Clean Water

EPIC & Allies File Notice of Intent to Sue For Failure In Trespass Cannabis Grows

Monday, June 21st, 2021
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Trespass grow site in Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Photo by US Forest Service.

EPIC and allies including Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics [and the] Northcoast Environmental Center, filed a formal notice of intent to sue the [U.S.] Forest Service for failing to clean up hazardous waste associated with trespass cannabis grows on Forest Service lands in California.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a novel legal question: Is the federal government obligated to remove hazardous waste on its property? By deliberately leaving hazardous waste in the forest, often without warning or marking, conservation groups assert that the Forest Service is putting the public and the environment at risk.

Trespass cannabis cultivation is routine on public lands in California and the Forest Service—the largest landowner in the state—busts dozens of grow sites per year. While trash and other solid waste is often removed from grow sites after law enforcement, deadly pesticides, including some that are banned for use in the United States, are routinely left at the former grow site because of the cost and complexity of removal. This presents a legacy problem for humans and the environment.

“Our public lands should not be warehouses for toxic chemicals,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center and the author of the notice letter. “The Forest Service has an obligation under the law to deal with hazardous waste left on their lands. Their failure to do so harms the environment and puts human lives at risk.”

Hazardous waste discovered yet left in the forest include carbofuran, warfarin, zinc phosphide, strychnine, methomyl, carbaryl, and aluminum phosphide. The risk to humans is acute. Take carbofuran for example. Carbofuran, a potent neurotoxic insecticide, is so hazardous that it can kill an adult human with “just a drop” —1/16th of a teaspoon—and is “one of the most toxic carbamate pesticides ever produced.” Carbofuran is found at approximately 32-34% of trespass grow sites in California. Often found in unmarked containers, like chemical sprayers and Gatorade bottles, simply picking up a bottle of carbofuran without gloves exposes a person to the poison. Carbofuran is so dangerous that as of 2009, there are no legally permitted uses for carbofuran. The risk is also not abstract, as law enforcement officers have been injured by pesticide exposure at trespass grow sites.

“Access to our National Forests is a minefield for campers, hikers and wildlife with extremely hazardous toxic chemicals left dumped and leaking downstream who knows how far,” said Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. “With its huge footprint in California, the Forest Service is completely remiss and cannot be allowed to ignore the ongoing poisoning of our land and water caused by unfettered criminal marijuana grows as if this horrendous problem doesn’t exist.”

Hazardous waste also continues to make its way into the environment. Recent research shows that pesticide residue is commonly found in the blood endangered species, such as the northern spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, so much so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized toxicants associated with trespass cannabis production as a threat to these species.

By filing the notice of intent to sue, conservation organizations hope to forestall actual litigation by forcefully encouraging the Forest Service to budget and plan for the full remediation of all known grow sites on their lands in the state.

Conservation groups are represented by William Verick of the Klamath Environmental Law Center.

See the full Notice of Intent here.


Action Alert: Say No To Toxic Herbicides

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021
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Take Action! The Mendocino National Forest is proposing to spray toxic chemicals on over 1,500 acres just north of Clear Lake. The North Shore project in the 2018 Ranch Fire area also includes 500 acres of post-fire logging and 1,080 acres of planting. A majority of herbicide use would be for killing all vegetation around planted trees, which is entirely unnecessary for sapling survival. Over 400 acres includes application for non-native invasive plant species, which could be treated by multiple non-toxic alternatives.

The poisonous chemicals contained in herbicides are harmful to people, wildlife, and the environment. Even when herbicide is carefully applied, there is a potential for harm to native species through off-target drift, surface runoff, or leaching. Imazapyr, one of the herbicides proposed for use is well documented to harm amphibians and fish when it contaminates watercourses. Imazapyr has been recorded to exude out of the roots of treated plants into the surrounding soil, thus impacting surrounding plant communities. Fluazifop, has been found to stimulate pathogens in the soil while inhibiting bacteria with plant growth promoting abilities. Triclopyr BEE is also proposed. Triclopyr poses a greater risk to humans and wildlife, and has a higher chance of entering waterways than Glyphosate. Another concern is their persistence in the environment. Aminopyralid, has been well documented to have an abnormally long half-life for an herbicide with samples having a half-life lasting over 500 days. Developed in 2005 by Dow AgroSciences, aminopyralids long-term effects remain unknown.

