Archive for May, 2014

EPIC In Review

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

HolmFayMG_8852-copy-1024x682When it comes to getting work done, our little organization packs a giant punch.  In recent days, we have been involved in numerous campaigns and are excited to be a part of these grass roots efforts that are shaping our environment and our future. To keep you informed of our happenings, we have provided a sample of the work that we have been involved with over the past few weeks.

Comments to urge Del Norte County to better analyze the Tryon Bridge replacement project – As proposed, this project would result in impacts to the Smith River and steelhead, coho and chinook salmon populations.

California Drought Bill letter – The Drought Bill (HR 3964), proposes to waive major elements of state and federal environmental laws and de-designates a portion of the Merced wild and scenic river. EPIC has joined the Environmental Water Caucus in calling on Representatives to reject this environmentally damaging legislation.

Letter of Support for Humboldt County No GMO Ordinance – This letter urges Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance that would ban GMOs in Humboldt County. The County had the opportunity to enact the ordinance without going before voters, but voted instead to put it on the November Ballot.

Environmental Coalition Letter to Feinstein and Boxer – As written, Senate Bill 2198 would exacerbate impacts on the environment and the salmon industry without addressing the underlying causes of water shortages. This letter urges Senators Boxer and Feinstein to ensure that their legislation reduces the impacts of the drought on California’s environment and the salmon fishery.

Grassroots Fracking Letter – This coalition letter urges members of the California Legislature to support SB 1132, which will impose a moratorium on fracking, acidizing and other will stimulation techniques.

Request for comment time extension of Bay Delta Conservation Plan – As proposed, BDCP is lacking an implementation agreement, which defines obligations, provides assurances, ensures adequate funding, specifies responsibility for implementing measures, provides for enforcement and remedies for failure, and establishes the process for changes. In this letter, EPIC and others request an extension of the public comment period since the BDCP is incomplete without the implementation agreement because it does not specify any commitments the parties have made to fund and promote mitigation measures.

These efforts would not be possible without your financial contributions. Please consider making a donation to help us continue protecting your wild back yard.


Wolf Night Teach-in & Fish and Game Commission Hearing

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

wolf-event-flyer-final-CS5Join us for our “Wolf Night and Teach-in” on Monday, June 2nd, from 6-8pm at the D-Street Neighborhood Center (1301 D Street in Arcata), featuring a film screening, guest speakers, sign making, and tips on speaking to the Commission. This event is designed to prepared people for the upcoming California Fish and Game Commission hearing. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.

The California Fish and Game Commission is coming to Fortuna and wants to hear from you. Attend the hearing in person on Wednesday, June 4th, at 8:30am at the Fortuna River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Drive in Fortuna), and ask Commissioners to give wolves full state protection under the California Endangered Species Act. Come early for a rally starting at 7:30am, bring signs and wear gray to show your support for listing.

All events are kid friendly, free and open to the public.

Hosted by: the Environmental Protection Information Center, Bird Ally X, Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Northcoast Environmental Center.

Nesting Eagles Harassed with Helicopter Logging

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

IMG_2140Last week the Klamath National Forest took a calculated risk to knowingly harass a pair of Bald eagles and their babies with helicopter logging just 1,500 feet from their nest. Logging this close to the nest occurred continuously for over a week and is expected to continue in this general area.

A Happy Camp resident who has been observing this pair raising their young every year for the past 24 years, alerted EPIC last week. The adult eagles have shown very erratic behavior and have been heard screeching in distress every day logging has occurred. We contacted the ranger, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the wildlife biologist to understand why and by what legal authority allowed the Klamath National Forest to risk killing the nestlings.

Although there were limited operating periods designed and put in place to protect the nestlings, logging was taking place just outside of a Bald Eagle Management Area set up for this particular nest site. Eagles are no longer listed under the Endangered Species Act but are still protected by the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which can bring criminal and civil penalties for any person or organization taking or disturbing them. A violation of the Act can result in a criminal fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense.

Management recommendations from the 2007 Bald Eagle Management Plan does allow some level of disturbance and is very lenient. Because of the public outcry and immediate attention from our organization the Happy Camp Ranger District has a wildlife biologist monitoring the nest during logging activity. The biologist has seen one nestling and the eagles are still tending to their babies.

Disruptive activities in or near eagle foraging areas can interfere with feeding, reducing chances of survival. Young nestlings are particularly vulnerable because they rely on their parents to provide warmth or shade, without which they may die as a result of hypothermia or heat stress. If food delivery schedules are interrupted, the young may not develop healthy plumage, which can affect their survival. Interference with feeding can also result in reduced productivity (number of young successfully fledged). Older nestlings no longer require constant attention from the adults, but they may be startled by loud or intrusive human activities and prematurely jump from the nest before they are able to fly or care for themselves. Once fledged, juveniles range up to 1⁄4 mile from the nest site, often to a site with minimal human activity. During this period, until about six weeks after departure from the nest, the juveniles still depend on the adults to feed them.

Where a human activity agitates or bothers roosting or foraging bald eagles to the degree that causes injury or substantially interferes with breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior and causes, or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest abandonment, the conduct of the activity constitutes a violation of the Eagle Act’s prohibition against disturbing eagles. If observations show that the logging has resulted in any of these negative affects EPIC will look into pressing charges for violations of the Bald Eagle Protection Act.

Speak up for the Future of California’s Gray Wolves!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

A remote camera captured this photo of OR7, aka Journey, on May 3, 2014, in Jackson County, Oregon.

