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You’re Invited to EPIC’s 2019 Fall Celebration ft. 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 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 all night long!

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. A sponsorship costs $300 and features your business name on our website, social media, and you can display a banner at the event. 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.

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—-


Fish and Wildlife Service Gives Green Diamond New Permit to Take Spotted Owls

Monday, August 5th, 2019
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NSO Activity Centers in Green Diamond Timber Harvest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just can’t seem to help approving Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) with Incidental Take Permits (ITPs) that will doom the Northern Spotted Owl to eventual range-wide extinction.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its Record of Decision to approve a new HCP and ITP for Green Diamond Resource Company. Until now, Green Diamond had been operating under a 1992 HCP that was approved when the company’s California timber operations were still the same as the parent-company’s name, Simpson Timber Company. The 1992 Simpson HCP for Northern Spotted Owls was the first of its kind.

27-years later, Green Diamond’s own NSO HCP reports admit that the premises upon which that plan were based have not panned out and the HCP has essentially failed at protecting Northern Spotted Owls, or maintaining and/or replacing Northern Spotted Owl activity centers and habitat lost to timber harvest. In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to amend the HCP at Green Diamond’s request—to allow for more Incidental Take of Northern Spotted Owls than the original plan allowed.

The recently-approved new HCP for Green Diamond has been nearly a decade in the making; all the while, Northern Spotted Owl sites are lost and not replaced, and new habitat has either not grown as anticipated, or has not been occupied by new Northern Spotted Owls.

To the extent there was any saving-grace to the original 1992 Simpson (Green Diamond) HCP for Northern Spotted Owls, it was the network of NSO set-asides, larger blocks of either known-occupied, or potentially-occupied forest that were designated as off-limits to commercial timber harvest for the duration of the Incidental Take Permit.

The recently-approved new HCP for Green Diamond will do away with these NSO set-asides, and instead will rely upon, “Dynamic Core Areas,” aka, floating, not static or stationary areas that can be moved and manipulated around the landscape by Green Diamond, while rendering the majority of the old NSO set-aside acreages now available for Green Diamond timber harvest.

In the 29-years since the original listing of the Northern Spotted Owl as a “threatened” species under the federal Endangered Species Act, and 27-years after the issuance of the original Simpson HCP for Northern Spotted Owls, the species’ population, and prognosis for survival and recovery in the wild continue to plummet.

The most recent range-wide meta-analysis of all long-term demographic study areas within the species’ range indicates that not only are Northern Spotted Owl populations and all vital demographic statistics continuing to decline, but that the rate of decline is increasing, as much as four-percent per-year in many areas.

In 2012, EPIC presented a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “reclassify” or “uplist” the Northern Spotted Owl from a “threatened” species to an “endangered species.” However, instead of working to consider EPIC’s petition, or grappling with the grim realities and prognosis for survival and recovery of the Northern Spotted Owl in the wild by reclassifying the species and ramping up recovery actions, the Service seems hell-bent on authorizing as much Incidental Take of Northern Spotted Owls as it possibly can before being forced to change course.

The approval of the new Green Diamond HCP for Northern Spotted Owls signals yet anther harbinger of warning for a species already in dire peril, and shows plainly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s preference to permit extinction rather than to attain range-wide species recovery.


Where Did the THP Website Go?

Thursday, August 1st, 2019
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Have you gone online in 2019 looking to find a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) and found that the website has been disabled? Don’t worry, it’s not just you, and, no, no one is purposefully hiding THPs from you—instead, the State of California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Forestry and others have created and launched a new website and interface for finding, viewing, reviewing, and tracking THPs and all other permits for private (non-federal) timber harvest in California.

The new website and interface for THPs and other state/non-federal timber harvest permits and related documents is called CalTrees. The new site can be found here: https://caltreesplans.resources.ca.gov/caltrees/.

The new website and interface are not structured at all in the same way as the old THP website, and interacting with, and navigating on CalTrees is not intuitive to those who have used to the old site and system. To assist users in familiarizing themselves with the new website and interface system, state agencies and developers of the new CalTrees interface have produced a user guide and manual that can be accessed and downloaded as a PDF here: https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/3952/caltrees_user-guide_external-user-v12.pdf

The new CalTrees website and interface for THPs and other related documents is a potentially very powerful and user-friendly tool once you get the hang of it. EPIC is working on a more user-friendly guide to the new site, so stay tuned to the EPIC newsletter and website for instructional tutorials that will help you more quickly and seamlessly streamline your ability to find, review, and track THPs using the new CalTrees system!

