Industrial Forestry Reform

Green Diamond: Climate Change “Skeptic”

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
By

Aerial view of Green Diamond clearcut.

Our planet is getting hotter. That is clear to the over 650,000 people displaced across the West during this year’s fire season. Climate change likely exacerbated this year’s fires, lengthening the fire season—it is now drier and warmer for longer—and by causing more extreme weather that helps to drive the large, fast-moving fires often to blame for the loss of life and property. Climate change is felt elsewhere locally. Humboldt Bay has experienced more severe sea level rise than anywhere else in America, threatening portions of Highway 101 with inundation in a little over a decade. Changing fog patterns could result in more stress to the region’s iconic redwoods, including shifting their range further north. Heat-sensitive species, like our coho salmon, fear the warmer water temps caused by a decline in winter snowpack. And so on.

All of this is obvious. Except apparently to Green Diamond Resource Company, whose clearcuts pockmark the North Coast. In every timber harvest plan (THP) submitted for approval to CALFIRE, Green Diamond begins the discussion of the impacts of harvest on climate change by questioning whether climate change is real. I kid you not. Take this recent excerpt from THP 1-20-21HUM:

The magnitude, causes, and effects of global climate variability are the subject of intense scientific inquiry and considerable scientific debate and uncertainty. (U.S. Senate 2008). Many scientists and policymakers have concluded that the earth’s climate is currently warming at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. Their conclusions are based on temperature data, samples of carbon dioxide (CO2) content in prehistoric ice and sediment and climate models. However, some scientists question this conclusion because global temperate data has only been collected for a brief time, and there are potential errors in climate models and measurements and inferences drawn from samples of CO2 in prehistoric ice and sediment. They argue that global warming trends must be viewed in the context of climate variability, which can be used to demonstrate or disprove global warming depending on the chosen time period. 

To be clear, EPIC did not cherry pick one offensive quote. The THP is replete with climate skepticism—“scientific inquiry and uncertainty concerning the condition and causes of climate variability continues”; the “causes and effects [of climate change” are also the subject of scientific uncertainty and debate”; “[t]here is some evidence supporting scientific theories that variability in global climate conditions is caused by solar activity and variability in the earth’s electromagnetic field”; and so on. 

Ultimately, after hemming and hawing over the science of climate change, Green Diamond acknowledges that its opinion doesn’t matter—that California, and CALFIRE as an agency of the state, recognizes climate change is real and that forestry can contribute to it. To complete a THP it is then necessary for Green Diamond to accept, ad arguendo, the existence of climate change. But that doesn’t improve their analysis.

Green Diamond’s analysis is long on “common sense” but short on science. Generally, Green Diamond’s argument is this: there are limited emissions attributable to the harvest equipment—the skidders, fellers, chainsaws, trucks and the like—and there are some emissions that result from decomposition or burning of the slash left in the forest, but most of the carbon from the forest will be left intact in the form of dimensional lumber and what emissions do occur will be offset by the growth of forests elsewhere on their property and through the regrowth of the logged stand.

Slash Pile. Photo by Oregon Dept. of Forestry, Flickr.

Of course, this is a far oversimplified picture of the carbon cycles at play from a timber harvest. As the best available science finds, forestry can result in significant greenhouse gas emissions, as it converts a relatively stable store of in-forest carbon in the form of trees and quickly releases a significant amount of carbon. The majority of carbon stored in a tree never ends up in lumber. Between branches and tops, a significant portion is left in the forest as “slash,” which is often burned or left to decompose, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. The remainder of the tree is sent to a mill, where more is lost to sawdust or other unmerchantable “mill waste.” This mill waste is typically burned, such as at the biomass energy plant in Scotia. The remainder may turn into timber or other forest products, but the actual life of these products is remarkably short and the product typically ends up in a landfill, where its decomposition can release methane gas. Over time, a regrowing forest sequesters carbon but, given the urgency of climate change, do we have the luxury of waiting decades for the regrowth to balance the carbon ledger? Why does CALFIRE accept such slipshod work? 

While on one hand Green Diamond questions the scientific basis on climate change, it also attempts to cash in where possible. According to the California Air Resources Board, Green Diamond has sold carbon credits to “offset” the emissions from other polluters in the state. Between 2016 and 2019, Green Diamond put forward multiple projects to sell hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon credits. Environmental activists have criticized the use of forest carbon credits in offset or cap-and-trade programs as a paper exercise, resulting in little changes on the ground. EPIC intends a deeper dive into Green Diamond’s carbon credit projects in the future to investigate.

As the most aggressive timber operator in our region, Green Diamond demands scrutiny. EPIC is there to keep an eye on the company.


Fire Facts and Fictions

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020
By

Media coverage of fires is–how do we put it nicely?–problematic. Hyperbolic headlines help to fuel fire misinformation. It is somewhat forgivable. Fire ecology is a daunting subject. It escapes easy generalizations (and the following is also perhaps painted with too broad of brushstrokes). 

Fires are Dynamic and Many Things Influence Fire Behavior

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

Wildfire is a More Accurate Term than Forest Fire

Did you know that more than half of all of the acreage that burned so far this summer in California was not in forested ecosystems? Grasslands, chaparral and other ecosystem types make up the majority of lands burned. Even in a “National Forest,” many times the lands that burned are not forested, such as the fire that burned through grasslands of the Mendocino National Forest, helping to keep these prairies free from conifer encroachment. 

California Forests are Born to Burn

Fire is as natural as rain for most of California’s forests, and as such, trees and ecosystems have adapted to this challenge. Some trees attempt to withstand the flames by developing thick, fire-resilient bark; others, like Lodgepole pines, have serotinous cones that require fire to open and release their seeds. Even the coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), endemic to California’s dank, moist temperate rainforests of the North Coast, are adapted to fire. Walk through an old-growth redwood forest and you’ll notice the evidence: burn scars, bearing witness to historic burns either deliberately set by humans or naturally caused. That the redwoods of Big Basin Redwoods State Park survived the fire is no surprise. They have likely been through worse. 

