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EPIC is Accepting Nominations for Board of Directors July 1-31

Thursday, June 20th, 2019
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WANTED: Professional, assertive, creative, problem-solvers interested in joining the EPIC Board of Directors.

We are looking for people with experience in the following areas:

  • non-profit governance;
  • conservation science;
  • financial management;
  • environmental law;
  • policy development;
  • fundraising; and
  • event planning.

Current EPIC Members* may apply to become a Board Member between July 1 and July 31 for the next Board of Director’s year, which begins on January 1.

Prospective candidates are asked to fill out an application (available online or in hard-copy format at the office), describing qualifications, skills, and what they would bring to the Board. Applications must be submitted to the Executive Director (tom@wildcalifornia.org) by July 31st.

Current Board of Directors can be viewed here.

*Current EPIC Members: an individual who has made a donation during the 14-month period prior to the nomination deadline of July 31 may apply to become an EPIC Board Member between July 1 and July 31.


Regional Water Board Adopts Tighter Elk River Constraints for HRC

Thursday, June 20th, 2019
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The North Coast Regional Water Board voted unanimously to adopt a revised water quality control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company and its ownership in the Upper Elk River watershed at a hearing in Eureka on June 19. The Regional Water Board’s revisions impose additional constraints on HRC’s timber operations and related activities in the Upper Elk River watershed in an effort to arrest sediment and other pollution inputs from HRC’s contemporary logging operations.

The North Coast Regional Water Board adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and TMDL Action Plan to address the ongoing impairment of the waters of the Upper Elk River resulting from past and contemporary timber harvest and related activities that have deposited hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment in the Upper Elk River system. The 2016 Upper Elk River TMDL for sediment and the accompanying program of implementation establish a load allocation of “zero,” meaning the Upper Elk River watershed is currently overwhelmed with sediment to the point where no additional sediment inputs can occur without resulting in further damage to the quality and beneficial uses of water in the Upper Elk River.

On August 1, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board ratified the Regional Board’s TMDL, with important clarifications, including clarifying that an anthropogenic zero load allocation to the extent feasible must be attained as soon as possible, but by no later than 2031. To accomplish this, the State Water Board directed the Regional Water Board to revisit and revise, as necessary the sediment pollution control permits (known as “Waste Discharge Requirements,”) for both HRC, and the other large industrial timberland owner in the Upper Elk River, Green Diamond Resource Company.

The Regional Board’s unanimous decision on June 19 moves HRC’s revisions forward with additional mitigation and constraints not previously required including tighter constraints on wet weather road construction and use, and heavy equipment use in wet weather periods. Road and heavy equipment use during wet weather and winter periods continues to be a major source of nonpoint source sediment pollution associated with timber harvest activities on private lands throughout the North Coast, including in the Upper Elk River watershed.

EPIC applauds the efforts made by the Regional Board and its staff in crafting tighter constraints for HRC and encourages the Regional Board to use the constraints and mitigations for the Upper Elk River adopted for HRC as guidance when considering proposed revisions for Green Diamond Resource Company in the Upper Elk River Watershed. 

 

 


EcoNews Creature Feature: Hoary Bat

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
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Hoary Bat on a branch. Photo by Tom Benson.

The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is one of North America’s largest bats, boasting a solid 5.9 inches in length. Named for its “hoary” fur—meaning silvery or grayish-white—the bat’s body is encased in cinnamon brown fur tinged in frosty silver. Its tiny face is surrounded by a furry golden halo, making these bats even more recognizable and adorable.  The hoary bat is widespread throughout the U.S., found in 49 of 50 states.

Out of the thirteen species of bats that live in Humboldt County, the hoary bat is an especially unique bat due to the fact that it migrates and hibernates, when most bats do one or the other. This strange trait has befuddled scientists but one of the potential possibilities for this behavior comes from their roosting habits. Hoary bats are a tree roosting species, meaning they sleep and live outside in trees rather than caves, like many other bats. They are one of the only species of bats that hibernate in the open, such as on tree branches. This could explain why they are evolved for hibernation but choose to migrate in large numbers from the eastern states to northwest California in autumn to roost in the warm, moist, and sheltered redwoods.

Locally, Humboldt Redwoods State Park appears to be an important migratory hot spot for the hoary bat, with a seasonal concentration of mating of bats not yet seen elsewhere on the planet. There are so many hoary bat that this may mean that Humboldt Redwoods draws bats from all over western North America.

