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Novel Elk Hoof Disease Found In Del Norte Elk Herd

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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Roosevelt Elk. Photo by Linda Tanner, Flickr.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently announced that Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD), a bacterial-associated syndrome causing severe lameness in elk, has been discovered in elk in Del Norte County. TAHD is already present in elk in both Washington, Oregon and Idaho. From their experience, we understand that this disease is likely to cause significant disruptions to California’s elk.

There is no cure or effective treatment for wild populations. Lameness caused by TAHD has been found to impact up to 90% of elk in infected herds in Washington and is the likely cause of a population decline of 35%. Our only hope to minimize disease transfer and to mitigate impacts where present. In the coming months, EPIC will push the California Fish and Game Commission to promulgate new regulations to prevent disease spread. Oregon and Washington have put forward some regulations to limit disease spread, but these have obviously been insufficient as the disease has quickly spread from Washington south.

The discovery of the disease also calls into question planned expansion of elk hunting in the North Coast. In April, the Commission increased the number of elk tags issued, however, it is believed that the Commission was not aware of the disease at that time. Among the Commission’s charges is to consider whether the increased hunting will, together with likely population declines from TAHD, will cause a significant impact to local elk herds.


Klamath-Siskiyou Pacific Fishers Denied Protections by US Fish and Wildlife Service

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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Photo by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region

After acknowledging in 2019 that Pacific Fishers are threatened with extinction by a combination of logging, rodenticide poison use by marijuana growers, climate change and forest fire the US Fish and Wildlife Service once again reversed course and denied protections for most Fishers while only listing a small subset of the species as threatened in the southern Sierra Mountain Range. Remnant fisher populations in southern Oregon and Northern California remain unprotected.

Conservation groups petitioned to list the Pacific fisher in 2000. In 2004, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule finding that listing was warranted but did not finalize listing. Conservation groups sued in 2010 to force the Service to complete the listing process. Again, the Service proposed federal protection for the fisher in 2014, but then arbitrarily withdrew the proposal in 2016. Conservation organizations then filed suit alleging that the denial ignored the science in a politically motivated bow to the timber industry. As the result of today’s rule, the Service again put politics over science and ignored its own recommendations to protect Pacific fishers in the Klamath-Siskiyous.

A relative of minks and otters, Pacific fishers once roamed from British Columbia to Southern California. They have few natural predators, and are one of the only animals able to prey on porcupines. But due to intense logging and historical trapping, only two naturally occurring populations remain today: a population of 100 to 500 fisher in the southern Sierra Nevada and a population of between 250 and a few thousand in southern Oregon and Northern California. In a 2015 study, scientists conducting necropsies on fishers found that 85 percent had been exposed to rodent poison.

“Protection can’t come soon enough for the fisher because old-growth timber sales continue to whittle away habitat the species needs if it is to recover and thrive,” said George Sexton, conservation director for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild). “Southern Oregon should be a key refuge for the fisher, yet the Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to protect this population at the same time that the BLM is ramping up clearcutting of Fisher habitat.”

“Saving fishers will require better habitat protections,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “We both need to maintain more old, large trees and snags and make sure our forests are free from rodenticides. Over 85% of fishers have tested positive for rodenticide exposure. Fishers are our indicator that something is deeply wrong in California’s forests. The Service has thrown the needs of the fisher under the bus by ignoring the needs of the southern Oregon and northern California population.”

See full Press Release here.

 


Welcome Moxie Alvarnaz to the EPIC Board!

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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We are excited to welcome Moxie Alvarnaz to EPIC’s 2020 Board of Directors. Moxie is a Queer Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) scholar and activist. As a master’s student of Humboldt State University’s Environment & Community program, Moxie examines the interactions between political economy, oppressive hierarchy, settler colonialism, and the environment. Moxie has been involved in a variety of environmental and social movements, mutual aid organizing, and direct action.

Photo taken by Andrew Goff.

Currently, they are an organizer with Humboldt Mutual Aid, a grassroots disaster relief network based on the principles of solidarity. Moxie believes in the possibility of crafting revolutionary anti-colonial coalitions which reject green capitalist rationales. In 2020, Moxie was awarded the McCrone Graduate Fellowship in recognition of their research and service to social and environmental justice issues. They hold a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Humboldt State University.

We are looking forward to working with Moxie this year and greatly appreciate the dedication and perspective they are sure to bring to the EPIC Board!


Green Diamond’s THP Fails Forests, Watersheds and Wildlife in Sproul Creek

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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When Green Diamond Resource Company obtained 9,400 acres in the Sproul Creek watershed in late 2018, we knew our work would be cut out for us, as a landowner that makes massive clearcuts and sprays herbicides is not generally appreciated by neighbors. In February of 2019, EPIC organized a community meeting to discuss Green Diamond’s logging practices and what that would mean for its newly acquired land in the Sproul Creek watershed. The thirty community members who attended the meeting eventually formed a new group called “Sproul Watershed Advocates”.

On February 27, 2020, Green Diamond submitted the “Gibson Ridge” Timber Harvest Plan (THP) # 1-20-000-24-HUM to clearcut over 200 acres in the Sproul Creek watershed. The document was deemed unacceptable and returned by Calfire due to a lack of evidence that Green Diamond owns all of the parcels contained in the THP. Again, on March 18, 2020, Green Diamond resubmitted the THP without documentation to prove ownership, but Calfire has accepted Green Diamond’s word over the phone that it owns the parcels in question. 

The deficiencies of Green Diamond’s plan are numerous. The THP fails to analyze the cumulative effects of the past hundred years of logging impacts that the watershed is still recovering from. It fails to describe the specifics of herbicide use that is anticipated to be applied in the THP units. It also proposes to abandon old roads and instead build new roads in watersheds that are sediment impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, and claims that gravel and sediment will not be increased from the project.

