Archive for December, 2012

Standing Up for the Northern Spotted Owl

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

northern-spotted-owls-USFWSOn December 20, 2012, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) notifying the agency of EPIC’s intent to sue over violations of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The violations stem from the Service’s failure to respond to a petition submitted by EPIC in August 2012 requesting increased protections for the Northern Spotted Owl. EPIC’s petition presents substantial information that the Northern Spotted Owl’s conservation status should be changed from the present “threatened” listing to an “endangered” listing. The ESA requires that the Service respond within 90 days and determine whether to undertake a more in depth status review of the species. The federal government’s failure to meet this deadline is unjustified. EPIC intends to prosecute the agency and officials responsible for this delay and to secure a timeline from federal court requiring the agency meet statutory deadlines.

The Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) has been listed under the ESA as “threatened” since 1990. By definition, a threatened species is “. . . likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” 16 U.S.C. §1531. Despite more than 20 years of protections, the Northern Spotted Owl is now closer to extinction than ever. Recently, spotted owl biologists have published a comprehensive analysis that determined the species has been declining on seven of eleven active demographic study areas at about 3% annually range-wide from 1985-2008, and that the decline is accelerating in recent years (Forsman et al. 2011). The rate of decline is steepest in northern Oregon and Washington, where spotted owl populations would decline by more than half in the next 20 years. On the remaining federal lands, population decline is accelerating and vital rates are deteriorating (Forsman et al. 2011). On non-federal lands, including areas that once provided some of the highest quality habitat for spotted owls, declines are significantly greater than on federal lands, with vast areas no longer supporting any spotted owls at all. (Forsman et al. 2011, Anthony et al. 2006). The outlook for the Northern Spotted Owl is dire based on the population trends, continued habitat loss, competition by the aggressive, invading barred owl, and the inadequacy of regulatory mechanisms, especially the lack of recovery efforts on state and private lands. EPIC’s petition requests that the federal government acknowledge the best available science, and to act accordingly by changing the status of the Northern Spotted Owl from “threatened” to “endangered” under the ESA.

After listing the owl under the ESA, the USFWS and federal land managers developed a strategy to recover the spotted owl by heavily relying on a selection of federal lands to shoulder the burden of conservation. The strategy became known as the “Northwest Forest Plan” and applied to federal lands within the range of the northern spotted owl. The plan’s centerpiece was a network of habitat islands for spotted owls, termed “late-successional reserves” (LSRs). At the time, policymakers hoped that these LSRs would provide sufficient habitat protections to prevent the extinction spotted owls, while also allowing continued logging of owl habitat outside of the LSRs. Unfortunately, the reliance on the Northwest Forest Plan meant that the conservation needs for spotted owls outside of the LSRs were largely ignored. This was especially true on state and private lands where spotted owls have been largely extirpated, with the remaining individuals in dire need of protections. The heavy reliance on fragmented reserves on federal lands without a comprehensive approach to spotted owl conservation on non-federal lands has proven to be a critical error, and one of the primary reasons why recovery has failed. Coupled with continued habitat loss is the very significant threat posed by the barred owl, which displaces spotted owls and thrives in the highly fragmented and simplified industrial forest landscapes. Without a more holistic view of species recovery and landscape-scale conservation, the Northern Spotted Owl is likely to go extinct in the foreseeable future.

Learn more about the EPIC Northern Spotted Owl Self Defense campaign here.

Take Action to Protect Wolves

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Photo by Allen Daniels shows OR7, the young male wolf that has wandered hundreds of miles across Oregon and Northern California.

Pacific Northwest Wolf recovery is just beginning, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is deliberating the proposed removal of nearly all federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states. Without federal protection recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest would be nearly impossible.

Take Action: Let the Service know that we need to maintain federal protections for wolves and create a Pacific Wolf Recovery Zone, which would help enable wolves to return to Washington, Oregon and California. 

Do you remember OR-7 (Journey), the iconic wolf who traveled over 1,000 miles from eastern Oregon to northern California to become the state’s first wolf in over 80 years? Without federal protections, and no certainty of state protections, Journey may have a target on his back.

In Idaho, Wyoming and Montana more than 800 wolves have been killed, gunned down and trapped since wolf management decisions were turned over to the states.

The long-term viability of wolves in the western states is in jeopardy!

Wolves Delisted:
* Idaho: April 2011
* Montana: April 2011
* Wyoming: September 30, 2012

Latest Posted Idaho Wolf Hunt Kill total: 116
Latest Posted Idaho Wolf Trapping Kill total: 7
Latest Posted Montana Wolf Hunt Kill Total: 92
Wyoming Wolf Kill Total: 58
Western Regional Total Reported Killed This Year: 273
Western Regional Total Reported Killed Since Delisting: 818

Current Known Population of Wolves in the Pacific Northwest:

Washington State: 27 wolves
Oregon: 59 wolves
California: 1 wolf

Please take action and share it with your friends, demand that wolves retain the federal protection they need to ensure their recovery in the wild.

