Public Lands

Wolf Update: California’s Lassen Pack Grows

Monday, August 10th, 2020
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Female gray wolf after being fitted with a satellite tracking collar in Lassen County, June 2020. Photo by CDFW

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

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

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

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

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

 


One Step Closer To National Forest Plan Revisions

Monday, August 10th, 2020
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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
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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
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In a major victory, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with EPIC in a case impacting the Mendocino National Forest. The court found that the Forest Service’s use of a “categorical exclusion” to avoid an environmental impact assessment for a timber sale following the 2018 Ranch Fire was likely a violation of the law and that EPIC should have been awarded an injunction by the lower court to stop logging. 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


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

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
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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.


Your Comments Needed: Protect Roosevelt Elk From Increased Hunting

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
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Roosevelt elk bull. Photo by Clinton Steeds, Flickr.

The Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti) once ranged from the Bay Area to Alaska along the West Coast. Historically, prior to non-indigenous settlement, elk populations in California were estimated to be around 500,000. By the late 1800’s, elk populations had been completely decimated by the introduction of non-indigenous settlers and the subsequent hunting, habitat loss, and grazing competition from domesticated animals that followed. However, concentrated conservation efforts and the elk’s impressive ability to survive natural and human-induced pressures over time resulted in a rebound of the species, notably rising in the 1970’s. Currently, the three species of elk in California now have a combined population count of about 12,900 (less than 2.5% of the historical population estimate of 500,000). 

Today, California’s elk population is still working to recover from their historic decimation and occupy only a fraction of the territory they once occupied. Elk recovery has been further hampered by legacies of mismanagement, such as translocation of elk outside of areas they had once occupied, resulting in hybridization between elk subspecies. In Humboldt and Del Norte counties, the Roosevelt elk populations are estimated to consist of varying herds of only about 1,600 individuals (although these numbers are still largely unknown and unpublished). Despite these comparatively small population sizes, recreational hunting tags for elk are issued every year through the California Fish and Game Commission, even while collected data shows that elk herds overall do not seem to increase significantly each year and some herds even decline over time. In spite of that data, CFGC currently has a proposal on the table from California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to increase the hunting tags for Roosevelt elk in Humboldt and Del Norte counties from 108 to 148 for the 2020-2021 season in order to reduce human-elk “conflicts”.

This tag increase is irresponsible when the population data that is relied on for this is anecdotal at best and while alternative solutions to these conflicts exist such as: providing financial assistance for elk fencing, conservation easements on larger ranches to support elk corridors to allow movement between coastal and upland environments, and elk road crossings. Without having accurate and transparent numbers on herd size available, the public does not have an overall realistic view of the populations of elk in this area.

CDFW is prioritizing elk hunting over other priorities. Elk management includes multiple considerations, some of which conflict with each other. Elk management includes many other important priorities such as improving existing habitat, developing new habitat, growing elk populations, conflict avoidance with humans, and improvements of sustainable enjoyment of elk as a public trust resource, through non-consumptive (wildlife viewing) enjoyment. Promoting elk hunting and promoting non-consumptive enjoyment (like viewing) are seemingly at odds, although CDFW is charged with providing for both uses. CDFW is pushing forward an increase in elk hunting tags despite bad data and competing interests that counsel against more hunting. Please let the Commission know that without more transparent numbers, alternative solutions, and increased public participation, this proposal should be opposed and tag numbers should not be increased.

Take Action Now!

 


Mendocino National Forest Backtracks on Logging Project Amidst Scrutiny

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
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Kimberly Baker inspecting marked tree in timber sale.

1,284 Acres Spared from Logging Under Revised Plan

In response to criticism by the public, the Mendocino National Forest has drastically scaled back proposed logging in the “Green Flat Restoration Project.” Originally planned for 1,534 acres, the Forest Service has scaled the project back to 250 acres. The agency was criticized for its apparent attempt to characterize logging activities as other more benign actions, such as “reforestation.”

