Archive for August, 2017

Tipping the Scales

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Horse Creek watershed July 2017 showing checkerboard ownership. Private lands logging has already begun, the untouched portions are targeted by the Klamath National Forest.

EPIC recently submitted an objection to the Horse Creek Project— 1,700 acres of post-fire clearcutting in the 2016 Gap Fire footprint. An administrative objection is the way to formally challenge a Forest Service project, prior to litigation. Our lawsuit against the Klamath National Forest, for clearcutting nearly 10,000 acres after the 2014 Westside Fires, has yet to be heard in Federal Court. Both of these timber sales expect to kill or adversely harm salmon and their essential fish habitat.

Wild Salmon are Suffocated by Sediment

Wild salmon are struggling to survive and experiencing collapse after the lowest numbers in history while post-fire logging and the Klamath National Forest are pushing them closer to extinction. Unstable watersheds which provide vital cold water refuge to ailing fish have seen heavy use by thousands of logging trucks or have experienced massive road failures and landslides including, Beaver, Horse, Walker and Grider Creeks to name a few. The Horse Creek project invites more of the same.

Coho salmon in Southern Oregon and the Klamath Basin have been declared threatened for twenty years. In 2011, EPIC petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to list the spring-run Chinook salmon and to designate critical habitat. That petition was denied because, the Service argued, the springers were not genetically distinct from fall-run Chinook. Now six years later, thanks to research by UC Davis, springers have been proven to be genetically distinct. The Karuk Tribe has submitted a notice of intent to, once again, petition to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Our Future with Fire

Getting a smart grip on pre- and post-fire management is key to the salmon’s survival. There are over 50,000 acres of wildfire on the Klamath National Forest and approximately 225,000 acres on the Six Rivers, Modoc and Rouge-Siskiyou National Forests. The wet winter has certainly helped these fires burn cooler and some strategic allowances of fire for ecosystem benefit have been made. However, as witnessed, scouting for opportunities to clearcut our forests and in turn to lose money, harm wildlife and water quality begins before the smoke clears.

EPIC will defend wild salmon, water quality and wildlife in the wake of post-fire madness with the goal of reversing the damaging and continuous cycle we are beginning to see every year. Wildfires are inevitable and can have an impact. It is industrialized timber sales, which take all the big trees and leave all the flammables behind (which may or may not be treated), in our salmon dependent watersheds that are entirely avoidable.

We are slowly trending in the right direction. We continue to live with fire and learn from Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Prescribed burning is increasing, more cultural burning is revitalized and pre-fire strategies are gaining traction with implementation pending. After fires break out, depending on leadership, less extreme fire fighting tactics are being considered and forest communities are better prepared. However, we need a sense of urgency throughout California and beyond to shift from the age of the military-style fire industrial complex and massive post-fire logging to protecting communities and our wild places. As embers burn and smolder responsible officials and agencies need to stand up, follow their missions, make sound decisions and work fast to restore the last strongholds of wild salmon.

Help Support EPIC’s Forest Defense Work.

From collaborating and working with the agencies to groundtruthing proposed logging sites, writing comments, objections and lawsuits- EPIC works tirelessly to protect wild places and wild salmon. As a membership organization, we are powered by your generosity. Thank you!



Sharon Duggan – Kin to the Earth

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

California’s forest practice rules—often described as the most protective in the nation—largely stem from one woman: Sharon Duggan. Sharon is a one-woman force-of-nature, a potent combination of caring and cunning. For 35 years, Sharon has provided legal muscle to help individuals and grassroots organizations challenge the status quo and preserve our North Coast. She is a kin to the earth.

Sharon started practicing environmental law in 1982. Having grown up in Humboldt, Sharon took inspiration for her work from her roots. She remembered what the landscape was once like: rivers with fish, big trees, and a vibrant, locally-based timber industry that was the lifeblood for the small towns in which she lived. And she saw the change that occurred when Big Timber started taking over the local timber companies.

