Connecting Wild Places

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

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

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

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

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

(2) Weakens Endangered Species Act Protections

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

(3) Closes the Courthouse Doors

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

(4) Shifts Money from Restoration to Logging

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

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP BAD FOREST LEGISLATION


Base Camp Reflections

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

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

Day 1: Grazing Monitoring and Timber Sale Sleuthing

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

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

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

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

Day 2: Timber Monitoring Continues

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

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

THANK YOU! 

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

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

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

Photos by Amber Shelton.

 

 


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

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
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Photo by Amber Shelton

For more articles about the Westside Timber Sale, click here.

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

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

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

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

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


Action Alert: Congress Threatens Public Input for BLM Lands

Friday, February 17th, 2017
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Headwaters Forest Reserve 20 Anniversary Hike

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three Victories for the Crown and Coast of California!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
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Lost Coast Headlands. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

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

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Trinidad Head. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

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

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

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


Horse Creek Project: Losing Taxpayer Money to Harm Spotted Owls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016
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By Felice Pace, Coordinator for the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working for Reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not volunteer?

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

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

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

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


Westside Rip-off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Action Alert: Don’t let Congress Silence You and Clear-cut Millions of Acres of our Forests

Friday, December 4th, 2015
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Willits Rein in Caltrans Slide

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Tell Congress to pass a clean fire suppression funding bill—No anti-environment riders!

Some in Congress are trying, once again, to take way our voice in decisions that affect our lives. The National Environmental Policy Act is the foundational law that gives every citizen the right to be involved in decisions that affect our environment and to stop illegal activities. But some in Congress are chipping away at that law and those rights. Backroom deals are taking place in Congress right now to allow the US Forest Service to log millions of acres of our public forests with little to no public input.

The US House of Representatives passed a very bad bill this year, HR 2647, ironically called the “Resilient Federal Forest Act.” The bill has nothing to do with making forests more resilient. This is a typical trick of the anti-conservation politicians. Those pushing HR 2647 want to use fires as an excuse to clear-cut millions of acres of our National Forests that have experienced fire and to silence critical voices. Let’s be clear: this legislation will not help with better fire management and prevention—the bill is about massive clear-cuts, and taking away our public voice.

Knowing that their extreme anti-environmental rhetoric is toxic, Big Timber is pushing politicians to sneak their bad bill in as a rider to a bill to fix the fire funding chaos. Tell Congress, “No Bad Logging Riders!” Pass a clean bill or no bill.

At the same time, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress and by citizens to fix the chaotic way we fund firefighting. It is clear that we need to find a more sustainable solution to ballooning fire suppression costs, which often far exceed the amount appropriated to the Forest Service for fire suppression. This in turn forces the Forest Service to pull money from other departments, such as recreation and forest health—a process known as “fire borrowing.”

You can stop these bad riders. The action has moved to the back rooms of the US Senate now and your Senators can help stop this.

Click here to take action now!

Or contact your Representatives in Congress directly:

Senator Diane Feinstein

Northern California (San Francisco) Office: (415) 393-0707

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3841

Email: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

 

Senator Barbara Boxer

California District Office (Oakland): (510) 286-8537

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3553

Email: https://www.boxer.senate.gov/contact/shareyourviews.html

Twitter: @SenatorBoxer

 

Congressman Huffman (California 2nd District )

District Office (Eureka): (707) 407-3585

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-5161

Email: https://huffman.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepHuffman

 

Congressman LaMalfa (California 1st District)

District Office (Redding): (530) 223-5898

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-3076

Email: https://lamalfa.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepLaMalfa


Push for More Logging Under the Northwest Forest Plan

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

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

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

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

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


CAL FIRE Botches Green Diamond THP Approval

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

Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Westside Community Meeting in Orleans September 11th

Monday, September 7th, 2015
By

Westside from BR Lookout

This Friday, concerned community members will be meeting to discuss impacts of the Westside project on our communities. In the coming days, the Klamath National Forest plans to auction off 14 timber sales, that have been analyzed as part of the Westside post-fire logging project, a large commercial salvage logging proposal that covers over 30,000 acres of management including logging on about 10,000 acres of forests affected by the Whites, Beaver and Happy Camp fires of 2014. Areas proposed for logging are adjacent to wilderness areas, the Pacific Crest Trail, within Wild and Scenic River corridors, critical habitat for coho salmon and northern spotted owls and wildlife corridors that are important for providing linkages between the islands of protected areas. The timber sales proposed in the Westside project are all located within the blue circle on the map (below). The Klamath National Forest has not yet released the Record of Decision, which was expected this week, and has not completed formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service. The Klamath National Forest has not yet received a water quality permit from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

EPIC Connecting Wild Places with Westside IDsmallOver the past year, our staff has read and commented on the Westside Environmental Impact Statement and attended the informational meetings put forward by the Klamath National Forest, and we have all agreed that the information and format that has been provided is less than helpful.

In order to better understand the landscape that will be affected by the proposed Westside Project, we have used the shape files for the project boundaries to illustrate aerial images from google earth. These maps more accurately depict the scale, magnitude and context of the proposed project by showing the project in relation to the watersheds that are at stake. These maps will be available at the community meeting.

