Archive for April, 2011

An Injury to One State Park is an Injury to All State Parks

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

From our new Executive Director, Gary Graham Hughes, on EPIC’s Involvement with the Richardson Grove Issue.

The Environmental Protection Information Center works through out the Northwest California region on many controversial resource management and economic development issues. One of these controversial issues is the proposal to widen and expand Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park. The CalTrans proposal to rebuild the highway through the ancient redwoods grove has received tremendous attention, starting when it was first put on the table in 2007. Since that time, a broad and diverse coalition has sprung up to challenge the CalTrans Richardson Grove Highway Improvement Project. EPIC is an important member of that coalition, yet EPIC is only one member of that coalition.

EPIC is also one of several plaintiffs that have filed suit in both state and federal court, challenging the Final Environmental Impact Report for the highway-widening project.  Recent developments in the legal proceedings demonstrate that the EPIC case is robust. As a result of court supervised communications concerning the highway-widening project, a stipulation has been reached that CalTrans will not put to bid or otherwise move forward on work with the project before at least July 1, 2011. We are intent in seeing that the merits of our case are heard before CallTrans attempts to implement the project, and this development is an important step in achieving that objective.

The motives for EPIC’s participating in the suit are diverse, as is the group of people that participate in the movement challenging the project. EPIC’s organizational reasons for being involved with the Richardson Grove issue can be simplified into three principle concepts.

The first is environmental democracy. Opposition to the project has been voiced from around the state, and across the county. Locally, there is a sensation that the Richardson Grove project has been forced upon the Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino community, and that the local communities concerns about the repercussions of further highway development through Richardson Grove have been largely ignored. Much of our legal challenge is based on procedural grounds, as it is the precise and correct facilitation of the environmental review process that guarantees democracy when a state agency proposes to invest millions of dollars in an infrastructure development project. We believe that the process has been incorrectly supervised by CalTrans, and we are defending basic democratic principles as they are stipulated in state and federal law.

On another front, the potential investment of more than 10 million dollars by CalTrans in the highway development project in Richardson Grove contrasts markedly with the California State Parks system 1.2 billion dollar backlog in maintenance projects. This disparity underscores the second reason that EPIC has stood firm in the face of fierce public criticism of our opposition to the highway-widening project—our state parks are endangered.

Our State Park system is an essential part of the infrastructure that makes up the economic backbone of Northern California. The State Parks, especially those located here in redwood country, are recognized as a global jewel, and attract visitors from all around the world. As such they bring in valuable tourist dollars, as well as providing important environmental services. Yet, our State Parks face a terrible funding crisis, putting at risk their potential as protected areas in the face of unbridled development and climate change, as well as diminishing their capacity for contributing to a diversified and vibrant economy.

The recent collapse of Briceland Road in Whittemore Grove brought this maintenance backlog, and the high costs of neglecting park infrastructure, to the forefront for the Southern Humboldt community. Our State Parks are endangered and suffering for a lack of stewardship, and the impacts of the deterioration of the park infrastructure is costing local people time and money, as well as putting the survival of sensitive species at risk.

In advocating for the appropriate care of our state parks, EPIC is also advocating for alternatives to proposals like the highway widening in Richardson Grove. We know that solutions exist, and that these solutions will contribute to a sustainable vision for the economic future of our region. As it stands, the deterioration of our parks is certainly a deterioration of our shared natural and economic heritage, and the problem will only be compounded if the massive development looming on the North Coast horizon comes to pass.

This illuminates the third fundamental reason why EPIC is involved with the Richardson Grove issue. We believe that it is incumbent upon us as an environmental watchdog to enter into the region wide debate about sustainable development, and to insure that true parameters of sustainability are on the table. One of these true parameters of sustainability is the maintenance of ecological integrity, the achievement of which depends upon the strict stewardship of our State Park treasures as a buffer against ever accelerating development. Other true parameters for sustainable development include the use of appropriate technology and democratic decision making processes, both of which are themes that run through out the debate surrounding the Richardson Grove issue.

