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New Humboldt Marten Zip-Up Sweatshirts: Purchase Today!

Monday, April 5th, 2021
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For reference, Tom is wearing a size Medium zip-up.

Happy April to all!  We now have the beautiful Humboldt marten design in ZIP-UP sweatshirts! Very warm and cozy for the unpredictable Humboldt spring weather. This design celebrates listing the Humboldt marten as threatened on the endangered species list with an incredible Humboldt marten woodblock design by amazing artist Fiona Bearclaw.

We are currently in stock with Smalls, Mediums, and Larges. However, please be aware when ordering that they run on the larger side, more of a “Men’s Size” and thus, the small is more like a medium Women’s. They were printed by local company Fatbol Clothing and they are extraordinarily soft!

We are also back in stock with Small tank-tops, with a slightly darker color and design. Order today here! All proceeds go to our work protecting critters like the marten and their habitats.

Buy Now!

 

 

 


Join Us For An Earth Day Ivy Pull On April 15th!

Friday, April 2nd, 2021
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The Event: Help celebrate Earth Day 2021 by helping to free the trees from invasive English ivy!  In partnership with No Ivy League, we’ll remove invasive ivy from the ground and trees along the junction of Stagecoach Road and Anderson Road in Trinidad, CA. English ivy climbs the native trees and eventually causes them to die, removing important coastal erosion buffers. By removing the ivy, we will help to maintain the diverse coastal forests that we know and love.

When: Thursday, April 15th, from 1:00-4:00 PM

What to bring: Please wear sturdy boots, and bring gloves, water, a mask, a snack, and either clippers or other ivy removal weapons of choice. Loppers are only useful on occasion, and we will have a couple of those on site. Folding pruning saws are handy on holly trunks. Bright tape or spray paint on your tools can help to locate them if dropped in heavily infested areas. Some people like to sit directly on the ground, so they bring a cushion, mat, or 5-gallon bucket to sit on near a stump or tree.

Where to meet: Meet near the junction of Stagecoach Road and Anderson Road. Park to the south of the Anderson Road intersection. Either side has areas of wide shoulders. We will enter the forest at the gate on the west side, where a wide path goes into the forest.

We will loop through some areas where ivy was removed several years ago, and have been vigilant keeping the re-sprouting to a minimum since then. The areas selected for treatment are reasonably clear of downed branches/trunks and thorny berry stalks, and are gently sloping. There should be plenty of room to “distance” between the two areas. Keep in mind that the closest public restrooms are either at the Trinidad State Beach picnic area near town, or in town between the tennis court and City Hall.

All ages welcome, masks required.  Dress for the weather!

Due to ongoing Covid-19 health and safety concerns, we would greatly appreciate your registration to be able to plan accordingly. 

Register Today!


EPIC Submits Comments on Destructive Logging in Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Monday, March 29th, 2021
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EPIC has been working to change the way CAL FIRE manages Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). Recently, we asked you to help comment on the Mitchell Creek Timber Harvest Plan, which will negatively impact important areas of JDSF. At the same time, we’ve been hard at work drafting our own comments, which you can read in full here.

The Mitchell Creek THP is located adjacent to the Jug Handle State State Natural Reserve. A unique area of the Mendocino Coast which offers visitors the chance to hike through half a million years of ecological history. The THP area also contains habitat for ESA two listed species, the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. Originally, CAL FIRE had tried to hide the fact that there was marbled murrelet habitat, and it’s only because of a dogged inspection by CDFW that the public knows that it exists. 

As our comments explain, this THP has been written in a way that violates CEQA and will negatively impact the environment. For instance, after CDFW discovered that there was marbled murrelet habitat in the plan area, they requested that CAL FIRE consult with them about how to avoid damaging that habitat through timber operations. CAL FIRE agreed to do so, but the consultation won’t occur until after the THP has already been approved. That means the public won’t have a chance to comment on these protection measures or to understand the full extent of damage to marbled murrelet habitat envisioned in this THP.

And that isn’t the only time the THP punts on actually considering the environmental damage caused by timber operations. Northern spotted owl surveys won’t be fully completed until after approval and neither will a botanical survey for rare species of plants. The THP has also failed to adequately consider impacts to water quality from watercourse crossings and impacts to recreation from trail closures. Moreover, the THPs are imprecise, inconsistent and have failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of these projects. EPIC believes that if CAL FIRE, a public agency, wants to log our public lands they should have to comply with California’s laws. If CAL FIRE does not halt their plans to conduct these poorly considered logging operations, EPIC is prepared to use every tool in our quiver to stop them.

In order to accomplish this, we’ve partnered with local and national environmental organizations like the Mendocino Trail Stewards, Jug Handle Creek Farm & Nature Center, Mendocino Coast Audubon Society, Forests Forever Foundation, and Center for Biological Diversity. We are also working with the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, the original stewards of the forest now called JDSF, to ensure that our advocacy is respectful of their connection to this land. Together, we are all committed to changing the way CAL FIRE manages JDSF for the better. That means focusing on wildlife conservation, carbons sequestration, and recreation, not logging. We’ll be sure to keep you updated about our fight to preserve JDSF and let you know if there are more ways you can help.


Your Comments Needed To Rescind Trump Rollbacks of Spotted Owl Critical Habitat!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021
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Take action! The northern spotted owl needs your help. At the close of the Trump  Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service slashed more than 3.4 million acres of Critical Habitat in a last minute gift to the timber industry. The Biden Administration is formally reconsidering the Trump-era withdrawal of over 3.4 million acres of northern spotted owl Critical Habitat.

The Biden Administration still needs to hear from YOU that protecting northern spotted owl habitat is a priority.

Comments are due March 31st. Pre-filled comments available at form below. Comment today!

Take Action Now!

 


BREAKING: EPIC & Allies Challenge Northern Spotted Owl Critical Habitat Ruling In Court! 

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021
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Northern Spotted Owl Pair. Photo Credit: USFWS

Legal Action Seeks to Reverse Trump Administration’s Dismantling of Environmental Protections for Northwest’s Disappearing Old-Growth Forests

EPIC and conservation groups in the Pacific Northwest filed a legal challenge to reinstate federal protections on more than 3.4 million acres of federal old-growth forests, which are essential for the survival of the threatened northern spotted owl. The lawsuit asks the court to reject a rule issued in the last days of the Trump administration that eliminated one-third of the critical habitat protections for the species. The nonprofit law firms Earthjustice and Western Environmental Law Center represent Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society in the lawsuit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Fish and Wildlife) protected the northern spotted owl, a bird found only in the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. In 2012, approximately 9.6 million acres of habitat necessary for the owl’s survival and recovery were protected on federally managed public lands in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

“Protecting habitat is the most important thing we can do for the owl,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland Conservation director. “If northern spotted owls are going to survive and recover, we must get all the habitat protections back in place.”

