Archive for December, 2011

Looking Ahead into 2012

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The year 2011 has seen many changes at EPIC and I am grateful to be part of a talented organization supported by a dedicated community.  As Conservation Director, I have the opportunity to advance our mission through four main program areas:  Public Lands Defense, Clean Water, Endangered Species and Biodiversity Protection, and Industrial Forestry Reform.  With this responsibility, I am deeply indebted to our staff members and their unflagging commitment to Wild California.

From our deep roots and traditions protecting old-growth forest and promoting new beginnings for restoration in southern Humboldt and Mendocino, to high atop the peaks of the Marble Mountains, Trinity Alps and beyond, EPIC ensures that the voice of each and every organism, great and small, is heard loud and clear.

EPIC continues to champion increased protections for the Northern Spotted Owl.  Over 30 years of rigorous scientific research has made clear that the owl is in imminent threat of extinction.  Consistent documented population decline throughout the owl’s range is a confirmation of many biologists’ worst fears.  Without significant new conservation measures, particularly on private lands, the Northern Spotted Owl will go extinct.  Therefore, we are at a turning point in spotted owl conservation and EPIC is committed to leading the way by garnering increased protections for owls and their habitat.  We will use a combination of traditional advocacy and new strategies. For example, we will explore opportunities for rewarding small landowners that embrace spotted owls on their lands.  A cooperative approach with small landowners is sorely needed, not only for spotted owls, but for the local human community as well.  Simultaneously, EPIC will step up the pressure on destructive industrial logging companies, like Sierra Pacific Industries, that have repeatedly ignored the needs of spotted owls, and the larger community dependent on our forests.

Defending our state parks from all-out-assault has become an even greater task than we ever imagined.  EPIC’s staunch opposition to destructive and wasteful highway developments has galvanized our supporters into a force to respect in courtrooms and beyond.  As the year unfolds, we are confident that Richardson Grove will not only be saved, but fortified in the process.  And in response to this assault, EPIC will demand new conservation measures to lessen the impacts of roads throughout Wild California.  If there is one message to take from Richardson Grove, it is that a new path forward is needed, preferably one that promotes local communities’ intimate connection to state parks and the natural landscape.

Our work on national forests is absolutely foundational, and defines much of the current lay of the land in terms of regional forest and watershed protections.  By enforcing laws that guard our national forests from plunder and ruin, EPIC defends the integrity of these lands and simultaneously promotes restoration.   This work is instrumental in healing past scars and building community resilience.

In reforming private industrial forestlands, EPIC is at the forefront of protecting forests across northwestern California.  Our review of timber harvest plans covers at least six counties, and our comments create beneficial results for endangered species and wild country.  By holding the bad actors accountable, EPIC enforces laws designed to preserve our cherished homes from blight and greed.  The authoritative reach of EPIC’s private forestry watch-dogging is monumental.

We have a lot in store for 2012, and we are all rising to the occasion.  Strong and smart is our direction for the coming year.  Moving forward, we will honor the commitment of our many hardworking supporters, and continue the EPIC tradition of being a lean, witty, and hard-hitting organization that gets results.

Richardson Grove Decision on the Horizon

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Eel River Fog Blankets Forest (Murray Cooper Photo)

It has been several years that EPIC has been standing up to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposal to further develop Highway 101 through the ancient redwood gateway in Richardson Grove State Park. Despite receiving heavy public opposition, Caltrans pushed obstinately forward with their plan. This stubbornness resulted in a pair of legal challenges to the Caltrans project, in both of which EPIC has played an integral role. The cases are now steadily heading towards a full hearing on their merits, and the court’s decision can be anticipated on the horizon just beyond the New Year in early 2012.

On December 6, 2011, attorneys for EPIC and plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in federal court.  This filing is an important step in the process that will lead to the summary judgment hearing in the federal court in San Francisco on February 23, 2012.

The motion and supporting memorandum explain the precise legal claims against Caltrans, and illuminates the failure of the agency to follow this nation’s bedrock environmental laws.  EPIC and the plaintiffs request that the court declare Caltrans in violation of laws, and direct the agency to re-examine the Highway 101 widening project through Richardson Grove State Park.  Caltrans’ project threatens irreplaceable and rare majestic old-growth redwoods at risk of significant and, in fact, mortal impacts, while also potentially causing several other significant environmental impacts within the state protected area. The law requires, and the people of California and the nation as a whole deserve, that Caltrans undertake a complete analysis of the Project’s impacts.

Redwood Temperate Rainforest (Murray Cooper Photo)

There is a parallel legal challenge to the Caltrans proposal for Richardson Grove in State Court; the hearing in that case will take place in Eureka, in Humboldt County Superior Court, on March 14, 2012.