Adding insult to injury, Green Diamond’s analysis of the cumulative effects of this project fails to appreciate the seriousness of climate change and uses false and misleading climate skepticism. It asserts that direct greenhouse gas emissions from logging operations are offset by Green Diamond’s timber program that it believes will result in significant net carbon sequestration through increased carbon storage! 

EPIC has been working with residents in the Sproul watershed and its neighboring communities to track the proposed logging project and we have submitted extensive comments on the plan. Logging and herbicide spraying in the Sproul Creek Watershed is what brought concerned community members together 43 years ago to form EPIC and bring an end to aerial spraying of herbicides. We are committed to ensuring that the land and wildlife has a voice and will continue to advocate on behalf of them.


BREAKING: EPIC Files Lawsuit Seeking Endangered Species Act Protections for Humboldt Marten

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
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The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration today for its failure to finalize Endangered Species Act protection for the Humboldt marten.

Fewer than 400 of these secretive forest dwellers remain in four isolated populations along a narrow strip of coastal habitat in northern California and southern Oregon. 

In October 2018, eight years after EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity first petitioned to protect this rare carnivore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the Humboldt marten as a threatened species under the ESA. But the wildlife agency has yet to finalize the rule, denying the marten the protections it needs to survive.  

“It wasn’t long ago that we thought Humboldt martens were extinct, and the Trump Administration’s inexcusable delays mean we could lose them for good this time,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The administration must act now to provide the protections necessary for martens to once again thrive in our ancient forests.”

Humboldt martens were once common in the coastal mountains from California’s Sonoma County north to the Columbia River in Oregon. But the population was decimated by unchecked trapping and logging of its forest habitat. The Humboldt marten is so rare that it was thought extinct until trail cameras provided evidence of their survival in the redwoods in 1996.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is failing at its charge: to protect America’s native wildlife. Delay after delay, the Humboldt marten has been put at peril to placate the timber industry,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at EPIC. 

EPIC and the Center petitioned to list the Humboldt marten as a protected species under the ESA in 2010, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service caved to timber-industry pressure and issued a negative decision in 2015. The groups successfully challenged that decision, and a federal judge ordered the agency to reevaluate the marten’s status. 

The Service subsequently announced its proposal to list the marten as a threatened species in October 2018. That decision triggered a deadline for a final listing by October 2019, but the agency has since failed to act, leading the Center and EPIC to file suit today. 

Martens are threatened by the ongoing logging of mature forests, loss of closed-canopy habitat to wildfires, rodent poison used in marijuana cultivation, and vehicle strikes. California banned trapping of Humboldt martens in the 1940s, but Oregon did not follow suit until 2019 after a petition and lawsuit from conservation groups. The animals have been wiped out from 93% of their historic range.

Martens have triangular ears and a bushy tail, and are related to minks and otters. They grow up to 2 feet long but weigh less than 3 pounds and must eat a quarter of their body weight daily to keep up with their high metabolism. Martens eat small mammals, birds, berries, reptiles and insects, and are eaten by larger mammals and raptors.

Find the Full Press Release here. 

 


Humboldt County Agrees to Prioritize Nonlethal Solutions to Urban Wildlife Conflict

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
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In response to advocacy by a coalition of animal protection and conservation groups, Humboldt County today approved a new contract with the federal wildlife killing program, Wildlife Services, that will result in far fewer native species being killed. The contract requires Wildlife Services implement numerous reforms to reduce its killing of wildlife involved in conflicts by — among other reforms — prioritizing non-lethal mitigation measures in urban and suburban areas and prohibiting killing of beavers.

Advocates began working with county officials after notifying the county that its existing contract with Wildlife Services violated state law by allowing the use of lethal methods without considering their impacts to the environment.

“It is vital that every government agency — from local to the federal level — follow the law for the protection of wildlife,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We will continue to ensure laws that protect animals are followed and enforced.”

Under the modified contract, Wildlife Services cannot kill animals in urban or suburban areas of the county until after implementation of “all feasible non-lethal mitigation measures.” The new contract also imposes reporting requirements and restricts cruel or ecologically harmful killing methods such as pesticides, lead ammunition and body-gripping traps.

Humboldt County is the most recent California county the coalition called upon to reform its wildlife management program. Shasta, Siskiyou, Monterey, Sonoma, and Mendocino Counties have all terminated, suspended, or considered the environmental effects of their contracts — either voluntarily or by court order — after the coalition and others took or threatened legal action.

“Co-existence with our wild lands and the animals that inhabitant them is not just possible but imperative to ecosystem balance.” Says Debra Chase CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We commend the county for taking this action.”

For nearly a decade, Humboldt County has employed Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of native animals under contract with Wildlife Services. Data from that federal wildlife-killing program shows that in the period from 2008-2017 in Humboldt County alone Wildlife Services killed at least 178 coyotes, 54 black bears, 43 gray foxes, 23 mountain lions, 483 raccoons, 880 skunks, and 112 opossums — overwhelmingly on behalf of the livestock industry.

“Humboldt County’s wildlife can rest a little safer because of today’s agreement,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center. “EPIC would like to particularly thank Agriculture Commissioner Jeff Dolf and the Board of Supervisors for recognizing that most human-wildlife conflicts are preventable and for working with the coalition to reduce unnecessary killing of wildlife.”

“We’re grateful that Humboldt County has taken this step towards more humane and effective management of its wildlife,” says Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m hopeful that the days of Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate and cruel killing of California’s wildlife are coming to an end.”

“Marin County led the way by ending its contract with Wildlife Services in 2000 and adopting a non-lethal cost-share program in place of lethal control,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Marin-based Project Coyote. “We are so pleased to see other counties in California – and beyond- now considering alternatives to killing.”

