Archive for July, 2013

Take Action Today: Tell State Assembly Member Chesbro to Improve AB904

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Arcata Community Forest

Arcata Community Forest Trail

Take Action: Private non-industrial forestland owners in California are seeking an increase on the acreage cap that restricts the number of landowners that can enroll in the Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) program.  The current program caps participation at 2,500-acre ownerships.  These smaller non-industrial forestland owners are required under the current NTMP program to only conduct unevenaged management (i.e. no clearcutting or similar methods). The current acreage cap has proved problematic for some of the larger non-industrial landowners, including our own Arcata Community Forest.

In an attempt to address the acreage cap, as well as addressing deficiencies in the current NTMP process, State Assembly Member Wesely Chesbro has introduced AB904. This proposed legislation would potentially increase the acreage cap to as much as 15,000 acre ownerships, and require landowners to manage for the goal of “unevenaged” stands and long-term sustained yield of forest products.  This new program, dubbed the Working Forest Management Plan (WFMP) like the existing NTMP, once approved, is valid into perpetuity, leaving considerable questions about public involvement and oversight of these projects in the long-term.

The devil, of course, is in the details.  The bill currently only requires small landowners to work towards the goal of unevenaged management, rather than explicitly banning clearcutting and requiring selection forestry.  Further, due to the increased acreage size, concerns persist over the ability of public agencies and general public members to adequately review, monitor, and enforce the implementation of the standards of the WFMP.  Finally, concerns persist about how the WFMP will achieve long-term sustained yield of forest products over the life of the plan.

Given these concerns, EPIC has taken an “oppose unless amended” position on AB904.  EPIC staff has participated in lengthy discussions with stakeholders, and has submitted several comments to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on the proposed bill detailing our concerns. As it stands now, the current version of AB904 is insufficient to address lingering environmental and process-related concerns.

So, what can be done?  AB904 can and must be improved to ensure a viable public process, long-term sustained yield of forest products, and overall management with the objective of growing older forests through application of “unevenaged” management techniques.  Tell Assembly Member Chesbro to amend AB904 to address these and other deficiencies identified by EPIC and others in the environmental community.

TAKE ACTION TODAY – Click Here to Tell State Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro: Protect Your Conservation Legacy and Improve AB 904

To put emphasis on the crucial importance of taking action and engaging with Assembly Member Chesbro today, the team at EPIC is publishing the following letter from our colleague Richard Gienger that drives home the critical nature of what is at stake with AB 904.


Protect California’s Spotted Owls and Ancient Forests

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

NSO Juvenile Oregon Fish and Wildlife ServiceTake action to protect Northern Spotted Owls today. This iconic species is of significant importance because they are vital indicators of forest diversity. Their presence in a forest is a gauge of the health of the habitat, and if their habitat is protected, the greater old-growth ecosystem is also preserved. Northern Spotted Owls are being pushed to the brink of extinction from all directions: most of their habitat and population has been destroyed by industrial logging operations, individuals in remaining nesting sites are preyed on and driven away by aggressive and invasive barred owls, and now they are dying from rat poison used around illegal pot plantations that are found sprouting up on California’s public wild lands.

Dwindling populations and rapid habitat loss have resulted in an immediate need for protections under the Endangered Species Act in order for Northern Spotted Owls to recover.  EPIC is asking the California Fish and Game Commission to vote to protect the Spotted Owl and to conduct a full status review of the species at their August 7th meeting.  This is the next step to listing the Northern Spotted Owls under the California Endangered Species Act, which would result in a long overdue protection status in the state of California.

Please click here to take action. Tell the California Fish and Game Commission that Northern Spotted Owls need to be protected under the Endangered Species Act so that we can preserve them and the unique ancient forests they depend on.

Board of Forestry Fails to Protect the Spotted Owl

Monday, July 15th, 2013

babyNSOOn July 10, 2013, the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection voted 7-2 to reject EPIC’s rulemaking proposal that would delete antiquated and harmful Forest Practice Rules that threaten Northern Spotted Owls.

After hearing a presentation from EPIC, and public testimony, the Board voted against the proposal despite wide-spread acknowledgement that the Rules are indeed out of date and out of fashion.