And while forests are born to burn, in many circumstances, the forests help to temper fire conditions. The shade provided by a forest helps to cool an area and keep in moisture and retards the development of more flammable brush in the undergrowth. The trees themselves, while part fuel are also part water. That’s why even in a “megafire,” most of the time, fires tend to burn at lower severity, meaning that the trees will survive but much of the undergrowth will be removed. 

But death too is a natural event, part of the cycle of life: death, decomposition, and renewal. In their death, fire-killed trees give life to others. Fire-killed trees are an important habitat component–just ask a black-backed woodpecker, a burnt forest specialist–and provide important structure to regrowing young forests. 

While forests are born to burn, we have settled the landscape in ways that mean that normal burn behavior can put lives and structures at risk. 

Mismanagement of Forests Affects Fire Risk

Understanding the historic and ongoing mismanagement of California’s forests is necessary to understand, in part, what is happening. Although California’s forests are born to burn, for many decades (and still to this day), we have aggressively attempted to put out every fire as soon as possible. As a result, some forests may have conditions that make high-severity fire more likely to occur: ladder fuels, dense thickets, and a pile up of undecomposed “fuel” on the forest floor. Unfortunately, the mismanagement continues. CALFIRE, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Forest Service, still prioritizes extinguishing fires instead of letting them (safely) burn. Aggressive efforts to put out fires, even when they pose little to no risk to humans, while maybe a balm to calm the nerves of a frightened public, often produces greater environmental impacts than doing nothing and furthers our fire deficit.

Similarly, we have deliberately managed forests for timber production, producing plantations more similar to midwest corn than a forest: a monoculture of densely packed trees with a uniform and unbroken canopy. If a fire is to reach a plantation, the odds are that it will burn hotter and faster than a more naturally occurring adjacent “reference” stand.

“Mega-Fires” are Weather Driven Events

While there are many factors that influence the severity of a wildfire, weather, beyond anything else, is the prime driver of large and intense fires. As a general rule, with low humidity and high winds, fire tends to burn hot and fast. The recent fires are examples of this behavior. High-winds and dry conditions whipped up the fires and caused their fast expansion. We have also seen the limits that fuels reduction efforts, such as prescribed burning and forest thinning, when fire conditions are right. Climate change also influences fire behavior both by creating drier, hotter forests and through producing more extreme weather. 

Preparing for the Next Fire: What Strategies Should We Prioritize?

To briefly reiterate: fire is a natural occurrence and healthy for California forests, although it can be undesirable because of impacts to humans and property; the hottest, fastest moving and most destructive (to humans) fires are primarily weather-driven events (and humans can’t control the weather); historic mismanagement of forests and climate change have further contributed to fire effects. So what is there to do? (Especially in a world of limited funding.)

Land use plans should discourage or prohibit new development in the wildland urban interface. Just like how it is a bad idea to build housing in a floodplain in an area that receives frequent floods or hurricanes, it is likewise a bad idea to build residences and other structures in high-fire areas divorced from larger settlements. (In some areas likely to be inundated from climate change or susceptible to flooding, “managed retreat” is already being pursued.) 

Where development has occurred, we need to “harden” structures. Most houses burn because of wind-blown embers, not from a moving fire. Choice of ignition resistant building materials, such as composite or metal roofing, screening of vents to prevent embers from entering the house, and an adequate water supply and infrastructure to reach all areas of your property, are the most effective way to guarantee that a structure will survive a fire. 

After investing in structure hardening, spatially-limited “fuels reduction” can be useful to influence fire behavior. But as a warning: it is expensive, impactful, requires repeat treatment, and does not wholly remove the possibility of fire. (As an example, around 21% of the Hennessey Fire burned just in 2018.) That’s why fuels reduction work should be prioritized only around communities.

What Should We Not Do? Landscape Level “Fuels Management”

It is inherently costly, people and machines in the woods, chopping and grinding vegetation. It also requires repeat treatment because, obviously, plants regrow–and depending on the circumstance, fuel reduction without repeat treatments can make more aggressive fuel conditions. These “treatments” often result in significant impacts, including the taking of endangered species (who are among the supposed beneficiaries of this work). 

The desire to “do something” about fire often results in bad decisions, wasted money, and degraded ecosystems. What doesn’t work is landscape-level “fuel management” to reduce vegetation to influence fire behavior. Fuel management does have a role, though. Around communities, targeted projects can influence fire intensity, allowing more time for defense or evacuation. Outside of limited work around communities, fuel reduction cannot be broadly pursued without significant cost to taxpayers and our ecosystems. 

 


Stop the Salvage Logging of Post-Fire Forests

Monday, September 21st, 2020
By

Post-fire logged area

Written by Clary Greacen Montagne

Get ready, because a massive timber-industry push will begin shortly to “recover” the timber “lost” from fire-killed trees. Post-fire logging, euphemistically referred to as “salvage logging,” is the practice of cutting and removing both live and dead or damaged trees following a large-scale natural disturbance to a forest like wildfire, floods, or insect kills. Post-fire logging is sold as a way to recover at least some of the economic value of timber the trees can be made into. But, while private timber companies do profit from the cheap raw materials logging provides, the costs to the public and to our forests are immense. Not only is it an economic ripoff, post-fire logging is also an ecologically disastrous practice that does not protect us or forests. As we face the effects of a changing climate, including more intense wildfire across the west, it is essential that we invest our limited resources into programs that will both increase wildfire resilience and protect habitat.