“We are glad to see Humboldt County acknowledging science and recognizing that indiscriminate wildlife killing is neither effective nor humane management,” said Bethany Cotton, terrestrial wildlife director for the Animal Welfare Institute. “We look forward to a future where non-lethal coexistence tools are the norm across California and nationwide.”

“Even though Wildlife Services has multiple non-lethal methods at its disposal, this federal program has – for far too long – been given carte blanche by local governments to kill wildlife rather than find other solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director of WildEarth Guardians. “We are pleased that Humboldt County is taking a step towards coexistence in holding Wildlife Services to a higher standard of conduct that we hope to see emulated across the American West.”

A copy of the coalition’s letter is available upon request. The coalition includes the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Welfare Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Mountain Lion Foundation, Project Coyote and WildEarth Guardians.

See the Full Press Release Here.


EPIC Files Lawsuit to Defend Old-Growth In Klamath National Forest

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
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View from Crawford project area looking over the Klamath River watershed into Marble Mountain Wilderness.

 

Last Friday, EPIC and allies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Klamath National Forests Crawford Timber Sale project. The project is located 15 miles southwest of the town Happy Camp and north of Dillion Creek, a salmon stronghold of the Klamath River. It proposes logging the forest canopy down to 30% in over 250 acres of mature and old-growth forests.

Mature forest stand. All trees in this photo without orange paint are proposed for logging.

The virgin forest in the Crawford Timber Sale is just outside the Siskiyou Roadless Area and provides an important wildlife corridor between the Siskiyou and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas. Serving as Critical Habitat for the imperiled northern spotted owl the project area is home to two of the few reproductive owl pairs remaining on the Klamath National Forest. The Crawford timber sale would result in the “take” of these surviving pairs and would remove and degrade over 350 acres of Critical Habitat.

Old-growth Douglas fir 5 foot in diameter located in Northern spotted owl critical habitat and home range that is proposed for cutting.

The lawsuit focuses on three major claims: the agencies failure to comply with it’s own Forest Plan for the protection and recovery of northern spotted owls, especially reproductive pairs; failure to protect the Pacific fisher, which would lose 225 acres of habitat; and the failure to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, which is required when a major federal action may significantly affect the quality of the environment.

EPIC is joined by the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Klamath Forest Alliance and is represented by Meriel L. Darzen and Oliver Stiefel of the Crag Law Center.

If you love the denizens who rely on dense forest canopy cover for survival, like the Pacific fisher, please donate today and help support the defense of old-growth forests.

To carry out this legal challenge to preserve owl habitat, clean water, fire resilient landscapes and our right to participate in public land management decisions, we need to raise substantial funding. Please help us see this case through by making a substantial donation today.


Climate Change Anxiety Got You Down? Join Our Webinar!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
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Does thinking about climate change give you a sinking feeling? Does the Anthropocene keep you awake at night? Me too. Join EPIC, Friends of the Eel River, Humboldt Baykeeper, and the Northcoast Environmental Center on Tuesday, May 5 from 7-8pm for a special discussion with HSU Professor Sarah Ray, author of the new book, “A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet,” to learn how to become a more resilient person and a more effective activist. Register for the online webinar today!

Caring about the environment can be emotionally difficult. An environmental education has costs, including an acute awareness of what is wrong with the world. Or, as the ever-eloquent Aldo Leopold put it, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” To many, climate change is anxiety producing—and for good reason. How we deal with this anxiety is important. Do we burn out or burn brighter?

Register for the webinar today!

 Want to pick up a copy of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety? Help support local bookstores! Eureka Books and Northtown Books have the book in stock for curbside pickup or delivery. If you live outside the area, you can also find the book online here.

 Based on Ray’s decade-plus of experience as a college educator and program leader, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety is not just another self-help book: it draws on research in psychology, sociology, cultural studies, mindfulness insights, social justice movements, and the environmental humanities. The result is an accessible and relatable resource for anyone struggling with climate anxiety. Chapter themes include:

— How to identify the signs and symptoms of climate anxiety, and where they come from;

— Finding your place in the climate movement;

— Parsing journalism and sensational media representations of environmental crises;

— Resisting the urge to argue and be “right”;

— Allowing yourself to have fun and experience joy despite the state of things.

Register Now!


Fish and Wildlife Service Sides with Timber Industry Over Owl Habitat

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
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Spotted Owl. Photo by US Forest Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sided with the timber industry, placing millions of acres of northern spotted critical habitat at risk, in a shady backroom deal unveiled earlier this month. Under the terms of this settlement, the Service has agreed to revisit their existing critical habitat rule by July 15, 2020 and finalize a new critical habitat rule by December 23, 2020. At risk is 9.5 million acres of habitat that the Service had previously decided was necessary for the recovery of the northern spotted owl. The story of how we arrived here is a helpful illustration of the ways that the Trump Administration has worked in lockstep with major extractive industries, including Big Timber.

The Service approved a critical habitat for the northern spotted owl in 2012. The habitat it designated represented that, which by the law, constituted those areas “essential to the conservation of the species” and was selected only on the basis of the best available science. Soon after the rule was approved, Big Timber challenged. Environmental groups sought to intervene in the lawsuit, arguing that we had an important interest in the litigation and that the federal government did not adequately protect our interest. Intervention was denied because, as the federal judge then found, the federal government supported the critical habitat rule and our groups therefore did not have a fundamentally different position from the federal government.

Then the Trump Administration happened. Despite briefing on the case being complete (and thus the case was ready for a judge to decide on the merits) the government caved: On April 13, in a settlement agreement filed with the court, the Service and the timber industry announced that the Service would re-do the critical habitat designation.

During the Obama Administration, anti-environmental forces claimed a grand conspiracy that enviros would sue and the agency would settle in favor of the environmental side. When Scott Pruitt was head of the Environmental Protection Agency (before he was “retired” under a cloud of ethics investigations), he famously declared that the agency would not settle any case with public interest groups. Now it is clear who is getting the favorable treatment in D.C.: Big Timber.

