Clean Water

Are Toxic Tires Killing Salmon?

Monday, December 14th, 2020
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Coho Salmon Spawner. Photo by K. King, USFWS.

A new study published in the journal Science may help explain why California’s coho salmon runs continue to decline. The study examined “urban runoff mortality syndrome,” a disconcerting phenomenon where stormwater runoff produces large mortality events. Clearly there was something in the water. But what? Researchers started by looking at over 2,000 chemicals routinely found in car tires and eliminated potential killers until one remained: 6PPD-quinone (pronounced “kwih-known”), a byproduct of a tire preservative. This chemical is now thought to be the primary driver in stormwater-related mortality events. EPIC’s podcast, the EcoNews Report, recently featured Warner Chabot from the San Francisco Estuary Institute to discuss the report. Listen here! (P.S. Subscribe to the EcoNews Report on your favorite podcast app!) You can also read the full report here

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Arriving at this conclusion took hard work and good science. First, scientists began with a list of chemicals found in stormwater runoff and noticed that all problem areas shared a common feature: chemicals found in tires. Then they began grouping chemicals together and testing. They were able to find that metals were not an issue, for example, by testing whether a concentrate with just metals found in tires killed the salmon. Through this repetitive process, they eliminated classes of chemicals and individual chemicals until just a few remained, including one that didn’t appear to be related to tires–at least at first. Scientists knew the constituent parts of the chemical–18 carbons, 22 hydrogens, two nitrogens and two oxygens–but nothing like that matched the known chemicals in tires. It then required an “a-ha!” moment to solve for the mystery chemical.

6PPD-quinone is produced when ozone reacts with 6PPD. This isn’t by accident, that is what is supposed to happen! Because 6PPD reacts with ozone, other parts of the rubber tire do not, helping to lengthen the life of the tire. Because we now know the problem, we can solve it. There is already a petition before the California Department of Toxic Substance Control to examine zinc, another toxic addition to tires. If the agency begins a regulatory process to address zinc, then 6PPD-quinone can be added to their list of things to consider as well. There is also interest from tire manufacturers, who worked cooperatively with researchers here, in addressing the issue.


ACTION ALERT: Tell CAL FIRE Not To Log The Western Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Monday, December 14th, 2020
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Jackson State Demonstration Forest. Photo by the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station

CAL FIRE intends to conduct extensive logging in the Western Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Let them know that California’s state lands are better used by wildlife, recreational users, and for carbon sequestration.

Take Action Today

The Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) was created by the state of California in 1949.  Before that, the land was owned by the Caspar Lumber Company.  More than 90 years ago, Caspar harvested most of the old growth trees and left behind a forest that was a shadow of its former self. Nearly all the old growth redwoods, Douglas fir, hemlock, and their companion ecosystems were gone. California purchased the land with the intention of using it as a place to demonstrate new timber harvesting techniques. While logging has continued under the state’s ownership, and 75% of the forest has seen one or more harvest incursions since then, some of the forest has remained untouched for the last 90 years. In that time, something miraculous has begun to happen: 10,000 acres of a new, second-growth forest has emerged which is beginning to take on some of the qualities of an old-growth redwood forest.  

Speckled Black Salamander in the Jackson State Demonstration Forest. Photo by Ken-ichi Ueda.

Because most private timberlands are operated as timber plantations where the timber is harvested every 40 years, second-growth forests like JDSF are exceedingly rare. Because they are so rare, second-growth forests provide critical habitat for a wide variety of threatened species.  Northern spotted owls depend on older forests for unique habitat and forests like JDSF are just beginning to take on the characteristics necessary for northern spotted owls to thrive.  The JDSF also contains some of the last remaining coho salmon in California and any logging operation will threaten the spawning of these crucial salmonids. With most of California’s timberlands unsuitable for these species due to extensive logging, CAL FIRE would do better to leave the second-growth forest within JDSF alone.   

Another reason CAL FIRE should refrain from logging JDSF is that it provides ample recreation opportunities for Californians. JDSF is located near the cities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.  Because of this, the forest has developed into a place cherished by thousands of recreational users. Campers have been spending their summers at the Mendocino Woodlands camp since it was constructed in the 1930s. Now, CAL FIRE has plans to log more than four and a half square miles of the oldest remaining groves, all in the most popular and recreated Western segment of the forest, where campers will be forced to endure the sounds of chainsaws felling nearby trees. CAL FIRE’s timber harvest plans also call for the closure of a large number of trails within JDSF which will severely limit recreational opportunities in the coming years.  