The drastic slashing of critical habitat protections came as a surprise, as an earlier proposed rule suggested eliminating protections for only 200,000 acres. The final rule also came despite the Fish and Wildlife’s science-based conclusion in December that northern spotted owl populations deserved to be protected as endangered due to continued habitat loss. The old-growth forests that support spotted owl populations also have an important role to play in the global climate crisis, as they absorb and store more carbon. As a result, scientists consider old-growth forests to be a part of the solution to reduce the impacts of climate change. 

“By cutting Critical Habitat, Trump not only hurt the northern spotted owl but the multitude of species that depend on these same rare and threatened old-growth forests,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at EPIC. “Protecting the owl also means protections for the wide diversity of life—from salamanders to flying squirrels—that call our Western forests home.”

“It defies logic, not to mention spotted owl biology, to eliminate 3.4 million acres of protected habitat for this charismatic species,” said Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center staff attorney.  “Owls are so imperiled that endangered status is appropriate, and yet the agency stripped the owl of essential habitat protections. That’s nonsensical.”

Earlier this month, the Biden administration extended the date at which the rule slashing habitat protections would go into effect and asked for further public comment on the millions of acres of owl habitat that would be opened for logging. In addition to spotted owl recovery, preserving old-growth forests, which serve as buffers against climate change, could help the Biden administration to achieve overarching national climate goals while supporting the Nationally Determined Contributions under the  Paris Agreement.

“The Trump administration looted the palace on its way out the door,” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice staff attorney. “The Biden administration is taking the right steps to fix the mess it was handed, and we want to ensure it continues to do so.”

“This habitat rollback, like so many Trump assaults on the environment, was inaccurate, sloppy and illegal,” said Ryan Shannon, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our goal is to make sure the owl retains all the habitat protections it scientifically needs to recover.”

“The Trump administration eliminated protection for millions of acres of spotted owl habitat in areas that are essential for the recovery of the species,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “For instance, scientists have said that the spotted owls cannot survive on the National Forest alone. Low-elevation Bureau of Land Management forests serve as vital stepping stones of suitable habitat for spotted owls moving between large blocks of habitat in the Cascades and the Coast Range.”

See the full Press Release here.

See the full complaint here. 


Action Alert: Help Stop Destructive Post-Fire Logging Project In Shasta-Trinity Nat’l Forest!

Monday, March 22nd, 2021
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The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has proposed extensive post-fire logging under the guise of restoration within the August Complex Wildfire area. The August Phase 1 project includes over 3,500 acres of logging around the town of Forest Glen and east of South Fork Mountain within the Wild and Scenic South Fork Trinity River corridor and its tributaries of Collins, Rattlesnake, Smoky and Prospect Creeks and the East Fork South Fork Trinity River. The stated purpose of the project is for public safety along 33 miles of roads and other infrastructure, expedited restoration, and economics. Let the Shasta-Trinity National Forest know that logging after a fire harms water quality, wildlife and wild places. Real restoration allows for natural recovery. Take action today to support an ecologically sound alternative.

The public scoping notice claims that post-fire logging increases carbon sequestration. On the contrary, post-fire logging has negative implications for climate change. When a live tree burns in a wildfire, most of the carbon is not released into the atmosphere. In fact, roughly 95% of the carbon remains in the burned snag. As they naturally decompose and decay, much of the carbon is returned to the soil where it provides nutrients to plants as they re-grow the forest. However, when trees are removed, that carbon is erased from the ecosystem and the already depleted soil is left without the nutrients it needs to replenish and regenerate. Logging, trucking, milling and manufacturing also greatly contribute to carbon emissions.

Snags in a Post-Fire Landscape.

The August Fire Phase 1 project, which runs directly to the rivers edge in some places and throughout multiple stream systems, would negatively impact the National Wild & Scenic South Fork Trinity River. The river is designated as “wild” because of its outstanding fisheries and it is legendary for its chinook salmon and steelhead trout fishing by drift boat or walk-in riverside spots. Both of these species are threatened. Logging fire-affected forests is well known to cause sedimentation, which directly harms juvenile salmon and diminishes their aquatic habitat. The South Fork Trinity River is listed as 303(d) sediment impaired under the Clean Water Act. Additional sedimentation would further harm these fish populations and water quality.

The Shasta-Trinity August Complex Phase 1 planners want to hear from the public about what alternatives to consider in the environmental assessment. Let them know you support natural recovery and an alternative limited to imminent hazard trees on main roads and infrastructure.

Close of business on March 26th is the deadline to submit comments.

Click the button below for an effortless form to submit yours today!

Take Action!


EPIC Uncovers Mendocino Redwood Company Violations That Endanger Northern Spotted Owls

Monday, March 22nd, 2021
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Northern spotted owl. Photo from Pixabay.

The Northern Spotted Owl (“NSO”) is an iconic species of the forest defense movement. And because of decades of activism and laws like the Endangered Species Act, timber companies are required to follow certain practices designed to protect the owl. But what happens when a private timber company decides to ignore those rules and CAL FIRE looks the other way? EPIC is there to call them out and make sure the law is followed. 

When a private timber company in California wants to conduct logging in NSO territory, the Forest Practice Rules require them to explain to CAL FIRE what measures they are taking to avoid harming or “taking” northern spotted owls. Helpfully, the USFWS has prepared a document colloquially called “Attachment A” which details the best practices for private timber companies to follow in order to avoid take of northern spotted owls. These practices involve not logging around known NSO nesting and roosting locations, conducting numerous surveys, and leaving enough habitat for NSO to nest and forage in after timber operations conclude. The guidance isn’t perfect, but it gives timber operators rules to follow and does help preserve NSO habitat that otherwise would be logged. Under the Forest Practice Rules, private timber companies are allowed to let CAL FIRE know that they are following Attachment A and then proceed with their timber operations.

Northern spotted owl flies in front of a tree marked for logging. Photo by Scott Carpenter.

However, the Mendocino Redwood Company has decided to invent their own rules. You see, Attachment A requires timber operators to map “activity centers,” areas of concentrated NSO activity, and protect those areas. Typically, this is a nesting area where northern spotted owls spend considerable time during breeding season. The thing is though, northern spotted owls don’t stay in one place their whole lives. In fact, they have been well documented to rotate between different nest sites and use different ones in different years. Researchers have even documented one NSO breeding pair using five different nest sites over the course of a decade. That’s why Attachment A makes clear that “[m]ultiple activity centers for an NSO home range are possible.” And that “[i]f one core use area does not encompass all known activity centers (current and historical), then multiple core use areas will need to be mapped and protected to avoid the likelihood of incidental take.” That way, loggers don’t harvest near nest sites that are only temporarily not in use or that have been reoccupied since they last conducted their surveys.

