Archive for February, 2012

Petition Filed to Protect Gray Wolves Under California ESA

Monday, February 27th, 2012

EPIC and other conservation groups joined the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to petition the California Fish and Game Commission today to protect gray wolves as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act. Wolves, which are not currently protected under the state law, were absent from the state from 1924 until late in 2011, when a wolf from Oregon made a thousand-mile journey to Northern California. It has lived there since.

“The return of the gray wolf to California is exciting — it’s a cause for celebration,” said Noah Greenwald, CBD’s endangered species director. “The West Coast is crucial to wolf recovery in the United States, and California has hundreds of square miles of excellent wolf habitat. But if that one wolf is to become many, wolves need help so they don’t get killed. They need the protection of the state’s Endangered Species Act, and they need a science-based recovery plan.”

Gray wolves are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act in portions of their range, including California; but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with implementing the Act, has never developed a recovery plan for wolves in California. Such a plan would specify management actions needed to protect and recover the species and establish population targets. Both Oregon and Washington initiated state wolf-management plans prior to wolves establishing in those states.

“California needs a road map for recovering wolves,” said Greenwald. “Wolf populations in neighboring states will continue to expand, and more wolves will almost certainly show up in California, which has plenty of habitat and available prey.”

Today’s petition documents that wolves once roamed most of California. Even though California is now the most populated state in the West, scientists estimate there is still extensive habitat for wolves in both Northern California and the Sierra Nevada.

Between crossing the border from Canada and efforts to reintroduce them into Yellowstone National Park, wolf populations have continued to grow in the northern Rocky Mountains and Oregon and Washington. The wolf known as Journey, or OR-7, who arrived in California in December came from a pack that was formed in 2008 when wolves moved from Idaho to the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon. As wolf populations continue to grow, it is likely that more wolves will travel to California.

“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes, including California, for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a certain future,” said Greenwald. “The return of wolves to California will help restore the natural balance and reverse the historic wrong done by people who shot, poisoned and persecuted wolves into oblivion.”

“Not all who wander are lost, some are returning home,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for EPIC.  “After a long absence, the recent arrival of a wolf to California is a positive signal that our forests and valleys are still wild enough for this amazing animal.  So now it’s time to roll out the welcome mat and begin planning for a future with wolves.”

Wolves are a keystone species that benefit their prey populations by culling sick animals and preventing overpopulation of species such as deer. Studies of reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park show that they benefit numerous other species as well, including pronghorn and foxes, by controlling coyote populations; they help songbirds and beavers by dispersing browsing elk and allowing recovery of the streamside vegetation that songbirds and beavers need.

The Center was joined in the petition by Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Andrew Orahoske, Environmental Protection Information Center, (707) 822-7711

For more information, see:

 Petition to List the Gray Wolf under the California Endangered Species Act

Campbell’s Timber Practices Threaten Survival of Coho Salmon

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Coho salmon are blinking out rapidly across their range. In California’s central coast, the situation is particularly dire. Once abundant native populations have declined to the point where artificial propagation may be the species’ only chance for survival. Loss of freshwater habitat has been identified as a severe threat to the survival of Coho. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, over 90 percent of remaining freshwater habitat for salmonid species in California occurs on privately held forestlands.

In the Ten Mile River, Mendocino County, Coho salmon appear to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Data from the Ten Mile is unfortunately scarce. However, it is clear that Coho populations have declined. Historic and current land use activities have resulted in substantial loss of spawning and rearing grounds for Coho in the Ten Mile through excessive sedimentation. In 1998, the Ten Mile was listed as impaired under Section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act due to excessive sediment. Over 85 percent of the Ten Mile River basin is owned by Campbell Timber Management Company.

