Posts by Tom Wheeler

Update on Last Chance Grade: Winter 2021

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
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“Last Chance Grade” is a stretch of Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously above the Pacific Ocean. Built on an active landslide, the road has steadily slipped towards the Pacific Ocean. Most recently, landslides have resulted in the temporary closure of the road and significant delays as Caltrans works day and night to safely repair damages and to keep the road safe. This pattern–of regular landslides and land closures, patched together with stop-gap fixes–is far from ideal. Instead of extending this period into perpetuity, Caltrans wants to figure out a more permanent solution. EPIC goes over the current options.


How Can We Roll Back The Trump Rollbacks?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
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How can we roll back the Trump-era rollbacks of environmental laws? The last six months of the Trump Administration kept EPIC busy. As his poll numbers dipped and his reelection appeared more distant, the administration moved into rush mode to get through a large suite of environmental rollbacks: severe reductions in the amount of “Critical Habitat” designated for northern spotted owls; changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, our bedrock environmental law that demands review of foreseeable environmental impacts; and delisting the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act.


EPIC Fights Back Against Cuts to Owl Critical Habitat

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
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EPIC is on the move to protect the spotted owl from political malfeasance and Big Timber greed.

On January 15, in a parting gift to the timber Industry, the Trump Administration cut over 3.4 million acres of Critical Habitat for the northern spotted owl—some 42% of the amount designated in 2012 to ensure the owl’s survival—including thousands of acres in California. The cut was all the more staggering given that just a month before, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged that the owl was under immediate threat of extinction, warranting a change in its designation from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.


EPIC Continues Full-Court Press Defense of Richardson Grove

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021
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EPIC is happy to announce that it has filed a motion for a rehearing en banc concerning the December Ninth Circuit ruling, overturning our previous victory in federal court. In basketball, a full-court press is an aggressive defense, where the defensive side applies pressure along the entire length of the court. It is an apt analogy for EPIC’s defense of the sacred old-growth redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park.


Santa’s Naughty and Nice List Sneak Peek: Environment Issue 2020

Thursday, December 24th, 2020
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We here at EPIC are close with Kris Kringle. (He is an environmentalist after all, using reindeer to power his sleigh instead of fossil fuels.) We are so close that EPIC has an exclusive sneak preview at his naughty and nice list. To those on the nice list, we are incredibly grateful to all of those that work hard to protect our habitat, Earth. Thank you for your generosity, kindness, and inspiration this year. We look forward to a brighter future ahead. 


Take Action For Richardson Grove!

Monday, December 14th, 2020
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We need your support at the Board of Supervisors weekly Zoom meeting on the morning of Tuesday, December 15th. Staff have provided the Board with an alternative statement expressing community opposition to the Richardson Grove Project and highlighting that the county takes no formal position on the project. This is BIG! Please let the Supervisors know that you support the alternative statement!


Are Toxic Tires Killing Salmon?

Monday, December 14th, 2020
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A new study published in the journal Science may help explain why California’s coho salmon runs continue to decline. The study examined “urban runoff mortality syndrome,” a disconcerting phenomenon where stormwater runoff produces large mortality events. EPIC’s podcast, the EcoNews Report, recently featured Warner Chabot from the San Francisco Estuary Institute to discuss the report. Read more and listen to the podcast in this article.


Richardson Grove: A Setback But Not A Loss

Thursday, December 10th, 2020
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A setback but not a loss. That’s what I told my board and staff after we received news on Wednesday that the Ninth Circuit reversed our lower court victory. Don’t worry. Bulldozers are not set to start ripping into the roots of old-growth redwoods…yet. But this setback should inspire us to work harder to stop the project, something that will demand concentrated grassroots advocacy and political action. In other words, we need you.


Giving Tuesday 2020: Giving Back & Moving Forward

Monday, November 30th, 2020
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We all have a choice in how we spend our hard-earned money; during this season of thanks and generosity, please give to your local nonprofit organizations because you value and benefit from their mission, and because you believe in humanity’s ability to positively impact the world. As the Executive Director of EPIC, I’d be thrilled if you donated to support our work. But I’d be happy if you gave to any local organization that shared your beliefs. The point is to give—be generous, be larger than yourself.


11th-Hour Attacks On NEPA

Thursday, November 19th, 2020
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We are witnessing the last gasps of the Trump administration–the frantic rush to get bad projects and harmful new regulations approved before their time ends on January 20. The Trump administration is rushing to issue oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Also in Alaska, the Trump administration appears ready to issue a permit for the controversial “Pebble Mine.” Today gives us another: new rules by the Forest Service for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).


