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Giving Tuesday 2020: Giving Back & Moving Forward

Monday, November 30th, 2020
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Giving Tuesday, the international day of charitable giving, is an international movement. Founded in New York in 2012 as a response to the commercialization and consumerism of the holiday season, the event has spread worldwide. Having a single day of concentrated giving has been important to nonprofits.

Last year, American nonprofits were given an estimated $1.9 billion on this single day—the largest single day of donations in the year. Giving Tuesday is an annual tradition, the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and the humble alternative to the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On this day, you are encouraged to give to the nonprofits like EPIC that you believe are making this world a better place. 

On this all-important day of Giving, I wanted to share with you why I care so deeply about the work we do at EPIC and why I believe EPIC makes a difference.

In 2010, EPIC became alarmed because population surveys of Humboldt martens showed that the population of this cute coastal marten was in major decline. So EPIC got to work. We submitted a petition to list the species under the Endangered Species Act and pushed for more protections for the marten.

It took 10 years and multiple lawsuits but we were successful in finally getting new safeguards for the marten just this year. But more than just new protections, the listing process has resulted in significant investment in science and conservation planning for the species, which will hopefully put the species on the fast-track for recovery. 

This year’s Giving Tuesday will be more important than ever for making sure EPIC’s work continues for critters like the marten. 2020 has been tough for the local community and many of our area’s nonprofits feel the pinch as charitable giving has taken a hit along with the economy. If you have the means, consider doubling your annual donations this year to help make up for others who can’t afford to donate this year. There are also easy ways to increase your contribution. Your employer may have a matching donation program or other incentives for you to give. Facebook is also going to match donations on Giving Tuesday if you donate through the platform

Not only will your donation sustain the nonprofit institutions, but it will make you feel better than if you spent the money on yourself. Seriously, there is hard science to back this up. A 2006 peer-reviewed study utilized MRI imaging to see how our brains react to charitable giving. Giving triggers the reward center of the brain, resulting in reaction similar to other stimuli like food or sex, and a flush of dopamine and oxytocin released—the donor’s high! Giving is also contagious. A 2010 study found that giving has a multiplier effect. You are more likely to inspire others to give. And it doesn’t end there. The correlation extends to three degrees of separation—your behavior can influence a third person’s behavior that you’ve never even met! 

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


Practice Green Friday: Buy Nothing Or Support Local!

Monday, November 23rd, 2020
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Skipping the madness of Black Friday and big box stores this year is an especially great idea considering the current circumstances. Instead of opting for online big business, check out other online options for supporting small, local businesses and non-profits, or spend nothing and get outside!

However, if it’s your day to get on top of holiday presents consciously, EPIC has you covered! We are excited to showcase our new 2020 merchandise that celebrates listing the Humboldt marten as threatened on the endangered species list with an incredible Humboldt marten woodblock design by artist Fiona Bearclaw. We have Unisex T-shirts and sweatshirts available in sizes S, M, L, and XL as well as a Women’s tank top option in M, L and XL.

Do you love them as much as we do? Please check out our purchasing options here. If you would like them shipped, add $5 per item onto your cost. Make sure to email [email protected] for shipping options or pick-up after your purchase.

Buy Now!

 


Egregious Violations in Smith River Estuary Block Public Access and Harm Tidal Wetland Habitat

Thursday, November 19th, 2020
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Reservation Ranch, owned by Steven Westbrook and located on the Smith River estuary in Del Norte County, has racked up multiple egregious public access and unpermitted development violations in and around the Smith River estuary that violate the Coastal Act and the Del Norte County Local Coastal Plan. These Coastal Act violations include grading and construction of roads, wetland fill, placement of fill in wetlands and tidal sloughs, damming of tidal sloughs, diversion and storage of freshwater for irrigation, dredging and channeling tidal sloughs, blocking public access to the ocean and public trust tidelands, removal of major riparian vegetation and placement of farm related structures. The owner has used manure, soil, straw, construction waste, trash, cow carcasses and other debris to fill wetlands, tidal sloughs and streams, which has essentially changed the course of stream flows and caused major modifications to the Smith River estuary. Additionally, the property owner has built canals and placed pipes and at least six pumps in tidal sloughs, streams and in the Smith River for diversion and irrigation without permits.

Prior to unpermitted development in Tillas Slough and Islas Slough, the public could access both sloughs from the Smith River. However, now several levees that cross the Tillas Slough completely block public access via the Smith River and have prevented the Smith River from washing through the slough, which has caused sediment build up within Islas Slough.

All of these activities have taken place within the aboriginal territory and the original Smith River Reservation of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe of the Tolowa people who have lived for thousands of years off of the lands, rivers, and sea. The California Coastal Commission, which has jurisdiction over public access and unpermitted development violations has initiated proceedings that will propose to address the violations through issuance of Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders and administrative penalties. These sanctions would direct the owner of the property to cease from performing any additional unpermitted development activities, remove unpermitted items, restore the impacted area, mitigate for habitat loss, and pay administrative fines for loss of public access.

In cases involving public access violations, the Coastal Commission has authorization under the Coastal Act to impose administrative civil penalties that can be up to $11,250, for each violation, for each day each violation has persisted, for up to five years. If a person fails to pay administrative penalties imposed by the Commission, the Commission may record a lien on the property in the amount of the assessed penalty. Additionally, in cases involving development without a Coastal Development Permit, the Commission may impose penalties up to $30,000 and not less than $500 for each instance of development that violates the Coastal Act. Additional civil liability may be imposed on any person who develops without a CDP or inconsistent with a CDP intentionally and knowingly performing development, which can amount to $1,000 to $15,000 per day for each violation for each day the violation persists. Further, a violation of a Cease and Desist Order can result in penalties for up to $6,000 for each day and for each violation.

