoor operations to 10,000 sq. ft. in order to reduce carbon impacts associated with individual farms and to promote a small-scale, diversified cannabis industry for the region.

Discourage Water Trucking: Non-potable bulk water delivery has been identified as a major environmental concern. Water trucks increase sedimentation through heavy use and disturbance of dirt roads, contribute to greenhouse gas and other air pollution, and pose a danger to residents traveling on rural roads. A standard trip between Fortuna, the closest location to Southern Humboldt where non-potable bulk water can be purchased for individuals outside of a municipal water district, and Sproul Creek near Garberville, would emit approximately 240 pounds of carbon dioxide for the 70 mile trip. Non-potable water delivery has also been tied in several instances to illegal water diversions as trucks fill directly from streams or fire hydrants under the cover of night. The ease of water delivery also disincentives water storage and proper planning. The county should not allow water deliveries as part of demonstration of proper planning for adequate water storage.

Ensure Adequate Funding: The regulation of cannabis is dependent on adequate funding of inspection and enforcement. While we understand the desire to complete a land use ordinance first to meet the state March 1, 2016 deadline, we urge the county to diligently pursue a separate funding measure so it may be included on the June 2016 ballot for voter approval.

These recommendations reflect the joint policy recommendations of our organizations. Additional and more specific policy recommendations may also be made by our organizations in their individual capacity.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We look forward to cannabis farmers being able to come into the regulatory light, legitimizing the craft and custom of North Coast farmers and improving environmental conditions for all.

Should you have any questions or comments, Natalynne DeLapp of EPIC can act as a point person to communicate with the larger group. She may be reached at (707) 822-7711 or Natalynne@wildcalifornia.org

Sincerely,

Natalynne DeLapp

Executive Director, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)

Jen Kalt

Executive Director, Humboldt Baykeeper

Larry Glass

Board President, Northcoast Environmental Center, Executive Director, Safe Alternatives for Our Forest Environment

October 30, 2015

Board of Supervisors’ Chambers
Humboldt County Courthouse
825 5th St.
Eureka CA, 95501

Dear Planning Commissioners,

EPIC appreciates the opportunity to comment. Based on our review of the first draft commercial cannabis land use ordinance, we have the following thoughts and recommendations. These are in addition to and complimentary to those presented the joint recommendations presented by EPIC, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Baykeeper, and Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment. Because county staff is developing an additional alternative or alternatives, most of these comments are not directed towards the particular language of the first draft. Instead, these comments are broadly directed towards what we believe would be included in a successful land use ordinance.

Public Nuisance as an Enforcement Tool:

Public nuisance is an enforcement tool. EPIC appreciates the inclusion of public nuisance as an enforcement tool in the first draft and encourages its inclusion in subsequent drafts. The inclusion of public nuisance as an enforcement tool will allow the county to clean up problem areas swiftly without shifting costs to taxpayers.

Incorporate Elements of the Water Board Waiver:

We believe the County’s ordinance could strengthen water quality protections by requiring cultivators that fall within Tier 1 (operations between 500 and 5,000 square feet of cultivation area, on a less than 35% slope and not within 200’ of a waterway) to produce a plan similar to a Water Resource Protection Plan as defined in Section I.B. #4, 6 & 8 of the Water Board Waiver (Order No. 2015-0023). These elements would serve to improve water quality while imposing little burden on operators.

These elements, and their potential benefit, are described below:

Detailed list of Specific Management Conditions Designed to Meet Standard Conditions: The Water Board waiver contains a list of conditions that all sites must meet. However, only Tier 2 and 3 sites need to develop a plan on how to meet these conditions. We believe it is important that all sites consider how thy will meet these conditions. As with the water use plan, we believe that this “look before you leap” strategy will improve water quality conditions by requiring farmers to consider how they will address erosion control, stream crossings, riparian protection, road construction, spoils storage and disposal, chemical handling and management, waste disposal, irrigation runoff, and water storage and use.

Maintain List of Chemicals on Property: The NCRWQCB waiver does not require Tier 1 operations to maintain a list of chemicals kept on property and a record of their use, as it does for Tiers 2 and 3. All operations larger than 500 feet should be required to maintain such a document. We believe this will reduce pesticide usage on non-cannabis crops/property and reduce risk of cross-contamination of cannabis associated with pesticide drift.

Water Use Plan and Documentation: We believe that a water use plan and documentation is critically important for all operations greater than 500 sq. ft. for multiple reasons. A water use plan requires farmers to “look before they leap.” Pursuant to the Water Board waiver, a water use plan requires cultivators to “describe water conservation measures and document approach to ensure that the quantity and timing of water use.” In doing so, farmers will be able to more realistically predict their anticipated water needs and to plan for conservation measures at the outset. We believe that the inclusion of such planning requirements will result in better watershed conditions and a reduced likelihood of water diversions to supplement or “top off” stored water. Similarly, water use plan would discourage use of expensive and environmentally-costly trucked water by encouraging greater foresight into water sources, application rates, and amount stored. Water use plans would also provide better information on the amount of water actually used in cannabis cultivation on the North Coast and the sources for this water. Per the Water Board waiver, a water use plan “shall record water source, relevant water right documentation, and amount used monthly,” including “alternative sources such as rain catchment and groundwater, and/or hauled water.” With increased information, the county may be able to revise the ordinance in the future to better fit actual conditions on the ground.

Regulations and Stringency of Review Should Correspond with Relative Risks to the Environment:

The stringency of site-specific review—whether conditional use permit, special conditional permit, or zoning clearance certificate—should correspond to the relative risk of the operation. While numerous metrics may influence a farm’s potential risk, the clearest and easiest metric on which to base review of individual operations is based on cultivated areas, the perimeter around disturbed ground. As stated by the Water Board, “Size of cultivation areas is a relevant indicator of threat to water quality because level of threat is proportional to the area of disturbed or exposed soil, the amount of water used, the potential for storm water runoff, and the potential for groundwater impacts.” (Response to Public Comments at 13). It is unclear whether the initial county draft bases its site categories on cultivated area or canopy size. We urge the county to clearly define cultivated area to be consistent with the Water Board waiver: “Cultivation area: the sum of the area(s) of cannabis cultivation and/or operations with similar environmental effects as measured around the perimeter of each discrete cultivation area of a single parcel of land.” (Waiver at 6, n. 9)

We suggested the following tier structure for “Outdoor” and “Mixed Light” cultivation:

Cultivated Area Permit Type
500–5,000 sq. ft. Zoning Clearance Certificate
5,000–10,000 sq. ft. Conditional Special Permit
10,000+ Conditional Use Permit

 

We advocate for a graduated system of site-specific review based on the relative risks. This serves two critical purposes.

