Environmental Democracy

Make Your Voice Heard in Redistricting!

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021
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California is redrawing its federal and state legislative maps (including losing one congressional seat!). That means that your legislative district might change. 

While environmental and climate justice advocates have been building a policy agenda for years, we currently do not have the political power in California to act on these solutions at the rate and scale required. The 2021 redistricting process is a unique moment to make key structural change: not only for the next legislative session, but for this final decade leading to the 2030 climate deadline.

California’s Constitution requires that redistricting preserve “communities of interest”—those economic or cultural ties that bind communities together—to the maximum extent possible. Northwest California is one of those communities of interest. Our coastal-moderated ecosystems share the same ecological history, which in turn has shaped the culture and economy of the area. The threats facing Northwest California are also similar, whether from sea level rise, drought, or climate change. Our environment and economy are best served by keeping Northwest California together. 

The redistricting process begins by soliciting input from the public about what forms their community of interest. Unique public comments are very important to the process. There are two ways you can participate!

Participate in a Communities of Interest Public Hearing!

The Citizen Redistricting Commission is holding virtual meetings based on “zones.” Your address is in Zone A. The Citizen Redistricting Commission is hosting a special meeting for our zone on July 1 from 12-8pm, to solicit input. Go to https://www.wedrawthelinesca.org/meetings to see the meeting agenda and to register to speak! Each speaker will get up to 3 minutes.

Need talking points? Check out below for more information!

Draw Your Own Map!

Don’t want to sit through a public meeting? Can’t make July 1st? No problem! Submit your testimony online, by email or by mail.

The Citizen Redistricting Commission has set up a cool website where you can draw your community of interest. Go to DrawMyCACommunity.org and follow the helpful tutorials. (Having trouble? Email [email protected] and we can help you through it!)

You can also provide input to the Commission by emailing: [email protected] (CC us at [email protected] too!) or by snail mail: California Citizens Redistricting Commission, 721 Capitol Mall, Suite 260, Sacramento, CA 95814. You can even call in your comments to (916) 323-0323.

Need Help with What to Say?

At a loss over what to say? That’s understandable. We are here to help. The Commission needs to know four key things from you about your community. Here are some thoughts to help guide your testimony. 

Where is your community located?

State where you are from and that you are speaking to preserve Northwest California’s community of interest.

What are the economic, social, and/or cultural interests that bind your community together?

There are many ties that link our communities together in Northwest California. Here are a few we at EPIC have thought of. Feel free to use any of these examples or add your own:

  • Our coastal-moderated forests, particularly the redwoods, form an ecological community that provide a shared economic history and a shared cultural history. Likewise, climate change presents unique challenges for this region (sea level rise, reduced summer fog and increasing temperatures). The importance of the redwoods to our cultural identity is mirrored in the names of our community institutions, Redwood Community Action Agency to the Redwood Rural Health Center to College of the Redwoods.
  • Our region shares similar land-based agricultural interests, from wineries stretching North from Sonoma through Humboldt, to cannabis. Climate change is going to affect agriculture in our region, from warmer temperatures to less precipitation. We are better able to mitigate and adapt together
  • Our wild salmon fisheries found in the coastal streams and rivers of Northwest California, though a shadow of their former runs, are still vitaly important to our area and help to form a shared cultural interest. From tribal fishermen to recreational anglers, we share a love of our wild salmon and the region is invested in taking concrete steps to bring our salmon back. We are best able to advocate for salmon through preserving this community of interest. 
  • Although Northwest California is often very rural, we are noticeably different from much of rural California. Environmental protection, love of public lands, and concern about climate change are values shared in Northwest California. 

Why should your community should be kept together for fair and effective representation?

Because our economies and cultures are shaped by our shared natural environment, our interests are best served when we are represented together. Whether it is addressing sea level rise or the threat of a warming climate on our economies, the environmental challenges of the present and future will affect coastal communities in a similar way.

What nearby areas does your community want to or not want to be grouped with? 

Northwest California share a common economy and culture; by contrast, we are less similarly aligned with our fellow residents to the East. These areas are more culturally conservative and their economies are still more tied to extractive economies, making them a poor “fit” with our area.