EPIC and plaintiffs have stood their ground against Caltrans and project proponents through a long and contentious process.  All of this hard work has produced results by securing a preliminary injunction against the project, raising grassroots support in opposition to Caltrans’ plans that threaten some of the last old-growth redwoods in the world, and putting the incoherence of the State of California’s management of our globally important redwood parks in the spotlight. We are working towards a favorable decision, and aspire to have this be a landmark case in which the Government of the State of California will reexamine it’s priorities and improve it’s policies in terms of directing state agencies and protecting biodiversity. Kudos are due to our citizen coplaintiffs, and to the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, for everything they have done on this journey. We extend gratitude to our attorneys for prosecuting this case pro bono and doing an outstanding job, and we thank all of the community members who have been, and will be, supporting us in this important advocacy work.

Document 102- Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment


Thanks and Appreciation: An EPIC Holiday Message

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Winter light on oak branches. Murray Cooper Photo.

As the year comes to a close, we at the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) are reflecting on the efforts EPIC has undertaken on behalf of Northwest California’s endangered species and wild areas during 2011, and we are grateful to all of the people that have stepped up and joined our effort to protect Wild California.

EPIC has undergone important staffing changes with exceptional smoothness, we have strengthened our advocacy work, and we are succeeding at making EPIC an innovative, effective and independent environmental watchdog organization.

In 2011 we:

Defended Richardson Grove State Park from unnecessary highway development, halting the ill-advised Caltrans proposal for widening Highway 101 with a Preliminary Injunction granted in Federal Court;

Put an end to illegal grazing in Tolowa Dunes State Park, as well as engaging parks management to enforce prohibitions against off-highway vehicle use in that park;

Commented on dozens of Timber Harvest Plans slated for private industrial forestlands across our region, forcing changes in harvest activities that have directly protected the habitat of endangered species like the Northern Spotted Owl and Coho Salmon;

Monitored and secured changes on numerous commercial timber sales on National Forest lands, and supported legal strategies addressing damaging grazing, logging, mining, and travel management issues that present direct conservation threats to our public lands;

Advocated for the legal protections of species like the Humboldt Marten, the Pacific Fisher, the Klamath Spring Chinook Salmon, and the Marbled Murrelet through the innovative use of the United States Endangered Species Act;

–Supported local residents grappling with environmental challenges who look to EPIC as a clearinghouse for information on managing environmental issues.

The staff and board of EPIC want to extend Thanks and Appreciation to all of the individuals, businesses, and sister organizations that have contributed money, goods, time, talent, and love to our organization. It is our members that make EPIC a unique expression of the redwood coast community; and it is this foundation of support within our community that keeps EPIC alive and fighting for the natural wonders of our home. Importantly, as we look ahead and prepare for the coming year of 2012, we need our community to dig deep and make a year-end contribution to EPIC today!

The environmental challenges we are facing are multiple and complex, and 2012 promises to break the mold of what we have come to expect in environmental politics.

Valley Fog and Intertwining Forest. Murray Cooper Photo.

An emerging nationwide social movement addressing the severe inequalities in our society is growing by leaps and bounds, while at the same time the most dangerous and anti-earth political establishment in decades has captured the US Congress, threatening to unravel the very foundation of environmental law that provides protections for water, air, and biodiversity. On the state level, from park closures to the unfunded mandate of regulatory agencies, the signs are clear that many politicians are ready to sacrifice the environment on the altar of economical expediency. There are unimaginable geopolitical events awaiting us in the next year, and the global economy is tottering under the weight of its own surreal unsustainable dependence on the unfettered exploitation of people and natural resources.

This precarious state of affairs is a strong argument for becoming a member of EPIC and for making a significant donation today! Investing in our effective organization is your insurance for having a consistent and visionary voice for the Northwest California environment in a tumultuous political arena and convoluted economic playing field.

We thank you for considering EPIC in your year-end giving, and we thank you for all of the support and dedication that you have provided us this year. We thank the forests and the rivers for the lessons and humility that they teach us, and for the bounty that they provide us. The glorious beauty of the soft golden sun caressing the moss and lichen laden upper branches of an elder oak tree is the aesthetic essence of our drive to contribute our energies to integrating human and natural communities on the North Coast of California. The health and vitality of our futures, and that of our children and grandchildren, is contingent upon our ability to respond to the cries for help from a stressed landscape. Over the years EPIC has gained the trust of our supporters, and now more than ever we need people to pitch in to this collective effort. Make your donation today, and rest assured that the guardian of your wild backyard will be ready to serve you and our planet in the year to come.