The Karuk Alternative maps that were developed by the Karuk Tribe have proposed to reduce the project scope to focus on strategic ridge-top fuel breaks to protect rural communities so that fire can be reintroduced to the landscape. The Karuk Alternative is a third of the scale of the Klamath National Forest’s proposal.

Since the beginning of time, fire has shaped the landscape of the region, and it is well documented that cultural burning was used to thin the understory, and allow for healthy larger trees to thrive. prescribed fires were also used to encourage the growth of important resources such as acorns and bear grass, which is used by local tribes to make baskets. Over the last century, these mountains have endured the ecologically damaging practices of clear-cut logging, fire suppression, and plantation forestry, which shape most of the landscape we see today. If you live in or visit the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains and observe your surroundings, you have probably noticed the vicious cycle of:

1. clear-cut logging of the big old fire-resistant, shade-producing trees;

2. plantations that quickly become brush fields due to lack of funds to maintain them in an ongoing way;

3. fire suppression policy that continually increases the size and severity of fires that get away;

4. fire-fighting strategies that increase the size of the burned area; and

5. salvage sales that cost taxpayers more than the government makes on the sale, and in many cases leave huge amounts of slash on the ground, setting us up for the next fire. (And setting the fish up for a hot, sediment-choked, disease-prone environment.)

If you would like to learn about the size, scope and specifics of the Westside salvage sale and discuss potential consequences and community responses, you are cordially invited to come to this important informational meeting for Westside post-fire logging project on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 6:30 pm at the Karuk DNR-Department of Natural Resources Community Room, 39051 Highway 96. In Orleans, CA. All are welcome. Refreshments and dinner included, but bring a potluck dish to share if you can.

DIRECTIONS: Headed northeast on Highway 96, go one quarter mile past Orleans and cross the bridge over the Klamath. The parking lot is on the right hand side (Just after Red Cap Road). Cell phones and GPS Navigation systems do not work here, so you may want to map your route in advance. Allow ~2 hours of drive time from Arcata area.

RESOURCES:

Google Earth image maps with timber sale boundaries – Organized by timber sale and/or watershed.

Westside Fact Sheet and Agency Contacts for Westside Project – 1 page fact sheet for letter writing.

EPIC Guide to Groundtruthing trifold – An excellent guide for analyzing project impacts in the field.

The Westside Story – An in epic analysis of the wildlife, wild rivers, and wild places that would be affected by the Westside project.

Final Comments on Westside DEIS – EPIC, Klamath Forest Alliance and KS Wild comments on the Westside Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement – A link to all of the Klamath National Forest’s documents related to the Westside project.

Timber Sale Maps developed by the Klamath National Forest:

Whites Fire Salvage Heli Map

Walker Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tyler Meadows Fire Salvage Heli Map

Tom Martin Fire Salvage Heli Map

Slinkard Fire Salvage Heli Map

Salt Creek Fire Salvage SBA Map

Middle Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Hamburg Fire Salvage Map

Greider Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cougar Heli Fire Salvage Map

Cold Springs Fire Salvage Map

Caroline Creek Fire Salvage Heli Map

Blue Mountain Fire Salvage Heli Map

Beaver Fire Salvage Timber Sale Map

 

FlyerWestsideMeeting


Northern California National Forests on Fire

Monday, August 10th, 2015
By
River Complex

River Complex

 

Last month’s storms in the North Coast resulted in hundreds of lightning strikes igniting forest fires across the region and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Now a combined total of approximately 102,755 acres are burning on the Shasta-Trinity and Six Rivers National Forests.

 

Shasta Trinity National Forest contains 7 fire complexes totaling 80,249 acres:

Route Complex            19,974                   15% contained       *Dozer lines & tree felling

South Complex            18,108                   5% contained         *19 Dozers

River Complex             18,235                   12% contained        *4 Dozers

Fork Complex              22,312                   19% contained         *54 Dozers

Shf Lightning               75

Saddle Fire                   1,542

Hog Fire “Saddle Fire”      3

Six Rivers National Forest contains 3 complexes totaling 22,506 acres:

Mad River Complex 19,189                  35% contained           *6 bulldozers

Gasquet Complex     2,335                    9% contained            *Dozers & tree felling

Nickowitz Fire             982                    17% contained

Hog Fire -Saddle Fire-dozer lines

Hog Fire -Saddle Fire-dozer lines

Thousands of fire fighters are on the ground, some in an effort to protect life and property and others are in the wilderness and backcountry. Fire suppression and the military style of firefighting can be more environmentally destructive than wildfire itself. Crews typically construct ridge top fire lines with bulldozers, dump fire retardant, ignite high severity back burns, fell trees and open up decommissioned roads to access and suppress the fires. These damaging efforts are often ineffective, for example yesterday a burning tree fell across a containment line on the Route complex, causing the fire to escape.