The 1,668 acre Reservation Ranch is currently listed for sale for $12,950,000. The listing boasts a dyke system, excellent water rights, 3 wells, main water pump from the Smith River, and an abundance of wildlife including trophy salmon and Roosevelt elk.


11th-Hour Attacks On NEPA

Thursday, November 19th, 2020
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Camp on the Sheenjek River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo Credit: Alexis Bonogofsky for USFWS

We are witnessing the last gasps of the Trump administration–the frantic rush to get bad projects and harmful new regulations approved before their time ends on January 20. The Trump administration is rushing to issue oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Also in Alaska, the Trump administration appears ready to issue a permit for the controversial “Pebble Mine.” Today gives us another: new rules by the Forest Service for implementing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As most of EPIC’s public lands program focuses on our National Forests, and as NEPA is our most important tool to advocate for better forest management, this is deeply concerning to us. 

The good news is that their ineptitude has forced them to jettison some things that were originally proposed in a draft rule from this summer. The proposed rules would have conflicted with a new, separate rule issued by the Council on Environmental Quality, showing the internal failures of the administration to coordinate their actions.

The bad news is that the Forest Service is still moving forward with other proposed changes, including the creation of six new “categorical exclusions” and the expansion of two others that are already on the books. Categorical exclusions are worrying because they allow the Forest Service to bypass normal environmental impact analysis to fast-track projects. Projects up to 4.4 square miles (2,800 acres), from things like commercial logging to new road construction, are exempted from project-specific environmental impact analysis and public engagement. Historically, categorical exclusions were limited to activities that would pose an extremely small risk to the environment–repainting a Forest Service building, for example–but have been gradually expanded as a way to avoid NEPA. While we have seen expansion of categorical exclusions in the past, the new rules stand out because of the massive new size and scope of this end-around.

The rules also adopt a new trick to avoid public participation in land management decisions: a “decision of NEPA adequacy,” whereby the Forest Service would rely on previous NEPA analysis in lieu of new review and public engagement. (That’s right: the Forest Service could use a timber sale from the past in the general vicinity of a project to approve a new timber sale without consulting the public.)

11th-hour attacks on our bedrock environmental law are concerning and cannot stand. Cumulatively, the rules silence local community involvement and shortcut the science-based management of public lands.


The Bounty of Tanoaks

Thursday, November 19th, 2020
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For many Americans, winter is associated with ham, eggnog, and pecan pie, but for the Indigenous Peoples of California, winter has traditionally meant acorns.  Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples of what we now call California have consumed this nutritious nut.  But don’t try to eat acorns right off the ground.  The tannins within raw acorns make them toxic if consumed raw.  Thousands of years ago, Indigenous women developed an ingenious system for safely preparing acorns which involves pounding them into a meal and then leaching out the tannins with water.  The process produces a semi-sweet soup, mush or bread depending on how it’s prepared.

In our corner of California, the tanoak tree (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) provides much of this bounty.  Tanoak acorns are uniquely suited to meeting people’s needs.  Tanoak acorns have a thicker shell than most other species which makes them more resistant to fungi and insects.  A properly stored tanoak acorn can last for years which makes them the perfect food for lean winter months.  In fact, tanoak acorns were the basis of the pre-colonization Northwest California economy.  Oral histories and firsthand accounts tell us that the Karuk regularly traded tanoak acorns for white deer skins, obsidian, dentalia shells, and sugar pine nuts with neighboring tribes.  Indigenous Peoples of California also use the tanoak acorn for medicinal purposes.  For example, the tannins in the acorn have cough suppressant properties and among the Kashaya Pomo the acorns are used as a natural cough drop.  

A mature tanoak can produce as much as 200 pounds of acorns per year with estimates for the most productive old growth trees ranging as high as 1000 pounds. Indigenous Californians used fire to manipulate vegetation in order to maximize acorn production.  Many old-growth tanoak groves today are the result of meticulous planning by Indigenous Californians hundreds of years ago.  Tanoak acorns are also a staple for animals native to Northwest California.  Many tribes have long chosen to halt the acorn harvest towards the end of November, preferring to leave enough acorns to support the other species with whom they share the land.  Modern researchers have studied how tanoak acorns provide an irreplaceable food source to many species and that without them our forest ecosystems would be severely threatened.  

As Europeans colonized Northwest California, they made a great effort to disrupt Indigenous food practices.  Most directly, European Americans used violence to drive Indigenous Californians away from the best places to harvest acorns.  But a more subtle kind of disruption also occurred.  To European Americans, acorns were only good for hog fodder. And tanoak trees were more valuable after being cut down and used to tan leather.  As the timber industry developed, the value of tanoak in the eyes of the European Americans degraded even further and it became commonly referred to as a “trash tree”.  Government foresters and private landowners regularly employed (and continue to employ) herbicide in order to prevent these trees from taking up space that could be used by more economically valuable softwoods. Despite these challenges, tanoak remains a culturally significant tree to Indigenous Californians.  Actively resisting assimilation, tribal members have continued to harvest acorns even when threatened with violence by European Americans for doing so.  Many tribes continue to celebrate the harvesting of acorns with an annual acorn feast. 

Tanoak tree killed by Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) in southwest Oregon.

Today, a new invasive threat endangers tanoak.  The disease Sudden Oak Death (SOD) was first identified in the Bay Area in 1994.  Researches noticed that some tanoaks were developing cankers which bled profusely before eventually killing the tree.  SOD is caused by the pathogen Phytopthora ramorum which researchers believe originated in Asia.  The disease obstructs a tree’s xylem cells and reduces their water supply until eventually killing its host.   Since its arrival in California, it is estimated that SOD has killed more than 38 million tanoak trees and wreaked havoc on other oak species as well.  