Perhaps most shocking of all, CAL FIRE has decided to participate in climate denial. Scientists have known for decades that climate change is manmade. However, with language one would expect from the Trump Administration, the greenhouse gas emissions section of the timber harvest plans begin with the following equivocation: “exactly how and to what extent human activity plays a role in global climate change appears to be unknown.” CAL FIRE needs to be held accountable for this climate disinformation contained within its timber harvest plans.  We believe that instead of denying that humans cause climate change, CAL FIRE should be  demonstrating how a forest can sequester carbon most effectively.

The upcoming “Mitchell Creek” timber harvest plan is the first of many timber harvest plans slated for the JDSF. Let CAL FIRE know that instead of “demonstrating” how to damage a second-growth forest, they should begin the long work of restoring the landscape for wildlife, recreation, and carbon sequestration. Perhaps one day our descendants will be grateful that we preserved JDSF and helped create one of California’s first new, old-growth forests. 

For more information, visit www.MendocinoTrailStewards.org


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.


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

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020
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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


Action Alert: Tell Warren Buffett to Move Forward With Klamath Dam Removal Agreement

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020
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Four dams on the Klamath River have had devastating consequences for the environment, imperiled salmon, river communities and tribal people who have subsisted off of salmon since time immemorial. For over 20 years stakeholders have worked together in an agreement that would remove the dams and restore the Klamath River in what would be the largest river restoration project in history.

Billionaire Warren Buffet’s company Berkshire Hathoway and its subsidiary PacifiCorp has the opportunity to move forward with dam removal, and has collected hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders and tax payers to protect its customers and shareholders for the purpose of dam removal, but now the company is threatening to back out of the dam removal agreement.

Please take action to sign a petition urging Warren Buffett, his company Berkshire Hathoway and its subsidiary, PacifiCorp to move forward with Klamath dam removal.


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

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
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When Green Diamond Resource Company obtained 9,400 acres in the Sproul Creek watershed in late 2018, we knew our work would be cut out for us, as a landowner that makes massive clearcuts and sprays herbicides is not generally appreciated by neighbors. In February of 2019, EPIC organized a community meeting to discuss Green Diamond’s logging practices and what that would mean for its newly acquired land in the Sproul Creek watershed. The thirty community members who attended the meeting eventually formed a new group called “Sproul Watershed Advocates”.

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

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

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

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


Action Alert: EPA Suspends Industry Regulations During COVID-19

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
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We need your help! During this crisis, the Trump administration is silently sneaking through more and more environmental rollbacks that bolster industrial profits over environmental and human health. On March 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order to indefinitely suspend enforcement actions for companies normally regulated under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While facilities such as refineries and chemical plants continue to operate during the pandemic, they are no longer required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water.

From the order itself:  “In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”

This gives a free pass to companies to pollute in violation of environmental laws for an indefinite period. This is unacceptable, especially given that many industrial hotspots are centered in already vulnerable at-risk communities.

Please take a moment to let EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler know how you feel by sending him a letter expressing your disappointment with him for relaxing industry regulations instead of safeguarding the environment and our communities.

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EPIC Beaver Rules Move Ahead

Monday, March 16th, 2020
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Beavers are nature’s restoration specialists. Beavers benefit salmon and steelhead by building better habitat conditions, including creation ponds used by salmon and by increasing stream flow in summer months. Beavers’ roles are so important that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) included beaver population restoration as a goal of the recovery plan for the Southern Oregon/Northern California coastal coho salmon.

But in California, it is absurdly easy to kill beavers. That may change soon. In November 2019, EPIC, together with friends, petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to revise the rules under which beavers may be legally trapped. At the February Fish and Game Commission meeting, the Commission moved forward on our rulemaking petition, referring the petition to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for review and comment.

The proposed regulations would impact the 700+ beavers killed each year because of conflict with the human environment, and would require individuals to exhaust non-lethal methods to deter or diminish conflict before a permit could be issued that would allow their lethal removal. In many cases, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has already required this, although they have no clear regulatory grounds to do so, placing the Department at risk whenever they work to protect beavers. The rulemaking petition further codifies federal law prohibiting the removal of beavers if that removal would harm a species protected by the Endangered Species Act. In sum, common sense stuff.

EPIC has been hard at work for California’s beavers. In addition to the rulemaking petition, we threatened to sue Wildlife Services for their publicly-subsidized beaver killing program. (This resulted in an agreement to reduce the trapping of beavers in the state.) You can help support our efforts to protect our favorite riparian rodent by donating today.


Regional Water Board Adopts Tighter Elk River Constraints for HRC

Thursday, June 20th, 2019
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The North Coast Regional Water Board voted unanimously to adopt a revised water quality control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company and its ownership in the Upper Elk River watershed at a hearing in Eureka on June 19. The Regional Water Board’s revisions impose additional constraints on HRC’s timber operations and related activities in the Upper Elk River watershed in an effort to arrest sediment and other pollution inputs from HRC’s contemporary logging operations.