Further, the Forest Service argues that it needs to use herbicides in order to make up for the spread of invasive species it causes while undergoing the project. First the agency fails to control invasives before they spread. Then, through fire suppression actions, seeds are knowingly distributed all over. Now it proposes to trample through the forest with logging equipment, disturbing the soil and promoting further infestation. So, the Forest Service is pushing herbicides in order to combat a problem, which it created and proposes to worsen.

Alternative 4 is the No Spray option in the Environmental Assessment. Please urge the Mendocino National Forest to consider and use non-toxic alternatives!


The Duty To Protect Our Redwood Relatives

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021
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My name is Crista Ray and I am a Sinkyone descendant. I am a member of the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians and represent my Tribe on the board of the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council (Sinkyone Council). The Sinkyone Council is a Tribal non-profit consortium comprised of ten federally recognized Northern California Indian Tribes with cultural connections to the lands and waters of traditional Sinkyone and neighboring Tribal territories. Richardson Grove comprises an important area of Sinkyone traditional territory, and is a Sinkyone cultural heritage area of immense significance to Tribes and Tribal Peoples of the region.

Today, Richardson Grove continues to hold great cultural significance as an important place of prayer, ceremony and cultural lifeways. This is in part because Richardson Grove is one of only a few remaining ancient redwood groves, a critical part of the surviving 2% old-growth redwood still standing. Gááhs-tcho (coast redwood tree in Sinkyone language, also referred to as Na-Gááh-tcho) is a special relative whom Indigenous Peoples are taught to never harm. Tribal leaders throughout the redwood region often have spoken of the duty to honor and protect the Gááhs-tcho, and warned about the consequences of harming them. The Sinkyone, along with many other Indigenous Peoples, relate to Gááhs-tcho as communities of sacred beings who provide protection, abundance and balance for the world. If the Grove is harmed, then so are the Sinkyone People and this world.

That is why we are opposed to Caltrans’ so-called “Richardson Grove Improvement Project”. While Caltrans insists that no old-growth Gááhs-tcho would be removed if the project were implemented, the project’s plans require severing significant numbers of large old-growth tree roots, paving them over with concrete, and removing many neighboring trees. This is unacceptable and would permanently harm these trees and Tribal cultural heritage.

Anyone who has ever walked through an old-growth Gááhs-tcho grove knows the grandeur of these incredible beings. But, something you don’t get to fully appreciate when walking above ground is their incredible root systems. Unlike many other trees, Gááhs-tcho roots are relatively shallow, usually only about 6-12 feet deep. How does the tallest tree on earth stay upright with such shallow roots?

Instead of burrowing down, Gááhs-tcho roots spread out over a large area. As they do, they intertwine with their neighbors and form an interlocking root system that holds up the individual trees. This strategy is what prevents Gááhs-tcho from falling over during the many strong windstorms and earthquakes they experience over their incredibly long lives. So, cutting a significant number of large old-growth Gááhs-tcho roots, particularly old-growth Gááhs-tcho whose root system have developed over centuries or even millennia, will endanger the entire Grove by weakening its support structure. Even if the Grove survives the immediate effects of the cuttings, Caltrans will have forever weakened the resiliency of the Grove.

Photo by Murray Cooper.

There is another reason why cutting significant numbers of Gááhs-tcho roots is a threat to the health of the entire Grove. Western science has recently duplicated what Indigenous Peoples have known since time immemorial, that every tree in a forest is linked, even trees of different species. A complex symbiotic relationship between the root systems of trees and fungi, known to scientists as a mycorrhizal network, allows trees to share a vast store of knowledge and understanding—as well as support, love and nutrients—with one another. Scientists have documented trees sharing carbon, water, nitrogen and other nutrients via this underground network. Researchers have even documented chemical alarm signals being shared from tree to tree that warn of drought or beetle infestation.