First, it allows emphasis of greater site-specific attention to operations with greater risk potential. It allows limited staff resources—particularly given the lack of a funding mechanism—be directed more towards operations with greater potential risk. Additionally, it preserves for the Planning Commission review over operations with the greatest risk, those over 10,000 sq. ft., while still allowing site-specific review by the Planning Commission for operations between 5,001-10,000 sq. ft. if staff or neighbors feel that such additional site-specific scrutiny is warranted.

Second, it promotes smaller operations. In our discussions with CCVH, other cannabis advocacy groups, and individual farmers, they have expressed that there is a strong view within the cannabis community that conditional use permits are overly-burdensome. We suggest that requiring a conditional use permit may be an incentive for cultivators to either reduce their operations below 10,000 sq. ft. or to not expand their operations above 10,000 sq. ft.

The current county draft does not provide any incentive for smaller operations. Under the draft county ordinance, a person growing cannabis on 2,001 sq. ft. and a person growing on 43,560 sq. ft. would both need a conditional use permit. If a cultivator would need to go through the hassle and public affair of a conditional use permit, what incentive is there to stay small?

Cannabis Processing Plan

In addition to these size requirements, more stringent review should be given for facilities that process large amounts of cannabis—so-called “trim scenes.” Cannabis processing requires large numbers of workers and the work, unlike outdoor cultivation, stretches into late fall to winter. The increased number of workers and the prolonged season invites greater potential environmental risks not mitigated by the Water Board waiver. Large numbers of workers require sanitation facilities connected to an adequate septic system or sewer system to avoid issues of sewage seepage into groundwater and surface water. Additionally, large numbers of workers can impact sedimentation by the prolonged heavy use of dirt roads, often into the wet weather season.

For all operations larger than 5,001 sq. ft., the amount a “mom and pop” farm can reasonably process without significant hired help, the county should require as a condition a “cannabis processing plan.” This plan would either detail where off-site the farm will take its cannabis to be processed or, if processing on-site, will show that it has adequate facilities (hand washing stations, restrooms connected to adequate septic systems or sewer lines, ventilation and heating) to support workers in a safe environment while not otherwise contributing to environmental risks. .

Discourage Cultivation on Timber Production Zone:

As EPIC wrote in an op-ed in the Eureka Times-Standard:

Forests are important to California. Not only do they provide us humans with jobs, wood products, and recreation, they also provide important habitat for California’s rare and native species, like the Humboldt marten and the northern spotted owl; fight climate change by sequestering carbon; and help to supply clean, cool water. But our forests are at risk. Increased forest fragmentation — the breaking of large intact tracts of forests into smaller clumps — is driven by the desire to make way for new residences or commercial ventures by clearing forest land. And further fragmentation poses a serious threat to the values our forests provide.

To promote the conservation of California’s forested landscape, in 1976 the state ordered counties to identify forestlands where timber management is the “highest and best use of the land” and categorize them as Timber Production Zones or TPZ. By law, use of TPZ land is restricted to timber harvesting and other “compatible uses” — those activities, as defined county-by-county, that do not “detract from the use of the property for, or inhibit, growing and harvesting timber.” In exchange for limiting the uses of TPZ land, and knowing that sustainable timber management is not a “get rich quick” scheme, the state offers TPZ landowners significant breaks on property taxes.

While EPIC is opposed to commercial cannabis production on TPZ, we believe to a large degree that the cat is out of the bag. It exists now and in large numbers. EPIC estimates that approximately 25 percent of cannabis farms in Humboldt County are on TPZ. We do not believe it is likely that banning these operations would actually cause them to leave. (Despite being federally illegal, against state law, and in violation of county zoning codes, many farms have existed on TPZ for decades.) Rather, for existing operations, it is more important to bring them into the regulatory fold. We believe that many operations on TPZ will voluntarily participate in regulatory programs, such as the Water Board waiver, and in doing so, many of the impacts associated with these operations will be minimized or mitigated.

As such, we believe that existing operations on TPZ should be allowed to participate under the same Standard Conditions of Approval as all other specifically enumerated zones in which general agriculture is permitted. New operations, by contrast, should be prohibited on TPZ.

Large Operations Should Be Located on AG Use Districts

EPIC supports the first draft’s requirement that all operations larger than 10,000 sq. ft. be located on “parcels over 5 acres in AG Use districts with Class I or II soils, on slopes of 15% or less, and with documented current water right or other non-diversionary source of water.” These lands are the most appropriate for commercial agriculture and will present the lowest risk for large operations.

Cannabis Land Use Ordinance Should Not Be Used as Vehicle for Other Code Enforcement:

The first draft cannabis land use ordinance requires that “violations of any building or other healthy, safety, or other state or county state, ordinance, or regulation” by abated or cured no later than “one (1) year after the date of the issuance of the clearance or permit.” (§ 55.4.11). We believe that it is inappropriate to use this clearance/permit program to enforce other code issues. While EPIC believes that code enforcement is important and serves environmental values, we are concerned that the inclusion of this provision would discourage participation in this ordinance and other regulations, such as the Water Board waiver. EPIC believes that maximum participation is important to minimize environmental impacts; unnecessary obstacles which keep farmers in the shadows will only cause further environmental harm.

* * *

EPIC is deeply committed to finding solutions that will meaningfully improve environmental conditions by fostering voluntary participation and compliance by the cannabis community. Should you have any questions, please contact me at (707) 822-7711 or Natalynne@wildcalifornia.org.

Natalynne DeLapp

Executive Director

Additional comment letters:

Click here to read EPIC’s comment letter to California Cannabis Voice Humboldt on July 30, 2015.

Click here to read the Environmental Coalition’s comment letter to California Cannabis Voice Humboldt September 2, 2015.

Click here to read, “Existing North Coast Cultivators Come Into Compliance” September 29, 2015. 


Existing North Coast Cannabis Cultivators: Come into Compliance

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015
By

PotleafEPIC applauds the Humboldt County Supervisors for their decision to begin drafting a large-scale medical marijuana land use ordinance that will comply with the new California state laws and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s water quality order. Local control is critical for our future; we must develop land-use policies that reflect our values such as the protection of forests, families, fish and farmers.

By moving a local land-use ordinance forward, the county is taking the initial steps toward ensuring existing farmers are allowed to come into compliance with the new laws and become part of legitimate society. The first step in this process is to address “existing cultivators.” The goal should be to bring as many cultivators, including those cultivating on Timber Production Zone (TPZ) who are willing to take immediate action to ensure baseline environmental standards are met, into compliance—to be treated as responsible and legitimate business owners. After the county gets a handle on existing cultivation, it can then, begin to address, if, how and where it should allow any new cultivation areas.