The North Coast Regional Water Board adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and TMDL Action Plan to address the ongoing impairment of the waters of the Upper Elk River resulting from past and contemporary timber harvest and related activities that have deposited hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment in the Upper Elk River system. The 2016 Upper Elk River TMDL for sediment and the accompanying program of implementation establish a load allocation of “zero,” meaning the Upper Elk River watershed is currently overwhelmed with sediment to the point where no additional sediment inputs can occur without resulting in further damage to the quality and beneficial uses of water in the Upper Elk River.

On August 1, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board ratified the Regional Board’s TMDL, with important clarifications, including clarifying that an anthropogenic zero load allocation to the extent feasible must be attained as soon as possible, but by no later than 2031. To accomplish this, the State Water Board directed the Regional Water Board to revisit and revise, as necessary the sediment pollution control permits (known as “Waste Discharge Requirements,”) for both HRC, and the other large industrial timberland owner in the Upper Elk River, Green Diamond Resource Company.

The Regional Board’s unanimous decision on June 19 moves HRC’s revisions forward with additional mitigation and constraints not previously required including tighter constraints on wet weather road construction and use, and heavy equipment use in wet weather periods. Road and heavy equipment use during wet weather and winter periods continues to be a major source of nonpoint source sediment pollution associated with timber harvest activities on private lands throughout the North Coast, including in the Upper Elk River watershed.

EPIC applauds the efforts made by the Regional Board and its staff in crafting tighter constraints for HRC and encourages the Regional Board to use the constraints and mitigations for the Upper Elk River adopted for HRC as guidance when considering proposed revisions for Green Diamond Resource Company in the Upper Elk River Watershed. 

 

 


EPIC Submits Comments in Opposition to Navy Sonar Testing

Monday, June 17th, 2019
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Humpback Whale in CA. Photo by Robin Agarwal

EPIC submitted a comment letter last week in solidarity with the ten Tribes that comprise the Inter-Tribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council expressing our concerns and opposition to the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS (SEIS) for the Navy Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT) activities.

The training and testing activities continue to include the use of active sound navigation and ranging, known as sonar, and explosives up and down the Pacific Northwest coastlines and marine areas.

The cumulative effects of this project, combined with the impacts of the Navy’s historic and ongoing operations, will significantly harm the environment and endangered species. The activities currently being proposed would result in significant harm to whales, dolphins, fish and countless other marine animal species including many species, such as Humpback and Sperm Whales, that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Read the full comment letter here.


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.


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.

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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.


State Initiates Pilot Watershed Study of Timber Harvest Plan Process

Monday, January 9th, 2017
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The State of California has initiated the first of three planning watershed-scale pilot studies to evaluate the adequacy utility, and methods of representation and assessment of information that informs the modern-day Timber Harvest Plan review process. The Campbell Creek Planning Watershed Pilot Project is a subsidiary to the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program that was created in the wake of 2012’s Assembly Bill 1492, that calls for ensuring efficiency, accountability, and transparency in the THP process, and the eventual development of “Ecological Standards and Performance Measures,” to ensure the overall effectiveness of the THP administration program.

The concept behind the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is to evaluate pre-existing information in Timber Harvest Plans over history in a specific planning watershed and to then “truth” the value, utility, clarity, and representation of the information against the physical on-the-ground conditions in the watershed via field examination. The study will evaluate the ability of the information as represented to accurately depict field conditions, identify and design mitigation measures, and to identify restoration opportunities and prioritization of restoration activities and funds. The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study is the brain-child of long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study for Campbell Creek, a tributary to the Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County, is being conducted by the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Working Group is comprised of an agency leadership team, a team of agency technical staff, and an appointed group of non-governmental stakeholders, including land owners, Registered Professional Foresters, scientists, fisheries restorationists, environmental non-profits including EPIC, and a tribal liaison from the Pomo tribe. The concept of having “multi-disciplinary” team and approach to evaluation is critical to the premise of the pilot project concept.

Another, though understated objective of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study, is to evaluate the ability of existing information in the THP process to inform and guide methods of assessment and develop necessary mitigations to address cumulative environmental impacts of past and contemporary timber harvesting activities on private lands in the State.

The Pilot Project Working Group held its first meeting in Fort Bragg in December 2016. The location allows for easy access to field site visits in the Campbell Creek watershed on its timberlands. Timberlands in Campbell Creek are presently primarily under the ownership of Lyme Timber. Lyme is a Timber Investment Management Organization (TIMO), and is the successor to Campbell Global, itself a TIMO. Campbell Global acquired the property from Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The Ten Mile River in Central Coastal Mendocino County is one of the last vestiges of remaining native wild-run coho salmon in the Central California Coast, and is thus a critical watershed for study and assessment of restoration opportunities.