EPIC has been working to increase protections for the northern spotted owl, only to be hamstrung by delays and inaction. In 2012, EPIC petitioned the Service to “uplist” the owl from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Service has since missed numerous deadlines to complete their evaluation of our petition, forcing EPIC to send the Service a letter threatening to sue in January 2020.

The owl hangs in the balance. Population modeling suggests less than 50 years before the owl is extinct in the wild, a product of the combined pressure of habitat loss from logging and competition from the barred owl. Political games and backroom deals can now be added to the list of threats facing the northern spotted owl.


The Legacy of OR-7

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
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OR-7 Remote camera photo taken on May 3, 2014 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

OR-7 captured the hearts of millions. He is the ambassador of wolf recovery in California. Born of the Imnaha pack in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon in 2009, the young wolf was caught and fitted with a GPS collar in 2011 and soon set out to find a territory of his own. He was the first confirmed gray wolf in the golden state in nearly a century and has since sired many of the wolves that have traveled to California.

For three years he traversed thousands of miles between the two states, as many watched his epic journey, which he was affectionately named. Alas, in 2014, Journey met his mate and by spring they had pups in the Rogue River- Siskiyou National Forest. Settling down in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the Rogue Pack had multiple litters. 

California’s Lassen Pack alpha male, CA08M, is the son of OR-7. The pack has had three litters and at least 12 pups since 2017. The presence of CA08M has not been confirmed since spring 2019, and in late spring the breeding female was detected with a black male wolf. 

CA10F, a female gray wolf, left tracks and scat in Siskiyou County in 2017. Genetic testing determined she was born into the Rogue pack in 2014 and a littermate to CA08M. Her current whereabouts are unknown. 

Photo of OR-54 when she was 1.5 years old. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

OR-54, Journeys daughter born in 2016, searched over 8,000 miles to find a mate. She spent two summers in Sierra County, traveled all the way down to Lake Tahoe and even stepped into Nevada before she was found dead in Shasta County in February of this year. Her death is under investigation but hopefully her siblings, wherever they all may be, share the same tenacity.  

This spring there is no evidence of Rogue Pack pups and there was no sighting of OR-7 in the winter count, although his pack remains. His collar stopped working five years ago so there is no way to trace his location. He may still be alive, as many wolves will leave their pack at the end of their days to go it alone. However, 11 years old is a long life for a gray wolf as the life expectancy is 6-8 years. Either way, OR-7 is an icon and his legacy will live on. 


EPIC Honors Eileen Cooper With Semperviren’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
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EPIC’s Tom Wheeler presenting the award To Eileen Cooper

If you didn’t know better, you might discount Eileen Cooper. Eileen is rather petite and, usually buried under a large knit hat and cozy sweater with a small Chihuahua in her arm, she gives off distinct grandma vibes. But, as many in Del Norte and Humboldt have learned from Eileen: it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters. Eileen is a fighter: for peace, for the common person, and for the environment. Through her decades-long work on behalf of the Friends of Del Norte, she has made her little corner of California a better place. She is a kin to the Earth.

Eileen grew up in New York City. (You can still hear a tinge of an accent in her voice.) Surrounded by the hustle and bustle, she took refuge in a nearby park. From this experience grew a dream: someday she would live in a place where nature dominates and the city is small. 

Eileen moved to the wilds of Del Norte County—that very place of her dreams—to start her wild-harvested seaweed business. Shocked that the only seaweed available in California health food stores came all the way from Maine, Eileen recognized both a business opportunity and a way to be paid to be outside. The rocky shores outside of Crescent City were her office. I love to think about my friend bound up in a wetsuit with scissors in hand to harvest just enough of the seaweed for her needs, while leaving enough to regrow in perpetuity, then hoisting her harvest ashore and carefully hanging the seaweed to air dry. And, because the ocean was good to Eileen, she returned the favor. Eileen would become almost an unofficial member of the Coastal Commission, mastering the Coastal Act to preserve the shoreline that she fell in love with.

The fearlessness with which she approaches her work is inspiring. Local people with shovels had been breaching Lake Earl, the largest estuarine lagoon on the West Coast, and one of the most important migratory bird stopovers in the state, during the dark of night because they had issues with the rising waters. The Friends of Del Norte organized all-night vigils to head off this illegal activity; the trick was to keep watch without revealing one’s location. Eileen would ride her bike two miles in the dead of night—without lights—and then walk to a spot overlooking the lagoon, where she would lie in wait, armed with nothing but her conviction, to catch and report the perpetrators. 

Don Gillespie of the Friends of Del Norte, reflects on Eileen’s work: “For the past forty-seven years the Friends of Del Norte has positioned itself as ‘the local watchdog group’ to protect the local environment. But for the last twenty of those years, Eileen was our bulldog. She was tenacious in her research on many issues and relentless in attending our local Board of Supervisors, City Council and Coastal Commission meetings to represent environmental perspectives. For years she has constantly called on members to rally the troops to attend important public events where environmental decisions are at stake. She has constantly kept us on our toes when we may be growing complacent about a local issue, a true thorn in our side to keep us all motivated to pick up the fight when needed.”

Eileen removing invasive scotch broom. Photo by Sandra Jerabek.

A map of Del Norte County shows the impact of her work. The Sitka spruce forest on the way into Crescent City? Those trees still stand because of Eileen. The forest, which sits atop coastal wetlands, was proposed to be logged. No one but Eileen had any hope or vision to save the forest. Through her trademark spit and vinegar, Eileen put up an enormous fight against the logging plans, inspiring many others to take action, and laid the groundwork for these old trees to eventually be acquired by the State. 

Also, the lovely pine and spruce forest bordering the Airport terminal at Point St. George?  Eileen led the successful fight to scale down the terminal to a more realistic size, and to keep this forest from being cut down to accommodate the parking lot.  The Coastal Commission agreed with her.  