Timber interests seek to justify post-fire logging with the belief that standing dead trees simply “go to waste.” In fact, post-fire forests are some of the rarest and most important habitats in western forests. Wildfire has played a role in the forests of the west for hundreds of millions of years, and dead trees are an essential component of a healthy forest ecosystem. Standing damaged and dead trees, or snags, form important habitat for a variety of species, such as the black-backed woodpecker and the spotted owl. Trees that survive wildfire are critical seed sources. If these survivors are immediately logged, there is no opportunity for the forest to recover on its own. Dead treefall boosts soil fertility by bringing less-weathered soil up to the surface, where fallen logs and root mounds then provide places for trees and other plants to sprout. By removing dead and damaged trees and compacting soils, post-fire logging prevents the natural recovery process of a forest ecosystem. 

New plant life blossoming in a post-fire landscape.

Beyond the apparent environmental consequences, post-fire logging is a huge waste of taxpayer money for the benefit of private timber companies. One recent example, the 2016 Westside Salvage Project in the Klamath National Forest, shows how post-fire logging projects often end up costing much more in restoration than they could ever provide in timber revenues. In its planning documents, the Forest Service projected that the project would sell for ten million dollars. But, after timber corporations paid only $475,000 to log 13,000 acres in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, the KNF’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) listed restoration costs at $27,487,000. While the KNF made a $475,000 profit, taxpayers were responsible for restoration costs, with twenty-seven and a half million dollars needed in order to replant 8,000 acres of forest, clean up logging slash, and implement fuels reduction treatments on another 27,000 acres. Without further funding, natural recovery has been impeded over thousands of acres, loss of soil stability means greater potential for landslides, and the area is at increased risk of severe fire. Not only did the Westside Project create conditions for worse wildfire, it also didn’t pay for its own fuels reduction costs, the entire premise of the project. Meanwhile, taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars to address the environmental impacts of the project. Read more about the Westside Rip-Off at our previous blog post here

Western forest ecosystems depend on natural fire in myriad ways. Post-fire logging often undoes the benefits of fire while creating conditions for more intense and destructive fires. With the complete disruption of a post-fire ecosystem’s natural recovery process, it’s the opposite of what we need to do most: maintain the integrity of forests while defending human lives and “hardening” structures, as well as implement treatments such as intentional, prescribed fire near at-risk communities. Plantation forestry used with the “restoration” of post-fire logging clearcuts is fundamentally incompatible with healthy forests. By disrupting the natural cycle of recovery, it creates highly flammable conditions for decades to come. As fire season in the west grows longer, drier, hotter, and more destructive, we must realize that when striving to manage a fire-adapted landscape, post-fire logging makes very little sense. 

In the face of a changing climate, we must do everything we can to protect and restore our forests and return to a natural cycle of wildfire. This means changing the way we think about fire and forest management. EPIC encourages the incorporation of the traditional ecological knowledge of the region’s indigenous peoples alongside a new scientific approach to wildfire management, including prescribed burning and selective thinning. We know that a dramatic increase in forest protection is essential in addressing climate change, and we cannot allow destructive practices like salvage logging to proceed unchallenged. We must value forests for their ecological role more than we value them as a site for resource extraction and economic revenue. 


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

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
By

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. 


One Step Closer To National Forest Plan Revisions

Monday, August 10th, 2020
By

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
By

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
By

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


Opening Brief Filed in Case to Save Humboldt Marten

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
By

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

 


Green Diamond’s THP Fails Forests, Watersheds and Wildlife in Sproul Creek

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
By

When Green Diamond Resource Company obtained 9,400 acres in the Sproul Creek watershed in late 2018, we knew our work would be cut out for us, as a landowner that makes massive clearcuts and sprays herbicides is not generally appreciated by neighbors. In February of 2019, EPIC organized a community meeting to discuss Green Diamond’s logging practices and what that would mean for its newly acquired land in the Sproul Creek watershed. The thirty community members who attended the meeting eventually formed a new group called “Sproul Watershed Advocates”.

On February 27, 2020, Green Diamond submitted the “Gibson Ridge” Timber Harvest Plan (THP) # 1-20-000-24-HUM to clearcut over 200 acres in the Sproul Creek watershed. The document was deemed unacceptable and returned by Calfire due to a lack of evidence that Green Diamond owns all of the parcels contained in the THP. Again, on March 18, 2020, Green Diamond resubmitted the THP without documentation to prove ownership, but Calfire has accepted Green Diamond’s word over the phone that it owns the parcels in question. 

The deficiencies of Green Diamond’s plan are numerous. The THP fails to analyze the cumulative effects of the past hundred years of logging impacts that the watershed is still recovering from. It fails to describe the specifics of herbicide use that is anticipated to be applied in the THP units. It also proposes to abandon old roads and instead build new roads in watersheds that are sediment impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, and claims that gravel and sediment will not be increased from the project.

Adding insult to injury, Green Diamond’s analysis of the cumulative effects of this project fails to appreciate the seriousness of climate change and uses false and misleading climate skepticism. It asserts that direct greenhouse gas emissions from logging operations are offset by Green Diamond’s timber program that it believes will result in significant net carbon sequestration through increased carbon storage! 

EPIC has been working with residents in the Sproul watershed and its neighboring communities to track the proposed logging project and we have submitted extensive comments on the plan. Logging and herbicide spraying in the Sproul Creek Watershed is what brought concerned community members together 43 years ago to form EPIC and bring an end to aerial spraying of herbicides. We are committed to ensuring that the land and wildlife has a voice and will continue to advocate on behalf of them.


EPIC Files Lawsuit to Defend Old-Growth In Klamath National Forest

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
By

View from Crawford project area looking over the Klamath River watershed into Marble Mountain Wilderness.

 

Last Friday, EPIC and allies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Klamath National Forests Crawford Timber Sale project. The project is located 15 miles southwest of the town Happy Camp and north of Dillion Creek, a salmon stronghold of the Klamath River. It proposes logging the forest canopy down to 30% in over 250 acres of mature and old-growth forests.

Mature forest stand. All trees in this photo without orange paint are proposed for logging.

