Posts Tagged ‘Biodiversity’

Caltrans Agrees to Reevaluate Impacts of Del Norte Highway Project on Endangered Salmon

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
By

SmithIn response to a lawsuit by EPIC and other conservation groups, Caltrans has agreed to reassess impacts of a controversial highway-widening project in Del Norte County on protected salmon and their habitat along the Wild and Scenic Smith River. A settlement agreement will keep in place a court-ordered halt of construction work until Caltrans completes consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service under the Endangered Species Act and Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act.

“The North Coast community deserves a project that does not put salmon and the Smith River at risk, as well as an honest assessment of the impacts of highway development on the region,” said Natalynne DeLapp with EPIC. “This is an opportunity for Caltrans to reassess whether this project is in the best interests of taxpayers and the environment.”

Caltrans is attempting to widen narrow sections of highways 197 and 199 along the Smith River in California’s remote Del Norte County to provide access for oversized trucks. Construction would increase erosion and delivery of sediment into the Middle Fork Smith River, harming habitat for threatened coho salmon runs that already face a high risk of extinction. The project would undermine public safety by increasing heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the Smith River Canyon; it would hurt tourism and local residents.

“Caltrans should reevaluate the whole premise of this expensive, unnecessary project that would cause erosion and sediment impacts to critical salmon habitat,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Caltrans has already wasted more than $9 million of taxpayer money by starting major construction work along a pristine river without first doing a valid environmental review.”

Friends of Del Norte, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center filed lawsuits in state and federal court in 2013 challenging Caltrans’ approval of the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project” due to inadequate review of the environmental impacts. The state agency began cutting trees and removing vegetation close to the Smith River in January and was scheduled to begin major earthmoving and construction work in May.

“Caltrans and the National Marine Fisheries Service should have pursued a scientific study to start this process rather than pay lip-service to written environmental law, said Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte. “The important issues of highway motorist safety on Highways 199/197 can be addressed on a smaller scale, without the massive erosive bank cuts required to allow STAA truck passage, that endanger the Smith River water quality and threaten our vital fisheries.”

A Northern District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction in early May stopping Caltrans from doing any further work, citing substantial violations of the Endangered Species Act, a “haphazard” consultation process with the federal fisheries agency, and the potential for irreparable harm to the Smith River and salmon habitat. The court characterized both agencies’ biological assessment documents for the project as “contradictory and unclear.”

As part of the new settlement, Caltrans has now reinitiated consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service to properly analyze whether the project would jeopardize threatened coho salmon and their critical habitat in the Smith River or adversely affect the essential fish habitat of all salmon species in the river. The conservation groups retain the right to challenge any further agency decisions or environmental documents for the project.

Caltrans has not considered alternatives besides widening the highway and tried to downplay project impacts on salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River. The agency refused to evaluate safety hazards from increased truck traffic and ignored the cumulative impacts of numerous other associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. Despite the Fisheries Service’s own data on the imperiled status of coho salmon in the Smith, the fisheries agency rubber-stamped the original project without sufficient review. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Stuart G. Gross and Sharon Duggan and the nationally recognized firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Background

Highway 199 is a scenic byway along the Smith River Canyon that passes through the Six Rivers National Forest and the Smith River National Recreation Area and provides access to Redwood National and State Parks. The Smith River is the only undammed river in California, with the longest stretch of designated “wild and scenic” river in the lower 48. A 1989 Caltrans report acknowledged the physical constraints of the narrow, steep and rocky Smith River Canyon and concluded that environmental concerns make Highway 199 “a poor candidate for extensive upgrading.”

Highway 197 is a seven-mile, two-lane country road that runs north to south along the lower Smith River just northeast of Crescent City. It is a rural-residential route with 72 driveways directly entering onto the road. In order to avoid Jedediah Smith State Park at the western edge of the project, oversized trucks would divert off Highway 199 and travel along Highway 197 to the north of Crescent City to reach Highway 101.

Court challenges to the related Caltrans road-widening project through Richardson Grove on Highway 101 in Humboldt County have resulted in rulings determining that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of highway development on the ancient redwoods protected in Richardson Grove State Park.

A recently released independent review of Caltrans called for sweeping reforms of the agency and cited a “culture of fear” within Caltrans when it comes to deviating from standard policies. The statewide Caltrans Watch coalition has highlighted the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input.