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!


Leaked Memo Shows Trump Administration Knew Slashing Spotted Owl Habitat Would Cause Extinction

Thursday, May 6th, 2021
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On the same day as the Trump administration announced the elimination of 3.4 million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top owl expert formally objected to the decision in a document recently unearthed as part of ongoing litigation. The Jan. 15 memorandum, written by Oregon State Office Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dr. Paul Henson, found that “it is reasonable to conclude that [the reduction in critical habitat] will result in the extinction of the [northern spotted owl].” The Henson memo references other documents, as yet unreleased, indicating this was not the first warning of the dire consequences of the proposed rule. On Dec. 9, 2020, Dr. Henson likewise warned, “Most scientists (myself included) would conclude that such an outcome will, therefore, result in the eventual extinction of the listed subspecies.” 

“We suspected that political favors, not science, guided the last-minute rulemaking change by the Trump administration,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “Now we know that it was made clear to the Trump administration that its planned cuts to northern spotted owl critical habitat would result in the owl’s extinction. They knew but didn’t care.”

“We now know what we suspected all along, which is that the Trump administration actively disregarded the best available science when making wildlife and land management decisions,” said Susan Jane Brown, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “Seeing in writing that callous disregard for the continued existence of this iconic species is sobering, to say the least, and revolting at worst. This is a clear example, and unfortunately not the first, of the prior administration giving out gifts to political allies rather than following the law. Thankfully, experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stood up for the northern spotted owl, and WELC and our clients are in court to ensure that the best available science rules the day.”

The Henson memo was written in response to a separate memo, signed by then-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith, which outlined the legal and scientific justifications for the reduction in critical habitat. The Jan. 7, 2021 memorandum was reportedly not provided to Dr. Henson until the day before the formal rulemaking, making a more timely objection impossible. 

This is not the first time that political appointees have personally inserted themselves into controversial decisions. In 2007, Julie MacDonald, then deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, was found to have manipulated decisions and agency science to benefit the Bush administration’s political agenda. The Interior Department under Interior Secs. Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt have also been subject to a number of high-profile ethics scandals. Given this history, after the Jan. 15 critical habitat rule, eight Western lawmakers requested a formal investigation as to whether any government official improperly “inserted themselves into the scientific process in order to achieve preferred policy outcomes….”

The Biden administration has paused implementation of the Trump-era critical habitat rule until December, signaling its intent to formally reverse or revise the rule. Meanwhile, the timber industry has already filed suit against the delayed implementation and Congressional Republicans are lining up behind the timber industry, urging the immediate implementation of the Trump rule.

General background:

Timber harvesting in the Northwest has resulted in a widespread loss of spotted owl habitat across its range, which was a main reason for listing the species in 1990. Owls depend on habitat provided by the dense canopy of mature and old-growth forests; unfortunately, those forests are still a target for logging throughout the bird’s historic range. The northern spotted owl is already functionally extinct in its northernmost range, with only one recognized breeding pair left in British Columbia. 

In response to a court order, in 1990 the Service listed the northern spotted owl as threatened, citing low and declining populations, limited and declining habitat, competition from barred owls, and other factors in the bird’s plight. Even after its listing, northern spotted owl populations have declined by 70%, and the rate of decline has increased. 

In response to a petition filed by the Environmental Protection Information Center, in December 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that “uplisting” the owl from “threatened” to “endangered” was “warranted but precluded by higher priority actions.”

Materials For Reference:


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!


Action Alert: Protect Forests for Earth Day 🌎

Monday, April 19th, 2021
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Our nation’s old growth forests are an incredibly important climate solution. Our temperate rainforests rival tropical rainforests in terms of the amount of carbon they store per acre, and large, old trees everywhere store the majority of carbon in forests. However, these bigger, older trees are still being logged when they should be protected for carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and clean water.

We have an exciting opportunity right now to change this trajectory. Through the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is being asked to seek public input regarding USDA’s climate strategy. This public input will be considered as USDA prepares recommendations to expand climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices and systems.

We need the US Department of Agriculture to protect our forests!

And we need YOU to tell them why!