But the Mendocino Redwood Company thinks they know better than the scientists who wrote Attachment A. They have proposed their own alternative practice that protects only the most recent location known to be occupied by NSO. This direct violation of Attachment A has the potential to result in take of NSO because it allows MRC to log in areas that NSO may have returned to nest in. This practice will also cause cumulative negative impacts on NSO habitat. Northern spotted owls do not build their own nests. Instead, they rely on naturally occurring nest sites like tree snags or other raptor’s abandoned nests. Imagine if every time an owl leaves a nest site (with the intention to return in future years) timber harvesters harvest the tree the nest site is in or the area around that tree. Eventually, there won’t be any high quality nest sites left for NSO to use. That means that this practice could seriously reduce the capacity for NSO on Mendocino Redwood Company’s lands to breed and raise young in the future.

Unfortunately, CAL FIRE has decided to look the other way regarding this practice. This is despite the fact that they are the agency responsible for ensuring timber harvest plans have adequate NSO protections. EPIC recently submitted comments outlining why this practice is both illegal and harmful to NSO (read the comments here). And we are hopeful that, now that they’ve been caught, Mendocino Redwood Company and CAL FIRE will cease this troublesome practice.


Take Action For The Mendocino National Forest: Stop Extensive Post-Fire Logging

Thursday, March 11th, 2021
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Roadside logging on the Mendocino National Forest after the 2018 Ranch Fire, note the skid trails constructed to facilitate logging running parallel, above and below, the main road. Photo by Kimberly Baker.

The Mendocino National Forest has proposed extensive logging, up to 4,500 acres, within the August Complex Wildfire area. The Plaskett-Keller project is within the Black Butte and Cold Creek Wild & Scenic River watershed. Scientists who’ve studied the environmental harms of post-fire logging have determined that the negative effects are far-reaching and long lasting. Let the Mendocino National Forest know that these burned stands deserve a chance to recover naturally and that logging them to make a quick buck for timber corporations is unacceptable.

Take action today by writing to the Forest Supervisor and District Ranger to let them know that you support an ecologically sound alternative.

Fire is a completely natural and rejuvenating element of California’s forests. Many species rely on recently burned areas. Certain plants can only germinate when their seeds are exposed to high temperatures caused by wildfires. In addition, several animals are uniquely adapted to forage in areas affected by fire. For example, snags, large dead trees often killed by fire, are a necessary forest element for the northern spotted owl. Post-fire logging has been shown to accelerate the colonization of invasive species and disturbs this unique opportunity for native plants and animals to take advantage of complex forest habitat.

The project could negatively impact the Black Butte and Cold Creek Wild & Scenic National Rivers. These rivers were designated as “wild” in 2006 because of their outstanding fisheries, prevalence of Native American cultural sites and unique geological characteristics. The rivers also serve as critical habitat for steelhead trout. Post-fire logging is well known to cause sedimentation, which directly harms juvenile salmon and aquatic habitat. The proposed post-fire logging runs up to the edge of these rivers in some places and would likely harm water quality.

Take Action Now!

Post-fire logging also has negative implications for climate change. When a live tree burns in a wildfire, most of the carbon is not released into the atmosphere. In fact, roughly 95% of the carbon remains in the burned snag. As that snag naturally decomposes and decays, the carbon is returned to the soil where it can provide nutrients to plant species as they re-grow the forest. But, when snags are removed, that carbon is erased from the ecosystem and the already depleted soil is left without the nutrients it needs to replenish and regenerate. Logging, trucking, milling and manufacturing also greatly contribute to carbon emissions.

“Restoration” of dozer line created during the August Complex. Photo credit: Inciweb.org

EPIC understands that some campground and roadside hazard tree removal is valid in order to travel safely in forested areas. However, as currently proposed, the majority of this project is designed to capture the monetary value of these trees. The timber industry and agencies call this “salvage logging” but nothing is being saved except timber company profits, at the expense to taxpayers, water quality, wildlife and wild places.

The Plaskett-Keller project is currently in its scoping period. The Mendocino National Forest wants to hear from the public about what impacts and alternatives it should consider when preparing the environmental assessment. Let them know you support an alternative limited to imminent hazard tree removal on main roads and campgrounds, avoiding all of the negative impacts of post-fire logging and allowing forest stands to naturally recover. March 17th is the deadline to submit comments. Submit your public comment today!


Action Alert: Support The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation Repatriate Unceded Land

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
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The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation needs your support today! After 160 years of colonization, approximately 1,600 acres of their traditional cultural property has been listed for sale by the long-standing settler family. Due to decades of destructive commercial agricultural use and unpermitted development of ungranted tidelands and navigable waterways, the property owners have been issued a slew of egregious violations from the California Coastal Commission, California State Water Resources Board, National Marine Fisheries Service and California State Lands Commission.

The property, which is now known as Reservation Ranch, is a Traditional Cultural Property of the Tolowa Dee-ni’. It is the heart of the original 40,000 acre Smith River Indian Reservation. Located along the wild and scenic Smith River in northern California, this property also lies in the heart of the Smith River Estuary and provides crucial habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, including Roosevelt Elk, waterfowl and Coho Salmon, an endangered species.

Check out their incredible story map for the full history and story of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation’s relationship with this land here, Selling Stolen Land: Unceded Territory of Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.

 The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation needs your help to return this unceded property back to their rightful ownership and to work towards the long overdue environmental and tribal justice this land and watershed deserves. Please sign their petition today and share with your community to get the word out! Shu’ shaa nin-la (thank you in Tolowa Dee-ni’).


Update on Last Chance Grade: Winter 2021

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
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The Redwood Highway, also known as Highway 101, is the main north-south arterial connection for North Coast residents and visitors alike. “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. 

Figuring out that permanent solution is tricky. Last Chance Grade is surrounded on either side by Redwood National and State Park land, including a magisterial stand of old-growth redwoods. Further to the east are industrial timberlands owned by Green Diamond Resource Company, although a bypass through this area would necessitate crossing back through those old-growth redwoods. Through all areas are steep slopes and an extremely erosive soil prone to sliding. 

The recent closures have caused many of you to write to EPIC to ask about the various alternatives, timelines, and our feelings on the project’s progression. 

A Review of Alternatives Currently Under Consideration

Caltrans began its analysis by examining 11 potential alternatives. Today, Caltrans is down to seven alternatives, cleverly named X, L, F, A1, A2, G1, G2. Below are longer descriptions of each. EPIC anticipates that Caltrans will further reduce the range of alternatives under consideration before the first formal opportunity for public comment, as lengthy consideration of each alternative adds time and money to the project. In deciding what alternatives to further evaluate, and ultimately which alternative to pursue, Caltrans will likely need to balance a range of considerations, most particularly: cost (of construction and of mitigating impacts to the environment), environmental impacts, the risk of future short-term and long-term failures, and challenges to construction. In our review of the existing alternatives, two stand out: X and F. Based on our current information, we hope that either of these alternatives becomes the “preferred” alternative.