The virgin forest in the Crawford Timber Sale is just outside the Siskiyou Roadless Area and provides an important wildlife corridor between the Siskiyou and Marble Mountain Wilderness Areas. Serving as Critical Habitat for the imperiled northern spotted owl the project area is home to two of the few reproductive owl pairs remaining on the Klamath National Forest. The Crawford timber sale would result in the “take” of these surviving pairs and would remove and degrade over 350 acres of Critical Habitat.

Old-growth Douglas fir 5 foot in diameter located in Northern spotted owl critical habitat and home range that is proposed for cutting.

The lawsuit focuses on three major claims: the agencies failure to comply with it’s own Forest Plan for the protection and recovery of northern spotted owls, especially reproductive pairs; failure to protect the Pacific fisher, which would lose 225 acres of habitat; and the failure to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement, which is required when a major federal action may significantly affect the quality of the environment.

EPIC is joined by the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Klamath Forest Alliance and is represented by Meriel L. Darzen and Oliver Stiefel of the Crag Law Center.

If you love the denizens who rely on dense forest canopy cover for survival, like the Pacific fisher, please donate today and help support the defense of old-growth forests.

To carry out this legal challenge to preserve owl habitat, clean water, fire resilient landscapes and our right to participate in public land management decisions, we need to raise substantial funding. Please help us see this case through by making a substantial donation today.


Fish and Wildlife Service Sides with Timber Industry Over Owl Habitat

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
By

Spotted Owl. Photo by US Forest Service.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sided with the timber industry, placing millions of acres of northern spotted critical habitat at risk, in a shady backroom deal unveiled earlier this month. Under the terms of this settlement, the Service has agreed to revisit their existing critical habitat rule by July 15, 2020 and finalize a new critical habitat rule by December 23, 2020. At risk is 9.5 million acres of habitat that the Service had previously decided was necessary for the recovery of the northern spotted owl. The story of how we arrived here is a helpful illustration of the ways that the Trump Administration has worked in lockstep with major extractive industries, including Big Timber.

The Service approved a critical habitat for the northern spotted owl in 2012. The habitat it designated represented that, which by the law, constituted those areas “essential to the conservation of the species” and was selected only on the basis of the best available science. Soon after the rule was approved, Big Timber challenged. Environmental groups sought to intervene in the lawsuit, arguing that we had an important interest in the litigation and that the federal government did not adequately protect our interest. Intervention was denied because, as the federal judge then found, the federal government supported the critical habitat rule and our groups therefore did not have a fundamentally different position from the federal government.

Then the Trump Administration happened. Despite briefing on the case being complete (and thus the case was ready for a judge to decide on the merits) the government caved: On April 13, in a settlement agreement filed with the court, the Service and the timber industry announced that the Service would re-do the critical habitat designation.

During the Obama Administration, anti-environmental forces claimed a grand conspiracy that enviros would sue and the agency would settle in favor of the environmental side. When Scott Pruitt was head of the Environmental Protection Agency (before he was “retired” under a cloud of ethics investigations), he famously declared that the agency would not settle any case with public interest groups. Now it is clear who is getting the favorable treatment in D.C.: Big Timber.

EPIC has been working to increase protections for the northern spotted owl, only to be hamstrung by delays and inaction. In 2012, EPIC petitioned the Service to “uplist” the owl from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Service has since missed numerous deadlines to complete their evaluation of our petition, forcing EPIC to send the Service a letter threatening to sue in January 2020.

The owl hangs in the balance. Population modeling suggests less than 50 years before the owl is extinct in the wild, a product of the combined pressure of habitat loss from logging and competition from the barred owl. Political games and backroom deals can now be added to the list of threats facing the northern spotted owl.


Mendocino National Forest Proposes Herbicide Invasive Removal Project

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020
By

Scotch Broom in bloom in Oregon. Photo by Bonnie Moreland.

The Mendocino National Forest is proposing to spray herbicides across 54 acres to kill brooms—Scotch, Spanish, and French brooms—highly-invasive species that outcompete natives, form dense thickets, and provide little sustenance to native wildlife. The project is in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire, which burned large swaths of the national forest, including the areas proposed for treatment. The existing broom was incinerated in the fire and returning vegetation, either from regenerating root structures unaffected by the fire or from seed left in the soil. The Forest Service now proposes to spray these young and emerging brooms, arguing that the herbicide application, together with the synergistic effects from the fire, can fully kill off broom—a “kick-‘em-while-they’re-down” approach to weed management.

Here, the proposed herbicide application would be a mixture of triclopyr and aminopyralid, along with a seed oil surfactant and a marker dye. Triclopyr is of low to moderate acute toxicity in mammals, and long-term exposure has been found to result in kidney and liver effects. It is believed to be toxic in fish species and is “mobile,” dislodging from soil particles and joining water. Aminopyralid is in the same family of pesticides as triclopyr. It is a relatively new pesticide and, thus, there is little information about its relative toxicity. It is not believed to be cancer forming and is thought to be non-toxic to wildlife and does not appear to bioaccumulate. The proposed plan contains some measures to reduce risk associated with spraying. According to the Forest Service, “All components would be applied at or below the label rates, and the mixture applied with backpack sprayers. No herbicide will be applied within Snow Mountain Wilderness, and no aerial application of herbicide is proposed.”

EPIC Staff manually removing scotch broom in Shasta County in 2019.

The use of herbicides to control invasive species is controversial. The case for herbicide usage goes like this: herbicides are a cheap way to kill invasives and enable cash-strapped groups to treat larger areas than could be accomplished with manual removal. And if applied effectively, with adequate follow-up treatments, herbicide use can effectively remove invasives and allow for native plants to regenerate. In many cases, however, invasive species are a futile effort because the applicator applies it as a one-and-done effort, failing to come back for follow-up treatments. For broom species, whose seeds can lay dormant for up to 50 years, these return treatments are often necessary. Herbicides also carry with them risks, both to human health and the natural environment. Careful application can reduce that risk but not fully eliminate it. For that reason, EPIC generally promotes manual removal of invasive species when possible.