Take Action: Urge the California Fish and Game Commission to list the Gray Wolf under the California Endangered Species Act.

It is only a matter of time before wolves fully reestablish themselves in California and they need the fullest protection under the law to be able to be able to recover.

We know of one occasional visitor, iconic wandering wolf OR-7 also known as “Journey,” but there maybe other wild wolves in the state that we don’t know about. Coming from Oregon, these charismatic predators will disperse into California’s long unoccupied, high-quality habitat full of deer and other game. The return of wolves to California’s landscape will bring invaluable benefits to ecosystems, and conservation of these apex predators is a must.

Good News:

Lone wolf, OR-7, doesn’t appear to be so lonely any more. Remote cameras in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon indicate that Journey has found a mate and the two have likely denned with puppies. In his travels, Journey has staked out a territory in southwest Oregon’s Cascade mountain range with occasional forays into California. It won’t be long before this new pack travels back into California!

Click here to read EPIC’s comments from March 28, 2014 to the Commission.

Click here to read EPIC’s supplemental comments to the California Fish and Game Commission, May 22, 2014.


Federal Court Halts Caltrans Highway-widening Project Along Smith River

Monday, May 5th, 2014

SmithCites Potential Impacts to Smith River, Coho Salmon in Granting Injunction

Northern District Court judge James Donato issued a preliminary injunction late Friday enjoining Caltrans from any further work on a controversial highway-widening project along the wild and scenic Smith River Canyon, until a court hearing scheduled for November 19. The judge cited substantial procedural violations of the Endangered Species Act and the potential for irreparable harm to endangered coho salmon and their critical habitat in the Smith River if the project goes forward.

“Caltrans should let this expensive and unneeded project die. Major excavation shouldn’t occur on such steep slopes along narrow, rural roads and within critical salmon habitat,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The court agreed that halting the project is in the public interest to protect endangered salmon.”

Caltrans is attempting to widen narrow sections of highways 197 and 199 along the Smith River in California’s remote Del Norte County, to provide access for oversized trucks. Construction would increase erosion and delivery of sediment into the Middle Fork Smith River, harming habitat for endangered coho salmon runs that already face a high risk of extinction. The project would undermine public safety by increasing heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the Smith River Canyon. It would negatively impact tourism and local residents.

“This project with its huge cuts in our narrow Smith River Canyon, was ill-conceived from the start, as is confirmed by Judge Donato’s decision,” said Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte. “The Coho Salmon Recovery Plan, when implemented, will have a much greater positive economic impact on our local economy than allowing oversized trucks to have unsafe access to our local highways.”

Friends of Del Norte, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed lawsuits in state and federal court in 2013 challenging Caltrans’ approval of the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project” due to inadequate review of the environmental impacts. Caltrans began cutting trees and removing vegetation close to the Smith River in January 2014 and was scheduled to begin major earth-moving and construction work this month.

“This decision by the federal court should be a wake up call to our elected officials regarding public concerns about Caltrans playing fast and loose with environmental laws,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of EPIC. “A thorough and adequate review process is needed to resolve the environmental and public safety concerns that our communities have about this project.”

The judge ruled that there is a risk of irreparable harm to the Smith River if the project were to proceed before the case is heard on its merits. The court also ruled that there a valid argument has been raised by plaintiffs that the National Marine Fisheries Service violated the federal Endangered Species Act by failing to properly analyze whether the project will jeopardize protected coho salmon or their critical habitat. The court characterized both agencies’ biological assessment documents for the project as “contradictory and unclear,” citing “serious questions about the adequacy of the ESA review and consultation process” raised by the plaintiffs. The court noted that it “cannot rubber-stamp a haphazard consultation process.”

Caltrans tried to downplay the threat project construction poses to salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River and failed to look at safety hazards from increased truck traffic. Caltrans has thus far refused to consider alternatives besides widening the highway and ignored the cumulative impacts of numerous other associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. Despite NMFS own data concerning the imperiled status of coho salmon in the Smith River, the agency rubber-stamped the project without giving it anything close to a sufficient review.


Highway 199 is a scenic byway along the Smith River Canyon that passes through the Six Rivers National Forest and the Smith River National Recreation Area and provides access to Redwood national and state parks. The Smith River is the only undammed river in California, with the longest stretch of designated “wild and scenic” river in the lower 48. A 1989 Caltrans report acknowledged the physical constraints of the narrow, steep and rocky Smith River Canyon and concluded that environmental concerns make Highway 199 “a poor candidate for extensive upgrading.”

Highway 197 is a 7-mile, two-lane country road that runs north to south along the lower Smith River, just northeast of Crescent City. It is a rural-residential route with 72 driveways directly entering onto the road. In order to avoid Jedediah Smith State Park at the western edge of the project, oversized trucks would divert off Highway 199 and travel along Highway 197 to the north of Crescent City to reach Highway 101.

Court challenges to the related Caltrans project through Richardson Grove on Highway 101 in Humboldt County have resulted in rulings determining that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of highway development on the ancient redwoods protected in Richardson Grove State Park.

A recently released independent review of Caltrans called for sweeping reforms of the agency and cited a “culture of fear” within Caltrans when it comes to deviating from standard policies. The statewide Caltrans Watch coalition has highlighted the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input.

Order Granting Preliminary Injunction

EPIC Press Release: Federal Court Halts Caltrans Smith River Project