Public Lands

Wild Horses of Modoc National Forest

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016
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dsc00836The Modoc National Forest is home to the largest wild horse herd in California. There are an estimated 2,200 wild equines living within the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory, which comprises over 360 square miles of federally managed land in the northeast corner of the state.

The Territory

The Devil’s Garden Plateau, also known as “The Smiles of Gods” by the Native people, lies in the heart of the Modoc Plateau. This mile-high prehistoric lava flow is sparsely vegetated with sagebrush flats, native grasses, and the nations largest expanse of juniper. Thought to have formed some 25 million years ago, the Modoc Plateau is a semi-arid region, covered with rough broken lava rock and covers approximately a half-million acres. While very dry most of the year, after the snow melts, the area is covered with hundreds of ephemeral pools and carpeted with wild flowers in the spring.

Further north, the dryness gives way to more pine forested areas, which host some of the largest mule deer in the region. The Garden is home to Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, turkeys, and sage grouse. It is also habitat for the gray wolf. The wild horse territory is overlapped by eight grazing allotments, which creates competition for forage and water. The plateau is part of the Pacific Flyway where hundreds of thousands of waterfowl stopover in the wetlands during their migration from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

The Horses

The Devil’s Garden horses are known around the country for the type of horses it produces. They even have a dedicated Facebook page. Wild horses, also called mustangs, are known for their sure-footedness, strength, intelligence, and endurance. Herds on the eastern side of the territory have some draft horse influence in their genes. The western herds have distinct characteristics some with a unique white coloring also known as roan and other herds that are mostly black. The horses arrived here140 years ago with early settlers and they have been legally protected since the passing of the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

In 2013 the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory Management Plan was updated and it set an “Appropriate Management Level” at a maximum of 402 horses. The evaluation used to determine this number did not take into account the over 1,500 cows grazing within the public lands of the wild horse territory. The updated plan also reduced the size of the territory by 37 square miles.

dsc031572016 Gather

In late September the Modoc National Forest conducted a six-day helicopter roundup and captured 290 wild horses. The mustangs were gathered mainly from adjacent private land, Pit River Tribal land, but also within the boundary of the territory. The roundups started in the early morning to avoid running the horses down in the afternoon heat. Multiple sweeps would happen each day, brining in anywhere between 5-40 mustangs at a time.

yound_stallionsPressured by the low flying aircraft, the wild horses were herded and trapped into small pens. Soon after, the horses were brought to nearby Willow Creek Ranch, a historic property within the wild horse territory. There they were sorted by age and gender. At the end of each day, mustangs age five and under were shipped to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Litchfield Facility near Susanville, CA. A total of 200 horses were brought to Litchfield to be freeze branded, vaccinated, and put up for adoption.

Older equines, age six and up, not adopted that week were released back onto the wild horse territory. The total included 68 stallions and 1 mare. There were 20 older mares that received the PZP fertility control vaccine at the Litchfield Facility who were then shipped back and released. Any of the younger horses that are not adopted from BLM Litchfield Facility after nine months will also be released back onto the territory.

For more information about adopting a wild mustang from the Modoc National Forest’s Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory contact the BLM Litchfield Facility

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/eaglelake/wild_horse_and_burro.html

Photos of Modoc wild horse roundup by Kimberly Baker:

 

Photos of horses in holding facility by Coni Lehr:


California’s Forests and Global Climate Change—Changing the Game

Thursday, October 27th, 2016
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California’s forests can help us fight climate change— if we let them. By recognizing the value of healthy, intact forests, we can use regulations and incentives to invest in the preservation and restoration of our forests—not only curbing climate change, but preserving clean air and water while protecting and restoring native habitat and biodiversity.

California’s forests can store (or “sequester”) carbon dioxide while mitigating the increasingly extreme environmental effects of global climate change. Incredibly, scientists have shown that deforestation and other forest resource extraction techniques that deplete forestland productivity are the second-largest source of global carbon dioxide emissions after fossil fuel combustion. Carbon dioxide emissions from forest resource extraction activities are known to account for as much as 20 percent of annual totals both globally, and in the State of California.

Redwood forest resource depletion is troubling because of the impact it has on forestland productivity, carbon sequestration, maintenance of clean water, impacts on air quality, healthy soil preservation, and biodiversity. In the redwoods, forest wood fiber and biomass in managed landscapes in the redwoods have been depleted to at most 10-15 percent of historic levels. According to a recent study, California’s forests are currently emitting more carbon dioxide than they sequester. Sixty-one percent of the overall reduction in forestland carbon dioxide storage is associated with losses in carbon density per-acre, i.e., less wood fiber and biomass is growing per-acre today than has grown in the past.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In 2016, research conducted via Humboldt State University found that the coast redwood forests of Northern California are capable of sequestering more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per-acre than any other forest type on earth due to amount of relative biomass density and their well-renowned capacity for fire, drought, and insect resistance. Changes in public land management as a result of the Northwest Forest Plan, namely the protection of large trees, have turned the public lands of the Pacific Northwest from a major carbon source to a carbon sink.

Recognizing the handwriting on the wall regarding our current climate crisis, the State of California has moved to reduce the state’s carbon footprint and to seek out ways to store or “sequester” more carbon dioxide. In 2006, the California Legislature passed, and then-Governor Schwarzenegger signed, Assembly Bill 32, the “California Global Warming Solutions Act.” AB 32 established a state-wide carbon emissions reduction target aimed at dialing emissions rates back to 1990 emission levels by the year 2020. The 2020 target is established as the first step in achieving a much larger long-term objective of an 80 percent reduction from 1990 levels by the year 2050 established by Executive Order of then-Governor Schwarzenegger. Ten years later, the State legislature enacted and Governor Brown has signed Senate Bill 32, which calls for reduction in carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 in order to keep the state on-track to meet the larger 2050 reduction goal.

AB 32 implementation has been placed under the charge of the California Air Resources Control Board, a subsidiary of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CARB is using a combination of regulation, innovation, and incentives to attain greenhouse gas reduction targets in many industry sectors in California. For example, a low carbon fuel standard and a light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standard have been adopted, energy efficiency programs have been strengthened and expanded, building and appliance standards have been strengthened and expanded, and a 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has been adopted along with regional transportation-related greenhouse gas reduction targets. “Cap and Trade,” CARB’s market-based program under AB 32, is predicated upon limiting or “capping,” emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses with individual targets based on industry sector, with reductions in the overall and individual emissions “caps” each year. For each ton of emissions allowed under a cap, the state issues a permit. Businesses can sell or trade the permits on a secondary market as well. As the cap declines, the number of permits declines and the overall value of the permits, as well as the reductions, increases.

CARB also set a net carbon sequestration target for California forests in its first Scoping Plan.

However, the California forest products industry sector, and its regulating entities, the Board of Forestry and the Department of Forestry, have been slow to respond and get on the bandwagon of addressing the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with industry harvesting activities, while also moving to up the ante on the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered through the growing of more, larger, older trees.

In 2012, the State Legislature enacted AB 1504, legislation designed to light a fire under the Board and Department, and the forest products industry generally, to start critically evaluating and changing, as necessary, modern legal, regulatory, policy, and industry standards to insure reductions in industry greenhouse gas emissions—to go, “above and beyond the status quo” to ensure California’s forests serve to sequester more carbon dioxide. AB 32 implementation requires a break from the so-called “business-as-usual” mentality; however, a combination of legal, regulatory, and incentive-based program changes are necessary to get the forest products industry moving in the right direction.