Richardson Grove is not a stand-alone issue for EPIC. Our supporters are crucial in providing timely and ongoing financial support for our legal work on Richardson Grove, and we want our community to know that we are not working on Richardson Grove in an advocacy vacuum. Our Richardson Grove work fits tightly within a framework of environmental advocacy strategies that have a coherent objective, which is to contribute to an economically viable and ecologically sane long-term vision of our regions future. It is our responsibility to confront destructive and shortsighted development that puts our future at stake.

We are firm in our commitment to challenging the highway development in Richardson Grove, and we have confidence that our arguments against the project are well studied and viable. The stipulation letter holding CalTrans to a July 1 date for contract bids proves that we are having success in the legal proceedings. Yet, the costs of this work are high. We need the financial backing of people who support our work. Please continue to support EPIC, and be attentive to forthcoming communications that will describe how you can act to support EPIC on this emblematic issue.

SPI Seeks Loopholes to Log Owl Habitat

Friday, April 15th, 2011

The case of THP 2-10-019TRI, “Ebert” represents a classic example of how the Cal Fire THP review process is fatally flawed, and why Cal Fire should not be the authority determining harm of Northern Spotted Owls.  Companies like Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) continue to push Cal Fire for ever-reduced protections for owls, and continue to propose logging that would result in harm to owls.

In this map the circles represent owl territory and the squares represent forest management types

The circles above represent Northern Spotted Owl territory and the polygons represent SPI's applied forest management types within SPI's "Ebert" THP

THP 2-10-019TRI, “Ebert” contains a clearcut logging unit within 500 feet of a known Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) nest.  SPI claimed that these potentially illegal operations would avoid harm to owls despite the close proximity and the severity of the proposed logging.  The NSO home range to be impacted by this proposed clearcut logging has been identified as being deficient in essential high quality habitats that would support essential owl behaviors such as nesting, roosting, feeding, breeding, sheltering, and dispersal.

Despite the high risk of harm to owls posed by clearcut logging within 500 feet of a known owl nest, the Cal Fire THP review team recommended the “Ebert” THP for approval on March 23, 2011.  On March 24, 2011, we contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service to express our concerns over these proposed logging operations and the threat they posed to owls.  The Service in turn contacted Cal Fire and expressed similar concerns.

During the course of our review of past activities near this NSO home range, we discovered that the unit in the “Ebert” THP was in fact a recycle of a unit that had been restricted to modified harvest by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under a previous technical assistance letter. Thus SPI was attempting to ‘double dip’ in this unit in very close proximity to an NSO nest site.  Furthermore, we found that the Service had requested early involvement with planning of any further logging within this owl home range due to the lack of high quality habitats, and the potential for cumulative impacts and harm to occur.

The Cal Fire review team failed to pick up on any of this until we contacted the Service and the Service in turn contacted the Department.  These essential facts demonstrate why Cal Fire does not have the expertise to make determinations regarding harm to owls. The review team process failed to consider past THPs within the range of the owls in question, and failed to consult with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s technical assistance packages for past THPs.

On 3/25/11, Cal Fire back tracked and sent a letter to SPI, retracting the recommendation for approval, and giving SPI three choices to fix the situation:  delete the unit, maintain the habitat characteristics per the previous Technical Assistance letter, or seek further Technical Assistance from the Service.  On 3/30/11, SPI responded to Cal Fire by changing the harvest from clearcutting to selection, and also deferred harvest of the unit until the NSO home range in question is determined to be abandoned.

Cal Fire review team failed to catch significant problems with the THP as proposed before recommending it for approval.  It is clear that Cal Fire did not consult the past TA’s when reviewing the THP.  It is also clear that Cal Fire would not have balked at logging within 500 feet of the activity center had we not made the call to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  It is also clear that SPI was trying to get one over on Cal Fire, hoping that they wouldn’t notice the recycled unit.  This is yet another example of how the Cal Fire review team process is flawed, and that the Department of Forestry is only movable on NSO take issues if someone else raises a concern.  EPIC will continue to track THPs that threaten harm to owls and will continue to advocate for protection of owls and owl habitat on private lands in Northwest California.