Click here to view the Order of Stipulation

Click here to view the Official Press Release


Old Growth, Climate Change and Connectivity

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014
By

Old Growth.K.BakerGlobal warming is changing the planet’s ecosystems. The largest oldest trees store the greatest amounts of carbon and play a major role in regulating the Earth’s climate. The movement to protect our vital forests is building rapid momentum.

More than 75 scientists recently requested that the President direct his Secretary of Agriculture and Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to craft a National Old Growth Conservation Policy that fully protects the remaining old-growth forests on all national forests. The signatories include PhD professors from throughout the country and Canada, retired state and federal resource agency biologists and two former USFS Chiefs.

The Federal Forest Carbon Coalition—a new first-of-a-kind consortium of over 60 national, regional and local organizations, including EPIC, focused on forests, biodiversity, fisheries, rivers, faith and spirituality, Native American treaty rights, youth, rural communities and climate disruption—recently issued a suite of science-based recommendations to the Obama Administration. Entitled Modernizing Federal Forest Management To Mitigate and Prepare For Climate Disruption, the recommendations for our public lands include permanently protecting all high-biomass forested areas (older forests; live, dead and fallen) from logging, recognizing carbon as a significant public resource, increasing carbon storage, restoring mature forests, promoting more natural fire regimes and a moratorium on fracking.

The U.S. Forest Service manages some of the highest density carbon stores on earth—our  remaining old growth and mature forests. Large old fire resilient trees are the guardians of our air, water, wildlife and forests.  Connecting and protecting older forests will provide refuge and crucial habitat linkages for a wide range of species, allowing for the movement of plants and animals in response to a warming climate.

Federal forest agencies need to make a major shift in policy and practice. While extensive research and collaborative climate adaption strategies have been completed, there has been no significant change in law. Environmental laws are essential to provide the framework and safeguards necessary to protect the thousands of species that make up the web of life.

Climate Change demands political change. Be part of the movement. Please sign and share the Connecting Wild Places petition.

The goal is to reach 50,000 signatures by Sept. 3, the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.


EPIC in Review

Friday, June 13th, 2014
By

20140531_164412

Over the past few weeks, EPIC has worked to protect wolves in California, stood up to big timber companies, advocated for the Wild and Scenic rivers and endangered species, protected Northern Spotted Owls, opposed the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, requested amendments to groundwater legislation, and worked to protect water quality on timber lands. The documents below are a sample of our efforts to protect the wildlife, forests and watersheds of the North Coast. Several of these documents are the product of larger groups that we work with to develop coalition letters, and other documents are original works produced by EPIC staff. We hope that sharing these works with our readers will bring an awareness of some of the issues that we are addressing to protect the environment that we are rooted in.

EPIC Comments Regarding “Scorpion King” and “Boomer.” These two THPs are proposed by Sierra Pacific Industries and would result in take of Northern Spotted Owls as a result of the cumulative effects of multiple harvest entries over a short time.

Environmental Water Caucus Comment Letter on the 40,000 page Bay Delta Conservation Plan and EIR/EIS. This 259 page comment letter was developed by a coalition of water and conservation advocacy groups including EPIC. The letter outlines environmental impacts to endangered species populations, rivers, the San Joaquin Delta and to the state’s overall water supply.

EPIC Motion for Stay filed with the State Water Resources Control Board. The motion requests a stay of the effect of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of a property-wide forest operations Waste Discharge Requirement permit (WDR) order for Green Diamond property back in 2012. The motion for stay is in response to the State Board’s failure to address a petition to review the Regional Board’s approval of the order that EPIC filed in 2012.

HR 4272 Opposition Letter. The Forest Access in Rural Communities Act would modify motor vehicle use on public lands, which would tie the hands of Forest Service managers across the country who work to protect public safety, recreational experiences, and endangers protections for drinking water resources, wildlife and forest resources.

Northern California Prescribed Fire Council letter of support for AB2465. The bill would officially recognize the benefits of prescribed fire in California’s fire-adapted landscapes and facilitate new levels of professionalism for private lands burners throughout the state.

Letters to Senator Pavley and Assemblyman Anthony Rendon requesting amendments to ground water legislation to address the impact that groundwater extraction can have on California’s streams.

Letter of opposition for four House of Representatives bills that would damage the Endangered Species Act. These bills “would undermine the essential protections of the Endangered Species Act by obstructing the development and use of scientific research, squandering agency resources and chilling citizen enforcement.”


