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BREAKING:EPIC Litigates Mendocino National Forest’s Latest Attempt To Evade Environmental Review

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
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Mendocino National Forest bulldozer lines are linear clearcuts harmful to wildlife and ecosystems but are ineffective at stopping the fire. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Baker

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is suing the U.S. Forest Service for approving a series of timber sales on the Mendocino National Forest that shortcut public participation and environmental review in violation of federal law. In a complaint filed today, EPIC alleges that the Forest Service expedited seven timber sales, totaling up to 7,000 acres, by mislabeling the logging as a “road maintenance” project. At risk from the logging are clean water, northern spotted owls, and increased fuel conditions.

All Forest Service timber sales are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The core of NEPA is a requirement that agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, typically done through an environmental impact statement or environmental analysis. The timber sales were approved using what is called a “categorical exclusion.” Categorical exclusions do not require environmental impact review or public comment.

Unnecessary bulldozer line the fire never reached fragments intact wildlands. Photo Courtesy of Kimberly Baker.

Here, the Forest Service argues that a commercial timber sale is “road maintenance” because the logging would remove dead and live trees affected by the 2018 Ranch Fire along roads, reducing the odds that the trees may fall and block the road. A separate categorical exclusion exists for post-fire logging, although that is limited to 250 acres, as anything larger in scale is assumed to be able to produce significant impacts to the environment. All timber sales in this proposed project are larger than 250 acres. Furthermore, many of the roads proposed for logging are closed to motor vehicle use.

“The Mendocino National Forest is taking a page from Trump’s playbook,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC. “Calling a timber sale ‘road maintenance’ is a stunning way to stifle public participation and ignore environmental impacts.”

Science has widely recognized that post-fire logging is especially impactful, as logging adds an additional disturbance on top of the effects of the fire. Post-fire logging often results in degraded water quality, the spread of invasive plants, and loss of habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. It can also increase the risk of high-severity fire since logging leaves behind a buildup of slash and finer “fuels.” If allowed to use a categorical exclusion instead of an environmental impact statement, these impacts may never be adequately examined and mitigation measures to reduce harm through better project design would not be incorporated.

“This is a massive project covering thousands of acres,” asserted EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, Kimberly Baker, “the Mendocino National Forest is breaking the law to meet timber targets and benefit timber corporations at a cost to fragile post-fire watersheds and threatened species. Public safety could be achieved in a more benign manner.”

EPIC is represented by René Voss of Natural Resources Law and Matt Kenna of Public Interest Environmental Law. The case will be heard in the Northern District Court of California.

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.

Click here for press release and contacts.


RCEA Biomass Meeting Friday

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
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The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is considering what role biomass should play in Humboldt’s energy future. RCEA’s decision was prompted by the community’s proposal, supported by EPIC, to require that 100% of our power come from clean, renewable energy by 2025. RCEA will be examining the future of biomass at a special forum at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center this Friday (10/18) from 1-4pm. EPIC encourages our members to attend and let their opinions be known. (But if you can’t make it, we will take notes and keep you up to date on the topic.)

Biomass in Humboldt is a complicated subject, largely because most of the scientific literature is from elsewhere and the particulars of our biomass production is unique. Here, nearly all of the fuel stock comes from “mill waste,” the chips, sawdust, and unmerchantable wood that is a leftover from timber production.

From the narrow perspective of utilizing a “waste” product, biomass as it exists makes some sense: we are able to put to economic use something that would otherwise cost money to dispose of. But biomass is not “clean” in the ordinary sense. Through combustion, biomass produces, among other things, fine particulate matter, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, ozone, dioxin, benzene and formaldehyde. These are often released in amounts rivaling or exceeding other combustion-based energy production, like coal power plants. And biomass also produces greenhouse gases—and in large amounts. (There while there is a scientific debate over whether the total carbon saved through forest sequestration outweighs the carbon emitted in burning, it is also clear that this is based on the long lives of forests. In the immediate term, biomass produces a sudden pulse of carbon that was once safely stored in the wood. If we have a short time to turn our emissions around before running off a climate cliff, these immediate impacts, even if balanced against long-term savings, are deadly important.)

What to do? Biomass is burned because it can return some value for what would otherwise be a waste product. If we change the economics—that is, if we can utilize that same biomass for a higher and better use—we can both provide a better market for forest products and sequester the carbon imbedded in that biomass. We could create new timber products, either by more efficient utilization of raw logs or by creating secondary product markets, like chipboards. Doing so would not only put that embedded carbon to a high and better use, creating more value for timberland owners per tree, but it could also better sequester that carbon, and could work to fill timber demand, resulting in a less overall logging. A triple win. Or we could create new biomass plants that produce some heat/energy and creates biochar, which can be sold as a soil amendment.

But this future isn’t possible without vision. RCEA should utilize its purchasing power to provide both a carrot and stick to get Humboldt moving into the future. The worst case scenario is that we just do more of the same: continue to subsidize old and inefficient biomass plants at the expense of taxpayers health and wallets.


Volunteers Needed: EPIC Fall Celebration

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
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The seasons have changed, the crisp air of October has come upon us, and our Annual Fall Celebration is just around the corner. We have a growing inventory of incredible items for our silent auction from so many lovely businesses around town, a delicious locally-sourced Indian Feast growing on the vines, and a great array of local beers and wines for your imbibing pleasure. We are getting excited to celebrate and share a merry evening with you all. The Fall Celebration is our biggest annual fundraiser of the year and it is made possible by all of the great support we receive from our community!