The Green Flat Project was proposed in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire. The project quickly elicited controversy because it appeared that the Mendocino National Forest was attempting to characterize commercial logging under other names to more easily facilitate environmental review of the project. Nearly all federal projects are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which demands that projects be evaluated to consider potentially significant environmental impacts as well as alternatives and mitigation measures to reduce impacts. A small subset of actions—so-called “categorical exclusions”—are exempt from this longer environmental review process. The Forest Service has defined what types of activities can be pursued under a categorical exclusion. These include post-fire logging of 250 acres or less and “reforestation.”

In January, the Mendocino National Forest announced the proposed project. In a letter soliciting public comment, the Mendocino National Forest first proposed 250 acres of post-fire logging, 1,066 acres of “fuels reduction” associated with reforestation, and 218 acres of commercial logging coined as “forest health treatments.” Both fuels reduction and forest health treatments were effectively logging. In its comments on the project, EPIC outlined that this renaming of activities to fit under a categorical exclusion was illegal.

On March 11, the Mendocino National Forest withdrew the proposed project, announcing it would only pursue a smaller 250 acre commercial logging project. Further, the Mendocino indicated that it would reduce the number of living trees logged by taking trees that were estimated to have a 70%+ chance of dying in the future.

“Post-fire forests are ecologically sensitive and respond poorly to intensive logging–that’s why only smaller projects are allowed to utilize a categorical exclusion. Simply renaming logging something else to bypass the rules was clearly illegal and the Forest Service was caught, said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of EPIC.

“It is clear to see the agencies disregard for science and ecology by prioritizing the extraction of large trees while it leaves the smaller vegetatation to fuel the next fire,” said Kimberly Baker, Public Lands Advocate for EPIC.

In response to the Ranch Fire, the Mendocino National Forest has aggressively tried to increase logging in the fire footprint. EPIC is in court to stop another series of misapplied categorical exclusions.


Action Alert: Say No To Mendocino Logging of Fragile Post-Fire Forests!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
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The Mendocino National Forest is attempting to hide a 1,300 acre clearcut as a “restoration” project. By its logic, there is a need to cut all trees in order to plant others. The agency is arguing that it is exempt from environmental laws that require a detailed consideration of the likely environmental impacts of the project. All of this is on the heels of a massive post-fire roadside-logging project done without adequate environmental review. EPIC’s staff has rarely seen this level of disregard for science, ecology, wildlife, water quality, or public participation. We need your help to shine a spotlight on this Orwellian abuse of our laws.

Take Action Now!

The “Green Flat Restoration Project” is in response to the 2018 Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Fire Complex. To justify its proposed project, the Forest Service critically muddies the facts about the severity of burned area. By the agency’s telling, the project site is a moonscape desolate of life—with 79% of the area burned at “high-severity.” More accurately, the broader project area burned at a mixed severity—with patches of lower-severity fire (i.e. less mortality and surviving green trees capable of providing a seed source for natural reforestation) near patches of high-severity (i.e., the vast majority of trees were killed by the fire).

Here’s why this matters: by adopting an expansive definition of “high-severity” area, the Forest Service justifies the necessity of the project. It claims that because nearly the entire project falls within a “high-severity” patch, it must be replanted. And, in order to “improve the success” of replanted trees and to reduce fuels, the agency claims it needs to remove dead and live trees that were affected by the fire.

All of this is hooey because the forest stands are entirely capable of natural regeneration. Fire is nature’s phoenix. The mixed-severity of the project area ensures that there is a sufficient seed source nearby, and with resprouting hardwoods, the area will naturally reforest in time. The proposed ground based logging with heavy machinery, by contrast, will eviscerate natural recovery through the churning and disturbance of the already fragile soils. Artificial reforestation is less preferable for numerous reasons: it is more expensive, results in less biological diversity, and spreads invasive species.

Snags are an important part of a post-fire forest.