Trees are not inanimate objects, indifferent to the world around them. They are part of a community that depends upon its members in order to survive and thrive. For decades, foresters who traditionally viewed every tree as an individual have dismissed or rejected this research because of its implications. As such, researchers are still learning much about how mycorrhizal networks operate in Gááhs-tcho forests. Given the scientific community’s lack of understanding on this issue and the sacred and irreplaceable nature of old-growth Gááhs-tcho, Caltrans has a duty not to damage their root systems.

Written by Crista Ray and shared with her permission .


The InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council Calls For A Halt To Richardson Grove Project

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021
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On May 7th, 2021 the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council (Sinkyone Council) and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) sent a letter requesting that Caltrans halt the Richardson Grove Improvement Project (the project). The letter, which you can read here, outlines the cultural significance of Richardson Grove and the old-growth redwood trees to the Sinkyone People and other Tribes of the region.

To the Sinkyone People, Gááhs-tcho (Redwood Tree) is a special relative whom they were taught to never harm. “As Indigenous Peoples, our responsibility is to respect and care for places like the Grove because of their inherent sacredness and importance within the larger Gááhs-tcho temperate rainforest of this region and beyond. The Grove is an irreplaceable part of the cultural landscape and identity of the Sinkyone People,” asserts Mary Norris who is Chairwoman at the Cahto Tribe of Laytonville Rancheria, the Tribal community situated closest to the Grove today.

The Sinkyone Council’s commitment to defending nature and supporting revitalization of Tribal traditional lifeways and relationships with cultural landscapes and seascapes is guided by the long continuum of Tribal presence in places like the Grove. The Council has a long track record of demanding state and federal agency compliance with cultural protection laws. Agencies have legal requirements to protect Tribal cultural heritage and values, and to prevent harmful impacts to Tribes’ cultural properties and ways of life, including cultural places. This principle is underscored by Sinkyone Council Chairwoman Priscilla Hunter, who asserts “Caltrans has a duty to honor and uphold protection for cultural places such as the Grove.”

Richardson Grove is one of only a few remaining ancient redwood groves, a critical part of the surviving 2% old-growth redwood still standing. Tribal members maintain cultural relationship with the Grove as an important place for the continuation of traditional ways of life, as Sinkyone ancestors for millennia did. For these and other reasons, it is vitally important that the Grove be accorded sufficient protections that in turn will ensure Indigenous Sinkyone cultural heritage and lifeways are respected and protected.

EPIC has long opposed the project because of its negative impacts to old-growth redwoods and our belief that alternative solutions are available. We are proud to stand alongside the Sinkyone Council in continuing to call for this project to be abandoned.


Protect Klamath Salmon: Tell Our Representatives To Release Preventative Flows!

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021
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In response to the lowest historical flows on record into Upper Klamath Lake, the US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) just announced its Klamath Project 2021 Temporary Operations Plan. Although the Plan reduces diversions for irrigators, it fails to meet the biological needs for coho salmon and Chinook salmon in the Klamath River, and Lost River and shortnose suckers in Upper Klamath Lake. Fill out a letter form here to ask rulemakers to release preventative flows into the Klamath River to ensure that flows into the Klamath River will meet the biological requirements for salmon and other fisheries!

“It is unfortunate that a severe drought and climate change, coupled with risky decisions made in 2020, have left us all in this impossible bind this year,” said Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribe’s Vice Chairman. “Based on the current conditions, the Yurok Tribe is acutely concerned about the health of the entire river from the headwaters to the sea, because it is the beating heart of all the Tribes in the basin. The Klamath salmon are now on a course toward extinction in the near term.”

Currently, the Klamath River is blocked by four dams obstructing fish passage slated for removal by 2024. While these worthy efforts are underway and the prospect of a restored Klamath Basin is becoming a reality, it is critical that the remaining salmon and steelhead runs are protected until the dams come out.

Klamath River-Photo by Matt Baun: USFWS.

The Klamath River is home to the third largest salmon run on the West Coast and is thought to have the highest potential for complete salmon recovery in the United States. However, dams blocking the Klamath River have led to an infestation of toxic algae and warm water temperatures that cause fish disease. Additionally, water deliveries to irrigators have resulted in less water available to provide salmon runs with a release of water to flush out Ceratonova shasta, a fish killing parasite that can lead to fish die-offs.