EPIC does not support the further conversion of working forests for commercial agriculture, or residential development, because it threatens our vision of creating a well connected, healthy and restored forest ecosystem. When addressing the Humboldt County Supervisors and California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) EPIC recommended that an ordinance address existing cultivation, and remove language from the law/ordinance that would explicitly allow future cultivation on TPZ lands.

Existing Humboldt County TPZ landowners, who are cultivating, need to initiate the permitting process with the North Coast Water Board—the current deadline for enrollment is February 15, 2016. The new county regulations will require compliance with the Water Board and Department of Fish & Wildlife regulations—now is the time to get started. The state’s new laws require licenses from local jurisdictions.

We are entering a new era in our collective history. We need to work together to ensure systems are in place to stop further environmental damage, provide clear lines for what is and is not acceptable and create a safe-harbor for willing cultivators to come into compliance. I believe it is possible that Humboldt County can have both—protected and restored watersheds and well-regulated, salmon-safe cannabis farms—do you?

For more information and to read the new California laws and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s waiver, click here.


Humboldt County: It is High Time to Regulate Cannabis!

Monday, September 14th, 2015
By
frog on marijuana

Photo credit: Kym Kemp

Update: On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion directing County Counsel to develop a medical marijuana ordinance in compliance with state law to be effective no later than March 1, 2016; the Supervisor’s Ad Hoc Committee will work to develop a framework for a county Cannabis Commission; and a local taxation measure will be on the Humboldt County ballot as soon as June 2016 or no later than November 2016.

Local control is critical for our future. Humboldt County must take initiative to develop its own land use ordinance to regulate the number, size, and location of operations for commercial cannabis cultivation that fits the specific needs of our forests, fish, farmers and families.

Now is the time, the momentum is here. On Friday, the State of California provided the first ever comprehensive framework to regulate commercial cannabis cultivation. This is huge and much needed, but a work in progress. The new laws will provide clear rules within two years, allow for cultivation of up to one acre of cannabis, and focus on the licensing processes for commercial sales, which includes a requirement for local permitting. Additionally, in August, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issued its groundbreaking water quality order, the first regulation by a California state agency designed to address environmental impacts from cannabis cultivation. However, because the regulation was developed by the Water Board, the order only explicitly focuses on water quality issues.

These are monumental steps taken at the behest of cannabis farmers and many others to transition the industry from underground to legitimate. For nearly two decades, since cultivation for medical use was decriminalized, there have been very few rules and regulations to govern what activities are and are not acceptable. Cannabis production increased dramatically, particularly in the last 5 years, where watersheds in Northern California have seen increases in area under production ranging from 55% to over 100%. And because there are no external incentives to improve practices and because law enforcement does not appear to discriminate between good and bad growers, there is a perverse incentive: go real fast, go real big, and take the chance that you’re not going to get caught.

Humboldt County needs to put its own plan in place before we allow more development in our already over allocated watersheds. Because existing and reasonably foreseeable future regulations from the state do not solve our problems, we need to act locally. A county land use ordinance has the potential to regulate the number, size, and location of operations.

The Water Board order provides a good template to base a land use ordinance for Humboldt County. The Water Board framework provides the necessary carrot and stick to bring an industry, which has historically existed only by breaking the law, to come into compliance with the law. Growers who fail to comply with the order will face stiff civil penalties while growers who comply with the regulation will shift from regulatory targets (“red dots”) to being largely left alone (“green dots”). Furthermore, looking forward, compliance with state and local laws will be one of the criteria that the state considers when granting potentially lucrative growing licenses. Such a framework, which provides incentives for farmers to come into compliance and address the damage that our community is suffering in the absence of appropriate environmental regulation and enforcement.

It is imperative that cultivators begin the process of coming into compliance with the NCRWCQB’s order before February 6, 2016.

California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) has led the most recent effort in Humboldt County to advance the creation of a land-use ordinance that focuses on protecting small cannabis farmers. One of the guiding priorities for CCVH in crafting their ordinance was to create a regulatory structure which made sense to the average cannabis farmer, providing clear rules and a structure that would encourage compliance.

The CCVH ordinance rightly focuses on permitting existing operations, ensuring that those folks who are already members of our community have an opportunity to come out of the shadows. Focusing on current operations also establishes a baseline to slow or stop the green rush; new operations above a significant threshold would require a conditional use permit, a process whereby the impact from an additional operation can be scrutinized before any plants are in the ground.

EPIC had previously taken issue with the CCVH ordinance, particularly a portion of the ordinance that could encourage further forest fragmentation through opening land zoned as “timber production zones” or TPZ to commercial cannabis cultivation. As part of CCVH’s public comment period for their draft ordinance, EPIC submitted substantial comments. EPIC, the Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt Baykeeper and S.A.F.E. submitted additional recommendations aimed at addressing permitting and licensing for existing operations and mitigating ongoing environmental impacts of the cannabis industry to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

This began a productive dialogue between EPIC and CCVH. Through numerous meetings, calls, emails, and text messages we discussed our vision for Northern California’s forests and farms and realized that our principles were not far apart.

On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, CCVH turns their hard work over to the Humboldt Board of Supervisors along with a series of recommendations. The Board, having received the ordinance language, can run with the baton, sending it through the necessary internal and public review. The Board, which has previously dragged its feet on cannabis regulation due to a lack of clarity from the State, will hopefully feel a greater charge from the public to see this ordinance to completion in an expeditious manner.

To be successful, a local land use ordinance must:

  • Stop the “Green Rush.” This is the exploitation mentality of people who have flocked to the region looking to make fast money regardless of the environmental and social consequences of their activities.
  • Create a safe haven for existing cultivators who want to come into compliance, without fear of persecution.
  • Protect Humboldt County’s small-scale, salmon safe, sun-grown, artisanal cannabis farmers.
  • Provide clear lines as to what activities are and are not acceptable.
  • Prevent and mitigate the negative environmental impacts associated with cannabis cultivation.
  • Halt the further fragmentation and conversion of our working forests for commercial agriculture.
  • Mandate that all water used for cannabis cultivation be stored, with no
    surface water diversions between May 15 and October 31* (this date is based on the NCWQCB’s new order).
  • Create a tax-system for farmers to be able to contribute financially to society.
  • Protect Humboldt County from a future filled with Big Tobacco-owned mega-grows.
  • Restore damaged watersheds and watershed function.
  • Provide adequate funding resources to inspect, enforce, and remediate cultivation areas.

