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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.


EPIC Beaver Rules Move Ahead

Monday, March 16th, 2020
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Beavers are nature’s restoration specialists. Beavers benefit salmon and steelhead by building better habitat conditions, including creation ponds used by salmon and by increasing stream flow in summer months. Beavers’ roles are so important that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) included beaver population restoration as a goal of the recovery plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho salmon.

But in California, it is absurdly easy to kill beavers. That may change soon. In November 2019, EPIC, together with friends, petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to revise the rules under which beavers may be legally trapped. At the February Fish and Game Commission meeting, the Commission moved forward on our rulemaking petition, referring the petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for review and comment.

The proposed regulations would impact the 700+ beavers killed each year because of conflict with the human environment, and would require individuals to exhaust non-lethal methods to deter or diminish conflict before a permit could be issued that would allow their lethal removal. In many cases, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has already required this, although they have no clear regulatory grounds to do so, placing the Department at risk whenever they work to protect beavers. The rulemaking petition further codifies federal law prohibiting the removal of beavers if that removal would harm a species protected by the Endangered Species Act. In sum, common sense stuff.

EPIC has been hard at work for California’s beavers. In addition to the rulemaking petition, we threatened to sue Wildlife Services for their publicly-subsidized beaver killing program. (This resulted in an agreement to reduce the trapping of beavers in the state.) You can help support our efforts to protect our favorite riparian rodent by donating today.


Get Funky For The Forest At EPIC’s Forest Prom: POSTPONED

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020
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UPDATE: Due to the current circumstances surrounding COVID-19, the EPIC Forest Prom will be postponed until further notice. We look forward to celebrating with you all potentially in the fall.

EPIC’s “Forest” Prom will be held on Saturday, May 9th at the Veterans Hall in Arcata.

This redwood carpet affair will provide an experience you do not want to miss! Whether you never went to your High School Prom, desperately want a “do over”, or just want to have a good time, this event promises to create lasting memories all in support of EPIC’s efforts to protect and restore the forests of Northcoast California.

EPIC Prom is ALL ages.

Come dressed to impress and be ready to capture new prom memories in our photo booth. Don’t worry about spiking the punch- our full bar will have mixed drinks, locally crafted brew, and non-alcoholic beverages.

A live vinyl set will be provided to get you grooving with friends and funky soul jams by Object Heavy will close the night.

We will have raffle tickets available to win some incredible prizes and you can use each ticket you buy to vote for your choice of Forest Prom Eco-Crown Winner! We are accepting nominations NOW for people who shine as environmental royalty by working hard to protect the special places of this area (please choose people in this county only), and nominees will be voted on by our Board. Please e-mail rhiannon@wildcalifornia.org if you have someone in mind!

SCHEDULE:
8:00PM: Doors open for Cocktail Hour & Photo Booth
8:00PM: DJ Music- TBA
9:30PM: Prom Forest Crown Commencement
10:30PM: Music by Object Heavy

Tickets at the door:
Student Tickets $15
Non-Student Tickets $20

We hope to see you there!

Volunteers are needed to help with the production of this event. If you are interested in getting involved, please email rhiannon@wildcalifornia.org or call 707-822-7711.

Invite your friends and RSVP on our Facebook Event Page!


Humboldt County to Consider Climate Bond To Fund Renewable Energy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020
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EPIC’s Executive Director, Tom Wheeler, commenting on the considered bond at the March 3rd Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board directed staff to begin work towards a municipal bond to fund renewable energy and other efforts to combat climate change. A municipal bond would need to be approved by voters on the November 2020 ballot. The Board’s actions are in response to a public call for public financing of renewable energy development after the Humboldt Wind Project was denied by the Board in December.

“Humboldt County continues to lead on renewable energy development. By publicly financing renewable energy development, we can ensure that money stays local and that projects are broadly supported by the public,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Together with the forthcoming Climate Action Plan, 2020 will be a big year for climate action in the county.”

The exact projects to be financed through a municipal bond have not been identified yet. County staff are directed to work together with experts from the Redwood Coast Energy Authority to identify the highest priority projects that could be immediately funded. Projects could include: advance work to prepare for offshore wind development, like necessary upgrades at existing terminals; establishment of solar microgrid systems around critical infrastructure; and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from other sectors, like transportation.

“Renewable energy development is not only good for the climate, it is good for jobs—developing the clean energy economy here in Humboldt. And by supplying power locally, it is good for our security in the case of a natural disaster or another power shutoff, helping the county or critical infrastructure ‘island’ from the larger grid,” said Mr. Wheeler.

At the hearing, the Board heard from many citizens concerned about climate change and eager for the county to take bold and immediate steps to address greenhouse gas emissions.


Action Alert: Say No To Mendocino Logging of Fragile Post-Fire Forests!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
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The Mendocino National Forest is attempting to hide a 1,300 acre clearcut as a “restoration” project. By its logic, there is a need to cut all trees in order to plant others. The agency is arguing that it is exempt from environmental laws that require a detailed consideration of the likely environmental impacts of the project. All of this is on the heels of a massive post-fire roadside-logging project done without adequate environmental review. EPIC’s staff has rarely seen this level of disregard for science, ecology, wildlife, water quality, or public participation. We need your help to shine a spotlight on this Orwellian abuse of our laws.

Take Action Now!

The “Green Flat Restoration Project” is in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Fire Complex. To justify its proposed project, the Forest Service critically muddies the facts about the severity of burned area. By the agency’s telling, the project site is a moonscape desolate of life—with 79% of the area burned at “high-severity.” More accurately, the broader project area burned at a mixed severity—with patches of lower-severity fire (i.e. less mortality and surviving green trees capable of providing a seed source for natural reforestation) near patches of high-severity (i.e., the vast majority of trees were killed by the fire).

Here’s why this matters: by adopting an expansive definition of “high-severity” area, the Forest Service justifies the necessity of the project. It claims that because nearly the entire project falls within a “high-severity” patch, it must be replanted. And, in order to “improve the success” of replanted trees and to reduce fuels, the agency claims it needs to remove dead and live trees that were affected by the fire.

All of this is hooey because the forest stands are entirely capable of natural regeneration. Fire is nature’s phoenix. The mixed-severity of the project area ensures that there is a sufficient seed source nearby, and with resprouting hardwoods, the area will naturally reforest in time. The proposed ground based logging with heavy machinery, by contrast, will eviscerate natural recovery through the churning and disturbance of the already fragile soils. Artificial reforestation is less preferable for numerous reasons: it is more expensive, results in less biological diversity, and spreads invasive species.

Snags are an important part of a post-fire forest.