California has convened an Oak Mortality Taskforce to work on solutions to the threat.  Their website www.suddenoakdeath.org/ contains information about how to spot SOD and how to make sure you don’t accidentally spread it.  Hopefully, we can stop the spread of this disease and finally listen to Indigenous Californians about the value of this giving tree.  


California’s Wild Turkeys

Thursday, November 19th, 2020
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Written by EPIC Intern, Clary Greacen Montagne

Brightly colored “Toms” or male turkeys are recognizable by their tail fans and facial wattles. Photo: October Greenfield

The wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, is an instantly-recognizable game bird closely associated with the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. This species has inhabited North America for over 11 million years, since the end of the Pleistocene era, or Ice Age. Wild turkeys have held a cultural role for peoples across the continent far before the first Thanksgiving celebration. Turkeys were revered in ancient Aztec civilizations as the manifestation of the trickster god Tezcatlipoca, and their feathers were used for spiritual practices and to adorn jewelry and clothing. The Navajo people may have been among the first people to domesticate wild turkeys, and they remained an important food source across North America throughout history. 

Prior to European colonization of North America, more than ten million wild turkeys roamed the continent, but by the turn of the twentieth century, wild turkeys were at the brink of extinction. Four hundred years of westward expansion and the overhunting, deforestation, and resource extraction that came with it left the population decimated. Today, due to conservation and reintroduction efforts, wild turkeys populations have rebounded to around seven million, and they inhabit about 18% of the state of California. While this successful reintroduction has often been deemed a conservation success story, there is debate over their place in California’s ecosystems. 

National symbol: bald eagle or wild turkey?
In 1776, Benjamin Franklin proposed the wild turkey as a national symbol, considering the proud, adaptable turkey to be more respectable and noble than the bald eagle, which often steals food or feasts on carrion. In the end, the bald eagle won out. Photo: Chris Stevenson

There are six distinct subspecies of Meleagris gallopovo; the eastern wild turkey, Florida wild turkey, Gould’s wild turkey, Merriam’s wild turkey, Rio Grande turkey, and Mexican wild turkey. The Rio Grande subspecies is the most widespread and is not native to California. Bones from a species of wild turkey once native to California, Meleagris californica, have been found in the La Brea tar pits in southern California, but this species has been extinct for thousands of years. From the 1950s through the end of the twentieth century, the California Fish and Game Commission (now the California Department of Fish and Wildlife,) imported thousands of non-native Rio Grande wild turkeys to California, releasing them in over 200 locations throughout the state. The turkeys quickly adapted and can now be found living everywhere from oak savannas to the Sacramento suburbs. 

With well-established populations, wild turkeys remain a highly valued upland game bird, but they may be having a negative impact upon California ecosystems. The California State Department of Parks and Recreation in 2007 identified wild turkeys as having the following potential negative impacts: competition with native ground-dwelling bird species, contribution to the spread of the sudden oak death disease, and consumption of endangered reptiles and amphibians. Wild turkeys are generalist feeders, meaning they eat a variety of plants, seeds, and small animals, creating competition for a variety of native species. A short-term study conducted in 2001 at a reserve in Sonoma County showed that turkeys directly caused an increase in soil disturbance and a decrease in terrestrial herbivores, decomposers, and invertebrates fundamental to the ecosystem. More research and long-term studies of wild turkeys in California are needed to fully understand their effects upon the environment, but interest and funding are both scarce. 

For now, population management falls to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which encourages hunting of wild turkeys where safe and legal. Currently, wild turkey populations are not increasing at a rate to elicit major environmental concerns, but overpopulation could become an issue in the future.


Wolf Coalition Launches Challenge To Nationwide Wolf Delisting

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020
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On Friday, Nov. 6, EPIC and a coalition of Western wolf advocates filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, launching a challenge of the agency’s decision to prematurely strip wolves of federal protections in the contiguous 48 states, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. This notice starts a 60-day clock, after which the groups will file a lawsuit in federal court.

“California’s wolves are just starting to return home, having been driven out of the state by 1924,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “A politically-driven delisting puts wolf recovery in California at jeopardy by stripping protections at the moment they are needed most.”

The most recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its state partners show an estimated 4,400 wolves inhabit the western Great Lakes states, but only 108 wolves in Washington state, 158 in Oregon, and a scant 15 in California. Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain functionally extirpated in these states. These numbers lay the groundwork for a legal challenge planned by a coalition of Western conservation groups.

“Wolves are a keystone species whose presence on landscapes regulates animal populations and improves ecosystem health – something the Service has acknowledged for at least 44 years,” said Kelly Nokes, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Allowing people to kill wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana has already stunted recovery in those states. Applying this same death sentence to wolves throughout the contiguous U.S., would nationalize these negative effects, with potentially catastrophic ripple effects on ecosystems wherever wolves are found today.”

In delisting wolves, the Service ignores the science showing they are not recovered in the West. The Service concluded that because in its belief there are sufficient wolves in the Great Lakes states, it does not matter that wolves in the West are not yet recovered. The ESA demands more, including restoring the species in the ample suitable habitats afforded by the wild public lands throughout the West. Indeed, wolves are listed as endangered under state laws in Washington and California, and wolves only occupy a small portion of available, suitable habitat in Oregon. Likewise, wolves also remain absent across vast swaths of their historical, wild, public lands habitat in the West, including in Colorado and the southern Rockies.