The diet of the hoary bat primarily consists of moths, but can include other small insects, such as dragonflies, mosquitoes, flies, crickets and beetles. They are an important predator of insects and a successful one at that, in a single meal the hoary bat can eat up to 40% of its weight. Their prime foraging times occur in the late evenings and, due to their low frequency echolocation, most of it occurs over wide, open areas. Unlike other bats, hoary bats appear to fly with a very low frequency of echolocation—think of a human with a heavy prescription driving at night without their glasses.  

This has come at a cost to these bats.  Since they prefer open, wide hunting grounds and rely on very little senses while flying, they are easily obstructed when there are artificial objects in formerly open areas, such as large wind turbines in high meadows. Sadly, hoary bats are the species most frequently killed by wind turbines in North America, with 38% proportion of bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in North America being hoary bats.

The proposed wind project outside Scotia presents obvious concerns, given the location near Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Among the worst case scenarios: the project would have the potential to create a “population sink” for the western North American population of hoary bats.  According to one recent study, impacts from wind energy projects are so great that the hoary bats population is expected to dip 90% in just 50 years.

Luckily there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risks posed by wind energy development on the species. Key among these is to curtail energy production during high risk periods, such as during migration or during nights with low wind speeds. Curtailment alone has the potential to reduce fatalities between 44-93%. Additional other measures, like acoustic deterrence, can further reduce potential fatalities.


Action Alert: Proposed HCP for SPI a Bad Deal for Spotted Owls, Comments Needed!

Monday, June 17th, 2019
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Spotted Owl. Photo by Len Blumin

A proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would authorize “incidental take” of both Northern Spotted Owls and California Spotted Owls on California timberlands owned and managed by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has been released in its draft form along with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for public comment.

SPI owns nearly two million acres of private, industrially-managed timberlands in California, and the ownership is squarely within the range of both the federally-threatened Northern Spotted Owl, and the federal-candidate for listing, the California Spotted Owl, much of which is situation in the “checkerboard,” lands, i.e., lands where SPI and the U.S. Forest Service, respectively own alternating square parcels.

The Draft SPI HCP proposes to establish and create so-called, “Potential Habitat Areas,” (PHAs) on SPI ownership for both Northern Spotted Owls and for California Spotted Owls for SPI ownership in the Sierra-Nevada. These PHAs and the habitat retention and other conservation requirements for PHAs proposed in the Draft SPI HCP would allow SPI to rely heavily on adjacent federal and public lands, most notably lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service, for the purposes of the HCP. According to the Draft HCP, SPI could account as much as 75-percent of its PHAs to lands not actually owned or controlled by SPI.

A similar approach to Spotted Owl conservation and impact mitigation were proposed by Fruit Growers Supply Company and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously, only to have the approved-HCP nullified by federal courts upon litigation brought by concerned conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildands Center, and the Klamath Forest Alliance. Yet, SPI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seem bent on creating the exact same HCP framework that failed to pass legal muster in the Fruit Growers’ example.

The Draft SPI HCP and Draft EIS rely heavily upon the notion that approval of a companion permit to lethally-remove, control, and experimentally-study barred owls (Strix varina), a non-native and invasive competitor to both the Northern and California Spotted Owls would garner key conservation benefits as a reason why the HCP is necessary and will work. The trouble here is that issuance of such a permit pursuant to the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for the duration proposed (50-years), is actually not legal currently either. MBTA permits can only be issued on a five-year basis currently under federal law.

The Draft SPI HCP also proposes to “front-load” its “incidental take,” of Northern and California Spotted Owls, meaning that the greatest impacts to both species proposed in the DHCP would occur in the first two-decades of the 50-year proposed-permit, while the conservation benefit is backloaded to the last two decades of the proposed-permit, and is predicated heavily on the presumption of re-growth and regeneration of SPI timberlands.

The Northern Spotted Owl has been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, and the most recent range-wide demographic study indicated that Northern Spotted Owls were continuing to decline range-wide and that the rate of the decline is increasing due to a combination of continued habitat loss and competition from barred owls. In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a 90-Day Finding on an EPIC petition to “uplist” or “re-classify” the Northern Spotted Owl as an “endangered,” species under the ESA, finding that the action may be warranted, meaning that the Northern Spotted Owl may actually be endangered.

The California Spotted Owl is currently a candidate for ESA listing in response to two petitions brought before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by conservation groups based in the Sierra-Nevada. Currently, far greater protections exist for Northern Spotted Owls in conjunction with SPI timber operations in California than exist for the California Spotted Owl. This is largely a function of California Forest Practice Rules and regulations and not U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ESA implementation and administration.

Comments on the Draft SPI HCP and the Draft EIS must be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Monday, July 1.

Take Action Now!