Perhaps you also appreciate walking the wild headlands farther out on Point St. George?  Again Eileen, and others active with the Friends, waved maps around and squawked so much about all the wetlands and rare plants there that the property owner was convinced to give up his plans for a hotel, five acre ranchettes and gated community. Today the Point is public land beloved by all residing in Crescent City and beyond.  

Eileen Cooper restoring the Lake Earl lagoon by removing invasive European beachgrass.

Put the main solid waste transfer station smack in the middle of Tolowa Dunes State Park?  Not on Eileen’s watch. Again the Coastal Commission agreed. And surely you have enjoyed the marshes and forested edges of Lake Earl, still so intact and rich with birds?  Higher water levels and State acquisition of hundreds of acres happened because a small group of people persisted for many decades in the fight to restore water levels in this great lagoon – instrumental among them during the last critical 20 years was Eileen Cooper!  

In recognition of Eileen’s work, EPIC is proud to award her our Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award. We realize, however, that this recognition pales in comparison to the legacy that Eileen has left on this planet.

This article originally appeared in the April/May issue of the EcoNews.


EPIC’s 2019-2020 Annual Report

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
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It is with great pleasure that we present you with EPIC’s 2019-2020 Annual Report. As we reflect on the victories from the past year, we are reminded of the strength and importance of collaboration with other advocacy groups, activists and legal experts to protect wildlife and wild places. In just one year, with a little help from our friends, we saw state and federal victories in the campaign to save Richardson Grove, reinforced wildlife protections on the proposed Humboldt Wind Project, banned the commercial trapping of fur-bearing mammals in California, filed a rule-making petition to protect beavers, banned the trapping of Humboldt martens in Oregon, and celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

EPIC 2019 Board and Staff

Our work depends on people power. EPIC is unique in that about half of our income comes from donations from our members. Looking back on our track record, it’s clear to see why this organization has thrived in the heart of the Redwoods for 43 years; because the people who live in and enjoy the places we work to protect, believe in the work we do.

As we embark on the new reality of social distancing, our hearts go out to the families whose health, daily lives, and financial welfare have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve made it through some hardships before, but never at this scale. At this point, many people have more time now than ever before to reflect on the people, places, and things that matter most to us (while some are struggling with not enough time with kids at home or increased workloads).

With the great pause, we have seen wildlife return to city streets, pollution recede enough to see mountains that have not been visible for decades, family bonds strengthening, and a new appreciation for those providing services deemed essential in this time.

We would like to think of environmental protection as an essential service, because we all depend on clean water, fresh air and healthy ecosystems to survive, but without watchdog groups like EPIC, many of our favorite places would not exist. As the world begins to start up again, we need to direct our resources to the entities we want to thrive. Remember, we are all in this together and we must support each other through these difficult times. So if you believe in the work we do, please take a moment to read our Annual Report and support our work.


Linking Habitat Requires Crossing Political Aisles

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020
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Due to the current climate and biodiversity crisis, there has been a surge of policy promoting the need to establish and protect wildlife corridors. Scientists estimate that globally over 1 million species are at risk of extinction. In the United States, it is estimated to be 1 in 5 animal and plant species and, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, well over half of California’s fish, amphibians and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.” Habitat protection and connectivity allows for species to migrate freely across large distances and is key to their survival. 

To adequately address landscape connectivity, politicians must cross aisles. This can be done. In 2019, New MexicoOregon and New Hampshire passed landmark wildlife corridor legislation and California could do the same. In February, Wildlife corridors and connectivity: Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection and Movement Act of 2020 (SB-1372) was introduced in the California legislature and has progressed to the Committee of Transportation. 

This bill would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate, study, and identify impacts to wildlife corridors from state infrastructure projects, including transportation and water and large-scale development projects. It would prioritize wildlife movement and habitat data development in areas of the state that are most essential as habitat linkages. Enacting the Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection and Movement Act of 2020 would require the state to build off of existing programs and plans, including the State Wildlife Action Plan, to proactively protect and enhance wildlife corridors and design infrastructure to maximize wildlife connectivity.

Nationally, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 (S.1499) was introduced in the Senate last year. The purposes of the act is to: establish National Wildlife Corridors to provide for the protection and restoration of certain native fish, wildlife, and plant species; to provide long-term habitat connectivity for native species migration, dispersal, adaptation to climate and environmental change, and genetic exchange; help restore wildlife movements that have been disrupted by habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, or obstruction; facilitate coordinated landscape- and seascape-scale connectivity planning and management across jurisdictions; and to support State, Tribal, local, voluntary private landowner and federal agency decision makers in the planning and development of National Wildlife Corridors.

Connecting wild places will stave off extinction, while providing landscape connectivity, whether it is through intact habitat or road crossings, will benefit people, plants and animals. Positive action for the good of nature is possible across political party lines. We are living proof that when we are faced with a crisis we can, and must, unite to make change.


Your Comments Needed: Protect Roosevelt Elk From Increased Hunting

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
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Roosevelt elk bull. Photo by Clinton Steeds, Flickr.

The Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) once ranged from the Bay Area to Alaska along the West Coast. Historically, prior to non-indigenous settlement, elk populations in California were estimated to be around 500,000. By the late 1800’s, elk populations had been completely decimated by the introduction of non-indigenous settlers and the subsequent hunting, habitat loss, and grazing competition from domesticated animals that followed. However, concentrated conservation efforts and the elk’s impressive ability to survive natural and human-induced pressures over time resulted in a rebound of the species, notably rising in the 1970’s. Currently, the three species of elk in California now have a combined population count of about 12,900 (less than 2.5% of the historical population estimate of 500,000). 