As always, you can find out how to review a timber harvest plan on the EPIC website here: https://www.wildcalifornia.org/how-a-timber-harvest-plan-works

And you can check out EPIC’s updated tutorial for locating and reviewing a THP here: EPIC’s THP Review and Comment Workshop.

 


Richardson Grove Rendezvous Recap

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
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Photo by James Adam Taylor

Special thanks to all who came out to EPIC’s Richardson Grove Potluck Rendezvous this last Sunday to celebrate the recent legal victories for the Grove and to discuss the upcoming battles still ahead of us. We were so happy to see so many old (and new) supporters and allies gather and break bread together at the very spot we have all been working so hard to protect.

EPIC’s long-time attorneys, Sharon Duggan and Stu Gross, were in attendance and gave important legal updates to the crowd from the most recent state and federal decisions. Sharon particularly emphasized that now, more than ever, public input and participation is needed in order to save the Grove permanently from CalTrans’ bull-headed plans.

With that in mind, we must all continue to work together as a community to keep these ancient trees free from spades and bulldozers. Please continue to stay in tune for more updates and upcoming strategies regarding the Richardson Grove Project and we look forward to the next rendezvous in solidarity with the Grove!

Sharon Duggan and Stu Gross giving important legal updates

Background

Richardson Grove State Park, considered the gateway to the Redwoods, is where tourists often first encounter large Redwoods when heading north on Highway 101. It is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for protected species and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

The project set forth by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) includes plans to realign a section of Highway 101 that winds through old-growth redwoods in the park. The work would require crews to dig into the roots of towering redwoods that stand along the highway within park boundaries. Threats include possibly fatal damage to the prized ancient trees, as well as harm to sensitive wildlife posed by the controversial project, Caltrans again and again has failed to evaluate impacts of the project in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Litigation against the Richardson Grove project has been successful in both state and federal court. Most recent wins for the Grove have occurred this year in 2019 in both state and federal courts. For instance, in the federal court, Judge Alsup of the Northern District District Court of California ruled in favor of plaintiffs, finding that Caltrans failed to take a hard look at the impacts to old growth redwoods under federal law and ordered 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.”

In the state court, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kelly Neel ruled in favor of plaintiffs as well, finding that Caltrans avoided public scrutiny by failing to solicit public comment on a significant piece of new information—a report from an arborist hired by Caltrans. In doing so, Judge Neel highlighted that the public and other agencies were deprived of their right to provide comment and feedback, something “essential” to the law.


Action Alert: Say No to McMansions and Yes to Land Use Protections

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
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Before the Board of Supervisors is a crucial vote: Should we make it easier for people to de facto subdivide their property, allowing more McMansions in the hills, or should we try to protect our forests and agricultural lands from sprawling development? Against this threat, we need to show the Board of Supervisors that the people want better land use protections and not houses everywhere in the hills. As a warning: the particulars here might seem boring—zoning code changes are not sexy by any means—so stay with me!

One issue before the Board is the potential creation of a new zoning classification: timberland exclusive. Zoning classifications are how we can regulate which types of uses go where in the county. (Zoning is why, for example, you likely don’t live next to a garbage dump or factory—we’ve recognized that these types of uses are largely incompatible with residential development.) Not all lands are the same. Some are great for growing timber, others great for growing other agricultural products. The zoning code reflects this and calls for these special lands to be protected so that they can continue to serve their best and highest use. Timberland production zones (TPZ) and agricultural exclusive zones (AE) are two other already existing resource zones. As proposed, timberland exclusive recognizes that timberlands should be managed differently from other agricultural lands and deserve special protection. EPIC supports the creation of timberland exclusive.

Another issue affecting all resource zones is residential development. Residential development often inhibits timberlands and agricultural lands from being utilized for their purpose. (A farmer, for example, can only afford to grow crops that do not produce a high value if the land is cheap enough to afford to grow those crops. Residential development can hurt farmers by pricing out farm lands, as the ability to build luxury estates on farm land drastically bumps up the price of these lands.) Residential development is allowed on these lands, but through zoning, we can limit the impact.