EPIC is engaging in AB 32 implementation at several levels. First, EPIC has been involved in stakeholder working groups and other discussions surrounding the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan by the Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT), an inter-agency working team tasked with creating the roadmap for forestry in California in the future. EPIC is also engaging in critical review of existing forest practice legal and regulatory frameworks in preparation for upcoming advocacy at the State Board of Forestry as it works to ensure compliance with AB 32, AB 1504, and other climate-related legal requirements.

Protecting the redwood forest into the future means addressing global climate change and human contributions to it. Thankfully, it is the redwoods themselves that provide us with the opportunity and roadmap for doing so, if we can manage to see the forest for the trees. Change can be arduous and slow, frustrated by industry sectors invested in perpetuated “business as usual.” But the din created by everyday citizens and groups like EPIC that stand up for the natural world, the public, and the public’s interests, must accordingly be louder, bolder, and more committed than ever if we are to preserve what remains, and work to heal and restore the rest.


Climate Change, California’s Forest Carbon Plan, and the “Point of No Return”

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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Clearcut logging in the Westside Timber SaleAs the calendar turns to October 2016, global climate change scientists have recently announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide content levels have now officially surpassed 400 parts-per-million, a threshold scientists have dubbed, “the point of no return.” Scientists say our planet has entered into a new epoch in global history, called the Anthropocene, or the, “Age of Man,” in which human-induced changes to the physical environment and natural world are so extreme that we have now surpassed the point when we can reasonably correct or fully undo the damage to our planet and its vital ecological life-support systems.

California has committed—on paper at least—to reducing greenhouse gases. In 2006, the State Legislature passed AB 32, titled the “the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” which mandated that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels by 2020. Earlier this year, the legislature raised the stakes: SB 32, which requires that California reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a far more ambitious, albeit necessary reduction target.

As dictated by the legislature, California is to make a two-pronged attack: first minimize greenhouse gas emissions; second, store, or “sequester,” more carbon dioxide on-the-ground. California’s timber products industry affects both—cutting trees releases carbon and growing trees stores carbon—that’s why AB32 required the development of the California Forest Carbon Plan to be developed by the inter-agency Forest Climate Action Team (FCAT). The California Forest Carbon Plan is supposed to provide the roadmap for California’s forest products industry sector to meet state-mandated reduction targets for the forestry and working lands industry sectors to complement and augment greenhouse gas reduction targets and objectives state-wide.

California’s forests can, and should, play a large role in sequestering carbon dioxide. By changing forest management and objectives to grow more wood fiber, commonly referred to as “volume,” California can store more carbon dioxide to offset and mitigate ongoing emission of greenhouse gases. How will we get there? A combination of rule changes and new incentives will need to be developed.

It has already been ten years since the legislature created the framework for a California Forest Carbon Plan. Attempts to force action have been slow-going, to put it nicely. While the Plan is being developed by the FCAT, but actual changes to forestry regulations will ultimately have to be adopted by the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. The FCAT intends to release its draft of the Forest Carbon Plan in the coming weeks, with an eye on codifying the Plan by the end of 2016 to meet legislative mandates. Many questions remain, however, as to the actual contents of the plan, the implications of those contents, and whether, to what extent, or how, any of what is eventually included in the Plan can be made legally binding and enforceable so as to actually change forest products industry practices, and bottom-line orientations.

EPIC has been working at the Board of Forestry to remind it of the mandates of the legislature, and its obligations under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and has begun strategic engagement on a project-by-project basis, critically evaluating the landscape-level planning mechanisms of the timber products industry as it pertains to increasing forestland productivity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and calling for enhanced sequestration of carbon dioxide, along with other public environmental, social, and economic values.

Moving into 2017, EPIC’s private lands forest policy advocacy work will shift substantially towards heavy engagement in the development and implementation of law, policy, and regulation changes aimed at ensuring that the state’s forest products industry makes the necessary changes to meet and exceed legislatively-prescribed sector-specific, as well as state-wide greenhouse gas reduction and carbon dioxide sequestration objectives.

For more information about the California Forest Carbon Plan and opportunities for public involvement, visit the FCAT website: http://www.fire.ca.gov/fcat/


Help Protect Pristine Smith River Waters

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
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SmithR by Casey RobertsTake a moment to help safeguard the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Public comments are being accepted by the Oregon Water Resources Department to protect the Smith River watershed in Curry County, Oregon for instream purposes. The classification would provide protection for fish, wildlife and recreation. Click here to send a letter of support for this very important action.


New: Videos showing local National Forest Grazing damage available online!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016
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By Felice Pace, Coordinator for the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California

This fall for the seventh straight year volunteers with the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing are on the ground in Northern California’s national forests documenting the manner in which public land grazing is being managed or, as is usually the case, mis-managed. What is different this year is that we have video documentation available online. Check out the public land grazing videos on my You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Unofelice .

Here is our most recent grazing video, from the Carter Meadows Allotment:

Once again volunteer monitors are finding that water quality has been degraded, riparian areas and other wetlands are damaged and wildlife values are sacrificed all to the benefit of private livestock operations. EPIC sponsors the Project and EPIC donors fund my work using the Project’s documentation to push for grazing management reform.

The Projects first intern and EPIC volunteer Victor Ruether examines a cattle-trampled spring in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Victor is now an environmental lawyer in Oregon.

The Project’s first intern and EPIC volunteer Victor Ruether examines a cattle-trampled spring in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Victor is now an environmental lawyer in Oregon.

Even when it is well managed, livestock grazing, like all human activities, entails some environmental impact. But proper application of modern grazing management practices and systems, including regular herding, spring and riparian protection, and rest-rotation grazing, can limit those impacts in order to comply with the Clean Water Act and other applicable laws, plans and regulations.

Unfortunately, Forest Service and BLM managers do not require modern grazing management; instead they condone the long-discredited practice known in range management circles as passive, season-long grazing. When using this grazing non-system, livestock owners move their animals, which are typically cattle but may be sheep, horses, goats or even llamas, to meadows and headwater basins on national forest or BLM-managed public lands at the beginning of the grazing season. The owners don’t herd or move their livestock again until the snow flies and it is time to take the animals back to the home ranch or to a feed lot; most owners don’t even visit the grazing allotments on which their animals are grazing for the entire three to six month grazing season.

Left unherded for months on end, livestock in general and cattle in particular find locations they prefer and remain there until all available forage and desirable browse has been consumed. That invariably leads to degradation of water quality, riparian areas, meadows, wetlands and wildlife habitat.

Rural westerners have a colorful term for this type of management; they call it Christopher Columbus Grazing because ranchers release their cattle onto the public lands in spring or summer and don’t discover them again until snow drives the livestock to lower elevation, which is typically sometime in the fall.

Christopher Columbus style grazing results in degraded riparian areas. This is Alex Hole, an Applegate River headwater basin located just north of the Siskiyou Ridge on the California portion of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

Christopher Columbus style grazing results in degraded riparian areas. This is Alex Hole, an Applegate River headwater basin located just north of the Siskiyou Ridge on the California portion of the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.

Passive Season-Long Grazing often results in cattle grazing for long periods in the headwater basins of forest streams, including many within designated wilderness as well as within key salmon watersheds. When headwater springs, seeps, wet meadows and streambanks are trampled every year for 3 or more months the result is hydromodification: streams become broader and shallower and the water table drops; riparian vegetation is damaged or removed; wetlands dry out and eventually disappear and late summer and fall base flow in streams below is reduced. In this way, grazing in Northern California’s wilderness headwater basins is producing negative consequences for salmon, steelhead, rainbow trout, tailed frogs, Pacific Giant salamanders and the other critters that depend on cold, high quality water. It is ironic that those wilderness basins which should be producing the nation’s highest quality water are so often degraded and diminished as a result of unmanaged grazing.