Passage of a land use ordinance is not the end but the beginning. After California legalizes recreational cannabis, the regulatory landscape will become even clearer. A future local land use ordinance that addresses new cannabis cultivation and cultivation for recreational purposes will be necessary. We must remember that regulations and laws are not going to be perfect the first time around and that adaptive management strategies must be employed. The community must work together to provide feedback to agencies and elected officials as the implementation of the new rules are seen to either be effective or ineffective. Through all these steps, EPIC will be there to work with anyone or any group who is sincere in promoting environmentally responsible cannabis cultivation.

Click here to read the California Bills: AB243, AB266 and SB643.

* The staff at EPIC believe that all water used for any commercial agriculture should be stored and not diverted from surface waters during the dry season.


Thank You Jared Huffman!

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
By

HuffmanEPIC would like to thank Representative Jared Huffman for his outstanding work on environmental issues affecting Northern California. Huffman has a long history of championing environmental causes. Prior to serving California’s Second Congressional District, he worked as an environmental attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Since first being elected in 2012, Representative Huffman has:

  • Protected Humboldt County’s water rights from encroachment from Central Valley irrigators;
  • Expanded the California Coastal National Monument off the Mendocino coast;
  • Fought trespass marijuana grows in public forestlands; and
  • Defended the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from development.

For these things, and many more, EPIC is thankful. Help us thank Representative Huffman by calling his D.C. office at (202) 225-5161 and telling him to continue the good fight!


Growing Green Workshop Interview with Dave Feral of Mad River Alliance

Friday, April 11th, 2014
By

Dave FeralThis interview with Dave Feral of Mad River Alliance gives an overview of the Green Growers Workshop, which will be held at the Arcata Theatre Lounge on Saturday, April 26 from 11am-5pm. The workshop is designed to provide farmers with the tools necessary to use best management practices in a time when our scarce water resources must be utilized in the most sustainable manner possible because the health of our watersheds and communities depend on it.

What was the impetus for the Mad River Alliance working to organize this workshop?

Mad River Alliance organized the Growing Green in 2014 Best Management Practices Workshop because cumulative negative impacts of human land use occurs in almost every watershed across the North Coast including the Mad River.  These negative impacts are not necessary, and with the use of best management practices and adaptive management, we believe the majority of these negative impacts can be reduced or eliminated.

Important land management topics covered in the workshop are: water conservation, erosion control & road management, pest control without poison, soil and amendments, legal compliance, and how to take action to reduce potential threats to watershed health.

What are the specific stresses to the Mad River watershed that you are most hoping can be alleviated by the workshop? 

The three main stressors affecting the Mad River watershed are: excess sediment, high water temperatures, and limited tributary connectivity due to reduced flows. Other stressors that may contribute to watershed degradation include: use of pesticides, rodenticides, herbicides, excess fertilizers, and other chemical amendments.

The Mad River is a 500 square mile watershed listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as sediment impaired. A current sediment source analysis show that over 60% of that sediment comes from roads.  The Mad River watershed has over 2,000 miles of gravel road, much of which, due to lack of funding, neglect, or little oversight, has been poorly planned and under-managed, causing un-natural rates of erosion, which further aggravates our presently sediment impaired river. As Tom Leroy of Pacific Watershed Associates explains: “There are two property site locations where erosion occurs most frequently but can be controlled with proper planning, construction, and maintenance: (1) roads and skid trails, (2) landings and building pads.”  Tom will be sharing his expertise at the Growing Green in 2014 workshop on April 26th.

The Mad River was also listed by the EPA as temperature impaired in 2006.  The mainstem Mad River receives its year round water supply from 40 tributaries, and also receives augmented summer water flows from Matthews Dam at Ruth Lake, 84 miles upstream of the river mouth.  Though it may be beneficial to have water released from the dam, the dam water slowly heats up due to hot inland air temperatures. It is essential for water temperatures to be maintained below 68 degrees Fahrenheit or it becomes difficult for salmonids and other aquatic wildlife to survive.  Some of the factors that affect water temperature of the mainstem Mad River include: amount of riparian canopy cover, ambient air temperature, cool water infiltration and tributary flow.  The water session of the Growing Green in 2014 workshop is designed to help landowners learn the actions necessary to keep our river flowing cool!

Recent human development in the mid and upper sections of the Mad River watershed seem to have compromised the historic flow conditions for many tributaries.  It is estimated that the flows from tributaries of the Mad are reduced by up to 25% and many small creeks that once flowed in the summer are now dry or reduced to just a trickle during the dry season due to water diversions and landscape changes.

Permaculture expert Dan Mar explains: Water is an infinite resource that regulates atmospheric temperatures, shapes the Earth’s surface, passes through every living creature, transports nutrients, and creates spectacular visual displays. However, within constructed environments and land-use practices water has become a utility which makes it a finite resource. An integrated design approach reduces overall project cost, reduces maintenance, increases yields, and protects environmental integrity.”  Dan will share his a 4-tier approach to designing an integrated water system for rural growing environments that reduces the need for stream or river diversions.

Conventional Rodent Control is another potential threat to Mad River and other watersheds across the North Coast. As one of our speakers Brad Job points out: Many pesticides do not readily break down when released into the environment and tend to bio-concentrate or bio-magnify in predatory fish and animals. The most contentious pesticide lately is brodifacoum, which is the active ingredient in most common brands of rodenticide. Brodifacoum was clearly tied to excess mortality of Pacific fishers by Dr. Mourad Gabriel in 2011. Brodifacoum is chemically similar to its commercial predecessor, warfarin, except that it is much more persistent in the environment. These and similar chemicals prevent coagulation of blood and cause exposed animals to hemorrhage internally and die. Due to the persistence of rodenticides, a healthy red-tailed hawk, which can consume over 10,000 rodents in a lifetime, can be killed by consuming one or two rodents poisoned by brodifacoum. Over 25 non-target species have been inadvertently killed by ingesting rodenticides. For this reason, any means of rodent trapping, repelling, or avoidance is preferable to the use of rodenticides.”  Brad Job and Kristin Nevendal will be sharing their expertise on the cumulative negative impacts of conventional rodent and pest control, and inform workshop participants of ways to manage these pests without causing harm to the environment.

Are best management practices a long-term solution, an attempt to make some immediate change, or some mixture of the two?

Some best management practices do show both short and long-term gain, for example:  improvement on a road system can reduce sediment delivery in the first year, and in total road decommissioning entire slopes can re-stabilize to reduce sediment inputs almost entirely. However, some results are variable, and that is why adaptive management and reviews of BMP’s are a crucial component to any best management plan.

Who are the workshop presenters and what kind of material will they cover?