Are You A North Coast Co-op Member? Vote For EPIC By Nov. 19th!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020
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EPIC is one out of twenty-seven local, nonprofit organizations that applied and qualified to be part of the Co-op’s Seeds for Change Round-up Program. There are eight openings for 2021. If you are a member of the North Coast Co-op, it’s time for you to help choose the EIGHT you most want to support and we hope EPIC will be one of them! The organizations selected by the membership will get a spot in the program and will be announced in December.

Seeds for Change is a community-giving opportunity that allows customers to ‘round up’ their Co-op purchases to the nearest dollar. We take those extra cents and give them directly to local organizations that are doing important work to better our community. A different nonprofit organization is selected to benefit from the round ups each month. 

Vote before 9:00 PM on November 19th:

Online: www.northcoast.coop/vote

In-store: Ballots available at both Co-op locations

Please vote for EPIC today!


Thank You For An EPIC Virtual Fall Celebration!

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020
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Much like the willow tree, everyone this year has had to be flexible and bend to the strange winds we have been dealt. We weren’t sure how it would go having our Annual Fall Celebration––usually a raucous yet cozy affair with live bands and a full bar–– completely virtual. Yet, we bent and improvised and reassessed. Luckily, we found that we were able to offer much of what we usually have at our Fall Celebration. We had an online auction, two options for catered meal pick-ups, and a Zoom event complete with a Sempervirens Award celebrating the incredible life of Eileen Cooper, live performances from Casey Neill and Joanne Rand, and a Q&A with Congressman Jared Huffman. While we truly missed dancing and toasting in person, we were absolutely overtaken with how fun this year’s event still was. 

Thanks to Joanne Rand for your ballads.

This would not have been possible without the help of many hands and our extraordinary community. We want to extend our extreme gratitude first to our volunteers. For getting the word out, we are so thankful to our social media guru and intern, Clary Montagne Greacen, who kept the ball rolling for our social media accounts. We are also super thankful to Jenna Catsos of Pen & Pine who created the beautiful graphic for our Fall Celebration poster (which is now a rad EPIC sticker that you can purchase!).
On the radio, special thanks to Lauren Schmitt, Tanya Horlick, and Duff on KMUD for making sure the Southern Humboldt crowd heard about the event! On the ground, we want to thank Rob DiPerna, Dian Griffith, Bente Janssen, and Tanya Horlick for making the rounds with posters. 

For our catered meals, special thanks to Chef Natalia Boyce and Edward Hunter who prepared the delicious meal for our Northern Humboldt friends with bounty from Luna Farm, Jacoby Creek Land Trust, Cypress Grove, and Little River Farm. And in Southern Humboldt, huge thanks to the Mateel Community Center and the wonderful Babette Bach and Moses Danzer from Barbeque to You for creating a tasty fall meal with support from Chautauqua Natural Foods, North Bay Shellfish, Tree Nug Farms, and Mycality Mushrooms. Volunteers who braved the frost and rain to make the catered meal pick-up possible include Ann Wallace, Lauren Schmitt, Duff, Emily Ficklin-Wood, Adam, Nicole, and the awesome Rob DiPerna. 

Thanks to Casey Neill for a great performance!

For our silent auction: Gisèle Albertine and her partner Nancy Noll, Josefina Barrantes, Nathan Madsen, Tony Silvaggio, Destiny Preston, and Judith Mayer all helped to create an incredible array of items and getaways for you all to bid on by asking businesses far and wide for their support. We are also especially grateful for the many businesses, artists, and sponsors that made this event financially possible for us and helped our fundraising efforts be a reality after a summer of no events. 

We also want to extend our thanks to our Del Norte community who came together to help make the Sempervirens Award for Eileen Cooper a beautiful tribute. Because of our roots in Southern Humboldt, we have honored many of the great activists of that area with the award. Eileen is our first recipient from Del Norte County and sadly, she passed only a week away from the Celebration. However, of course, the award pales in comparison to the legacy that Eileen has left for Del Norte County.

Before she passed, Eileen helped to establish the EPIC Del Norte Chapter. The Chapter helps to empower local activists in Del Norte County and to be a louder, prouder voice for the environment. Eileen seeded the Chapter with an endowment to keep folks working on behalf of Del Norte County. This endowment is managed by the Humboldt Area Foundation. It will ensure that work is always funded in Del Norte County, and the larger the initial capital for the endowment, the more we can do year-in and year-out in the county. If you are interested in donating to the EPIC Del Norte Fund, please click on this link. All money in the Del Norte Fund goes to EPIC work in the county.

A video of Eileen Cooper singing at a town hall was played in her memory.

Lastly, we want to thank all of our supporters and members, the main reason and possibility behind our celebration and organization. What a year! We hope you were all able to participate in some form for our annual Fall Celebration reunion of our members, supporters, and friends. If we forgot anyone in this thank you, please let us know so we can correct our error. If you have any questions or grievances overall about the event, please contact [email protected].

  

 


The 2020 Election: Environmental Implications

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

Young Sequoia grows post-fire. Photo by Matt Holly, National Park Service.

Rolling Back the Trump Era:

To be blunt: the past four years of the Trump Administration have been bad for the environment, and particularly bad for our climate crisis. But it could have been much, much worse. First, to federal environmental law, Trump failed to land a major legislative rollback of federal environmental law. The first two years of the Presidency, a lack of unified vision within the Republican Party and record turnover of political appointees stalled legislative movement and after the 2018 midterms, Democratic control of the House thwarted major legislative changes. Instead, the Trump administration had to rely on rulemaking and executive orders to change the interpretation of existing environmental law. Thankfully, much of this can be undone in the first years of a Biden administration. Executive orders can be undone most immediately and rulemaking can be reversed, although this will take more effort and time to get rules through following the appropriate process (which shouldn’t be avoided, lest we get these rules invalidated by a rushed error). 