Relatively fresh out of law school, Sharon took on her first forestry case, the storied EPIC v. Johnson, in 1983. Georgia-Pacific had filed a timber harvest plan to clearcut old-growth redwoods in Little Jackass Creek near what is now the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park along the Mendocino Coast. On behalf of EPIC, Sharon challenged the state’s approval of the logging plan, arguing that the state did not consider the cumulative effects of the logging. The case may have seemed like a longshot to some—environmentalists up against the good ol’ boys in local court—but that didn’t stop Sharon. With a thoughtful yet tough prosecution of her case, Sharon won. The lawsuit helped generate enthusiasm for the protection of the Sinkyone, eventually leading to its preservation in perpetuity.

This scenario—a longshot case that was won because of hard work— has repeated itself throughout the rest of Sharon’s career. In court, Sharon is a ruthless litigator. She is diligentin her preparation, often tasked with the needle-in-the-haystack work of reviewing banker-boxes of documents to find a smoking-gun. She is creative in her writing, massaging the narrative of a case to appeal to a certain judge or to catch favorable political winds. And she is dogged, pressing every angle and avenue she can find in pursuit of justice. To opposing counsel, Sharon must seem like a pit bull. But to her friends and clients, she is a saint.

She has been a mentor to many. Rob DiPerna, Forest and Wildlife Advocate at EPIC, counts himself as a disciple of Sharon’s. “Sharon Duggan is a master-strategist and staunch supporter of the rights of public engagement and enforcement in environmental decision-making,” said Rob. “I have been so very blessed to account Sharon as a friend, colleague, and my primary mentor as I have grown into my professional capacity over the years.”

Phil Gregory, co-counsel for Richardson Grove, says of Sharon, “Sharon constantly inspires me not merely to save our planet but to do everything I can to preserve our natural resources as our sacred heritage. Sharon has made a fundamental impact in my life both as the role model of a true environmental attorney and as a loving, compassionate soul.” Phil adds, “Go Giants!”

Rachel Doughty, Attorney at GreenFire Law, also counts Sharon as a mentor. “Sharon is a tireless advocate for the places and people she cares about. She has been a tremendous mentor to me. There is one thing she is terrible at: retirement. She continues to dedicate herself to the future of our children and to mentor the next generation of attorneys, even while maintaining a docket protecting the wild spaces that are so loved and such a part of our identity as Californians.”

Despite her threats at retirement, Sharon has not slowed down. Sharon continues to work as counsel to EPIC, most recently back in court in EPIC’s challenge to Caltran’s proposed widening of Richardson Grove at the expense of old-growth redwoods. Sharon is a board member at Our Children’s Trust, developing innovative legal doctrines to take on climate change. And she provides limitless advice to the attorneys, young and old, who call her out of the blue to pick her brain.

Outside of her legal work, Sharon is a passionate advocate for Palestine, women’s rights, and a liberal democracy. She is a longtime volunteer with Redwoods Monastery in Whitethorn and is often found there on weekends, putting in hard labor to help the people and place that she loves. Sharon is buoyed by her longtime partner, Anne.

This article was published in the August 2017 EcoNews.

Exploring Scattered Public Lands

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Remnant old growth Douglas fir on BLM land near Harris in Southern Humboldt. “Wolf trees” like this were left standing when the area was logged because their many branches would make low-grade lumber. Now they provide habitat complexity in the recovering forest. Photo by Susan Nolan.

Susan Nolan, longtime EPIC Supporter and 2010 EPIC Volunteer of the Year has visited some of the scattered tracts of land that the BLM manages throughout the region. The article below describes what she has found on her excursions and their ecological and community value.

The United States began with a great wealth of fertile farmable land, timberland, and minerals. The young nation devised a number of programs, including the Homestead Act, to settle and develop this huge potential. Over time, most useable land was claimed, and the Bureau of Land Management was formed in 1946 to oversee the remaining land.

The BLM manages a number of properties on the North Coast: the King Range, Headwaters and much of the oceanfront of Humboldt Bay. Besides these headliners, the BLM still holds dozens of scraps of leftover land in public ownership all across Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

They may be as small as 40 acres or range up to several thousand acres. Some are brushy rocky outcrops, but most are forested and some still have old-growth. Many are on high ground, but some are right on rivers, especially along the Eel. Some, surrounded by private land, don’t even have access for BLM personnel, while others are well known and visited by many.