Presenters include:

Hezekiah Allen  HAllenBorn and raised in Southern Humboldt County. He has a deep understanding of the environmental challenges facing the North Coast. He works with several local non-profits as a tireless advocate for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of our regions forests, water, and fisheries. He recently worked as the Executive Director of the Mattole Restoration Council, an organization in Southern Humboldt County with more than thirty years of experience in community based watershed restoration.  Hezekiah was part of the team that developed the widely distributed best practices guide for Northern California farmers. 

Neal Latt  NLattNeal is an attorney focusing on land use, property law, water rights, marijuana defense and local compliance issues.  Prior to practicing law, he was an organic farmer for fifteen years, producing eighty tons of mixed vegetables a year from atop a ten acre riverbar in Orleans.  He can be reached at Mathews, Kluck, Walsh & Wykle, LLP, 442-3758, across from the Carson Mansion in Old Town, Eureka.

LJobLeonard (Brad) Job, P. E. (CA Lic. #C55699)  Brad received his BS in Environmental Resources Engineering from HSU in 1993. His past occupations include worker on his family’s cotton farm in TX; photographer for the US Navy and the North Coast Journal; student researcher on climate change at Battle – Pacific Northwest Laboratories; and water/earth/mud related engineering for the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, Geomatrix Consultants, and the Arcata Public Works Department. For most of the last 12 years he has worked in the BLM Arcata Field Office as a general civil engineer. His current professional interests are surface and subsurface hydrology; water and sediment pollution; and stewardship of public lands, water resources, and wilderness areas.

TLeroyTom Leroy  M.S., P.G., Associate Geologist, Tom specializes in watershed analysis and erosion control, Holocene stratigraphy, and coastal geomorphology. His experience with Quaternary geology and geomorphology studies also includes Seismic hazard assessment, neotectonics, landslide and sediment source inventory, and environmental restoration.

RLindermanDr. Robert Linderman  A retired Research Plant Pathologist and former Research Leader at the USDA-ARS Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon.  An Emeritus Courtesy Professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University. He has conducted research on diseases of  nursery and other horticultural crops for over 45 years, emphasizing the epidemiology and control of soilborne fungal plant pathogens, and the biology and application of beneficial microorganisms, especially mycorrhizal fungi and antagonistic and other plant growth-enhancing rhizobacteria. Currently he is Plant Pathologist and Founder/Owner of Plant Health, LLC, His research projects are focused on the development of technology needed to provide microbial/organic products to enhance crop plant growth and health. 

DMarDan Mar  Lives locally with his wife on a quarter acre suburban homestead and is the owner of High Tide Permaculture, a regenerative land-use design company specializing in rainwater catchment, harvesting and mitigation, suburban homesteads and edible forest gardens.  He is a retired high school science teacher and founder of the Cultural and Ecological Stewards Program which works with teachers and administrators to provide middle and high school students with cross-curricular learning opportunities while developing leadership skills through the design, implementation and maintenance of campus-wide systems.  Dan is an instructor for permaculture design courses with Klamath Knot Permaculture as well as workshops throughout the state.

KNevedalKristin Nevedal  Kristin is a co-founder and board chair of the Emerald Growers Association whose mission is to promote the medicinal, environmental, social, and economic benefits of lawfully cultivated sun-grown medical cannabis from California’s Emerald Triangle region by advocating for public policies that foster a healthy, sustainable medical cannabis industry.  A longtime Humboldt County resident and homesteader, she has spent over 15 years specializing in organic no till farming techniques, non-toxic disease and pest management, agricultural compliance, and nursery operations. Kristin’s broad policy and advocacy experience also includes serving as a board member for the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR), Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM), and Americans for Safe Access’s Patient Focused Certification Program, and the 420 Archives.

 Workshop Presentations

 

What are you doing to be sure that this important information can be available to folks who can’t make the April 26 workshop? 

The Growing Green in 2014 workshop was inspired by the Northern California Farmers Guide to Best Management Practices, which is available as a free down load here: http://www.treesfoundation.org/BestPracticesGuide_2014.pdf.

There really is no substitute for the physical workshop, especially for people who learn through experience this is a great component that shouldn’t be missed.  We do hope to develop an educational program that can be repeated in the future at other locations.  If your watershed could use a workshop similar to this one we encourage you to contact us at www.madriverallianc@suddenlink.net.

What are your next steps after this workshop for addressing the impacts of the demands on the Mad River of expanding agriculture activities?

More outreach and education to those who may not be on board yet will be an ongoing part of Mad River Alliance’s plan.  We hope to work with landowners for as long as it takes to help them understand why following suggested best practices will help reduce cumulative negative impacts in the watershed.

Knowledge is not really power, as much as it is a responsibility and I have faith that most people want to do the right thing once they are aware of what that is.  As the State of California moves toward legalization, the market and regulation may play a role in determining land practices.  As consumers learn more about the positive side to growing green, they will most likely prefer a product that is watershed friendly, and we will continue to encourage any movement in that direction.

What is your ideal outcome from this effort?

Ideally, for the Mad River watershed, the people, and the planet, the majority of North Coast agriculturalists will adopt these suggested best management practices and over time these workshops will become routine annual updates on the most recent practice improvements. Over time we hope improved management practices will keep our tributaries flowing, our aquatic wildlife populations thriving, and our rivers ecology in balance.

The immediate goal is to use this year as a learning year and build from here, and by 2016 we should have a full educational program that reaches across the state to the array of key players providing them with tools and management practices to live and work in balance with the environment they choose to live and work in.

Any last words about this workshop?

In the end, it comes down to each person choosing what kind of world they want to live in.  Do we choose a world that may require a little bit more physical work and allows room for the widest array of biological diversity possible?  We hope so.  The Growing Green in 2014 Best Management Workshop is our attempt to help those that want to do the best they can to reduce negative impacts to our environment and continue to live and grow in these sensitive, beautiful, life giving watersheds.

MRA growing green 2014-FINAL-print

 


EPIC Joins 67 Groups to Urge California to Ban Super Toxic Rat Poison

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
By

poisonOver 11,000 Comments Warn of Risks to Wildlife, Pets and People. 

A Coalition of 67 conservation, environmental justice, public health, worker’s rights and sustainable farming groups joined more than 11,000 Californians in submitting comments today urging the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to ban super-toxic rat and mouse poisons. These highly toxic rodenticides — known as “second-generation anticoagulants” — have been linked to the poisonings of wildlife, pets and children. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has proposed reducing consumer use of super-toxic rodenticides while simultaneously increasing their use by certified pest-control specialists.

“Iconic wildlife like the golden eagle, endangered San Joaquin kit fox and many others are literally bleeding to death from the ‘worst of the worst’ poisons on the market,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are safe, cost-effective options readily available that don’t threaten the health of our children and indiscriminately kill wildlife.”