Route Complex

Route Complex

Techniques such as back burning purposefully result in high intensity fire consuming all of the vegetation in its path. Fire retardant can be toxic to fish, especially when it is applied into creeks and streams. Snags are felled throughout sensitive areas. The Six Rivers allowed an untold amount of chainsaw work to cut snags in the Siskiyou Wilderness in the Peak Fire. Perhaps the most destructive activity is the construction of often-ineffective firelines creating miles of ridge tops that are plowed to bare earth. In the Fork Complex alone, there are multi-agency crews operating 54 bulldozers.

Fire has shaped the region for millennia; it is a natural force that keeps our forests healthy by cleaning out the understory and opening the forest floor. Wildfires are most commonly started by lightning, which strikes on ridge tops, then creeps down the mountain side, most often over 85 percent of forest fires burn at low and moderate severity, and less than 15% burns at high severity. In this scenario, most of the largest trees are left alive and the smaller understory is cleaned out, allowing the larger trees more light and nutrients to grow.

Dozer Line on Castle fire in South Complex

Dozer Line on Castle fire in South Complex

Once the smoke clears, many of these burned forests will be considered for post-fire “salvage logging” timber sales, as we are experiencing on the Klamath National Forest in the Westside project, which is slated for a decision in early September. Post-fire operations usually propose to remove the largest (most profitable) trees, which are the most valuable to wildlife, soil stability, soil structure and carbon storage. Salvage logging on steep slopes leaves the sensitive landscape susceptible to landslides and erosion, removes important habitat and damages natural growth and recovery.

In order to allow our forests to undergo natural processes, fire suppression should focus around homes and communities by creating a defensible “fire safe” area. Landscape level fire strategies that include shaded fuel breaks and the widespread use of cultural and prescribed burning should be and are becoming a priority for national forest managers, tribes and rural communities.

Below are some maps of the fires as of August 10, 2015:

*Photos and maps and data courtesy of inciweb.nwcg.gov


Take Action: Klamath River Runs Brown!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
By
Klamath River Near Mouth 7.13.15 by Mark Harris

Near the mouth of the Klamath River. July 13, 2015. Photo Courtesy of Mark Harris

Take Action Now to stop Westside: A few short but intense rain storms hit the 2014 fire areas on the Klamath National Forest causing massive sediment events that turned the mighty Klamath and Salmon River systems muddy and brown. On July 5th, 7th and 12th rainstorms brought over an inch of rain in less than an hour causing road damage, intense debris torrents with slurries of mud, rock, water and trees to sliding for miles, filling in pools and creeks that serve as some of the best salmon spawning habitat. These watersheds are located within the same steep and unstable hillsides that are targeted for logging in the Westside project.

Salmon

Juvenile and adult salmon struggle to survive in oxygen-depleted lethal water temperatures with high rates of disease and algae. The storm events greatly increased turbidity and lowered oxygen levels in the water for nearly two weeks. Massive amounts of sediment dumped into some of the most important spawning habitat and cool water refuges. There appears to be considerable reduction in size, volume, and depth of pools. It is uncertain how salmon and other aquatic life will survive this onslaught of impacts, especially with the hottest summer temperatures soon to come and the proposed clearcutting and logging activities.

Coho salmon are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. There are 101 miles of coho Critical Habitat in the project area. This includes the rivers affected by recent storms, Klamath and North Fork Salmon Rivers and many of the cool water tributaries vital for fish survival, including: Grider, Beaver, Elk, South Russian Creeks and Whites Gulch.

Roads

Road systems were blocked and sliding mud, trees, rock and debris clogged dozens of culverts and ditches. Thousands of cubic yards of sediment came down hills and hundreds have already been cleared from roads with heavy machinery, but much more debris continues to be suspended on the hillsides waiting for the next rain event.

Click here for before and after photos of road work in the Walker Creek drainage. At least 24 different road locations on roads 46N64, 46N65, and 46N67 were blocked by mud, rock, and debris flows, and numerous culvert inlets are still buried under mud and rocks.

Roads are the leading contributor of sediment into our creeks and rivers. There are over 950 “legacy” sites, which are chronic sources of sediment in the Westside project area. The Klamath National Forest is proposing to treat only 150 legacy sites in one watershed, leaving over 800 sites untreated.

The Forest Service proposes to open miles of decommissioned and self-decommissioned roads. These roads also contain legacy sites. For instance, road 16N41 up Little Elk Creek is approximately 2 miles long and completely grown over, which would require intense forest clearing and reconstruction just upstream of coho Critical Habitat. Further, there are over 280 miles of level 2 roads, passable by high clearance vehicles only, which would require reconstruction in order to accommodate for the proposed use by heavy machinery and large trucks. These are few of many road issues that were not adequately considered, addressed or disclosed.

The Past the Future and Westside

As temperatures and extinction rates soar globally and climate change brings more extreme weather, like summer rainstorms – our water, wildlife, salmon and wild places need extra protection. Low to no snow pack and higher temperatures means increasingly low and warm summer flows in our rivers. Extreme wind, rain and fire leave behind fragile ecosystems susceptible to severe damage from industrial activities on the landscape.

The Klamath Mountains are some of the steepest and most erodible hillsides on the west coast. For decades we have witnessed and documented major impacts to our watersheds during large storm events. The decomposed granitic soils in the Westside fire areas will slide downhill and into our rivers. The entire watersheds of Grider and Walker are unstable, which is where the highest concentration of Westside units are proposed!