Campbell Timber Management’s logging regime in the Ten Mile consists of high intensity practices, including clearcut logging, road building on steep and unstable slopes, and the use of herbicides. For many sub basins in the Ten Mile, Campbell’s intensive management includes an extremely high and intensive rate of harvest. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has recently inspected proposed logging operations in two sub basins in the Ten Mile and found that Campbell’s rate of harvest in these sub basins far exceeded levels where salmonid habitat simplification is known to occur. DFG recommended that Campbell eliminate clearcutting from these logging plans in order to mitigate the rate of harvest. Recently, a report prepared for the Regional Water Quality Control Board, documented that excessive fine sediment generation and transport that impact salmonid habitat was positively correlated with the amount and the intensity of harvest in a given watershed (Klein et al. 2008). In a letter written by DFG to the Santa Rosa Review Team, Klein’s research was cited when raising concerns over rate of harvest in the Ten Mile. Rate of harvest, is how much of a watershed is harvested in a given period of time.

Campbell has responded to these concerns by hiring its own scientist in an effort to refute the research of Klein et al. Campbell claims that the research isn’t applicable to their operations, and has defended their intensive approach to forest management, and Campbell continues to refuse to change their logging operations as recommended by DFG. Meanwhile, Cal Fire has unsuccessfully scrambled to poke holes in the DFG’s arguments and the Klein et al. research. Thus far, Cal Fire has not moved to approve these logging plans, and other responsible agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Regional Water Quality Control Board do not appear to have any current plans to intervene.

For the Coho, the outcome of battles such as this could determine long-term survival in the Ten Mile.

Literature Cited

Klein, R.D., Trush, W.J., Buffleben, M.S., 2008. Watershed Condition, Turbidity, and Implications for Anadromous Salmonids in North Coastal California Streams. Report to North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Rosa, CA.

EPIC Says No to Spraying Toxic Herbicides on the Scott River

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The Yreka US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has recently completed their Draft Environmental Analysis for control of the invasive Leafy spurge plant with herbicides.  The proposal tiers towards spraying Round-up (glyphosate) with R-11 (another highly toxic chemical) directly on the river bars and flood plains of the Scott River.  Manual spraying would take place July-October daily for up to five years.  There are multiple sites where the plant is growing along a sixty-mile stretch of the river that would be subject to this treatment, but the draft analysis does not even include a map that identifies the location of these sites that would be sprayed.

Leafy spurge is a highly invasive, extremely prolific, non-native plant that has deep roots, and can also spread by seed.  The Siskiyou County Department of Agriculture has been spraying this plant, and others, for many years and has not succeeding in controlling or eradicating one non-native plant.  The proposed project does not address upstream seed sources or monitoring, and relies almost entirely on the application of toxic chemicals.

The danger to humans from these chemicals was completely disregarded in the draft analysis. The FWS simply claims that there is no expected exposure to the general public.  The Scott River, a large tributary to the Klamath River, supports a variety of anadromous fish, including the federally listed Coho salmon, as well as Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and the Pacific lamprey.  Herbicides would also affect amphibians, birds, bees, and mammals.  The FWS dismisses any effect to fish and wildlife as insignificant.

There are other treatment options for this invasive non-native plant, including manual methods such as tarping, hand pulling and digging, as well as biological controls (insects).   EPIC believes that control of Leafy spurge will require a well-planned program with consistent and careful follow through. Short and long term noxious weed management planning is needed by the private, county, state, and/or federal government if effective control of Leafy spurge and other Class “A” species of noxious weeds in the Klamath River, Scott River, Quartz Valley tributaries, and adjacent areas is to be achieved.

The use of toxic herbicides – especially near water – presents an unacceptable health risk to those people who live near or recreate on wild and scenic rivers, and who use National Forest lands. Given the level of controversy surrounding these chemicals, and the potential of significant effects to Threatened and Endangered fish species, as well as to human health and safety, further environmental review is clearly in order for this project proposal. Consultation with NMFS and Native Tribes must be initiated and documented.  At the core of this issue, EPIC asks that the FWS adopt a non-toxic approach to control/eradication of non-native plants.