The Trump era was also marked by a lack of enforcement of environmental laws. More vigorous enforcement can be expected by a new administration, particularly once political appointees are filed for the various agencies. Enforcement is also moderated by the budgets approved by Congress. This is an unknown moving forward.

The most lasting damage was done to the judiciary. This will be the hardest to fix. Obama notably was able to push through very few federal judges in his last years, thanks to obstructionism in the Senate. This gave Trump more seats with which to fill. Republican control of the Senate, the loss of the filibuster for judicial appointments, and a prioritization of appointing judicial nominees by Senator Majority Leader McConnell means that Trump has radically reshaped the judiciary. (For example, Trump was able to appoint ten judges to the purportedly “liberal” Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in four years; Obama was able to appoint seven judges in eight years.) With a court more ideologically opposed to federal environmental law, we might see the lingering effects of the Trump administration for decades to come.

We also lost four years of action on climate change. The Trump administration fairly well neutered government action to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and expanded federal drilling for the past four years. The total effect of all this was offset in part by unforced changes in the economy, such as the reduction in coal production, that resulted in relative greenhouse gas emission reductions in 2019. (Strangely enough, Trump’s actions may have helped the environment, although not as intended, as France refused to purchase liquid natural gas from the United States because Trump reversed the Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions. Hoisted by his own petard!) Still, May 2020 set the high-water mark for carbon concentrations, at 417 parts per million. Scientists warn that global carbon dioxide saturation levels in the atmosphere above 400 ppm makes it far more difficult to arrest global warming below 2 degrees celsius. There is a lingering effect to this inaction as well. Cars, for example, that were not required to have as robust of fuel economy standards under Trump will continue to be on the road for many years. The carbon dioxide that was emitted but could have been avoided will hang around the atmosphere for 20-1,000 years.

Federal Legislation Affecting the North Coast:

The North Coast has its eyes on the PUBLIC Lands Act, the large Wilderness bill proposed by Representative Jared Huffman and co-sponsored in the Senate by Senator Harris. The bill successfully passed out of the House twice, where it has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. It is unclear whether it will continue to flounder in the Senate or whether Vice President Harris will be able to exercise greater pressure to get the bill through. We at EPIC are optimistic at its chances. 

EPIC has also been watching dueling federal fire response bills, one from Senator Harris (S. 2882) and the other from Senator Feinstein (S. 4431). In our view, Sen. Harris’ bill, which considers community wildfire protection holistically and provides communities with funding to implement safety measures tailored to their communities is worlds better than Sen. Feinstein’s, which is focused almost exclusively on logging as a solution.


Lassen Pack Has Two Litters of Pups

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020
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Two females in the Lassen Pack had litters this spring, bringing the total of pups to a minimum of nine. LAS01F, the original matriarch of the family birthed at least five and LAS09F, her two-year old daughter had up to four. The new alpha male, who joined the pack last year, sired both litters. The origin of the black male is yet unknown. While multiple litters are uncommon, they most often happen when a genetically unrelated adult wolf joins a new pack.

LAS09 waking up from being captured and collared in June 2020. Photo by CA Department of Fish and Wildlife.

There is now only one collared wolf in California, LAS09 the two-year-old breeding female of the pack. The yearling male LAS13M, collared this summer, began to disperse from the pack in August. He spent a few weeks about 20 miles from his pack then traveled to Modoc County in late September. In early October he entered into Oregon.

This is the fourth litter of pups for LAS01F. Her first litter of four was in 2017, with five in 2018 and four in 2019. Currently the pack consists of three adults, three yearlings and nine pups, bringing the Lassen pack to fifteen.

 


Welcome Matt Simmons: EPIC’s Newest Legal Fellow

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020
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Photo by Clary Zulette.

Hello EPIC!

My name is Matt Simmons and I’m EPIC’s newest legal fellow. I may have grown up in Los Angeles, but I like the North Coast a whole lot more. I became passionate about protecting the environment thanks to my elementary school science teacher Mr. Flint who taught me about climate change and the devastating effect that our current society is having on ecosystems across the globe. In college, I decided that the best way for me to help protect the environment would be to become a lawyer and work on its behalf.

Last May, I graduated from UCLA Law with specializations in both Environmental Law and Public Interest Law. While there, I interned at the Natural Resources Defense Council, participated in UCLA Law’s Environmental Legal Clinic, and acted as a research assistant for a renowned environmental law professor. I also wrote papers on dam removal, green gentrification, and legal personhood for the environment. I was lucky enough to secure partial funding for my legal fellowship at EPIC thanks to the UCLA Emmett Institute and UC Office of the President.

Now that I am at EPIC, I am excited to help advocate for the protection of California’s forests. In particular, I’m excited to work on matters related to the Endangered Species Act which is my favorite environmental law. EPIC has a long history of protecting endangered species that I am excited to be a part of. I know I have a lot to learn from Tom, Amber, Kimberly, and Rhiannon about how to be a successful environmental advocate. They’ve had so much great success and I am excited to start doing my part to help. I’m also really grateful to all of EPIC’s members who make our work possible and I look forward to meeting more of you over the coming months.

Thank you for your continued support,
Matt

Questions? Contact Matt at [email protected]

 


Trick or Treat? EPIC Goodies For Your Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
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This year’s Halloween not only comes on a Saturday, but also on a full moon! A perfect night for lots of silly tricks… and also lots of wonderful treats! EPIC has some great treats to share with you all in honor of our Annual Fall Celebration. Get ready for the weekend after Halloween by pre-reserving or bidding on TREATS this Halloween weekend!