Are you looking for a way to plug into that community and give back before the holidays while having fun? Support EPIC by volunteering for our Fall Celebration this November 9th, at the Mateel Community Center in Redway. We ask that volunteers give 3-4 hours of their time for a shift. Volunteering comes with free entry, dinner, and ample time to boogie! Don’t have a ride or need more passengers? We have set up a carpool page here where you can register your vehicle or catch a ride with someone else.

Some examples of volunteering positions available:

Set-up 12pm-3pm
Set-up 3pm-6pm
Mixed Drinks Bar Helper 6pm-9pm
Mixed Drinks Bar Helper 9pm-12am
Clean-up 11pm-1am
Check-in Table 8:45pm-11pm
Check-in Table 8:45pm-11pm
Photobooth Helper 6pm-9pm
Photobooth Helper 9pm-12am
Dessert and Coffee Shift 2 10pm-12am

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Rhiannon at rhiannon@wildcalifornia.org or call (707) 822-7711. For more details about the event, check out our Event Page on our website to get tickets, or our FB Event page. Please share this with friends, colleagues, or family members who may be interested. We look forward to hearing from you!  


Econews Radio Show is Back!

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
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The newly revamped Econews Report radio show will be aired every Saturday at 10am and will have a slightly different layout, featuring roundtable discussions with representatives of local environmental organizations. EPIC’s Tom Wheeler, Humboldt Baykeeper’s Jennifer Kalt, Northcoast Environmental Center’s Larry Glass and Friends of the Eel River’s Scott Greacen will host each show together.

You can listen live, subscribe to the podcast or check out previously aired episodes in the Lost Coast Outpost’s archives, where you can find all of the shows that we have recorded so far:


Action Alert: Gov. Newsom Vetoed SB1 – Ask Him to Protect People, Wildlife and Wild Places!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
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On September 27th, Governor Gavin Newsom sided with the Trump administration and industry lobbyists when he vetoed SB 1, which would have safeguarded California’s wildlife and wild places from federal efforts to dismantle bedrock environmental laws. SB1 was passed by the California senate and assembly in a recent attempt to prevent the federal rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969. Beginning in 2017, the Trump Administration has launched a series of challenges to these federal laws and the protections they have provided for decades.

Agricultural water districts and wealthy farming interests spent endless resources to lobby against SB1, because it would have required the Central Valley Project to comply with the Endangered Species Act – a requirement that would have prevented big ag from taking too much water from the Bay Delta ecosystem and Northern California’s rivers, which could result in lethal temperatures in these watersheds where endangered salmon are already on the brink of extinction.

Click here to take action! Please take a moment to personalize a message to Governor Newsom expressing your disappointment in his actions of putting industry before endangered species, the environment and communities.


Furry Friends, Never Fear: New Protections for Martens and Other Critters Coming!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
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EPIC is happy to report two BIG wins!

First, based on a petition submitted by EPIC and others, by a 4-3 vote the Oregon Fish and Game Commission baned the trapping of Humboldt martens in Oregon. This is a big move for Oregon, particularly considering that we had to fight the industry-aligned Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to get the trapping ban passed. (ODFW recommended only banning trapping in one of the two known populations.)

Second, in a first-in-the-country move, California has banned all commercial trapping of fur-bearing mammals. The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, signed by Governor Newsom on Sept. 4th. EPIC supported the law and sent our endorsement to the legislature and governor.

The Wildlife Protection Act follows on the successful efforts to ban the trapping of bobcats, which EPIC helped rally the troops for in 2015.


EPIC Collaborates on Fire Story

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
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Fire season has kicked in with multiple wildfires in the northern CA region. The public only gets a fraction of the wildfire suppression story in the media. To shed some light on the subject EPIC is proud to share this story map, created by our partners at Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE), which provides details on California’s largest wildfire, the Mendocino Complex. EPIC’s contribution provides a small glimpse of the nearly 700 miles of bulldozed fire line that was constructed during the fire. That’s over a mile of bulldozer line for every square mile of the fire. We have great appreciation for all that firefighters do for us, yet the decisions made by incident commanders are often dangerous, ineffective and deleterious.


UPDATED: CA Governor Newsom Sides with Industry, Vetoes SB1

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
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By Matthew Fingerett

On September 27th, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 1, a bill that had passed by the state senate and assembly in their most recent attempt to prevent the federal rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).

The bill would have adopted the Clean Water Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and other regulations into California law without the changes made to the acts by the current administration.

Last month, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a press release in an attempt to explain the Trump administration’s alleged improvements to the ESA. “The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal—recovery of our rarest species” explained DOI Secretary David Bernhardt, former oil industry lobbyist with a history of suppressing science.

At the top of the Trump administration’s agenda is not to recover or protect any species, but to ravage public lands for fossil fuel extraction and corporate profit at their expense. The DOI and the Department of Commerce suggested one of the new provisions in the ESA that would allow for the consideration of economic consequences to take precedence over protecting the environment. The change limits the ability for climate crisis to be considered in determining what species make it on or off the endangered list, effectively gutting the ability to consider context beyond capital – morality be damned; the ecosystem that sustains both human and animal life be damned.

One of the champions of protecting capital above life is Richard Pombo, a mining and water management lobbyist who was formerly a California congressman. Richard Pombo has been an advocate for weakening the ESA for a long time and his desire is disappointingly becoming a reality. One of the more battled issues revolves around pumping more irrigation water from the vulnerable Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, host to endangered species like the chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Private interests have a history of extracting water from California – including during droughts – then commodifying it and selling it back to us in bottles.

Newsom has decided to side with corporate interests, mining and water management companies, David Bernhardt, Richard Pombo, and the Trump administration in his potential decision to veto a bill that was passed by the senate 26 to 14 and the assembly 43 to 21. Newsom said the bill “does not provide the state with any new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policy.”