“The Board of Forestry did what it almost always does when faced with a serious problem—absolutely nothing,” said Rob DiPerna EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform Advocate.  “It’s typical; almost everyone acknowledged the problem, but the Board saw no urgency to find a solution.”

By keeping antiquated regulations in place, the Board of Forestry has further empowered the California Fish & Game Commission to exert some authority over the species. EPIC will be before the California Fish & Game Commission on August 7th, and the Commission is expected to vote on listing the owl under the California Endangered Species Act.

“The Board’s failure to act on such a simple necessary change makes EPIC’s California Endangered Species Act petition even more important,” said Rob.  “It’s clear that we cannot rely on CAL FIRE and the Board of Forestry to do the right thing, so hopefully, the Fish and Game Commission will.”

EPIC Goes to Sacramento to Speak Up for the Northern Spotted Owl

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

northernspottedowl_clip_image004The California Board of Forestry is deciding whether or not to improve Spotted Owl protections by adopting EPIC’s rulemaking petition.

The public is welcome to attend the hearing on Wednesday July 10th beginning at 8:00am in the Resources Auditorium, 1416 Ninth Street Sacramento, California; or watch online, click here to register.

The rulemaking petition is the product of over three years of EPIC Northern Spotted Owl advocacy aimed at challenging the glaring inconsistencies between the inadequate protection measures found in California’s Forest Practice Rules and the clear guidelines provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, backed up by even clearer legal precedent from the United States Supreme Court.

The native Northern Spotted Owl is facing a dire emergency. Thousands of acres of forests, which provide habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, have been lost to industrial forestry operations. Spotted Owls are losing their homes and facing extinction—despite protections under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Because Spotted Owls cannot defend themselves from this onslaught, and because their presence or absence in a forest is an indicator of ecosystem health, EPIC has stepped up to speak for the owl.

The Specifics:

Amend Title 14 § 919.9, § 939.9 – Northern Spotted Owl [Coast, Northern Forest Districts] and § 919.9(g), § 939.9(g) – Northern Spotted Owl [Coast, Northern Forest Districts]. The California State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board) is hearing a regulation to amend existing Forest Practice Rules pertaining to the protection of Northern Spotted Owls (NSO). The proposed amendments are in response to a petition for rulemaking brought before the Board by the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) pursuant to Government Code Section 11340.6. In its petition for rulemaking, EPIC advocates for the deletion in its entirety of 14 CCR Section 919.9 [939.9] subsection (g). EPIC contends that this provision of the Forest Practice Rules has resulted in “take” of a federally listed species and must be removed from regulation to ensure the continued existence of NSO.

Possible Action Item:

The Board may adopt, modify, or reject the proposed regulation.

“Option G” powerpoint presentation by Rob DiPerna

EPIC comment letter to Board of Forestry for “Option G”

EPIC Supports Economic Connectivity

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

20130315_143849Connectivity is one of the most important concepts related to the development of both effective conservation and viable long-term economic strategies. Over the course of our evolution as a public interest conservation advocacy organization, EPIC has worked hard to protect core natural areas, and to secure biological connectivity across the Northwest California landscape. With more than 35 years of experience in North Coast land management decision-making processes, EPIC has learned many lessons about how to successfully steer state and federal agencies, as well as large private landowners and rural residential communities, toward a landscape-scale vision for the stewardship of our forests and watersheds. What EPIC has also done over the years, and what receives less attention, is identify important opportunities to support economic development while still respecting the sensitive environments that make our region unique and a desirable place to live, work, and raise our children.

Over the course of the last several years the Northwest California region has been host to a contentious series of large-scale highway expansion projects promoted by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). At the same time, a parallel controversy has evolved around the persistence of certain economic interests in promoting what would prove to be very expensive and natural resource-damaging train transportation infrastructure to Humboldt Bay. As this debate goes forward, the current discourse concerning regional transportation needs fails to root itself in reality by ignoring critical infrastructure construction already underway. EPIC, based on the North Coast, and working through the five counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino counties, has taken a very public role in questioning and challenging the purpose and need, as well as the design and quality of environmental review, of several Caltrans highway expansion projects, most notably the Richardson Grove Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) project, the Willits Bypass project, and the Highway 197/199 STAA access project in the Smith River Canyon of Del Norte County. Though these Caltrans projects have resulted in high-profile lawsuits and textbook instances of environmental conflict, one of the largest and most important transportation infrastructure projects for our region is currently under construction, and is facing no opposition from our organization — and it is still largely ignored in the current debate about economic connectivity and future rail or highway development in our region.