EPIC Submits Comments in Opposition to Navy Sonar Testing

Monday, June 17th, 2019
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Humpback Whale in CA. Photo by Robin Agarwal

EPIC submitted a comment letter last week in solidarity with the ten Tribes that comprise the Inter-Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council expressing our concerns and opposition to the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS (SEIS) for the Navy Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT) activities.

The training and testing activities continue to include the use of active sound navigation and ranging, known as sonar, and explosives up and down the Pacific Northwest coastlines and marine areas.

The cumulative effects of this project, combined with the impacts of the Navy’s historic and ongoing operations, will significantly harm the environment and endangered species. The activities currently being proposed would result in significant harm to whales, dolphins, fish and countless other marine animal species including many species, such as Humpback and Sperm Whales, that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Read the full comment letter here.


State Court Victory in Richardson Grove Case!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019
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Decision Finds Agency Avoided Public Comment and Scrutiny on Risks

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Kelly Neel ruled in favor of environmental plaintiffs in the latest salvo in the nearly decade-long effort to prevent the widening of Highway 101 through old-growth redwoods at Richardson Grove State Park. As a result of this court decision, Caltrans is not allowed to physically alter the proposed project area and the agency would need to get court approval before moving forward. Plaintiffs include the Environmental Protection Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Friends of Del Norte and four private citizens, Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin, and David Spreen. Plaintiffs Bair and Lotus both have generational family ties to the creation of the Park.

In her decision, Judge Neel found 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.

“Caltrans has continued to view public opinion and opposition to the Richardson Grove Project as something that they can bulldoze through,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Four times, courts have returned the project to the agency, finding that their slapdash work violates the law.”

Peter Galvin, Co-Founder of the Center for Biological Diversity stated, “We urge Caltrans to finally abandon their deeply misguided and destructive plan to widen Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park. Our ancient redwood trees are too important to pave over.”

In 2010, Caltrans issued its Final Environmental Impact Report for the Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project. In 2014, the First District Court of Appeals found that Caltrans had violated CEQA by failing to take a hard look at the project’s impacts to old-growth redwoods. After this decision, Caltrans attempted to cure its deficiency by hiring an arborist to examine project impacts. The arborist’s report, which presented new scientific data, including an untested rating system to predict impacts to tree health from project activities, was shielded from public comment through its release as part of an “Addendum” to the original CEQA documents. This added significant new information to the EIR without providing public notice and consultation with agencies.

The Court stated that “the rating system devised by the arborist may or may not rest on sound scientific footing. Without review and critique by others with expertise in the relevant fields, this footing remains untested. Peer review is essential to sound science.”

Plaintiffs are represented by Sharon Duggan, Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP, Philip Gregory of Gregory Law Group, and Camilo Artiga-Purcell of Artiga-Purcell Law Office.

Background

Richardson Grove State Park, is considered the gateway to the Redwoods, 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.

Litigation against the Richardson Grove project has been successful in both state and federal court. Most recently, in 2019, Judge Alsup of the Northern District District Court of California rules in favor of plaintiffs, finding that Caltrans failed to take a hard look at the impacts to oldgrowth redwoods under federal law.


Action Alert: Sign the Petition for Clean-Up of the Fort Bragg Headlands Mill Site

Monday, June 10th, 2019
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From our friends at the Headlands Symposium Committee:

Clean up first! Final plans for the Fort Bragg Headlands mill site remain stalled and we fear that the City will allow G-P to sell off which ever parcels it can and then walk away from the toxic remainder. We insist that the mill site be cleaned up before parcels are sold and developed. Further, we call for an overall plan that includes natural restoration, daylighting of Maple and Alder creeks, and protection for both the headlands and the ocean as well as public open space protected for generations to come.

The well being of the Northern Mendocino Coast is entirely dependent upon a healthy ocean and natural landscape, which requires protection of our coastal resources. The former G-P Mill Site, now owned by Koch Industries, encompasses almost one third of the City of Fort Bragg. Its reuse offers an opportunity to showcase the importance of thoroughly cleaning up our coastal resources that have been polluted by highly toxic materials extremely harmful to the health and well being of humans and wildlife both on land and in the ocean. This is particularly urgent because the Mill Pond has been identified as the most polluted area of the site and its failing dam leaves it highly vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunami and sea level rise.

Please sign our petition to ensure the protection of our coastal resources:

 

Sign the Petition Now!


Richardson Grove Potluck Rendezvous

Monday, June 10th, 2019
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EPIC will be hosting the Richardson Grove Rendezvous in celebration of the two recent court victories for Richardson Grove on Sunday July 21st from 12pm-4pm at the Day Use Picnic Area at Richardson Grove State Park near the river. We will discuss recent events and legal updates regarding the grove.