One way to limit the impact is by confining residential development to a small area of the total parcel—called a “residential building envelope” in the proposed zoning text amendments. Here, the Planning Department has proposed that residential housing and associated outbuildings not exceed two acres for most parcels, or for small parcels, no more than 20% of the total parcel. This makes sense—if you want the land to be able to be used for agriculture, don’t spread buildings out across a property. Under the guise of “property rights,” this reasonable suggestion is being threatened with litigation because it is more lucrative to spread out buildings. That way, you could effectively subdivide property by having one house on one spread of the property and another on the other side of the property.

Another way to protect property is to have larger minimum parcel sizes. The minimum parcel size is the minimum size someone can subdivide a property. Timberland and agricultural management typically requires larger parcels, particularly for sustainable timber management, as you will only harvest a smaller number of trees per acre requiring a larger acreage to achieve the same volume. Let’s imagine a 120-acre timberland parcel. If the minimum parcel size was 20 acres, you could divide that parcel into six new parcels. Each parcel would be too small to manage for timber, thus in effect, you are creating the perfect estates for the landed gentry to build their McMansions. If, instead, the minimum parcel size was 60 acres, that original parcel could only be divided in two, better preserving the land for its intended purpose. Of course, many people want to get rich off subdividing properties at the expense of the rural environment.

Those looking to get rich try to wrap themselves in a warm-and-fuzzy sentiment that they are defending the “rural way of life.” That’s a life. Instead of defending rural living, their end result is reckless subdivision: more people clogging dirt roads, more lights outshining starry nights, and more cost to the county to provide services.

The Board needs to hear from you. Please take five minutes to email the board. Here’s a couple quick talking points:

  • I support the reasonable alternatives brought forward by staff to protect our resource lands from unfettered development.
  • Residential building envelopes are called for in the General Plan. The proposed zoning text amendment is consistent with the General Plan and is necessary to prevent abuse and de facto subdivision of resource lands.
  • Timberland exclusive zoning classes are important because timberland management is categorically different than other agricultural operations and our zoning code should reflect this.

Email: rbohn@co.humboldt.ca.us, vbass@co.humboldt.ca.us, efennell@co.humboldt.ca.us, mike.wilson@co.humboldt.ca.us, smadrone@co.humboldt.ca.us


S.O.S. for Northern Spotted Owl

Monday, July 22nd, 2019
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Photo by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts

The Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is one of the most iconic species in the Pacific Northwest. The Strix occidentalis caurina is an umbrella species representing hundreds of rare plants and animals that depend on old-growth and mature forests for survival. Thirty years ago it was protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It was responsible for spurring the creation of the Northwest Forest Plan and changing national forest management on nearly 25 million acres in Washington, Oregon and California. Three decades later, the spiral toward extinction is accelerating.

In the first two decades since it was listed under the ESA, four million acres of habitat was lost due to logging and one million acres by wildfire. The most recent region wide study, completed in 2016, found that the owl was nearly gone from most of its northern range and was declining at a rate of 4% per year. The last NSO in the Redwood National and State Parks was recorded in 2010. This leaves only the Klamath Siskiyou region to serve as a vital source population for the entire three state area.

What is most concerning is that habitat loss and “take” of the owl to accommodate logging on both public and private lands is still occurring at an unhindered pace. Within just the past five years over 50,000 acres of habitat loss and degradation and over two hundred owls have been allowed for “take” in the Klamath Siskiyou region on national forests. On top of that, the larger more aggressive Barred owl has taken over most of the range, leaving even fewer Strix to reproduce. Wildfire has both positive and negative affects, with the Klamath Siskiyou region experiencing the highest amount of habitat loss from fire.

Logging and Barred owl invasion are clear threats to dwindling NSO populations. The measurement of habitat benefit and loss from wildfire is still unclear yet we know that much has been lost and fire seasons are getting longer. Further, affects of the climate crisis and the use of rodenticides from trespass marijuana cultivation are less understood but certainly compounding the peril of not only the Strix but all other old-growth and mature forest dependent plants and animals.

