Win For Conservation Groups: Illegal “Crawford” Old-Growth Timber Sale Withdrawn

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

In the face of litigation brought by EPIC and other conservation organizations, the Klamath National Forest has withdrawn its approval of a timber sale that threatened old-growth forests in the cold water tributaries of the Klamath River. The “Crawford” timber sale would have removed large-diameter thick-barked old-growth trees that are resilient to fire, provide crucial wildlife habitat, and regulate streamflow and temperature of mountain streams that are critical to the health of the Klamath River. The Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild), Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed suit in April in the Eastern District Court of California alleging that the timber sale violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.

“It is time that the Forest Service work with communities and stakeholders to restore forests, protect homes and communities and safeguard watersheds,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director at EPIC. “The Crawford timber sale could and should be changed to thin existing timber plantations while utilizing prescribed fire to restore these forests from past mismanagement.”

The Crawford Creek watersheds, located between the Siskiyou and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas are a stronghold of low elevation temperate rainforest. The area provides vital habitat connectivity for wildlife and serves as a corridor for animals dependent on mature intact forests, like the pacific fisher and northern goshawk. For species adapting to and surviving the climate and biodiversity crisis, these closed-canopy virgin forests provide much needed refuge.

“We are relieved to know that two of the only remaining reproductive northern spotted owl pairs on the Klamath National Forest, will keep their habitat,” said Kimberly Baker, KFA’s Executive Director and EPIC’s Public Lands Advocate. “This species is so close to extinction, protecting reproducing pairs must be a priority. And, in this day and age, ancient and mature forests should remain standing. They are our first line of defense in guarding against global warming.”

“It is unfortunate that the Klamath National Forest refuses to work with the public to create projects that restore rather than harm forests and watersheds” said George Sexton, Conservation Director at KS Wild. “It shouldn’t take a federal lawsuit for the Forest Service to acknowledge that it is a bad idea to log old-growth trees in the backcountry when there is so much work that could be done to help fire-safe homes, ranches and communities.”

While the Forest Service has withdrawn its approval of the project, it is not immediately clear what will become of it. The agency may attempt to cure the deficiencies outlined in litigation and repackage the timber sale. However, the conservation community wants to see the Forest Service stick to non-controversial work that will help protect communities while respecting the old-growth watersheds of the Mid-Klamath basin.

Meriel Darzen and Oliver Stiefel of the Crag Law Center represented the conservation groups in their litigation.

For more information on this litigation and project, see our previous blog post here.

Find the full Press Release here. 

Wolf Update: California’s Lassen Pack Grows

Monday, August 10th, 2020

Female gray wolf after being fitted with a satellite tracking collar in Lassen County, June 2020. Photo by CDFW

The Lassen Pack has had a fourth consecutive litter of pups. California’s only known gray wolf family welcomes a minimum of eight new pups this year. Genetic testing revealed there were at least four males and two females. 

A new breeding male replaces OR-7’s son, who has not been documented since the spring of last year. The newcomer is a black wolf who was first seen with the pack last summer. His origin is currently unknown, however he is unrelated to any other known California wolves. 

Two of the Lassen Pack members have been fitted with radio collars: LAS01F, the packs alpha female; and a yearling male, LAS03M. In September of 2019 a female pup was captured and collared, however the collar did not remain functional. There are no other wolves in the state being tracked with GPS. 

The pack now consists of a minimum of six adults and yearlings, which brings the pack to at least fourteen wolves. Not including this year, the past three litters combined totaled thirteen pups, though not all survived. While it could be assumed that at least some of these animals may be dispersing throughout the state, there is no known documentation as to their whereabouts.

California gray wolves are currently protected under both the state and federal Endangered Species Act. However, this administration has proposed to end federal protections and remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. A decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is expected this year and will be met with great opposition should the decision be unfavorable to wolves.


One Step Closer To National Forest Plan Revisions

Monday, August 10th, 2020

The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), just got one step closer to revising forest plans throughout the Northwest. The Bioregional Assessment (BioA) spans about 24 million acres across 21 National Forests that are primarily within the range of the northern spotted owl covered under the Northwest Forest Plan. The BioA is a review of the current conditions and trends across a broad regional landscape and will serve as a foundation for land management plan revisions.

The National Forest Management Act requires that every national forest develop and maintain a land management plan, known as forest plans. These individual plans set direction for the landscape and include- desired conditions, non-discretionary standards and guidelines, monitoring plans and wilderness and Wild and Scenic River recommendations. The national forests of the Northwest are well overdue for updates, which are guided by the 2012 Planning Rule.

The ninety-page BioA document includes an overview of management recommendations, what is working well, challenges and opportunities for change and next steps. 