Snags left behind without logging are biological legacies that help forests recover from one stand to the next. Snag forests provide valuable charcoal and will stand and store carbon for decades. Unlogged post-fire forests provide complex forest structures and biologically vibrant habitats. Often called “nurse logs” after they fall, snags provide future soil nutrients, create cooler micro-climates by casting shade and holding moisture, provide denning, resting and hiding areas for mammals and birds, and feed the millions of micro-organisms that are the base of the food chain.

There is no sound ecological reason for industrial post-fire logging. By misleading the public about the nature and the need of the project, the Forest Service then attempts to shuttle the project through using a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements to carefully study the potential environmental impacts of a project. No consideration of impacts to wildlife. No consideration of impacts to water quality. No consideration to impacts to future fire conditions. Nothing. This fits a trend from the Mendocino National Forest to mischaracterize projects to get out the cut—and one that EPIC sued them over in 2019.

We need your help. The Mendocino National Forest hopes that no one will notice that this “restoration” project is really a timber sale in disguise. We need to flood the Forest Service with opposition to this appalling project before the comment period ends on Friday.

Take Action Now!


EPIC Seeks Conservation Coordinator To Join Our Team!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
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Position Title:
Conservation Coordinator

Reports to: Executive Director

Supervises: Interns and Volunteers

Position Type: Full time, salary + benefits

Location: Arcata, California

Salary and Benefits: Depending on experience ($35,000 to $41,000/yr)

Application deadline: March 31, 2020

Are you an energetic and outgoing person who loves to work in teams? Do you have a love for nature and want to advocate for its protection? The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is looking to find the newest member of our team! EPIC has worked for the protection and restoration of Northern California’s forests since 1977. You would join a professional team of lawyers, policy experts, and activists to protect forests, wildlife, and clean water.

EPIC is looking for a Conservation Coordinator to maintain an organized and robust conservation program and advocate for improved resource management in the forest ecosystems of Northwest California. At EPIC, you would coordinate and manage campaigns and initiatives, review and comment on upcoming project proposals, and represent EPIC before members and the public.

Qualified and motivated applicants should submit a resume and cover letter before and by March 31, 2020 to Tom Wheeler at tom@wildcalifornia.org. Applications will not be reviewed until after the March 31st deadline.

Position Summary:

The Conservation Coordinator (title negotiable) will make significant contributions to EPIC advocacy initiatives and will be one of the key staff responsible for organizing and managing the policy actions that make up EPIC’s core conservation program areas — Public Lands, Industrial Forestry Reform, Endangered Species and Biodiversity Defense, and Clean Water and Healthy Rivers—as well as coordinating, and potentially contributing to, EPIC’s litigation docket.

The Conservation Coordinator position is a mid-level legal staff position that requires extensive collaboration with other staff and is supervised by the Executive Director. The Conservation Coordinator must work both independently, and in close collaboration with, other EPIC staff and the EPIC Board of Directors.

Responsibilities:

The Conservation Coordinator will have extensive responsibility in the following areas: strategy, science, law, advocacy (grassroots organizing, legislation, and public policy), and communications (written and oral). These responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring and responding to key proposals and initiatives, maintaining an organized program and legal/litigation docket and calendar, tracking comment and briefing deadlines, and optimizing opportunities for public participation.
  • Staying up to date on key issues and developments in county, state, and federal environmental policies, planning, regulations and laws; local and regional governmental and private projects; and science, as it relates to core conservation and programmatic work.
  • Advocating for improved resource management, supporting appropriate proposals, and contributing to the design of strategies for stopping or mitigating inappropriate project proposals.
  • Commenting on projects, exhausting administrative remedies, and preparing for litigation where necessary.
  • Coordinating with allied groups and advocates, bridge organizing and networking with diverse stakeholders.
  • Researching, developing, and orchestrating EPIC’s campaigns and initiatives, independently and in coalition with other EPIC staff and partner organizations, as well as non-traditional allies.
  • Representing EPIC in public events and intimate community gatherings to media, members, and the public; allies and partners; key regulatory venues, public officials, elected representatives; and other diverse stakeholders.
  • Creating content for media and public education efforts, and contributing to online organizing and web publishing efforts.
  • Supervising interns and volunteers
  • Coordinating with other EPIC staff and the EPIC Board of Directors on EPIC organizational logistics including strategic planning, and selection and prioritization of EPIC projects, campaigns, media strategies, and litigation.

Position Requirements:

The Conservation Coordinator must be a team player, professional, and well-spoken. You must also be highly organized and detail-oriented, with the ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously. It is also important you display excellent verbal and written communication and interpersonal abilities as you will often be the “face” of the organization.

  • J.D. degree and California bar license preferred, or ability to obtain California license in a timely manner; or other relevant experience or education in environmental or public policy.
  • Expertise in forest, clean water, clean air, wildlife, public lands law, and land use/planning law.
  • Highly organized, detail-oriented, high level of initiative and ability to work independently and collaboratively.
  • Experience participating in environmental or advocacy campaigns.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Strong interpersonal and consensus-building skills, including the ability to work collaboratively with clients and colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
  • Initiative, good judgment, good time management skills, and a strong work ethic.
  • Demonstration of a commitment to equity, inclusion, and justice.
  • Ability to multitask and manage multiple projects simultaneously.

Compensation And Rewarding Benefits

Salary range is $35,000 to $41,000 per year depending on qualifications and experience.
At EPIC, you will be part of a small but powerful team of activists. We place a high priority on our team members and prioritize flexible schedules and a sane work/life balance. We will ask you to give us your very best every day, and will challenge you with interesting work, stretch assignments, a collaborative and supportive work environment and plenty of learning and growth. In additional to our flexible schedule and living wage pay, EPIC will also provide the following benefits:

  • Medical/Rx and Dental insurance
  • Paid parental leave
  • Paid time off including holidays, vacation, personal, sick time, bereavement and pay for jury duty
  • Opportunity for travel

To Apply:

E-mail a cover letter and resume to tom@wildcalifornia.org. Position open until filled. No phone calls please.

The Board of Directors of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) recognizes that issues of social justice, human rights, and environmental justice are inextricably linked to our mission to protect and restore Northwest California’s environment. In recognition of this interrelation, EPIC will work with local marginalized communities to stand up for environmental quality and social justice, to expand the conservation movement to include communities that have been historically excluded, and to promote dialogue and increased understanding. EPIC will further make efforts to maintain a Board of Directors that reflects the broad environmental concerns and issues affecting Northwest California, particularly those of marginalized communities.


Letter To Planning Commissioner John Ford: Reaching A CAP Emissions Target

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
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This letter was submitted by email to Planning Commissioner John Ford on the forthcoming multijurisdictional Climate Action Plan in response to the recent Eureka presentation regarding the matter:

Dear Director Ford,

On behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Friends of the Eel River, please accept this letter on the forthcoming multijurisdictional Climate Action Plan.