Snags left behind without logging are biological legacies that help forests recover from one stand to the next. Snag forests provide valuable charcoal and will stand and store carbon for decades. Unlogged post-fire forests provide complex forest structures and biologically vibrant habitats. Often called “nurse logs” after they fall, snags provide future soil nutrients, create cooler micro-climates by casting shade and holding moisture, provide denning, resting and hiding areas for mammals and birds, and feed the millions of micro-organisms that are the base of the food chain.

There is no sound ecological reason for industrial post-fire logging. By misleading the public about the nature and the need of the project, the Forest Service then attempts to shuttle the project through using a “categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements to carefully study the potential environmental impacts of a project. No consideration of impacts to wildlife. No consideration of impacts to water quality. No consideration to impacts to future fire conditions. Nothing. This fits a trend from the Mendocino National Forest to mischaracterize projects to get out the cut—and one that EPIC sued them over in 2019.

We need your help. The Mendocino National Forest hopes that no one will notice that this “restoration” project is really a timber sale in disguise. We need to flood the Forest Service with opposition to this appalling project before the comment period ends on Friday.

Take Action Now!


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

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
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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.


Help Save One of California’s Rarest Plants

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019
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Save the date! There are only 20 know populations of Shasta snow-wreath on the planet. Come join EPIC April 25-26 at Packers Bay on the Shasta Reservoir to help protect this beautiful plant from being invaded by Scotch broom. EPIC volunteers will be pulling the invasive non-native Scotch Broom and helping to protect stream sides from being sprayed with toxic glysophate.

The Shasta snow-wreath (Neviusia cliftonii) is endemic to the shores and canyons around Shasta Reservoir. Neviusia have existed for over 45 million years; however it was not discovered until 1992! The Eastern Klamath Range is an ancient landscape, neither glaciated nor overlain by volcanic material, as were the surrounding mountains. The area is rich in biodiversity and is home to other endemic species such as the Shasta salamander (Hydromantes shastae) a state-listed threatened species and the Shasta Chaparral snail.

Many Shasta snow-wreath populations were lost when the reservoir was created and others are threatened by the proposal to raise the dam. Scotch brooms are another threat and have infested multiple areas near Packers Bay. Last year EPIC protected a few of the most sensitive populations from the possible drift of herbicides and we plan to do it again every year till the broom is gone from the creek side location. Working together demonstrates that people power is the best alternative.

Stay tuned for more details coming in April.


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

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
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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
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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
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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.


Action Alert: Congress Threatens Public Input for BLM Lands

Friday, February 17th, 2017
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Headwaters Forest Reserve 20 Anniversary Hike

Take Action Now: The Senate is considering S.J. Res 15, a resolution to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s “Planning 2.0” land-use planning rule, which gives the public a voice in large-scale planning for public lands. If the resolution is passed, public input in the management of our public lands would be drastically limited. the U.S. House of Representatives already voted in favor of the resolution, and the Senate will be voting any day. Senators need to hear that we value our public lands and we should have a say in how these lands are managed.

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of land mostly within Western states, with over 15.2 million acres in California, and 86,000 acres in Humboldt County alone, including the King Range National Conservation Area and the Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Arcata and Redding BLM Field Offices are currently undergoing their Resource Management Plan updates for managing 20-25 years out, and they have combined updates to create a more regional approach for Northwest California planning, which is referred to as the Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan.

Hunters, anglers and conservationists support Planning 2.0 because the rule ensures important migration corridors and other intact habitats are identified so these areas can be conserved throughout the planning process.

Click here to send a letter to your Senators asking them to preserve public participation in the planning process for public lands by voting no on S.J. Res 15. Its best if you personalize your letter to reflect your experiences and highlight the places you care about.