Working for Reform

Decades of unmanaged grazing have degraded, fragmented and dried out headwater willow wetlands

Decades of unmanaged grazing have degraded, fragmented and dried out headwater willow wetlands

To reverse the degraded condition of Northern California’s grazing allotments, the Project to Reform Public Land Grazing aims to change the way public land grazing is managed. Over the course of the past seven years we’ve produced 27 Grazing Monitoring Reports on 17 national forest grazing allotments located within three national forests. Each report contains recommendations to Forest Service managers, as well as state and federal regulators, on the changes needed to improve grazing management in order to comply with the Clean Water Act, the National Forest Management Act, and other applicable laws, plans and regulations You can read or download these reports, as well as our annual reports and presentations on Dropbox at this link.

The Project uses photo and field documentation of grazing management problems to advocate that Forest Service managers require that owners of livestock grazing on our national forests implement modern grazing management systems and techniques in order to protect water quality, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. We also use documentation produced by others, including water quality monitoring findings and reports produced by the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation. And we constantly invite Forest Service managers and those who hold public land grazing permits to join with us in a collaborative approach to grazing reform.

However, in spite of seven years advocating public land management reform and clear documentation indicating that current management is not protecting water quality, riparian areas and wetlands, Forest Service officials have so far refused to make the management changes that are clearly needed. And so the Project, EPIC and the Project’s other sponsors have begun to raise the stakes. We are now going over the heads of the District Rangers who are responsible for assuring proper grazing management to the regional forester and state water quality officials, asking them to intervene to require grazing management reform. And we are considering filing a complaint with the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General as well as strategic litigation to force the needed reforms.

Forest Serviced grazing managers have stuck their heads in the sand and refuse to see the obvious problems with the manner in which national forest grazing is managed. We aim to force them to remove their heads from the sand and do what is right. If grazing is going to continue on our public lands, managers must require the modern grazing management methods needed to limit negative impacts to water quality, riparian areas, wetland habitats, aquatic species and terrestrial wildlife.

Why not volunteer?

The Project To Reform Public Land Grazing wants more volunteers so that we can monitor more grazing allotments on more Northern California national forests and on BLM administered public land. As the Project’s coordinator, I go out with new volunteers onto grazing allotments they choose to teach them how the Project documents grazing management problems. Volunteers can then monitor on their own or join the Project’s monitoring expeditions into wilderness areas and on other Northern California public lands.

If you would like to volunteer with the Project, or just learn more about what we do and why we do it, give me a call at 707-954-6588. And whether or not you volunteer with the Project, please report to the Project and to EPIC the negative impacts of grazing which you observe while recreating or working on our public lands. If you will share them with us, we pledge to take up your concerns with the Forest Service or BLM managers who are supposed to make sure public land grazing is done responsibly. Use the “Contact Us” link on this web page for a range of contact options.

Public land grazing is deeply entrenched; arguably it is our most intractable public land management problem nation-wide. But by raising the profile of the poor manner in which public land grazing is managed, enlisting Clean Water and other regulators to also advocate for management reform, recruiting other citizens to get involved on-the-ground as reform advocates, and by refusing to accept bad and discredited grazing management, we believe public land grazing can and will be reformed.

If modern grazing management technologies and regular herding were required, those owners unwilling to devote the energy needed to properly manage their livestock on public lands would voluntarily relinquish their grazing permits; those who remain would put in the time and energy required to manage grazing responsibly. That is the Project’s goal: if grazing is to continue on the public’s land it must be managed responsibly.mmm


Headwaters Forest Reserve, Home, at Last

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
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Headwaters Forest Reserve 20 Anniversary HikeFormer U.S. President, and patriarch of American Wilderness, Theodore Roosevelt, said, “Believe that you can do something and you are half way there.” On a recent Saturday, seventeen-and-a-half years after the Headwaters Forest Reserve was established as a part of the BLM National Conservation Lands system, I had the distinct honor of guiding a group of individuals who had fought hard to save this place from the saw. This was the very first hike ever into Headwaters for some of the 50 hikers who had spearheaded the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest from 1986-1999.

There is so much that remains so completely unlikely and unbelievable about the Headwaters Forest Reserve, for myself, and for just about everyone else I spoke with on the hike and over that weekend. First, the fact that there is such a thing as the Headwaters Forest Reserve is still very astounding and quite unbelievable in many respects. And the fact that there is the Reserve, and that the Reserve has a community-docent program, and that I, of all people am one of them, is a story that had it been told by basecamp bonfires 20 years ago, simply no one, myself included, would have ever believed it.

I moved to Humboldt County in the spring of 1997, and almost immediately found myself embroiled in the struggle to Save Headwaters Forest; 19 years later, I was at the head of the line, opening the locked logging gate at Newburg Road in Fortuna, which had been the site of thousands of arrests over the two decades of the struggle. On this day I was there to legally take into the Reserve 50 of the people who worked to protect Headwaters many for whom it was the very first time.

Headwaters 20 Yr Anniversary Gathering RD2I was quite moved and astounded to find that this tremendous community with a fighting spirit and a heart of gold was grateful that I am among those serving as an educational docent for Headwaters in the present-day. It seemed to give many comfort in knowing that the Reserve they fought so hard to create was in good hands, and that the spirit and legacy of the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest is being carried forward in the Reserve, and on into the future.

As Margret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small, dedicated group of people can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The Headwaters Forest Reserve is a testament to the spirit of this principle manifested, and for many of us that attended this hike into the old-growth, we have finally made it all the way home, at long last.

 


Leave A Legacy! Westside – Old Growth and Implementation

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
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DSC00534The Klamath National Forest (KNF) repeatedly stated in its Westside documents that all legacy trees would be kept standing. From what we have seen, KNF has been cutting and removing these biological legacies at a rapid pace and more are threatened.

Legacy trees, i.e. old growth snags and live trees are defined as disproportionately large diameter trees that are often remnants of the previous stand on a given site. They are old standing trees that have persisted on the landscape after man-made and natural disturbances. For example, large trees containing one or more of the following characteristics: split or broken tops, heavy decadent branching, large mistletoe brooms, otherwise damaged to the degree that a cavity may form such as basal fire or lightning scars, or other features that indicate decay or defect. If the legacy component tree or snag was to be felled for safety reasons it was supposed to be left whole on the ground.

The alternative that KNF chose was specifically developed because of the effects of logging on spotted owl and fisher habitat, habitat connectivity, and legacy components and concerns about treatments in late-successional reserves. This alternative was chosen because it was supposed to emphasize the development of future late successional habitat, habitat connectivity, northern spotted owl habitat and legacy habitat components within the post fire landscape. It was designed to retain legacy components for future habitat development, reduce effects to owl nests, and lessen the effects of clearcut logging on watershed connectivity.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have also had concerns about the logging of legacy trees. In fact the Biological Opinion and the non-jeopardy decision for Northern spotted owls was partly based on the assumption that old growth trees would be left on the landscape. To date, the issue of removing legacy trees has not been resolved and they continue to be cut without public oversight – due to forest closure – or immediate action from the USFWS. EPIC has been communicating these concerns to the USFWS and has sent the KNF a notice of intent to litigate on this matter, which would be in addition to our current lawsuit.