Click here now to tell Patty Grantham to stay off geologically unstable slopes, disclose the extreme amount of roadwork proposed, to learn from the past and allow for the natural recovery of our fragile and fire dependent watersheds.

Rivers and Creeks up Close 

A few short and intense summer storms brought massive debris flows choking the Klamath and Salmon Rivers and many of its tributaries with thick sediment and mud. The Klamath Mountains are some of the steepest and most erodible lands on the west coast. The rivers listed below support a suffering salmon population- all are proposed for clearcut logging by the Klamath National Forest in the Westside project and all are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, mostly from temperature and sediment. Many of them are supposed to be federally protected designated or eligible for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers.

Klamath River

The Wild and Scenic Klamath River (Karuk: Ishkêesh,‪ Klamath: Koke,‪ Yurok: Hehlkeek ‘We-Roy,‪ Hupa: k’ina’-tahxw-hun’) flows 263 miles southwest from Oregon and northern California, cutting through the Cascade Range to empty into the Pacific Ocean. It is listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act for Nutrients, Organic Enrichment/Low Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature and Microcystin.

It was once the third most productive salmon-bearing river system in the country. Today, thanks to habitat blocking dams, logging, mining, grazing, agriculture, poor water quality and too little water left in the river, the once abundant Klamath salmon runs have now been reduced to less than 10% of their historic size. Anadromous species present in the Klamath River basin below Iron Gate Dam include Chinook, coho, pink, and chum salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout, eulachon, white and green sturgeon, and Pacific lamprey. Some species, such as coho salmon, are now in such low numbers in the Klamath River that they are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

North Fork Salmon River

Deeply incised canyons, rugged terrain and highly erodible soils characterize the Salmon River watershed, comprised of two forks, the North Fork and the South Fork to form the mainstem. The free flowing river is one of the largest most pristine watersheds in the Klamath River system, although it is listed under the Clean Water Act as a 303(d) impaired water body for high temperatures. The Wild and Scenic Salmon River provides over 175 miles of anadromous fish habitat and retains the only viable population of spring Chinook salmon and retains the last completely wild salmon and steelhead runs in the in the Klamath watershed. The Salmon River offers some of the best habitat on the west coast for salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, rainbow trout, Pacific lamprey, and other fish. It is home to one of the most sought after world-class whitewater rafting trips in the country. It combines lush coastal scenery with emerald green waters, steep granite gorges and numerous waterfalls.

The North Fork Salmon River, containing highly erodible granitic soils is steep to very steep. The globally significant carbon dense forests provide important wildlife habitat connectivity, particularly the released roadless areas within the Westside project area. With the combination of unique geology, climate and biology the North Fork Salmon River watershed supports populations of deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion and is home to many rare species, including Pacific fishers and pine martens. The North Fork Watershed Analysis notes that, “the watershed has habitat critical to wildlife and fish species that are listed or petitioned for listing through the Endangered Species Act. Some of these habitat features may be at risk and need protection or enhancement. Older, late successional forest stands and anadromous fish habitat are considered some of the most important features within the watershed.”

This watershed has a total of 1,035 miles of roads, and over 73 stream crossings. These roads—along with timber harvesting in this area—have increased landslide potential, and have therefore increased the potential for negative impacts on the streams. Logging in this area has also led to a decrease in shade along the entire North Fork of the Salmon River. As a result, the Salmon River is now listed under the 303(d) Clean Water Act for temperature. This increase in water temperature has resulted in fish kills of Chinook salmon and steelhead during drought conditions, such as in the years 1994 and 2014.

South Russian Creek and Music

South Russian Creek, fed from the Russian Wilderness, is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River and is recognized for its magnificent stand of old growth Engleman Spruce and for pristine water quality. Music Creek is a tributary to South Russian Creek that leads to the Russian Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail. Both of these watersheds are comprised of highly erodible decomposed granitic soils and have seen huge landslides and road impacts from past storms. In August, 1996 a thunderstorm triggered a debris torrent that scoured 2.6 miles of stream in Music Creek. The resulting plume of sediment impacted the North Fork and Mainstem of the Salmon River for several weeks.

Whites Gulch

Whites Gulch is a tributary to the North Fork Salmon. It is critical cold water refugia and spawning habitat for juvenile and adult Coho salmon, spring and fall Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Whites Gulch watershed contains Critical Habitat for Coho salmon and the Northern spotted owl. This watershed is also home to one of the four Northern goshawks nest areas that would have a high risk of abandonment because of the Westside clearcutting units.

The outer ridges were used extensively for fire suppression operations during the 2014 fires and the road system, with its many sediment sources, also saw a large amount of traffic from heavy trucks.

In October 2008, the Salmon River Restoration Council, in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and NOAA Open Rivers Initiative, removed two dams from the upstream reaches of Whites Gulch. Both of the dams were remnants of the historic mining activity that had occurred within the watershed. The removal of the dams and the subsequent removal of the culvert barrier on Whites Gulch Road, restored access to 3.5 miles of refugia, rearing and spawning habitat in Whites Gulch.

