Archive for January, 2013

Reforming Hatcheries to Recover Wild Fish Populations

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Naturally Spawning FishPhoto Credit: Andrew Orahoske

Naturally Spawning Coho Salmon.  Photo Credit: Andrew Orahoske

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorize federal funding to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to operate fish hatcheries on the Mad River, Trinity River, Klamath River and numerous other rivers in California.  In addition, a private hatchery operates on the Smith River, which is also funded by the State of California.  Annually, these hatcheries produce millions of fish that are released into the wild.  If not properly operated, hatcheries can cause harm to wild fish.  Recent studies find that hatchery fish that stray and mix with wild populations reduce the overall fitness of wild fish through genetic hybridization and domestication.  In addition, hatchery fish directly compete with and depredate wild fish.  All of this can add up to serious threats posed by hatchery operations that add to other stressors like water pollution, habitat destruction, dewatering, and the impacts of climate change.

Recently, the California Fish Hatchery Review Project completed a comprehensive statewide review of fish hatcheries and found major problems in current operations throughout the state of California.  The leading scientific experts in this project recommended many important changes.  Unfortunately, these changes are coming slowly or not at all.

EPIC’s advocacy efforts for restoring wild fish populations includes many years of work defending forests and headwaters that provide clean water and valuable habitat for wild fish.  Now, EPIC is undertaking a new initiative to reform fish hatcheries that have operated for too long without proper oversight.  EPIC demands that state and federal agencies incorporate the best available science into updated management plans for all fish hatcheries, and to specifically develop Hatchery Genetic Management Plans, which has not yet occurred at North Coast hatcheries.  In addition, the operations will have to ensure compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws.

To be clear, EPIC is definitely not advocating that all fish hatcheries be closed immediately, nor in the near future.  Instead, by forcing state and federal agencies to abide by the law, incorporate the best available science, and respond to public concerns, everyone will benefit in the long run.  The consultation process under the federal Endangered Species Act will result in hatchery operations that promote the restoration and genetic viability of wild fish populations.  This will further advance natural recovery of native fish species to their historical abundance and beyond, which would, in an ideal situation, make the hatcheries unnecessary and obsolete.

EPIC is currently challenging the state and federal government to better manage fish hatcheries on three North Coast river systems. Working with experts in the field and with the assistance of the Western Environmental Law Center, EPIC has filed notice letters for hatcheries on the Mad River, Trinity River and Smith River.  Click here to read more in a related article from the Del Norte Triplicate: Hatcheries Warned of Pending Suits

Mad River Notice Letter

Trinity River Notice Letter

Smith River Notice Letter

UPDATE: The filing of the lawsuit concerning the Mad River hatchery was covered by the Courthouse News Service on Feb 15, 2013 — Greens Say Hatchery Threatens Native Fish

The images below show how eggs are extracted, fertilized and incubated in a fish hatchery. Photos courtesy of USFWS.

Hatchery EggsPhoto credit: USFWSHatchery egg traysPhoto credit: USFWSFertilzed EggsPhoto Credit: USFWS






Green Diamond To Host Public Meeting to Receive Community Feedback

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

GDclearcutwebEPIC and others have recently received notice from Green Diamond Resource Company (ex-Simpson Timber) that the company intends to convene a public meeting to solicit feedback from the community on its forestry practices. The public meeting is to be held on Wednesday, February 13th, at the Bayside Grange (2297 Jacoby Creek Road), from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

This Green Diamond public meeting has been scheduled against a back-drop of growing discontent in the community at large with Green Diamond’s green-wash and double-speak.  While Green Diamond aspires to portray an image of itself as a responsible forest manager and upstanding member of the community, the company at the same time continues to propose forest management that completely contradicts the companies’ public relations statements.

Examples of this include a Timber Harvest Plan, approved in 2011, which would allow 80 acres of clearcutting outside of Trinidad along the popular and picturesque Strawberry Rock trail.

Further evidence of Green Diamonds indignant disregard for ongoing stakeholder involvement in maximizing the conservation potential of globally important protected areas with the use of restoration forestry techniques is the companies’ proposal to clearcut 70 acres in the heavily impacted Elk River watershed within a short distance of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

In response to the proposed Green Diamond clearcutting along the Strawberry Rock trail, a community-based group has convened a campaign to protect the site, and has proposed a public meeting to discuss possible options.  The Friends of Trinidad Forest Strawberry Rock meeting will be held on Saturday, February 9th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Trinidad town hall. Please attend this meeting to learn more about the threats to Strawberry Rock, and to prepare for the Wednesday, February 13th public meeting to be hosted by Green Diamond.