The 2020 Election: Environmental Implications

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020
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Although votes are still being counted, it appears that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be our next President and Vice-President. It is likely that they will serve over a divided government, with the Republican Party likely to retain control of the Senate and the Democratic Party will to maintain a majority in the House of Representatives. (Note, it is possible that the Democratic Party could win both run-off elections in Georgia, effectively giving them control of the Senate too.) This swing of power has major implications for federal environmental law and application. 


Will Justice Barrett Kill the Modern Administrative State?

Monday, October 26th, 2020
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While concerns about the access to reproductive care and the fate of the Affordable Care Act dominate the national conversation about the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is concerned: What are her views on Chevron deference? If you have no idea what that is or what it means, don’t worry, you are not alone. Environmentalism relies on the modern administrative state—the alphabet soup of agencies that interpret and apply statutes passed by Congress. That administrative state, the fundamental basis of modern government, is under threat by attempts to chip away at the power of the administrative state to regulate.


Green Diamond: Climate Change “Skeptic”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
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Our planet is getting hotter. Climate change likely exacerbated this year’s fires, lengthening the fire season—it is now drier and warmer for longer—and by causing more extreme weather that helps to drive the large, fast-moving fires often to blame for the loss of life and property. Climate change is felt elsewhere locally. All of this is obvious. Except apparently to Green Diamond Resource Company, whose clearcuts pockmark the North Coast. In every timber harvest plan (THP) submitted for approval to CALFIRE, Green Diamond begins the discussion of the impacts of harvest on climate change by questioning whether climate change is real.


Contrasting Federal Legislation Shows How (and How Not) to Deal with Fire

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020
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California federal legislators have offered dueling bills to respond to the recent large fires that have gripped the West. In one corner stands Senator Dianne Feinstein and her bill S. 4431; in the other are Sen. Kalama Harris and the Northcoast’s own Rep. Huffman, who have brought forward S. 2882 and its House companion, H.R. 5091. To be clear who we are rooting for: EPIC has joined our friends at Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, The League of Conservation Voters, The Wilderness Society, and Western Environmental Law Center in opposing Senate Bill 4431.


Fire Facts and Fictions

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020
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There have been plenty of frustrating headlines that attribute one thing for this year’s fire behavior. Predictably, the main culprit changes by the story. In some, fuel accumulation from a lack of logging is to blame. In others, the history of colonization that has removed traditional cultural burning is at fault. The truth is that there are many, many variables that influence fire behavior. We humans have better control over some (like whether homes are to be constructed out of fire-resistant materials than others (like the weather). Be careful of oversimplification!


BREAKING: EPIC Win For Mendocino National Forest at the Ninth Circuit!

Monday, August 3rd, 2020
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In a major victory, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with EPIC in a case impacting the Mendocino National Forest. The court found that the Forest Service’s use of a “categorical exclusion” to avoid an environmental impact assessment for a timber sale following the 2018 Ranch Fire was likely a violation of the law and that EPIC should have been awarded an injunction by the lower court to stop logging.


EPIC on the Radio!

Monday, July 20th, 2020
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Want to keep up with the latest environmental news from the Northcoast? Tune in live to KHUM (104.7 fm Eureka) at 10am on Saturday, KZZH (96.7 fm Eureka) at 11am, or KFUG (101.1 fm Crescent City) and find us on KMUD every second Tuesday. You can also subscribe to the EcoNews Report on your favorite podcast app!


Proposed Caltrans Roadwork Places Old-Growth Redwood At Risk

Monday, July 20th, 2020
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The HUM-36 Three Bridges Project would rebuild two bridges and widen a third bridge along Highway 36 in Humboldt County to provide better bridge rails and wider shoulders on the bridge. Because of impacts to old-growth redwoods, EPIC urges Caltrans to modify the project slightly: to the “Two Bridges Project,” not three. One bridge in particular, a proposed rebuild of a bridge over Hely Creek at Van Duzen County Park, would impact a half-acre of forest, including the removal of an old-growth redwood that measures six feet in diameter, the removal of several other large trees, and impacts to the root systems and pruning of other old-growth redwoods.


Large New Housing Project Proposed for McKay Forest

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
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A large new residential housing development is being proposed for the outskirts of Eureka, cutting into the McKay forest in Cutten. The project proposes 320 new residential units, in a mix of single- and multi-family developments, together with 22,000 square feet of commercial space incorporated into the development across 81 acres of now-forested lands. The project would require rezoning and subdivision, bringing the project before the Planning Commission.


Opening Brief Filed in Case to Save Humboldt Marten

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
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EPIC Challenges Take Permit Issued to Green Diamond. In late May, EPIC submitted an opening brief in the case to overturn a permit that threatens California’s last remaining Humboldt martens. With fewer than 200 likely in the state, the marten is teetering on the edge of extinction. Necessary to the long-term survival of the species is to connect the largest population of martens, found on Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County, to prime habitat in the Redwood National and State Parks complex to the southwest.