OR for those of you in California, please send your comments to the email addresses below, or call:
Senator Feinstein’s office: [email protected]senate.gov 202-224-3841
Senator Harris’s office: [email protected] 415-355-9041 and 202-224-3553


Action Alert: Say No to Climate Denier and Yes to Science

Monday, January 30th, 2017
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Trump Chooses Climate Change Denier to Head Department of Agriculture

Take Action to stop climate change denier from taking cabinet position. On January 19th, Donald Trump selected conservative Republican and climate change denier, Sonny Perdue, to be his Secretary of Agriculture. In 2014, Perdue wrote an opinion article describing climate change as “…a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”

If confirmed, Mr. Perdue would be the head U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency with a $155 billion budget that is charged with oversight of our national forests and grasslands, which make up 279,000 square miles of public lands. Additionally, he is tasked with matters relating to Wildlife Services, overseeing farm policy, food safety, and the food-stamp program.

The former governor of Georgia who once ran a grain and fertilizer business, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies that help chemical companies and large agriculture conglomerates at the expense of the environment and small farmers. As governor, Perdue championed the expansion of factory farms and pushed against gas taxes and EPA efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act.

Perdue’s nomination must now be vetted by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which will examine Perdue and vote on whether or not to recommend him for confirmation by the Senate.

Click here to take Action now to ask your Senator to ensure that climate change deniers like Perdue are not confirmed leading roles in our government.

 


Keep California Great!

Thursday, January 26th, 2017
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img_4386California did not exist at the founding of our country, but we are the future of America.

Look: we are going to experience losses at the federal level. Since our federal environmental laws were passed, they have been chipped away at; now, they be wiped off the books entirely. We can no longer rely on federal environmental law to protect the clean air and water, biodiversity, and ecosystem health that we need and cherish.

Now is time for California to take charge and ensure that our state environmental laws are strong enough to keep California great.

EPIC calls on the Legislature to review and revise California’s foundational environmental laws—the California Endangered Species Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, among others—to ensure that we have a safe and healthy California, for all its residents (both humans and critters alike).

California has led the nation before in setting environmental policy. California was among the first to move to protect biodiversity, passing the California Endangered Species Act in 1970, three years before the federal Endangered Species Act. Before the creation of the U.S. Forest Service, California recognized the public importance of our forests and charged the Board of Forestry, first founded in 1885, with the enforcement of forestry laws.

What we do in California has an outsized importance not just in our country, but around the globe. If it were its own country, California would boast the 6th largest economy in the world—ahead of France and just below Great Britain. Our laws can help shape federal environmental policy, even if they only apply within our own state.

EPIC is heartened to hear that Governor Brown has pledged to take up the slack left by the Trump administration and join with other states and countries to fight climate change and the declaration by California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon that California will “set an example for other states to follow.


Grazing Reform Project Works Toward Responsible Grazing Practices

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
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bigmdws_cattle-trail-in-wetlands-2EPIC is excited to announce the launch of the new website for our Project to Reform Public Land Grazing in Northern California, located at www.grazingreform.org. On the site you can access lots of information about the impacts of public land grazing, including 28 photo-illustrated reports which span the seven years during which Project volunteers have monitored and documented the manner in which livestock grazing, all by cattle, is being (mis)managed within 15 separate grazing allotments in wilderness areas and on other national forest lands within the Klamath, Rogue-Siskiyou and Shasta National Forests. If you like the work we are doing, please consider making a donation to the Project.  All donations will keep our intrepid grazing monitor, Felice Pace, out in the field documenting problems. We are also looking for volunteers to help perform grazing monitoring, in particular grazing allotments in the Mad River Watershed of the Six Rivers National Forest.

On the website you can access, read and download reports which document the poor manner in which public land grazing is managed and the resulting degradation of water quality, riparian areas and wetlands. On the site you can also access research on grazing impacts, best management practices for managing grazing, specialist reports, like the report of hydrologist Jonathan Rhodes on the Big Meadows Grazing Allotment in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, and several videos Felice and other Project volunteers have made in the field to highlight the negative impacts of grazing on riparian areas, wetlands, water quality and meadows.