Take Action Now!

When we protect our forests from logging, we both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure these forests continue to store vast amounts of carbon —a win-win climate change solution! In California, our intact forests also offer unique and critical habitat for at-risk fish and wildlife, including the marbled murrelet, salmon, and the northern spotted owl. Healthy forests also filter water to keep our streams, rivers and lakes clean and cold, and these same forests protect watersheds and communities from flooding and landslides.

Please join us in calling on the US Department of Agriculture to incorporate permanent protections for mature and old growth forests, limit post-fire logging, and protect our watersheds as part of our nation’s strategy to address climate change and protect 30 percent of land and water by 2030.


Thanks For An EPIC Earth Day Ivy Pull!

Monday, April 19th, 2021
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We are so thankful for all of the great volunteers that made it out to the Earth Day Ivy Pull on April 15th! Your hard work and thoughtfulness made an important impact on our coastal forests this week. It was a special treat after all these months to be working with our community and getting to be hands-on in the forest, making space for native species and giving the trees room to breathe!

We are planning on doing this again in the future, we eventually hope to make this a quarterly collaboration with the dedicated folks at the No Ivy League. If you missed this event, please keep your eyes open for an invitation in the next few months by signing up for our newsletters or following us on Instagram or Facebook.

Background on why we do the Ivy Pull:

English ivy is a popular ornamental that can be seen throughout our community. This invasive plant has taken over many of our forests and can be detrimental to trees and other native plants. EPIC tried to get its sale banned by petitioning for it to be considered a noxious weed but CDFA denied our petition, so you can still find it for sale in some nurseries, unfortunately! Why is ivy so damaging to trees? The ivy grows up the trunks of trees and out onto the branches. This creates competition for light between the ivy and the tree’s leaves. The mat of ivy around a tree’s trunk deprives it of contact with air and microorganisms.

The weight of the ivy on a tree’s trunk and limbs can increase the possibility of damage, as well. This added weight in addition to the tree being weakened can cause the tree to be more susceptible to being blown down. One of the most damaging effects of English ivy is the girdling of trees. The ivy wraps around the trunk of trees so tightly that the tree’s xylem and phloem get cut off, and it is unable to deliver nutrients and water to the upper portions of the tree.

By removing ivy from our forests, it protects the trees and allows room for other native species to thrive.

Photos from the Ivy Pull: 

 


Update on Last Chance Grade: Winter 2021

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021
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The Redwood Highway, also known as Highway 101, is the main north-south arterial connection for North Coast residents and visitors alike. “Last Chance Grade” is a stretch of Highway 101 about ten miles south of Crescent City, which sits precariously above the Pacific Ocean. Built on an active landslide, the road has steadily slipped towards the Pacific Ocean. Most recently, landslides have resulted in the temporary closure of the road and significant delays as Caltrans works day and night to safely repair damages and to keep the road safe. This pattern–of regular landslides and land closures, patched together with stop-gap fixes–is far from ideal. Instead of extending this period into perpetuity, Caltrans wants to figure out a more permanent solution. 

Figuring out that permanent solution is tricky. Last Chance Grade is surrounded on either side by Redwood National and State Park land, including a magisterial stand of old-growth redwoods. Further to the east are industrial timberlands owned by Green Diamond Resource Company, although a bypass through this area would necessitate crossing back through those old-growth redwoods. Through all areas are steep slopes and an extremely erosive soil prone to sliding. 

The recent closures have caused many of you to write to EPIC to ask about the various alternatives, timelines, and our feelings on the project’s progression. 

A Review of Alternatives Currently Under Consideration

Caltrans began its analysis by examining 11 potential alternatives. Today, Caltrans is down to seven alternatives, cleverly named X, L, F, A1, A2, G1, G2. Below are longer descriptions of each. EPIC anticipates that Caltrans will further reduce the range of alternatives under consideration before the first formal opportunity for public comment, as lengthy consideration of each alternative adds time and money to the project. In deciding what alternatives to further evaluate, and ultimately which alternative to pursue, Caltrans will likely need to balance a range of considerations, most particularly: cost (of construction and of mitigating impacts to the environment), environmental impacts, the risk of future short-term and long-term failures, and challenges to construction. In our review of the existing alternatives, two stand out: X and F. Based on our current information, we hope that either of these alternatives becomes the “preferred” alternative.