The proposed herbicide application is in “scoping,” meaning that the environmental analysis for this project is just beginning. At the heart of EPIC’s scoping comments are a desire for the Forest Service to consider increasing manual removal, particularly around waterbodies. Part of the planned operations are nearby Lake Pillsbury. Given the solubility of triclopyr and its toxicity to fish, particularly rainbow trout, this appears to be the highest-risk area for spraying. For a similar project on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, EPIC worked with the Forest Service to treat riparian areas by hand, and even led work parties to pull Scotch broom.

For more on this project, please consult the Forest Service’s website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57273


The Horrific Tale of Timber Targets

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019
By

This photo from the Klamath National Forest courtesy of KS Wild. Trucks of logs are being sold for only a measly $2.50

Taxpayers lose nearly $2 billion a year to subsidize logging on public lands! Despite this loss, there are plans to increase logging by 40%. Congress sets timber targets for national forests and each forest is financially rewarded for reaching those targets. Thus, there is always an incentive for cutting down the big pumpkins a.k.a. the big old fire resistant carbon storing trees. The scary truth is that US Forest Service timber sale program is a net money loser yet timber companies profit, most often at a cost to the public, wildlife and water quality.

Frighteningly, timber sales on the Klamath and Mendocino National Forests offer thousands of log-truck loads of trees for $2.50 each or the amount of a good chocolate bar. While some districts are better than others, the agency often tries tricking the public by masquerading logging as fire risk reduction while sweetening the pot with mature and old-growth trees that have withstood decades, even centuries, of fire. To make deals even sweeter, road maintenance and slash (left over limbs and tree tops) disposal costs are dropped or offered at spine-chilling prices.

As the danger of the climate crisis and mass extinction loom, it is time to stop footing the bill for slicing and dicing what’s left of our national forests. Put the chainsaws away and start using scalpels. Congress can remedy this grave situation by using federal forest funds on ecological restoration decoupled from commercial logging and getting rid of timber targets all together. To truly serve the land and the people the Forest Service should focus on carbon storage, water quality and wildlife recovery. Our public lands provide priceless and supernatural life essential services.


BREAKING:EPIC Litigates Mendocino National Forest’s Latest Attempt To Evade Environmental Review

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
By

Mendocino National Forest bulldozer lines are linear clearcuts harmful to wildlife and ecosystems but are ineffective at stopping the fire. Photo courtesy of Kimberly Baker

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is suing the U.S. Forest Service for approving a series of timber sales on the Mendocino National Forest that shortcut public participation and environmental review in violation of federal law. In a complaint filed today, EPIC alleges that the Forest Service expedited seven timber sales, totaling up to 7,000 acres, by mislabeling the logging as a “road maintenance” project. At risk from the logging are clean water, northern spotted owls, and increased fuel conditions.

All Forest Service timber sales are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The core of NEPA is a requirement that agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, typically done through an environmental impact statement or environmental analysis. The timber sales were approved using what is called a “categorical exclusion.” Categorical exclusions do not require environmental impact review or public comment.

Unnecessary bulldozer line the fire never reached fragments intact wildlands. Photo Courtesy of Kimberly Baker.

Here, the Forest Service argues that a commercial timber sale is “road maintenance” because the logging would remove dead and live trees affected by the 2018 Ranch Fire along roads, reducing the odds that the trees may fall and block the road. A separate categorical exclusion exists for post-fire logging, although that is limited to 250 acres, as anything larger in scale is assumed to be able to produce significant impacts to the environment. All timber sales in this proposed project are larger than 250 acres. Furthermore, many of the roads proposed for logging are closed to motor vehicle use.

“The Mendocino National Forest is taking a page from Trump’s playbook,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC. “Calling a timber sale ‘road maintenance’ is a stunning way to stifle public participation and ignore environmental impacts.”

Science has widely recognized that post-fire logging is especially impactful, as logging adds an additional disturbance on top of the effects of the fire. Post-fire logging often results in degraded water quality, the spread of invasive plants, and loss of habitat for rare, threatened and endangered species. It can also increase the risk of high-severity fire since logging leaves behind a buildup of slash and finer “fuels.” If allowed to use a categorical exclusion instead of an environmental impact statement, these impacts may never be adequately examined and mitigation measures to reduce harm through better project design would not be incorporated.

“This is a massive project covering thousands of acres,” asserted EPIC’s Public Land Advocate, Kimberly Baker, “the Mendocino National Forest is breaking the law to meet timber targets and benefit timber corporations at a cost to fragile post-fire watersheds and threatened species. Public safety could be achieved in a more benign manner.”

EPIC is represented by René Voss of Natural Resources Law and Matt Kenna of Public Interest Environmental Law. The case will be heard in the Northern District Court of California.

To carry out this legal challenge to preserve owl habitat, clean water, fire resilient landscapes and our right to participate in public land management decisions, we need to raise substantial funding. Please help us see this case through by making a substantial donation today.

Click here for press release and contacts.


Action Alert: Proposed HCP for SPI a Bad Deal for Spotted Owls, Comments Needed!

Monday, June 17th, 2019
By

Spotted Owl. Photo by Len Blumin

A proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would authorize “incidental take” of both Northern Spotted Owls and California Spotted Owls on California timberlands owned and managed by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has been released in its draft form along with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for public comment.

SPI owns nearly two million acres of private, industrially-managed timberlands in California, and the ownership is squarely within the range of both the federally-threatened Northern Spotted Owl, and the federal-candidate for listing, the California Spotted Owl, much of which is situation in the “checkerboard,” lands, i.e., lands where SPI and the U.S. Forest Service, respectively own alternating square parcels.

The Draft SPI HCP proposes to establish and create so-called, “Potential Habitat Areas,” (PHAs) on SPI ownership for both Northern Spotted Owls and for California Spotted Owls for SPI ownership in the Sierra-Nevada. These PHAs and the habitat retention and other conservation requirements for PHAs proposed in the Draft SPI HCP would allow SPI to rely heavily on adjacent federal and public lands, most notably lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service, for the purposes of the HCP. According to the Draft HCP, SPI could account as much as 75-percent of its PHAs to lands not actually owned or controlled by SPI.