Click here to donate to the grazing monitoring project

Click here to volunteer

A little background: 

The Project to Reform Public Land Grazing started over seven years ago in support of water quality testing by the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (QVIR) in streams like Shakleford Creek and East Boulder Creek in the Scott River Basin. Using an environmental justice grant from the EPA, QVIR began testing water quality in streams issuing from grazing allotments within the Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps Wilderness Areas. QVIR testing documented violation of water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria and excessive nutrients; both are associated with water pollution from poorly managed grazing.

Inspired by this QVIR effort, our project coordinator, Felice, decided to go onto the grazing allotments themselves to document the bad grazing management that resulted in the water pollution QVIR found and to use that information to advocate for improved grazing management. Over the past seven years, we’ve logged 1,210 hours monitoring grazing on-the-ground in our national forests—that’s over 150 person days of volunteer grazing monitoring!

While it is certainly impossible to eliminate all the negative impacts of grazing on water quality, riparian areas and wetlands, negative impacts within Northern California’s wet meadow headwaters could be substantially reduced if Forest Service managers would require that grazing permit holders implement modern grazing management methods, including regular herding to rotate grazing among the various pastures on an allotment. Presently, however, permit holders place their cattle on the public lands in the spring or summer and don’t return until mid to late October when the snow flies and cattle must be taken to the home ranch. Some grazing permit holders have become so lax that they do not even collect their cattle in the fall. Instead they allow their livestock to wander home on their own while continuing to graze on national forest land.

Allowing cattle to remain unmanaged on public land for months on end always leads to degraded water quality, trashed riparian areas and trampled wetlands. This is just one of the many instances of lax Forest Service grazing management which the project hopes to change. Trampled springs like the one in the photo below are a common sight on Northern California’s public land grazing allotments and a clear indicator of inadequate Forest Service grazing management.

Donate Now!

Sign up as a volunteer!


Bringing Back the Condor

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
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800px-californcondor-scott-frierThe Yurok Tribe has spearheaded an effort in conjunction with the National Park Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a condor restoration program and release facility in Redwood National Park, to return condors to their historical range in Yurok Ancestral Territory, where they have not been seen for more than a century. We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but just in case: this is fantastic and EPIC wholeheartedly supports condor reintroduction. As part of the project, five public scoping meetings will be held this month in northern California and Oregon to receive input on the California Condor Restoration Plan/Environmental Assessment, including one in Eureka on January 26th.

Background

Since time immemorial, the Yurok Tribe has viewed the condor as a sacred animal, using their feathers and singing their songs in the World Renewal ceremony. As part of the Yurok Tribe’s obligation to heal the world, and return balance to Yurok Ancestral Territory, returning the condor to the region is spiritually and biologically imperative.

The California condor is the largest North American land bird primarily found in rocky shrub land, coniferous forests, and oak savannas. Condors are a keystone species, because their sharp beaks allow them to tear into tough skins of large mammalian carcasses that other scavengers cannot break down. Although fossil evidence shows that condors were once prevalent across North America, the end of the last glacial period reduced their range to the American Southwest and West Coast. In 1967 the species was federally listed as endangered, and in 1971 it was listed as an endangered species by the State of California. By 1987, habitat destruction, poaching and lead poisoning pushed wild condors into extinction, when all 22 remaining wild individuals were caught and put into captive breeding programs and in December 2015, the US Fish and Wildlife Service recorded a total population of 435 condors, consisting of 268 wild and 167 captive individuals.