In setting a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, the county needs to be in line with the best available science, in line with state-mandated goals, and provide sufficient benchmarks that the public and county can gauge progress. We recommend that the Climate Action Plan set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2045, with a benchmark of 50% emission reductions from 2015 emissions levels by 2030 (hereafter “zero net target”).

A zero net target is in line with the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, which found that to limit warming to 1.5°C implies reaching zero net emissions by 2050 and approximately 50% net reductions by 2030. (Rogelj 2018 (“In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).”).)

A zero net target is likewise in line with existing California state law. California has set various targets for global greenhouse gas emissions and the county is obligated to set a target that conforms with state requirements. Given multiple potential emission targets, we recommend that the county set the target in line with the most ambitious target yet issued and the most recently issued target. In 2018, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-55-18 which ordered the state to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045 and maintain negative emissions thereafter. Our proposed zero net target builds off Governor Brown’s order by providing clearer intermediate direction of 50% emission reductions compared to 2015 emission levels.

Our climate crisis demands bold and immediate action. We are committed to working with you and the county to address this existential threat. Thank you for your leadership on this issue.

Sincerely, Tom Wheeler Executive Director, EPIC

See Full CAP Emission Target Letter Here.


A Humboldt Solution To The Terra-Gen Aftermath

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
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Terra-Gen’s Humboldt Wind Project was flawed but it would have offered this: a large and sudden pulse of low-carbon energy, enough to fill approximately 56 percent of Humboldt’s total electricity needs. With its demise, our odds at reaching our global climate goals become more distant while our challenge to achieve 100 percent clean, renewable energy from local sources is markedly more difficult. Its rejection now raises a new and more pressing moral imperative that we act, and quickly. If not this project, how will we meet our clean energy needs? We face a climate crisis that demands bold action now. We can’t wait.

There is a Humboldt solution: locally-created, locally-financed and locally-owned power. We can and need to invest as a county in our own energy production. Humboldt County is a bondable authority. Our county is underleveraged in terms of its debt-to-asset ratio and this project is capable of generating revenue that can pay off the debt incurred, two important criteria that would make Humboldt well-suited and attractive for a municipal bond. After our bond obligations are paid, we also have something special: community-owned energy that generates revenue that could be used to reinvest in more renewable energy production.

What would this project be? We will need to diversify our electric portfolio to provide a responsible and stable grid mix. This means investment in all of the renewable energy technologies as appropriate, including solar, new biomass systems, run-of-the-river hydro, and, yes, large-scale wind energy. In an age of information at everyone’s fingertips, it is easy to find fault in virtually any project. We must embark on a community project with the understanding that compromises will need to be made. That said, as the county would ultimately develop the project, compromises can be made deliberately and democratically. As we learned from the Humboldt Wind Project, energy development projects need to come from the community, be good for the whole community and include the community in the planning process.

During the public dialogue, many raised the need to invest heavily, if not solely, in distributed solar microgrid systems, such as the one installed at the Blue Lake Rancheria. These systems, while an important tool, are not sufficient to meet our energy needs. While the PG&E planned power shutoffs have demonstrated the need for more microgrid systems to support the necessary civil infrastructure that we are reliant upon — hospitals, wastewater treatment facilities, government offices, etc. — microgrid systems are currently too expensive to provide affordable power on a large scale.

We face a climate crisis and it is our moral imperative to do something about it. Decarbonizing our energy infrastructure is the lowest hanging fruit. Carbon emissions associated with energy production account for approximately 13 percent of Humboldt County’s emissions. These emissions are mostly attributable to those from the Humboldt Bay Generating Station, our large natural gas energy plant. By producing new renewable energy at scale, we can begin to depower the plant and eventually mothball the facility when we provide sufficient reliable energy to the larger grid.

Decarbonizing our energy infrastructure is also critical to reducing emissions in other areas. Far and away, Humboldt’s — and the nation’s — largest emission category is transportation, at over 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Here, achieving emission reductions is more challenging and involves both reducing total vehicle miles travelled by car and plane and electrifying transportation. Of course, however, electrifying our transportation fleet will only achieve the necessary emission reductions if that energy comes from low-carbon sources.

Humboldt is well suited to develop the kind of renewable energy projects we need to meet future energy needs. We are blessed to have local renewable energy experts at Schatz Energy Research Center, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and in the private sector. Local investment in renewable energy will also provide new opportunities to pursue the green tech jobs of the future.

The Humboldt Wind Project electrified the passions of individuals on both sides of the debate. It is my hope that all of the energy put into the consideration of that project will now come forward to support a locally-produced clean energy future.

This article originally appeared in the NCJ’s “Letters and Opinions- Views” section as: “Terra-Gen Electrified the Conversation. What Now?”.


Spotted Owl In Jeopardy: More Protections Needed

Friday, January 31st, 2020
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Family of Northern Spotted Owl. Photo by USFWS Pacific Region.

The longtime icon of the forest defense movement, the northern spotted owl, is quickly headed towards extinction. The cause? A fatal combination of historic and current habitat loss and out-competition by the invasive barred owl, together with other, smaller stressors, like rodenticide exposure. A 2015 demographic study of the owl—the most recent meta-analysis of the species performance—produced alarming results: the spotted owl is functionally extinct in British Columbia, and populations have declined 55–77 percent in Washington, 31–68 percent in Oregon and 32–55 percent in California. Population declines are now occurring on study areas in southern Oregon and northern California that were previously experiencing little to no detectable decline through 2009. The rate of decline is also increasing across the owls’ range.

In 1994, the Clinton Administration passed the Northwest Forest Plan, a long-term strategy to deal with old-growth associated species (like the northern spotted owl) on public lands in the Pacific Northwest. Among other things, the plan created a system of reserves called “Late Successional Reserves.” These reserves were intended to provide well-distributed owl habitat across public lands. The Northwest Forest Plan’s reserve network was largely successful in protecting owl habitat on federal lands, however, the owls continued decline demonstrates that existing efforts are insufficient to protect the owl. The Plan estimated that after passage the owl would continue to decline, but that populations would eventually stabilize and the owl would recover. Instead, the rate of decline has increased, suggesting that the Plan alone is not sufficient for owls on public lands.