Legacy tree retention is not the only issue currently going wrong with Westside implementation. In early August this year EPIC requested a visit to see if the project design features were being adequately implemented. We saw; many old growth trees stacked for hauling, no dust abatement, logging in Riparian Reserves as well as trees stacked in the reserves, damaged soils, no washing stations for equipment to deter the spread of non-native invasive plant species, roads and hillsides on the verge of wash out and more. Below is a photo gallery showing the current implementation of the Westside project, which was documented by EPIC staff on August 4th 2016.

Below is a photo gallery of legacy trees still standing, but critically threatened as they are not marked for saving, in the Grider and Cold Springs Westside Timber Sales and implementation as of August 4 in the Walker Creek watershed, which includes Walker, Salt, Slinkard and a small portion of Blue Mountain Timber Sales.

 

 


Remembering the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
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visionary-grove-headwaters-tom-natalynneup

EPIC Staff, Tom and Natalynne plant a redwood seedling in Visionaries Grove in Headwaters Forest Reserve.

The year 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the citizen-lead campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, which was, at the time, the last significant old-growth redwood forest left unprotected on private forestlands in the world. Today, the 7,750-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve, located just south-east of Eureka, stands as a testament to the commitment, dedication, and visionary spirit of the thousands of every-day people who came to Humboldt County, California from all over the country and the world to protect the last remaining unprotected old-growth redwood forests in a struggle that spanned two decades.

EPIC was on the front lines of the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, serving as a last-line of legal defense, using the law and the courts to hold public agencies and the lawless MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company (PL) accountable, and to protect the old-growth redwood forests in the Headwaters Forest Complex until the eventual political compromise of the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement could be reached. EPIC used both state and federal environmental and endangered species laws to slow the destructive march of PL’s liquidation logging and in the process established legal standards that still persist today.

EPIC’s legal strategies, combined with a massive citizen-lead movement of non-violent civil disobedience that involved thousands of arrests over the two decades of the struggle, eventually lead state and federal officials to fashion the compromise that was the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement, known pejoratively to forest activists as “the Deal,” with the Houston, Texas-based MAXXAM Corporation, owned by Charles Hurwitz, who orchestrated a hostile take-over of the previously family-owned Pacific Lumber Company using junk bonds acquired through the now-infamous Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980’s.

The month of September commemorates the regulatory end of seasonal nesting restriction season for logging in critical habitat for the Marbled murrelet, a small, yam-shaped seabird that stealthily nests up high in the big mossy branches of old-growth trees up and down the Pacific Northwest Coast. The end of the murrelet nesting season every September 15th meant renewed attempts by PL to log approved Timber Harvest Plans in old-growth redwood stands in the Headwaters Forest Complex, and also signaled the beginning of the so-called, salvage logging of old-growth trees in and around Headwaters Forest. Click here to see the timeline and Greg King’s amazing photo gallery of the fight to protect Headwaters.

Twenty years ago, on September 15, 1996, 6,000 people attended the rally and civil disobedience event at Fisher Gate, in Carlotta, California, with over 1,000 people arrested for trespassing in protest of the logging of the old-growth in and around Headwaters. The September 15, 1996 rally stands as the single-largest mass-civil disobedience action to protect forests ever in the United States.

Two years later, on September 17, 1998, as the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest was nearing its conclusion, an unconscionable tragedy marred the battle to save the last of the unprotected old-growth redwood forests, as David Nathan “Gypsy,” Chain was killed by an angry Pacific Lumber Company logger who felled a tree directly at forest defenders who were attempting to slow logging adjacent to Grizzly Creek State Park, along Highway 36. This September 17th marks the 18-year anniversary of Gypsy’s death, and serves as a sobering reminder of the very real human cost of the so-called Timber Wars here in the redwoods.

headwaters-visionary-groveupEPIC and other forest activists are rallying to commemorate and remember the initiation of the Campaign to Save Headwaters Forest, on this the 30-year anniversary of the burgeoning of the movement that has shaped the lives of thousands and the fate of our rural communities in the 17-years since the consummation of the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement.

EPIC staff will be leading a guided tour of what is now the Headwaters Forest Reserve on Saturday, September 17, 2016. Meeting location is 10 a.m. at Newburg Park, in Fortuna, California. All are welcome! For more information, please call 707-822-7711.


Westside Rip-off

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
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The Westside salvage logging project on the Klamath National Forest (KNF) is having more than severe ecological costs. The Forest Service forecasted making over ten million dollars in timber sale revenue. In reality, the agency brought in less than 5% of that estimate. Timber corporations paid $457,000 to log 13,000 acres in the heart of the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside implementation on steep and unstable slopes with small trees left behind. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

“Required costs to restore the project landscape through site preparation, planting and fuels reduction are estimated as $27,487,000.” -Westside Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

That leaves twenty-seven million more dollars needed to pay for 8,000 acres of replanting, 23,000 acres of fuels reduction treatments and for cleaning up logging slash. Replanting clear cuts, known as plantation forestry, creates highly flammable conditions for decades. The KNF claims it is accelerating reforestation and recovery; however natural regeneration is and was already taking place. Fuels reduction on 23,000 acres is needed to remove the smaller trees and shrubs with no commercial value, which will likely not happen, due to a lack of funding. It is these smaller and finer fuels that are shown to exacerbate fire behavior. The entire premise of the project was based on fuels reduction. Less than 2% of the money needed for these activities was made though timber sale receipts.

Westside logging implementation newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Westside logging implementation: newly constructed landing site. Photo courtesy of KS Wild.

Patty Grantham, KNF Supervisor and decision-maker for Westside, stated in a recent federal court declaration that without restoration (plantation creation) and fuels treatments, the area would remain at heightened risk for landslides and burning again at high severity. She stated that, funding for fuel reduction work is tenuous, typically very limited and must be appropriated by congress (your tax dollars), and therefore not guaranteed. Grantham also said that, a primary purpose of treating the project area is to restore the forest.

On top of those costs, the cost of repairing one third of the nearly 1,000 legacy sediment sites in the project area, which are road related chronic sources of sediment to our waterways, was estimated at over twelve million dollars. All 802 miles of the rivers and streams, including 101 miles of Coho critical habitat in the Westside project are listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, which means that current conditions do not meet water quality standards. The KNF stated that, controlling legacy sediment sources and design features would offset much of the increase in cumulative disturbance. In order to get a water quality waiver, the Forest Service came up with a schedule for repairing only 350 legacy sites over the next twenty five years without a guarantee for any funding.

The Westside: Record of Decision; the EIS; all of the supporting reports (hydrology, geology, wildlife, aquatics, recreation, botany et.); consultation with US Fish and Wildlife; National Marine Fisheries Service and approval by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board all relied on plantation creation, fuels reduction and legacy sediment site repair actually taking place.

The claimed purposes of the Westside “recovery” project are for public and firefighter safety for community protection, economic viability, benefiting local communities and restored and fire-resilient forested ecosystems. Without further funding, river communities are more at-risk of high severity fire and have not benefitted, the economics are not viable, thousands of acres of natural restoration and recovery are being damaged and forest ecosystems are less resilient with a higher risk of severe wildfire, chance of landslides and loss of soil stability. At two dollars per truckload of the largest trees, the only benefit went to timber corporations.