Eat, be merry, swim, and enjoy the shade of ancient redwoods on a hot July day. Bring your favorite potluck dish, beverages, eating utensils, and invite your friends!

Carpools encouraged – this event is open to the public and free but State Park fees are $8 per car. We have created a Facebook event page below for you to invite your friends: Richardson Grove Rendezvous.


BREAKING: HRC Logging Commenced in Mattole Watershed

Thursday, June 6th, 2019
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Paramilitary and law enforcement at HRC logging road in Mattole. Photo by Mattole Forest Defense

From our friends at the Lost Coast League, June 5th, 2019: 

Petrolia, CA- Activists on Rainbow Ridge have reported that logging by Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) commenced late Wednesday, June 5, in the last remaining unprotected intact Douglas-fir/hardwood forest in coastal California.

Rainbow Ridge, located about 25 miles south of Eureka, has been the scene of resistance to old-growth logging since 1990. Lawsuits, blockades, and tree-sits have kept much of the forest standing.

The remote area is the home to numerous threatened and endangered species, including Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, and Northern Spotted Owl and is the headwaters for the wild Mattole River stocks of coho and Chinook salmon.

Despite negotiations between HRC and Mattole citizens groups (Lost Coast League, Mattole Restoration Council, Mattole Salmon Group) and other environmental organizations on the North Coast, HRC has refused to allow the groups to achieve permanent protection for these Mattole watershed lands. They lie adjacent to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, home to the largest contiguous stands of virgin Coast redwood in the world and habitat for many endangered species.

When logging appeared imminent in 2018, the Lost Coast League (LCL) challenged HRC’s “green” sustainability certification under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) by filing a formal complaint. FSC’s auditors (SCS Global Services) found the complaint had merit in two areas: lack of a plan to designate and protect High Conservation Value Forests, and lack of a plan to phase out the widespread use of herbicides HRC uses routinely.

LCL was assured by SCS Global’s founder, Dr. Robert Hrubes, that logging would not happen until HRC completed its plans as required by SCS Global and delivered them to LCL for evaluation. Neither documents have been delivered to the LCL.

“We are shocked and disappointed that HRC would rush in to log these trees without fulfilling the promise of their FSC ‘sustainability’ audit,” said Michael Evenson, Vice President of LCL. “Violating the terms of the audit should call into question the certification of their operations. This is an irreplaceable natural treasure.”

Also brought to the public’s attention by this logging is a re-examination of programs like Home Depot’s that charge a premium price for lumber certified as sustainably sourced. “Claiming lumber from such sources to be sustainable,” said long-time Mattole activist Jane Lapiner, “is cheating the consumer.”

Activists observing the forest operations said that HRC has again hired the paramilitary-styled security company Lear Asset Management of Ukiah, which employs tasers, dogs, drones, and night-vision goggles. This equipment is familiar to Lear personnel who are veterans of U.S. wars in the Middle East.

“Tree-sitters and forest defenders told us they pledge to stop the logging until HRC comes to its senses and negotiates the protection of these natural treasures,” Lapiner said.

“HRC is wholly owned by the Fisher family, San Francisco real estate moguls that also own the GAP. Though the Fishers claim to have serious environmental principles they have apparently given the go-ahead on this logging.”

Media contact:
Michael Evenson
216012@email4pr.com
707-629-3506


Action Alert: Comments Needed on Proposed Wind Project

Thursday, June 6th, 2019
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Yellow dots represent the proposed sites of wind turbines from the DEIR. Illustration by Jonathan Webster

Terra-Gen’s proposed location for the Humboldt wind energy project—along Monument and Bear River Ridges between the Eel River and the ocean, and overlapping in part within the Cape Mendocino Grasslands Important Bird Area—brings concern for raptors, bats and other birds.

Due to its location, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife warned in an early letter to the county that the location was one with “High or Uncertain Impacts to Wildlife.” But there are ways to reduce the operational impacts of wind energy on wildlife. Many of these, however, have been left out of the project—at least for now. The Draft Environmental Impact Report is where EPIC and the public can influence the design and development of the project. Make your voice and concerns heard by signing the comment letter below. The deadline for these comments is June 14th.

Take Action


Bringing the California Condor Home

Thursday, May 30th, 2019
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Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program Photo by Chris West.