Locally, the owl is not meeting performance measures. The most recent publicly available annual report (2018) for the Humboldt Redwood Company helps illustrate some of the challenges. Humboldt Redwood Company operates under a “Habitat Conservation Plan” or HCP. Because of this HCP, Humboldt Redwood Company is authorized to “take”—harm, harass, kill, wound, trap, capture, etc.—northern spotted owls through the operation of their business. The HCP, however, was supposed to contain sufficient habitat protections to ensure that owls would continue to survive across the company’s property. This longtime survival was to be measured through performance objectives. Two of these measures are in question. First, the HCP was supposed to ensure that spotted owl pairs occupy 80% of owl sites. The 80% mark was chosen by taking the average number of owl sites from 1991 to 1998, and so provides a benchmark against which we can gauge performance. In 2018, occupancy by pairs was verified at only 76 of 108 nest sites, giving an occupancy rate of 70%. Another management objective is to maintain .61 fledge young per pair, a target again derived from data from 1994 to 1998. Of the 76 pairs, nesting activity was only verified for 31 of the 76 pairs, and of these 36 were fledged, for a total reproductive rate of .31. In other words, there are not as many owls occupying the property as desired, and of these still left on the property, they are not successfully reproducing.

Barred Owl. Photo by M.E. Sanseverino.

Humboldt Redwood Company lays significant blame on the poor spotted owl performance on the invasive barred owl. We agree, in large part, as the trends demonstrated on their land match those on other lands. However, if barred owls are inhibiting owls on their property, we expect that the company would implement a barred owl management program. Barred owl removal was shown to be effective in the redwood region through a trial experiment on Green Diamond Resource Company land. As barred owls start to occupy spotted owl habitat, the more timid spotted owls give up their former nest sites, becoming what biologists term “floaters.” These floater owls still are present in the forest but they do not display territorial behavior and do not readily vocalize (presumably to avoid drawing the attention of their aggressive cousin, the barred owl). As the redwood region was one of the last areas to be inundated with barred owls, we are thought to have more adult owls still silently floating in the forests, ready to reoccupy their former nest sites if barred owls are no longer present, providing a quicker response to treatment than in other areas. Humboldt Redwood Company will not commit to a barred owl management program on their lands—at least not yet. And similarly although the HCP has failed to achieve its targets, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet triggered adaptive management clauses to reexamine what additional measures are necessary for the owl’s survival.

Longtime survival of northern spotted owls in the area is likely only with both increased habitat retention and barred owl removal. EPIC has criticized recent actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that has seemingly traded habitat protection for barred owl removal, best exemplified by the new Habitat Conservation Plan for Green Diamond Resource Company. As we approach an extinction event, we need to stop giving away owl habitat and we need to start restoring habitat, which includes barred owl removal.


EPIC And Others To Sue USFWS for Putting Northern Spotted Owls at Risk

Thursday, January 30th, 2020
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Northern Spotted Owl. Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto.

On Friday, EPIC and a coalition of conservation groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its intent to take the agency to court for is failure to complete an evaluation on the status of the northern spotted owl and whether the owl warrants greater protection under the Endangered Species Act. The notice letter begins a 60-day window for the Service to comply with the law by evaluating whether existing protections for the owl are sufficient to stave off extinction.

“The science is dire and alarming,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “The Service’s failure to act is placing the northern spotted owl in danger of extinction. Urgent action is required now to avert tragedy.”

The northern spotted owl was first listed as “threatened” by the Service in 1990 because of range-wide population declines primarily caused by habitat loss from timber operations. Since the species listing, the northern spotted owl has been further impacted by the expansion of the more aggressive barred owl in its range. As the barred owl has moved south from British Columbia, the northern spotted owl declined precipitously. Today, northern spotted owls are functionally extinct in British Columbia and face extinction in the wild through the owl’s entire range within the next 50 years.

“Mature and old-growth forests that provide essential habitat for this species continue to be aggressively logged and removed,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Urgent action is needed by the Fish and Wildlife Service and is long overdue.”“The science is dire and alarming,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “The Service’s failure to act is placing the northern spotted owl in danger of extinction. Urgent action is required now to avert tragedy.”

The Service has not completed a status review for the owl within the statutorily prescribed timeframe of five years, with the last status review completed in 2011. Similarly, the Service has failed to complete rulemaking concerning whether to “uplist” the owl from “threatened” to “endangered” despite the increasingly dire outlook for the species.

The Service’s failure to complete these actions has hurt the owl’s recovery in that the Service and other governmental agencies may be relying on outdated data. This is particularly troublesome as the Bureau of Land Management has already completed resource management plans for forests in the range of the northern spotted owl and as the U.S. Forest Service has begun its process to revise land and resource management plans for forests within the owl’s range.

The conservation groups include the Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Western Environmental Law Center, American Bird Conservancy, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, Pilchuck Audubon Society, Northcoast Environmental Center, Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment, Forest Issues Group, Lassen Forest Preservation Group, Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, and South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership. The groups are represented by Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.

Check out our full press release here. 


Superb Owls of Northern California

Monday, January 27th, 2020
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In honor of the SuperbOwl Sunday, we wanted to share a delightful compilation of facts, information, and photos of Northern California’s varied owl species. Included you will find the Northern Spotted Owl, the Great Horned Owl, the Short-eared Owl, and the Northern Pygmy Owl, among others. Sit back with a cup of tea and learn about the incredible owls you may hear or see in our area!  This article was written by our wonderful intern, Bente Jansen.

 

Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina)

 

Northern Spotted Owl fledglings. Photo by Tom Kogut.

Northern Spotted Owls reside in old-growth forests in northern California, southern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. As one of three subspecies of spotted owl, the Northern Spotted Owl does not migrate, but will occasionally shift their range in response to seasonal changes. Northern Spotted Owls are also one of the few owls that have dark brown eyes in comparison to yellow or red. They are an indicator species for the health of the old growth ecosystems they reside in, along with many other species such as the Marbled Murrelet. Northern Spotted Owl pairs do not make their own nest as many other owls; however, unlike most owls the owl pairs also do not nest every year, and are also not successful everytime they do nest. Unfortunately, the Northern Spotted Owls have been experiencing an ongoing decline in their populations due to habitat loss from unsustainable timber practices and competition from the invasive Barred Owl. These large, territorial owls have been listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1990. Although there have been efforts to assist the Northern Spotted Owl, such as Barred Owl removal and critical habitat designations, their populations continue to decrease and their habitats destroyed. According to the American Bird Conservancy in 2015, “in Oregon’s Coast Range study area, the percentage of sites with spotted owl detection has declined from a high of 88 percent in 1991 to a low of 23 percent in 2013.” As an indicator and keystone species, the Northern Spotted Owl is an extremely important species for the perpetuation of biodiversity and a healthy ecosystem. 

Great-horned Owl. Photo by Mick Thompson.