Despite all of the recommendations to maintain habitat in the 2012 NSO Recovery Plan and over two hundred studies—“take” and extensive habitat loss from logging is still allowed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the US Forest Service (USFS). The Klamath Siskiyou region is critical for NSO recovery throughout its entire range and the combined threats are accelerating; yet the USFWS and USFS fail on many levels. EPIC petitioned to uplist the Strix from threatened to endangered in 2012, that determination is long overdue, as well as an updated status review. Without a moratorium on “take” and habitat loss and a plan to deal with the Barred owl, the Northern spotted owl may be extinct within the next thirty years.


Wolves in Danger- Act now!

Thursday, July 11th, 2019
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act across the continental United States. The plan would do away with 40 years of wolf recovery and leave these intelligent animals vulnerable to trophy hunts, trapping, poisoning and persecution. This politically driven agenda is contrary to the clear scientific evidence that wolf populations have not rebounded across their range.

The Endangered Species Act is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. It serves as an essential safety net when state management has failed to protect imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife. Since its enactment, 99 percent of listed species have survived and hundreds more are on a path to recovery.

Thanks to the Act, wolves have returned across the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes states. Wolves are just beginning to repopulate in the Pacific Northwest, including here in California. Without federal protection wolves may never recover in places like Colorado or the Adirondacks.

There were once hundreds of thousands of wolves in the lower 48, but today there are only roughly 5,000. California is home to perhaps fewer than ten confirmed resident wolves at present. Their ongoing repopulation from neighboring states could be jeopardized should they be delisted. For example, in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, where wolves have already lost federal protections, trophy hunters, trappers, and others have killed nearly 3,500 wolves since just 2011. Federal protections are essential to help wolves return to remaining suitable habitats where they used to roam.

As part of our nation’s heritage wolves deserve better. Playing politics with imperiled wildlife is unacceptable. Act now to defend wolves across the country! Click here to sign the petition.

The comment deadline for wolf delisting is May 14th 2019 has been extended to July 15th. If you would like to submit your own substantive comments electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov – in the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2018–0097, which is the docket number for this rule-making.

 


Rainbow Ridge Rally Next Saturday

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019
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July 3 Rally at Rainbow Ridge

Under the watchful eye of a Lear security guard, Humboldt Redwood Company’s private security firm, over 50 people gathered on July 3rd to rally in solidarity with the forest defenders who are on the front lines protecting the ancient forests of Rainbow Ridge, located within the north fork of the Mattole watershed. One activist “Rook” has set up a platform in a tree called “Trickster”. Since the platform has been erected, HRC has logged several adjacent trees, and shortly after, two tree voles moved into the tree that Rook is living in.

During the rally, updates were given by Forest Defenders and the Lost Coast League, a poem was read, prayers were spoken by a Yurok elder, and there was even a play depicting the lives of a family of spotted owls living in a forest that is being logged.

During the updates, the crowd was told that Rook has had very minimal food and water because Lear security guards have been restricting access and confiscating supplies, and that the private security company has also installed alarms near the tree sit so that they would be alerted if anybody came near Rook’s tree.

At the end of the rally, a group of elders asked the Lear security guard who remained parked in his truck at the gate entrance  for the duration of the rally, if he could deliver food, water and supplies to Rook. Initially he said that he could not guarantee if the supplies would be delivered, but after a while we were told that the supplies would be delivered. However, it was later reported on social media by @blockade.babes that “…Rook observed Paul Trouette, the CEO of the security guards, go through it and pour out some of a bag. The rice cracker bag was torn up and when they got it there was only a handful in there.”

Next Rally July 13th
Forest defenders are organizing another rally at Monument Gate this Saturday, July 13th at 11am.
Here is the announcement from EF Humboldt:

We will be gathering to show opposition to Humboldt Redwood Company’s logging within the zone of the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and showing solidarity with the brave tree-sitters putting their bodies on the line. We are also presenting a brand new proposal to HRC: “Alternative for a Future”.

Will there be live music? Yes!

What about art? Oodles of it, including screen-printed shirts, paintings, and poetry.
Need more entertainment? Worry not, there will even be a play!
The lineup of speakers will be both informative and inspirational.
We’ll see you on the front lines on Saturday! Show your support for  tree-sitters and the Northern Spotted Owl!
Directions:
From Hwy 101 take exit 681 (Rio Dell) and follow Wildwood Avenue south through town.
Just before crossing the bridge into Scotia, turn west (uphill) onto Monument Rd. Veer left at
Pacific Ave to continue up Monument.
Monument gate will be on your left 5 miles after the turn off Wildwood.