The ecological costs of Westside salvage logging deserve attention. Westside will harm or kill an important source population of the Northern spotted owl, which was known to be one of the most productive populations in the entire range of the species. Creeks providing cold water refuge for wild and suffering salmon will be affected. The Caroline Creek bald eagles are expected to abandon their nest site, after decades of re-populating the mid-Klamath region. Endemic Siskiyou Mountain Salamanders, fishers, hawks and nearly every wildlife species in these watersheds may be negatively impacted. Logging is within Wild and Scenic River corridors, mature forest reserves, streamside areas, adjacent to the Pacific Crest Trail and on 2,000 acres of unstable slopes. Implementation of the project will disturb water quality, landscape connectivity and natural recovery. The loss of big trees impacts complex forest structure, carbon storage, shade, cooler microclimates, soil nutrients, and high quality habitat and slope stability.

Beyond the thousands and perhaps millions of dollars taxpayers spent planning the project; we are now on the hook for forty million dollars more to pay for restoration and fuels reduction. Wild places, wildlife, water quality and communities are paying an immeasurable and long-term cost, while timber corporations benefit. The irreversible damage to the value of intact complex forest ecosystems and the services they provide has not been calculated. The Westside salvage project adds up to an unnecessary colossal waste and possible environmental catastrophe.

Click here to learn more about the ecological costs of the Westside project.

 Natural recovery taking place around these trees proposed for extraction in the Westside project. Photos courtesy of Kimberly Baker.


Action Alert: Help Re-open the Klamath National Forest; Broad Closures Hurt Local Communities!

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
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Salvage LoggingAll eyes are on the Klamath National Forest as clear cut logging continues within the Westside Project area. The damaging project subsidizes the destruction of spotted owl and salmon habitat above the Klamath River and could result in the “take” of up to 103 northern spotted owls – two percent of the species entire population. The controversial project drew a record 14,000 comments in opposition and the timber sales that were so unattractive the Forest Service reduced their price to $2.50 per log truck load. To make matters worse, Klamath National Forest has issued an unconstitutional closure order.

We have two ways you can help reopen the Klamath National Forest:

1) Click here to send a message to decision-makers

2) Join a rally Friday 7/8 to expose timber welfare on public lands

KNF is shutting the public out of tens of thousands of acres of national forest under the guise of public safety. This is unacceptable. Closing controversial areas surrounding logging operations is used frequently by the Forest Service, to shield itself from scrutiny and attempt to prevent protests. On principle, closures like this one defy the values that set aside national forest land for use—our national forests were established for the enjoyment and benefit of the people; closing them to benefit timber interests is antithetical to that purpose. Closures have a real impact on the rural, river-dependent communities of the Klamath and all people who enjoy the area.

Land that comprises the Klamath National Forest is within Karuk Ancestral Territory, where cultural practitioners frequently gather medicine and basket weaving materials that thrive in post-fire areas, including within the closure area. Other users of the forest have been shut out of popular trail systems leading to the Marble Mountain Wilderness area, and still others are blocked from traveling the road system and collecting firewood during dry summer months. Klamath National Forest is the backyard for many and this closure impacts the ability to recreate and enjoy our public lands.

The Klamath National Forest claims that the closure is necessary to protect public health. This claim falls apart under any scrutiny. If the closure is necessary to protect public health, then why is the Klamath National Forest closing areas where logging is not set to occur? Why is the order in effect for one full year, even though logging is set to wrap up in the fall? If logging is so dangerous, why only close areas which have drawn public protests? And why issue it now, when logging began in March?

The Klamath National Forest has something to hide. Kimberly Baker of the Environmental Protection Information Center has documented failures by the Klamath National Forest to implement key mitigation measures they promised to implement to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Based on these violations, the Klamath National Forest has been put on notice that it will be sued under the Endangered Species Act.

Click here to ask Klamath National Forest to re-open the closure area.

The rally for public lands will be at Grider Creek Campground to raise awareness of industrial logging activities hidden behind locked gates on public lands. Bring a snack for our noon picnic potluck, and a poster to express your love for our public lands. This is a family-friendly public rally, all are encouraged to come.

 

WestsideRallyPoster1


Westside Update

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
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Stump of "hazard" tree in Grider Creek Campground. Photo by Rob DiPerna.

Logging is underway for the Westside Project on two separate units, Slinkard and Walker Creek. Two more units, Salt Creek and Blue Mountain, have received a high bidder, although the units have not yet been awarded. There is good news too. Most timber sale units have not received high bids. Absent new bidders, these areas may be saved from the chainsaw and will continue to provide habitat for Pacific fishers and northern spotted owls.

To pump the brakes on logging and maintain the status quo until a more in-depth hearing on the merits could be had, plaintiffs submitted a request for a temporary restraining order to stop salvage logging. On Monday, Judge Maxine Chesney denied plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order. EPIC has not given up the fight. The Klamath National Forest is too precious a resource to waste through ill-conceived timber sales. EPIC will continue to push all legal avenues to protect our wild “Klamath Knot.”

Below are some images of the post-fire landscapes that EPIC is working to protect. We will keep you up to date on further developments.


Tribe and Conservationists File Suit to Protect Wild Salmon, Rural River Communities

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
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Westside LawsuitGroups Seek Alternatives to Flawed Forest Service Salvage Plan

Happy Camp, CA – Today the Karuk Tribe, along with the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), Center for Biological Diversity, and Klamath Riverkeeper, filed suit in federal court challenging a massive post-fire logging plan in Klamath National Forest that will increase fire danger, degrade water quality, and harm at-risk salmon populations. The Tribe leads a diverse plaintiff group united by a common interest in restoring healthy relationships between people, fire, forests and fish.

ElkCreek, near Happy Camp, flows into the Klamath River

ElkCreek, near Happy Camp, flows into the Klamath River

The groups seek to protect rural communities from fire risks, restore watershed health, and provide economic opportunities for locals. The group is challenging a post-fire timber sale, the Westside Project, which fails rural river communities by implementing the same management practices that have for decades resulted in a landscape prone to dangerous fire events, degraded water quality, and contributed to declining salmon populations. The suit alleges the Klamath National Forest Plan, as approved by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, illegally increases the risk of extinction for threatened populations of coho salmon.

The Westside project would clear-cut 5,760 acres on burned forest slopes above tributaries of the Klamath River. This aggressive approach would fail to resolve long-term fire management issues and exacerbate wildfire impacts to recovering watersheds. The steep and rugged terrain contains old-growth forests and nurtures some of the most important salmon habitat on the West Coast. NOAA Fisheries is required to review Forest Service logging plans to determine if such projects will have harmful effects on ESA listed coho. In this case, NOAA Fisheries green lighted the Forest Service plan despite the obvious harm to coho spawning and rearing habitat.

“This project was ill-conceived from the start and failed to adequately take into account the input of the Karuk Tribe which has managed these forests since the beginning of time,” said Karuk Chairman Russell “Buster” Attebery. “We will not allow the Forest Service to further degrade our fisheries, water quality, or sacred sites while ignoring our call for community fire protection.”

The Tribe’s alternative proposal ensures that future fire events will be healthy for the environment and safe for local residents while providing marketable timber. The Forest Service did not analyze the Karuk Alternative because it rushed the environmental review process under the pretense of a “public emergency.”

“Unlike the massive Forest Service clear-cutting plans, the Karuk Alternative focuses on restoration,” explains George Sexton of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “It recognizes the need to restore watersheds and the natural fire regime while protecting homes and communities.”

“The Klamath River and its tributaries are strongholds for struggling salmon populations; they are also home to many rare and endemic species. Logging these steep slopes would only increase the perilous position our fisheries and wildlife are facing,” said Kimberly Baker of EPIC. “The Forest Service plan to clear-cut thousands of acres above the Klamath River disregards the reasonable Karuk Alternative and hurts at-risk salmon and river communities,” said Kerul Dyer of Klamath Riverkeeper. “A healthy Klamath River requires sensible forest restoration that addresses the needs of both fish and people, like that laid out in the Karuk plan.”