Great-horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) 

Often seen perching high up at dusk, the Great-horned Owl is the most widespread owl in North America. These large owls, about 22 inches in length, reside in a variety of habitats including forests, urban areas and deserts. As a skilled predator with a large appetite, the Great-horned Owl often feasts on large prey such as rabbits and squirrels. The Great-horned Owls have one of the most diverse diets of all North American Owls; they have even been recorded to eat other Great-horned Owls. As most owls, they are clueless about nest building, and don’t build their own nest but rather use abandoned nest in a tree, cliff or rocky crevice. Once they are adults, the Great-horned Owl has no natural predators and has been recorded to live up to 28 years in the wild. 

Barn Owl pair. Photo by Airwolfhound, Flickr.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Often mistaken as a Snowy Owl, Barn Owls are classically identified by their heart-shaped faces. Barn Owls do not build their own nests, but rather lay their eggs on bare surface in a cave or barn or attic. They are usually nocturnal hunters and mainly prey on rats and mice. Because of the shape of their wings and feather structure, Barn Owls are extremely skilled at flying silently and gliding for long periods of time. Because of its ability to hear the smallest rustle made by their rodent prey from up to ten feet above the ground and their stealthy flight ability, the Barn Owl is a talented predator. Unlike many bird species, an interesting characteristic of Barn Owls is their dedication to their partner. Typically Barn Owls will stay monogamous for life or until one of the partners passes away. 

Western Screech Owl. Photo by Tim Boyer.

Western Screech-Owl (Otus kennicottii)

Once considered to be the same species as the Eastern Screech-Owl, the Western Screech-Owl can be found in deserts, open woods and suburban parks. Although the Western Screech-owl avoids higher elevations and extreme desert conditions, their range is quite large and covers from Southeastern Alaska all the way to Arizona. Well-camouflaged in the cavities of trees, these owls often go undetected. When threatened, the Western Screech-owl will stretch its body and tighten its feathers so as to look like a branch stub. Although a smaller owl species, they have been observed taking prey larger than themselves, such as cottontail rabbits. 

Great Grey Owl. Photo by Rich Hoeg.

Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) 

As the largest owl in North America, the Great Grey Owl is relatively uncommon and rarely seen by humans. They can be found in dense coniferous forests and wooden bogs across the Northern Hemisphere. Although mainly a nocturnal hunter, it has also been observed hunting during dawn and dusk, mainly for mice but also occasionally small mammals and birds. Because of their graceful and silent hunting techniques and the rarity of sighting, the Great Grey Owl is well known as the “Phantom of the North.” The population dynamics of these owls relies heavily on the abundance of voles since 80-90% of their diet is comprised of small rodents, especially voles. Largely deserving of its name, the Great Grey Owl can have a wingspan of up to five feet! 

Barred Owl. Photo by Fyn Kynd.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Unlike most owls, the Barred Owl has large dark brown eyes and is one of the most vocal owls. Although they are mainly nocturnal, Barred Owl’s loud hooting, screaming and cackling can often be heard during the day. The belly feathers of some Barred Owls have been observed as pink: it is theorized that this coloration is a result of eating many crayfish similarly to how flamingos are pink because of large consumption of brine shrimp. Fairly common in southern swamps, Barred Owls habitat expanded into dense forests across northwest America around the turn of the 20th century. It is most commonly thought that this northwestern expansion was caused by human alteration to the landscape. In California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, the Barred Owls are invading the habitat and landscape of the Northern Spotted Owl, adding to the decline of this already threatened species. 

Short-eared Owl. Photo by Mick Thompson.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) 

Often well hidden, the Short-eared Owl hunts at night and on cloudy days, typically in an area that several Short-eared Owls share. Unlike many owls, these ground-nesters nest in a depression in the ground cushioned with short grasses. Short-eared Owls can be found in a variety of habitats such as marshes, forest clearings, grasslands, agricultural fields and tundra. Short-eared Owls are one of six owl species that reside outside of forested areas and have one of the most widespread distributions, residing on every continent besides Antarctica and Australia. Only about 15 inches in length on average, these little owls can travel large distances including over large bodies of water. The largest distance recorded was a migration of 1,200 miles! 

Sleepy Long-eared Owl. Photo by Beck Matsubara.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

The Long-eared Owl has a large range over the North American continent, however as a species that prefers dense forested areas and are excellent at camouflaging themselves, the Long-eared Owl is uncommonly seen by humans. They are strictly nocturnal, and like many owls, do not build their own nests. Instead, they reside in the nest of a magpie, crow or squirrel forcing the previous inhabitants to build a new nest elsewhere. The Long-eared Owl is occasionally mobbed by smaller birds, but even so it rarely attacks them and mainly feeds on rodents. Although usually a quieter owl, the hoot of a male can be heard up to 0.7 miles away!

A Northern Pygmy-Owl with his lunch. Photo by Robin Horn.

Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium californicum)

Northern Pygmy Owls are widespread in forested areas and can be found in a variety of tree species from blue oaks to conifers. As active hunters during the day, Northern Pygmy Owls have a large, diverse diet. They prefer to reside in abandoned woodpecker holes high up in trees, but can also be found nesting in debris at the bottom of trees. These owls are skilled hunters with an appetite for songbirds, and although they are quite small, they occasionally take prey up to three times their size! Mobs of songbirds can often be a good identifier for where a Northern Pygmy Owl may be hiding, since the songbirds use mobbing as a defensive tool against predation from the Pygmy Owl. Another good identifier of the Northern Pygmy Owl is the two yellow spots on the plumage on the back of their neck. It is theorized that these spots mislead a predator, such as a hawk or cat, into thinking the owl is watching them. 

Northern Saw-whet Owl. Photo by Rick Leche.

Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) 

One of the smallest owls in the world, about seven inches in length, the Northern Saw-whet Owl resides in dense coniferous or mixed forests and wooded marshes, throughout the majority of Canada, the United States and parts of Mexico. Roosting in its nesting tree during the day, the Northern Saw-whet Owl hunts small rodents and large beetles during the night. Juvenile Northern Saw-whet Owls, looking like little puffs with eyes, are chocolate brown with tan bellies and a white triangular patch on the forehead. The coloration of the juveniles is vastly different from those of adults, and can easily be misidentified as separate species. After their first summer, around one year of age, juveniles will molt and gain the plumage of an adult Northern Saw-whet Owl. Another interesting characteristic of Northern Saw-whet Owl is that they will collect and store their prey. In the winter, when a cached rodent is frozen, the owl will sit on its prey to dethaw it before consumption. 

 

A full list of references can be found here. 


Overview of Humboldt County Climate Action Plan

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020
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Increased sea level rise is one of the climate change effects predicted to impact on Humboldt County.

Last week, Humboldt County and the City of Eureka held a meeting to talk about their joint Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan is a multi-jurisdictional plan to take action to address climate change on a local level. The plan consists of three primary components: an accounting of existing emissions, an emissions reduction target, and a set of strategies to achieve that target.