Click here to download and print Action Alert to hang on a bulletin board near you.


Green Diamond’s Holiday Gift to Headwaters: Clearcuts, Roads and Herbicides

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Atrazine applied on clearcut near Korbell. Is this what Green Diamond wants to do next door to Headwaters?
Photo by Jen Kalt

As the holiday season approaches, most of us are thinking about how we can give back to our friends, families, and communities. Apparently, Green Diamond Resource Company has something a little different in mind for the Elk River and Headwaters Forest Reserve. Instead of giving the landscape surrounding Headwaters much needed forest and watershed restoration, Green Diamond has opted instead to give clearcuts, roads, and herbicides. Comic Scrooge and Grinch-like characterizations of Green Diamond’s holiday behavior aside, there is nothing funny about the lump of coal that Green Diamond is stuffing in the holiday stocking of the ancient forest refuge of Headwaters with their new proposed logging activities in the Elk River watershed.

Specifically, EPIC’s monitoring of the timber industry on the North Coast of California reveals that Green Diamond has filed a new Timber Harvest Plan that threatens more than 70 acres of clearcutting in the upper reaches of McCloud Creek, a tributary of Elk River, and at a stone’s throw of the hard fought over Headwaters Forest. The destructive potential of this proposed industrial forestry operation merits a quick history lesson in the evolution of forest management in the Elk River watershed surroundings of the globally important Headwaters Forest Reserve.

The Elk River watershed, located south east of Eureka, is a tributary to Humboldt Bay.  The Elk River watershed has been heavily logged over the last century and a half, with only fragments of the original forest such as the Headwaters Forest remaining.  Though the Headwaters Forest Reserve provides protection for one of the worlds last remaining intact remnants of the ancient redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem, the rest of the watershed is a myriad of young, recovering forest and regenerating clearcuts.

In the 1990s, the now infamous MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company began the process of liquidating the remaining old growth and mature second growth in the Elk River watershed.  This second cycle logging resulted in intensive road building, tractor yarding, and clearcutting throughout the watershed.  Eventually, with the advent of the 1996/1997 winter storms, the sensitive geology of the Elk River watershed began to unravel, suffering from the combined effects of weather and intensive logging.

1997 Flooding on the Elk RiverPhoto Credit:

1997 Flooding on the Elk River
Photo Credit:

It was not until after these historic storms of 1996/1997 that State agencies began to stand up and take notice of the damaging effects of the contemporary forest liquidation of MAXAAM/Pacific Lumber Company.  In fact, in 1997, an interagency team determined that Elk River, along with four other watersheds heavily managed by MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, were significantly, adversely, and cumulatively impacted, with timber harvest being a contributing factor.

The results of the intensive forest management of the MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, as well as other ownerships in the watershed, such as Elk River Timber Company and what was then the Simpson Timber Company (now Green Diamond), were significant landsliding related to both harvest and roads, and significant channel capacity modification in the Elk River itself, leading to high instances of nuisance flooding that threaten the health and safety of downstream residents.

 With the creation of the Headwaters Forest Reserve in 1999, a new management regime began to be employed in the Elk River watershed.  The BLM immediately began removing roads and selectively managing second and third growth forests in the Reserve in an effort to grow larger trees faster, and to manage for older forest to compliment the newly protected ancient groves.  After the MAXAAM bankruptcy of the Pacific Lumber Company, and the subsequent ownership change to the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) in 2008, an even greater land base in the Elk River watershed would be managed selectively and for the purpose of growing older, bigger trees faster, with the goal of restoring the watershed to a more natural, unevenaged forest.

Though serious concerns remain related to the volume of HRC harvest in Elk River, the company has without question taken a sophisticated approach to restoration potential and selective forestry in the watershed, and has engaged in an open manner with local and statewide stakeholders with an interest in the long history of industrial forestry reform around Headwaters. In particular, HRC has been attentive to conservationist interest in maximizing the ecological potential of forest management activities in those areas closest to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Headwaters Preserve

Headwaters Forest Reserve 2012

Unfortunately, Green Diamond has chosen to follow the destructive path of their Simpson Timber roots, and the ecologically and economically bankrupt MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, rather than the forward-looking and selective approach of HRC and the BLM.  In late November 2012, Green Diamond filed THP 1-12-113HUM “McCloud Creek East #5.”  In this THP, Green Diamond proposes to clearcut 70 acres within McCloud Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of Elk River.  The THP is located adjacent to a Green Diamond Northern Spotted Owl set-aside, which is adjacent to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.  Instead of managing to grow big trees faster, Green Diamond plans to intensively manage for young, evenaged homogenous tree plantations through the application of clearcuts. These practices can cause significant modification to drainage patterns in the watershed and will result in the generation of a significant amount of surface erosion.  These effects will in turn be felt downstream as channel capacity in the Elk River proper is continually compromised.