Alternative X

Alternative X would be a full rebuild of 1.1 miles of highway, but unlike the other alternatives, this alternative would maintain the current alignment as much as possible. Caltrans believes that current sliding is a product of too much water in the soil, which promotes landsliding. X would rebuild the road, including digging back and armoring the slope in areas, as dewatering the route through wells and pumps to promote greater soil stability. Because this alternative would more-or-less stay in its current alignment, the ground disturbance impacts from the project are the least significant, with 10 acres of coastal shrub likely affected. The pricetag is also among the least expensive, at $300 million, and a relatively quick construction timeline at 3.5 years to complete. The downside? Caltrans is still figuring out if this alternative is technically feasible or if it would result in a significant enough improvement over the existing road to justify its construction. So far, however, Caltrans is optimistic that this will be viable. Dewatering as a form of slope stabilization has been successfully pursued in other areas of California. 

Alternative F

Alternative F is a BIG tunnel dug beneath the active landslide, a feat of engineering that Caltrans feels very confident is doable. As a tunnel, it would avoid most above-ground environmental impacts except for the tunnel mouth openings, which would result in some loss of mature/old-growth trees. Once built, this alternative would have a very low risk of future closures and the cost to maintain would be low. The downside? Cost. A large tunnel through Last Chance Grade won’t come cheap, likely topping one billion dollars. 

Alternative L

Alternative L would push the road higher up the coast-facing ridge, with the idea that by moving up in elevation, the road could sit above or atop the slide area. EPIC was initially excited about Alternative L because it appeared that it could largely stay out of mature forested areas. However, further development of this alternative has found that impacts would likely be larger than initially anticipated. Caltrans is also unsure of the potential future performance of this alternative. Both are significant knocks on this alternative and we would not be surprised or disappointed if it was removed for further study.

Alternative G2, includes Coastal scrub/grassland /spruce: 22 acres, Riparian: 1 acre, Clear cut: 3 acres, Young Redwood Forest: 28 acres, Mature Redwood Forest: 3 acres, Old Growth Redwood Forest: 3 acres

Alternatives A1, A2, G1 & G2

These four alternatives are all permutations on the same general theme. Each bypass the slide area by going east–the A alternatives making a broad S-shaped curve and G barreling up and over the coastal ridge. Once east, the road would reconnect with Highway 101 in one of two ways, either through a short tunnel (A1 and G1) or through a causeway through an old-growth redwood forest. All four alternatives share certain things in common: all would require significant earthwork and all would impact old-growth forests and natural resources, although the A alternatives generally perform better than the G alternatives in both respects.

Admittedly, these alternatives have made EPIC nervous in the past. The old-growth stand where both the tunnel and causeway would reconnect with Highway 101 are superlative and surprisingly wild, given their location near the highway, with evidence of marbled murrelet, bears, and elk. (See EPIC’s groundtruthing of A2 from 2018 here.)

Like Alternative L, EPIC would not be surprised or disappointed if these alternatives were removed for further study. The cost, both in time and money, to further study these alternatives is likely unnecessary, given that X and F appear to outperform these alternatives in nearly every metric conceivable.

Project Timeline

Caltrans anticipates that a new alternative will not open until 2039. 18 years is a long time. Avoiding impactful and controversial alternatives is one way that Caltrans can both cut time from the project and reduce the likelihood of litigation that can stop or slow a future project. By reducing the range of alternatives to remove more-impactful alternatives, Caltrans can save on timely and costly studies. (The more impactful of an alternative, the more studies are demanded to document the likely impacts and ways to mitigate these impacts.) The risk of litigation is likely related to the choice of alternatives as well, with more impactful alternatives increasing the odds that some group or some individual attempts to delay or kill the project in court. 

Thankfully, Caltrans has taken the right steps to eliminate some early impactful alternatives and to engage major stakeholders, including EPIC. Through engagement with nearby landowners, Caltrans has been able to more expeditiously receive permission to do geotechnical analysis to determine alternative feasibility. Stakeholder engagement also works to relieve tension among groups with potentially competing interests and by early consideration of issues raised by stakeholders that may have otherwise escaped attention. In this, we can see a “new” Caltrans emerging. EPIC can only imagine that if a similar stakeholder engagement had occurred for Richardson Grove or any other court-bound project, that it might have been possible to avoid a protracted fight.


More California Wolves!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021
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OR-85 (right) and traveling companion in California. Photo credit Scott Summer.

California may have a new wolf pack this spring! In November of 2020 a young male, approximately 1.5 years old, entered the golden state. OR-85, born into the Mt. Emily Pack, traveled all the way from far northeastern Oregon. After being here for just one month, trail cameras and tracks indicated that the young wolf was traveling with a companion. The gender of the second wolf is uncertain but given their nature, it is entirely possible that we could see pups in April.

OR-93 in June 2020 captured and fitted with GPS collar. Photo credit: Austin Smith, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Another male yearling, OR-93, entered the state in January this year. In just two short months, after a brief return to Oregon, this young traveler has covered over 350 miles looking for a mate. OR-93 was born into the White River Pack and was fitted with a collar last summer. He has found his way south, through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, all the way down past Lake Tahoe.

OR-93 is the 16th gray wolf known to have dispersed into the state in the last decade. The disappearance and death of many wolves in the region attests to the fact that survival is extremely difficult. There is still reason to trust that this keystone species will recover. Since 2017, the Lassen Pack has sired twenty-two offspring. It is only a matter of time until more packs are established throughout the millions of acres of suitable habitat in their native territory of California.

 

 

 


Grading Biden’s First 28 Days in Office

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
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President Biden has a lot on his plate. And the flurry of executive actions, legislative horse trading, and agency rulemaking coming out of Washington makes it hard to keep track of what is happening. So, we here at EPIC decided to look back at the first 28 days of Biden’s presidency and discuss what we like and don’t like about the environmental actions taken by our new president.

First up, President Biden kept his campaign promise to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. With that move, the United States joined the 194 other countries that have signed the agreement. While EPIC applauds President Biden’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, it’s important to remember that this is merely a first step. The Paris Agreement is a pledge to try to reduce a country’s GHG emissions but a pledge without followthrough is worth very little. Biden pledged during his campaign to make a $2 trillion dollar clean energy investment and it’s that kind of action that will actually move us towards a safer future for our planet.

Speaking of which, another early action President Biden has taken on climate change was his federal oil and gas leasing moratorium. On January 27th, President Biden issued an order that mandates a “pause” on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands, both onshore and offshore, “to the extent consistent with applicable law,” while a comprehensive review of oil and gas permitting and leasing is conducted. This action directly led to the cancelation of proposed new offshore oil drilling in Alaska which would have had long lasting environmental consequences. Biden’s moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing is welcome but is by no means a panacea. All pre-existing leases on federal lands will still continue to produce fossil fuels and federal lands only account for a fraction of our nation’s oil and gas production. Two other executive actions taken by President Biden, the cancelling of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the phasing out of some fossil fuel subsidies, are similarly aimed at preventing the United States’ carbon footprint from growing larger. While such actions are necessary if we are going to eventually transition to a clean energy economy and avoid the disastrous effects of climate change, they will not get us there on their own.