Today, California’s elk population is still working to recover from their historic decimation and occupy only a fraction of the territory they once occupied. Elk recovery has been further hampered by legacies of mismanagement, such as translocation of elk outside of areas they had once occupied, resulting in hybridization between elk subspecies. In Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the Roosevelt elk populations are estimated to consist of varying herds of only about 1,600 individuals (although these numbers are still largely unknown and unpublished). Despite these comparatively small population sizes, recreational hunting tags for elk are issued every year through the California Fish and Game Commission, even while collected data shows that elk herds overall do not seem to increase significantly each year and some herds even decline over time. In spite of that data, CFGC currently has a proposal on the table from California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to increase the hunting tags for Roosevelt elk in Humboldt and Del Norte counties from 108 to 148 for the 2020-2021 season in order to reduce human-elk “conflicts”.

This tag increase is irresponsible when the population data that is relied on for this is anecdotal at best and while alternative solutions to these conflicts exist such as: providing financial assistance for elk fencing, conservation easements on larger ranches to support elk corridors to allow movement between coastal and upland environments, and elk road crossings. Without having accurate and transparent numbers on herd size available, the public does not have an overall realistic view of the populations of elk in this area.

CDFW is prioritizing elk hunting over other priorities. Elk management includes multiple considerations, some of which conflict with each other. Elk management includes many other important priorities such as improving existing habitat, developing new habitat, growing elk populations, conflict avoidance with humans, and improvements of sustainable enjoyment of elk as a public trust resource, through non-consumptive (wildlife viewing) enjoyment. Promoting elk hunting and promoting non-consumptive enjoyment (like viewing) are seemingly at odds, although CDFW is charged with providing for both uses. CDFW is pushing forward an increase in elk hunting tags despite bad data and competing interests that counsel against more hunting. Please let the Commission know that without more transparent numbers, alternative solutions, and increased public participation, this proposal should be opposed and tag numbers should not be increased.

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Action Alert: EPA Suspends Industry Regulations During COVID-19

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
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We need your help! During this crisis, the Trump administration is silently sneaking through more and more environmental rollbacks that bolster industrial profits over environmental and human health. On March 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order to indefinitely suspend enforcement actions for companies normally regulated under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While facilities such as refineries and chemical plants continue to operate during the pandemic, they are no longer required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water.

From the order itself:  “In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”

This gives a free pass to companies to pollute in violation of environmental laws for an indefinite period. This is unacceptable, especially given that many industrial hotspots are centered in already vulnerable at-risk communities.

Please take a moment to let EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler know how you feel by sending him a letter expressing your disappointment with him for relaxing industry regulations instead of safeguarding the environment and our communities.

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EPIC Tips for Recreating Responsibly During Shelter-In-Place

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020
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Written by EPIC Intern, Thomas Premo

Arcata Community Forest.

After days of self-isolating it’s easy to long for the outdoors. One of the many appeals of Humboldt County is our close proximity to redwood forests and scenic beaches. The benefits of being outside are numerous, with outdoor areas providing fresh air and an escape from all the fears and anxieties we’re currently experiencing. Recently The Department of Health and Human Services of Humboldt County’s updated shelter in place order directs all residents to self-isolate, leaving their homes only to perform “essential activities” and practice social distancing when outside. This order allows for outdoor recreation including walking, hiking and biking activities, not utilizing communal equipment like playgrounds and picnic tables and in open areas or designated trails/ pathways where social distancing guidelines can be met.

With this in mind how can we work to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and others while recreating responsibly? Leaving home will always include more of a risk of spreading or contacting COVID-19, but this risk can be minimized by taking a number of different steps. Below are several general guidelines and best practices to keep in mind when going outdoors to protect the health and safety of yourself, and your community. It is important to note that things are changing often, and generally it is best to take the most precautious approach possible while staying up to date on the latest news and guidelines from public health officials.

Best Practices for Responsible Recreation Outdoors

• Make the health of yourself and others your number one priority. If you have symptoms or have been in contact with others who have them, it’s best to stay home and contact your doctor.

• When outdoors, enjoy recreation while keeping a safe social distance of six feet from other individuals and following other CDC and health authority guidelines for protecting yourself and others.

• Recreate with caution and avoid high risk activities that may lead to injury. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed or will be soon, so it is best to not add to the strain.

• While recreating, avoid crowded and popular areas such as trailheads where social distancing may be difficult, as well as areas with crowds and during high times of use when possible. Public health experts express the necessity of social distancing and the danger of spreading the virus that crowding in wilderness areas can present.

• Respect closures and be a good steward. Be mindful that while areas may be open, there is limited service and maintenance. Practice leave no trace principles to keep outdoor spaces safe, clean, and healthy.

• Stay local when recreating. Stay as close to your home area as you can and recreate on trails and in open spaces that are uncrowded and nearby. The further one travels, the more potential they have of spreading the illness, especially in less populated areas where crowds can put communities at unnecessary risk.

• Stay informed. Check local, state, and federal guidelines for updates on restrictions for recreational access and health recommendations designed to protect communities and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What Is and Isn’t Open?

As public areas including National and State Parks defer to Public Health guidelines, many areas in Humboldt County are currently closing access to vehicles in an effort to reduce the number of visitors while remaining open. Recently, the Redwood National and State Park as well as the Trinidad Head Trail Loop have closed vehicle access on many of the roads leading in. The parks remain open to day-use by walkers, hikers, and bicyclists, but facilities including campgrounds, visitor centers, and restrooms are closed. Currently, Humboldt County has a several other parks closed to the public. It is best to always check the website of your destination for updates on closures and other guidelines as they are likely to change in the future. With this in mind, it is best to check the following resources for up to date information on park closures.