EPIC membership meeting May 4

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

EPIC Membership Meeting, Wednesday May 4 from 5-7pm
at Persimmons Garden Gallery
in Redway

EPIC staff and board would like to invite our community of dedicated members to share an evening with us, meet the new staff, and discuss EPIC’s work on National Forests, industrial forestry reform, protecting endangered species, clean water and working to protect our State Parks.

We look forward to hearing your input on how our work can better serve the needs of the community.

Please call Natalynne at (707) 822-7711 for more information. The event is free, and all are welcome.

Persimmons Garden Gallery is located just across the street from KMUD at 1055 Redway Drive in Redway.



Klamath Chinook One Step Closer to Protection Under ESA

Monday, April 11th, 2011

In response to a petition from, the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental Protection Information Center and Larch Company, the National Marine Fisheries Service today determined that upper Klamath River Chinook salmon found in northern California and southern Oregon may warrant protection under the federal Endangered Species Act and initiated a status review to determine if protection is warranted.

“The Klamath River Basin and the salmon it supports are a national treasure,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center. “So far, federal agencies have managed spring-run Chinook in the Klamath by ignoring them. Plans for the restoration of the Klamath need to put spring Chinook recovery front and center.”

Click here to view the full press release!

Spring Brings an Exciting New Season for EPIC

Monday, April 11th, 2011

As the rivers run high and the snow begins to melt we mark the transition from winter to spring. This year, we will experience much more than just seasonal changes for all of us here at EPIC.

After eight dedicated years of service to EPIC, Scott Greacen will be stepping down as EPIC’s Executive Director to become North Coast Director for Friends of the Eel River.

Meanwhile, as the colors erupt into a rainbow of blossoms this spring, we welcome a new leadership team at EPIC. With an eye for innovative transformation, EPIC’s Board of Directors has filled three Director-level positions.  These people will carry on the traditional roles EPIC fills as environmental watchdogs, but also build real capacity for elevating effective campaigns and building our membership.

We welcome Natalynne DeLapp, as Development Director. Natalynne may be familiar to many of you from her three years working with EPIC, first as an intern through the Environmental Science program at Humboldt State University, then as a Policy Advocate in Sacramento on EPIC’s behalf.  More likely you remember Natalynne for managing the campaign that successfully re-elected Paul Gallegos, Humboldt County’s District Attorney.  Natalynne will work with the community to grow EPIC’s membership and organize regional events aimed at sanctioning membership involvement in EPIC’s ongoing work to protect and restore Northwestern California’s irreplaceable heritage.

We welcome Andrew Orahoske as Conservation Director. Andrew comes to EPIC as a environmental law expert who is versed in biodiversity protection strategies.  He holds a J.D. from the University of Oregon, and a B.A. in Biology from the University of Colorado.  His extensive track record as an environmental advocate includes work with the Earth Island Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Earthjustice, Western Environmental Law Center, and others.  He has also worked as a field biologist in a number of locations, including northern California, Oregon, Montana, Arizona, Jamaica and Venezuela.

We welcome Gary Graham Hughes, as Executive Director. After two years serving on EPIC’s Board of Directors, Gary joins EPIC with a deep understanding of EPIC’s program work and history, and Humboldt County. Gary has an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, a B.S. in Sociology from the University of Oregon, and extensive experience in management of U.S. and international environmental programs. Most recently he served as Patagonia Campaign Coordinator, Latin America Program, for International Rivers.

New staff and leadership at EPIC means changes in the way we communicate, operate, and coordinate our campaign work to protect Northwest California’s incredible treasure, a dynamic – and threatened – ecosystem.

Click here to meet the rest of the EPIC team!