Green Diamond continues to operate under the bogus certification standard of the industry-driven Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). EPIC has worked vigilantly to expose the company and the SFI label as unsustainable and, ultimately, a national case study in “greenwash” contrived to hide the truth about the destruction of the redwoods on Green Diamond lands.

EPIC encourages the community to attend this upcoming Green Diamond public meeting and to tell the company exactly what you think of its forestry practices.  The company needs to hear loud and clear from our community that its antiquated and unsustainable practices are no longer tolerable.  We will see you there!

 What: Green Diamond Resource Company hosted Public Meeting

When: Wednesday February 13 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Where: Bayside Grange, 2297 Jacoby Creek Road, outside of Arcata

Why: To communicate concerns about Green Diamond practices, and to propose solutions that will reduce and eliminate the ecosystem and climate damage being caused by Green Diamond’s intensive clearcutting of the redwood temperate rainforest.

Help Stop More Post-Fire Salvage Logging Proposed on the Mendocino National Forest

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

UPDATE 3/7/13: Thanks to your participation, this proposal has been withdrawn.  For more information visit our Returning to a Natural Cycle of Wildfire page.

Click Here to Take Action Now! kp0829_Cut3The Mendocino National Forest (NF) is proposing another post-fire “salvage” timber sale, covering 300 acres in the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Eel River, a key watershed that is critical for salmon recovery.  Several units of the project are proposed right against the border of recently designated wilderness.

The 31,050 acre North Pass Fire burned 21,693 acres at low severity, and only 855 acres at high severity, making up less than 3% of the total fire area.  The North Pass Fire burned as fire is supposed to do; it was a totally natural event. Nevertheless, there were 46 miles of fireline constructed during suppression efforts, most often done with bulldozers, a highly impactful means of responding to a disturbance cycle that is as natural as rain in Northern California forests.

The proposed project would log snag forest stands within Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat, while damaging natural regeneration and recovery.  Subsequent replanting would establish highly flammable plantations. 

Your voice makes a difference!  Let the Mendocino NF know that you value post-fire habitat, and ask them to stop ill-conceived plans to clearcut our forests.

Good News on the Klamath NF!

Public Input Works.  By taking action late last year with EPIC to oppose salvage logging proposed after last summer’s Goff Fire in the Klamath NF near the Oregon border, you have saved wild forests from unnecessary and damaging post-fire logging. The Klamath National Forest has cancelled plans to heavily log the Kangaroo Roadless Area! The Forest Service changed course because-

1) Helicopter logging was not economically viable;

2) Klamath NF Fire staff said that post-fire logging would not improve firefighter or community safety; and

3) the Forest Service had heard from enough people that value the Kangaroo Roadless Area to realized there was nothing collaborative about a “salvage” proposal.

Now, land mangers will be concentrating on fuels reduction 500 feet around private properties and roadside hazard tree logging. Because a formal proposal is not yet finalized, EPIC will continue to follow the Klamath National Forest post-fire projects related to the Goff fire closely.

Your participation makes a difference! Take action today to oppose the North Pass post-fire logging proposal on the Mendocino National Forest! Your voice helps restore a natural cycle of wildfire to the landscape!

To learn more about post-fire “salvage” logging click here.

EPIC Vigilance Saves Old-Growth Fir and Spotted Owl Nest from Sierra Pacific Industries Saws

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

winkingspottedowlAfter public comment by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) about questionable logging plans proposed near the Redwood National Park instigated a higher degree of state agency review, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has recently dropped a proposal to log 22 acres of old growth Douglas fir forest on private holdings in the Cloney Gulch and High Prairie Creek drainages of the Redwood Creek watershed, Humboldt County, California. The Redwood Creek drainage is of global importance as a cornerstone watershed of the Redwood National Park, and one that has received millions of dollars of restoration investment since the establishment of the park more than 40 years ago. SPI has a small in-holding in the upper Redwood Creek drainage, and owns more than 2 million acres of forestlands statewide.

This stand of old growth Douglas fir forest that SPI intended to log is of significance because it provides critical nesting and roosting habitat for Northern Spotted Owls. In addition, the old-growth forest sits on steep inner gorge slopes adjacent to Redwood Creek, providing critical refugia for listed salmonids, and an essential wildlife corridor for numerous other species. The upper portions of Redwood Creek where the plan is located have been heavily managed for timber production over the decades, and the old growth adjacent to the creek represents some of the last remnants for miles.

SPI’s original proposal to clearcut the old growth was shrouded in deceit. SPI failed to identify that old growth would be harvested in the original Timber Harvest Plan document. Only after a Pre-harvest Inspection in which California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) field staff identified the stand as old growth did the public learn of the real qualities of the stand.  In addition to this, SPI had originally typed the old growth stand as ‘foraging’ habitat for Northern Spotted Owls.  Yet, it was not until the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) inspected the project site and found that the stand was actually core nesting and roosting habitat for owls that SPI changed the habitat designation of the stand to reflect its true importance to the owl, a species under extreme conservation duress.