The stated management recommendations include: maintaining and restoring ecosystem characteristics; addressing the dynamic nature of ecosystems to respond to uncertainties; updating and integrating aquatic strategies; reducing invasive species; prioritizing community and firefighter safety; recognizing that fire is a natural process which has an important role in reducing risk of uncharacteristic fire and promoting ecosystem health; expanding timber harvest as a restoration tool; evolving from single species focus; promoting active management; and recognizing the social and economic benefits from recreation. 

What is working well? The BioA in summary concludes— the reserve network of older forests, riparian areas, roadless, wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations has worked to maintain the ecological integrity of our forests. Our national forests are also working to provide clean water, carbon sequestration, traditional ecological resources, and relatively stable timber production, other forest products and outdoor recreation. It also claims that overall the loss of old growth habitat from timber harvest has been “stemmed”.

The “need for change” chapter can be summed up by stating the agency will seek to justify forest extraction in every way possible, that we need logging a.k.a. “active management” by calling it restoration. There are multiple catchy explanations or “needs” such as: 18 million acres lack structural diversity and resilience and do not contribute to ecological integrity; 10 million acres need some type of restoration; 7 million acres need disturbance restoration; 5 million acres in old-growth forest, ungulate cover, wildlife habitat, and scenic corridors have multiple plan objectives that inhibit active management to reduce susceptibility to insects and disease; and 2 million acres have plan direction that emphasizes timber production and these acres need active management.

The BioA largely tiers to the 2018 USDA Scientific Synthesis, which was the previous step in forest plan revisions. Both of these documents lean heavily on in-house agency science while dismissing independent and best available science. The revisions, in their beginning stages, are already highly controversial. While this step in the forest planning is not open to public comment there will be “public engagement opportunities” coming soon.

The next step is the Forest Assessment stage, where individual forest roles and contributions will be defined. Candidate stretches for Wild and Scenic River designation will be identified. Wilderness inventory will be constructed and potential species of conservation will be determined.

We are still years away from seeing any formal revised plans. However, there is discussion that the Northern California national forests will be the first out of the starting gate due to the influence of wildfire. EPIC will continue to strategize with our state and regional conservation networks to advocate for the protection of clean water, carbon storage, intact old-growth and mature forests, region-wide habitat connectivity for plants and wildlife and real restoration of our public lands.

ACTION ALERT: Urge Forest Supervisors To Use MIST Guidelines In Trinity Alps Wilderness!

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

Red Salmon Complex Fire, July 27. Photo courtesy of Inciweb.

The USFS has delegated authority to firefighters to bulldoze ridgetops in the Trinity Alps Wilderness on the Red Salmon Wildfire Complex. It does not stop there. To align with the “big box” approach there are also miles of dozer lines proposed outside of the wilderness on the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. Please act now to urge the agencies to use Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics, while there is still time.

The Red Salmon Complex in the Trinity Alps Wilderness started by lightning on July 26. The complex includes the 751 acre Salmon Fire, which is holding along lines in the Eightmile Creek drainage and Backbone Ridge and the 3,866 acre Red Fire, within the Red Cap Creek drainage. Hand lines and dozer lines have been constructed and firefighters are using trails and adjacent roads as well to ignite strategic burns, some of which is being done by drones.

The concept of Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST) is to use the minimum amount of force necessary to effectively achieve the fire management protection objectives consistent with land and resource management objectives. It implies a greater sensitivity to the impacts of suppression tactics and their long-term effects when determining how to implement an appropriate suppression response. The key challenge is to be able to select the tactics that are appropriate given the fire’s probable or potential behavior. There are multiple options available.

The USFS could be maintaining shaded fuel breaks in strategic places, rather than using heavy equipment in a rush in these highly sensitive areas. Proactive fire strategies would help allow some fires to burn, which provides essential ecosystem benefits. The planned dozer lines would eliminate years of recovery from past scars and would harm wilderness values, habitat connectivity and sensitive prairies, meadows and trail systems. Please urge land managers to protect wilderness values, commit to MIST guidelines and use less destructive methods.

Take Action Now!

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

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

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. The Ninth Circuit’s decision is available here. For more on this case, check out some of our past blog posts here and here.

In 2018, the Ranch Fire burnt a significant portion of the Mendocino National Forest. In response, the Mendocino National Forest authorized a series of commercial timber sales near roads within the forest. To avoid environmental review required by NEPA, the Mendocino National Forest attempted to shove these timber sales under a “categorical exclusion” to the ordinary requirements to prepare a document. Although a categorical exclusion for post-fire timber operations existed, the Forest Service did not employ this exclusion because they would be limited in the total acreage they could log. Instead, the Forest Service employed a different, ill-fitting categorical exclusion that allowed for “[r]epair and maintenance of road” including “[p]runing vegetation” to authorize these timber sales. 