9th Annual Pisces Party

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Friday March 9th at Beginnings in Briceland

Doors and bar open at 6pm with a hearty dinner at 6:30 and music by Ken Jorgenson and the Falling Rocks. After dinner the Compost Mountain Boys will get people on their feet to their foot-stompin’ blue-grass sounds. Dinner, music and dancing $20-30 sliding scale at the door, after 8pm $10-20 sliding scale.

Attending the 9th Annual Pisces Party helps support the ongoing work of environmental protector, restorationist and Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award winner—Richard Gienger.

Richard Gienger has been a resident of the North Coast of California for more than forty years. In that time he has established himself as a field restoration expert, overseeing hundreds of projects and mentoring aspiring ecological restoration specialists, Richard is also dedicated to monitoring policy developments in the state capitol, taking innumerable trips to Sacramento to advocate for a more robust environmental management framework. His tenaciousness with decision makers is only matched by his talent for the rock-work that has set a region wide standard for quality stream and landscape restoration efforts. Richard is truly committed to contributing to the design of a dignified and sustainable forest products industry on the North Coast, as well as to thriving restoration economy.

Though Richard is known to wear many organizational hats, EPIC has maintained a long-term financial commitment to Richard and his work. Coming out to the Pisces Party and/or making a special donation to the funds that allow EPIC to support Richard’s advocacy is a great way to show your appreciation for one of the region’s most stalwart defenders of our environment and natural resources, as well as the communities that live closest to them.

If you are unable to attend the Pisces Party in person, but would like to help support Richard’s work you may make a donation here.

We are looking for businesses, artisans, craftspeople and any other willing donors to make a contribution to the silent auction. If you would like to make a donation please call 707-822-7711 or email

EPIC Asks SPI to Stop Logging Owl Habitat

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Billionaire Timber Baron Red Emmerson and Sierra Pacific Industries Asked to Stop Logging Spotted Owl Habitat

Conservation plan needed to end violations of federal law and promote the recovery of native forests

Today the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) delivered a formal Notice of Intent to Sue Letter to the billionaire Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson and his company, Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc., for harming Northern Spotted Owls in violation of the Endangered Species Act.  By clearcut logging within known spotted owl territories, the company is engaged in openly hostile actions against individual spotted owls and their young, seemingly designed to eliminate the owl from its lands. The notice letter is required under the law and begins a process that allows EPIC to file a lawsuit after a period of 60 days.

Billionaire Red Emmerson is listed by Forbes as having a net worth of at least two and half billion dollars.  Emmerson’s Sierra Pacific Industries is the largest landowner in the state of California with roughly 2 million acres under its ownership.

“Why does a billionaire need to kill spotted owls?” questioned Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center.  “Small landowners don’t have a chance competing with Sierra Pacific Industries, and yet many small landowners conserve spotted owls on their properties.  Red Emmerson owes it to everyone to protect the spotted owl” concluded Orahoske.

The Northern Spotted Owl is dependent on late-successional and old-growth forests.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the owl as a threatened species in 1990 due to extensive habitat loss from intensive logging of native forests.  Since that time, population analyses have documented range-wide declines that are attributed to the continued loss of habitat from logging on private lands and from the invasion of a non-native competitor, the Barred Owl.  Clearcut logging fragments older forest stands and exacerbates the threat posed by Barred Owl invasion into forests occupied by Northern Spotted Owl.  Indeed, researchers have found a direct correlation between the likelihood of Barred Owl invasion of Spotted Owl territories and the lack of older forest.

“The high rates and intensities of clearcut logging on Sierra Pacific’s lands are completely out of line with protecting spotted owls,” stated Rob DiPerna, forestry reform advocate for EPIC.  “This conflict is completely avoidable, if only Sierra Pacific would simply respect the forests.”