One spot familiar to travelers on Highway 36 is Goat Rock, where a striking steep cliff soars above the Van Duzen River west of Bridgeville. It’s a popular access point for swimmers, sunbathers, fishers and boaters to enjoy the river.

Sometimes the Bureau of Land Management adds to its holdings. Up until 1970, the King Range had only ten miles of extremely remote coastline in eight disconnected segments, used by a few off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, and 35,000 acres of poor timberland. Today, the King Range has grown to 68,000 acres and 35 miles of oceanfront, with tens of thousands of visitors annually.

BLM land along the historic Littlefield Trail in Mendocino County, included in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness. Photo by Susan Nolan.

Gilham Butte is a high point in southern Humboldt adjacent to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Once slated for logging, it’s now (thanks to a long campaign led by its neighbors) an old-growth reserve, protecting ancient Douglas firs. In 1999 its size more than doubled when 3,800 acres were added from a timber company which had planned to log. It is now managed as a reserve by the BLM.

Lacks Creek is another, more recent, success story. The BLM held a long narrow spine of steep forested land north of Highway 299 and west of the Hoopa Reservation. The most accessible parts were logged, but some old-growth remained in the remotest corner. It received very little use, primarily from handful of deer hunters in fall.

With support from nearby Redwood National and State Parks, BLM acquired logged-over timberland in the lower watershed of Lacks Creek about ten years ago. Public interest in developing mountain bike trails was strong, so BLM decided to meet the need on its newly acquired land. Now miles of bike trails have been developed, with more still planned. Besides being a recreation destination, Lacks Creek retains its old-growth reserve (no trails will be built there), elk are moving into the area, and the national park benefits from conservation-minded management of the land upstream from the park’s famous Tall Trees Grove on Redwood Creek.

Perhaps more parcels will grow with new acquisitions over time. Some may become recreation meccas like Humboldt Bay’s South Spit, Lacks Creek, and the King Range.

Most will probably remain isolated fragments of wild land, mostly unknown. But these can provide valuable ecological benefits by providing a place for a raptor’s nest, a quiet den site for forest carnivores such as bobcats or fishers, refugia for old-growth dependent lichens and fungi. Pat Higgins of the Eel River Recovery Project has noted that many critical salmon spawning creeks locally have their headwaters on BLM land, where undisturbed forest provides clean cool water.

For more information on BLM holdings on the North Coast, including information and maps on how to visit the most accessible, you can stop by the Arcata Field Office, 1695 Heindon Road (near Toni’s and the 101/299 junction).




Logging Threatens Unique Coastal Sitka Spruce Grove

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

South Beach Spruce Grove. Photo Credit F.L. Hiser Jr.

A proposed Timber Harvest Plan in Del Norte County near Crescent City threatens to devalue a sensitive and unique grove if coastal Sitka spruce. THP 1-17-034DEL “Hambro” proposes to harvest and substantially degrade the ecological value of 44 acres of mature unique grove of Sitka spruce that has been designated as a special and unique area by the California Coastal Commission and that presently resides in a Coastal Special Treatment Area that calls for special management considerations. The Hambro THP is surrounded by a State-administered wildlife area, and otherwise by the industrial complex of Crescent City.

The Hambro THP Sitka spruce stand is over 120 years-old, with many large, structurally-complex, and very old trees. Based on standardized forest classification methods, the Hambro THP stand represents a near-climax successional stage, and even meets the Forest Practice Rules criteria for designation as a Late Successional Forest, which also calls for special consideration and management of the stand.

EPIC is working cooperatively with Friends of Del Norte County to raise public awareness and interest in protecting the unique coastal Sitka spruce stand at-risk from logging degradation by the Hambro THP.

State Water Board Approves Strictest TMDL in State History

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Elk River Resident Kristy Wrigley testifying before the State Water Resources Control Board -August 1, 2017

The California State Water Resources Control Board has moved to ratify and strengthen conditions in the most stringent Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and watershed remediation plan (Action Plan) for remediation ever established in the State. At its August 1, 2017 meeting in Sacramento, the State Water Board ratified the now-15-year-tardy TMDL and Action Plan for the Upper Elk River Watershed, just south of Eureka, California. The State Water Board also moved to clarify the terms and expectations for the TMDL and Action Plan, and directed the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to revisit sediment pollution discharge permitting frameworks for the two major industrial timberland owners in the upper Elk River watershed by no later than January 2019.