The harm to wildlife is widespread. Researchers at the University of California found second-generation anticoagulants in 70 percent of the mammals and 68 percent of the birds they examined. Wildlife officials have documented poisonings in numerous animals, including raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons and owls), bobcats, mountain lions and endangered wildlife such as the San Joaquin kit fox and Pacific fisher.

“These super-toxic rat poisons are a completely unnecessary hazard for children and families when better, safer alternatives for rodent control exist to address current and future infestations,” said Medha Chandra, campaign coordinator for Pesticide Action Network. “The best fix for rodent problems is to address the underlying environmental and deficient housing conditions that give them access to food, water and shelter — the things that attracts them in the first place.”

Data from state pesticide regulators and the federal Environmental Protection Agency document that approximately 15,000 children under age six are accidentally exposed to rat poisons each year across the country. The EPA says children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to the poisons. Thousands of incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides have been reported, many resulting in serious injury or death.

But the powerful poisons have their greatest impact on wildlife.

“The most remote corners of our public wildlands are being contaminated with super-toxic poisons due to their use in egregious trespass marijuana grow operations,” said Gary Graham Hughes of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “It is imperative for our endangered wildlife that these dangerous materials are removed from the market as soon as possible.”

“California’s proposal to limit retail sales is a good starting point,” said Cynthia Palmer, pesticides program manager at American Bird Conservancy. “But unless stronger action is taken, owls, eagles and household pets will continue to die when they prey on sickened and disoriented rats and mice — a sad and tragic fate for wildlife and pets alike.”

A separate coalition of nonprofit organizations, municipalities, businesses and scientists formed the Safe Rodent Control Coalition earlier this year to promote effective, affordable rodent-control strategies that protect children, pets and wildlife. Effective alternatives include rodent-proofing of homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes in rural areas to encourage natural predation; and utilizing traps that don’t involve these highly toxic chemicals.

Background
Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants — including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum — are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate at many times the lethal dose in their tissues, which subsequently results in the poisoning of animals that feed on their carcasses.

The exposure and harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread. Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wildlife species in California alone, including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows.

California’s action follows steps at the national and local level. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to ban hazardous d-CON rat and mouse poisons nationwide after d-CON refused to remove super-toxic rodenticides from the residential market. Sixteen California jurisdictions have also passed resolutions urging the public and pest control operators to avoid the most harmful rodent poisons. Those jurisdictions include San Francisco, Marin County, Berkeley, Richmond, Albany, Emeryville, El Cerrito, Belmont, San Anselmo, Brisbane, Foster City, Malibu, Whittier, Fairfax, Calabasas and Humboldt County.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Pesticide Action Network North America (PAN North America, or PANNA) works to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries, and native species in Northern California.


Unsustainable Cannabis Agriculture Practices Must Come to an End

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
By

x8bc240c1e4f6833428931f0180deb17f.jpg.pagespeed.ic.LNAV32JBmQAn undeniable point of fact is that industrial cannabis agriculture is having an increasingly quantifiable affect on local and global environments. EPIC is committed to contributing to a level headed engagement on this complex and important human economic activity on the North Coast, with the goal of contributing to the design and implementation of solutions that respect civil liberties as well as protect human and natural communities from the environmental degradation that can be associated with industrial grows. EPIC is engaging on this issue under the fundamental premise that the development of policy regarding marijuana on both a national and local level must take environmental ramifications into consideration in order that a sane, healthy, and ecologically sustainable marijuana agriculture paradigm be established. As a part of this effort, the following letter from EPIC was published this week in the Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino weekly newspapers.

To the Editor:

This letter is intended to serve as a public statement about marijuana agriculture in Northern California on behalf of EPIC -the Environmental Protection Information Center. Our organization wants to be clear about unsustainable and destructive practices associated with the marijuana industry. Cannabis obviously has the potential to contribute in a positive way to a viable and diversified local economy that does not degrade the natural qualities and authentic rural culture of our bioregion. Due to the egregious behavior of an increasing number of irresponsible cannabis growers, the positive potential of this industry is being squandered.

Based upon the information we have seen in media reports, the enforcement actions on Tuesday, Aug. 27 on Mattole Canyon Creek near Ettersburg exemplified the position of several conservation groups in our area that authorities must focus their marijuana enforcement actions on those operations that result in environmental crimes such as this one. The scale of the operation and the audacity of the water withdrawal, a result of what seems to be an absence of winter water storage, is very worrisome, in that it must be only one example of environmentally degrading operations under way in watersheds around the region. The apparent absolute abuse of scarce water resources is the type of practice that merits legal and media attention. Clearly, pumping water directly from a watercourse at this date, and in these unprecedented dry climatological conditions, is to cause serious harm to aquatic systems, including a variety of endangered species. This is completely unsustainable, and is a violation of the most basic fundaments of a stewardship based land ethic.

Responsible economic activity is a cornerstone to protecting our environment. For instance, EPIC has never been an organization that was opposed to logging per se. EPIC has always advocated for the establishment of a wood products industry that treats the landscape with care, that protects irreplaceable native ecosystems, and that democratizes economic opportunity. We advocate in the same vein around cannabis agriculture: unsustainable practices must come to an end, and responsible operations that promote the restoration of our watersheds must become the norm. EPIC hopes that a frank and open debate will arise of enforcement actions such as those carried out on Mattole Canyon Creek last week, in order that our community responds in an integrated and responsible manner to these behaviors that are putting our environment, our economy, and our future generations at risk.


Stop Pollution Pot—Ban Super Toxic Rat Poisons

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
By

dconTake Action.  An explosion in cannabis agriculture activity on the North Coast of California has resulted in a higher degree of public understanding of the dangers of rat poison. On repeated occasions large amounts of rat poison have been found at damaging marijuana grow sites; the poisons have been cause for concern most especially in grow operations established in the remote and wild reaches of our National Forest lands. There is growing evidence of the horrible impact of the use of these super toxic poisons in trespass marijuana grow operations, and how they are killing endangered species. Closer to home these poisons can kill wildlife, and present mortal harm to our children and families.

Following the lead of community members, EPIC has been a part of organic and locally based organizing efforts advocating for a voluntary commitment by retailers and residents to ban the sale and use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. We know that voluntary action may not be enough, but we also know that people acting together is where real change originates. The environmental harms associated with poorly managed marijuana agriculture are having an indisputable impact on natural and human communities on the North Coast. Taking action through securing the passage of a resolution from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that urges residents and storeowners to halt usage and sales of these poisons was a great community success. The passage of the resolution this past spring was effective in bringing people from different walks of life together to send a message to the public and to policy makers about the urgent need to eliminate these poisons from our rural residences and working places.