EPIC challenged this project and sought an injunction to ongoing timber operations. The Northern District of California denied EPIC’s injunction and we appealed (with an oral argument by Zoom and livestreamed to Youtube) to the Ninth Circuit. Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit sided with EPIC, with a 2-1 decision finding that EPIC should have been awarded its injunction. The Court ultimately found that “Under no reasonable interpretation of its language does the Project come within the [categorical exclusion] for ‘repair and maintenance’ of roads.” 

With simple math, the Ninth Circuit exposed the pretextual nature of the Mendocino National Forest’s use of the categorical exclusion. In many areas, the court noted, the average tree height was only 100 feet, yet the National Forest established a once-size-fits-all prescription allowing for the logging up to 200 feet on either side of the road, and thus the project would allow targeting trees that posed no risk to road users.

This ruling has big implications for our National Forests moving forward. Under the Trump Administration, EPIC has seen a widespread abuse of the rejected faulty logic to log without environmental review or public participation.

What’s next? The case is remanded back to the Northern District Court for further proceedings consistent with the Ninth Circuit’s decision. We will update you when we know more. 

EPIC is able to bring litigation like this because of members like you. A donation is deeply appreciated.

View the full Press Release here

BREAKING: EPIC Joins Nationwide Coalition to Defend People’s Environmental Law

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

EPIC, along with a nationwide coalition of organizations from the environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and conservation communities, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) this afternoon. 

The administration finalized its rules that will eviscerate core components of NEPA in mid-July. Under new regulations put forth by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), polluting projects of all kinds will be exempt from basic environmental reviews, and the public will be cut out of one of its best tools to prevent dangerous, shortsighted projects. 

“NEPA ensures that California’s forests remain verdant and our rivers stay clean by requiring that federal agencies understand the environmental impacts of their decisions. Trump’s new rule is a crushing disappointment to good government and to a healthy environment,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director, Environmental Protection Information Center.

“It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and environmental justice communities continue to live with the impacts of decisions that precipitated its need,” said  Kerene N. Tayloe, Esq., Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The changes made to this bedrock environmental law will further undermine basic protections, including the public’s right to participate in decision making and the obligation of the government to fully and thoroughly study the cumulative impacts of health hazards on overburdened communities. They also reflect a disregard of Black, Brown and poor communities and the unwillingness of this administration to execute laws in a way that benefits all Americans. WE ACT for Environmental Justice is committed to pursuing every option available to preserve and strengthen NEPA for the betterment of everyone.” 

“NEPA matters,” said Tricia Cortez, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center. “Here on the border, we know what a world without NEPA looks like because of what we’ve experienced with the border wall. The U.S. government has waived NEPA and dozens of other federal laws to rush construction for a politically motivated and destructive wall project. We would not wish this on any other community in this country. The feeling is like having a train barreling at you with nothing to stop it. To protect our environment and our health, we the people must save NEPA.” 

“We will not allow the Trump administration to compromise our rights to protect our communities and public health from the harms associated with unscrupulous and destructive industrial developments such as mining, oil and gas, and military operations,” said Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “This is a grave environmental injustice and we aim to prevent this attack on one of our most fundamental environmental laws.”

“The Trump administration picked the wrong fight,” said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney serving as co-counsel on the case. “They want to make it easier to silence people’s voices and give polluters a free pass to bulldoze through our neighborhoods. That’s why we’re taking them to court.” 

“We have consistently defeated this administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again for this critically important law,” said Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center co-counsel. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment — it depends on both.”

See the full press release here.

EPIC on the Radio!

Monday, July 20th, 2020

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). You can also subscribe to the EcoNews Report on your favorite podcast app!

Catch up on old episodes:

A Proposed New Central Valley Dam Could Have Big Impacts on the Trinity River

Treesits and Forest Defense in 2020

State of the Klamath River

Let’s Talk About the Fabulous Abalone, With Author Ann Vileisis

EPIC is also on the KMUD Environment Show on the second Tuesday of every month! You can listen live or check out some of our recent shows in the KMUD archive or click the link below for our most recent show from July 14th:

Forest Defenders and Social Justice – What’s going on and how we can help

Have a topic you want covered on a future radio show? Email Tom at [email protected].

Many thanks to KMUD staff and Fred McLaughlin, our tireless Econews volunteer engineer, for producing these shows!

Proposed Caltrans Roadwork Places Old-Growth Redwood At Risk

Monday, July 20th, 2020

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. All bridge projects have the potential to “take” protected salmonids through adverse habitat modification and direct mortality from construction.