For information on Humboldt specific park closures, visit:

Humboldt Gov COVID-19 Park Updates

For information of State Park closures including a list of closed parks and amenities visit:

State Park COVID-19 Updates

Information on National Park closures and restrictions can be found here:

National Park COVID-19 Updates

In closing, there are definitely benefits to staying active and spending time outdoors in the current situation we find ourselves in. However, is best to stay local and explore nearby places close to home instead of traveling to popular outdoor recreational areas. One can ensure the health and safety of themselves and their communities by following the advice of public health officials and making responsible choices when enjoying outdoor recreation.


Some Climate Lessons From COVID-19: Can Working From Home Reduce GHG Emissions?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
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COVID-19 has shaken up the way America works. In response to the threat, offices across the country are locking their doors. Millions of workers are learning to work from home, having staff meetings by video and figuring out how to juggle conference calls and crying kids. This unplanned experiment has already yielded a helpful finding: millions are discovering that teleworking not only works, but often we are more productive. This realization holds significant potential because teleworking is one way we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation is Humboldt’s largest category of greenhouse gas emissions. Commuting to and from work represents 30 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Overwhelmingly — 76 percent of the time — we drive to work to work alone. And the average commute distance is 16 miles each way. Cumulatively, these trips represent a significant amount of carbon emitted. To reduce the environmental impact of transportation, we not only need to quickly switch to electric vehicles, we also need to reduce the total vehicle miles traveled.

Telecommuting, even if just a day or two a week, would cut a substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that, based on this data, individuals would save on average of over 1,300 kg of carbon dioxide emissions — about one-twentieth of an average American’s total emissions. (Again, this is all based on averages and the individual savings could be lower or higher.)

Working from home can provide more time with family members!

Working from home has advantages beyond carbon savings. For employees, working for home gives more time for the worker. Teleworking is an excellent example of a sustainability initiative that also sustains people. I’m not speaking to the oft-spoken (and true) narrative, “if we take care of the planet, it will take care of us.” I’m speaking to the fact that people are happier when they have more quality time to spend with their loved ones. Most Americans spend more time with their coworkers than with their families. The average American commute involves 30 minutes in the car each way — an hour of unpaid life away from family, away from hobbies, away from the other parts of life that we work to support. If working from home means we get more work done in less time, then we have more energy to dedicate to our non-work relationships and non-work passions. Teleworking gives inherent flexibility to a schedule, allowing for you to, say, get dinner on the oven on your break or flip the laundry between emails. (I have a loaf of bread in the oven as I write this.) The ability to work from home is especially important for individuals with disabilities or for others who find travel difficult.

For employers, the benefits are also stark. Workers are actually more productive because they are able to better concentrate. Workers take shorter breaks and more hours are spent working. Job satisfaction rises and worker retention rises. Sick days drop.

Interested in teleworking? Your employer may already have a policy. It is California state policy to encourage telecommuting and each state agency is directed to have a policy in place. Humboldt County likewise permits teleworking and is looking to further ease the paperwork required because of the pandemic. Check out your HR manual for more on how to petition to work remotely. For private businesses, Humboldt can’t mandate more flexible working arrangements but you can always ask your employer. (Remember: they benefit too. And a quick Google should give you all the facts to muster a strong argument in favor.)

An office is often a nice place. We can form friendships over copier errors and find a sense of shared purpose. I often work at the conference table because I love those little interactions in the course of a day. But what we have found in “social distancing” is that we can still be social from a distance. Telecommuting is one little way that we can change our behaviors to improve our lives and the climate. After the facemasks seem out of fashion and our hands are no longer pruney from washing, let’s hope that teleworking stays around.

This article was originally published in the Times-Standard on March 18, 2020. 


The Attack On Environmental Safeguards Continues Amidst Global Crisis

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
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The sheer amount of attacks on our environmental laws in the past three-plus years is stammering and has increased amidst the newest global crisis we are all facing. The current administration has orchestrated the largest reduction of protected public lands in U.S. history and has attempted to roll back nearly 100 environmental rules. The clean water, clean air, and the forests that all life depends are at risk, while our right to affect change is also being diminished.

Changes that have already occurred include eliminating rules to reduce methane emissions from drilling on public lands, rolling back regulations to increase the safety and transparency of hydraulic fracturing, watering down offshore drilling safety rules enacted after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dramatically shrinking national monuments, and weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended enforcement of environmental laws during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, signaling to corporations they will not face any sanctions for polluting the air or water as long as they can claim in some way these violations were caused by the pandemic.

Sage-Grouse on the Curlew Grassland, Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Photo Credit: US Forest Service.

There are over seventy more sweeping policy changes just within the Department of Interior (DOI) alone. These proposals add to a destructive record of rolling back protections for wildlife, suppressing public input, and dramatically expanding drilling and mining throughout the country. There are too many to comprehensively list, however, one in particular that would greatly affect our region is the removal of 10 million acres of critical habitat focal area for the greater sage grouse. The sage grouse is a hugely important “umbrella species” that has long been a signifier of environmental health across the west, including northeastern California.

Not only that, but the nation’s most effective law at protecting wildlife, the ESA, has been dramatically weakened. In May this year, a United Nation’s panel on biodiversity released a massive, troubling report on the state of the world’s animals. The bottom line: As many as 1 million species are now at risk of extinction. It is a biodiversity crisis that spans the globe and threatens every ecosystem. ESA species listed as “threatened” are defined as “any species, which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.”

These new rules constrain what is meant by “foreseeable future” and give significant discretion in interpreting what that means. The agencies that enforce the ESA have had to base their decisions of whether to protect a species solely on scientific data, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.” The new rule removes that phrase and allows economics to be a consideration. Individual species are also targeted. Gray wolves, across the nation, are currently proposed for removal from the endangered species list when they have not even begun to recover in places like Colorado and California.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the forests of Northern California is the proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA allows the public to participate in land management decisions and requires that agencies consider environmental impacts from activities, such as logging. It also requires that different alternatives be considered. Here, the proposed changes would diminish all of the above: removing the requirement for alternatives, allowing larger projects to move forward without analyzing effects (as we have seen too often on the Mendocino National Forest), and eliminating public comment, forcing litigation as the only recourse. To add insult to injury, Trump has appointed 1 of every 4 appellate judges and two justices to the Supreme Court, tipping the favor against environmental and public interest.