 

Grider Creek/ No Name Creek (Grider Tributary)

Upper Grider Creek watershed contains one of the most important roadless areas, which provides a vital north to south wildlife corridor that connects the Marble Mountain Wilderness with the Siskiyou Crest and Red Buttes Wilderness. The entire watershed contains the largest expanse of geologically unstable areas of the Kla math National Forest and is where the highest concentration of clearcut units in the Westside project are proposed.

Grider Creek is a key watershed, meaning that it contains crucial for salmon survival. It provides spawning, rearing, and holding habitat for Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon. In fact, the mouth of Grider Creek used to provide one of the largest and most important cold water refuge areas on the Klamath River. Unfortunately, the storm of 1997 raised water temperatures in this area and degraded its function as a cold refuge.

It is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River recognized for its undisturbed old growth mixed conifer forests, high water quality and for wildlife because bald eagles and peregrine falcons nest there. These eagles would have a high risk of abandoning their nest areas because the Westside project would decimate the area.

While Grider Creek still has large areas with minimal human activity, it is clear that managed areas of the creek are being degraded. Areas that previously provided the connectivity necessary for the wellbeing of many sensitive species in the area have turned into patchy forests unusable by many animals. If human activity increases throughout this pristine area, habitats will quickly diminish and already threatened species will suffer.

 

Walker Creek

Walker Creek provides high quality water to the Middle Klamath River and acts as a thermal refuge for anadromous salmonids during warm months. Additionally, Walker Creek provides spawning, rearing, and holding habitat for fall and spring-run Chinook salmon, winter and summer-run steelhead and threatened Coho salmon.

The Walker Creek area contains many large, active earthflow landslides and with Grider, contains the largest expanse of geologically unstable areas of the Klamath National Forest and is where the highest concentration of clearcut units in the Westside project are proposed. This along with strong seasonal storms makes this creek particularly susceptible to large amounts of sedimentation. Past management of this area has not been successful in combating this unique feature, and has made stream sedimentation worse. These high levels of sedimentation can have devastating effects on sensitive aquatic species, and therefore must be properly controlled in order for the creek and the surrounding habitat to thrive.

Elk Creek 

The Elk Creek watershed is 60,780 acres of steep slopes and large dispersed benches. It is the municipal water supply for the town of Happy Camp. This watershed provides 51.6 miles of habitat for Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon, Pacific lamprey, Klamath small-scale sucker, and other native fish species. In fact, Elk Creek provides one of highest quality spawning and rearing habitats for Coho salmon in the Middle Klamath River. Its low water temperature also makes Elk Creek an important thermal refuge for many aquatic species during warm periods.

In addition to aquatic species, this watershed is home to many threatened, endangered, and sensitive species listed under the Endangered Species Act. These species include Northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons. Other sensitive species include goshawks, willow flycatchers, fishers, western pond turtles, great grey owls, and martens.

Elk Creek is eligible for designation as a Wild and Scenic River and is recognized for its fisheres, geologic and wildlife values because the Siskiyou Mountains Salamander has been found there.

Logging and road building activities throughout the watershed have disturbed habitat crucial to the survival of both aquatic and terrestrial species. For example, 9,833 acres of Elk Creek watershed have experienced harvest activity over the last 40 years, 7,445 of which were clear cuts or other types of regeneration harvest. This, along with other activities has caused the creek to exceed the Mass Wasting threshold of concern, which indicates an increased risk for hillslope sediment production. It has also led this important thermal refuge to range from “properly functioning” to “at risk” for proper stream temperatures. Once a cool water safe haven for aquatic species, increased water temperatures throughout this creek may lead to increased wildlife mortality. And while storm events and landslides are natural disturbances throughout this watershed, road building, timber harvesting, and other human activities have made it so storm events have much higher impacts on downstream aquatic resources than they naturally would.

The current goals for the Elk Creek watershed include maintaining and restoring the following: spatial and temporal connectivity, physical integrity of the aquatic system, water quality necessary to support healthy ecosystems, and sediment regimes in which aquatic systems evolved. In order to meet these goals and protect important wildlife throughout Elk Creek, it is critical that human activity is kept to a minimum.

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek after storm. July 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of Bruce Harlow

Beaver Creek after storm. July 15, 2015. Photo courtesy of Bruce Harlow

The Beaver Creek watershed is checkerboarded with forests used as industrial timberlands. Extreme logging has taken place since the 2014 fires. Logging operations were still active up to the time of these recent storms. The Klamath National Forest has had the sense to cancel commercial logging in the watershed in the Westside project.

Beaver Creek is an important tributary to the Klamath River. This watershed makes up approximately 70,000 acres of steep sloped habitat dominated by mixed conifer and true fir forests. Beaver Creek is home to several sensitive species such as Northern spotted owls (threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)), northern goshawks, martens, fishers, willow flycatchers, Siskiyou mountain salamanders, and great grey owls. Additionally, Steelhead, Coho, and Chinook salmon are dependent on Beaver Creek habitat for spawning, rearing, and holding for adult and juvenile fish. Due to its ecological importance, this watershed includes designated Special Interest Areas, and Late-Seral Reserve land allocation areas. These areas provide important habitat for sensitive species, and help protect the integrity of this rich watershed.

