Archive for July, 2010

25th Anniversary of EPIC v. Johnson

Friday, July 30th, 2010

By Richard Gienger

Sally Bell Grove soon after two clearcuts were completed on either side of the grove.

We should, here in 2010, take notice, reflect, and refresh at a wellspring of inspiration on occasion of the 25th anniversary of the landmark, precedent-setting EPIC v. Johnson appeal court decision in 1985. From a statewide, and even national perspective, EPIC v. Johnson marked a significant milestone in environmental protection, much of which was initiated by environmental laws passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In California this included the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Forest Practices Act (FPA), and California Endangered Species Act (CESA). There were federal legislative counterparts with some direct cross-over, notably the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (1969) affecting the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972.

During the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the turmoil of politics and natural resources was intense in the Redwood Region of California (and lingers today), especially from Santa Cruz to the Oregon border. Damage from the huge floods in 1955 and 1964 were greatly increased from the horrific impacts of the post WWII logging boom (which was basically unconstrained & pushed by the ad valorem tax on standing timber). The old “Forest Practice Act” was thrown out for being unconstitutional (no rules unless the large landowners agreed). A number of counties struggled to have their own rules. The effort to protect an adequate National Redwood Park was a huge local, regional, and national issue. The general move to constrain unbridled ‘boom & bust’ resource economies to respond to environmental considerations like conservation for the future with protection for wildlife, remnant old-growth forests, and the beneficial uses of water — set the stage for dramatic, stressful, and from time to time, violent manifestations of significant social and cultural change. I don’t have the time and space to detail all the important legal cases, other events, and situations leading up to the July 25th, 1985 EPIC v. Johnson decision, or the cases, events, and situations in the last 25 years — but I will try and give a coherent summary of the decision and related matters from a local “Mateel” perspective, and through the experience of a participant, from time to time, in various activist and watershed restoration efforts.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) was founded in 1976 or 1977, depending on the person you talk to. It formally was accepted as a 501(3)(c) several years later. It’s formation was catalyzed by the region’s opposition to the aerial spraying of phenoxy herbicides (2,4,5T & 2,4D: components of the ‘Agent Orange’ defoliant used in Vietnam) on forestlands surrounding or adjacent to human communities. The specific instigating situation for Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt Counties was the attempt by the Barnum Timber Company (BTC) to aerially spray its timberland, mainly in the Sprowel Creek Watershed west of the town of Garberville. Due to vocal and written opposition encouraged by EPIC, and spontaneous direct action by various individuals, such as removal of truck keys from the truck hauling an herbicide application helicopter through Garberville, and contamination of barrels of herbicide near an herbicide application site — BTC was prompted to cancel its proposed aerial application of herbicides. (more…)

Green Diamond Herbicide Findings

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Green Diamond’s clearcut management practices  lead to the use of herbicides to control competing vegetation after re-planting. Although herbicides are used regularly on private industrial forest lands, Cal Fire has no authority to regulate their use. Green Diamond and other companies must report their pesticide use to the Department of pesticide regulation, but no other regulatory mechanism exists to monitor the use of herbicides.

Based on the DPR records, Green Diamond has applied herbicides over approximately 1,718 acres of its property between January 27th to May 5th of 2010. The amount of chemicals used adds up to a whopping 25,958.25 gallons. This includes the use of 3,128 gallons of Imazapyr and 1,377 gallons of Atrazine.

Green Diamond’s herbicide use thus far in 2010, has been spread all over their ownership. Significant amounts of herbicides have been used in Pecwan Creek, just down river from where the Trinity flows into the Klamath River. Little River, Mad River, and Maple Creek watersheds have also been heavily impacted by the use of herbicides. These records only represent a fraction of what the timber company has applied to their lands.

Green Diamond’s herbicide use results from intensive clearcut logging of old timber harvest plans. However, Green Diamond has also used herbicides in selection and commercially thinned areas as well. Green Diamond’s approach of plantation forestry necessitates that herbicides be used to aggressively grow only the two tree species desired and eliminate competition.

While many of the herbicides used by Green Diamond are not considered restricted chemicals, they are nevertheless a threat to water, wildlife, and people. Green Diamond claims that no long-term effects from its use of herbicides have or will occur. However, Green Diamond’s own research suggests that many of the herbicides being used are persistent, mobile, and potentially dangerous.

Green Diamond’s mandate under the Forest Practice Rules Maximum Sustained Production provisions dictates clearcutting, broadcast burning, and the use of herbicides. While Green Diamond claims that it intends to reduce the use of herbicides on its property, it is hard to fathom how this will be possible, given the intensive even-aged management regime employed by Green Diamond and required by the Forest Practice Rules.