A similar approach to Spotted Owl conservation and impact mitigation were proposed by Fruit Growers Supply Company and approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously, only to have the approved-HCP nullified by federal courts upon litigation brought by concerned conservation groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildands Center, and the Klamath Forest Alliance. Yet, SPI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seem bent on creating the exact same HCP framework that failed to pass legal muster in the Fruit Growers’ example.

The Draft SPI HCP and Draft EIS rely heavily upon the notion that approval of a companion permit to lethally-remove, control, and experimentally-study barred owls (Strix varina), a non-native and invasive competitor to both the Northern and California Spotted Owls would garner key conservation benefits as a reason why the HCP is necessary and will work. The trouble here is that issuance of such a permit pursuant to the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) for the duration proposed (50-years), is actually not legal currently either. MBTA permits can only be issued on a five-year basis currently under federal law.

The Draft SPI HCP also proposes to “front-load” its “incidental take,” of Northern and California Spotted Owls, meaning that the greatest impacts to both species proposed in the DHCP would occur in the first two-decades of the 50-year proposed-permit, while the conservation benefit is backloaded to the last two decades of the proposed-permit, and is predicated heavily on the presumption of re-growth and regeneration of SPI timberlands.

The Northern Spotted Owl has been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, and the most recent range-wide demographic study indicated that Northern Spotted Owls were continuing to decline range-wide and that the rate of the decline is increasing due to a combination of continued habitat loss and competition from barred owls. In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a 90-Day Finding on an EPIC petition to “uplist” or “re-classify” the Northern Spotted Owl as an “endangered,” species under the ESA, finding that the action may be warranted, meaning that the Northern Spotted Owl may actually be endangered.

The California Spotted Owl is currently a candidate for ESA listing in response to two petitions brought before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by conservation groups based in the Sierra-Nevada. Currently, far greater protections exist for Northern Spotted Owls in conjunction with SPI timber operations in California than exist for the California Spotted Owl. This is largely a function of California Forest Practice Rules and regulations and not U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ESA implementation and administration.

Comments on the Draft SPI HCP and the Draft EIS must be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by Monday, July 1.

Take Action Now!


Action Alert: Green Diamond Clearcuts Threaten Humboldt Marten in Klamath Glen

Thursday, January 10th, 2019
By

Take Action: Green Diamond clearcuts—that’s pretty clear-cut. What’s not, perhaps, are the consequences of its clearcuts, as the company strives to spin whatever mythology it can muster to convince agency regulators and the public at-large that there’s nothing to be seen and no harm being done.

In late November 2018, Green Diamond submitted THP 1-18-177DEL, “Arrow Mills,” THP, totaling 125 acres of timber harvest in Upper and Lower Turwar Creek at Klamath Glen, just up-river of the town of Klamath, CA. Of the total 125-acre THP, 104 acres is proposed for clearcutting.

The “Arrow Mills” THP threatens significant adverse impacts to a number of rare, threatened, and endangered species, including northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, osprey, and even ruffed grouse, all of which are known to exist and have been observed in the vicinity of the THP. Of particular concern to EPIC are the potentially significant adverse impacts the THP will have on the critically-imperiled Humboldt Marten.

The “Arrow Mills” THP and its over 100 acres of clearcutting are proposed within the known Extant Population Area (EPA) for the Humboldt Marten, and within a Green Diamond-designated, “Marten Special Management Area,” (MSMA). Sadly, there’s absolutely nothing “special” about what Green Diamond will do here, as its clearcuts will not be modified in any way to accommodate the known-presence of Humboldt Martens.

Indeed, the only thing that’s “special” in any way in this scenario is the treatment afforded to Green Diamond by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). In late 2018, and nearly simultaneously with the California Fish and Game Commission’s determination that the Humboldt Marten warranted listing as an “Endangered Species” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), the Department gave away a “Safe Harbor Agreement” to Green Diamond that gives the company a pass on protecting the Humboldt Marten or having to change its management practices in any meaningful way.

The “Safe Harbor Agreement” framework in the California Fish and Game Code was created with the caveat that any such agreements entered into with private landowners by CDFW must be shown to afford a, “net-conservation benefit,” during the life of the agreement for the agreement to be valid. Safe Harbor Agreements, unlike Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) under federal law or Native Communities Conservation Plans (NCCPs) established in the California Fish and Game Code, allow landowners and CDFW to agree to actions that result in a net-conservation benefit during the life of the agreement, with the understanding that the landowner has the right to return the lands under the agreement back to the baseline condition when the agreement expires or is terminated.

Green Diamond timberlands in the Lower Klamath and Upper Redwood Creek watersheds are critical habitat connectivity areas and areas important for natural dispersal, and perhaps eventually, assisted re-introduction and dispersal of Humboldt Martens between two of the only three known Extent Marten Population Areas on the Six Rivers National Forest to the east, and Redwood National and State Parks to the west.

The “Arrow Mills” THP will create clearcuts that will create massive dead-zones in marten connectivity and dispersal opportunities and could result in direct mortality and indirect mortality of Humboldt Martens known to exist on Green Diamond lands and on adjacent conserved lands on both sides.

The “Arrow Mills” THP is currently still under review lead by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the CEQA Lead Agency for approving private timber harvesting plans in California. CAL FIRE cannot approve a THP that will violate other applicable laws under its authority, even if another agency, like CDFW, reaches agreement with a private timberland owner on certain practices.

Click here to request that Cal Fire to deny Green Diamond’s plans to log Humboldt marten habitat!

 


EPIC Files Formal Complaint and Appeal of Green Diamond Certification by Forest Stewardship Council

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019
By

EPIC filed a formal Complaint to appeal the decision of the Re-Certification of Green Diamond Resource Company as in conformance with the standards and criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) on December 24, 2018.