HRC’s Sad Spiral Downward

Monday, July 8th, 2019
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In 2008, in the wake of the disastrous era of the Pacific Lumber Company under the liquidation-logging minded MAXXAM Corporation and Charles Hurwitz, the court hearings for the company’s bankruptcy and dissolution of company assets provided still more melodrama. What would become of the approximately 250,000-acres of timberland?

Among the notable contenders for the old PALCO/MAXXAM assets before the bankruptcy court was Mr. Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson, billionaire-owner of another industrial timber giant, and now truly the last of its kind in California, Sierra Pacific Industries. Emmerson himself has never met a tree that he didn’t prefer horizontal and on a log truck heading to a mill.

Nearly two-decades of civil unrest and constant conflict on California’s North Coast was part of the battle to protect the last of the remaining old growth redwoods on private lands. As a result of the fight against liquidation logging and, “logging to infinity,” of other now long-gone industrial timber giants like the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation and Georgia-Pacific Corporation in Mendocino County, the bankruptcy court, and some would say, the State of California itself, had no further appetite for a continuation of the strife that would almost certainly arise if the old PALCO/MAXXAM assets were awarded to Red Emmerson and SPI.

Enter here another competitor for the old PALCO/MAXXAM assets, organized under a conglomeration of interests known as Marathon. The Marathon group was organized by the San Francisco-based Fisher Family, (who also own the Gap, Old Navy and the Banana Republic), in the same manner and by the same financial interests as the entity that eventually bought out the old LP assets in Mendocino County a decade earlier, out of which was born the Mendocino Redwood Company. Eventually, the Marathon/Fisher group were awarded the old PL/MAXXAM assets in the bankruptcy and reorganization, out of which, Humboldt Redwood Company was born.

Several promises were made by the Marathon/Fisher contingent before the court as part of the bankruptcy, award, and re-organization of the old PL/MAXXAM assets that at the end of the day had EPIC and many others supporting the Marathon/Fisher group over Emmerson and SPI.

First, the group promised to harvest no more than 50-million board-feet of timber per-year off the property for the first decade of HRC’s ownership and management. The old PALCO/Maxxam lands had been extensively liquidated and mis-managed during the Hurwitz era that saw intensive clearcutting, endless mazes of roads and skid-trails built hastily and with reckless disregard for the landscape. The Marathon/Fisher group that eventually created HRC knew the landscape it was purchasing was in a state of damage and disrepair, and the promise before the court reflects this knowledge and understanding.

The group that is now Humboldt Redwood Company also promised to not harvest old growth and to abandon traditional even-aged silvicultural systems like clearcutting. Perhaps most importantly, the company promised, and indeed initially demonstrated a very different approach to relationships with a fractured and divided community, particularly environmental interests and forest defenders.

The stories of Mike Jani and others from the company going out into the forest to greet tree-sitters and others to encourage them to come down, or take down their blockades, and to desist with resistance, with promises that HRC was different and a brand-new day had dawned are relatively well-known and remembered.

For HRC, this temerity and community credibility and cache’ could have carried the company for many decades, had the behavior it illustrated continued to match the talk and promises before the bankruptcy and reorganization court. Sadly, the company seems to simply have become inpatient, and the not-so-subtle reorganization of the HRC local decision-making hierarchy where Mike Jani fell into the background, and former employees of Red Emmerson and SPI were brought in to run the show and tighten up the ship.

A little over a decade after the awarding of the old PL/MAXXAM assets to what is now HRC there are numerous indicators of alarm and concern. First, in the wake of the PL/MAXXAM era, there were two only two watersheds in which HRC could voluntarily step into snares and begin to erode the cache’, credibility, and trust it had initially worked to build. These are Elk River, and the Rainbow Ridge area of the Mattole.

In Elk River, instead of working diligently with war-torn residents and other interests to give the heavily-impacted watershed a much-needed break from industrial-scale logging, HRC has taken a page, and then some, right out of the PL/MAXXAM playbook and began to execute it. HRC has fought, battled, argued, disavowed, and whined incessantly about the absolute imperative, necessity and “right,” to log in Elk River.