In May 2016, the North Coast Regional Water Board adopted the Upper Elk River TMDL and established the limit on additional sediment pollution in the upper watershed, known as the load allocation, at zero, meaning no new human-caused sediment pollution from activities such as timber harvesting, can be discharged without exacerbating the damaged conditions and their impacts on water quality, fish, wildlife, and local residents. A scientific synthesis report of sediment in the Upper Elk River Watershed (Tetra Tech 2015), found that sediment pollution resulting from past and contemporary timber operations had overwhelmed the river’s capacity to withstand or move through any further sediment inputs. As clarified by the State Water Board, the TMDL and zero load allocation apply to all human-generated sources of sediment pollution, past, present, and future, until the capacity for Upper Elk River to assimilate further sediment is expanded through remediation conducted through the TMDL Action Plan’s Recovery Assessment and Stewardship Program components.

The State Water Board sent a clear and direct message to the Regional Board, Humboldt Redwood Company, and Green Diamond Resource Company. In order to ensure the attainment of no new sediment discharge, current sediment waste pollution discharge permits for timber operations need to be revisited and revised until and unless the TMDL is revised as a consequence of expanded sediment loading assimilative capacity resulting from watershed recovery efforts.

EPIC has filed a challenge with the State Water Board of the sediment pollution discharge permit issued to Humboldt Redwood Company by the Regional Water Board. However, this challenge has been in a holding pattern in anticipation of the State Board’s decision on the TMDL and Action Plan. Now, EPIC will work to monitor and engage in the Regional Board’s mandated-revisit for both Humboldt Redwood Company and Green Diamond Resource Company’s sediment pollution discharge permits in the Upper Elk River watershed.

Holding the line for water, fish, forests and people, EPIC gets results.

Support New Draft Wilderness Legislation!

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Photo Credit: Native Fish Society

Congressman Huffman has released a draft bill that would help protect 326,000 acres of federal public lands as “wilderness” by expanding nine existing wilderness areas and establishing ten new ones and would designate 485 miles of streams and rivers as “wild and scenic rivers.” View a map with the new proposed wilderness areas below.

But this is more than a typical wilderness legislation. It is a start at rethinking the way we interact with public land in Northern California. In addition to land protections, the legislation promotes sane forest management that will help restore fire to the landscape while protecting rural communities through the development of “shaded fuel breaks” around communities. It is would also help to promote our local recreation economy—the number one source of forest jobs—by creating a regional trail program. This legislation will help to move us out of the old false dichotomy of “trees vs. jobs.” You can read the bill in its entirety by clicking here.

Sounds good, right? There are two ways that you can help:

1. Show Your Support in Person at Upcoming Public Meetings with Congressman Huffman! Starting next week, Congressman Huffman will host several public meetings to discuss his proposal for Northwest California’s public lands. This is a fantastic opportunity to thank Congressman Huffman for his leadership in working to protect these special lands and waters for generations to come. Can we count on you to attend a public meeting and speak up for Northwest California’s unique public lands? Please RSVP by clicking the County links below and share with your friends! It is important that we bring out strong environmental voices to this meeting, as Big Timber will likely fight this legislation.

Humboldt County August 14th 5:30-6:30 pm Wharfinger, 1 Marina Way, Eureka, CA 95501
Del Norte County August 15th 5:30-6:30pm Del Norte Educational Resource Center, 400 West Harding, Crescent City, CA 95531
Trinity County August 16th 5:30-6:30pm Trinity High School, 321 Victory Lane, Weaverville, CA 96093
Mendocino County August 29th 1:30-2:30pm City of Ukiah Civic Center, 300 Seminary Ave, Ukiah, CA 95482

2. Say Thanks! Congressman Huffman has been developing this wilderness legislation for over a year, meeting with countless groups, local businesses, tribes, and individuals to gather ideas. His hard work has paid off. Click here to send an email to Congressman Huffman thanking him for working to protect Northwest California’s special places, encouraging him to introduce legislation, and letting him know you love the region and want to see it protected now for future generations.