The Planning Watershed Pilot Project study concept has been subject of other legislative efforts in the past that subsequently failed, but is now built into the rubric of the larger Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Program, with the hope that the study will contribute valuable information to the larger program, and aid in the development of Ecological Standards and Performance Measures. Ecological Standards and Performance Measures can be thought of as “Thresholds of Significance,” in the CEQA parlance, a set of objectives and measureable criteria to aid in the identification and avoidance of adverse cumulative environmental impacts from timber harvest and related activities on private lands in the State.

EPIC’s participation in the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group is a circling back to the landmark 1986 court decision, EPIC v. Johnson, in which EPIC sued CAL FIRE for approving the logging of old-growth in the Sally Bell Grove in what is now the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, without evaluating the cumulative impacts of successive harvests and the subsequent cumulative loss of old-growth forests.

While EPIC prevailed in forcing private forestry to be subject to evaluation of cumulative impacts via the creation of the modern-day cumulative impacts assessment process in the Forest Practice Rules, the requirements are weak at best, and in the present-day have resulted in little more than cut-and-paste boiler-plate conclusionary statements that are passed off as an “evaluation,” to support a finding of no cumulative impacts. In the 30 years since EPIC v. Johnson, CAL FIRE has never denied a Timber Harvest Plan on the basis of a finding of adverse cumulative impacts, despite the wide-spread loss of old-growth, continued declines in populations of threatened and endangered fish and wildlife, the listing of almost every major North Coast stream as water quality impaired, and now the advent of global climate change.

Long-time EPIC associate, Richard Gienger, has been advocating for a truly multi-disciplinary evaluation of the THP process and the information upon which is predicated for decades, and his vision and prints are all over the concept and structure of the Planning Watershed Pilot Project study and the Planning Watershed Pilot Project Working Group. The Pilot Project study is a foundational element to building an understanding and developing an information-based critique of the current process, identifying opportunities for much-needed reform.

40 years, and still going strong, EPIC is working as hard as ever to protect our forests, fish, air, water and wildlife against the damaging impacts of industrial-scale timber harvest on private forestlands in the State. Far from being finished, EPIC will hang tough and stay strong and vigilant in working for the place we love and call home.


Bag Ban on the Ballot

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
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Green: Ban; Orange: Tax & Purple: Partial tax or ban (municipal or regional levels)

Green=Ban      Orange= Tax     Purple= Partial tax or ban at municipal or regional levels.  (Photo: Wikimedia)

Help California become the first state in the nation to ban the use of single-use plastic bags. Vote Yes on Proposition 67.

Single-use plastic bags, the flimsy variety provided gratis by grocery stores, are one of the most plaguing and persistent types of litter in our natural environment. Not only are plastic bags an eyesore, they are harmful to wildlife. In the ocean, plastic bags resemble jellyfish and hungry sea life, like turtles, eat the bags. Plastic bags are responsible for many deaths, as the animals can starve to death because their stomachs are clogged with garbage. One easy and commonsense solution is to ban this garbage and to help incentive people to bring reusable shopping bags.

California has always led the nation when it comes to sustainability—banning the use of single-use plastic bags is no exception. In 2007, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction to ban the bag. Other jurisdictions, like Mendocino County and the City of Arcata, followed suit. In 2014, Governor Brown signed SB 270, the first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in the nation. The bag ban would not take effect. The plastic industry and an army of signature gathers quickly gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

Now it is up to us. By voting yes on Proposition 67, you will uphold the bag ban passed by the California legislature in 2014.

Bag bans work. In San Jose, the city monitored litter before and after a bag ban went in effect. The results were stunning: litter had been reduced 59 percent on city streets, 89 percent in storm drains, and 60 percent in creeks.

Proposition 67 is endorsed by many other conservation organizations, including Humboldt Baykeeper and the California Coastkeeper Alliance, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Sierra Club California, and many others.

Big plastic is spending big bucks to defeat Proposition 67, outspending supporters nearly 3-1. Under the deceptive moniker, the “Progressive Bag Alliance,” the plastic industry is not opposed to deception and lies, including that banning bags is bad for the environment. Don’t buy it  and Remember to BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag!

Watch and share the video below and vote Yes on Proposition 67!


Help Protect Pristine Smith River Waters

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
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SmithR by Casey RobertsTake a moment to help safeguard the Wild and Scenic Smith River. Public comments are being accepted by the Oregon Water Resources Department to protect the Smith River watershed in Curry County, Oregon for instream purposes. The classification would provide protection for fish, wildlife and recreation. Click here to send a letter of support for this very important action.