In a case of Deja vu, HRC even hired, and still retains, the very same attorney once used by the old PL/MAXXAM to fight with the Regional and State Water Boards and conservation interests, using the very same, exact, tired old arguments that have been proven wrong in state courts over and over again for a decade and a half. Even as recently as June 19, HRC and its attorney were before the Regional Water Board fighting tighter water quality controls in Elk River, whining about the burden of regulation and claiming “takings,” of its property.

In the Mattole, HRC not voluntarily stepped into snares, but set those snares for itself, and brazenly appears to be thumbing its nose at EPIC, the Lost Coast league, and others as it purposefully stomps its way into metal-toothed pelt-mammal traps. HRC has stubbornly refused to engage with and work out a collective solution to the conflict over the forests in the Mattole, despite many-a promises made and warm-and-fuzzy conversations had over dog-and-pony show field tours and beer-and-pizza wooings.

Today, HRC operates in a black-box, even for regulatory agencies like the California Department of Forestry. HRC operates under a plan approved for PL/MAXXAM by CAL FIRE when it became clear that EPIC’s lawsuit against the state’s approvals that were part of the 1999 Headwaters Agreement would prevail, which it eventually did. 11-years after assuming ownership, HRC operates under a plan that would allow it to harvest as much as 150 million board-feet of timber off the property using primarily clearcutting as the method.

And, 11-years later, where once HRC employees were in the forest, talking tree-sitters down and encouraging forest defenders to dismantle their blockades, HRC is instead ferociously logging in the Mattole, using private paramilitary security goons to chase, harass, starve-out and intimate tree sitters and forest defenders, while Mattole watershed elders and others get arrested by both private security goons and the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Department.

We have been told for over a decade about how HRC is and would be different, and that a brand-new day had dawned. Today, I sit at my desk contemplating if we have a case of “same as it ever was,” or, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” and feel quite discouraged.


EPIC Pints for Non-Profits at Redwood Curtain Brewing Company

Monday, July 8th, 2019
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Redwood Curtain Brewing Company‘s Arcata tasting room will be hosting a Pints for Non-Profits for EPIC on Wednesday, July 17th from 12 pm to 12 am. For every beer purchased at the Arcata location that day during open hours, a part of the proceeds will go towards EPIC’s mission of forest restoration and protection.

EPIC will be tabling and sharing information from 4-7pm. Come by to drink some delicious, local beer to support forest protection, pick up some EPIC swag, and get updates on our work! Check out the Facebook page to RSVP and invite friends. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

 


Richardson Grove Potluck Rendezvous

Monday, July 8th, 2019
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Richardson Grove Potluck Rendezvous 

This Sunday, July 21st, 12pm-4pm

Please join us at the Day-Use Picnic Area at Richardson Grove State Park near the river in celebration of recent federal AND state legal victories protecting the Grove from Caltrans’ ill-conceived project. We will discuss recent events and legal updates regarding the Grove.

We will have a shade Pop-Up, two large tables for food and drinks, finger foods, lemonade and a variety of EPIC merchandise for purchase. We are hoping to make this as zero-waste as possible, so keep that in mind! Bring a potluck dish, a mess-kit (utensils, plates, glasses), camp chairs, shade structures if needed, and your friends! Eat, be merry, swim, and enjoy the shade of ancient redwoods on a hot July day (don’t forget sunscreen and a hat!)

Carpools encouraged – this event is open to the public and free but State Park fees are $8 per car. We have created a carpool page in case you need or can offer a ride to Richardson Grove on Sunday: Group Carpool Page

As well, we have a Facebook event page for you to invite your friends: Richardson Grove Rendezvous.


Lawsuit Seeks Overdue Protection for Rare Siskiyou Mountain Salamander

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
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EPIC and allies sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for failing to respond to a 2018 petition requesting Endangered Species Act protection for the imperiled Siskiyou Mountains salamander.

This rare terrestrial salamander lives only in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon and Northern California, primarily in old-growth forests. The species is threatened by U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management plans to increase logging in southern Oregon.

“With increasing threats from climate change and intense wildfires, this rare salamander can’t afford to lose any more habitat to logging,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Under a Trump administration hostile to endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Service is dragging its feet and pushing the salamander closer to extinction.”

“The threats to the Siskiyou Mountains salamander just keep getting worse while the Fish and Wildlife Service plays politics,” said George Sexton with KS Wild. “In particular the BLM and Forest Service decisions to target salamander habitat for post-fire logging need to stop if these iconic salamanders are to have a chance to survive and thrive.”