Wolf Recovery an Imperative for Ecosystem Restoration

Monday, April 28th, 2014
By
Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack. -Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

Remote camera photo from July 21, 2013, documenting three pups in the newly formed Mt Emily pack.
-Oregon Fish and Wildlife-

The importance of recovery of viable populations of wolves on the landscapes of Northern California has been clear to EPIC since before the first time the famous lone wolf “Journey” crossed over into California two years ago. Since that moment, EPIC has dedicated important time and resources to engaging in stakeholder processes and endangered species advocacy in order to contribute to a broadly shared conservation community objective of seeing wolves return to the wild and thrive in California. Our organization is part of a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to have the gray wolf listed as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), and North Coast wildlife advocates will have an unprecedented opportunity to provide public comment in support of CESA protections for the Gray Wolf when the Fish and Game Commission meets on Wednesday, June 4th at the River Lodge in Fortuna. EPIC has also had an active role in a nationwide coalition challenging the scientifically unfounded and clearly untimely proposal to remove Federal Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf throughout the majority of the predator’s current and potential range in the continental United States.

These advocacy actions for the wolf are imperative. At EPIC we see wolf recovery as an important goal of its own accord, as well as being an indispensable watermark for measuring progress towards objectives of true restoration of ecosystems in Northern California. What has become clear to those of us working for the wolf is that wolf recovery is an absolute necessity in California because bringing back the wolf would be one of the most attainable landscape level wildlife restoration accomplishments for working towards the reestablishment of natural processes, including predator-prey relationships, in our extended bioregion.

When comparing wolf recovery with the recovery of wild salmon runs, we believe that there is strong evidence that getting the wolf back onto the landscape is probably going to be much easier than bringing back the salmon. Thus, if we cannot as a society bring back the wolf it is highly unlikely that we will bring back the salmon. And taking this a step further, if we cannot bring back the wolf, and thus cannot bring back the salmon, it is pretty much impossible to contemplate a time in the future when we will be able to restore populations of grizzly bear to California wildlands.

Bringing back the griz would certainly require an amazing amount of preparation and planning, as well as commitment and willpower, on a cultural and political level. We now understand better than ever before, however, that if we cannot succeed in bringing the wolf back to California, then it is impossible to even contemplate bringing back the griz. Thus, wolf recovery is the moment of reckoning for Californian’s, because as goes the wolf so will go the grizzly. With the icon of the grizzly an integral part of state symbolism, especially with the grizzly is so prominently displayed on the state flag, this is not an irrelevant matter. What does it mean to have a world renowned symbol of wildlife on our flag when there is a total absence of vision or commitment on the part of California residents and our state government to make the griz more than just a colorful symbol and to restore the great bear to it’s rightful place on the landscape? This is why at EPIC we believe that recovery of the wolf is so important, because it comes at the crossroads of the myth vs. the reality of our wild California, one in which wildlife is glorified, but little is done to rectify the disappearance and absence of that wildlife from our ecosystems.

It is with a wry smile that we say then that we must bring back the wolf, we must bring back the salmon, and we must bring back the griz — and if we cannot commit to bringing back the griz, let’s get it off our flag! Let’s stop playing make believe games about how wild our state really isn’t. Now is the time. Bring back the griz– or get it off the flag. And the first step to keeping the grizzly on our flag and eventually someday back on to our landscapes is to show our commitment to having top predators in the wildlands of our state, and to commit fully to wolf recovery now. There is not a moment to lose.

SAVE THE DATE! California Fish and Game Commission will take public comment regarding the petition to have the Gray Wolf listed as “endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act when the Commission meets at the River Lodge in Fortuna on Wednesday, June 4. Plan now to come out on June 4th in Fortuna and “howl” for restoring wolves to California wildlands!


Connecting Wild Places

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
By

Journey LOGO selected finalSign the petition to Protect and Connect Wild Places!

How much more evidence do we need until entrusted representatives and forest, wildlife and water managers work together to change the direction of this crisis we are in? How many decades do we need to learn the same lessons? We can and we must act now to protect and connect wild places!

Conserving and connecting habitat is the number one goal of the National Fish, Animal and Plants Climate Adaption Strategy, “Sustaining a diversity of healthy populations over time requires conserving a sufficient variety and amount of habitat and building a well-connected network of conservation areas to allow the movement of species in response to climate change.” Establishing wildlife corridors and linkages that are providing vital habitat connectivity is key to species survival and should be a priority.