Catered Dinners & Local Libations

Live in Humboldt County? Treat yourself or a loved one to an amazing meal next week by reserving a delicious farm-to-table dinner for pick-up in either Southern Humboldt OR Northern Humboldt. You can also pre-reserve bottles of local wines and six-packs of local beers. Pick-up is on November 6, 2020 at either the Bayside Community Hall or the Mateel Community Center. Check out your many options here. 

Silent Auction Deals 

Find a way to support LOCAL businesses and your local environmental non-profit by bidding on our incredible silent auction! We have so much available and you can bid from the convenience of your own home! Check it all out and be prepared to find some really wonderful getaway packages, gift baskets, gift certificates, art, and more all up for bidding on our Silent Auction Website.



Will Justice Barrett Kill the Modern Administrative State?

Monday, October 26th, 2020
By

Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

While concerns about the access to reproductive care and the fate of the Affordable Care Act dominate the national conversation about the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is concerned: What are her views on Chevron deference? If you have no idea what that is or what it means, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Environmentalism relies on the modern administrative state—the alphabet soup of agencies that interpret and apply statutes passed by Congress. That administrative state, the fundamental basis of modern government, is under threat by attempts to chip away at the power of the administrative state to regulate. At the core of these attacks by conservative judicial activists are attempts to overturn the longstanding principle of Chevron deference (named after the 1984 Supreme Court case, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.).

Here’s what Chevron deference is about: The world is complicated. Too complicated for Congress to pass extremely detailed legislation. Instead, Congress often leaves the details to the experts: the agencies created and charged by Congress to regulate certain areas. Whether it is determining the safe levels for an airborne pollutant or determining what qualifies as a “distinct population segment” when thinking about endangered species, Congress often leaves these critical judgments to the experts within each agency. Thus, the EPA figures out what are safe levels for pollutants and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers questions of endangered species. Chevron deference recognizes that when Congress isn’t clear, the agencies are best equipped to interpret the statute, and provided that their interpretations are reasonable, they are entitled to “deference,” meaning that a court cannot supplant its own interpretation over the agency’s.

It may come as a surprise that EPIC would rise to be a champion of Chevron deference—after all, EPIC currently has seven ongoing lawsuits that challenge the decisions of federal agencies when interpreting federal law, such as our lawsuit challenging new regulations to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But the same legal doctrine that helps to insulate government agencies from criticism from the environmental community also protects the agencies from attack by extractive industries and conservative business interests.

The modern conservative judicial movement has put a bullseye on Chevron deference precisely because it enables a modern regulatory state. Despite it being long standing legal precedent-—and therefore somewhat immune to challenge—Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Gorsuch, Alito, Thomas and Kavanaugh have all questioned Chevron deference to a degree, although there clearly have not been five votes to overturn the doctrine…yet. Judge Barrett, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and proud member of the Federalist Society may be that fifth vote to axe the doctrine or her presence could provide greater breathing room for its gutting. Judge Barrett has indicated, in academic writing, that she does not believe that precedent should bind judges when they believe that something clearly violates the Constitution—and the Chevron deference doctrine has been attacked by the conservative legal movement as unconstitutional, as it (theoretically) cedes the power to interpret the law from the Judicial to the Executive Branch. However, in her time on the 7th Circuit, Judge Barrett did invoke Chevron deference to defend a Trump Administration rule limiting immigration. Or it may be that the court continues its current trajectory of “distinguishing” individual cases from Chevron, thereby minimizing its effect. In this future, the court can chip away at Chevron until the exceptions swallow the rule and the doctrine has been de facto overturned.

Other essential foundations of the modern administrative state may also be on the chopping block. The Supreme Court might revisit and constrain the Legislative branch by more narrowly interpreting the Commerce Clause, the part of the Constitution that provides the legal grounds for nearly all federal environmental laws. The Supreme Court could revive Lochner-era theories about the “freedom to contract,” to limit regulations. The Court could also attempt to resuscitate the “nondelegation doctrine,” something considered dead after the New Deal, but has been revived by the Trump-era packing of the judiciary. Or the Court could throw up new roadblocks to litigants who attempt to enforce environmental laws, such as heightened requirements for public interest groups to show “standing,” as the teeth of federal regulations often are found in groups like EPIC willing to actually enforce the law (a power that the federal government often abdicates).

Our planet can’t afford Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.

 

*This was originally published in the Times-Standard on Oct. 17, 2020. 


Caltrans Attempts to Appeal Federal Court’s Ruling and Protection of Richardson Grove

Monday, October 26th, 2020
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For over a decade, EPIC and our allies have defended the ancient redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park from Caltrans’ controversial proposal to widen Highway 101 through the protected state park. And for years, Caltrans has attempted to maneuver around state, federal, and environmental laws to push the project through with weak and insufficient environmental review documents. In 2019, Honorable Judge William Alsup from the Northern District Court of California ruled that Caltrans must go back to the drawing board and prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

Now Caltrans is attempting to appeal Alsup’s 2019 federal ruling that invalidated Caltrans’ revised Environmental Assessment and ordered the agency to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement. On October 13, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard oral arguments on the defendant’s appeal and plaintiff’s response briefs on Richardson Grove. The hearing was live streamed on the Court’s youtube channel and can be viewed here. 

Initially, the agency attempted to use a categorical exemption, then prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA), then made a supplement to the EA, all of which have been determined by various courts to be inadequate to comply with state and federal laws. Alsup found that the agency’s EA omitted consideration of key elements of the proposed project and thus failed to take the “hard look” required under the National Environmental Policy Act, which prevents Caltrans from working on the proposed project until it has conducted a full EIS. 