Over the years the quality of the Beaver Creek has been greatly degraded. Roads, mainly created to access timber harvest areas, are the current largest impact on the drainage. Approximately 440 miles of roads and an unknown amount of skid trails now occur within the drainage. These roads, as well as timber harvesting, has negatively impacted the watershed and degraded high quality habitat in many ways. Accelerated erosion associated with roads and logging leads to extremely high levels of stream sedimentation, which in turn results in loss of aquatic habitat for many species. In fact, Beaver Creek is on the 303(d) Clean Water Act list as impaired for sediment, and it has been reported that the likelihood of aquatic habitat being damaged due to debris is likely, and may influence the surrounding habitat for as long as ten years.

Roads and timber harvest also decrease connectivity and makes it more difficult for wildlife to easily move across the landscape. Connectivity is extremely fragmented but important for many species in this area, such as the spotted owl. There are 20 known spotted owl activity centers distributed throughout the Beaver Creek watershed. Without sufficient connectivity throughout the landscape, these owls and other late-seral dependent species are at an increased risk of endangerment.

The forests and rivers need your voice: Click here now to tell Patty Grantham to reconsider post-fire logging sensitive watersheds in the Westside proposal!


State Wildlife Action Plan Update & Alert

Monday, June 22nd, 2015
By

Photo Credit: USFWS

Take Action: Advocate for a strong conservation legacy of California’s imperiled wildlife by asking the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to prioritize the protection of species in the North Coast Klamath Province and Pacific Northwest conifer forests.

CDFW is updating the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). The public review and comment period on the draft is open until July 2, 2015. California is the wildlife state, harboring more species and endemic plants and animals than any other state in the nation and it is the most populous, which makes this plan no small task.

The SWAP is a “comprehensive plan for conserving the state’s fish and wildlife and their vital, natural habitats for future generations.” Rather than concentrate on single species, the CDFW targets conservation through defined provinces and different natural habitat types. It includes the consideration of climate change and revises the list for the Species of Greatest Conservation Need and also reiterates the need to promote partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, tribes and non-governmental organizations. The Draft plan outlines goals, key ecological attributes, objectives, pressures and threats, strategies, companion plans, adaptive management and monitoring.

There are over 1,000 species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals and plants that are considered as Species of Greatest Conservation Need! The list includes 414 fish and wildlife species. National forests account for 15.8 million acres (48%) and other public lands account for 4.2 million acres (13%) of the golden state.

The North Coast and Klamath Province encompasses 14 million acres and the vegetation consists of predominantly conifer and mixed conifer forests.  Logging is one of the pressures outlined in the Draft plan. Forestry is the most widespread land use consisting of 1.9 million acres of privately owned timberlands mostly in the coastal portion and 4.8 million acres of national forests and public land managed by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Other pressures in our province include agriculture, dams and water management/use, housing and urban areas, invasive plants/animals, fire and fire suppression, livestock, farming and ranching and climate change.

Strategies and objectives, in the Draft plan, to conserve wildlife in Pacific Northwest Conifer Forests are: data collection and analysis, outreach and education, management of invasive species, advocating for wildlife-friendly fire management, management planning to ensure the conservation of redwood habitat, improving fire management plans and influencing management of federal lands with partnerships.

While much consideration has gone into the SWAP Draft Update there is a need to prioritize and strengthen working relationships between CDFW and the US Forest Service. Because of increasing pressures and dwindling populations of threatened and endangered species there is also a need to prioritize the conservation of old-growth and mature forest habitat throughout the state, primarily within the Pacific Northwest.

Please take action to ensure a strong conservation legacy for California’s people and wildlife!

Click here for more information or to read a copy of the SWAP Draft Update


Guide to Groundtruthing the Westside Timber Sale

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
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Grieder Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535. Photo courtesy of Felice Pace

Grider Creek watershed is targeted in the Westside Project- Unit 535.

As summer is fast approaching, now is the time to get outside and explore your national forests. And if you need a recommendation of where to go, we encourage you to see for yourself what the Klamath National Forest is proposing in one of the most biologically significant and diverse temperate forests in the world.

The Klamath National Forest is proposing one of the largest post-fire logging projects in California’s history in an area that covers 210,000 acres of forest nestled in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou mountains between the Marbled Mountain, Russian and Red Butte Wilderness. You can read more about the proposed project here. These burned forests are alive and vibrant. More biologically diverse than unburned forests, they provide for an array of plant and animal species, and are considered to be one of the rarest and most ecologically important forest habitats in western forests.

We need your help. One of the most effective things we can do to battle this timber sale is to have a firm understanding of what is proposed on the ground. By documenting the precious areas at risk or by investigating whether the Forest Service is keeping its word, a forest-defense technique called “groundtruthing,” you can save forests from being clearcut. But because this project is so massive, EPIC’s staff cannot examine all corners of the proposed cut. And we know there is a lot to find. Our forays into the project area have already yielded troubling results: EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, Kimberly Baker, has documented big, large trees—those the Forest Service claims will not be affected by the project—marked for cut, and previously protected trees on steep, unstable slopes once again slated to be logged.