Here are two examples of peer-reviewed scientific studies concerning the hazards of atrazine to the environment:

Hermaphroditic, demasculinized frogs after exposure to the herbicides atrazine at low ecologically relevant doses by Hayes et. al

Changes in testicular morphology and steriodogenesis in adult rats exposed to atrazine by Bolivar Victor-Costa et. al

Klamath Dam Removal Scoping Period Underway

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

At long last, the needed removal of four dams along the Klamath River including the Iron Gate, Copco 1 and 2 and John C. Boyle could be removed in the next decade, allowing fish passage through the otherwise blocked river. This access could dramatically improve the health of the mighty Klamath, and allow river communities to rebound as well. The Klamath has been an item of international debate over the last several years, and has resulted in the signing of the controversial Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement and Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement.

In preparation for a U.S. Secretarial finding on whether dam removal is in the best interests of the American public and the citizens of California, the Department of Interior and California Department of Fish and Game are coming to the Arcata Community Center this Wednesday, July 14 at 6 p.m. and to Orleans on Thursday to gather public input on the environmental impacts of the Klamath dams.


SPI Destroys Owl Habitat in Trinity County

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Even under the watch of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Technical Assistance process, SPI conducted significant and damaging logging around its Northern Spotted Owl Activity Centers.  As a result, Northern Spotted Owls have been nearly extirpated from SPI lands. Many of the owls now impacted by SPI’s operations reside on US Forest Service lands or other properties adjacent to SPI.

Since the US Fish and Wildlife Service turned over the Technical Assistance duties for Northern Spotted Owls to Cal Fire in 2008, SPI has filed and executed numerous THPs using the sub-par standards of the California Forest Practice Rules instead of employing the guidance of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These antiquated Forest Practice Rules allow SPI to employ inferior habitat typing definitions and allows much more logging in and around Northern Spotted Owl Activity Centers than do the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s take avoidance guidelines.

In 2010, SPI is once again planning to log suitable Northern Spotted Owl habitat within close proximity of NSO Activity Centers.  The latest two THPs, 2-10-011TRI and 2-10-019TRI both propose intensive clearcut logging operations near known Northern Spotted Owl Activity Centers. (more…)

Eye on Green Diamond: HCP Update

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Green Diamond’s application for a new Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is now past the scoping stage. The US Fish and Wildlife Service and Green Diamond are now in process of writing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The EIS drafting process involves the development of alternatives to the proposed action, ie. an HCP with corresponding Incidental Take Permits (ITPs). These alternatives must include a no action alternative, i.e. maintaining the status quo.

Green Diamond plans to seek HCP coverage for the Northern Spotted Owl. Other possible species to be covered by this HCP include Pacific Fisher, Humboldt Marten, Red Tree Voles, and Sonoma Tree Voles. Green Diamond’s current NSO HCP is antiquated, allows incidental take of NSO, and allows intensive management around NSO activity centers. The old HCP did not anticipate, and thus did not address, the now critical situation involving impacts to NSO from Barred Owls.

The updated HCP would center on Green Diamond’s new proposals for managing Northern Spotted Owls.  These proposals include an element for Barred Owl tracking and management.  The HCP would propose to require Green Diamond to maintain 50 pairs of NSOs. Central to Green Diamond’s NSO conservation strategy is the reliance upon the creation of NSO habitat within riparian management zones (RMZs) established under the Green Diamond AHCP.  Green Diamond is contending that these RMZ areas will develop into suitable NSO habitat in the future and that the RMZs will eventually be colonized by NSO. (more…)

Eye on Green Diamond: Clearcut King of Humboldt County

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Sol Simpson descendant and current Chairman of Green Diamond Resource Company, Colin Moseley (the crown is fake).

Since the fall of the Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Company, Green Diamond Resource Company has become the king of clearcuts in Humboldt County.  The famed timber giant is proud of their aggressive ‘even-aged’ i.e. clearcutting policy. In addition, they seriously assert that redwoods are a shade intolerant tree, and thus must grow in the full sun, i.e. plantation clearcuts.

So-called even-aged management is a euphemism for intensive clearcutting, burning, and herbicide use across Green Diamond’s vast landscape.  The trees and all vegetation are stripped bare, leaving exposed soils on the hillsides.

Clearcutting increases the risk of soil and debris transmission to watercourses, and increases the risk of significant earth movements when storm conditions are at their most intense.  Intensive clearcutting and extensive rains make for a dangerous mix of overland flow, flooding, and landslide activity.

Green Diamond’s method of two-species monoculture depends on clearcutting, broadcast burning, and the use of herbicides to allow its plantation style management to take hold. Thus the natural species diversity within the forest is compromised, and the habitat once present for threatened and endangered species is demolished. The habitat remaining is restricted almost entirely to slim watercourse buffers and serve as the last vestiges of safety and biodiversity on the landscape.