In his ruling, Alsup stated that “After eight years of litigation, the Court is convinced and so finds that Caltrans has been bound and determined from the outset, regardless of the source, to arrive at a FONSI [Finding of No Significant Impact] and thus avoid the scrutiny of an EIS….Caltrans never gave the fair “hard look” required by NEPA but resorted to cherry picking the science to arrive at a preordained conclusion…At long last, the Court now orders that Caltrans stop trying to skate by with an EA/FONSI and that Caltrans prepare a valid EIS. Please do not try to systematically minimize the adverse environmental consequences and to cherry-pick the science.”

Attorney Stuart Gross represented the plaintiff group, which is made up of local neighbors to Richardson Grove State Park and nonprofit environmental groups, including EPIC, who are committed to protecting Richardson Grove. The three judge panel asked good questions and is expected to make a determination regarding Caltrans’ appeal of the district court’s grant of summary judgment and permanent injunction against proceeding with a proposed highway project in Richardson Grove State Park. 

No matter the determination, EPIC will stand strong for the protection of the incredible old-growth of Richardson Grove. Along with the federal court ruling currently being appealed, EPIC and allies were also victorious in a state court decision in 2019 that found the agency avoided public scrutiny by failing to include notice of new information in their EIR. While Caltrans continues to attempt to push forward this faulty project, we will continue to be a watchdog for the forest and stand in the way of what is unmistakably a bad project for the trees, the critters, and the public.

 


Into the Haunted Forest: Ghost Pipe

Monday, October 26th, 2020
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Written by Clary Greacen Montagne

Cluster of Monotropa uniflora. Photo by Courtney Celley, USFWS.

Wandering through a dark and shady forest, perhaps foraging for mushrooms, you might happen upon a small cluster of ghostly pale flowers growing through the leaf litter. This curious and elusive plant is the Monotropa uniflora, also known as Ghost Pipe, Indian Pipe, or Corpse Plant. Formerly considered to be part of the Heath family (Ericaceae), recent evidence suggests they are worthy of their own classification, Monotropaceae. The single, bell-shaped flowers of Ghost Pipe grow on curved stems, Monotropa meaning “one turn.”  Each stem and flower resemble a small upside down pipe, hence the name “Ghost Pipe.” These plants can be found throughout most of the U.S., growing in the rich humus of mature forests at low to moderate elevations, and can also be found in some parts of Asia. While widespread in range, they are not commonly found. Ghost Pipe requires a very specific growing process and because of this, is practically impossible to cultivate or propagate. 

This mycotrophic wildflower grows at the base of trees where roots meet the mycelium network, getting all their nutrition through a symbiotic relationship with fungi. Ghost Pipe owes its waxy white appearance to a lack of chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows most plants to photosynthesize. Instead of photosynthesis, Ghost Pipe gets its necessary nutrients through a mycorrhizal association with a fungus. In this unique relationship, a fungus invades the roots of the plant, allowing the plant to get its energy from the photosynthesis of the fungus’ host tree. With no light dependency, Ghost Pipe is able to thrive in the dark, spooky environment of the forest floor.

Photo by Helen Lowe Metzman.

Spending most of their life underground, these plants flower in the small window between June and September, when they poke up through the leaf litter alone or in small stands. Ghost Pipe grows between four and eight inches tall, and is pale white in color with small black or pink specks, and can also have brightly colored pink stems. The plants have small, scale-like leaves and five parted white flowers, with a single flower per stem. Ghost Pipe is pollinated by bees, who hang on to its flower upside down. Upon first flowering and emerging from the ground, the flower hangs downward, but as the fruit capsule matures, the flower points upwards in line with the stem. Once the fruit has ripened, seeds are released through small slits and dispersed by wind. The Ghost Pipe will flower for about a week, before shriveling and turning black, hence its alternate name, “Corpse Plant.”

Ghost Pipe has been used by indigenous peoples of North America as a medicinal plant, primarily for its pain-relieving properties. A Cherokee legend about Ghost Pipe tells of a time long ago, when selfishness first entered the world, and people began quarreling. First, they quarreled with their own families and tribal members, and then with other tribes. The chiefs of several tribes met together to try to solve the disputes, and smoked a peace pipe together, while continuing to quarrel with each other for seven days and seven nights. In punishment for smoking the peace pipe before actually making peace, the Great Spirit turned the chiefs into grey flowers and made them grow where relatives and friends had quarreled.

Ghost Pipe is used today in Western Herbal Medicine as a nervine, or plant beneficial to the nervous system, and may provide benefits for epilepsy, psychological conditions, and physical pain. Unfortunately, the popularity of this plant in Western Herbal Medicine has caused it to be overharvested. Ghost Pipe is extremely delicate, so much so that when handled, it wilts very quickly and turns black. It’s best to admire this ghostly plant without attempting to handle or harvest it. 

 


Save The Date! The 43rd Annual EPIC ‘Virtual’ Fall Celebration: Bringing The Wild To You

Sunday, October 25th, 2020
By

On behalf of the staff and board of EPIC, you are cordially invited to the The 43rd Annual EPIC ‘Virtual’ Fall Celebration starting at 6pm on Friday, November 6th, 2020 on Zoom. Despite not getting to see your lovely faces in person, we are certainly looking forward to this event. We will be featuring a wonderful schedule, complete with break-out happy hour groups, live music & speakers, catered meals, and a great silent auction.

We are so appreciative of all of our supporters and members and we are thrilled to be able to offer an event amidst these strange times. This is our largest fundraiser of the year and all funds go to protecting our beloved forests and the species that depend on them. Please join us this November 6th! 

Ticket Options Available: EPIC’s 2020 Fall Celebration Event Page

SEMPERVIRENS AWARD CEREMONY HONORING EILEEN COOPER

EPIC will be awarding the Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award to Eileen Cooper. Eileen is a fighter: for peace, for the common person, and for the environment. Through her decades-long work to save wild places and spaces, she has made her little corner of California a better place.