The Buckhorn Summit project on Highway 299 is a highway-widening project intended to facilitate access between Interstate 5 and the North Coast of the largest trucks on the road today — the STAA supersized cab trucks that are so common on the national interstate highway system. EPIC has monitored and tracked the $60 million Buckhorn grade projects, just as our organization has monitored and tracked the other STAA access projects at Richardson Grove and on the Smith River. Though we have insisted in numerous comment letters and legal briefings that all the evidence proves that Caltrans must analyze the cumulative impact of their STAA highway widening projects on Highway 101, Highway 199, and Highway 299, the agency has refused to fulfill their obligation. Regardless of that failure on the part of the largest road building agency in the world to accurately and honestly disclose to the North Coast public the cumulative impacts of this region wide highway expansion project, EPIC has stood completely out of the way on the Buckhorn Summit projects.

The Buckhorn Summit projects are not without their environmental impacts — over the course of project implementation more than 2,000,000 cubic yards of earth will be moved to straighten and widen the well-known stretch of curves on Highway 299 right at the western border of Shasta County. This is no small project — but EPIC has strategically stayed out of the way of that project as a demonstration of our understanding of the importance of supporting connectivity for economic interests in Humboldt County that desire big STAA truck service for the North Coast. There is no question that the fastest most direct route for goods from the North Coast to national markets is the direct line out Highway 299 to Interstate 5 and all points north, east, and south.

The bottom line about these transportation issues is that EPIC is aware of and supporting economic connectivity, while standing true to our mission and defending the unique natural qualities of our bioregion from unnecessary, damaging, and wasteful infrastructure development projects in some of the most special places remaining to us on the North Coast, and indeed, our planet.

This article was originally published as a My Word opinion piece in the Eureka Times-Standard.

Save the Gray Wolf – Protect America’s Wild Heritage for Future Generations

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Wolf KissesTake Action Now.  The future of America’s wolves is at stake right now. Wolf recovery is just beginning in the Pacific Northwest, yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to strip Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from nearly all wolves in the lower 48 states.

The country’s most reputable wildlife scientists strongly oppose the delisting and have publicly contested this strictly political move.

Contrary to requirements of the Endangered Species Act that listing decisions be governed by the best available science, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service presided over a process in which political and economic considerations were at the forefront.

According to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the federal government’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act was hammered out through political bargaining with affected states.

When wolves lose federal protections, they die. As seen from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming where wolves have been “delisted” and over 1,175 animals have been hunted, poisoned, trapped and ruthlessly persecuted with the same vicious attitude that nearly drove them extinct a century ago.

It also means that wolves — absent today from 95 percent of their historic habitat in the continental U.S.– are virtually guaranteed never to fully recover in places like Northeast California, most of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest.

Wolves once roamed throughout California, which has extensive areas of suitable habitat.  Our neighbors in Oregon currently have six established packs, approximately 46 wolves and Washington has nine packs with an estimated 51 animals.  For the first time in 85 years one lone wolf Journey or OR-7 was recorded venturing into California and traversed over 4,500 miles only to return to Oregon earlier this year.

Early in 2012, EPIC petitioned to list the wolf under the California ESA. As of October 2012, the Gray Wolf was designated as a “candidate species” which garners full protections under California ESA.  EPIC is now involved with the statewide stakeholder group working on a California Recovery Plan.

At EPIC, we advocate for wolves  and prepare for their return by defending our national forests and wild areas from exploitation and destruction and by advocating for grazing reform to help native species such as Elk who receive competition from cattle grazing on our public lands.  We will continue to participate in the statewide recovery plan and will keep our members and supporters aware of those efforts.

It is not too late:

90-day Public Comment is open. Tell the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to abandon this misguided plan.

Science is clear that wolves have not yet fully recovered.

Click here to take action now and advocate federal protection for this deserving and dignified canine.