The EPIC team is excited to share with you the most recent update on the efforts to bring the condor back to northern California. The Yurok Tribe, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been working together to create a comprehensive reintroduction program to assure their long-term health and survival. The environmental assessment is open for public comment until June 4. The plan is expected to establish a nonessential experimental population in northern California, northwest Nevada and Oregon. EPIC supports the efforts and sees this current push as vital to restoring this species to its natural habitat.

There are two types of condors, the Andean of South America and the California condor. Both have a significant and ancient history throughout the West. Revered by many nativetribes, they play an important role in several traditional myths. In Yurok tradition the condor remains a crucial part in ceremonies to renew the world and fulfills a renewal and healing role for several California tribes including the Hupa, Karuk, Wiyot and Tolowa Dee-ni’. The return of the condor will help to repair century old wounds from the past to the indigenous peoples and landscape of the Pacific Northwest.

The California condor is one the most magnificent avian species, with wings spanning nearly 10 feet. It is also one of the world’s longest living birds, with a lifespan of up to 60 years. They soar to heights of 15,000 feet, reaching speeds of more than 55 miles per hour and can travel up to 150 miles a day.

Micro-trash surgically removed from chick

There are currently 488 California condors existing today with 312 in the wild. Populations have been re-established in Arizona with 88 birds, Southern California with the largest wild population of 188 and Baja, Mexico with 36. They are slow to reproduce as they do not reach maturity until six years old. A nesting pair, which mates for life, will give birth to one chick every other year. Chicks are able to fly after six months but continue to roost and hunt with their parents until age two, when they are displaced by new clutch. Condors live in large family groups and have a well-developed social structure.

A combination of DDT, lead poisoning from bullets and poaching put the condor on the federal and state Endangered Species list. Once close to extinction, with only 22 left in captive breeding programs, it was declared extinct in the wild in 1987. With the recent California ban on lead bullets there are high hopes that this reintroduction will last but there is worry should the birds make it to Oregon where lead ammunition is still legal and widely used. While lead ammo is still the leading cause of death in adults, mirco-trash and plastics is one of the leading causes of death in chicks and eggshell thinning from leftover DDT in the environment, known as DDE, is also of concern.

Proposed nonessential experimental population area.

The proposed “nonessential experimental population” outlined under the 10(j) rule of the Endangered Species Act allows for less extensive protections. Simply stated, any birds outside of the experimental population area would be treated as endangered rather than threatened. For instance, here future nest sites would only be given an approximate 650 foot buffer zone. Any activity deemed “fuels reduction” would be allowed anywhere at any time and there are exemptions from liability for electric utilities and wind farms. The proposed population area expands to the entire state of Oregon. Given that the species is still critically endangered EPIC believes that newly made nest sites deserve more protection, especially the first few years and that the population area boundary should be minimized to protect the bird further into its northern range.

Over a century has passed since the nation’s largest flying bird soared among the world’s tallest trees. Once the environmental documents and permits are secured, condors from the Portland Zoo could be in the air over the Klamath River in 2020. The plan is to release six birds a year over 20 years. All are planned to be fitted with transmitters and captured for testing on a yearly basis. We are all hoping that this effort will enable condors to once again flourish throughout the Pacific Northwest.

You can submit comments electronically at: http://www.regulations.gov or by hard copy to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2018-0033, Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS; BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.


Water Board to Consider New Elk River Permit for Humboldt Redwood Company

Thursday, May 30th, 2019
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The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) will hold hearing in Eureka on June 19th to consider adopting a newly-revised sediment pollution control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company in the Upper Elk River Watershed.

The Regional Board has scheduled to consider the new and revised permitting framework for HRC in Elk River on Wednesday June 19th at 1:30 p.m. at the Eureka City Council chambers at Eureka City Hall, at 513 K Street in Eureka. The hearing is open to the public and EPIC encourages interested members and supporters to attend.

The newly-revised sediment pollution control permit for HRC’s Elk River timber operations and related activities is to be considered in response to an August 1, 2017 resolution and directive from the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) to the Regional Board indicating that permits for both HRC and Green Diamond Resource Company that allow for continued timber harvest and controllable sediment and other pollution discharges into the Elk River Watershed needed revision to be consistent with the Upper Elk River Sediment Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and the Action Plan for the Upper Elk River Sediment TMDL, which were both adopted by the Regional Board in 2016.

The State Board directed the Regional Board to revisit and revise permits for both HRC and Green Diamond in Elk River as soon as possible after August 1, 2017, but by no later than January of 2019. The Regional Board, however has dragged its heels on revising the permits for both HRC and Green Diamond, with the HRC permit revision only now scheduled for hearing on June 19, and no indication when, whether, or if a new and revised permit will be noticed to the public for consideration to address Green Diamond’s Elk River timber operations needed to attain consistency with the Upper Elk River TMDL and TMDL Action Plan.