The new Hely Creek bridge is designed to be both longer and wider. To conform to Caltrans’ design criteria, particularly curve radii for large trucks, the centerline of the new bridge would need to shift to the north, requiring realignment and widening of the roadway approaches to the bridge. Caltrans deviates from its standard design criteria frequently, and does so in places in this project, so a strict-adherence to design manuals is not always best. Projects present competing values which must be balanced. Here, we would like to see more emphasis placed on retaining the big, large trees of the Van Duzen. Given that the current bridge appears structurally sound and that it performs well as-built, we question the need to replace this bridge at this time. In our view, the public is best served by a slightly reduced project that focuses efforts on the bridges over Butte and Little Larabee Creeks.

Caltrans has expressed an interest in working with the environmental community to reduce impacts from this project. We hope that this interest is sincere. We would love to avoid another knock-down drag-out fight à la Richardson Grove and, as we express above, a compromise seems reasonable.

For more on the project, please check out the Initial Study prepared for the project, which you can access here. If you have any comments on the project, please send them to [email protected] by August 3rd.

Registration Open for Virtual Timber Harvest Plan Workshop!

Sunday, July 19th, 2020

How do you stop or change a logging project?

Many people don’t think they need to know how to navigate the THP (Timber Harvest Plan) process until there is a logging project proposed next door or in their favorite place. In fact, many people don’t even know that a logging project is being proposed until it is being logged, and by that time it is too late to have any meaningful participation in the outcome of a project. This workshop will provide an overview on how to navigate and comment on proposed THPs to make a difference in your community.

Register Now!

Join EPIC on Wednesday, July 22 from 6-7pm for a special workshop on how to navigate the THP database and comment on upcoming THPs to make an important difference in logging practices.

For over forty years, EPIC has had a watchful eye on the timber industry and has developed a strategy for reviewing and commenting on THPs in an effort to protect wildlife and wild places, and we want to share this strategy with you.

If you are interested in “attending” this virtual workshop, please sign up here and we will send you a link to join the webinar when it becomes available. All you will need is internet access and a computer or smartphone with the Zoom application installed.

Building Citizen Engagement with Climate Change: Dr. Connie Roser-Renouf, Ph.D.

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

How can you persuasively discuss climate change to motivate your community? How do you encourage your friends, family, neighbors and community leaders to take meaningful action to address these impacts? Those are the questions Dr. Connie Roser-Renouf has investigated beginning in 2007 until her recent retirement from the Yale/Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. Connie will convey strategies she has found effective, and will answer your questions.

Join us on online on Monday, August 03, 2020 from 7:00-8:00 PM.

Click here for details and to RSVP:

Presented by 350 Humboldt, Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, Eleventh Hour and EPIC.

ACTION ALERT: Mendocino Wood Pellet Plant Threatens Public Health

Thursday, July 9th, 2020

Photo courtesy of Mendocino Redwood Company.

The Mendocino Forest Products’ Wood Pellet Production Plant is situated on the Russian River near low income neighborhoods, schools, an Indian health clinic that services 9 tribes, and the Coyote Valley reservation.  Mendocino Forest Products is owned by the Sansome Company, whose primary investor is the Fisher Family which also owns the Humboldt Redwood Company and Mendocino Redwood Company.

Wood pellet production releases numerous harmful pollutants including carbon monoxide; nitrogen oxide; greenhouse gasses; Volatile Organic Compounds, fine particulate matter at the 2.5 level; acetaldehyde; formaldehyde and methanol. The plant has been found to be in violation of the Air Quality Management District’s operation permit at least three times due to harmful air pollution that is emitted from the plant’s smokestack.

Breathing the pollutants emitted from wood pellet production plants can trigger a variety of health problems particularly to children, the elderly and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Additionally, people with COVID-19 who live in U.S. regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas, according to a new nationwide study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Take action below to contact the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District and request that the wood pellet production plant is shut down during the COVID-19 health crisis and until health impacts can be evaluated through a transparent environmental review process and emissions are determined to be safe to neighboring communities.

Take Action

* Content contributed by Social, Environmental and Indigenous Justice (SEIJ). For more information contact [email protected].

Large New Housing Project Proposed for McKay Forest

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

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. A DEIR has been completed for the project, which you can access here.

EPIC, together with our allies at the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities and Humboldt Baykeeper, have numerous concerns with the project. We support the development of appropriately-sited and well-conceived housing that supports a diversity of housing needs, particularly low-income, affordable by design, and accessible housing, however, this project needs work. If the County wishes to allow a new large greenfield development at this project site, additional project measures are necessary to reduce the impact of the housing on the adjacent community and on the natural environment. You can read our comment letters here.