Here’s how you can help: If you have a background or knowledge of wildlife, botany, water quality, or just have the time to explore the remote reaches of the rugged Klamath Siskiyou bioregion, please apply your skills here. Photographs with GPS coordinates are incredibly important to illustrate the uniqueness and fragility of this post-fire landscape. To learn how to get the most out of your field trip, read Bark’s Guide to Groundtruthing and bring Bark’s Groundtruthing Survey Form, an excellent resource for citizens to use when surveying a particular area for timber sales.

Specific Markings for timber sale units in the Westside Project include:

  • blue paint for “hazard trees” that are intended to be logged; and
  • orange paint for trees that are marked for leave (with the rest in a marked stand to be logged).

Need maps on where to look?

Click here to view the Klamath National Forest’s website, which includes maps for the Westside Project, if you scroll down to the bottom, you will find the “Timber Sales Sold Current FY”, which includes maps of the timber sales that have sold.

Although the public comment period ended on April 27th, comments submitted after that date will still be included in the administrative record, and should be sent to wcoats@fs.fed.us. The Final Environmental Impact Statement and decision for Westside could be released as early as mid June or July.

UPDATE:  APRIL 25, 2015. The project has been approved and logging has begun in timber sale areas that received bids.

If you need additional information, contact the EPIC office at 707-822-7711, or email epic@wildcalifornia.org.

 


Keeping California Wild

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
By

Photo by Kimberly BakerEPIC has been talking a lot about the revisions to the Northwest Forest Plan. The Northwest Forest Plan is the governing document for all national forests in the Pacific Northwest and it is undergoing major revisions. This is one of our best opportunities in 20 years to critically affect National Forest management. For more in the series on the Northwest Forest Plan revisions, please click here.

Late-Successional Reserves are a core component of the Northwest Forest Plan. Under the Plan, these areas are dedicated to “mature” forests, either protecting existing mature forests or developing younger forests to become mature. To do so, many activities, such as logging strictly for commercial timber purposes, are supposedly prohibited under the Plan. However, there is a gulf between theory and practice.

As revealed by the Klamath National Forest’s Westside timber sale, which you can read about here, the Forest Service has started targeted Late Successional Reserves for timber harvest. Under the guise of hastening the development of new forests, the Forest Service has proposed to cut over 6,000 acres of Late Successional Reserves. Many of the proposed cuts are within the Grider Creek area, a critical habitat component linking the Marble Mountains to points north. While EPIC has stood up to the Forest Service on Westside, more drastic change is needed. These wild and rare areas need permanent protection, not subject to the politics and profits of the Forest Service.

Wilderness Areas are part of the solution to an agency gone rogue. In Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service is limited in its management; the Service may only do things that are consistent with the wild nature of the land. Thus, logging, road building and other destructive activities are generally prohibited;  instead, the land is preserved for the benefit and use of humans and wildlife. Wilderness Areas are our best way to permanently protect the land through greedy hands.

The upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions offer an opportunity to designate eligible Wilderness Areas. The Forest Service is required to assess the potential for new wilderness areas (36 C.F.R. § 219.6(b)(15)) and to recommend new areas for inclusion as Wilderness ( 36 C.F.R. § 219.7(c)(2)(v)). In this way, we can protect critical areas—those with outstanding beauty, such as North Fork Salmon River watersheds or those that connect areas of high habitat value, like Grider Creek.

EPIC can—and will—suggest new Wilderness Areas for consideration by the Forest Service, including areas slated for harvest under the Westside timber plan. But we need your help to identify the best, most productive areas. So we say unto you, our adventurous membership, go forth on to our public lands and find those areas: (1) under federal ownership and management; (2) consisting of at least five thousand acres of land or are connected to previously existing wilderness areas; (3) where human influence is “substantially unnoticeable”; (4) where there are opportunities for solitude and recreation; and (5) possess “ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.” Explore the land and let us know what you find!


Connecting Wild Places—State of Connectivity on Private Lands

Monday, May 11th, 2015
By
GDRClittleriver

Extensive Green Diamond Clearcuts in Little River Watershed

Introduction

Habitat integrity and connectivity for species movement, protection, enhancement and recovery — and for climate resistance, resilience, and adaptation – is essential as we move into the 21st century. The precipitous decline of our wildlife and biodiversity, exacerbated by the significant effects resulting from climate change, means habitat connectivity on our forested landscapes is absolutely critical. Privately-held forestlands in Northwest California are essential to the recovery of species, for landscape-level integrity with habitat connectivity, and for resistance and resilience to climate change. Although privately-held forestlands regulatory mechanisms do not seek to achieve landscape-level connectivity, there are strategies that would significantly improve existing landscape conditions and allow for private lands to contribute to species recovery and biodiversity, and climate resiliency.

There are over 33 million acres of forestland in the State of California, comprising one-third of the total acreage of the entire state. Of these 33 million acres of forestland, approximately forty percent (13.3 million acres) are privately-held forestlands that are primarily managed for timber production. Of the 13.3 million acres, over 25 percent is in non-corporate private ownership, while a little over 14 percent in corporate private ownership.