“We have a chance right now to restore healthy relationships among people, fire and forests,” said Jay Lininger, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It requires a fundamentally different approach from what the Forest Service put forward.”

The groups are challenging the illegal harm to fish and watersheds that will result from the proposed post-fire clear cutting timber sales in hopes that the federal government will change course. Initial arguments will likely be heard by the District Court in the very near future. The Western Environmental Law Center represents all of the plaintiffs and EPIC is represented by in-house counsel.

Click here to read the complaint


Stop Road Construction in an Inventoried Roadless Area!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
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Bulldozer_CAT_D6M_XL_8705Take action now: The Shasta Trinity National Forest is proposing to build a road through an inventoried roadless area to allow Sierra Pacific Industries Timber Inc. (SPI) to reach and log 80 acres of a forested private inholding! The cost of the road would be borne by the public, subsidizing the logging performed by SPI. EPIC is opposed to the road project and we need your support.

Road construction would come at an extreme environmental cost. According to a retired Forest Service employee familiar with the area, the road would be built on steep and potentially unstable slopes. Public documents state that trees up to 39 inches in diameter would be removed to bulldoze the new road. Species thought to use the area include mountain lions, fishers, ringtail cats, and martens. Nearby streams may also be affected, including wildlife, such as trout, tailed frogs, and yellow-legged frogs. Roadless areas are the largest tracts of intact wild lands outside of wilderness areas and they provide landscape habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Road construction through public land is unnecessary. The parcel in question is not landlocked; SPI can access the parcel through its own lands, however it does not want to spend the money if the Feds would do it for them. Further, SPI routinely utilizes helicopter logging for other areas where it would be too difficult or costly to put in a logging road.

This road is unwarranted and comes at too great of an ecological cost. Tell Forest Supervisor Myers that you don’t support roads for private logging in roadless areas!


Westside Project Update

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
By
Westside

Russian Wilderness post 2014 Whites Fire Near north Fork Salmon River.

For the past year, we have discussed the proposed “Westside Project” on the Klamath National Forest. The Westside Project is an environmental disaster, proposing huge clearcuts across thousands of post-fire acres of the Klamath National Forest. The project would drastically impact northern spotted owls and would harm other wildlife, such as bald eagles and the Pacific fisher. You can read more about the Westside Project here.

Four major steps need to be made before logging could begin in earnest. First, the Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service need to complete their “consultation,” a process required by the Endangered Species Act, given the high magnitude of threats to the northern spotted owl. Second, the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to complete their consultation, also required by the Endangered Species Act, because of the potential harm to threatened coho. Third, after consultation is completed, we expect the Klamath National Forest to issue a decision on the project. Lastly, after it releases a decision, then the Forest Service can apply to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board for a “waiver of waste discharge requirements”—a permit to pollute, to (overly) simplify. EPIC is engaging with all of these ongoing processes to provide the necessary critical oversight. Given the timeline with these steps, we do not expect the Forest Service to be able to log until early spring.

While most of the major activity will not be able to occur this winter, the Forest Service could complete other logging activities in the vicinity, including some major “hazard tree” removal on the Sawyers road between Whites Gulch and Robinson Flat, a roughly two mile stretch. This stretch of road is within the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River corridor. In about 95 acres, the Forest Service estimates it would remove approximately 1,400 trees greater than 14” diameter at breast height. Smaller trees will be felled and not removed. The Klamath National Forest indicated that this road presents an immediate safety risk for the surrounding communities.

EPIC will continue to bring you updates on the Westside Project as they unfold.

 


Action Alert: Don’t let Congress Silence You and Clear-cut Millions of Acres of our Forests

Friday, December 4th, 2015
By

Willits Rein in Caltrans Slide

TAKE ACTION NOW:  Tell Congress to pass a clean fire suppression funding bill—No anti-environment riders!

Some in Congress are trying, once again, to take way our voice in decisions that affect our lives. The National Environmental Policy Act is the foundational law that gives every citizen the right to be involved in decisions that affect our environment and to stop illegal activities. But some in Congress are chipping away at that law and those rights. Backroom deals are taking place in Congress right now to allow the US Forest Service to log millions of acres of our public forests with little to no public input.

The US House of Representatives passed a very bad bill this year, HR 2647, ironically called the “Resilient Federal Forest Act.” The bill has nothing to do with making forests more resilient. This is a typical trick of the anti-conservation politicians. Those pushing HR 2647 want to use fires as an excuse to clear-cut millions of acres of our National Forests that have experienced fire and to silence critical voices. Let’s be clear: this legislation will not help with better fire management and prevention—the bill is about massive clear-cuts, and taking away our public voice.

Knowing that their extreme anti-environmental rhetoric is toxic, Big Timber is pushing politicians to sneak their bad bill in as a rider to a bill to fix the fire funding chaos. Tell Congress, “No Bad Logging Riders!” Pass a clean bill or no bill.

At the same time, there is strong bipartisan support in Congress and by citizens to fix the chaotic way we fund firefighting. It is clear that we need to find a more sustainable solution to ballooning fire suppression costs, which often far exceed the amount appropriated to the Forest Service for fire suppression. This in turn forces the Forest Service to pull money from other departments, such as recreation and forest health—a process known as “fire borrowing.”

You can stop these bad riders. The action has moved to the back rooms of the US Senate now and your Senators can help stop this.

Click here to take action now!

Or contact your Representatives in Congress directly:

Senator Diane Feinstein

Northern California (San Francisco) Office: (415) 393-0707

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3841

Email: https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me

 

Senator Barbara Boxer

California District Office (Oakland): (510) 286-8537

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 224-3553

Email: https://www.boxer.senate.gov/contact/shareyourviews.html

Twitter: @SenatorBoxer

 

Congressman Huffman (California 2nd District )

District Office (Eureka): (707) 407-3585

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-5161

Email: https://huffman.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepHuffman

 

Congressman LaMalfa (California 1st District)

District Office (Redding): (530) 223-5898

Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-3076

Email: https://lamalfa.house.gov/contact/email-me

Twitter: @RepLaMalfa


Coastal Marten Takes Important First Step Toward California Endangered Species Act Protection

Friday, December 4th, 2015
By

Humboldt Marten at Bait StationIn response to a petition from two conservation groups, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended protection for the coastal marten under the California Endangered Species Act. Formerly known as the Humboldt marten, the coastal marten is a cat-sized carnivore found in the old-growth forests of Northern California and southern Oregon. The California Fish and Game Commission will vote in February on whether to accept Thursday’s recommendation by the department to make the marten a “candidate” for state protection. More than 90 percent of the marten’s forest habitat has been decimated by logging; there are probably fewer than 100 martens left in California.

“We are encouraged that the department has recommended candidacy for the marten,” said Rob DiPerna, a wildlife advocate with the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Both the perilously small population size and the magnitude of threats to the marten clearly point to the conclusion that candidacy is warranted.”

“This is great news for coastal martens,” said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Once the commission accepts the petition early next year, these amazing animals will finally start to get protections that are decades overdue.”

The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the state to protect the marten in June. Under the California Endangered Species Act, it is the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s role to make recommendations on any petition, but ultimately, it is up to the five-member Fish and Game Commission to act on the recommendation and formally accept a petition. Once the petition is accepted by the commission, coastal martens will begin to receive important protections the California Endangered Species Act affords, such as a prohibition on the killing or harming of these beautiful creatures.