Neighbors are rightfully concerned about traffic and congestion resulting from the project, after all, the proposed development would cause substantial wait times at major intersections—up to 821 seconds at one intersection, in addition to other anticipated increases in traffic. The development needs to do more to get people out of cars and to complete trips by foot, bike, or bus. Better incorporation of pedestrianization measures, including traffic calming, location of bus stops and provision of free bus passes, dedicated bike lanes and connections to the Bay-to-Zoo trail that is under development are a start here. Our transportation decisions are influenced by our built environment. Let’s ensure  housing is built to reduce the need for cars and to promote healthy movement.

The development fails to adequately appreciate greenhouse gas emissions associated with construction and use of the residence, together with the loss of carbon sequestration potential. To compensate, the project would merely buy carbon credits. Not good enough. We can reduce carbon emissions by solarizing the project, where feasible, and moving all home energy use to electric (and not running new natural gas lines to the project). We can reduce carbon emissions by diverting more car trips to foot, bike or bus. We can sequester more carbon (and reduce impacts from forest conversion) by requiring the incorporation of natural planting for all of the development.

If there are many concerning aspects of the project, there are also things to appreciate. The project proposes a diversity of housing types, including low-income and multifamily housing, in addition to standard-fare single family housing. The developer is also planning the incorporation of commercial space within the development, which will help to make the new development more walkable. The proposed project would be much better if it doubled down on these elements. Let’s build housing that integrates multiple income brackets together, that more closely incorporates neighborhood commercial space, that provides for affordable housing by design, that allows for a car-free lifestyle and promotes healthy behavior.

The development of housing in California is a statewide priority and our development decisions now will affect our communities and our environment far into the future. Let’s get it right.

Opening Brief Filed in Case to Save Humboldt Marten

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

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. Read it here. 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. Standing in the way is Green Diamond, which owns the majority of this area.

Green Diamond clearcut along Redwood National Park border

Green Diamond’s clearcut-heavy management is antithetical to the needs of the Humboldt marten. Martens require mature forests and thick layer of herbaceous undergrowth to slink through the forest undetected by predators. Clearcutting destroys this undergrowth and leaves martens exposed. Clearcutting also provides prime habitat for the marten’s number one predator, bobcats, whose populations explode because of the woodrats and rabbits that enjoy clearcuts. With so many bobcats present, Green Diamond’s lands become uninhabitable for martens and, where clearcuts are near occupied marten habitat, bobcats begin to tread further into these occupied areas. That’s why it is curious that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the company a free pass to “take” martens through their management.

As we’ve previously recounted, through funny math and a promise to relocate martens, Green Diamond convinced higher ups at the Department to issue a permit. And as we’ve now discovered through Public Records Act requests and through litigation, the actual scientists who work closely with Green Diamond were aghast—one writing that “this [Safe Harbor Agreement] sounds absolutely Orwellian” and that the permit “will, as a whole, actually be harmful.” Political interference to benefit a powerful timber company and plodding through the objections of staff scientists is something that we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration, not California’s wildlife agency.

The case is being heard in Humboldt County Superior Court by Judge Kelly Neel.

EPIC would like to extend a special thanks to our excellent attorneys, Marie Logan and Greg Loarie, of Earthjustice for representing us and our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, who are our co-plaintiffs in the case. #TeamMarten


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

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

WANTED: Professional, assertive, creative, problem-solvers interested in joining the EPIC Board of Directors.

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

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

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

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

Current Board of Directors can be viewed here.

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

ELK NEED YOUR HELP: Del Norte Elk Face New Disease and Increased Hunting

Friday, June 19th, 2020

EPIC Petitions for Hunt Moratorium in Light of New Threats

Supporters of North Coast elk, we need your help! On June 25, the Fish and Game Commission is set to hear a report from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife concerning a new disease threatening our North Coast Roosevelt elk. We need people like you to demand that the Fish and Game Commission support a petition filed by EPIC to place a moratorium on hunting until more is known about the disease. Please help by attending the virtual meeting on June 25 to speak for our elk! Instructions on how to participate are available from the Fish and Game Commission.

In early April 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) discovered two cases of Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD), a bacterial-associated syndrome causing severe lameness in elk. The consequences of the disease are severe: reduced fitness predisposes infected elk to a decreased probability of survival from wasting (chronic nutritional deficiency), predation, extreme weather, and other causes of death. In one infected herd in Washington, the disease, together with other threats like hunting, reduced the population of a herd by 35%. There is no cure for the disease. Our only chance is to slow or stop the spread of the disease and mitigate the effects in already infected herds.