The public has learned that it is not only in producing nasty Pollution Pot (poorly planned and egregiously operated grow operations, often associated with thoughtless road building and clearing of land, the use of pesticides, and the abuse of scarce and invaluable public trust water resources) that these poisons are being used. The fact is that these poisons have become a widespread and common danger in residential, agricultural, and industrial workplaces across Northwest California—and yet there are a multitude of safe alternatives for rodent control, including natural predators. We don’t have to poison our families and wildlife to live and work in rural Northwest California.

Right now you have an opportunity to ask the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to protect our wildlife, pets, and children by banning super-toxic rat poisons. Take action today!

UNDERSTANDING RAT POISON AND HOW IT CAN AFFECT YOU

Widespread use of rodenticides is resulting in unintended poisoning of children, pets and wildlife. Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) work by interfering with normal blood clotting and result in a slow agonizing death by internal bleeding.

These poisons are often referred to as “super toxics” and they pose an unreasonable risk to non-target species. Between 1999 and 2009, the American Association of Poison Control Centers documented 160 severe domestic animal incidents each year and an average of 17,000 human rodenticide exposures each year, approximately 85 percent of which occurred in children younger than six.

SGARs harm numerous different types of wildlife in California. Studies show that more than 70 percent of wildlife tested in California has been exposed to SGARs. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, documented animals harmed by rodenticides since 1994 include the coyote, gray fox, San Joaquin kit fox, raccoon, fox squirrel, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, mountain lion, black bear, Hermann’s kangaroo rat, bald eagle, golden eagle, Canada goose, great-horned owl, barn owl, red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, turkey vulture and wild turkey.  Since animals typically retreat to their dens, burrows or other hiding places in the final stages of anticoagulant poisoning, the number of non-target wildlife killed by these compounds is likely to be much greater than we know.

In our region, law enforcement has found numerous industrial marijuana grow sites located on public lands with thousands of plants and large quantities of super toxics. Non-target species such as the fisher, which is a prime candidate for protections under the Endangered Species Act, are being found dead near these industrial grow operations with lethal doses of SGARs in their system.  A study authored by Mourad Gabriel found that almost 80 percent of fishers found dead by researchers between 2006 and 2011 had been exposed to high levels of SGARs.

EPIC has joined forces with the Safe Rodent Control Coalition to address safety concerns for SGARs and to ban the use of SGARs in California. The bottom line is that these super toxics are unnecessary and obsolete. There are too many serious risks associated with their use, and plenty of cost effective alternatives to address rodent infestations.

Please click here to take action now and ask the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to ban “super toxic” second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides in California.


EPIC Supports Proposed Federal PLANT Act As Step Toward Federal Cannabis Reform

Monday, August 19th, 2013
By

PotleafNorth Coast Environmental Groups Support Proposed Federal PLANT Act As Step Toward Federal Reform

North Coast environmental groups and coalitions representing more than 35,000 supporters have expressed supported for a proposed federal law targeting trespass marijuana grows in a letter to one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA).

“It’s important to recognize the severe environmental harms often associated with trespass marijuana grows on public lands, resource lands, and even smaller private parcels,” said Scott Greacen, director of Friends of the Eel River. “It’s not just semantics to describe these as ‘trespass’ grows rather than ‘cartel’ grows. Understanding a problem, using terms that accurately reflect the facts on the ground, is critical to effective policy.”

“This is only a significant step if it leads to deeper reforms,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of EPIC. “We hope bipartisan action leading to rapid passage of the PLANT Act can build broad support for policy changes that will truly abate and eliminate the harms associated with these trespass grows, as the most important thing the federal government can do at this point is to act responsibly and let the state regulate small-scale marijuana cultivation.”

The letter is supported by groups based in Trinity, Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties.

Click here to read the letter.


Northern Spotted Owl Achieves Candidacy Status Under California Endangered Species Act

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


EPIC to Participate in HSU Earthday Symposium to Examine Marijuana’s Environmental Impact

Monday, April 15th, 2013
By

USFS Marijuana GrowEPIC Collaborates with Humboldt State University Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research in Organizing 2013 Earthday Symposium on Industrial Cannabis Agriculture and the Environment

An undeniable point of fact is that industrial cannabis agriculture is having an increasingly quantifiable affect on local and global environments. In the United States there is a significant and worrisome increase in energy intensive and climate damaging indoor grow operations associated with the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana in a variety of states across the country. In Northwest California, both indoor and large scale outdoor grows are having more of an impact on public trust resources with every passing year. EPIC is engaging on this issue under the fundamental premise that the development of policy regarding marijuana on both a national and local level must take environmental ramifications into consideration in order that a sane, healthy, and ecologically sustainable marijuana agriculture paradigm be established. It is clear that marijuana agriculture, as with the flower bulb industry, wine and grape industry, the timber industry, the dairy industry, the tourism industry, and many other iconic North Coast economic motors, is here to stay; to plan otherwise is to ignore four decades of adaptation by an industry whose benefits, and costs, have had an undeniable impact on rural Northwest California.

EPIC is committed to contributing to a level headed engagement on this complex and important human economic activity on the North Coast, with the goal of contributing to the design and implementation of solutions that respect civil liberties as well as protect human and natural communities from the environmental degradation that can be associated with industrial grows. Cannabis agriculture on the North Coast of California has recently been gaining national attention due to the publicizing of graphic evidence describing large-scale egregious and destructive industrial cannabis agriculture operations that are putting decades of community based watershed restoration activities at risk. At the same time, state of the art rural residences featuring homesite grow operations demonstrate a high level of ecological literacy that integrates agricultural production with forward looking water conservation, forest management, and agricultural practices that exemplify core community values of land stewardship. With an increasingly acute tension between “Green Rush” growers looking to make a fast buck regardless of the environmental consequences of their activities and the many local residents committed to a healthy environment and sustainable cottage industry, our communities and our landscapes truly are in the balance.

To further this discussion, and with the intent of seeing regulatory frameworks for the cannabis industry be constructed upon the best available science in order to reduce and/or eliminate the negative environmental consequences of this economic activity, EPIC is honored to participate in the April 19-20 Earthday 2013 HSU Earthday Symposium on Marijuana and the Environment titled “Communities and Landscapes in the Balance: The Crossroads of Environmental Protection and Marijuana Agriculture.”

Stay tuned for more updates from EPIC on this critical issue, and check out the videos posted below from last October’s symposium at HSU.

HSU Press Release from Feb 14 2013:  HSU Forum Probes Marijuana’s Environmental Impact

This spring Humboldt State University will host its inaugural Earth Day Symposium on Marijuana and the Environment, centering on a key issue often ignored in mainstream analysis: marijuana’s environmental effects.