While about 180,000 Chinook salmon off the Northern California Coast are waiting to enter the Klamath, we are seeing the lowest historical inflows on record into Upper Klamath Lake. In 2002, low flows and warm water temperatures caused by dams and diversions in the Klamath Basin, similar to conditions that are projected for this season, resulted in the largest fish kill in U.S. history, where an estimated 60,000 fall Chinook perished. Since the fish kill, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) has released preventative pulse flows into the Klamath and Trinity Rivers when conditions existed that were similar to 2002. If temperatures become higher than the acute stress level for Chinook, 72 degrees Fahrenheit, a large-scale fish kill is likely and the Klamath could lose the entire run, which would have major environmental and economic implications.

The BOR has indicated that it will monitor conditions on the Klamath and release flows if salmon show signs of disease and start dying, which would take at least four days to reach infected salmon in the Lower Klamath. It is a widely accepted fact that once salmon are diseased and dying, an attempt to minimize losses will be too late and a large-scale fish kill in the Lower Klamath would already be well underway.

In addition to the water management plan for 2021, the BOR has committed to providing $15 million in emergency funds for irrigators in the upper basin and $3 million for Tribes. Additionally, the USDA has committed another $10 million for farmers, which totals $25 million for farmers and only $3 million for Tribes. Reclamations plan has led to an unequal distribution of funding and water resources.

This year’s Klamath salmon run needs your help! Please click the link below to send a letter to David Felstul, Chief for the Division of Water Operations for the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Alex Padilla, and Congressman Jared Huffman, asking them to release preventative flows into the Klamath River to ensure that flows into the Klamath River will meet the biological requirements for salmon and other fisheries.

Take Action!


Take Action: Stop Deceptive Water Project On The Shasta River!

Tuesday, April 20th, 2021
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Shasta River. Photo by Val Atkinson.

The Shasta River is one of the main tributaries to the Klamath River and one of the historic key spawning grounds for salmon and steelhead. The waters of the Shasta, drawn from the glaciers and snowmelt of Mount Shasta, together feeding year-round springs, have since time immemorial provided cool, clean waters and a great gravel bed that was perfect for spawning. So good that up to half of all salmon in the Klamath watershed came back to the Shasta to spawn.

A century plus of development has radically transformed the Shasta. A dam captures channel shaping winter flows and in summer the river is so over-allocated that it nearly runs dry during the height of the irrigation season. Now the Grenada Irrigation District wants to upgrade its diversion method—and they want you, the taxpayer, to foot the six million dollar bill. On Thursday, the Wildlife Conservation Board will be reviewing grant proposals for instream flow enhancement projects including the proposed Grenada Irrigation District Flow Enhancement Project (aka pipeline)—a project for which we have ample evidence showing should not be funded. Click here to take action.

While Grenada says that this pipeline will result in a more efficient delivery of irrigation water, the new pipeline is likely to increase demand by making it cheaper to irrigate. At present, while Grenada is generally prohibited by stream flow levels from pumping their full paper water right, they can pump some water in all years. But most properties in the district are not currently irrigated due to the high costs of lifting water plus the substantial leakage from their ditch on top of their inefficient flood irrigation. This makes agriculture uneconomical—the water cost is more than the value that the crop justifies. But if the delivered cost of water could be cut by reducing both the lift and the leakage, more people in the district will likely irrigate and Grenada could then pump continuously, rather than intermittently as they now do, ultimately depleting more river flow, not adding to it. Total diversion would actually increase, to the detriment of the fish and river.

All of this is to be funded with Prop 1 funds, which are directed to enhancing fish flows. This money could find a far better home than subsidizing the Grenada Irrigation District’s inefficient irrigation. Please write today to the Wildlife Conservation Board and urge them to deny funding to this irresponsible pipeline that threatens critical fish populations and the health of the Shasta River.

Take Action Today!

EPIC is proud to work with the Friends of the Shasta River to improve in-stream conditions for California’s rare and threatened fish.


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

Listen Here

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.