Despite this novel threat, the California Fish and Game Commission never examined the risk posed by the disease before increasing hunting for the coming year because they were never told about the disease. Although the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (an agency distinct from the Fish and Game Commission) had knowledge of the disease, this critical information was not relayed to the Commission, depriving the Commission the ability to adapt to this new information. That TAHD was discovered in Del Norte should not come as a surprise, since its initial discovery in Washington State elk, wildlife professionals have documented the quick spread of the disease down the West Coast. While California should have seen it coming and prepared, we failed to do so. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife did not consider the disease in the environmental analysis required by law to authorize hunting of elk and the California Elk Management Plan never examined the threat posed by the disease.

In June, EPIC filed an emergency rulemaking petition with the California Fish and Game Commission asking for a temporary moratorium on hunting in the region. A moratorium would allow the Commission and the Department space to come up with a game plan to stop the spread of the disease and care for those elk already impacted. Absent this, we risk what has already been shown elsewhere: significant and sustained population declines in infected herds and rapid disease spread to elk elsewhere in the state.

Want to participate in the meeting on June 25? Click here for instructions on how to join!

Need talking points? Feel free to use the information below:

  • I support the emergency rulemaking petition from EPIC to issue a temporary moratorium on hunting in the Northcoast until the Department and Commission has a firmer plan on how to deal with this new threat.
  • Before approving increasing the number of elk tags, the Commission should have considered the new disease. Because information was not given to the Commission about the emergence of this disease prior to the April decision, the Commission was unable to shape the new elk tag quota to reflect this new threat. I ask that you revisit this decision immediately.
  • TAHD poses a new threat to elk that has not been considered under your environmental analysis documents for the California Elk Management Plan. We need to proceed cautiously until a more formalized analysis is completed to ensure that our elk are protected.
  • TAHD, together with other threats, like predation, extreme weather, and hunting, have been shown to cause significant population declines in elk populations in other states. I urge you to take great care with our public resources.

Intersections of Police, Racism, and the Environment

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

 For some context, check out this article, White Privilege in the Environment, from our former Development and Communications Director, Briana Villabolos. In it you will find some bedrock for this discussion: what intersectionality is, what white privilege is, and the necessity of social justice in the environmental movement.

Late last week, EPIC released our statement of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made a pledge to further intersectionality in our own environmental community by providing educational resources, platforms for these discussions, and concrete actions. One of the small actions we took within our statement was to endorse certain California legislation for creating improvements on the ground in our state without police intervention. While we endorsed these reforms, we also wrote in support of the eventual abolishment of the police and carceral system as a whole. 

However, some might not find an obvious connection between environmentalism, racism, and policing. Where does this connection begin and how does abolishing the police and carceral system pertain to environmentalism?  As a whole, the history of police brutality, intervention, and imprisonment within environmentalism is long and complex—so much so that we cannot get to the entire history or validity of these connections in this post and instead will continue to examine this in more depth in the near future*. For now, I will provide a (very) brief overview of where these connections arise currently and historically. 

DAPL Protest 2017. Photo by Peg Hunter, Flickr.

First of all, the origins of policing in the United States arose from racism, resource extraction, and economic control. The creation of policing in our country arose from the needs of landowners and owners to maintain economic order in their labor sectors. To be more blunt, the earliest found origins of police in the United States were the Night Watches and Slave Patrols, which were created to uphold the economic order of slavery by recovering and punishing slaves for their owners. This is obviously a simplistic version of a long history of policing but regardless, it remains the same: policing originated through one of the most racist policies of all, slavery. Police have been protecting and upholding economic corporate rights over the civil rights of human beings since their very creation.

Secondly, those most violently affected by policing in this country have been Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color who are most often at the front lines to protect their communities from environmental degradation, as they are disproportionately the ones that bear the brunt of industrial production and waste placement. This is not something that only occurs in the past and it is not merely a historical injustice, but one that is a current and dangerous issue. 

Remember Standing Rock? It provides a vivid example of this violence. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe challenged the the Dakota Access Pipeline, put forward by the Dallas based corporation, Energy Transfer Partners, because the proposed project would have built an oil pipeline underneath their land and water. In what exploded into a massive grassroots movement across the country, Indigenous Peoples—more than 300 recognized tribes were documented at the site— were the ones on the front lines protecting their land and community and they were met with extraordinary violence by the police and the state in order to protect the economic rights of an oil company. Again, we see police violently upholding the economic rights over civil rights of human beings, especially when they happen to be a marginalized group. 

This should not be normalized. But it is. Despite extreme violence by the police, hundreds of arrests, thousands of people putting their bodies on the line, and hundreds of thousands of petitions and signatures, the pipeline is still being built, although the tribe has continued to challenge it. Would this pipeline be built if it did not run through a tribal reservation and instead through a white suburb? Perhaps, but most likely not. 

There are many more examples of these types of overt and covert environmental racism that are continuously supported and upheld by the police and the carceral system as a whole. We will continue to discuss these intersections in more depth in the upcoming months. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions on these matters and to working toward learning together. 