The historic range of the marten extends from Sonoma County in coastal California north through the coastal mountains of Oregon. Once thought extinct, the marten was rediscovered on the Six Rivers National Forest in 1996. Since that time researchers have continued to detect martens in California, but also determined that coastal martens declined substantially between 2001 and 2008 and have not rebounded.

Since 1977, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has defended Northwest California’s forests and wildlife, including the rare and incredibly adorable Humboldt marten.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Click here to view press release.


Exposed: Post-fire Logging Harms Endangered Owl

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
By
ScottHarding-KlamathNF-SHP_9598

Mixed-severity fire, like that shown, provides functional habitat for northern spotted owls. Photo credit, Scott Harding.

Private landowners, in particular Fruit Growers Supply Company, recently cut thousands of acres of northern spotted owl habitat, likely killing or harming the protected owl in violation of both federal and state law. And they got away with it. Here’s the story of how a timber company likely violated the law and how no one caught it.

Spotted owls utilize post-fire landscapes, including those that burn at high-severity—that is the conclusion of numerous recent scientific papers. High-severity areas, marked by significant numbers of dead or dying trees, provide excellent foraging grounds for spotted owls. The surge of dead wood and new shrub growth forms ideal habitat for wood rats, deer mice, and other spotted owl prey. The standing dead trees, or snags, provide branches for owls to roost while scanning for dinner. And because fires generally burn in a mixed severity pattern, with high-intensity burns close to areas that fire barely touched, there are often nearby trees for the owls to roost. This is informally known as the “bedroom/kitchen” model of habitat usage.

This finding, that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests, is somewhat new. It also runs counter to generalized statements about spotted owl habitat, which has generally been associated with complex mature forests. The Forest Practice Act was certainly written before this was well recognized.

While most logging in California is accomplished through a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), substantial logging can evade the environmental review provided by a THP. Under an “emergency notice,” a timberland owner can clearcut an unlimited number of acres by declaring an “emergency”—a broad loophole, which includes almost all conditions that render a tree “damaged, dead or dying.”

In 2014, the Beaver Fire burned some 32,496 acres, including 13,400 acres of private timberlands in Siskiyou County, much of which is owned by Fruit Growers. Based on the available information, between 2014 and 2015, Fruit Growers filed 32 emergency notices with CALFIRE totaling 8,644 acres. Other nearby landowners similarly filed emergency notices totaling 1,166 acres.

From surveys conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, we know that individual owls were harmed in violation of federal law by Fruit Growers. After the fires but before most logging had begun, a curious male northern spotted owl, identified as KL0283, responded to the hoot of an owl surveyor; he had survived the fire and was living amongst the dead trees. KL0283 was proof that spotted owls utilize post-fire forests.

Sadly, the Forest Service reports later surveys attempting to locate KL0283 after logging failed to yield any positive survey results. The Forest Service notes that logging reduced the owl’s habitat far below minimum acceptable levels, and given the lack of nearby habitat, it was unlikely that he had moved to somewhere better. KL0283 is likely dead, killed by the impacts of logging.

On a facial level, Fruit Growers followed the law—they filed emergency notices telling CALFIRE that they were planning on logging and logged pursuant to those notices. However, upon investigation, it appears that Fruit Growers harmed northern spotted owls in violation of both federal and state law. How was Fruit Growers able to log spotted owl habitat without detection for so long? Turns out, it was pretty easy.

First, it is unclear whether Fruit Growers knew it was violating the law. In each emergency notice, it wrote, “Due to the severity and intensity of stand replacing fire, [the] area can no longer be considered Suitable NSO Habitat.” As explained above, this is a common misunderstanding. By regarding all burned forest as non-habitat, it provided Fruit Growers an easy way to avoid having to evaluate and state the potential impacts to spotted owls.

Second, CALFIRE dropped the ball. It is CALFIRE’s job to evaluate emergency notices and reject any notice which may cause more than a minimal environmental impact. CALFIRE obviously failed at this.

Third, it is unclear whether anyone else was paying attention. It does not appear that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviews emergency notices—the Department only recently was able to hire sufficient staff to even review ordinary THPs, let alone emergency notices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged under federal law with the protection of the owl, does not review California timber harvest implementation. EPIC, I freely admit, failed to put the pieces together until too late.

But never again. EPIC is on a mission, spurred by the likely death of KL0283, to reform post-fire logging on private land in California. For more on the environmental impacts of post-fire logging, please visit wildcalifornia.org.


Push for More Logging Under the Northwest Forest Plan

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
By

Bugaboo_Creek_Clearcut. wikimediacommonsOur federal forests, including those governed by the Northwest Forest Plan, are directed to be managed for “multiple uses,” such as recreation, wildlife habitat, and timber production.

In the late 1980s, before the Northwest Forest Plan, loggers were pulling 4.5 billion board feet of timber out of federal forests within the range of the forthcoming Plan. This amount was unsustainable, however, and was achieved largely through the liquidation logging of old-growth forests. The Northwest Forest Plan, adopted by the Clinton Administration in 1994, was largely a response to this excess and the ecological harm it inflicted on protected species like the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet.

Before the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted, the Forest Service predicted that around one billion board feet of timber could be removed per year under the Plan. This amount, known as the “probable sale quantity” or PSQ, was merely an estimate; it was not a maximum amount which could be removed, nor was it a minimum that must be met, nor was it even a goal of the Plan. Many noted, including Jack Ward Thomas, the future Chief of the Forest Service, that because of the measures to protect wildlife, this billion board foot PSQ was overly ambitious and would not likely be met. (Indeed, the current PSQ was reduced to a 805 million board feet.) Some viewed the PSQ estimate as a political maneuvering—a deliberately ambitious number set to appease the timber industry. The timber industry, however, viewed the PSQ as a promise.

The annual PSQ estimates have rarely been met. There are a variety of causes. First, Congress has not appropriated enough money to the Service to plan projects that could meet the PSQ. Second, as Jack Ward Thomas predicted, the billion board foot PSQ was likely an overestimate. Third, attempts by Big Timber to weaken or remove habitat protect—which were, as confirmed by the judiciary, illegal—stalled normal timber operations resulting in several years of way-below average logging. Fourth, market forces, including the Great Recession and stagnant timber prices, removed demand for federal timber. Fifth, weird math by the Forest Service—for example, that timber removed from the reserve network doesn’t count towards the PSQ—also contributes to low official numbers. Despite all this, the timber industry continues to view the PSQ as a promise.

Big Timber is on the offensive. In the upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revision, the timber industry wants to remove important protective land designations and buffers around salmon bearing streams to open up more land for harvesting. This, they claim, is necessary to fulfill the billion board foot “promise.” They have some powerful friends in Washington D.C. too. In upcoming Northwest Forest Plan revisions, the conversation is already being framed by decision-makers that weakening the Plan is a necessity. That’s wrong. The Plan is just barely enough. The northern spotted owl continues to decline. Murrelets are nearly extirpated from Washington State. Instead of gutting the Northwest Forest Plan, the conversation must turn to what more must we do to ensure to protect our public lands. EPIC has joined forces with conservation groups across the West Coast to fight off Big Timber and their allies in the upcoming revisions.


State of the Redwoods – Remembering the Past, Envisioning the Future

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
By

RNP RDWhat did Jedediah Smith think when he came here as the first-known European-American to explore the majestic coastal redwood forest, back in 1828? Did he know, or care about the Pandora’s Box that he’d opened by leading European settlers into this remote region? When Smith first arrived in Northern California, an estimated two million acres of native old-growth coast redwood forest spanned from Big Sur to the Oregon border, and these were certainly no ordinary forests. The coastal redwood forest is home to the tallest living organisms on earth, reaching over 300 feet tall at their peak. These giant trees live an average of 500-700 years-of-age, and some have been documented to live in excess of 2,000-years-old. These massive trees can grow as large as 25 feet in diameter or more, sequestering huge masses of carbon, while, at the same time, providing essential habitat for innumerable species of plants, animals, birds, lichens, and others species.