Ultimately, the bill would have allowed California to have new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policy. The policies of SB 1 were aimed to protect our supply of natural resources, clean water, air, and endangered species that depend on them. Newsom claims to support the principles behind the bill, but the action of vetoing it is a more powerful indicator of where his loyalty lies than any words coming out of his mouth.

While the future is uncertain, an SB 1 coalition of environmental justice groups as well as individual activists remain committed to protecting our environment.


Action Alert: Rare Tule Elk Need Our Help!

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019
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by Matthew Fingerett

The small, mostly isolated population of Tule elk are in danger due to the National Park Service’s (NPS) commitment to cattle ranching at Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is currently the only national park in the country that hosts this subspecies of elk. Today, there are around 4,000 Tule elk in total, all residing in California; this is a stark contrast to the population of 500,000 that existed in California in 1880.

According to the NPS, in 2017 the number of Tule elk at Point Reyes was roughly 660, split between Tomales Point, Drakes Beach, and areas around Limantour Road.

The National Park Service’s mission statement includes the claim that it “cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.” However, the preferred plan of the NPS regarding the Tule elk in no way benefits natural and cultural resource conservation. The preferred plan of the NPS includes culling the already low population by encouraging shooting Tule elk that cross into areas specifically designated for ranching.

In this case, it appears the only partners to the NPS are those in the dairy or cattle grazing business. In 2017 the NPS settled a lawsuit whereby it became a requirement for the NPS to plan for any impacts as a result of cattle ranching, which includes over 26,000 acres of land at Point Reyes. It does not appear that the NPS is honoring this requirement.

The plan would allow for grazing of 2,400 beef cattle and 3,130 dairy animals. This is at a time when both beef and dairy consumption are in decline. In addition to the reduction of public access to recreation – another commitment claimed by the NPS in its mission statement – the impact from cattle ranching leads to soil erosion, water pollution, invasive plants, declines in fish and bird populations, conflicts with wildlife, and even more greenhouse gas emissions.

We are at a point where the climate crisis is a top priority and should be particularly so for a federal agency like the National Park Service that is widely relied upon to maintain healthy environments and natural resources. Disappointingly, the priority of this agency appears to be profit over the protection of the Tule elk, and therefore other wildlife populations as part of the cascading effect of using lethal means to decrease the already small number of Tule elk we have left.

Click here to Submit Comments Online!

The Point Reyes National Seashore General Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement is proposing to dedicate one third of Point Reyes National Seashore to cattle ranching and includes plans to kill off Tule elk that frequent the area. This plan only benefits twenty-four cattle ranchers who sold their land to the public 60 years ago, but still use the national park to graze their cattle. The 45-day public review and comment period is open until 10:59pm on September 23.

Comment Letter Talking Points:

NPS will not be accepting bulk or identical comments, so you must create your own unique letter. Below is a list of talking points that were created from our colleagues at the Center for Biological Diversity. Please personalize your letter and include some of the following talking points:

  • Discuss how wildlife and natural scenery motivate you to visit Point Reyes and other national parks.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore is supposed to be managed under the Point Reyes Act for “maximum protection, restoration, and preservation of the natural environment.” There’s no mandate for prioritizing commercial agricultural leases on these public lands.
  • Natural values, native wildlife, public access and enjoyment should take priority over commercial activities at Point Reyes.
  • Tule elk are an important part of the landscape at Point Reyes. Their recovery is a result of successful native ecosystem restoration, which is a key element of the Park Service’s mission. It’s taken a lot of time, money and effort to restore tule elk to Point Reyes, the only national park where they live. Tule elk should be allowed to roam free and forage in the park — not shot, removed, fenced or treated as problem animals.
  • Right now the Point Reyes ranches enjoy not only subsidized grazing fees and housing, but also taxpayer-funded infrastructure and road improvements, and publicly funded projects. But commercial activities at Point Reyes should be required to accommodate native wildlife — not the other way around.
  • The Park Service shouldn’t allow any new agricultural activities at Point Reyes. Planting artichokes or other row crops will attract birds. And introducing sheep, goats, pigs or chickens will attract native predators such as coyotes, bobcats and foxes. Expanded ranching would only create new wildlife conflicts.
  • Cattle ranching should only be allowed if it’s consistent with preserving the natural environment. And agricultural activities such as mowing shouldn’t be allowed in park areas where they harm endangered species or wildlife habitat, impair water quality, cause excessive erosion or spread invasive plants/diseases.
  • Cattle are the seashore’s primary source of greenhouse gases. So the Park Service’s preferred alternative is inconsistent with its own “Climate Friendly Parks” plan.

Coalition Letter to Terra-Gen

Thursday, September 12th, 2019
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Simulation showing what the view from Scotia would look like after large turbines are installed atop Monument Ridge. Photo courtesy of Terra-Gen.

Editor’s Note: The letter below was sent to Planning Director Ford and reflects the opinion of the major conservation organizations of the North Coast. Our organizations are not opposed to wind energy development but recognize that such development much include proven mitigation measures to reduce impacts to wildlife. The project, as conceived in the draft environmental impact report, lacks these measures and is therefore incomplete. A final environmental impact report is expected at the end of September.

Sent via email to jford@co.humboldt.ca.us on date shown below

September 11, 2019

Director John Ford
3015 H St
Eureka, CA 95501

Dear Director Ford,

On behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center, Northcoast Environmental Center, Humboldt 350, California Native Plant Society, Redwood Region Audubon, and Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, please accept this letter on the proposed Terra-Gen wind project.