EPIC submitted extensive comments to the Regional Board on the proposed revisions to the proposed-revised permit for HRC and its Elk River timber operations and related activities on April 15. Our comments to the Regional Board can be viewed here.

The Regional Water Board has not done enough, or soon enough to address controllable sediment pollution inputs to the Elk River from contemporary and ongoing timber operations by both HRC and Green Diamond, despite the fact that the Regional Board itself established a “zero load allocation” when adopting the Elk River TMDL—meaning, the river system is overwhelmed with sediment inputs to the point where no more sediment can be delivered while still meeting water quality objectives/standards. Yet, the Regional Board continues to permit and enroll timber harvest for both HRC and Green Diamond in Elk River, and under permits that the Regional Board itself knows are not adequate to control new sediment inputs in light of the TMDL and TMDL load allocation. More simply, put, zero really doesn’t mean zero, at least not in this case.

EPIC staff will attend and testify at the hearing in Eureka on June 19th and encourage our members and supporters to show up and have their voices heard in defense of the Elk River.


Proposed Wind Project Presents Alarming Impacts

Thursday, May 30th, 2019
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EPIC Urges Greater Efforts to Minimize Impacts to the Environment

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

There is a wind energy project proposed for the hills just outside of Scotia, California. Renewable energy is necessary to limit the harm of global climate change. And many species will be harmed from climate change, hastening the pace of the Anthropocene.

Yet still, renewable energy is not without its environmental costs, and here the proposed project has many worrying impacts. The project is proposed in a precarious location—along Monument and Bear River Ridges between the Eel River and the ocean, and overlapping in part with the Cape Mendocino Grasslands Important Bird Area. Due to its location, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife warned in an early letter to the county that the location was one with “High or Uncertain Impacts to Wildlife” or was “Inappropriate for Wind Development.” Poorly conceived or developed project have tarnished the reputation of wind power in the past.

From the Draft Environmental Impact Report:

  • Operational impacts to nonraptor birds are “potentially significant,” particularly to a population of horned larks which are reproductively isolated from other populations and may represent a unique and distinct evolutionary lineage.
  • Impacts to raptors are “significant and unavoidable,” with potentially over 100 raptor deaths per year.
  • Hundreds of bats are likely to be killed per year, with reason to suspect that this project—owing to its close proximity to a known bat migratory “hot spot”—could cause species-level impacts to the hoary bat.
  • An estimated 20.86 marbled murrelets, a species protected by the Endangered Species Act, will be killed through the 30 year life of the project.
  • Bald and golden eagles will likely be killed by the operation of the project, although there is no estimate yet on the total number.

And so on. Renewable energy should be an answer to the Anthropocene, not a further cause of it. We need to do the right things in the right way.

But there are ways to reduce the operational impacts of wind energy on wildlife. Many of these, however, have been left out of the project—at least for now. Take impacts to bat species. Considerable research has been conducted to look at how to minimize harm to our mammalian friends. Limiting operation during high risk periods—such as limiting operation during low-wind periods during migration—has been shown to be effective, reducing fatalities by 44-93% with only minimal impacts to power generation. Other techniques, from the sensible (ultrasonic acoustic bat deterrent devices) to the seemingly silly (painting the turbine blades purple), offer the potential to reduce project impacts further. The project, however, does not adopt any mitigation measures. Instead, the project proposes to convene a “technical advisory committee” to recommend mitigation measures after the project has already begun operations.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report is where EPIC and the public can influence the design and development of the project. To the extent that we can devise additional mitigation measures, the county and the developer have an obligation to consider these mitigation measures. EPIC’s time and efforts is being concentrated here.

Until all feasible mitigation measures have been exhausted, there is still work that must be done. EPIC expects that further refinement of the project will occur to minimize harm and we will continue to monitor and engage in the project’s development to emphasize the need to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts. We should not have to make a choice between renewable energy and bird and bat deaths.

If you would like to read more, EPIC encourages you to read the Draft Environmental Impact Report, available here. Comments are due on June 14th and can be emailed to CEQAResponses@co.humboldt.ca.us.


Upcoming EPIC Events

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
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EPIC will be tabling at various events throughout the summer. Visit our booth, get important updates and sign petitions to protect wild places and imperiled species! We also have tons of great EPIC Swag, including water bottles, t-shirts, stickers and as requested, hats!!