Not all of President Biden’s actions have been focused on fossil fuels. Late in the Trump administration, the Forest Service opened up 9.3 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to road construction, timber harvests, and mining. On February 1st, the Biden Department of Agriculture (which oversees the Forest Service) released a memorandum ordering that any environmentally destructive activities in roadless areas such as road building, timber harvesting and mining will be subject to special review. The order effectively overturned Trump’s rule and will protect the Tongass National Forest. Along these lines, Biden also set a goal of conserving 30% of the United States’ lands and waters by 2030. That target, sometimes called “30 by 30” by the conservation community, is endorsed by scientists who argue that reaching it is necessary to fight climate change and the extinction crisis.

Like the 30 by 30 conservation goal, many of President Biden’s actions won’t materialize for some time. Biden has also announced the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps that will create jobs and training opportunities designed to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate. The initiative is based on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps which is responsible for much of the outdoor recreation infrastructure we all rely on today. The original Civilian Conservation Corps put approximately three million jobless Americans to work during the height of the great depression planting trees, fighting fires, and building trails. The new CCC is envisioned to be a more inclusive and climate focused entity than the original that will tackle environmental justice concerns as well as traditional conservation goals. This new formulation is emblematic of Biden’s pledge to meaningfully consider the needs of both environmental justice communities as well as communities currently dependent on extractive industries while taking steps to address the climate crisis. We here at EPIC believe that this approach is morally necessary and creates the best chance for these programs to succeed.

All in all, it’s safe to say that President Biden is off to a strong start working to protect the environment and climate. There is, of course, a lot more work to do. But, hey, he’s only had 28 days in office.


Remembering Jene McCovey

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
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Last week we lost a pillar in our community. Jene McCovey was an unwavering activist for indigenous rights, environmental protection, and social justice issues. Despite her physical confinement to a wheelchair, she always made it to rallies, protests and community events to advocate for important causes. Her activism began in her early twenties, and it never stopped. She helped secure protections for native communities that were being sprayed by logging companies with toxic herbicides, she participated in the Save the Redwoods campaign, advocated for protection of Dillon Creek where sacred sites were at risk of logging, she fought for Klamath Dam Removal, protested radioactive contamination from nuclear waste, spoke out against Navy sonar testing and showed up to speak at public meetings for countless other issues that would impact the places we live and love.

“I grew up in Hoopa. I’m a Yurok Tribal member from the Klamath River; I’m Chetco from the Chetco River, Tolowa from the Smith River, and Chilula from Redwood Creek. I’m thankful to have left Creator to come here to be who I am at this time. As human beings we choose how to walk back to Creator. In my young life, I choose to walk for five of my relatives who aren’t here. Two of them were small babies who failed to thrive due to exposure of aerial spraying of herbicides 2,4,5-T and Agent Orange, and three of my cousins spontaneously aborted their babies from exposure to the herbicides. They would have been the same age as my daughter Daisy Etta, who is 42 years old,” said Jene in a 2018 interview.

Jene was a mentor and ally to many. She traveled near and far to share her prayers and wisdom on behalf of the four legged ones, the two legged ones, the finned ones, and the one legged ones (trees). Jene has trained with the Smithsonian Institute, Traditional Circle of Native American Youth and Elders, she has presented at the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing China 1995, and she has given workshops on indigenous and environmental issues ranging from pesticides, water quality, the Klamath dams and indigenous hunting and fishing rights. In 2014, Jene was honored by the Women’s Intercultural Network with the Circle of Courage Award that was presented by Representative Nancy Pelosi “for being a mover and shaker”. And in 2018, she was honored with EPIC’s Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award, for her life-long dedication to environmental activism.

Wherever there was a threat, Jene was right there in the forefront, supporting, speaking, and representing people, places, and wildlife to make our community, and the world a better, more conscientious place. We are grateful for the time we shared with Jene and know her legacy will live on through the inspiration that she gave to all of us who she touched with her words, compassion, and tenacity.

 


How Can We Roll Back The Trump Rollbacks?

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
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Climate March photo by Edward Kimmel

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 (more on EPIC’s efforts to overturn that here); changes to the National Environmental Policy Act, our bedrock environmental law that demands review of foreseeable environmental impacts (which EPIC is litigating); and delisting the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (which we are also litigating!).

These 11th hour changes will outlive the Trump administration, although thankfully, there are numerous ways that Congress and President Joe Biden can undo the damage. Here are three ways how.

1. New Executive Orders or Rulemaking

The Trump Administration was notoriously bad at actually passing legislation. Rather, it relied on executive orders and regulations to do the dirty work. Overturning an executive order is easy: the Biden Administration can just issue a new executive order. This work is thankfully already done.

To overturn a regulation takes more work and time. All changes to regulations, either to pass, amend, or reverse, have to be completed pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (except through two exceptions discussed below). The Act requires, among other things, that draft changes to our regulations must be published in the Federal Register and that the public be offered an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes, and that the government respond generally to the comments received. Passing regulations takes time, up to years to complete. Additionally, changes through the Administrative Procedure Act are subject to legal challenge. Any substantial change will be challenged by pro-extraction, anti-environmental interest groups who benefited from the old Trump regulation. (As EPIC is challenging a number of Trump-era rules.)

Undoing any Trump-era regulation through this route will take time and is subject to litigation. For those reviews, two ways that largely avoid the process and procedure of the Administrative Procedure Act have drawn particular interest.

2. Congressional Review Act 

The Congressional Review Act is a 1996 law that provides that Congress can review and overturn recently-passed regulations issued by the Executive Branch. Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 legislative days, not calendar days, to review regulations after they are finalized. If both chambers of Congress vote by simple majority to overturn, the regulation is repealed and the Executive Branch cannot pass a substantially similar regulation in the future.

Prior to the Trump Administration, the Congressional Review Act was only successfully invoked once in 2001 concerning a regulation from the Department of Labor concerning ergonomics. Congress and the Trump Administration, however, found it a useful cudgel to invalidate 14 Obama-era regulations shortly after taking power, including axing a regulation from the Bureau of Land Management rule for land use planning for BLM lands and a rule intended to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Congress can and should use the same process to roll back Trump’s last minute rollbacks.

3. Invalidate Regulations through Litigation

Regulations are subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, and one core component of that law is that laws cannot be arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. As discussed before, substantial new regulatory changes are routinely challenged. Most Trump-era rules have already been challenged in court and those that haven’t, like the northern spotted owl critical habitat rule, will be challenged once procedural obstacles have been overcome.

A new Biden administration can also invalidate regulations by settling ongoing or future litigation. If the new administration does not believe that there are substantial legal grounds to defend the regulation or if it thinks that it might lose in court, the administration can settle legal efforts against it and invalidate the operational effect of that legislation (if such a settlement is approved by the court). Typically, this will not sweep the regulation from the books, but through settlement, the government will no longer enforce the rule but will engage in a new rulemaking effort to replace or amend the rule.