Our organizations urge rapid action at the local, national and international scale to address our climate crisis. In Humboldt, emissions associated with electricity use account for approximately 13% of total county carbon emissions, according to the county’s forthcoming Climate Action Plan. We encourage the development of clean energy projects but recognize that wind energy development can have detrimental impacts to the natural environment. In most circumstances, these impacts can be minimized and mitigated to acceptable levels through sound planning, siting, and imposition of the best available technology. Here, as acknowledged in your draft environmental impact report, given the largely undeveloped landscape and presence of at-risk species, the Humboldt Wind Project will have significant impacts to the environment. At present, these impacts have not been minimized or mitigated to an acceptable level. While some of our organizations support the “No Project” alternative, others could support a modified project. Should the project move forward we unanimously insist that the following conditions be met:

  • Move Turbines Off Bear River Ridge. The turbines on Bear River Ridge are the most impactful, both to the environment and to human communities. Bear River Ridge is home to Humboldt’s isolated and unique population of horned larks, sits entirely within the Cape Mendocino Grasslands Important Bird Area, and is home to the majority of the rare plant species in the project area. What’s more, the area is culturally significant to the Wiyot Tribe, who have voiced their opposition to placing turbines at this sensitive location.
  • Minimize and Mitigate Impacts to Ecosystems and Sensitive Species. It is imperative to complete all survey protocols before the EIR concludes to best understand the nature and magnitude of wildlife impacts. Regardless of design, the project is likely to result in the “taking” of sensitive species and will impact overall ecosystem function. That said, these impacts can be minimized through smart design. The best way to minimize impacts is to stop operation when sensitive species are present or during survey-defined high-risk periods. Operational curtailment is an industry-standard approach to mitigating wildlife impacts and is a part of other Terra-Gen projects. Where impacts can’t be minimized, such as the conversion of forests to brushfields, the project should compensate by fully mitigating these unavoidable impacts.
  • Provide Adaptive Management Throughout the Life of the Project. Wind energy is still in its infancy and we can expect significant technological advances throughout the life of the project (30 years). As technology advances, and our ability to reduce impacts and increase efficiency increases, the project should adopt emerging technologies and adapt to changing conditions. The project needs to include an adaptive management program that works to continually refine the project to reduce operational impacts. Adaptive management requires strong data. To that end, it is imperative to modify existing mortality monitoring to include canine-assisted searches or other emerging detection technology to ensure that adaptive management uses the best available data and that mortality data be collected throughout the life of the project. In providing adaptive management, the county needs to guarantee a neutral and transparent process for determining necessary project modifications.
  • Reduce Sediment Impacts to the Maximum Extent Practicable. The project will require significant ground disturbance, a known cause of sediment pollution and landslides. Our organizations are concerned about the impact of this sediment pollution. To the maximum extent practicable, all ground disturbance should occur outside the wet weather period, defined as Oct. 15 to May 15. Further efforts should also be made to reduce impacts from the Gen Tie line, such as by using existing power right of ways and other steps to reduce new ground disturbance and forest fragmentation.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at (707) 822-7711 or tom@wildcalifornia.org.

Sincerely,

Thomas Wheeler
Executive Director
Environmental Protection Information Center

Larry Glass
Executive Director
Northcoast Environmental Center

Steering Committee
350 Humboldt

Alicia Hamman
Interim Executive Director
Friends of the Eel River

Carol Pearson Ralph
President
North Coast Chapter
California Native Plant Society

Hal M. Genger
Redwood Region Audubon Society

Gregg Gold
Chair
North Group Redwood Chapter Sierra Club


EPIC Wishes Happy Trails to Rob DiPerna

Monday, September 9th, 2019
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All of us at EPIC wish Rob DiPerna, our long-time friend and staff member, happy trails as he retires from EPIC.

Rob served two terms of duty at EPIC, first in the early 2000s and again for the past decade. In that time, he became California’s preeminent expert on the Forest Practice Act and Rules, helping individuals and groups across the state understand the law and their opportunities to shape. At EPIC, he was a walking-talking encyclopedia of all forest-related topics. He was a prolific writing and committed activist. He earned the respect of individuals of all stripes—from timber industry bosses to EarthFirst! treesitters to government bureaucrats—because of his expertise and his professionalism.

He was also a great co-worker. Rob is a personality and everyone in the office will miss his particular Rob-isms: his “monkey suit” that he wore to formal meetings; his constant reference of 80’s pop culture (which the younger staff, myself included, often didn’t get but nevertheless appreciated); his knowledge and photo documentation of every back country trail in the region; and so much more.

Rob, we will miss you but glad to count you as a friend. See you on the trail!


EPIC Honors Dennis Cunningham, Civil Rights Attorney with Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award

Monday, September 9th, 2019
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Dennis Cunningham is a legendary civil rights attorney, who has spent his lifetime defending activists since the 1960’s. From suing the Chicago Police Department for the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton to representing Earth First! activist Judi Bari when her car was bombed and the FBI falsely charged her as a terrorist, Cunningham has a lifetime of inspirational experience that has resulted in major social changes.

Cunningham had his first jury trial with one day’s notice in late February 1969, representing Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who had organized a rally, but was charged with mob action, where police provoked violence by using tear gas. Cunningham successfully argued the case resulting in a “not guilty” verdict. In December of 1969, Hampton was murdered with a machine gun by Chicago police officers in a pre-dawn raid. Later Cunningham sued the Chicago Police for the murder of Hampton.