You can find us at the following locations:


Success! People Power Prevails

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
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Shasta snow-wreath

EPIC work pays off—people power protecting plants proves positive. Last year our team, volunteers and Shasta-Trinity National Forest staff, freed rare Shasta snow-wreath populations from the invasion of Scotch broom and protected them from herbicide exposure. This year, it was a pleasant surprise to see only a few tiny seedlings growing in the roadside treatment location and only a few previously missed plants growing down by the creek. In fact, it was so successful we’ve decided to increase our reach! Next year we plan to expand even further to include trailheads.

There are only 20 know populations of Shasta snow-wreath on the planet. The Shasta snow-wreath (Neviusia cliftonii) is endemic to the shores and canyons around Shasta Reservoir. Neviusia have existed for over 45 million years. The Eastern Klamath Range is an ancient landscape, neither glaciated nor overlain by volcanic material, as were the surrounding mountains. The area is rich in biodiversity and is home to other endemic species such as the Shasta salamander (Hydromantes shastae) a state-listed threatened species and the Shasta Chaparral snail.

Many Shasta snow-wreath populations were lost when the Shasta reservoir was created and others are threatened by the current proposal to raise the dam. Invasive Scotch broom plants are another threat and have infested multiple areas near Packers Bay. For the past two years, EPIC protected a few of the most sensitive populations from the possible drift of herbicides and we plan to do it again every year till the broom is gone from the creek side and new trailhead locations. Working together demonstrates that people power is the best alternative!

 

 

 


SoHum Community Meeting on Green Diamond Sproul Creek Property Acquisition Spurs Formation of New Community Group

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
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Concerned Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino County citizens came together with EPIC staff and staff from the Garberville-based Trees Foundation to discuss the recent purchase of 9,400-acres of timberland in the Sproul Creek Watershed by Green Diamond Resource Company, and to discuss creating a watershed-based community group to interface with the company.

A meeting was held on Monday, May 12th at the Southern Humboldt Organic and Regenerative Education (SHORE) Center, located in Garberville where EPIC staff provided information about Green Diamond’s recent purchase of timberland in Sproul Creek, a major tributary to the South Fork Eel River, and information on Green Diamond’s timber operations, permits, and management practices.

Trees Foundation staff then presented a structured and facilitated discussion with community members in attendance from which was born a new locally-based watershed advocacy group, the Sproul Watershed Advocates. This community and watershed-based group will now work independently to determine how best to interact with Green Diamond with respect to its management of the Sproul Creek timberlands it acquired last year.

EPIC remains concerned that Green Diamond will simply do in the Sproul Creek Watershed what it only seems to know how to do based on its contemporary land management elsewhere on its property—that being lots of clearcuts and herbicides. There is much EPIC can do, but it takes our members, and local citizens to get involved and help change what might seem like an inevitable outcome in Sproul Creek.

Big thanks and appreciation to the SHORE Center for the meeting space, and to the Trees Foundation for providing staff and logistical assistance.

EPIC will continue to watchdog what Green Diamond does, in Sproul Creek, and elsewhere on its 400,000-acre ownership with a focus to change its arcane and outdated reliance on clearcuts, herbicides, and industrial sapwood fiber-farm plantations.


EPIC’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
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The Environmental Protection Information Center is proud to present the 2018-2019 Annual Report featuring our achievements, highlights and statistics from 2018. We invite you to take some time, pour a cup of tea and check what we have been working on to further the protection and restoration of our region’s forests and wildlife. From endangered species protections and timber sale litigation, to challenging big timber’s sustainability certifications, EPIC staff has kept a full court press on industry and agencies to preserve one of the most iconic forest ecosystems on the planet for more than four decades, and we will continue do this public interest work for years to come.

In a time when bedrock environmental policies are on the chopping block and big business is striving to take whatever it can, we need your help to grow stronger. In the coming year, we will be working double time to weather this political storm and continue sticking up for the forests, rivers and wildlife of the Pacific northwest. With you by our side, EPIC will face these challenges head on to ensure that lasting protections are in place to safeguard wild California.

Some of our members will be receiving hard copies in the mail, but to reduce paper consumption, we will only be sending out about 200 copies. However, if you would like us to send you a hard copy in the mail, please contact the EPIC office at 707-822-7711 or email amber@wildcalifornia.org.

If our annual report is your usual cue to make a financial contribution, please make a donation online by clicking here. Remember, its people like you who make our work possible.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead


Upcoming EPIC Events in Southern Humboldt

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019
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EPIC is excited to announce a follow-up community meeting to discuss the Green Diamond Resource Company purchase of 9,400-acres of timberland in the Sproul Creek Watershed in Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino Counties from Boyle Forests LP.