First to accounting of emissions, the Plan provides a snapshot of emissions in a year–2015–and emissions are broken down into various sectors: transportation, agriculture, electricity consumption, and so forth. Initial number presented by the County show our emissions profile is consistent with those of other places. Transportation is, by far, the largest emitter, with 54% of total emissions. Next is agriculture, totalling 13%, and then stationary combustion (like home heating) with 12% and electricity usage at 11%.

On the emission totals, these are not without some controversy because of some of the assumptions inherent in the model. For example, carbon emissions associated with biomass energy production are assumed to be zero because of the regenerative nature of forests. If, however, the County assumed that biomass was not carbon neutral, electricity consumption may well be the largest total emitter of greenhouse gases. EPIC appreciates that the county has adopted a standardized model and so the numbers are not being cooked to favor the biomass industry. That said, providing better clarity on the actual emissions associated with biomass production will be important in future revisions to the CAP and in discussions before the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

Understanding total emissions is necessary to set an emissions reduction target. The county has not yet adopted a target. EPIC recommends that in setting a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, the county be in line with the best available science, in line with state-mandated goals, and the target set sufficient benchmarks that the public and county can gauge progress. We recommend that the Climate Action Plan set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2045, with a benchmark of 50% emission reductions from 2015 emissions levels by 2030 (hereafter “zero net target”).

A zero net target is in line with the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, which found that to limit warming to 1.5°C implies reaching zero net emissions by 2050 and approximately 50% net reductions by 2030. (Rogelj 2018 (“In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).”).)

A zero net target is likewise in line with existing California state law. California has set various targets for global greenhouse gas emissions and the county is obligated to set a target that conforms with state requirements. Given multiple potential emission targets, we recommend that the county set the target in line with the most ambitious target yet issued and the most recently issued target. In 2018, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-55-18 which ordered the state to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045 and maintain negative emissions thereafter. Our proposed zero net target builds off Governor Brown’s order by providing clearer intermediate direction of 50% emission reductions compared to 2015 emission levels.

The last component of the Climate Action Plan is comprised of strategies to achieve that target. This is where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, this component of the plan is still a work in progress and individual strategies have not been made public. However, looking at the Climate Action Plans adopted by other jurisdictions, we can expect that our plan will be a little bit of everything: from incentivizing households to adopt low-carbon technology, like heat pumps for home heating, to changing local fuel mixes to reduce the carbon emissions contained.


EPIC Music Benefit ft. Axon Orchestra on Feb. 5th, Arcata Playhouse

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
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Axon Orchestra will be playing at the Arcata Playhouse on Wednesday, February 5th from 6:30-10:00 pm as a benefit for EPIC.

Axon Orchestra is a world music, gypsy-jazz inspired ensemble featuring Fabrice Martinez on Violin, Dusty Brough on Guitar, and Miles Jay on stand-up bass. Fabrice Martinez has played numerous benefits for EPIC in the past with local favorite  Fishtank Ensemble. He is always a pleasure to see!!  His current ensemble is also fabulous and certain to please!

Doors will open at 6:30 and a dinner with hearty soup, salad and locally-baked bread will be available along with local beer, wine, and creatively curated cocktails. Tickets will be for sale at the door for $12-$20 sliding scale with no one turned away.

Make sure to bring your dancing shoes and come support EPIC!

To learn more about the event and Axon Orchestra, check out the Facebook event page here or call the EPIC Office at 707-822-7711.

 


Mendocino National Forest Proposes Herbicide Invasive Removal Project

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
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Scotch Broom in bloom in Oregon. Photo by Bonnie Moreland.

The Mendocino National Forest is proposing to spray herbicides across 54 acres to kill brooms—Scotch, Spanish, and French brooms—highly-invasive species that outcompete natives, form dense thickets, and provide little sustenance to native wildlife. The project is in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire, which burned large swaths of the national forest, including the areas proposed for treatment. The existing broom was incinerated in the fire and returning vegetation, either from regenerating root structures unaffected by the fire or from seed left in the soil. The Forest Service now proposes to spray these young and emerging brooms, arguing that the herbicide application, together with the synergistic effects from the fire, can fully kill off broom—a “kick-‘em-while-they’re-down” approach to weed management.

Here, the proposed herbicide application would be a mixture of triclopyr and aminopyralid, along with a seed oil surfactant and a marker dye. Triclopyr is of low to moderate acute toxicity in mammals, and long-term exposure has been found to result in kidney and liver effects. It is believed to be toxic in fish species and is “mobile,” dislodging from soil particles and joining water. Aminopyralid is in the same family of pesticides as triclopyr. It is a relatively new pesticide and, thus, there is little information about its relative toxicity. It is not believed to be cancer forming and is thought to be non-toxic to wildlife and does not appear to bioaccumulate. The proposed plan contains some measures to reduce risk associated with spraying. According to the Forest Service, “All components would be applied at or below the label rates, and the mixture applied with backpack sprayers. No herbicide will be applied within Snow Mountain Wilderness, and no aerial application of herbicide is proposed.”

EPIC Staff manually removing scotch broom in Shasta County in 2019.

The use of herbicides to control invasive species is controversial. The case for herbicide usage goes like this: herbicides are a cheap way to kill invasives and enable cash-strapped groups to treat larger areas than could be accomplished with manual removal. And if applied effectively, with adequate follow-up treatments, herbicide use can effectively remove invasives and allow for native plants to regenerate. In many cases, however, invasive species are a futile effort because the applicator applies it as a one-and-done effort, failing to come back for follow-up treatments. For broom species, whose seeds can lay dormant for up to 50 years, these return treatments are often necessary. Herbicides also carry with them risks, both to human health and the natural environment. Careful application can reduce that risk but not fully eliminate it. For that reason, EPIC generally promotes manual removal of invasive species when possible.

The proposed herbicide application is in “scoping,” meaning that the environmental analysis for this project is just beginning. At the heart of EPIC’s scoping comments are a desire for the Forest Service to consider increasing manual removal, particularly around waterbodies. Part of the planned operations are nearby Lake Pillsbury. Given the solubility of triclopyr and its toxicity to fish, particularly rainbow trout, this appears to be the highest-risk area for spraying. For a similar project on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, EPIC worked with the Forest Service to treat riparian areas by hand, and even led work parties to pull Scotch broom.

For more on this project, please consult the Forest Service’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57273


Looking Toward A New Decade: Reflections From 2019

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
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2019 Richardson Grove Rendezvous celebrated the State & Federal Court Victories at the Grove.

EPIC is looking forward to this new year and decade with a renewed gusto and spirit. After a tumultuous but overall successful year, it is always important to look back on the victories and losses that were had in the previous year to re-inspire for another year of action and change. We are eternally grateful to our members, allies, and friends who continue to provide the support and momentum to keep us working hard to protect the forests and creatures that we care so deeply about! 