In 1968 the anti-war movement ramped up and peace activists mobilized at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. As a young attorney, in 1968 Dennis Cunningham lived in Lincoln Park and witnessed Chicago police officers beating and arresting everyone they could find in African American neighborhoods leaving 11 dead and thousands arrested. In the aftermath, Cunningham began attending court hearings in Chicago with the People’s Law Office, which provided legal aid to community members who were caught up in the Chicago court process, giving him a hands-on education in the court house.

Mr. Cunningham represented Earth First! activist and union organizer Judi Bari in a still unsolved attack that took place on May 24, 1990, when a pipe bomb that was placed under the driver’s seat of Bari’s car went off and nearly killed her. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland recruiting students for the Redwood Summer campaign when the bomb exploded. Oakland police and the FBI tried to frame Judi and Darryl for the bombing and arrested Judi while she was in critical condition with a fractured pelvis and other major injuries which left her maimed and permanently disabled. Ultimately, no charges were filed, and after a year, with Cunningham as their attorney Judi and Darryl filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department and FBI for false arrest, unlawful search and seizure and malicious investigative malpractice on the part of the FBI. The jury found that Bari and Cherney’s civil rights had been violated, which resulted in an award of $4.4 million in damages.

Cunningham also represented victims in the pepper spray trials against the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office based on excessive force for using cotton swabs to apply pepper spray and other chemical agents to the eyes of forest activists on numerous occasions for non-violent actions like locking down at Pacific Lumber Company offices and blocking the logging road gate to Grizzly Creek after David “Gypsy” Chain was killed by a logger. Eventually the victims of the pepper spray actions filed a civil lawsuit claiming that Humboldt officers used excessive force and with Cunningham as their attorney, the pepper spray victims won, but were only awarded a symbolic $1 each.

On Saturday November 9th Dennis Cunningham will be honored at the Mateel Community Center for the EPIC Fall Celebration, where he will receive the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award. Doors open at 6pm followed by an Indian Fusion dinner and Sempervirens Award Ceremony at 7pm and music with Delhi2Dublin at 9:30pm. This event is expected to sell out, so get your tickets early at brownpapertickets.com or visit wildcalifornia.org for more information.

 


You’re Invited to EPIC’s 2019 Fall Celebration Featuring Delhi 2 Dublin!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019
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On behalf of the staff and board of EPIC, you are cordially invited to the 42nd Annual EPIC Fall Celebration, featuring Delhi 2 Dublin, on Saturday, November 9th 2019 at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, CA. This event promises to please and is expected to sell out, so get your tickets early!

DOORS OPEN- 6PM

INDIAN-FUSION DINNER- 7PM

Enjoy a sit-down gourmet Indian-fusion dinner catered by chef extraordinaire Natalia Boyce with local, seasonal vegetables provided by Luna Farm and a choice of organic chicken or tofu. Gluten-free and vegan options will be available. Table service will be provided to allow you to visit with old friends and meet new community members. A selection of local beers, wines, and craft cocktails will be available for purchase.

SEMPERVIRENS AWARD CEREMONY HONORING DENNIS CUNNINGHAM- 8PM

EPIC will be awarding the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award to Dennis Cunningham, the legendary civil rights attorney who has represented environmental and civil rights activists since the 1960’s. Behind the Redwood Curtain, Cunningham is most well-known for successfully suing Humboldt County law enforcement in the pepper spray trials, and the FBI and Oakland Police Department in the Judi Bari bombing case.

DELHI 2 DUBLIN- 9:30PM

This year expect to get on the dance floor with Delhi 2 Dublin’s distinctive sound, which has evolved over the past decade into a mixture of bhangra, electronica, hip-hop and a ton of energy and stage presence. D2D’s deep South Asian roots and expansive, crazy-fun appeal will be sure to charge your soul and keep you boogying on the dance floor!

SILENT AUCTION- ALL NIGHT

We will have an exceptional array of beautiful arts, crafts, locally made products, experiences, and getaways that will make perfect gifts for your friends and family available for your bidding pleasure all evening.

TABLE & TICKET OPTIONS

In order to provide a quality dinner experience for our guests, there is limited reserved seating. In addition to our regular ticketed dinner & music option, there is also an option to reserve a special table for eight for you and your friends for $300, which comes with a bottle of wine ($37.50 per person). If you would like to reserve a table, you can do so online or you can contact the EPIC office at 707-822-7711.

Tickets are available at Wildberries Marketplace in Arcata, Redway Liquor in Redway and online. Individual tickets for dinner, awards, and music are $40 in advance (or $50 at the door) and tickets for music only are $20 in advance (or $25 at the door).

 

DONATIONS AND SPONSORSHIPS

If you are an entrepreneur, consider sponsoring the event. We have different levels of sponsorship, ranging from $150-$1,000 and features can include promoting your business name on our website, social media publicity, displaying a banner at the event, complimentary tickets, and more. If you would like to donate an item for the silent auction, we will promote your items online and at the event. For inquiries into either of these options, please contact rhiannon@wildcalifornia.org.

FOLLOW THE FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE

Don’t forget to let us know that you are “attending” and invite your friends on the Facebook event page! This is a great place to coordinate with others and stay updated about the dinner, awards and show.

CARPOOL TO THE EVENT

Don’t have a ride or need more passengers? We have set up a carpool page here where you can register your vehicle or catch a ride with someone else. After all, its more fun with a buddy on your trip while you save gas money and reduce your carbon consumption!

Can’t make it this year? You can still donate to support EPIC’s work protecting the forests, rivers, and wildlife of northwest California. The Annual Fall Celebration Dinner is EPIC’s biggest fundraising event of the year. We depend on your support to plan for the year ahead. Please contribute what you can. Just $5 or $10 makes a huge difference.