It is time to turn the tide and sweep away this onslaught of harm. The breakdown of environmental laws and public interest is the breakdown of society. We must defend the natural world- the water, air, forests, and wildlife to thrive and survive. It is comforting to see that we have the ability, even globally, to move people to act in unison, toward a common goal. We must protect the web of life to safeguard our quality of life.


Pacific Northwest In March: Native Blooms

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
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Homebound and feeling antsy? As spring approaches, so many incredible native plants are blooming in Humboldt County. Take a walk, get some fresh air, and be prepared to be wowed by some of the new blooms out in the forest. As always, be respectful and careful of wild blooms, many animals and pollinators rely on them for their survival! ✨✨✨

Viola sempervirens, Trinidad Head.

Viola sempervirens, also known as the Redwood violet or the Evergreen violet, grow in moist forest areas along the California coast.These sweet little yellow blooms can be propagated and make great trailing additions to a shade garden. The flowers and leaves are edible (although it is advised to not eat more than a handful at a time) and are also used medicinally for bruises, soothing irritated tissue, and potentially even tumors.

Salix sitchensis, Arcata Marsh.

Salix sitchensis is a species of Willow that is native to Humboldt County known by the common name Sitka willow. It is a common plant in many types of coastal and inland wetlands, such as marshes, riverbanks, swamps, sand dunes, and springs (this was photographed at the Arcata Marsh). Native people in this area use the wood from willow trees for making baskets, drying fish, and stretching animal skins. Willows are also a natural source of salicylic acid (the base of aspirin). The bark can be smashed and applied to wounds to help with healing. Infusions of the stems can also be taken orally to help with stomach issues.

 

Trillium ovatum, Arcata Community Forest.

These redwood beauties, Trillium ovatum, are such special indicators of springtime soon to come. Our own HSU Professor Erik Jules is known for discovering the interesting way that these Trilliums are almost co-pollinated. First, vespid wasps do the initial pollination and then the seed/fruits are dispersed by ants. They are also a favorite food of the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus).There are 48 different species of trillium worldwide, 38 of which are represented in North America! Trilliums can change in color with age, from pink to red and even purple.

 

Ribes sanguineum, Trinidad Head.

Ribes sanguineum, also known as Blood Currant or Pink Winter Currant. The name Blood Currant comes from the latin sanguis, which means “blood;” for the color although the flowers typically range from a rosy or pale pink. However, occasionally you can find flowers that are a deep crimson. Ribes sanguineum support a variety of creatures. They are pollinated by insects and hummingbirds, including the currently migrating Rufous Hummingbirds. Their foliage is eaten by Zephyr and other butterfly larvae, while their berries are eaten by various songbirds and small mammals.

Lysichiton americanus, Arcata Community Forest.

Lysichiton americanus, Yellow Skunk Cabbage, is one of the few native species in the arum family in the Pacific Northwest. When you see Skunk Cabbage, you can know that you are near water, so watch your step! It only grows in wet areas, such as swampy bogs, wet forests, and near streams.The name “Skunk Cabbage” derives from its distinctive “skunky” odor that permeates throughout the area when its bright yellow flower emerges. The odor is important, as it is there to attract the scavenging flies and beetles that pollinate it.


Mendocino National Forest Backtracks on Logging Project Amidst Scrutiny

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
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Kimberly Baker inspecting marked tree in timber sale.

1,284 Acres Spared from Logging Under Revised Plan

In response to criticism by the public, the Mendocino National Forest has drastically scaled back proposed logging in the “Green Flat Restoration Project.” Originally planned for 1,534 acres, the Forest Service has scaled the project back to 250 acres. The agency was criticized for its apparent attempt to characterize logging activities as other more benign actions, such as “reforestation.”

The Green Flat Project was proposed in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire. The project quickly elicited controversy because it appeared that the Mendocino National Forest was attempting to characterize commercial logging under other names to more easily facilitate environmental review of the project. Nearly all federal projects are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which demands that projects be evaluated to consider potentially significant environmental impacts as well as alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce impacts. A small subset of actions—so-called “categorical exclusions”—are exempt from this longer environmental review process. The Forest Service has defined what types of activities can be pursued under a categorical exclusion. These include post-fire logging of 250 acres or less and “reforestation.”

In January, the Mendocino National Forest announced the proposed project. In a letter soliciting public comment, the Mendocino National Forest first proposed 250 acres of post-fire logging, 1,066 acres of “fuels reduction” associated with reforestation, and 218 acres of commercial logging coined as “forest health treatments.” Both fuels reduction and forest health treatments were effectively logging. In its comments on the project, EPIC outlined that this renaming of activities to fit under a categorical exclusion was illegal.

On March 11, the Mendocino National Forest withdrew the proposed project, announcing it would only pursue a smaller 250 acre commercial logging project. Further, the Mendocino indicated that it would reduce the number of living trees logged by taking trees that were estimated to have a 70%+ chance of dying in the future.

“Post-fire forests are ecologically sensitive and respond poorly to intensive logging–that’s why only smaller projects are allowed to utilize a categorical exclusion. Simply renaming logging something else to bypass the rules was clearly illegal and the Forest Service was caught, said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC.

“It is clear to see the agencies disregard for science and ecology by prioritizing the extraction of large trees while it leaves the smaller vegetatation to fuel the next fire,” said Kimberly Baker, Public Lands Advocate for EPIC.

In response to the Ranch Fire, the Mendocino National Forest has aggressively tried to increase logging in the fire footprint. EPIC is in court to stop another series of misapplied categorical exclusions.