Huge Victories For Richardson Grove: We were elated by not one, but two, great decisions in state and federal courts in favor of the majestic and ancient redwood trees of Richardson Grove in June. Starting in our local courts, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kelly Neel ruled that Caltrans is not allowed to physically alter the proposed project area and the agency would need to get court approval before moving forward. Later in June at the federal level, Judge William Alsup of the Northern District Court of California stated that: “At long last, the Court now orders that Caltrans stop trying to skate by with an EA/FONSI and that Caltrans prepare a valid EIS. Please do not try to systematically minimize the adverse environmental consequences and to cherry-pick the science.” Now, as a result of this order, Caltrans is obligated to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement and receive public comment on their analysis.

Beaver Believers: In November, EPIC and other allies filed a rulemaking petition with the California Fish and Game Commission to ensure greater protections for beavers and to clarify existing legal rules concerning their trapping. Beavers are incredibly important to California watersheds, as their dams filter stream water, improve water quality, raise the water table, increase water storage, and repair eroded riparian areas.

The Proposed Humboldt Wind Project: Probably the most controversial project of the year ended with a stunning collapse. EPIC spent many long hours reviewing, commenting, and discussing Terra-Gen’s proposed Humboldt Wind Project. EPIC’s work with a variety of wildlife experts, environmental groups, project managers, and others to decrease environmental impacts and make sure the project contained important mitigation measures for wildlife will hopefully encourage other developers in the future to follow rigorous environmental standards. In the end, the project could not find an alternative to being built on Bear River Ridge, a Wiyot sacred site, which ultimately led to its demise.

Furry Friends Find Fortune: At long last, California banned all commercial trapping of fur-bearing mammals. The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, was signed by Governor Newsom in September. EPIC supported the law and sent our endorsement to the legislature and governor. As well, based on a petition submitted by EPIC and others, our neighboring state, the Oregon Fish and Game Commission banned the trapping of Humboldt martens in Oregon.

Headwaters Forest Reserve Turns 20: 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of The Headwaters Forest Reserve, which was created to protect the last large, intact, old growth coast redwood forest on the planet that remained in private ownership, punctuating a 13-year campaign that involved mass demonstrations and acts of non-violent civil disobedience, lawsuits filed by EPIC and others, and a huge network of groups and volunteers working to get the word out and influence lawmakers. Twenty years later, the Headwaters Forest Reserve receives thousands of visitors each year.

People Power Prevails! EPIC work pays off—people power protecting plants proves positive. For the past two years, EPIC staff and volunteers have worked removing the invasive Scotch broom from areas in Shasta County where there are Shasta snow wreath (an endemic and rare endangered plant) populations. This work protects some of the most sensitive populations from the possible drift of herbicides usually used in Scotch broom removal.  It was a pleasant surprise to see only a few tiny seedlings growing in the roadside treatment location in 2019 and only a few previously missed plants growing down by the creek. We plan to do this work again every year till the broom is gone from the creek side and new trailhead locations. This year, we plan to expand even further to include trailheads, join us!

EcoNews Radio Show Revived: After a sad turn of events with KHSU in early April, the long-running EcoNews radio show needed a new place to go. Luckily, Lost Coast Communications offered to hold a space on KHUM to get the show back on the table. Featuring EPIC’s Tom Wheeler, Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jennifer Kalt, Northcoast Environmental Center’s Larry Glass and Friends of the Eel River’s Scott Greacen, the show now airs every Saturday morning on KHUM. 

Follow The Fire Story: EPIC’s Kimberly Baker collaborated with FUSEE to create this incredible story map with details on California’s largest wildfire, the Mendocino Complex. Check it out and learn more about wildfires in California. 


2020 EPIC Board of Directors: Two New Faces And A Farewell to Shawnee

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
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EPIC is proud to announce the 2020 Board of Directors. As a membership organization, our board is elected by our members every fall. This year we welcome two new faces onto the board and say goodbye to another.

For nearly 20 years, Karen Maki has advocated for forest protection and an end to clearcutting in California by meeting with legislators, attending agency meetings, and educating others. She has also supported the work of others by holding many leadership positions within the Sierra Club at the local and state levels such as chair of conservation, executive, and fundraising committees. She is now State Forest Committee co-chair, Stop Clearcutting California Campaign chair, Loma Prieta Chapter Forest Protection Committee chair, Utility Wildfire Task Force meeting convener, and Sierra Club California Conservation Committee Northern Vice Chair. Previously, she worked for Intel and other companies for 25 years as a systems programmer and product manager and also earned a MA in counseling and a California Marriage Family Therapy license.She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area a few miles from the redwood forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. We are excited to welcome Karen to the EPIC Board.

Ava Biscoe is a senior environmental biology student at HSU with a passion for protecting the forests for climate change resiliency and defending the species that depend on them. She has volunteered with EPIC since 2015, and she was awarded volunteer of the year in 2018. Ava enjoys organizing environmental events to engage with and educate the public about critical issues and campaigns; and she feels she can contribute to the EPIC board through her event planning, science, and fundraising experience. Ava has served as the president of Climate Crisis HSU, on the AS Earth Week Committee, and is currently the social media manager for Humboldt 350.org. In her past Ava has worked in the zero waste field in her hometown of San Francisco, as a science tutor, volunteering to conduct numerous biodiversity surveys in Humboldt, and would like to work in conservation science in the future. We look forward to working with Ava as one of our newest Board members!

 

Shawnee Alexandri, our Board president for the last 5 years and a Board member for 10 years, has decided to step down. He has been an invaluable friend, advisor, and handyman for the EPIC family. We deeply appreciate his commitment, dedication, and most of all, his time that he gave to make sure EPIC would succeed. Shawnee could always be counted on to not only be the first one at the scene for EPIC events, loading and unloading, but to bartend for long hours until the end. He also could always be counted on to be the first to humorously, and brashly, give his opinion on a matter, and then turned around and give a poised and balanced view on other occasions. His handiness is unmatched, he is the first to be called when something overflows or a light goes out (which he may still get calls for!) We are sad to see him go, but know that he will still continue to be a part of the EPIC community. Thank you for your many years of forest activism, Shawnee!


Kiss Me Under the Hemi-Parasitic Aerial Shrub

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
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Mistletoe is the horror of many a person at the annual Christmas Party. Mistletoe may be associated with unwanted advances, but for the ecology nerds, we know that this weird shrub is fascinating and important.