Come support your local forest advocacy group and community at this can’t miss event! We look forward to celebrating 42 years of forest protection with you.

For the wild,

Amber, Rhiannon, Tom, Kimberly & Rob

 

 

 

 


California Fish and Game Commission Opposes Federal Wolf-Delisting

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
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Wolf Advocates at California Fish and Game Commission Hearing June 14, 2014.

The Gray Wolf de-listing proposed by the Trump Administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was opposed in a very strong letter from the California Fish and Game Commission, which voted to list the Gray Wolf under the California Endangered Species Act on June 14, 2014.

The Commission’s letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chides the agency’s plan to delist Gray wolves in the lower-48 states on the basis that, “a proclamation of recovery appears very premature,” and stating, “Federal Policy should reflect a greater commitment to active gray wolf recovery efforts, identifying and protecting critical habitat and movement corridors, maintaining a population level consistent with ecosystem functionality, and innovative policy and guidance to reduce lethal control as a management strategy.”  EPIC agrees with the Fish and Game Commission. To read the entire letter, click here.


Trump’s ESA Rollbacks

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
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Under Trump’s new ESA revisions, the Northern Spotted Owl would not have received the protections it has today.

In 1813, John James Audubon stood in amazement. The sky darkened as 60 million passenger pigeons blocked out the noonday sun. And this was only the start. The first group was followed by a larger flock, so many that they continued to fly over for three straight days. Modern estimates put the bird’s population around three billion. Less than 100 years later, in 1900, a boy in Ohio killed the last wild passenger pigeon with his shotgun. Something almost unthinkable occurred—life was extinguished permanently—and only in its absence did we realize what we had lost.

The Endangered Species Act was created to stop this tragedy from ever occurring again. And it has been remarkably successful. Of all the species that have been listed, over 99% have been prevented from going extinct. Today, we have gray wolves, black footed ferrets, manatees, and whooping cranes (to name just a few) because of the Act.

The Trump Administration is working to finalize new rules that will throw the Act into jeopardy. And since Trump has hired a band of cartoon supervillains who have spent their careers trying to dismantle the environmental laws that they are now obligated to enforce, they know what they are doing. The attack on the ESA is surgical. Here’s what it includes:

  • Allow the consideration of economics, not just science, in listing decisions.
  • Cuts automatic protections for “threatened” species and encourages a process that will prioritize politics in conservation decisions.
  • Undermines the ability to consider the impact of climate change on species by changing the definition of “foreseeable.”

And so on.

What’s more, the rulemaking petition is cowardly. The Trump Administration understands that it can’t gut the ESA through Congress. The law receives broad public support and all attempts to substantially weaken the ESA legislatively has floundered and failed—even when Reagan was president. So instead of going through Congress, Trump is attempting to rewrite the rules that implement the law. Sad!


California Wolf Pack Grows

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
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California’s only established wolf pack has a third litter of pups! The Lassen Pack was recently spotted on this trail camera video with three new pups! Be sure to watch with the sound on. The pair had four pups in 2017 and at least five born last year. As of early July 2019, it is estimated the pack consists of a minimum of two to three adults/yearlings and three pups.

The Lassen Pack alpha female, LAS01F, was first seen in August 2015. By February of the next year, biologists encountered tracks of two wolves traveling together. The pair was then regularly detected during the following summer and fall. Genetic testing showed that the alpha male was born into the Rogue Pack in 2014. LAS01F is suspected of dispersing from the broader northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. She was captured and fitted with a GPS collar in June 2017.

Many of their pups, now yearlings or sub-adults are suspected of dispersing throughout the region, though their whereabouts are unknown. An uncollared dead female yearling wolf was found in Lassen County on September 5, 2018. The carcass was examined but was already decomposing and a cause of death could not be determined. The death is still under investigation.

There is a current proposal by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act.  Thanks to the Act, wolves have returned across the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes and are just beginning to repopulate in the Pacific Northwest. Without federal protection, wolves may never recover in places like Colorado or the Adirondacks. We have seen the quickened killing of wolves when states are in control of their livelihood. The CA Fish and Game Commission recently wrote a letter opposing the proposed rule as it prematurely terminates recovery efforts throughout the lower-48 states. Luckily the Lassen Pack and other roaming wolves in the golden state will remain protected by the California Endangered Species Act.


EPIC Fall Celebration will Feature Delhi 2 Dublin

Monday, August 19th, 2019
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Mark your calendar for Saturday November 9th! Its official that Delhi 2 Dublin will be making an incredible musical performance at this year’s EPIC Fall Celebration on Saturday, November 9th at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, CA. Delhi 2 Dublin is a Canadian world music group that connects roots to future with a heavy electronic backbone, live traditional Indian instruments, and the stunning punjabi-english vocals of frontman Sanjay Seran. This event is expected to sell out, so purchase your tickets now!

Nurtured by equal parts raucous underground bass parties and all ages folk festivals, Delhi 2 Dublin ’s always distinctive sound has evolved over the past decade into its own decisive genre, styled, “Subcontinental Pop”—a name that conveys both its deep South Asian roots and its expansive, crazy-fun appeal. The beautifully supercharged complexity of their sound flows from high-level folk and alternative-pop, blended and delivered across an array of acoustic instruments—dhol, tabla, violin, guitar—and electronic beats——and immersed in smart, heavy, sometimes gritty, and almost invariably joyful beats.

Averaging 100 shows a year in places ranging from Canadian and U.S. clubs to Glastonbury and Burning Man to performing for over 100,000 people at Canada Day celebrations, Delhi 2 Dublin have the gift of connecting with masses of people, pulverizing their inhibitions, and getting them moving.