Public Meetings

January 23: Sacramento, CA  6-8pm at the Federal Building, 2800 Cottage Way

January 24: Eureka, CA 6-8pm at the Wharfinger Building, 1 Marina Way

January 25: Klamath, CA 10am-12pm at the Yurok Tribal Office, 190 Klamath Blvd

January 25: Medford, OR 6-8pm at the Jackson County Auditorium, 7520 Table Rock Road, Central Point Oregon

January 26: Portland, OR 6-8pm at the Oregon Zoo, 4001 SW Canyon Road

How to Comment

Public scoping comments will be accepted until February 28, 2017 and can be submitted at the meetings or you can click here to submit comments online. Comments will be used to determine the scope of environmental issues and alternatives that will be addressed in the subsequent Environmental Assessment, which is scheduled to be released in summer of 2017. We encourage our members to support the program and highlight the importance of bringing the condor back to the Pacific Northwest by ensuring that the species has the habitat and protections necessary to reestablish their populations in the region.


Three Victories for the Crown and Coast of California!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
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Lost Coast Headlands. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is expanded to 100,000 acres! Before leaving office, President Obama added 48,000 acres to the monument, which lies mostly in southwestern Oregon and now includes 5,000 acres in Northern California. The expansion will provide vital habitat connectivity and added landscape scale protection. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges, the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyous, has created a truly unique landscape, home to many rare and endemic plants and animals. It is the first monument set aside solely for the preservation of biodiversity.

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Trinidad Head. Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

The California Coastal National Monument now includes six new sites totaling over 6,230 acres. Three of them are in Humboldt County, Trinidad Head, Waluplh-Lighthouse Ranch and 440 acres of Lost Coast Headlands south of Eureka and the Eel River. The other areas include the 5,785-acre Cotoni-Coast Dairies parcel on the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Piedras Blancas lighthouse in San Luis Obispo County; and offshore rocks and small islands off the Orange County coast. The monument designation ensures the protection of all islets, reefs and rock outcroppings along the entire 1,100-mile long coastline of California within 12 nautical miles.

A recent Public Land Order has secured a 20-year Mineral Withdrawal just north of the state border in the Klamath Mountains. Covering 100,000 acres of land managed by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and Bureau of Land Management the order will protect some of the region’s most pristine rivers from large-scale strip mining and new mineral development, although it does not prohibit ongoing or future mining operations on valid pre-existing mining claims. The defining characteristic of the proposal is the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Smith River, which originates in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and runs through the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area.

The crown of California, also known as the Siskiyou Crest, is an extremely ecologically important east to west biological corridor that straddles our neighboring state of Oregon. With the newly designated National Monument to the east and added protections for roadless lands to the west, the crown jewel of the state just got wilder! Together in combination with the addition of the culturally significant areas along the coast to monumental status is a real win for the people, plants and wildlife of our wild places.


BLM Seeking Input for Public Land Management in NW CA

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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The Bureau of Land Management will be holding public scoping meetings to seek comments to help shape the Northwest California Resource Management Plan (NCIMP) and Environmental Impact Statement for public land management over the next 15 to 20 years. The plan process is expected to take up to four years to complete and would govern 400,000 acres of public lands and resources in Del Norte, Siskiyou, Shasta, Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity, Tehama and Butte counties. Several meetings will be held throughout the region, including one in Eureka on Wednesday, January 11th at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center at 911 Waterfront Drive from 5 to 7 p.m. Other meetings will be held in Redding, Weaverville, Garberville, Willits, Chico and Yreka.

The planning area includes lands that are comprised of wilderness trails, hunting areas, off-highway riding areas, mountain bike trails and scenic vistas. Many of these lands provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as resource uses including mining, timber production, livestock grazing, and firewood collecting. Click here to find background documents that provide information about the planning area.

Specific areas of interest include Elkhorn Ridge, South Fork Eel River, Yolla Bolly, Middle Eel Ishi and Yuki Wilderness Areas as well as Samoa Dunes Recreation Area, Mike Thompson Wildlife Area, Lost Coast Headlands and Ma-l’el Dunes. We are urging our members to come out and advocate for habitat connectivity on these public lands as well as the protection of wildlife and vital ecosystems that could be affected by the plan.

We encourage our members to provide specific landscape-level comments and rationale including how you would like to see these places managed

Click here to comment and or find a meeting near you.