The Complaint and Appeal were presented to the independent certification company, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), based in Emeryville, CA. SCS initially certified Green Diamond in 2012 amidst great local opposition and controversy, and then re-certified Green Diamond in early 2018.

FSC certification, monitoring, and issuance of additional specific criteria to maintain FSC conformance and certification, known as “Corrective Action Reports” are all conducted and administered by independent third-party certification companies, like SCS. SCS is also the certification company responsible for Humboldt Redwood Company’s FSC certification.

EPIC’s Complaint to SCS comes out of an investigation into Green Diamond’s re-certification under FSC for forest management and the legitimacy of Green Diamond’s network of “High Conservation Value Forest” (HCVF). FSC standards require certified companies like Green Diamond to establish and maintain an HCVF network of lands classified as “core-interior habitats,” and to voluntary conserve, enhance, and maintain all lands designated as HCVF.

EPIC found that Green Diamond is not including lands in its HCVF network that do not meet the definition of a “core interior habitat,” such as the Riparian Management Zones (RMZs) established along Class I and Class II watercourses on Green Diamond lands. These RMZs are thin strips of forested lands left behind after Green Diamond clearcuts. Even if Green Diamond’s RMZs are appropriate to include in its HCVF network, evidence found in SCS’s own audit and certification and re-certification reports indicates that the total acreage of RMZ accounted by the company as HCVF has steadily declined since 2012, and that thousands of acres once accounted as RMZ HCVF have not been maintained as HCVF and instead have been subject to active commercial timber management.

EPIC further found that Green Diamond was accounting something it calls, “NSO Core-Areas,” as HCVF. Aside from the fact that no clear definition of “NSO Core-Areas” seems to exist, there is also no indication of where these areas are located on the Green Diamond commercial timber landscape, or if they exist at all. And, if all that’s not suspicious enough, SCS’s own audit and certification reports show a steady decline in the acres accounted by Green Diamond as “NSO Core Areas” in its HCVF network since 2012. It appears that thousands of acres of “NSO Core Areas” once accounted by Green Diamond as part of its HCVF network have since been lost to active commercial timber management, which is expressly antithetical to the requirements to protect, enhance, and maintain lands designated as HCVF and to preclude active commercial timber management in such areas.

EPIC also Appealed Green Diamond’s re-certification by SCS under FSC standards on the basis that the company has not lived up to FSC standards or genuinely addressed Corrective Acton Reports calling on the company to create a program to solicit, intake, and integrate input into its management practices from a broad spectrum of public and community stakeholders. Green Diamond claims that the funding of local civic clubs and recreational community sports teams are sufficient to meet the letter and intent of FSC’s standards for intaking and integrating public stakeholder input. Suffice to say, EPIC disagrees.

SCS has initiated its process to formally investigate and respond to EPIC’s Complaint and Appeal of Green Diamond’s 2017-2018 re-certification under FSC’s standards and has promised to provide a full written response from its investigation within 90-days of the filing date.

Nobody peels back the layers of the onion like EPIC. We do the dirty work in-the-trenches, all to protect our forests, fish, wildlife, water and this amazing place we call home.  Click here to support our efforts.


Action Alert: Defend Public Lands; Defeat Trump’s Environmental Agenda

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
By

TAKE ACTION! On the 4th of July, you can help save our forests by halting bad legislation. A new bad forest bill, the ironically named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (HR 2936), is quickly heading to a vote. The bill recently escaped the House Natural Resources Committee through a party line vote. Now, Trump’s lawless logging bill will soon come up for a vote before the House.

This is the worst federal forest legislation in EPIC’s lifetime. And scarily, it might pass. Here’s four reasons why we are freaked out:

(1) Up to 30,000 Acres of Lawless Logging

The bill gives a free pass to lawless logging by exempting logging plans up to 30,000 acres—nearly 47 square miles—that are developed through a “collaborative process” from having to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). By comparison, under the existing law only logging projects 70 acres or less are exempted from NEPA. In one fell swoop, Congress could rollback decades of work by EPIC and allies to protect federal forests.

(2) Weakens Endangered Species Act Protections

Under current law, whenever the Forest Service proposes a project that could harm threatened or endangered species, the agency needs to consult the National Marine Fisheries Service and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposed legislation would change the law to remove this consultation requirement by allowing the Forest Service to choose whether or not to consult on a project. Further, the bill would exempt other forest management activities entirely from the Endangered Species Act.

(3) Closes the Courthouse Doors

The bill also limits the ability of citizens to challenge bad agency action in court. The bill would prohibit temporary injunctions and preliminary injunctions against “salvage” logging projects, virtually guaranteeing that logging will occur before a court can hear a challenge. The bill prevents plaintiffs from recovering attorneys’ fees if they win. While money is never the object of a lawsuit, the ability to recover fees is critical to enable public interest environmental lawyers to take cases for poor nonprofits like EPIC. Finally, it moves many forest management activities out from our federal courts to a “binding arbitration” program, whereby an agency-appointed arbitrator’s decision would decide the fate of projects.

(4) Shifts Money from Restoration to Logging

In a sneaky move, the proposed legislation would move money earmarked for forest restoration projects to logging. By adding one small phrase—“include the sale of timber or other forest products”—the bill would mandate timber sales as part of at least half of certain stewardship projects.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION NOW TO STOP BAD FOREST LEGISLATION


Base Camp Reflections

Thursday, June 15th, 2017
By

Over the weekend, EPIC staff and volunteers ventured out into the remote wildlands of the Klamath Mountains for EPIC Base Camp; a three day “groundtruthing” training that focused on data gathering to help reform grazing and timber sale practices on public lands. Outdated laws allow for private timber companies and ranchers to use public lands for private profit, and the fees collected for these destructive activities do not cover the costs of the impacts, regulation, or oversite associated with the practices.