Mistletoe is a hemi-parasitic plant, meaning that it draws some, but not all, of its nutritional requirements from its host plant. They attach to the host plant through its haustorium, the root-like structure that penetrates into the host’s vascular tissue to slurp up water and sugar. Infections can be so bad that they can kill the host tree, either by drawing too much from the host plant or by outcompeting the foliage of the host, practically replacing all of the growth but in most circumstances mistletoe adds complexity and diversity to our forests.

There are over 1,300 species of mistletoe worldwide, and California is home to many native species, including the oak mistletoe, American mistletoe, western dwarf mistletoe, Douglas fir dwarf mistletoe, and fir dwarf mistletoe. Some of their names suggest their preferred host, others are more generalist, like the American mistletoe that can infect ash, alder, oak, willow and more. Despite being a numerous and varied species, the physical form of mistletoe is generally similar: evergreen leaves and white fruit. California is now home to some invasive mistletoes as well, including the European mistletoe.

Given that mistletoe co-evolved with the wildlife of California, it comes as no surprise that mistletoe plays an important role in forest ecosystems. Mistletoe brooms provide an excellent structure for nesting birds, including the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelets, which appears to have a particular fondness for the dense foliage–so much so that 90% of owl nests in Southwest Oregon are reported to be in mistletoe.

Although mistletoe is ordinarily poisonous to humans, the white berries provide food for birds, deer, and other mammals. And just because it is poisonous doesn’t mean we can’t find uses. Mistletoe has a long history as a folk medicine, treating everything from infertility to arthritis, and there is ongoing research into whether the plant may contain anti-cancer properties that can be isolated.

Birds spread the growth of mistletoe. The fruit of the mistletoe is covered with a sticky substance called viscin. Depending on the species of bird and mistletoe, the seed may either be regurgitated or defecated. The sticky viscin will cause the seed to attach to the branch where it will wait until it germinates and the haustorium wiggles its way into the bark of the tree. Mistletoe is slow growing, as the haustorium pulls nutrients from the tree until, after around five years, the first leaves emerge.

But not everyone likes mistletoe. Despite its natural role in forests, the Forest Service routinely uses mistletoe infection as a justification for logging–including in old-growth and late-seral forests–despite the important nesting platform that dward mistletoe provides for owls. And timber companies hate that mistletoe can stunt the growth of trees grown for timber. If caught early enough, or if someone diligently removes the new growth, it is possible to remove mistletoe from an infected tree. Otherwise, the only way to remove mistletoe is to remove the infected branch.

It is not clear how mistletoe came to be associated with Christmas. The usual mistletoe tradition holds that a man can kiss whatever woman stands under the mistletoe, and a refusal by the woman would bring bad luck. The first written record is from famed American author Washington Irving, who wrote in 1820, “the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.”

 

*this article previously ran in the December/January issue of the EcoNews.


Santa’s 2019 Naughty and Nice List: A Sneak Peek

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019
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We here at EPIC are close with Kris Kringle. (He is an environmentalist after all, using reindeer to power his sleigh instead of fossil fuels.) We are so close that EPIC has an exclusive sneak preview at his naughty and nice list.

The Nice List

EPIC Members: Our members are the best. You fuel our organization with your passion, know-how, and history. You take action, filling government inboxes and voicemails with letters and calls demanding the enforcement of environmental laws. Your generosity has kept our doors open, lights on, and staff working since 1977. Thank you!

Senator Mike McGuire: We like Mike. Mike is making the Great Redwood Trial, a 300ish mile walking and biking trails that would stretch from the Bay Area all the way to Eureka a reality. EPIC can’t wait to ride along the Eel River on our bikes!

KHUM: When our local community radio station was killed, KHUM stepped up and provided a new outlet for our radio show, the EcoNews Report. Listen in on Saturdays at 10am at 104.7fm or stream it as a podcast!

Sharon Duggan: EPIC’s longtime attorney finally retired after more than 35 years of service to the environment. Sharon represented EPIC in our first major lawsuit, EPIC v. Johnson, and has represented us ever since. Because of Sharon, EPIC was able to take and win cases that no one thought possible. We will miss her but are heartened to know she’s always a phone call away for advice.

Dennis Cunningham: Our 2019 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Dennis deserves lots of goodies in his stocking this year. Dennis has always looked out for activists, from his first case defending Black Panther Fred Hampton, to representing North Coast environmental activists, including representing Judi Bari in her car bombing case. Because of Dennis, environmental activists were able to have a voice in the courtroom when the powerful and well-heeled sought to quiet them.

The Naughty List

Santa usually gives out coal to bad boys and girls, but given their track records, these foes of the environment would probably just try to sell it to coal power plants in China.

Mendocino National Forest: The Mendocino National Forest is trying to sell a commercial logging project as “road maintenance” to avoid environmental review and public scrutiny. EPIC challenged their bad behavior. Now for the courts to decide. 

Governor Gavin Newsom: For all the talk about standing up to the Trump administration, Governor Newsom showed his real priorities in vetoing Senate Bill 1, the “California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019.” This bill would have strengthened California environmental laws if the Trump administration were to try to weaken federal law, creating a backstop to help keep California green and gold. 

Green Diamond Resource Company: Green Diamond keeps getting sweetheart deals that allow the company to clearcut marten and spotted owl habitat in exchange for…nothing really. First, the company received a “Safe Harbor Agreement” with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife–despite objections from internal agency scientists–which would allow Green Diamond to clearcut marten habitat and avoid state wildlife protections. Next, the company receives a new Habitat Conservation Plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–again, over internal objections from agency scientists–to allow for more aggressive clearcutting based on the theory (supported by Green Diamond) that owls like clearcuts. Seriously. Green Diamond is a bully and gets its way through political pressure.

We will keep working hard and making sure to check on those naughty folks to make sure that they aren’t causing havoc and wreck on our forests!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us at EPIC!



BREAKING: By a 4-1 Vote, Board of Supervisors Vote Down Terra-Gen Project

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019
By

In a close vote, the Board of Supervisors denied the controversial Terra-Gen Project. The project has drawn considerable opposition from a variety of perspectives. Conservation groups expressed their dismay at the significant and unavoidable impacts to wildlife, some of which we have detailed here. The Wiyot Tribe and others expressed their opposition because of impacts to culturally significant areas, and their rallying cry of Tsakiyuwit!, the historical name for their sacred space, was the clearest defining issue of the debate. Supervisors Sungnome, Fennell, Bass, and Wilson voted against the project, with Supervisors Wilson indicating his preference for a smaller project that would be moved off Bear River Ridge, something that the project developer could not agree to. Supervisor Bohn voted in favor of the project.

In rejecting the project, Humboldt needs to take seriously its obligations to develop local clean energy—and soon. However, these obligations must be taken with careful consideration and respect to the tribes that have been stewards of this land for millenia.