 

 

MUSICAL PERFORMANCES BY JOANNE RAND & CASEY NEILL

We are excited to have two longtime  EPIC favorites performing live on our Zoom event. We look forward to hearing some beautiful acoustic sets from Joanne Rand and Casey Neill. 

GUEST SPEAKER: REP. JARED HUFFMAN 

Our event will be the weekend after the big upcoming presidential election. We are sure no matter what the outcome is that Representative Jared Huffman will have a lot to say.  Find out what the next Congress has in store, details of the Green New Deal, and more! 

 

SILENT AUCTION

We will have an exceptional online array of beautiful arts, crafts, locally made products, experiences, and getaways that will make perfect gifts for your friends and family. Check out what we are offering here. Bidding starts October 19th. 

CATERED DINNER OPTIONS

We will be expecting to offer two different and delicious catered dinner options featuring local and organic ingredients for pick-up in both the Southern Humboldt area and in Northern Humboldt (reservations made in advance). More details coming soon!

DONATIONS AND SPONSORSHIPS

If you are an entrepreneur, consider sponsoring the event! A sponsorship costs $300 and includes a feature in EPIC’s 10k member newsletter, website, social media, and provides a charitable tax-deduction for your business. If you would like to donate an item for the silent auction, we will promote your items online and at the event. For inquiries into either of these options, please contact [email protected].

Stay tuned for more information 🙂 

We can’t wait to see you on the Wild Web!

Amber, Rhiannon, Tom, & Kimberly 

Buy Tickets Now!


An Ode to an Indigenous Justice Movement During Indigenous People’s Week

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
By

Written by Josefina Barrantes

Happy Indigenous People’s Week! A great activity you can do that helps you become more aware of your local indigenous community is finding out who’s land you’re on! If you text your city and state or zip code to (907)312-5085 the hotline will tell you whose land you occupy. Most of our team occupies Wiyot land here in Humboldt.

This week, we are to remember the lives taken and the relatives (natural resources) that are plundered to this day. It is also important to remember the people who have fought and continue to fight to end violence and the exploitation of nature. Because of this, we wanted to make an ode to highlight an incredibly important Indigenous justice movement in our country. 

Photo by Rafael Samanez, O’odham Anti Border Collective.

An Indigenous Land Protection Ceremony in O’odham this Monday (on Indigenous People’s Day) was violently interfered with when Border Patrol and Arizona State Police attacked them with tear gas and rubber bullets. The ceremony was held to pray for sacred sites and graves that were demolished with the creation of the border wall. Of the land and water protectors holding this ceremony, 8 were arrested.

 Although they were all released, they are asking that reparations are made to those who were injured at the incident. In addition to this, they are asking for the discontinuation of border wall construction at Quitobaquito Springs and through all of the O’odham lands. The construction of the Mexican-American border wall harms them in many ways, one being that it is depleting the resources in Quitobaquito and throughout O’odham lands. Quitobaquito is a sacred water spring in Hia-Ced O’odham territory that is having wells drilled into its aquifers by the constructurres of the wall so they can steal the water and mix concrete for the border wall. 

This, in turn, has been negatively affecting the already endangered Desert Pupfish and Sonyta Mud Turtle that reside in these waters. The people of O’odham are doing incredible work by fighting for the protection of their sacred land and water. We stand with them as they continue to be fighting on the frontlines everyday.

Donations for this movement are accepted through:

Cash app handle: $DefendOodhamJewed

PayPal: paypal.me/DefendOodhamJewed


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.


New Rodenticide Law – A Win For Wildlife

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
By

On September 29th, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act, which prohibits the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) until the Department of Pesticide Regulation completes a reevaluation and adopts additional restrictions necessary to ensure that use of rodenticides will not result in significant adverse effects to nontarget wildlife.

Rodenticide use often leads to a domino ‘death’ effect in nontarget wildlife: when small mammals such as mice, squirrels, rats, and rabbits are targeted, their poisoned bodies are often then eaten by larger animals such as foxes, bobcats, raccoons, cougars, and many large predatory birds where the poison is then secondarily ingested with a negative and often deadly effect. 

As well, data from state pesticide regulators and the federal Environmental Protection Agency document that approximately 15,000 children under age six are accidentally exposed to rat poisons each year across the country. The EPA says children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to the poisons. Thousands of incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides have been reported, many resulting in serious injury or death.

Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants — including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum — are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate at many times the lethal dose in their tissues, which subsequently results in the poisoning of animals that feed on their carcasses. 

As a result, these powerful poisons have their greatest impact on wildlife. The exposure and harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread. Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wildlife species in California alone, including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows.

In 2014 regulations were put into place to ban over the counter consumer sales and use of SGARs restricting use to certified pesticide applicators. However, between 2014 and 2018, the Department of Fish and Wildlife found SGARs in over 90 percent mountain lions, 85 percent of Pacific fishers, 70 percent of northern spotted owls, and 88 percent of bobcats that were tested, showing that the 2014 pesticide ban was not proven to be effective. 

The law does provides exemptions for agricultural activities, public health activities, invasive species on offshore islands, scientific studies, or to control rodent infestations associated with public health needs in certain locations and under specified conditions. The bill declares violation of new law is a misdemeanor. Essentially, AB 1788 will prohibit the use of these deadly poisons in California, with some exceptions, until a definitive study is conducted to examine the effects of the poison, which could take years. In the meantime, misdemeanor penalties will be applied if the law is violated. We hope that this law will be effective in protecting the lives of wildlife in the years to come.