“This unique Pacific Northwest salamander deserves protection from impending extinction,” said Nick Cady with Cascadia Wildlands. “Not only does the species play an important ecological role by contributing to nutrient flow and soil health, this salamander is a distinct part of this region’s natural heritage.”

“Salamanders are an important indicator species,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “If the Siskiyou Mountains salamander is not doing well, it means that the ecosystem is unhealthy. Hopefully, this lawsuit is a wakeup call that species are headed to extinction in our own backyard.”

In March 2018 the Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Cascadia Wildlands filed a formal petition asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Siskiyou Mountains salamander under the Endangered Species Act. A 90-day finding on the listing petition was due in June 2018, and a 12-month was due in March 2019.

Background
The best habitat for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander (Plethodon stormi) is stabilized rock talus in old-growth forest, especially areas covered with thick moss. Mature forest canopy helps maintain a cool and stable moist microclimate where the salamanders can thrive.

There are two distinct populations of Siskiyou Mountains salamanders, separated by the mountain range’s crest. A larger northern population lives in the Applegate River drainage in southern Oregon, while the smaller, southern population is in California’s Klamath River drainage. Most known Siskiyou Mountains salamander locations are on public lands managed by the BLM and Forest Service.

Conservation groups first petitioned to protect the salamander under the Endangered Species Act in 2004. To prevent the species’ listing, the BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service agreed in 2007 to protect habitat for 110 high-priority salamander sites in the Applegate River watershed in southern Oregon. In 2008 the Fish and Wildlife Service denied protection to the salamander based on this conservation agreement and old-growth forest protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan.

Under the Northwest Forest Plan, the BLM and Forest Service were required to survey for rare species like the salamander and designate protected buffers from logging where the animals were found. But the Western Oregon Plan Revision adopted by the BLM in 2016 substantially increases logging allowed in western Oregon forests, undermining those habitat protections.


EPIC and Allies Take Aim at SPI HCP

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
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A Draft Habitat Conservation Plan (DHCP) for California timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has been released with a companion Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for public comment with a comment deadline of July 1.

The Draft SPI HCP would authorize the company to “take” federally-listed Northern Spotted Owl, and federal candidate for listing, the California Spotted Owl, a genetic and geographic near relative of the Northern Spotted Owl, in conjunction with its timber harvest and related activities on its California timberlands.

The DHCP proposed by SPI looks very much like the HCP for Northern Spotted Owl put forth by Fruit Growers Supply Company that was eventually nullified upon legal challenge in federal court.

Like Fruit Growers, SPI timberlands are located in the checkerboard matrix lands where alternate square ownership parcels are owned by SPI, mixed with other ownerships, most notably, the United States Forest Service. Like the Fruit Growers HCP, SPI appears to be creating habitat retention and support areas for Northern Spotted Owl that incorporate adjacent Forest Service lands and rely upon assumptions of adjacent Forest Service lands management and conservation when devising SPI protected areas and calculating SPI’s proposed Incidental Take and mitigation obligations to satisfy criteria for allowance of Incidental Take contained in the Endangered Species Act.

The SPI DHCP would cover SPI for Incidental Take of both NSO and CSO over nearly two-million acres of timberland in California most of which is intermixed with public lands. SPI is offering the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the carrot of a long-term collection, removal, and study program for barred owls (Strix varina) a non-native direct competitor for NSO and likely also CSO, whose range continues to expand southward and into California forests occupied historically by both species of spotted owl.

However, it is highly speculative and rather unlikely that SPI can or will actually be able to attain the permits necessary under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) or the California Fish and Game Code to allow SPI to “take” barred owls for experimental and collection purposes, at least for the duration contemplated in the DHCP, which is 50-years.

The SPI DHCP also contains many of SPI’s oldest and best tricks aimed at either confusing, misrepresenting or outright withholding critical information and analysis behind its proposed plans and their anticipated impacts to NSO and CSO.

EPIC joined with conservation allies, many of whom were involved in the Fruit Growers Supply Company HCP and legal challenge, to submit extensive and critical comments of SPI’s DHCP and the companion DEIS put forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in advance of the July 1 comment deadline. The comments as submitted can be read here.

Stay tuned for updates on the SPI HCP and EIS through the rest of 2019 and beyond as we wait for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider and address our comments.