Conservative legal scholars panned such settlements during the Obama administration as “sue-and-settle” litigation, where it was alleged that environmental groups were in cahoots with the administration to force sweeping regulatory changes through litigation, bypassing the Administrative Procedure Act. (If only!) And during the Trump Administration, this opposition to settlements affecting regulations was mysteriously quiet. Expect to hear complaints again emerge if the Biden administration recognizes the illegality of any of the past administration’s rulemaking efforts.


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 is excited to announce that three actions, occurring simultaneously, will likely mean that this reduction in Critical Habitat is only temporary and will be reversed before any long-term damage can be wrought.

First, EPIC is sharpening our pencils for new litigation. On January 19, we sent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a “Notice of Intent to Sue” letter, a required step prior to filing any lawsuit alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act. Consistent with its last minute publication, the new Critical Habitat reduction is sloppy, relies on the wrong legal standards, and contradicts decades of previous Service guidance. Additionally, EPIC has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for all documents concerning this decision. We hope that we do not need to slug it out in court. Based on the clear legal violations inherent in the rule, we believe that there are sufficient grounds to allow the Biden Administration to invalidate the rule through a settlement.

Second, the Biden Administration has indicated it is performing a comprehensive review of regulations passed by the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration can undo the damage of the new Critical Habitat rule through beginning a new rulemaking to reverse the rule. Given the increasingly perilous outlook for the northern spotted owl, more protections are necessary to ensure the owl’s stabilization and recovery. We trust that Interior Secretary nominee Deb Haaland will give this rule, and others passed during the Trump era, a critical review.

Third, the new Critical Habitat cuts have attracted the attention of Congress. Congressman Jared Huffman, who represents the North Coast of California, together with Senate and House colleagues from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, have requested a formal investigation into the decision. In their February 2nd letter to the Inspector General of the Interior Department, the Congressional delegation wrote:

The USFWS decision appears to fit a larger pattern of malfeasance by the Trump

administration’s political leadership at the Department of Interior. In less than two brief years under David Bernhardt’s leadership, the Department has been mired in one ethical scandal after another. Bernhardt and his loyalists have demonstrated a willingness to insert themselves into the scientific process in order to achieve preferred policy outcomes, withhold information from the public, and even mislead Congress.

While the Biden administration has taken actions to mitigate the effects of this rule, we ask that you quickly review this decision and to determine whether USFWS contradicted or ignored scientific recommendations made by career staff.

Ultimately, the large bite at the Critical Habitat designation by the Trump Administration is likely to be its undoing. With multiple investigations and complaints forthcoming, the shoddy legal work will crumble. Had the agency attempted a more nuanced and narrow cutback of the owl’s habitat, it may have succeeded in crafting a more legally defensible decision. But, of course, hubris and not nuance was Trump’s modus operandi.


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. At every opportunity, at every court and at every decision, EPIC has pressed Caltrans. For 14 years, this defense has held.

A petition for an “en banc” rehearing is a request for a larger panel of judges at the Ninth Circuit to review the previous decision. If granted, 11 judges will consider our case and will examine the past decision at the Ninth Circuit for error. We believe that such error exists and that it meaningfully affected the court’s decision. You can read our petition here.

Whether or not our petition for a rehearing is granted, there are substantial impediments to Caltrans’s completion of the project. Caltrans still has to complete another round of public comment to allow people the opportunity to comment on significant new information and EPIC still has other federal claims to pursue in federal court.

Thank you for your support of the defense of Richardson Grove.


ACTION ALERT: Tell CAL FIRE Not to Log 90 Year Old Forest Adjacent to Mendocino Woodlands

Monday, February 1st, 2021
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Last month, EPIC asked our members to tell CAL FIRE not to proceed with the Mitchell Creek Timber Harvest Plan (THP) or any THPs in the heavily used western portion of Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Despite hundreds of you writing in to tell them not to, CAL FIRE has decided to move forward with a nearby THP that could be even more destructive. CAL FIRE needs to know that we are watching them and that these plans are opposed. Take action today!

The Mendocino Woodlands Outdoor Center was constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. It’s purpose was and remains to “enable the children of the state to better comprehend the outdoors, particularly the social and economic importance of the study, conservation, protection, and utilization of natural resources.” Today, Mendocino Woodlands has over 10,000 attendees each summer. Groups of children and adults use the space to connect with nature and learn about the importance of California’s Coastal Redwood forests.

CAL FIRE has proposed the Little North Fork Big River THP for the area immediately to the East of the Woodlands. During timber operations, “campers in the Mendocino Woodlands Outdoor Center will experience the acoustic effects of logging including falling trees, chainsaws and yarder whistles.” The timber operations will also shut down many of the trails leading out of the Woodlands into the surrounding forest. Popular trails like the “Eagle’s Roost Trail”, the “Marsh Creek Trail”, and the “Big Tree Trail” will be closed for months at a time. Originally, CAL FIRE tried to claim that their logging would have no visual or recreational impacts after the operations were completed. But, when it was pointed out to them by the Department of Parks and Recreations that this was impossible, CAL FIRE amended their position. Now, CAL FIRE claims that “[n]ewly constructed roads and evidence of other timber harvesting activities will be directly adjacent or overlap trails within the the planned harvest area… but are not expected to create a cumulative visual impact.”

The THP area was last harvested 90 years ago and since then has developed into a healthy, second growth forest. CAL FIRE claims that this is a young forest that needs thinning but research has shown that second growth coastal redwood forests develop better without human intervention. The reason is that even single-tree selection logging carries with it a host of associated impacts that negate any benefit conferred by thinning. For example, the THP calls for 3.5 miles of new roads. These new roads will contribute to sedimentation of the Little North Fork Big River and disrupt wildlife. The THP will also disturb 484 acres of high quality northern spotted owl nesting and roosting habitat. Because the area has not been harvested in 90 years, the THP area is one of the best places for Northern Spotted Owls left in JDSF. CAL FIRE claims they are conducting this Timber Harvest Plan to promote the development of late seral forest habitat, but is it worth it to harm northern spotted owls when they could just let nature regenerate on its own?

CAL FIRE just moved this THP into “second review” which means the deadline to submit public comments on this project is fast approaching. Let CAL FIRE know that this 90 year old second-growth forest that is beloved by campers and hikers should be allowed to naturally regenerate without human intervention!

Take Action


EPIC Celebrates Black History Month

Monday, February 1st, 2021
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We here at EPIC would like to wish all of our members a happy Black History Month. The past year has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us, but has been especially challenging for Black communities. The police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless other Black Americans sparked the largest protests against police brutality in American history. Despite this, calls for substantive police reform have gone largely unanswered. At the same time, in terms of both health and economic impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately targeted Black Americans. While there are many reasons for this disparity, we would like to take this opportunity to talk about one in particular: Environmental Racism.