The coastal redwood forests are considered part of the larger temperate rainforest system that once blanketed the coast of the Pacific Northwest states. However, European exploration, combined with the gold rush of the 1850’s, ushered in the era of old-growth logging in the redwoods that continues to this day. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, an estimated ten percent of the original forest remained. Today, approximately five percent of the original old-growth temperate coastal redwood forests remain. About 23 percent of the original range of the redwoods is preserved in parks and reserves, while a whopping 77 percent of the redwood region land base is still privately owned and managed. In Humboldt County today, the two largest timberland owners, Green Diamond Resource Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, own a combined 600,000-acres of forestland, much of which constitutes the original range of the coast redwood forest.

After a century-and-a-half of logging, road-building, and urban and agricultural development, the original coast redwoods are a shadow of their former selves. Of the five percent or so that remains of the original forest, the largest chunks are preserved in Big Basin State Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the Redwood National and State Parks system. Much of what remains in the Redwood National and State Parks system is fragmented and disjointed.

On private lands, the largest remaining patches of old-growth redwood forest are found on the former Pacific Lumber Company lands, now owned and managed by Humboldt Redwood Company, most of which are “set-aside” and protected from logging for a period of 50 years as a result of the 1999 Headwaters Forest Agreement. However, these “set-asides” are not protected into perpetuity.

Following the signing of the Headwaters Forest Agreement in 1999, the commonly-heard narrative was that the redwoods had, at long last been “saved.” However, this is much more myth than fact. Logging, agricultural and urban development, human recreation, and of course, climate change, all remain as stressor on the redwood ecosystem.

The advent of global as well as localized climate change now poses a significant threat to the survival of the coastal redwood forest, and the people, plants and animals that depend upon them. The signs of localized climate change are readily apparent. Fog levels on the north coast have decreased by as much as one-third since the early 20th century, while temperatures continue to rise, and rainfall declines in the face of California’s unprecedented drought. A recent study published by the global research journal Global Change Biology notes that increasing temperatures will likely significantly alter the climate in the southern extent of the redwood region in the coming decades, putting the survival of the redwoods in those regions at-risk. In the northern part of the redwood range, research conducted by Dr. Steve Sillett suggests that old-growth redwoods are currently growing at an unprecedented rate, likely as a result of decreased fog and increased sunlight. However, research on the fate of large, old trees on a global level suggests that climate change, particularly the effects of drought and disease, are an increasing threat to these ancient ecosystems.

The redwoods region’s temperate rainforest is globally significant for its biodiversity, as well as for its potential capacity to resist, adapt to, and become resilient to, the progress of climate change. Here in Humboldt County, we occupy the northern extents of the redwood range, where the opportunities for restoration and connectivity for the redwoods remain strongest.

In 2013, EPIC, along with the Geos Institute and others sponsored and participated in the very first Redwood Climate Symposium, which brought together stakeholders and land managers to discuss possible strategies for steeling the redwood region against the progress of climate change. Symposium participants from diverse backgrounds identified four primary strategies to increasing the resilience of redwood ecosystems in the face of climate change. These included:

  1. restoring old-growth characteristics that protect stands from many stressors;
  2. improving connectivity among intact redwood forest patches throughout the range of redwoods;
  3. reducing stressors that exacerbate the impacts of climate change, such as roads, fragmentation, development, and fire exclusion; and
  4. coordinating management across the redwood range, and across land ownership, allowing for conservation and/or restoration of climate change refuges and areas of connectivity.

These four strategies form the basis of a collective way forward for managing the redwoods into the future, and form the basis of EPIC’s Connecting Wild Places Campaign in the region, which largely focuses on existing parks and reserves, as well as privately-held forestlands with significant ecological, connective, and restorative value.

The coastal redwood forest of Northern California has been here for some 20 million years. If it is to persist into the future, a new holistic approach to ecosystem restoration and preservation must take hold. EPIC is dedicated to working towards this more holistic future for the benefit of the forest, the species that depend upon it, and for humanity itself.


Fire as an Excuse for Logging

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
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Wet Weather Logging in Klamath National Forest October 2014

Wet weather “salvage” logging in Klamath National Forest 2014

Fire is a difficult subject because it defies easy or generalized characterizations. Fire is powerful and scary. That statement probably rings true to most folks. Fire is also natural. And for the most part, fire is good for our forests and wildlife—fire helps clear debris on the forest floor, encourage new growth, produces important habitat elements like snags (standing dead trees), and helps accelerate the development of old-growth characteristics (like deformed branches and cavities) in younger forests. That fire is natural and more often than not good for forest health is something most people don’t know (and that the mainstream media has no interest in discussing).

The timber industry has long used the specter of fire as an excuse to log. The language used regarding fire is deliberately chosen to reinforce their clearcut agenda.   (The science to justify this claim, coincidentally, is largely funded by the timber industry.) To justify logging post-fire, Big Timber says it needs to “salvage” the standing dead trees or else it will go to “waste.”

In California, the way fire is managed depends on who owns the underlying lands. On private lands, timber companies have wide discretion and very little oversight when managing their lands either for fire prevention or for post-fire logging. (Both activities, to varying degrees, are exempt from the requirement to prepare a Timber Harvest Plan.) On federal lands, however, Big Timber is bound by federal law which has traditionally placed greater restrictions on timber harvests, both for undisturbed green trees and for post-fire forests.

Big Timber wants to capitalize on logging our national forests (for, among other reasons, logging on federal lands is heavily subsidized). To do so, Big Timber has its eyes set of weakening federal environmental laws, particularly the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal land managers to consider the environmental impact of a project before acting.

The timber industry’s logic—that a tree is nothing more than a pile of fuel—has found champions in federal legislators. In 2002, following a string of large fires in a drought year, the Bush Administration, at the behest of Big Timber, passed the “Healthy Forest Restoration Act.” The Act, which has been mocked as the “Leave No Tree Behind Act,” weakened environmental laws for “fuels reduction” projects by, among other things, limiting the public’s right to comment and object to projects and limiting and in some cases removing environmental impact analysis.

Big Timber is at it again. In response to this summer’s fires and the lingering anti-fire sentiment, House Republicans are pushing to pass a new law which will weaken or remove environmental laws. H.R. 2647 or the “Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015,” would, among other things:

  • Shift money devoted to environmental restoration to logging.
  • Categorically exempt many destructive activities—including pre- and post-fire logging up to 15,000 acres—from environmental impact analysis.
  • Fast-track projects to bypass public participation.
  • Increase the road network on our national forests and make road decommissioning more difficult.
  • Require environmental groups to post bonds before litigating projects.

It is not clear whether H.R. 2647 will pass the Senate or if its authors will attempt to sneak it into another “must-pass” bill. What is certain is that Big Timber and its friends in Congress will continue to use fire as a vehicle to get the cut out, whether in this Congressional session or the next.

Where does this end? With an educated public. So when someone tells you that fire is a problem and that “active management” is the solution, call them on it! Or when a friend repeats a line about how environmental groups are standing in the way of healthy forests, politely correct them. Together, some conversations over coffee or in the comment section on Facebook, we can change the narrative that the mainstream media and Big Timber is trying to sell us.