*Many of you, our wonderful members, are veterans of the 1990’s “Timber Wars” and participated in direct action and on the ground protests where people were often pepper sprayed, assaulted, and jailed as a result. Without putting your bodies on the line and standing up for the trees, much of the incredible old-growth forests that are left in Northern California would have been completely decimated. We would love to hear your stories of what you experienced during that time, please email [email protected] to share your perspectives and experiences. 

We would also like to give a shout out to the younger folx still doing the work on the ground to protect the forests here in Northern California and experiencing police obstruction, brutality, and imprisonment, and to acknowledge that the fight for these trees is not over. 

Fate of Mendocino Forest in Judges’ Hands

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Mendocino National Forest. Photo by Sxates, Flickr.

EPIC is awaiting a court decision from the Northern District Court of California on a lawsuit challenging the US Forest Service’s attempt to evade public participation and environmental review of seven timber sales totaling around 7,000 acres on the Mendocino National Forest by logging up to 200 feet on each side of hundreds of miles of “roads” (many of which are not open to motor vehicle use) in the Ranch Fire area. The complaint seeks an order to set aside authorization of these projects to avoid harming sensitive and threatened wildlife and their habitats, but would still permit the felling of imminently hazardous trees along essential public travel corridors.

The complaint seeks to prove that the timber sales were expedited by mislabeling the logging project under the guise of “road maintenance”. Logging this area would impact northern spotted owls, clean water and would increase fuel conditions. Post-fire logging compacts soils, making it more difficult for regrowth, and increases sediment runoff to nearby streams.

Instead of providing a thorough review of the impacts of the proposed logging project, the Forest Service approved the timber sales through a “categorical exclusion” for road maintenance which does not require environmental impact review or public comments. Typically categorical exclusions used for post-fire logging projects limits logging to 250 acres, but all of the seven timber sales are over 250 acres and most of the “roads” they are proposing to log are closed to vehicles.

The targeted area is made up of mixed conifer forest, oak woodlands and chaparral, which provides essential wildlife habitat, hiding cover and core habitat for old forest-dependent wildlife including the northern spotted owl. Burned forests provide snags, which if left unlogged, serves as important habitat for small mammals, birds and predators including northern spotted owls.

The court hearing was done through Zoom and included a panel of three judges, EPIC was represented by Mat Kenna of Public Interest Environmental Law and Sierra Pacific Industries, a logging corporation, intervened on behalf of the Forest Service. The judges appeared engaged and asked good questions, drawing attention to the fact that “hazard” tree removal on steep slopes below roads would not actually pose a threat to roadways, yet they are still targeted for logging, implying that public safety could be achieved in a more benign manner.

Trump Administration Uses COVID-19 “Emergency” to Undermine Law

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

In the midst of the turmoil and unrest arising last week in response to the unjust murders of the Black community by police, the Trump administration quietly used the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine federal environmental laws and fast-track oil and gas drilling. Seriously. We have sunk this low.

In an executive order issued on June 4, the administration cited the global pandemic and its effects on the economy as justification for “reforming and streamlining an outdated regulatory system that has held back our economy with needless paperwork and costly delays.” Most environmental laws provide that in cases of “emergency,” the ordinary rules are relaxed. Of course, Congress was probably thinking about a different kind of emergency when passing these laws. (If a dam is ready to break, for example, the government has large latitude to act to prevent loss of human life.) What Trump has done is weaponized what little grey area might exist in the law—what is an “emergency”?—to sweep away environmental law.

Salinas River Oil Field. Photo by David Seibold, Flickr.

In the executive order, Trump first directs that all federal agencies examine potential projects the agencies can pursue to expedite the “delivery of infrastructure” on public lands, such as oil and gas development and to use all available “emergency…authorities to expedite” their construction. 

Second, the Trump administration takes direct aim at the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. To the National Environmental Policy Act, the Trump administration calls for a broad utilization of “alternative arrangements” that can be used in times of emergency to bypass public disclosure and public comment requirements of the law, allowing for projects to be built without adequate environmental review and oversight. To the Clean Water Act, the executive order similarly calls for projects to be shepherded through under emergency rules, trading degradation of waterways for expedited projects. Lastly to the Endangered Species Act, the executive order directs that federal agencies not consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service about the effects of projects on listed species. 

This moment calls for a rethinking of our economy and how we can recollect ourselves to be more just and verdant. We need a Green New Deal and economic resiliency rooted in community resiliency. EPIC joins the calls for stimulus spending to be directed at areas where we can invest in good, long-term jobs while reducing greenhouse emissions. Development of that fair and just economy is an emergency. This moment does not, however, excuse undermining of environmental law to perpetuate the existing flawed system.

