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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.


Judge to Caltrans: Prepare a Valid EIS

Friday, June 28th, 2019
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Caltran’s controversial “Richardson Grove Project” suffered another setback Thursday, as Judge William Alsup of the Northern District Court of California ruled that the agency was obligated to do a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) instead of the more circumscribed environmental review it had previously conducted. 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.

Judge Alsup’s order follows his previous decision from May 2019, which threw out Caltrans most recent Environmental Assessment (“EA”), finding that the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to take a “hard look” at the likely impacts of the proposed road widening to old-growth redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park. Thursday’s ruling goes substantially further than Judge Alsup’s ruling in 2012 regarding a previous EA, imposing a substantial hurdle for Caltrans, under both NEPA and §4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, before construction can proceed.

“It’s taken almost a decade, but today we have won what we have long sought: a court order mandating that Caltrans do a real and meaningful environmental review,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park are now protected from bad science and bulldozers.”

In his forceful order, Judge Alsup found, “After eight years of litigation, the Court is convinced and so finds that Caltrans has been bound and determined from the outset, regardless of the source, to arrive at a FONSI [(Finding of No Significant Impact)] and thus avoid the scrutiny of an EIS….Caltrans never gave the fair “hard look” required by NEPA but resorted to cherry picking the science to arrive at a preordained conclusion.” Judge Alsup sent the project back to the agency with a specific order: “At long last, the Court now orders that Caltrans stop trying to skate by with an EA/FONSI and that Caltrans prepare a valid EIS. Please do not try to systematically minimize the adverse environmental consequences and to cherry-pick the science.”

Now, as a result of this order, Caltrans is obligated to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement and receive public comment on their analysis.

Click here to read Judge Alsup’s full Order on Remedy.


Rare Shasta Salamanders Move Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
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Salamanders at Risk of Extinction From Plans to Raise Shasta Dam 

EPIC and the Center for Biological Diversity secured a victory for three species of Shasta salamanders today: A new settlement  will speed up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision on whether the animals warrant Endangered Species Act protection. The agency is now required to make that decision by April 30, 2021.

The salamanders are imminently threatened by plans to raise the height of Northern California’s Shasta Dam, which would result in flooding of their habitat.

In response to a 2012 petition from the Center, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2015 that the Shasta salamander may warrant protection. Since that time, however, the animals were recognized by scientists as belonging to three distinct species, each of which is rare and imperiled.

“Endangered Species Act protection is essential to preventing the extinction of these unique salamanders,” said Jenny Loda, a Center biologist and attorney working to protect vulnerable amphibians and reptiles. “Renewed efforts to raise the level of Shasta dam would destroy the salamanders’ habitat, so they desperately need these lifesaving safeguards.”

Work to raise Shasta Dam had stalled in recent years. But after President Donald Trump was elected, he appointed former Westlands Water District lobbyist David Bernhardt as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Westlands has long supported raising the dam to provide more water for agricultural operations. At Interior, Bernhardt oversees the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is responsible for the Shasta Dam project. That project now appears to have new life.

Congress allocated $20 million to the project in 2018 and preconstruction work started shortly afterward. The Bureau of Reclamation plans to award a construction contract in December 2019 and complete construction of the project by February 2024.

In addition to direct flooding from the proposed increase in the size of the reservoir, habitat for Shasta salamanders and other rare species is likely to be affected by the relocation or modification of infrastructure needed to accommodate the larger reservoir, such as buildings, roads, bridges and utility lines.

“Endangered Species Act protections would give the Shasta salamanders a real shot at survival,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “With a near-perfect record at saving the species it protects from extinction, the Endangered Species Act is our best hope for keeping these rare creatures in the world.”

Background

When the 2012 petition was filed, the salamander was known as only one species, the Shasta salamander. But new research published last year revealed that the Shasta salamander in California is actually three species — each more endangered than previously thought. All three live in the vicinity of Shasta Lake.

Shasta salamanders are 4 inches long and dark reddish-brown. Their restricted range, coupled with ongoing threats of habitat destruction and degradation, leaves them extremely vulnerable to extinction.

The recently described Samwel Shasta salamander was named for its original discovery site, Samwel Cave, and the Wintu Shasta salamander is named for the original habitants of the region, the Winnemem Wintu tribe. All three species are found within a range of about 330 square miles in the vicinity of Shasta Lake.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for the protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, public land, and wildlife, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.


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!


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.

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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.