The forests of Northwest California are some of the most biodiverse in the nation. Prior to European settlement, Northwest California’s forests were teeming with native flora and fauna that reflected millennia of natural growth and disturbance that created the mosaic of landscapes first encountered by settlers. Native fauna of Northwest California originally included numerous species dependent on large, dense, and complex forests and forest structures to complete life history behaviors. Some of these species are so specialized that the subsequent loss of the old-growth to logging has brought these iconic species to the brink of extinction. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, approximately 60 of California’s native wildlife is now “at-risk” and in need of conservation.

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign 

EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places campaign is designed to proactively address the need for habitat corridors to facilitate species’ movement and create micro-climactic refugia. Achieving connectivity across land-use allocations, i.e. both public and private lands is a daunting task, at least on-the-face of it. While large areas of public lands are designated as reserve, such as wilderness areas and late successional reserves, there are currently few mechanisms to achieve these goals on private lands, outside of outright land acquisition or securing conservation easements, or other voluntary measures. Private lands are a critically important piece to the connectivity puzzle, and changing the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes will be essential to achieving long-term, landscape-level management changes.

Connectivity and the Private Lands Legal and Regulatory Landscape

Forest Practices on private lands in California have changed dramatically over time, particularly with the advent of the California Environmental Quality Act (1970), and the subsequent enactment of the modern California Forest Practice Act (1973). The Forest Practice Act brought into being the modern private lands Forest Practice Rules. While incremental improvements to the rules have been made over time, the private lands timber harvest regulatory system has utterly failed to give serious consideration to, or afford protections for, habitat connectivity on a landscape-level.

The Forest Practice Act articulates a duel mandate to at once achieve maximum sustained production of high-quality timber products, while protecting fish, wildlife, water, carbon sequestration, and aesthetic enjoyment. However, there is little in the modern Forest Practice Rules that would require private forest landowners to manage forests to achieve habitat connectivity and maintain species biodiversity. For example, in articulating the implementation of the Forest Practice Act’s intent, the Forest Practice Rules stipulate only that timber operations should maintain functional wildlife habitat in sufficient condition for continued use by existing wildlife communities, and that such operations maintain and recruit late and diverse seral stage habitat for wildlife, concentrated in stream zones. This is simply intent language, with no enforceable provisions or other guidance provided to achieve these goals.

Faced with this reality, federal and state regulators have fallen back on the development of voluntary conservation measures to improve forest heath and species habitat connectivity on privately-held forestlands. The primary voluntary measure is the use of Habitat Conservation Plans for private landowners where activities may result in “take” of federally-listed species. While sometimes offering additional conservation measures above and beyond standard Forest Practice Rules, Habitat Conservation Plans also include the issuance of incidental “take” permits, which allow adverse modification of habitat for, and incidental death of, species listed as threatened or endangered.

Opportunities for Achieving Connectivity on Private Lands

While the legal, regulatory, and policy-level landscapes do not require the achievement of landscape connectivity on private lands, there are opportunities to improve land management activities for connectivity in Northwest California. There are areas where management for forest integrity and habitat connectivity could achieve significant benefits.

For example, Humboldt Redwood Company’s Mattole forestland holdings still contain a significant amount of late successional-stage forests, often referred to as “primary forests” i.e. forests that have never been managed for timber production. Appropriate management in these areas could serve to accelerate the development of old-growth forest characteristics, and provide for essential corridors between previously-managed areas and the primary forest areas. In addition, opportunities exist to conduct restorative forest management activities elsewhere on Humboldt Redwood Company lands, primarily in association with its so-called Marbled Murrelet Conservation Areas, which are old-growth forest stands set-aside as part of the company’s Habitat Conservation Plan. Appropriate management activities could serve to restore the connectivity between the fragmented patches of remaining old-growth redwood forest, thus facilitating species movement, and preparing for resiliency and resistance to climate change.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are aimed at improving forestland management on private lands for the purpose of achieving biodiversity, habitat connectivity, and resistance and resilience to climate change:

Federal and State regulators should seek to improve Forest Practice Rules governing private lands to prioritize species integrity, habitat connectivity and viability, and climate resistance and resilience;

Federal and State regulators, as well as private land trusts, should seek to work with private landowners to either acquire lands essential for forest health and habitat connectivity, or to secure conservation easements on such lands to achieve these goals;

Federal regulators’ issuance of new Habitat Conservation Plans must include safeguards to ensure that forest management activities conducted under these plans provide for biodiversity, connectivity, and climate resistance and resiliency; and

Federal and State regulators should work cooperatively to develop landscape-level management plans that would transcend land ownership and land allocation boundaries.

Conclusion

EPIC will work to identify, and advocate for, critical areas for achieving landscape connectivity on private lands. While the deck is stacked against us, and the challenges are many, opportunities remain to reform private lands forestry practices through regulations, legislation, policy changes, land acquisition, and voluntary measures. Working cooperatively with state and federal regulators, legislators, and private landowners represent the most promising possibilities for achieving the goals of landscape-level connectivity on private lands, and across ownership classification boundaries.