EPIC Statement: Justice for Black Lives

Friday, June 5th, 2020

EPIC joins the chorus of voices that demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony Mcdade, and the countless other Black lives taken unjustly by the police and to testify that Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those seeking to throw off the shackles of white supremacy, injustice and oppression. The protests that have erupted across the country are an organic expression of the anger and despair of a 400+ year history of systemic violence towards Black people, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color. This systemic violence manifests itself in many forms: police brutality, mass incarceration, environmental racism, inequitable health outcomes, and so on. This institutionalized racism is so deeply ingrained that white people may miss it but for Black people and people of color, it is manifested in their daily lives. Jogging (#AhmaudArbery) lead to murder. Birdwatching (#ChristianCooper) results in a call to police. 

As an organization with a membership list of mainly white supporters, we have an obligation to speak out and to do something. The dismantling of white supremacy requires active intervention and work by white people. EPIC, along with a lot of the mainstream white environmental movement, has largely failed in this work. We have failed to recognize and respond to the police brutality that is used to keep spaces segregated, to keep Black, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color in their “proper” places in the fantasy of white “pristine” wilderness. These are false, ahistorical images of the outdoors, and we must disrupt them. 

We pledge to continue to work toward a critical justice within the environmental community for Black people, Indigenous Peoples, and people of color and to continue to address this with conversations and concrete actions. In the coming months, we are going to continue to provide opportunities to learn about issues such as environmental racism, amplify the voices of marginalized communities, and support legislation and other efforts to chip away at the structures of systemic oppression. 

We are particularly inspired by other organizations who have worked to make outdoor spaces safer and more accessible for people of color and have worked to weed out racism within the environmental movement: Latino Outdoors, Outdoor Afro, Prison Ecology Project, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, to name a few. 

EPIC works within the legal system and has an aggressive history of litigation. We have always been concerned with how the law defends the status quo. To this end, we are endorsing reformation to work toward some improvement until more substantive changes occur. Currently, we endorse the legislation available before the California Legislature:

  • AB 2054 would create a pilot-program for community based response to local emergencies, such as people experiencing mental health crises or people with substance abuse issues. 
  • AB 3121 would create a taskforce to study the impacts of slavery and institutional oppression and develop options for potential reparation.
  • AB 1460 would require students in the California State University system, such as Humboldt State, to complete a three-unit ethnic studies course to graduate.
  • AB 2405 would recognize a right to housing for children and families in California starting Jan. 1, 2026.

This legislation is necessary but not sufficient. To be clear, we advocate for the outright abolition of police and the carceral system as a whole. We believe that the violence and oppression inflicted by the police is a systemic issue that will not be solved solely by police and prison reform. We recognize that half measures only extend and contribute to these fundamentally unjust systems. The path to justice will be arduous. 

Many may not understand such a bold position, and we will continue to provide resources in the coming days to contextualize this position. While writing this, we strongly felt that a mere statement is not enough. We are developing curriculum, new programming, and in our next newsletter we will publish an article on policing and environmental issues. We need to work to dismantle white supremacy in our individual lives and in society. We look forward to doing this critical work together.




Tony McDade Memorial Fund

Black Humboldt

Earthseed Laboratories

Planting Justice

National Bail Out

Prison Ecology Project


Books (on race, critical environmental justice, histories of policing, and the limitations/possibilities of mainstream environmentalism)

What is Critical Environmental Justice? by David Naguib Pellow

Total Liberation: The Power and Promise of Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement by David Naguib Pellow

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

Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins 

Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America by Kristian Williams

The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas

Novel Elk Hoof Disease Found In Del Norte Elk Herd

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Roosevelt Elk. Photo by Linda Tanner, Flickr.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently announced that Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD), a bacterial-associated syndrome causing severe lameness in elk, has been discovered in elk in Del Norte County. TAHD is already present in elk in both Washington, Oregon and Idaho. From their experience, we understand that this disease is likely to cause significant disruptions to California’s elk.

There is no cure or effective treatment for wild populations. Lameness caused by TAHD has been found to impact up to 90% of elk in infected herds in Washington and is the likely cause of a population decline of 35%. Our only hope to minimize disease transfer and to mitigate impacts where present. In the coming months, EPIC will push the California Fish and Game Commission to promulgate new regulations to prevent disease spread. Oregon and Washington have put forward some regulations to limit disease spread, but these have obviously been insufficient as the disease has quickly spread from Washington south.

The discovery of the disease also calls into question planned expansion of elk hunting in the North Coast. In April, the Commission increased the number of elk tags issued, however, it is believed that the Commission was not aware of the disease at that time. Among the Commission’s charges is to consider whether the increased hunting will, together with likely population declines from TAHD, will cause a significant impact to local elk herds.