After reviewing the proposed old growth clearcutting within a known Northern Spotted Owl nesting and roosting core area, CAL FIRE biologists determined that harvesting the unit as proposed would result in direct harm to owls.  SPI subsequently dropped the unit from the harvest plan. Unfortunately, the company still refuses to consider the old growth stand as part of the essential core area for resident spotted owls, and still refuses to acknowledge the old growth quality and conservation importance of the stand.

“This is yet another instance where proposed SPI logging operations directly threatened Northern Spotted Owls,” said Rob DiPerna, EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Advocate. “SPI’s continued efforts to deceive agencies and the public for the purposes of driving spotted owls off its lands have once again been exposed as harmful and in direct conflict with the Endangered Species Act.”

In July of 2012, and again in September 2012, EPIC submitted comments on the “Hiker’s Parade” Timber Harvest Plan because the Plan would clearcut a forest stand with “130+ year old Douglas-fir” that provides habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife species.  Subsequently, the agencies charged with oversight of the Plan – CDFW and CAL FIRE – took a closer look and began asking SPI questions about the old-growth and impacts to wildlife.  The “Hiker’s Parade” logging plan would have essentially destroyed a known NSO core area by removing essential and limited old growth habitat. On Friday, January 18, 2013, due to EPIC vigilance, and an encouraging act of agency ground truthing, SPI withdrew the old-growth stand from their Timber Harvest Plan.

For more information check out the EPIC Spotted Owl Self-Defense Project


Action Alert! Tell Green Diamond: No Clearcuts in Elk River

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Green Diamond: Stop ClearcuttingTake Action Now! Green Diamond Resource Company (formerly Simpson Timber Company) is proposing intensive and damaging clearcut logging in the heavily impacted Elk River watershed.  Timber Harvest Plan 1-12-113 HUM “McCloud Creek East #5” proposes over 70 acres of clearcutting in the McCloud Creek watershed, a tributary to the South Fork Elk River, a stone’s throw away from the globally important Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Unlike other land managers in the Elk River watershed, Green Diamond continues to propose intensive clearcutting, road construction, and potentially the use of toxic chemical herbicides.  Clearcut logging as proposed will result in decreased canopy interception and transevaporation, resulting in increased water production and sediment transport to a watershed already suffering from intensive sediment impairment.  Please refer to our December 18th blog post for greater detail about the plight of Elk River and the destructive details of Green Diamond’s new McCloud Creek Timber Harvest Plan.

Take action now and you will be a part of the growing momentum to curb the greenwashing excesses of Green Diamond (ex-Simpson). Tell Green Diamond to stop clearcutting in Elk River and through out their properties.  Tell Green Diamond that intensive evenaged forest management in the Elk River watershed is no longer acceptable, a relic practice from the past that has been shown to result in intensive environmental damage.  Tell Green Diamond to manage for forest and watershed restoration recovery, not for intensive extraction and profit.  Tell Green Diamond to Be a Good Neighbor and to Respect the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Click Here to Take Action Now!

Cumulative Effects of Logging Linked to Coho Decline

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Campbell Timber Management Clearcut in Ten Mile River Watershed

Throughout the north and central California coast, Coho salmon are teetering on the brink of oblivion. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, 85-90 percent of remaining Coho population in the Central California Coast ESU occurs in watersheds with privately managed forestlands. The 2011 Central California Coast Coho Recovery Plan identifies timber harvest as an ongoing threat to the survival and viability of the species.

In 2009, the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection adopted permanent Forest Practice Rules to address the glaring deficiencies in its riparian buffers for streams and rivers bearing Coho and other listed salmonids. While these rules represent a significant step forward, the Board continues to ignore the real elephant in the room; cumulative impacts related to forest management activities.

Since the late 1990’s, the questions of how to address cumulative effects resulting from high and intense rates of harvest has lingered. The advent of the New Year’s storms of 1997 in Humboldt County that saw the unraveling of watersheds subjected to the rapacious logging of Pacific Lumber Company lead even the most conservative of State and federal agencies to stand up and take notice. In 1999, the Board of Forestry commissioned a panel of experts to study the effectiveness of the California Forest Practice Rules in protecting listed anadromous salmonids and their functional habitat.