Because regulatory agencies tasked with protecting our natural resources are under staffed, they do not have the capacity to visit all of the sites in a timber sale or grazing allotment, so they depend on public citizen monitoring to report inconsistencies between what is proposed and what is happening on the ground. In essence, agencies are complaint driven, meaning that they don’t act unless someone files a formal complaint.

Day 1: Grazing Monitoring and Timber Sale Sleuthing

On Saturday, June 10, Felice Pace, Project Coordinator of the Grazing Reform Project took the group on a field tour of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment, and the Horse Creek post-fire timber sale in the Klamath National Forest. A site visit of the Horse Creek Grazing Allotment revealed illegal felling of a large old-growth tree that had been cut  and likely used for fire wood. Environmental impacts, including damage to water quality, impairment of meadow hydrology and degradation of fish, amphibian and wildlife habitat are a common occurrence in these allotments, which are located on public lands.

Next, the group ventured up into the mountains to monitor the Horse Creek timber sale, which was burned in the 2016 Gap Fire. These burned areas were already regenerating with tree seedlings and new plants sprouting up all over the forest floor. In the units that were visited, the landscape was extremely steep with a slope of 30%-70%. It was clear that logging, tractors, skid trails, and new roads would tear up and compact these steep fragile soils, resulting in erosion and delayed regeneration of the fragile post-fire ecosystem years to come. The low gradient of Horse Creek makes it one of the best coho salmon habitats in the Klamath Basin. Logging and road building above critical coho habitat will result in sediment entering the stream, which degrades salmon habitat and smothers baby salmon. The total amount of logging in the Horse Creek watershed is massive.

Several of the timber sale units were located within Late Successional Reserves. The objective of Late-Successional Reserves is to protect and enhance conditions of late successional forests (think: old-growth), which serve as habitat for old-growth dependent species, including the northern spotted owl. However, most of the largest trees visible from the roadway within these areas were marked for logging, a violation of the law.

The federal timber sale is immediately adjacent to massive private timber operation, compounding the impacts to fish and wildlife. As of June 1st EPIC identified 21 emergency notices in the Gap Fire area totaling 4,863 acres from private land owners (primarily Fruit Growers Supply Company) in addition to the Horse Creek timber sale. Emergency notices are private post-fire logging projects that are exempt from environmental review. On the way to investigate Unit 115.34 of the Horse Creek project, the neighboring parcel, owned by Fruit Growers Supply Company, was being actively logged under an exempt emergency notice. Volunteers noted that the riparian areas within Fruit Growers’ land were being logged. Emergency timber operations can be conducted in riparian areas, including adjacent to streams known to provide critical habitat for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead species without environmental review by the CAL FIRE or agencies responsible for administering the California or Federal Endangered Species Acts.

Day 2: Timber Monitoring Continues

On Sunday, June 11, EPIC volunteers braved the weather and poor roads to investigate the largest timber sale unit. Volunteers walked a road proposed to be punched in to facilitate logging. Again, life was everywhere in this “dead” forest. Hardwoods were sprouting from stumps, conifer seedlings provided a green carpet, and many trees the Forest Service considers to be dead were alive, with green boughs and branches. After hours of documenting the forest, EPIC volunteers ended the weekend with a cheer and a promise to return.

It is important to note that most projects like these don’t get monitored, and therefore private companies get away with violating environmental laws and standards that are in place to protect common pool public resources, like clean water we rely on for drinking, critical habitat for species such as salmon that feed our local communities, forests that provide us with clean air, and other ecosystems that support the web of life that we all depend on.

THANK YOU! 

Although EPIC has been groundtruthing for years, this is the first EPIC Base Camp. Our inspiration came from Bark, an Oregon based non-profit that has held an annual Base Camp event for years. Bark was kind enough to send expert ground-truther, Michael Krochta, to share techniques, and lead some of the trainings. EPIC would like to thank the 17 volunteers who came out to the boonies in a rain storm to document these projects, and the information they gathered, will be used in our comments to improve the Horse Creek project to minimize impacts to these wild places. EPIC has the best members. THANK YOU!

If you would like to check out our timber sale unit notes click here.

To view the photos we took in the project areas, click here.

Photos by Amber Jamieson.

 

 


Westside Update: EPIC Back in Court to Fight for Project Remediation

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
By

Photo by Amber Shelton

For more articles about the Westside Timber Sale, click here.

EPIC is back in court to ensure that promised logging remediation will occur. EPIC is seeking to amend our original lawsuit to target some of the unfulfilled promises made by the Forest Service. The amended complaint is here and our motion to amend is here.

Broadly speaking, the Westside Timber Sale consisted of two components: a timber sale and project features to “recover” the forest post-fire and post-logging. The first part, the logging, has occurred. But the second, the recovery actions, may never occur because of the Forest Service’s failures.

Through the Westside Timber Sale, the Forest Service has denuded around 6,000 acres of mostly steep and unstable slopes in the Klamath National Forest. In its wake, the Forest Service has left a mess. Slash and logging debris litter the landscape. Roads are collapsing and washing into the Klamath River. Forest fuel conditions are worse than when the project started. (In short, this is what EPIC predicted would happen. But no one likes an “I told you so.”)

As promised to the public in their environmental impact statement, the Forest Service indicated that it was going to come back in and clean up this mess through fuels reductions projects and treatment of “legacy” sources of sediment pollution. The Forest Service predicated this remediation work on selling timber for exaggerated prices—$240 per thousand board feet of timber. In reality, the Forest Service sold owl critical habitat for as low as $.50 per thousand board feet, as the market for these fire-killed trees dried up. (At that price, a log truck full of trees would cost less than a cup of coffee.)

When the Forest Service realized that the project was no longer economically viable, it should have stopped logging and reevaluated the Project. It didn’t. Now EPIC is asking the court to force the Forest Service to think critically about what it can feasibly do by revisiting its environmental impact statement.