In recent years, Delhi 2 Dublin ’s has been honing their songwriting skills, which is most evident on their upcoming album, We Got This , which will be released through Warner Canada in Fall 2018. The album was produced by Toronto hitmaker Gavin Brown (Barenaked Ladies, Metric, Tragically Hip) , who helped them harness their socially conscious sensibilities and awareness of their place in the world into making their most personal and meaningful collection of songs to date.

With tracks like “My People,” “Home (Everywhere I Go)” and the title track, “We Got This,” Delhi 2 Dublin is speaking directly to their experiences as “brown people” in society and how that translates to people of all of colors and backgrounds. For their first time as a band, the members of Delhi 2 Dublin feel as though they’ve been able to pull together everything they’ve been through and put it into a collection of songs that that will reach everyone, while also leaving people thinking as they’re dancing and singing along.

Tickets for Delhi 2 Dublin are $20, and tickets for dinner, Sempervirens Award Ceremony and music will be $40. Click the link below to purchase your tickets now, before they sell out!


Terra-Gen’s Humboldt Wind Energy Project Presents Concerns for Wildlife

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019
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Alta Wind Energy Center in Tehachapi, CA, developed by Terra-Gen. Photo: Wikipedia CC.

EPIC and the Northcoast Environmental Center submitted comments in June on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the proposed Terra-Gen Humboldt Wind Energy Project proposed for Monument and Bear River Ridges outside of Scotia. Our detailed comments are available here.

The project as described in the DEIR does not meet the environmental standards nor have the environmental protections we demand. Our organizations urge the project proponents and Humboldt County to undertake additional consultation and outreach efforts to fulfill their obligations to the County’s citizens and our wildlife. While we acknowledge the urgency to develop renewable energy projects to limit the harm of global climate change, the environmental costs must still be fully analyzed and understood before this project can be fully evaluated. As it stands, the DEIR does not account fully for impacts to bird and other species, such as risks to bats and murrelets.

Marbled murrelet at sea. Photo: Craig Strong.
Marbled murrelet at sea. Photo: Craig Strong.

Marbled Murrelets

The marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in the mossy branches of coastal old-growth forests, is one of the most iconic species of the environmental movement. This pigeon-sized bird is identified as threatened under both the federal and California Endangered Species Act and is in alarming decline in both Washington and Oregon.

The project is likely to result in the deaths of some murrelets from collisions. There currently are no operational large-scale wind projects within the murrelet’s range, so there is no data concerning murrelets and wind turbines. Absent better data, the project assumes— by looking at other avoidance rates for other species—that murrelets will avoid wind turbines 98 percent of the time they fly through the project area. Based on this projected avoidance rate, the DEIR concludes that the project is likely to kill about 20 murrelets over the 30 years of the project.

The collision risk model, however, is very sensitive to the avoidance rate. A small change in data makes a huge difference. If the avoidance rate dips to 96 percent, the total number of murrelets killed would double.

Given the high uncertainty of impacts, it is critically important that the project avoid impacts first. There are no known measures to avoid harm to murrelets, except avoidance of areas that are likely within the flight paths of murrelets. Harm could also likely be minimized by the curtailment of blade-spinning operations during high-risk periods. The current project, as outlined in the DEIR, fails to do either.

Instead, the project tries to compensate for murrelets deaths by funding projects that seek to increase murrelet nesting success by deterring corvids that prey on murrelet eggs. Such mitigation measures are important, but the purported benefits of this work is largely speculative. Even if the benefits were certain, this appears to be a Faustian bargain—accepting additional and unnecessary murrelet deaths instead of avoiding them where possible.

At a minimum, the project needs to be reformed to avoid murrelet flight paths, as identified through radar surveys, and include operational curtailment during high-risk periods. A curtailment policy should be developed by a panel of species-specific experts based on the best available information.

A hoary bat hangs from a branch. Photo: Tom Benson, Flickr CC.

Bats

Acoustical surveys of the project area found that it is used by numerous bats, including those most frequently killed by wind projects: hoary bats, silver-haired bats, and western red bats. All three are migratory bats that exhibit behaviors that put them at high risk for collision and death from wind projects. This project is particularly worrisome because it is so close to an important bat migration hotspot. Every fall, thousands of hoary bats descend upon Humboldt Redwoods State Park, exhibiting a “swarming” behavior that appears to be unique to this region.

The DEIR correctly recognizes that the wind project is capable of producing significant impacts—including the localized extinction of the population or a species-level population impact—but fails to do much of anything to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the harm. Instead the DEIR kicks the can down the road, requiring the establishment of a technical advisory committee to be formed after impacts are measured to examine what can be done. This is not enough.

Thankfully, there is a growing body of science to suggest what can be done. Study after study has found that operational curtailment during high-risk periods is effective, reducing bat deaths anywhere from 44-93 percent with only minimal impacts to power generation. High-risk periods are those when bats are present and active, moving about the air column used by the spinning turbine blades. Determining high-risk can be predicative, using survey information to create models to predict when bats will be present, or informed, using real-time data about site use to inform when to shut off turbines.

The horned lark is one of the most frequently killed species at wind energy projects in the west. Photo: Tracie Hall, Flickr.com CC.

Horned Lark

The coastal prairies of Bear River Ridge are home to a unique population of horned larks. Scientists are puzzled over just what subspecies our local population belong to—either the streaked horned lark (recognized as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) or the California horned lark. Regardless of the taxonomic status, this population is important. It is the only breeding population for a long distance—so long that regardless of the subspecies, this population is likely on a unique evolutionary path. The wind project puts this population at risk.