Alternative X

Alternative X would be a full rebuild of 1.1 miles of highway, but unlike the other alternatives, this alternative would maintain the current alignment as much as possible. Caltrans believes that current sliding is a product of too much water in the soil, which promotes landsliding. X would rebuild the road, including digging back and armoring the slope in areas, as dewatering the route through wells and pumps to promote greater soil stability. Because this alternative would more-or-less stay in its current alignment, the ground disturbance impacts from the project are the least significant, with 10 acres of coastal shrub likely affected. The pricetag is also among the least expensive, at $300 million, and a relatively quick construction timeline at 3.5 years to complete. The downside? Caltrans is still figuring out if this alternative is technically feasible or if it would result in a significant enough improvement over the existing road to justify its construction. So far, however, Caltrans is optimistic that this will be viable. Dewatering as a form of slope stabilization has been successfully pursued in other areas of California. 

Alternative F

Alternative F is a BIG tunnel dug beneath the active landslide, a feat of engineering that Caltrans feels very confident is doable. As a tunnel, it would avoid most above-ground environmental impacts except for the tunnel mouth openings, which would result in some loss of mature/old-growth trees. Once built, this alternative would have a very low risk of future closures and the cost to maintain would be low. The downside? Cost. A large tunnel through Last Chance Grade won’t come cheap, likely topping one billion dollars. 

Alternative L

Alternative L would push the road higher up the coast-facing ridge, with the idea that by moving up in elevation, the road could sit above or atop the slide area. EPIC was initially excited about Alternative L because it appeared that it could largely stay out of mature forested areas. However, further development of this alternative has found that impacts would likely be larger than initially anticipated. Caltrans is also unsure of the potential future performance of this alternative. Both are significant knocks on this alternative and we would not be surprised or disappointed if it was removed for further study.

Alternative G2, includes Coastal scrub/grassland /spruce: 22 acres, Riparian: 1 acre, Clear cut: 3 acres, Young Redwood Forest: 28 acres, Mature Redwood Forest: 3 acres, Old Growth Redwood Forest: 3 acres

Alternatives A1, A2, G1 & G2

These four alternatives are all permutations on the same general theme. Each bypass the slide area by going east–the A alternatives making a broad S-shaped curve and G barreling up and over the coastal ridge. Once east, the road would reconnect with Highway 101 in one of two ways, either through a short tunnel (A1 and G1) or through a causeway through an old-growth redwood forest. All four alternatives share certain things in common: all would require significant earthwork and all would impact old-growth forests and natural resources, although the A alternatives generally perform better than the G alternatives in both respects.

Admittedly, these alternatives have made EPIC nervous in the past. The old-growth stand where both the tunnel and causeway would reconnect with Highway 101 are superlative and surprisingly wild, given their location near the highway, with evidence of marbled murrelet, bears, and elk. (See EPIC’s groundtruthing of A2 from 2018 here.)

Like Alternative L, EPIC would not be surprised or disappointed if these alternatives were removed for further study. The cost, both in time and money, to further study these alternatives is likely unnecessary, given that X and F appear to outperform these alternatives in nearly every metric conceivable.

Project Timeline

Caltrans anticipates that a new alternative will not open until 2039. 18 years is a long time. Avoiding impactful and controversial alternatives is one way that Caltrans can both cut time from the project and reduce the likelihood of litigation that can stop or slow a future project. By reducing the range of alternatives to remove more-impactful alternatives, Caltrans can save on timely and costly studies. (The more impactful of an alternative, the more studies are demanded to document the likely impacts and ways to mitigate these impacts.) The risk of litigation is likely related to the choice of alternatives as well, with more impactful alternatives increasing the odds that some group or some individual attempts to delay or kill the project in court. 