The Report of the Scientific Review Panel on California Forest Practice Rules and Salmonid Habitat found that the primary deficiency of the Forest Practice Rules was the failure to effectively address cumulative watershed effects, and particularly called out the need for consideration of rate of harvest limitations as a mechanism to maintain and improve properly functioning aquatic habitat conditions for Coho and other listed salmonids. The Scientific Review Panel Report recommended that greater scrutiny of harvest activities be given when rate of harvest exceeds 30-50 percent of a watershed in ten years.

More recent studies conducted by Klein et al. titled Logging and turbidity in the coastal watersheds of northern California has shown a relationship between rate of harvest in a watershed and excess turbidity in those streams. Klein found that “Despite much improved best management practices, contemporary timber harvest can trigger serious cumulative watershed effects when too much of a watershed is harvested over too short a time period.” Klein further identified the lack of regulatory controls for rate of harvest impacts: “Although the rate of timber harvest has been acknowledged among scientists, regulatory agencies, and legislators as a factor contributing to declining water quality and aquatic habitat for some time, regulatory controls on harvest rate do not presently exist.”

Rate of harvest is expressed through calculation of percent canopy removal, via a clearcut-equivalent acres methodology. Klein identified that watersheds with clearcut-equivalent acre rates of harvest exceeding 1.5 percent per 10-15 years resulted in greater than 10 percent turbidity exceeding baseline water quality conditions. Recent studies such as Jensen et al. (2009) have drawn a correlation between the amount of sediment deposited in spawning gravels and decreased salmonid egg to fry survival.

In the Ten Mile River basin in Mendocino County, rates of timber harvest in some sub-basins wildly exceed the scientifically-identified thresholds where cumulative impacts to salmonids may be presumed to occur. 85 percent of the Ten Mile River basin is controlled by Campbell Timber Management Company. Since 2005, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly the Department of Fish and Game) has been raising concerns over high rates of harvest and cumulative effects in sub basins of the Ten Mile River and the implications for endangered Coho.

In 2010, the Department of Fish and Wildlife inspected two Campbell Timber Harvest Plans in two Ten Mile River sub basins with high rates of harvest and again raised concerns over the potential for cumulative impacts to fleeting Coho populations. In response to these concerns, CAL FIRE hydrologist Pete Cafferata calculated the potential sediment delivery from proposed clearcuts via increases in peak flows and determined that significant sediment delivery and changes in peak flows were likely to occur. Astonishingly, CAL FIRE management determined that they could not show an impact to Coho or other listed salmonids and moved to approve the THPs. However, this process has been suspended thanks to intervention from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The Regional Board however did not object to the high rate of harvest in the Ten Mile sub basins, but rather raised indicated that the THPs, if implemented, would violate applicable water quality requirements. In response, Campbell decided to defer harvest on clearcut units proposed in the two THPs in question, and changed from clearcutting to selection on two units. This approach, however is riddled with flaws as well.

Meanwhile, on Green Diamond Resource Company lands in Humboldt County, rates of clearcut timber harvest similarly have been shown to exceed scientifically-identified thresholds. One example of this is the Maple Creek watershed, where Green Diamond has harvested 62 percent in a 12 year period. Future projections estimate that Green Diamond will have harvested nearly 82 percent of the Maple Creek watershed in approximately 25 years. In this instance, the Regional Water Board has once again ignored the problem of rate of harvest issue in promulgating a property-wide Waste Discharge Requirement Permit for Green Diamond. EPIC has filed an appeal with the State Water Resources Control Board of the property-wide WDR permit on the grounds that the Regional Board failed to consider and address issue of rate of harvest.

The ongoing battle over rate of harvest and its influence on cumulative watershed impacts has been complicated and convoluted by both the timber industry and CAL FIRE itself working tirelessly to dismiss the applicability of the findings of Klein and others. Meanwhile, the Regional Water Board has avoided dealing with the issue entirely. Real progress towards maintaining, enhancing and restoring properly functioning aquatic habitat conditions will not be made until the agencies and the industry become willing to address rate of harvest and cumulative impacts.

EPIC provides a public service as a watchdog organization that works to protect the redwood region of the Pacific Northwest. Since 1977, EPIC has developed relationships with logging companies and regulatory agencies by commenting on timber harvest plans and the policies that regulate them to identify and address the impacts on forests, watersheds and the animals that depend on them. In the beginning, EPIC helped shape many of the critical rules to protect our wild back yard, and now we are working to see that these rules are implemented and improved where necessary. Different levels of engagement vary from phone conversations to lawsuits; taking countless hours of reading, analyzing, commenting and negotiating to keep private industry from transforming our forests into a wasteland. EPIC will keep this work up heading into 2013 and beyond.

Please help provide EPIC with the financial means to continue the fight to protect these unique forest ecosystems for future generations. The best thing you can do is make a simple donation today. This will ensure that we can continue working on your behalf, to protect the legendary redwood coast.