With 25 National Park units, 18 national forests, more than 15 million acres of Bureau of Land Management lands and 270 state parks and beaches California offers an amazing opportunity to establish an interconnected intact landscape, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Roadless areas, rivers and ridges linking wilderness and core habitat areas, not only provide for wildlife but are also a key to clean water and air in this rapidly changing climate.

Our forest ecosystems of are astoundingly beautiful and globally significant.  They serve as massive carbon banks and are refuge for increasingly rare plants and animals.  California is the wildlife state with unparalleled biological diversity. We have more species and endemic species than any other state in the nation. Alarmingly, according to the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife’s 2011 Special Animals List, the majority of our wildlife needs help: 88% of amphibians, 87% of native fish, two out of three mammals, and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at risk.” This decline of wildlife is indicative of the failing health of our ecosystems, of which we depend.

Logging, grazing, agriculture and multiple other stressors continuously threaten our watersheds and come with devastating ecological costs. It is time for change. California will soon be welcoming wolves and they need room to roam. We need wild places. Tell your entrusted leaders to Protect and Connect Wild Places now!

Our goal is to reach 10,000 signatures by June 1st and >50,000 signatures by the 50th Anniversary on the Wilderness Act on September 3rd. Please sign the petition and share with your friends and family.

The petition will go to:

  • President Obama
  • Secretary of the Interior- Sally Jewell
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Chief of the Forest Service- Tom Tidwell
  • Chief of Bureau of Land Management
  • US Fish and Wildlife
  • California US Forest Service Supervisors
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • CA Fish and Games Commissioners
  • All of the CA House of Representatives and Senate
  • Governor Brown
  • Others TBD

Links for additional resources:


Is d-Con Our Next DDT?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
By

Photo by Franklin InstituteLast month, the State of California took a step in the right direction by trying to ban over-the-counter sales of dangerous anticoagulant rat poisons that are harming children, killing pets, and devastating wildlife, including endangered species. But within days after California announced the new regulations—which are meant to take effect on July 1—Reckitt Benckiser, the $37.5 billion multi-national corporation that manufactures and sells d-Con, filed a lawsuit against the state.

While the new rules are not strong enough to prevent all poisonings of wildlife and pets—the pest control industry was exempted from the ban—they would take some of the products that are currently poisoning an estimated 10,000 children per year off retail shelves, a bold step which would also greatly reduce the number of pet and wildlife victims.  The impact on wildlife from these poisons cannot be understated. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has over 800 pages of at least 350 incidents of wildlife poisonings (and these are only the animals that have been found and turned in). Biologists believe many animals perish and are never found, meaning that what we are seeing is probably only the tip of the iceberg. WildCare, a wildlife rehab facility in San Rafael, found that over 76 percent of the animals it tested for rat poison in 2013 were contaminated with rat poison. Many wildlife rehab facilities are receiving animals with the symptoms of rodenticide poisoning but cannot afford to test them (each test costs over $100 and most rehab facilities are operating on slim budgets). If the animals do not die immediately from rodenticide exposure, their behavior can suffer, with fatal consequences.

It is not just the groundbreaking new rules in California that the makers of d-Con are fighting. Reckitt Benckiser has been fighting federal regulations too. In 2008, the US EPA gave all rat poison manufacturers three years to make their products safer—including making them tamper-proof for children. All of the poison manufacturers agreed—except for Reckitt Benckiser, which now holds the EPA hostage while it engages in legal maneuvers.

Much as DDT nearly resulted in the extinction of an iconic species like the Bald Eagle, this company’s rat poison products are causing the next “silent spring” for birds of prey such as hawks, barn owls, and the increasingly endangered Northern Spotted Owl (among many others). These poisons are also clearly presenting mortal threats to endangered mammals like the San Joaquin kit fox and the Pacific fisher. There is something seriously wrong when a corporate bully can tie the hands of both federal and state regulatory agencies in bureaucratic legal maneuvers while children are poisoned, pets and wildlife continue to perish, and the food web continues to be contaminated.

This article was co-authored by Lisa Owens-Viani of Raptors are the Solution.


Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Rare Coastal Plant in Oregon and California

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
By

Silvery Phacelia (Phacelia argentea) Silvery Phacelia Threatened by Off-Road Vehicles and Development

EPIC joined a coalition with seven other organizations to file a petition last week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for silvery phacelia, a rare plant that grows on a 130-mile stretch of coast from Coos and Curry counties in southern Oregon to Del Norte County in northern California. The flowering plant is at risk of extinction due to off-road vehicles, development and nonnative beach grass. There are fewer than 30 surviving populations of the silver-leaved plant.

“Silvery phacelia is a unique part of the natural heritage of our coast but we could lose it forever if we aren’t careful. Endangered Species Act protection is the best hope for protecting this beautiful plant for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The range of silvery phacelia extends from just north of Bandon, Ore., south to Crescent City, Calif. It grows on sand dunes where it is at risk of being crushed by off-road vehicles. It is also threatened by development on private lands as well as at Bandon State Natural Area where a proposed land exchange would carve out 280 acres of currently protected land to build a golf course. Another threat is competition from nonnative plants like European beach grass and gorse.

“Protecting silvery phacelia will not only ensure a future for this one plant species, but will also help safeguard our coastal environment for the quiet enjoyment of humans and for other rare species,” said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild.

“Our organization is proud to support this important effort to secure legal protections for a disappearing species whose continued existence is threatened by inappropriate off-road vehicle and development activities,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes.

Silvery phacelia is in the Forget-Me-Not family of flowering plants and grows to be 18 inches tall. It has white flowers that are a rich source of nectar and pollen for native bees. The number of bees and variety of bee species in dune vegetation is higher in places where phacelia grows. Its silvery hairs, an adaptation to the harsh coastal environment, keep salt off its leaves, decrease water loss and reflect excess light. The name “Phacelia” is from the Greek “phakelos” meaning cluster, for its lovely clustered flowers; and the Latin “argentea” meaning “silvery,” for the appearance of the leaves. Silvery phacelia blooms from March to September.

The petitioning groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Friends of Del Norte, Oregon Coast Alliance, the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the California Native Plant Society, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Silvery phacelia grows on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management including the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Floras Lake, Four Mile Creek, Lost Lake, and Ophir Dunes in Oregon. It is also found on state lands including Lone Ranch State Beach, Bandon State Natural Area, Pistol River State Park, Humbug Mountain State Park, and Cape Blanco State Park in Oregon, and at Tolowa Dunes State Park in California. It also grows on some private lands along the very immediate coast.

Recent Press: Protection Sought for Rare Beach Plant Threatened by Off-Road Vehicles – KCET

Click here to view the complete silvery phacelia petition

 


Take Action Today to Protect Wolves in California

Thursday, February 20th, 2014
By

brenders_-_den_mother-wolf_family_premier_edition Take Action: Gray Wolves in California may be left without state protections under the California Endangered Species Act if the California Fish and Game Commission were to follow the recommendation of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to not list the species.

On February 5, 2014, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife released it’s final status report for the Gray Wolf. It advised the California Fish and Game Commission to not list Gray Wolves as “endangered,” as requested by a petition from EPIC and a coalition of other groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity, because there are currently no wolves in California.

The Department is instead recommending alternative measures to protect wolves. These measures include:

  • The designation of the wolf as a “special species of concern;”
  • The existence of the wolf stake-holder group that is producing a Gray Wolf Management Plan;
  • Commission actions under the existing California Fish and Game Code that would prevent “take” of the Gray Wolf, even in response to depredation of livestock; and
  • The possibility of listing the Gray Wolf under California Endangered Species Act at a later date.

These measures are considered inadequate by our staff at EPIC because they fail to afford the fullest protection of California endangered species law to these imperiled species.

While the Department is charged with conducting the status review, and preparing the status report with recommendations to the Commission, the Commission itself is the final authority as to whether or not listing of the Gray Wolf as “endangered” is warranted. The Commission is tentatively scheduled to hear the Gray Wolf listing and make a final determination at it’s April 2014 meeting in Ventura, California.

Meanwhile, the Federal proposal to “de-list” the gray wolf in the lower 48 states has hit a substantial snag with the recent release of the peer review report regarding the scientific foundations of the “de-listing” proposal. Scientists clearly state in the peer review report that the “de-listing” proposal is not based on the best available science.

For California, the decision as to whether the Gray Wolf warrants state protections must be informed by public opinion as well as the best available science, both of which largely support the “endangered” listing.

Click here to tell the Commission to protect tomorrow’s legacy by listing the Gray Wolf as a California Endangered Species today.