Thankfully, Caltrans has taken the right steps to eliminate some early impactful alternatives and to engage major stakeholders, including EPIC. Through engagement with nearby landowners, Caltrans has been able to more expeditiously receive permission to do geotechnical analysis to determine alternative feasibility. Stakeholder engagement also works to relieve tension among groups with potentially competing interests and by early consideration of issues raised by stakeholders that may have otherwise escaped attention. In this, we can see a “new” Caltrans emerging. EPIC can only imagine that if a similar stakeholder engagement had occurred for Richardson Grove or any other court-bound project, that it might have been possible to avoid a protracted fight.


ACTION ALERT: Tell CAL FIRE Not to Log 90 Year Old Forest Adjacent to Mendocino Woodlands

Monday, February 1st, 2021
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Last month, EPIC asked our members to tell CAL FIRE not to proceed with the Mitchell Creek Timber Harvest Plan (THP) or any THPs in the heavily used western portion of Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Despite hundreds of you writing in to tell them not to, CAL FIRE has decided to move forward with a nearby THP that could be even more destructive. CAL FIRE needs to know that we are watching them and that these plans are opposed. Take action today!

The Mendocino Woodlands Outdoor Center was constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. It’s purpose was and remains to “enable the children of the state to better comprehend the outdoors, particularly the social and economic importance of the study, conservation, protection, and utilization of natural resources.” Today, Mendocino Woodlands has over 10,000 attendees each summer. Groups of children and adults use the space to connect with nature and learn about the importance of California’s Coastal Redwood forests.

CAL FIRE has proposed the Little North Fork Big River THP for the area immediately to the East of the Woodlands. During timber operations, “campers in the Mendocino Woodlands Outdoor Center will experience the acoustic effects of logging including falling trees, chainsaws and yarder whistles.” The timber operations will also shut down many of the trails leading out of the Woodlands into the surrounding forest. Popular trails like the “Eagle’s Roost Trail”, the “Marsh Creek Trail”, and the “Big Tree Trail” will be closed for months at a time. Originally, CAL FIRE tried to claim that their logging would have no visual or recreational impacts after the operations were completed. But, when it was pointed out to them by the Department of Parks and Recreations that this was impossible, CAL FIRE amended their position. Now, CAL FIRE claims that “[n]ewly constructed roads and evidence of other timber harvesting activities will be directly adjacent or overlap trails within the the planned harvest area… but are not expected to create a cumulative visual impact.”

The THP area was last harvested 90 years ago and since then has developed into a healthy, second growth forest. CAL FIRE claims that this is a young forest that needs thinning but research has shown that second growth coastal redwood forests develop better without human intervention. The reason is that even single-tree selection logging carries with it a host of associated impacts that negate any benefit conferred by thinning. For example, the THP calls for 3.5 miles of new roads. These new roads will contribute to sedimentation of the Little North Fork Big River and disrupt wildlife. The THP will also disturb 484 acres of high quality northern spotted owl nesting and roosting habitat. Because the area has not been harvested in 90 years, the THP area is one of the best places for Northern Spotted Owls left in JDSF. CAL FIRE claims they are conducting this Timber Harvest Plan to promote the development of late seral forest habitat, but is it worth it to harm northern spotted owls when they could just let nature regenerate on its own?

CAL FIRE just moved this THP into “second review” which means the deadline to submit public comments on this project is fast approaching. Let CAL FIRE know that this 90 year old second-growth forest that is beloved by campers and hikers should be allowed to naturally regenerate without human intervention!

Take Action


Santa’s Naughty and Nice List Sneak Peek: Environment Issue 2020

Thursday, December 24th, 2020
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Santa’s 2020 Naughty and Nice List

We here at EPIC are close with Kris Kringle. (He is an environmentalist after all, using reindeer to power his sleigh instead of fossil fuels.) We are so close that EPIC has an exclusive sneak preview at his naughty and nice list. To those on the nice list, we are incredibly grateful to all of those that work hard to protect our habitat, Earth. Thank you for your generosity, kindness, and inspiration this year. We look forward to a brighter future ahead. 

To those on the naughty list… well, Santa usually gives out coal to bad boys and girls, but given their track records, these foes of the environment would probably just try to sell it to coal power plants.