The State, for its part, has been shown to be complicit to Green Diamond’s plans to intensively manage its holdings in such a sensitive and cumulatively impacted watershed.  CAL FIRE has thus far shown every inclination that it will approve the THP as written.  Meanwhile, the Regional Water Board, in adopting Green Diamond’s property-wide programmatic Waste Discharge Requirement permit in the fall of 2012 (a permit that EPIC has challenged to the State Water Board), placidly accepted the fact that Green Diamond would intensively manage for clearcuts and short harvest rotations in its Elk River holdings near Headwaters. To add insult to injury, the permitting of this new Green Diamond THP will be financed by common consumers through the new lumber tax on retails sales of wood products in the state of California that the legislatures passage of AB 1492 made into law.

Despite Green Diamond’s appearance of compliance with the law through acquisition of Habitat Conservation Plans and other programmatic agreements, the company continues its rapacious march to convert recovering native forests into homogenous evenaged tree plantations.  The proposal by Green Diamond to clearcut in the direct vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve is more evidence of how Green Diamond is a nationally relevant case study of “green washing,” and that underneath their public relations campaigns the company really has no inclination or commitment to becoming a responsible forest manager now or into the future—and that the State of California is a willing partner by playing along with their “green washing” politics by providing regulatory cover for their activities.

In conclusion, the filing of THPs such as the “McCloud Creek #5 East” show that Green Diamond is not sensitive to the needs of watersheds or its neighbors, and that the privately-held company is far more concerned with its short-term bottom line than with the long-term well being of the redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem.  EPIC will vocally expose the threat that this type of forest management continues to present to the public interest, to local residents, and to the ecological integrity of the most threatened temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet. Stay tuned for more news and actions from EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform program as we prepare to challenge this destructive logging proposal, and to protect the integrity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

If it were not for EPIC, the destructive activities of Green Diamond Resource Company (ex-Simpson Timber) would go unexposed and unchallenged. No other organization is watchdogging the timber industry in Northwest California like EPIC does. Your year-end donation can make all the difference for giving EPIC the resources we need to keep up this crucial work to continue to defend Headwaters for the future generations. Please consider donating today!

Action Alert: Protect Mendocino National Forest from Destructive Post-Fire Logging

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Smoke from burnout. July 10, 2012. Credit: Steve Clark, USFS, NorCal Team II

Take Action Now!  The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to conduct damaging “salvage logging” on  the Mendocino National Forest in an area affected by the 2012 Mill Fire.  This logging is planned to take place within the Blue Slides Late Successional Reserve (LSR) and designated Spotted Owl critical habitat.  Under the Northwest Forest Plan, the LSRs are supposed to be managed to promote old growth forest characteristics and the species that depend on big old trees for survival.  Damaged and dead trees (snags) are important structural components of late-successional forests and are key habitat for numerous species, especially Spotted Owls and Pacific Fisher.  Indeed, snags and downed wood have been found by leading researchers to be critical for numerous species and the integrity of old-growth forests.  They provide forage, cavities for nesting and protection, perch sites, and den sites. Large snags are considered to be one of the distinctive features of an old-growth forest.

Fire and tree mortality are natural elements in a forest ecosystem.  Logging of large snags does not contribute to recovery of forest habitat, but instead is one of the most damaging forms of logging that can take place.  In addition to removing legacy snags and old-growth components, the U.S. Forest Service is also proposing to arrest the natural recovery process by removing numerous living trees that have survived the fire.  Much of the area is already naturally regenerating.  Logging with ground based equipment such as tractors and bulldozers on fragile soils will destroy natural re-growth and exacerbate erosion and sediment deliver to waterways.

Post-fire landscapes and snag forests are alive and vibrant. They are more biologically diverse than unburned forest and provide for an array of plant and animal species. Post-fire landscapes are considered to be one of the most rare, endangered, and ecologically important forest habitat in western U.S. forests, and the stand-transforming fires that create this habitat are not damaging the forest ecosystem.  Rather, they are advancing ecological restoration and are part of the natural cycle.

Click here to learn more about the ecological consequences of salvage logging.

The Emergency Situation Determination that the U.S. Forest Service officials are seeking will have the effect of short-circuiting responsible environmental analysis and would allow logging to begin immediately after a Decision by the Forest Supervisor despite an appeal or pending lawsuit. Science indicates that post-fire logging may result in significant impacts to soils, wildlife, late successional characteristics and hydrology, which necessitate the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement.

Please ask Mendocino National Forest Supervisor and timber planners to cancel destructive post fire logging within the Blue Slides LSR and the Mill Fire area.  Tell them to leave the area alone and allow for natural recovery to occur.

Click here to view the U.S. Forest Service announcement and project documents.