The follow-up community meeting will be held on Monday, May 13, 2019, from 5:30-7:30 p. m. at the Southern Humboldt Organic & Regenerative Education Center (SHORE) space, located at 655 Redwood Drive Garberville, next to the Garberville Laundromat. This follow-up meeting is presented in cooperation with Trees Foundation. EPIC is excited and appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with Trees Foundation on this very important community issue. EPIC staff and Trees Foundation staff will both be present, so mark your calendars for this one, and please come join us!

EPIC will also be hosting the Environment Show on KMUD on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, from 7-8 p.m. We have a great show in store, including follow-up and updates from the Sproul Creek and Green Diamond Community meeting, and exciting new news and new staff interviews.

Finally, please come see EPIC and our staff and tabling booth at the KMUD Block Party on Saturday, May 18th! Big thanks from EPIC to KMUD for offering us the tabling space at the KMUD Block Party. It’s always an event that’s great fun and for a good cause. We are looking forward to having a presence in Southern Humboldt in the upcoming weeks, so please come check us out, and tune in!


Federal Court Again Halts Destructive Caltrans Project Through Richardson Grove

Monday, May 6th, 2019
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Conservation groups and Humboldt County residents have won a federal court victory halting Caltrans’ controversial Richardson Grove highway-widening project. The project would needlessly harm ancient redwood trees in California’s iconic Richardson Grove State Park along Highway 101 in Humboldt County. The U.S. District Court in San Francisco struck down the Caltrans plan in a 26-page order issued late Friday afternoon.

“We’re elated that the court rejected Caltrans’ misguided and deeply destructive plan,” said Peter Galvin, co-founder and director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ancient trees and wildlife of Richardson Grove are too important to pave over.”

“For too long, Caltrans has pushed this unpopular project at the expense of the taxpayers and the environment,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “EPIC hopes that Caltrans focuses on road projects that are actually a priority, like Last Chance Grade.”

The highway-widening project could damage the roots of more than 100 of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including trees up to 3,000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to incrementally improve passage for heavy, oversized commercial trucks, with trailers up to 53 feet long.

In an order setting aside Caltrans’ inadequate environmental review and approval for the project, Judge William Alsup found that the agency failed to address four main issues: the roots of several ancient redwoods would risk suffocation due to increased paving in their root zones; construction within their structural root zones has the potential to impact or topple trees; heavy oversized trucks are more likely to collide with trees in the grove and the damage to redwoods could be more severe; and noise impacts from more and larger trucks rumbling through the park will be much worse than Caltrans is admitting and would diminish public enjoyment of the grove.

Judge Alsup stated that “all of these old-growth redwoods have lived many times longer than our nation has existed,” and “if we were today considering building a major highway through a grove of ancient redwoods, almost certainly the public would demand that the grove be spared and that the highway bypass the park.”

The court will next take arguments on whether Caltrans must prepare a new environmental assessment or provide a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement. Judge Alsup noted that studies cited by Caltrans were not provided to the public and that mastering Caltrans’ incomplete and confusing administrative record has been “awful” and “resembled decoding hieroglyphics.”

Background
Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the project in 2007, claiming the widening is needed to accommodate large-truck travel. But Highway 101 through Richardson Grove is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. The agency cannot demonstrate that the project is necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy.

Litigation against the Richardson Grove project has been successful in both state and federal court. This is the third federal lawsuit challenging Caltrans’ violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, due to inadequate evaluation of the environmental impacts of cutting into or paving over tree roots.

A state court ruled in May 2018 against a Caltrans motion to dismiss the state lawsuit. The 2010 federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and longtime local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen.

In 2012 the federal court issued a temporary injunction stopping the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and use of faulty data. Previous legal challenges blocked construction and forced Caltrans to rescind all project approvals in 2014. The agency reapproved the project in 2017, claiming it had made significant changes. However, Caltrans still proposed to cut into tree roots, threatening the stability and viability of old-growth redwoods.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit are Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP; Sharon Duggan, a staff attorney with EPIC and a long-time expert on environmental law; Philip Gregory of Gregory Law Group; and Camilo Artiga-Purcell of Artiga-Purcell Law Office.


EPIC Comes to the Defense of Siskiyou Mountains Salamander

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019
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Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Salamander in California, Oregon

EPIC and allies filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to a 2018 petition for Endangered Species Act protection for the 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 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 they can thrive. The species is threatened by plans from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management to increase logging in southern Oregon.

There are two distinct populations of the Siskiyou Mountains salamander, 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 the Forest Service.

In March 2018 the Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information 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.

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 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 increased logging allowed in western Oregon forests, undermining those habitat protections.