When he first used the term in 1982, Benjamin Chavis defined Environmental Racism as “racial discrimination in environmental policy making, the enforcement of regulations and laws, the deliberate targeting of communities of color for toxic waste facilities, the official sanctioning of the life-threatening presence of poisons and pollutants in our communities, and the history of excluding people of color from leadership of the ecology movements.” Almost 40 years later, environmental racism continues to affect Black communities. Today, Black Americans are still considerably more likely to live in neighborhoods that are exposed to heightened levels of air and lead pollution. In fact, race is the single biggest factor that determines whether a person lives near a hazardous waste facility. And decades of research have confirmed that the reasons for this are exactly the reasons Chavis outlined. Environmental laws and regulations do not protect Black and Brown communities to the same extent they protect White ones. And because exposure to pollution is highly correlated with COVID-19 mortality, environmental racism has effectively supercharged the COVID-19 pandemic for Black communities.

To help combat environmental racism, EPIC encourages all of its members to be Intersectional Environmentalists. Leah Thomas, who coined the term ‘Intersectional Environmentalism,’ defines it as “a more inclusive version of environmentalism that identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected.” Intersectional environmentalism “brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality.” It’s hypocritical to preach the interconnectedness of nature and humanity while turning a blind eye to racial and economic injustice. In other words, if you advocate for endangered species, she says, you should also advocate for endangered black lives.

Leah is just the latest in a long line of Black Environmentalists who have been frustrated by White Environmentalists’ failure to consider the intersection of race with environmentalism. Back in 1982, Chavis listed as one of the causes of environmental racism the “history of excluding people of color from leadership of the ecology movements.” And, unfortunately, there hasn’t been that much progress making the leaders of the environmental movement more diverse. As long as that is the case, the environmental movement will be hamstrung by the fact that millions of people don’t see themselves in the movement. This is particularly galling because Americans of Color self-report being more concerned about climate change than White Americans do. Inclusive climate justice activist Mikaela Loach argues that to address this issue allies should “step up, so Black folks have the time and energy to invest in creating climate solutions” instead of using their energy to “explain [our] existence to other people” in predominantly white environmentalist spaces.

The truth is, we cannot solve the massive environmental crises facing us today without the input of all communities. So, any environmentalism that excludes people based on race, gender, religion, or any other characteristic is self-defeating. Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist who focuses on climate justice, puts it this way:

“I simply don’t see how we win at addressing the climate crisis without elevating Black, and Indigenous, and Latinx, and Asian leaders. Because it is not merely a technical challenge we are facing. It’s not just about solar panels and electric cars. This is about how we implement solutions, how we replicate and scale them; it’s about communities and governments and corporations changing the way they do things–solving the climate crisis is about everything. So we need to find ways that everyone can be a part of this transformation.”

 

Donate:

Black Humboldt

Earthseed Laboratories

Planting Justice

National Bail Out

Eureka NAACP

Intersectional Environmentalist 

Educate:

Books on Environmental Justice and Black Environmentalism:

A Terrible Thing to Waste by Harriet A. Washington

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman

What is Critical Environmental Justice? by David Naguib Pellow

The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies by Tiffany Lethabo King

Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color by Robert Bulldard

The Rise of the American Conservation Movement: Power, Privilege, and Environmental Protection by Dorcetta Taylor


Correcting the Record on Richardson Grove

Monday, February 1st, 2021
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EPIC and allies have been fighting to protect the old-growth redwood trees of Richardson Grove from Caltrans’s proposed highway widening project for over a decade. But 10 years ago, when we first filed our lawsuit against Caltrans, we made a harmful mistake. Based on factual errors in a State Parks brochure, our original lawsuit described the Indigenous inhabitants of Richardson Grove as being “Wailaki Native Americans”. That information was incorrect. We made a second mistake by failing to amend our complaint when this error was brought to our attention by the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, an Indigenous land conservation organization comprised of 10 federally recognized Tribes whose members are of Sinkyone, Wailaki, Lassik, Yuki, Cahto, Coast Yuki, Pomo, and other Tribal ancestries. At that time, the Sinkyone Council requested that EPIC take action to correct the error, but we failed to act upon their request. We wish to correct the record. The entirety of Richardson Grove State Park is located within the ancestral Tribal territory of the Sinkyone People. Wailaki Tribal territory is located to the east of the park.

By filing a lawsuit that incorrectly identified the Indigenous People’s territory within which the Grove is located, EPIC participated in Indigenous erasure. Indigenous erasure can take many forms in the United States. Here, Indigenous erasure occurred when EPIC failed to confirm whose ancestral territory Richardson Grove State Park is a part of. By misidentifying the territory of the Sinkyone as being that of the Wailaki, EPIC also contributed to prevalent myths that Indigenous Peoples are all alike or are no longer around to collaborate with, and that their geographic territories are indistinct or of no consequence. Far too often, environmentalists ignore or merely pay lip service to the original inhabitants of the places they are trying to protect when we should be working with and supporting them. We need to transform our antiquated views and interactions with Indigenous Peoples into meaningful and effective collaborations built on recognition of Tribes’ longstanding relationships with ecosystems in their traditional territories, and the crucial role Tribes can take in defending and protecting nature.

Because we cannot now amend our original complaint, we seek to publicly acknowledge our error and correct the record to the Sinkyone Council and to our members. We also take this opportunity to share with our community what we have learned about the original inhabitants and guardians of this special place: the Sinkyone People, whose descendants remain deeply connected with this beautiful, bio-culturally diverse and abundant landscape. EPIC will strive to keep learning and be increasingly mindful and respectful of the Sinkyone and their territory as we continue our fight to protect the Grove. We recognize the Grove as being not only a place the Sinkyone lived in and tended for millennia, but one which continues to hold great cultural significance for Sinkyone descendants and the Tribes of this region—an important place of prayer, ceremony and cultural lifeways. EPIC’s growing awareness of the longstanding, vital linkages between Indigenous place-based cultures and the imperiled species and ecosystems we defend has helped us better understand our responsibility to acknowledge the Grove as being within Sinkyone Territory, and to build allyship with the Sinkyone Council.

The Sinkyone People lived in a harmonious manner in the area of Richardson Grove State Park for countless generations by carefully tending their lands and waters to ensure biological diversity and abundance. Sinkyone territory encompasses the South Fork Eel River watershed, from the vicinity of Rattlesnake Creek north to the S. Fork’s confluence with the mainstem Eel, and continuing along the mainstem Eel corridor north to the current-day town of Rio Dell. Sinkyone territory extends from those portions of the S. Fork and mainstem Eel watersheds westward to the coast, between the vicinity of Mattole River south to Rockport. It extends from this stretch of shoreline westward into the Pacific Ocean to approximately 250 nautical miles from shore. The Sinkyone conducted seasonal burning of understory plants to promote ecosystem health and productivity; carefully gathered and tended a vast variety of food, material, medicinal, and other plants; breached berms at river mouths to enable salmon migration; transplanted an wide range of plant and fish species; and carried out numerous other land and water tending and guardianship duties guided by ceremonial protocol and Law of the Land. The Sinkyone People lived at permanent villages and seasonal encampments throughout their territory. Although autonomous and diverse, the many Sinkyone communities of this region shared cultural ways distinguishing them from neighboring Tribal Peoples. These include Sinkyone dialects of the Na-Dené (Athabaskan) language, their own system of spiritual beliefs and practices, distinctive styles of art and architecture, and commonly respected territorial boundaries within which Sinkyone Peoples socialized, gathered and hunted food, and conducted trade. In the mid-1800s, the Sinkyone and other Indigenous Peoples of the region were hunted down, massacred and displaced by invading whites. Their lands were forcibly taken and survivors subjected to numerous atrocities. Like many other Tribal Peoples, the surviving Sinkyone were denied a land base. Ultimately, many became members of neighboring Tribes confined to reservations throughout the region.