The first annual symposium, sponsored by HSU’s Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research (HIIMR) and the Department of Sociology, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20, in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Building and other campus locations to be announced later.

The two-day symposium is titled “Communities and Landscapes in the Balance: The Crossroads of Environmental Protection and Marijuana Agriculture.” It is outlined in full on the new HIIMR website (http://humboldt.edu/dee/hiimr/) and will comprise numerous panels, workshops and multimedia presentations. The symposium will bring together leading policymakers, grassroots environmental organizations, activists, scientists, students and community members.

Panelists will share their expertise about a broad spectrum of marijuana issues, including land use policy, water quality, forest degradation, northern California fish and wildlife protection and the climate damage inflicted nationwide by indoor grows.

Among the tentative topics to be addressed (subject to change) are:

  • Public Lands and Trespass Marijuana Grows — Prevention and Cures
  • Ecological Data – What We Know and What We Need to Know
  • Private Timberland Impacts: Trespass, Conversion and Solutions
  • Legislative Updates on Marijuana Policy and the Environmental Implications
  • Public Health Impacts of Smoking Toxic Weed
  • The Ecological Footprint of Indoor Marijuana Agriculture
  • Indigenous Land and the Marijuana Industrial Complex
  • Environmental Impacts and the Marijuana Industry: Worst-Case Scenarios
  • Threats to Fish from Marijuana Agriculture

“We expect the symposium to enhance the understanding of the many ways marijuana cultivation impacts the environment,” say HIIMR Co-Directors and Professors Erick Eschker and Joshua Meisel. “It also will contribute to California’s efforts to develop ecologically sound and economically sustainable policy.”

Registration is available online at http://humboldt.edu/dee/hiimr/.

Video from Autumn 2012 Symposium at HSU now available on line:

Last October 2012 EPIC participated in a previous symposium on these topics. Last falls symposium “Environmental Challenges of Marijuana Agriculture in the Age of Prohibition”  brought together community members, grassroots environmental activists, elected officials, and agency representatives to address the impacts of cannabis agriculture, and offer insights into the opportunities and challenges involved in addressing these problems. Video of that symposium is now available on line: http://vimeopro.com/todu/environ-challenges-of-marijuana-ag-in-the-age-of-prohibition

Fall Symposium Video 1 of 4


EPIC Requests Forest Service Analyze Impacts of Marijuana Grows on National Forest Lands in Northwest California

Thursday, October 11th, 2012
By

On October 11, 2012, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to Regional Forester Randy Moore, and four Forest Supervisors in northwestern California, that requests the United States Forest Service initiate analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regarding the impacts of marijuana cultivation on national forest lands.  In addition, EPIC requested that the Forest Service reinitiate consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) over the impacts of marijuana cultivation on imperiled species, including Coho Salmon, Steelhead, Northern Spotted Owl and Pacific Fisher.

This letter follows a previous letter sent to the Mendocino National Forest in the summer of 2011, and to which the Acting Supervisor of the Mendocino National Forest had replied negatively, denying EPIC’s request that the USFS initiate analysis of the environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation on public lands.

Besides the ongoing threats posed by damaging marijuana cultivation on public lands, EPIC has identified effects of Forest Service management actions that may be exacerbating or facilitating marijuana cultivation on our public lands.  “The letter sets forth legal obligations of the Forest Service in the face of new information about environmental impacts not previously considered by the agency in the development and implementation of Land and Resource Management Plans, Travel Management Plans, logging, grazing, and other projects,” said Andrew Orahoske, EPIC conservation director. “The Forest Service is obligated to analyze and respond to new information pursuant to NEPA and meet ongoing duties under the ESA,” continued Orahoske.

“Our effort to engage the Forest Service on this issue is something that EPIC may have initiated more than a year ago, but we are not the only stakeholders asking that land managers undertake analysis to understand the implications of this threat to our public lands,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes. “Congressman Mike Thompson has now stated publicly that more study is needed,” Hughes added, “and we think that it is only a matter of time before the federal government commits to providing their land managers with the resources needed to analyze the impacts and fully understand the management issues related to this persistent threat.”

The effort by EPIC to secure appropriate analysis of these impacts by federal land management agencies will be featured at a symposium titled Environmental Challenges of Marijuana Agriculture in the Age of Prohibition, to be held on the Humboldt State University campus on Friday afternoon, Oct 12. The Humboldt Interdisciplinary Institute for Marijuana Research is hosting the symposium that will feature panels composed of local environmental organizations, community members, and public officials exploring the threats and opportunities presented by cannabis agriculture on the North Coast of California.


Environmental Challenges of Marijuana Agriculture in the Age of Prohibition

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
By

On Friday, Oct 12th from 1:00-5:00 pm, Humboldt State University will be hosting a panel discussion on the Environmental Challenges of Marijuana Agriculture in the Age of Prohibition.  The symposium will be held in the Native Forum Room 162, Behavioral and Social Sciences Building at 16th  & Union Street in Arcata.

This two-part symposium will gather grassroots environmental activists, community members, and policy makers to discuss efforts to address the environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation. Panelists will review the impacts of marijuana agriculture and offer insights into the opportunities and challenges involved in addressing these problems.  The symposium is sponsored by the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research and the Sociology Department. The event is free and open to the public.

Session 1:  1:00- 2:45 The Problem and Responses:  Environmental Impacts and the Politics of Cannabis Agriculture

This panel of grassroots environmental organizers and policy makers will discuss environmental impacts associated with industrial marijuana agriculture, how current policy affects those impacts, and challenges involved in addressing environmental impacts associated with marijuana production.

Session 2:  3:00 – 5:00 pm Environmental, Cultural, and Economic Futures: Sustainability and Marijuana Agriculture

This panel of grassroots environmental organizers, community members, and policy makers offer perspectives on paths to environmental, cultural and economic sustainability.

The event will feature the following participants:

  • Hezekiah Allen, Executive Director, Mattole Restoration Council
  • Scott Geacen, Executive Director, Friends of the Eel River
  • Gary Graham Hughes, Executive Director,  Environmental Protection Information Center
  • Tasha McKee, Executive Director, Sanctuary Forest
  • Mike Downey, Humboldt County Sheriff
  • Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County District Attorney
  • Mark Lovelace, Humboldt County District 3 Supervisor
  • Scott Downie, California Department of Fish and Game Senior Biologist
  • Casey O’Neill, Community Member
  • Kyle Keegan, Community Member

Contact Dr. Tony Silvaggio, Sociology Department, Humboldt State University at 707.826.3142 for more information.