Between 2009 and 2011 alone, Sierra Pacific Industries’ submitted logging plans that threaten to destroy over 5,500 acres of suitable habitat within known spotted owl territories.  Sierra Pacific is currently operating without an approved “take” permit that is required under the law for supervising industrial activities within a protected species habitat.  Instead, Sierra Pacific is operating outside of the law and engaging in the systematic liquidation of spotted owl habitat.  If necessary, EPIC is prepared to take Sierra Pacific to court to stop these atrocious acts.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries and native species in northern California. EPIC uses an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy and strategic litigation.

EPIC Press Release

EPIC Joins in Renewed Push for Protecting Klamath Chinook

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Government Delay, Drought Prompts Renewed Push for Protection of Klamath River Chinook Salmon

EPIC, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service today for failing to decide, as legally required, whether upper Klamath River chinook salmon deserve protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. In response to a January 28, 2011 petition from the groups, the Fisheries Service determined in April 2011 that the salmon may warrant protection and began a status review that was supposed to be completed within one year of the petition. The petition review comes at a perilous time for Klamath salmon as fears of a major drought linger.

“Klamath River chinook have suffered severe declines in the face of a century of dam building, logging, hatcheries, massive water withdrawal and pollution,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These magnificent fish need Endangered Species Act protection if they’re going to have any chance at survival and recovery. We very much hope protection will be provided in the next 60 days so we won’t have to file suit.”

The groups’ petition requested protection first and foremost for spring-run chinook, once the most abundant run of Klamath chinook but now near extinction. Biologists now count just 300 to 3,000 wild-spawning spring chinook each year. These fish are marvels of evolution, living most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean only to return to the river in the spring with enough fat reserves to survive without eating until early fall, when it’s time for them to spawn. They have long been prized as one of the best-tasting salmon species and historically the most economically important Klamath fish.

“We’ve seen chinook numbers dwindle to the point of crisis and with a looming drought year, we can’t wait any longer to figure out a plan to make sure these fish don’t go extinct,” said Steve Pederey, conservation director with Oregon Wild.

The Klamath Basin was once the third-largest producer of salmon and steelhead on the West Coast, but now produces fewer and fewer wild fish as a result of dams, habitat degradation and other factors. Overall, at least 300 miles of spawning habitat in the Klamath Basin have been made inaccessible by dams. Because of declines in the overall numbers of returning wild chinook, the petition also asked the Fisheries Service to consider protecting wild fall-run chinook.

“Chinook salmon are essential for sustaining wildlife and cultures in the Klamath Basin,” said Andrew Orahoske, conservation director for the Environmental Protection Information Center. “These amazing salmon are a vital, life-giving force to river communities and deserve to be protected for future generations.”

Recent river management has exacerbated the chinook’s plight. In the fall of 2002, Klamath River chinook suffered one of the worst fish kills in Northwest history when as many as 70,000 adult salmon died before spawning. Excessive water withdrawals, primarily from the federally run Klamath Irrigation Project, resulted in low flows and warm water temperatures that allowed disease to develop and spread quickly. Continued low flows and warm temperatures are key drivers of an ongoing disease crisis in the river that has sharply reduced survival of juvenile wild fish on their way to the ocean.

The federal delay in reviewing the Endangered Species Act petition for Klamath chinook comes at a dangerous time. Lower than normal snowpack in the region’s mountains has prompted worries that the water year could be even worse than the drought that precipitated the 2002 fish kill. The petitioners are hopeful that Endangered Species Act protections can help to shield Klamath chinook from the potentially disastrous effects of low river flows.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Environmental Protection Information Center and The Larch Company filed the notice of intent.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 320,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Since 1974, Oregon Wild has worked to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) works to protect and restore ancient forests, watersheds, coastal estuaries and native species in Northern California. EPIC uses an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy and strategic litigation.

The Larch Company is a for-profit, non-membership conservation organization that represents species who cannot talk and the human generations to come.

Background Information Sources:

Press Release

Notice Letter