Intensive clearcut logging as practiced by Green Diamond leaves little but barren moonscapes where vibrant, recovering forests once grew.  In their place, Green Diamond intends to embark on an endless tree farm.  The needs of the species living in these watersheds are relegated to secondary status in the face of Green Diamond’s idea of maximum sustained production; clearcut, burn, herbicide, repeat every 45 years.  Under this regime, forests will not recover, species will continue to disappear, and our streams will continue to suffer.

Off Road in Tolowa Dunes

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Butterfly Habitat destroyed by ORVs

Over the last two decades, EPIC Staff Attorney Sharron Duggan has assisted Crescent City activists with efforts to protect the Lake Earl and Tolowa Dunes.  EPIC is particularly interested in helping to protect Tolowa Dunes State Park and threatened species habitat from off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse.

Take action to stop off-road vehicles from destroying public trust lands that are home to threatened and endangered species.  Email the Northern Region of the California Department of Fish and Game, and ask them to protect Tolowa Dunes from this destructive ORV use.

The following history of Tolowa Dunes State Park leading up to this point is courtesy of Friends of Del Norte.

“Affected agency officials and citizens were astonished when the route was posted with signs in January 2010, and the County began handing out ORV route maps. Word spread quickly up and down the coast that there was a new ORV riding area in Del Norte County, and damage to public trust lands and other habitat increased immediately. State fencing was vandalized. We began to monitor and photograph attributable damage to sensitive Silvery phacelia plant colonies, to habitats of threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly (see photo above), Western snowy plover, and endangered Tidewater goby. Seaside hoary elfin butterfly (a lapsed proposed federal candidate) habitat has been destroyed as well. (more…)

Saving the Forest and the Owl

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Photo taken by Noel Soucy

Northern Spotted Owl

Twenty years after the Northern Spotted Owl was listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, a plethora of news stories regarding the implications of the policy have appeared across media outlets, including the New York Times.  Last week, EPIC’s Executive Director, Scott Greacen, submitted a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to the shallow coverage the newspaper published. Below we have posted a long version of the letter. To read the article in it’s entirety, click here.

To the editor –

So seldom does our society review and reassess big decisions we’ve made, especially about conservation, that it’s especially important that we do a good job when we do take a rare look back in the mirror.

It’s thus particularly painful to read Jonathan Raban’s “Losing the Owl, Saving the Forest” (NYT June 25 2010), in which the author stitches together a patchwork of half-examined stereotypes and long-refuted myths to conclude that the effort to protect old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest as habitat for the threatened Northern spotted owl has been a failure. Caught in the tangle of his own misunderstandings, the author fails to illuminate either the serious challenges to the survival and recovery of the owl, and to the larger project of truly sustainable forest management, which still confront us, or the big decisions which still lie before us if we are to save species like the Pacific fisher and the Humboldt marten which also depend on old forests. (more…)

Forest Service: Demand Water for the Scott River

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Dewatered Scott River being watered by sprinkler

In conjunction with the Klamath Riverkeeper, the Karuk Tribe and others, EPIC works to protect the health of the Scott River, which serves as a tributary to the Klamath River.  Over the last few years– as salmon returns have dropped to extremely dangerous lows–much of the route of this once vibrant home for chinook and coho salmon has dried up in late summer.  Visualize a dry riverbed with isolated pools of sitting water with dying or dead stranded fish . Then couple that mental image with overhead irrigation in neighboring fields watering second and third rotation alfalfa. The recent history of clearcut logging, bad road construction and the Klamath Reclamation Project that caused massive diversions from natural flows in the Klamath Basin have made the Scott River one of the hardest hit tributaries in the region.

Right now, one of the most effective actions people can take on this issue is to encourage the US Forest Service to help provide water for fish. The Forest Service has an in-stream water right that is dedicated to fish and wildlife. We need to encourage the Forest Service to use every tool available to help prevent extinction of these fish.

Please take a moment, and send a one-click letter to the Forest Service to help save the Scott River.

Legally, the Forest Service can put 40 cubic feet per second of water in the Scott River when water demand among alfalfa farmers spikes and the riverbed goes completely dry this fall. But in years past the agency has shied away from asserting its right out of concern that doing so would be too politically contentious in conservative Siskiyou County.

Forest Service officials need to hear from you that fish need water, and that Scott River coho won’t wait for better politics.

Send a one-click letter to remind decision makers at the Forest Service that at this critical juncture they are legally empowered to reclaim enough water for fish to scrape through, and failure to do so could result in extinction.

As the summer progresses, EPIC will continue to provide updates and announcements on this important issue.