The horned lark, named for plumage that resembles horns, is one of the most frequently killed species at wind energy projects in the west. The population at Bear River Ridge can’t afford to lose many more. Surveys of the area suggest that there are only seven breeding pairs left. The only way to avoid impacts to horned larks is to not build wind turbines in areas where they might be impacted.

Raptors

Many species of raptors call the project area home, including bald and golden eagles. This project is likely to kill many of them—although just how many is unclear. Based on fatalities at other wind projects, the DEIR provides a large range of potential takes: a lower estimate at four to 29 raptors per year (based on projects in the northwest), or up to 114 raptors per year, if using data from the “Pacific biofaunal biome.”

Even at the lower estimate, the impacts are significant. Raptors are generally long-lived with a relatively low reproductive rate. They are highly sensitive to impacts, and even small increases in mortality can send populations plummeting. Survey work in the project area has identified a number of species of special concern in addition to bald and golden eagles.

Impacts to raptors have historically been one of the most well documented failings of wind energy projects. Consequently, significant effort has been put forth to find ways to avoid and minimize harm to raptors. The “Top of the World” project in Wyoming, for example, uses camera-aided artificial intelligence to recognize raptors as they approach that wind project, shutting down turbines if the bird is at risk of collision. Similar technology should be implemented for this project.

Necessary Changes to the Project

We are mindful that renewable energy development is not without ecological costs. That said, it can—and should—be done in a manner that avoids, minimizes, and mitigates impacts to the greatest extent feasible. Based on our review of the project, our organizations have determined that the following changes are necessary under state law:

(1) Remove all proposed wind turbines from the coastal prairies of Bear River Ridge. This has been analyzed in the DEIR as the “environmentally superior alternative,” as it presents the least impact while still meeting the project objectives.

(2) Incorporate informed operational curtailment or curtailment during high-risk periods for marbled murrelets, raptors (particularly special-status species and bald and golden eagles), and bats (western red, hoary, and silver-haired bats).

(3) Create a robust adaptive management program throughout the life of the project to monitor operational impacts and to implement, as technology advances, new mitigation measures.

Stayed tuned for updates on this proposed project.

***This article was originally published in the August EcoNews.


Action Alert: Stop Trump’s Plan to Gut NEPA

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019
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The Trump Administration is trying to do through regulation what it can’t through Congress: gut the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Forest Service has initiated a rulemaking process to create huge loopholes in the federal law, killing public participation in federal land management and eviscerating science-based standards. In EPIC’s 40+ years, this is the most extreme proposal to come across our desk. Yet, because it is being done quietly, these changes are sneaking through without public attention and outrage. On behalf of EPIC and all of the other public interest environmental groups who use the law daily, WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Please take action to fight back against this rule change and double your impact by forwarding this article to a friend. If your browser does not support this comment portal, you can access the official NEPA rule-making portal here.

To fully grasp the magnitude of what is being proposed, it is necessary to give a brief explainer of NEPA. NEPA is the law that requires government agencies to examine the environmental impact of all their projects. This environmental review not only flags potential environmental issues through a science-based process, but it also gives the public an opportunity to comment on a project. Some federal projects are largely exempt from these rules—“categorically excluded” in the mumbo-jumbo of the law—because they are not expected to result in meaningful environmental impacts. The Forest Service is attempting to widen what is categorically excluded so that very impactful projects would skate by without public participation or science-based review.  (Read more about how NEPA protects the environment here.)

Just how radical is this? For example, the proposed rule would exempt commercial logging on public lands that are 4,200 acres—or 6.5 square miles—or smaller from NEPA review. The current rule only allows timber sales 70 acres or smaller. This gives the greenlight for massive new clearcuts to pockmark our public lands, all without public say or science-based review.

EPIC typically comments on over 35 Forest Service projects per year through NEPA. Under the proposed rule, nearly all of these could be categorically excluded. No public participation. No science. Just closed-door deals.


EPIC August Events: Covelo Blackberry Fest, Blue Lake Music Fest, and Outdoor Movie (CANCELLED)!

Monday, August 5th, 2019
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August has come into full swing and we will be tabling at some fun upcoming events in the next few weeks with options across the board from Covelo to Blue Lake to Garberville!

August 17-18th

We are excited to be in Mendocino County at the Round Valley Blackberry Festival on August 17th and 18th for the first time this year! We are looking forward to connecting with our Mendocino supporters again and getting to try some tasty, blackberry treats! We will be tabling from 10am-6pm on Saturday and 10am-5pm Sunday in downtown Covelo. Come out for the best of summer’s offerings and have a slice of blackberry pie, a sip of blackberry wine, and some music in the sun. This event is free for the public.

 

August 17th

Not making it down south for the Blackberry Fest? On the same weekend, EPIC will also be tabling at the Blue Lake Music Festival on August 17th from 11am-5pm at Perigot Park in sunny Blue Lake.The Blue Lake Music Festival is held by the Musicians for Community and Veterans For Peace Humboldt Bay Chapter 56. This event benefits the community and local economy with great music and entertainment, food and beverages, a BBQ, a beer and wine tent, local artisans, vendors and more. $10 at the door.

August 23rd- CANCELLED—This event has been cancelled by the organizers. Apologies for the late notice. 

Join us Friday night on August 23rd in Garberville Town Square for a free community outdoor movie night. We will be selling candy and merch at the showing for a family-friendly movie called “epic”, a newer animation film similar to Fern Gully, in which “a teenager finds herself transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is taking place. She bands together with a rag-tag group characters in order to save their world — and ours.”  The movie will run from dusk until around 10:30 pm. Show up by 7pm to get your seats, talk to our staff, and eat some goodies! —-CANCELLED—-