The Sinkyone, along with many other Indigenous Peoples, relate to Gááhs-tcho (redwood tree) as communities of sacred beings who provide protection, abundance and balance for the world. Gááhs-tcho is a special relative whom Indigenous Peoples were taught to never harm. Tribal leaders throughout the redwood region often have spoken of the duty to respect and care for Gááhs-tcho, and warned about the consequences of harming them. Sinkyone descendants and Tribes of this region continue to regard the Gááhs-tcho of Richardson Grove as sacred and as a Traditional Cultural Property. It is one of only a few remaining ancient redwood groves, a critical part of the surviving 2% old-growth redwood still standing. Tribal members visit the Grove to offer prayer and hold ceremony, gather traditional foods and medicines, and carry out cultural ways of life. For these and other reasons, the Grove is vitally important for the continuation and protection of Indigenous Sinkyone cultural heritage and lifeways.

Sinkyone and other Tribal peoples of this region are strongly opposed to the proposed highway widening project, which they say threatens the Grove and would cause irreparable harm by disrupting spiritual and cultural relationships they have maintained with the Grove for thousands of years. They assert the proposed widening threatens the wellbeing and lifeforce of the Grove’s Gááhs-tcho community, and therefore would violate Indigenous rights, religious freedoms, and traditional responsibilities related to the cultural protection and care of the Grove. EPIC is in discussion with InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council regarding Tribal issues of concern and broadening our strategy for protecting the Grove by building and wielding the strength of an allyship that honors the continuum of cultural relationships and Indigenous rights within the Grove. We believe that, together, we can stop Caltrans from initiating this destructive project, and ensure a lasting and culturally informed protection for Richardson Grove.


Action Alert: Help Stop Massive Logging and Herbicide Project in Trinity County

Monday, January 25th, 2021
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The Trinity Public Utilities District (Trinity PUD) and the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) have proposed to widen and conduct extensive logging and herbicide spraying along the electric transmission rights of way. Let them know that there is zero tolerance for the use of herbicides on public forests and there are better alternatives. Take action today.

Sparsely populated Trinity County is defined by its granite peaks, national forests, and wild and scenic rivers. These features make this an exceptional place both for wildlife and for people who enjoy the county’s natural landscapes and recreation opportunities. Anyone who has ever hiked on the Shasta Trinity National Forest or gone rafting down the Trinity River knows that this area is special because it has avoided the impacts of over-development. But that unique status is threatened by a recently proposed project.

The Trinity PUD and the WAPA recently announced that they are preparing an environmental impact statement to analyze the impacts of logging up to 3700 acres of forest primarily on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The Wildfire Risk Reduction, Reliability, and Asset Protection (WRAP) project proposes to expand the rights of way (ROWs) for these two powerline operators to a width of up to 130 feet along 235 miles of steep forestlands, with subsequent timber sale contracts to “[c]lear vegetation within the ROWs using a combination of mechanical, manual, and herbicidal control methods.” This new swath of cleared land, essentially long linear clearcuts, would not only be seen from space but also possibly from some of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s most heavily used areas, like the Canyon Creek trail, the Trinity Reservoir and along the Wild and Scenic Trinity River and the Scenic Byway of Highway 299.

The purpose of the project is to (1) reduce the risk of wildfire (2) enhance protection of the electrical lines; (3) improve reliability of delivering power; (4) improve transmission line access by road improvement; and (5) protect the health and safety of the community and surrounding biological and natural resources from transmission and distribution related wildfires. EPIC understands that powerline operators want to reduce the risk of fire. But a 130 foot wide ROW would do more harm than good. Logging and clearing such a large area of land would cause disastrous impacts to water quality, salmon, wildlife and the visual quality these rugged watersheds provide.

Research has consistently shown that habitat connectivity is one of the most important tools for conserving wildlife species. The proposed logging would create long, wide exposed spaces that many forest species cannot safely cross due to the risk of predation. In effect, the clearings will trap these species on tiny islands of suitable habitat. Once an animal is trapped on an island and separated from the rest of the population, the number of potential breeding partners diminishes significantly. This restriction can cause inbreeding which has negative impacts on wildlife populations. Without gene exchange to promote healthy populations, other conservation efforts will be insufficient to protect these species. One solution to this problem is to preserve as much connectivity as possible by keeping as much vegetation as possible. WAPA and Trinity PUD need to consider the impacts on habitat connectivity.

Logging would significantly degrade the water quality of the Trinity River. In 1992, EPA added the Trinity River to California’s 303(d) impaired water list due to elevated sedimentation. Excess sediment can be damaging to the ecological health of rivers and reduce their environmental, social and cultural values. The primary adverse impacts associated with excessive sediment in the Trinity River pertain to degradation of habitat for anadromous salmonids. Excess sediment fills streambed pools which are essential spawning, nursery, and overwintering habitat for anadromous salmonids.  Sedimentation can also affect the oxygen supply to salmonid eggs which decreases their chance of survival. The excess sediment is caused primarily by landslides and surface erosion from logging and logging roads. Since 1992, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has been monitoring and attempting to restore the water quality of the trinity river. EPIC believes that the proposed logging would seriously undermine these efforts because tree removal, especially on steep slopes, is known to cause landslides and greatly diminish soil health.

There will be fires in California’s forests no matter how wide the powerline ROWs are. This is because fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem that is only becoming more severe because of Climate Change and harmful forest management practices. For instance, last year’s August Complex Fire was started by a series of lightning strikes with no direct human source of ignition. Given this reality, EPIC believes that efforts should be focused on defending people and homes from fire. The Trinity PUD recent Wildfire Management Plan already outlines numerous adequate safety measures. Instead of this destructive and overbroad project, EPIC encourages the proponents to spend their time and money on fire risk reduction strategies such as home hardening and defensible space. EPIC also urges the project proponents to consider less environmentally destructive means of protecting their facilities.

The WRAP project is currently in its public scoping period. The Trinity PUD and WAPA want to hear from the public about what environmental impacts they should consider when preparing their environmental impact statement. The project proponents have also asked the public to suggest alternatives that would reduce negative impacts. Let them know that logging and herbicides are not the answer and that there are better ways to protect people and property from wildfires. The period for public comment ends on January 29th. So, be sure to get your comments in soon!