Nice

EPIC Members: Our members are the best. 2020 was a no-good, very bad year, but you have stood by EPIC and your generosity has kept our doors open, lights on, and staff working. Thank you for supporting us ❤️

Deb Haaland: One of the first Native American women elected to the United States Congress, Deb Haaland has spent her legislative career forwarding environmental protection, from leading the federal charge on the 30×30 effort (to permanently protect 30% of the land and water in the U.S. by 2030) to fighting back against oil and gas leases on public lands. President-elect Joe Biden has announced that he is nominating Deb to lead the Department of the Interior. We couldn’t think of a better pick. 

Supervisors Mike Wilson and Steve Madrone: Mike and Steve are a powerful duo on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors. Both smart, sciency dudes–Mike is an environmental engineer and Steve is a leader in restoration ecology–they put in the hard work at the Board to push the county to be more environmentally responsible. 

Eileen Cooper and the Friends of Del Norte: Our dear friend, Eileen Cooper, passed away in 2020. She was a force to be reckoned with in Del Norte County, with a crisp memory of the intricacies of the Coastal Act and an activist’s passion for community organizing. Eileen was also one of the prime movers in the Friends of Del Norte, a scrappy group of environmentalists committed to protecting Del Norte’s wildlife and wild places. Before she passed, Eileen established the EPIC Del Norte Chapter at the Humboldt Area Foundation to ensure that EPIC’s work in the county would be funded into the future. 

Mark Andre: Since 1984, Mark Andre has been in charge of the Arcata Community Forest. Through his vision and leadership, Mark has demonstrated modern sustainable forestry on the Arcata Community Forest, both improving wildlife habitat and recreation on the forest while also producing saw timber. When people ask us what sort of logging we support, we can always point to Mark’s work. Mark is retiring from the City of Arcata at the end of 2020 so there is no better time than now to recognize his good work. Thanks Mark!

Naughty

William Perry Pendley: Santa doesn’t take kind to people hurting his reindeer. As the acting head of the Bureau of Livestock and Mining Bureau of Land Management, Pendley has greenlighted oil and gas leases in the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska (the sister to the more famous Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, which the Trump administration is also trying to drill). This last minute rush to issue drilling leases is intended to tie the hands of the incoming Biden administration and give the oil industry one last gift. Drilling in the Reserve will put at risk over a half-million reindeer and the largest concentrations of grizzly bears and wolverines in the Alaska Artic. Santa would give Pendley coal, but he would be too pleased.

Senator Dianne Feinstein: From shouting down schoolchildren concerned with climate change to her atrocious federal wildfire legislation, Senator Feinstein is bad for the environment. 

Leadership at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: To say we are disappointed in the leadership of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is to understate our feelings. We are livid. We are disheartened. We want change. The Department charged with the protection of our wildlife, from giving sweetheart deals to Green Diamond to hiding information about a new disease in elk (before a vote on expanding elk hunting) to shady backroom deals with private developers, it appears that the higher you rise within the agency is correlated to the extent you are willing to sell out wildlife. (The staff scientists–the nerdy grunts that do the hard work of the Department–are decidedly on Santa’s good list. Perhaps for Christmas, they will get less political interference from their bosses.)

Climate Deniers at CAL FIRE: CAL FIRE has a nasty habitat of endorsing climate skepticism in THPs. We put Green Diamond on blast earlier this year for questioning the science of climate change, which was approved by the agency. We were even more disappointed to find that CAL FIRE embraces climate skepticism in their own management of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Shame!

A sneak peek into Santa’s naughty and nice list is a good reminder that someone is always watching, so be good for goodness sakes!

And don’t let those naughty kids get away with it, donate to your favorite forest watchdog organization today here. 

Happy Holidays from EPIC!


11th-Hour Attacks On NEPA

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Vote before 9:00 PM on November 19th:

Online: www.northcoast.coop/vote

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

Please vote for EPIC today!


The 2020 Election: Environmental Implications

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

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

Rolling Back the Trump Era:

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

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

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

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

Federal Legislation Affecting the North Coast:

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

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


Will Justice Barrett Kill the Modern Administrative State?

Monday, October 26th, 2020
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Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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


Contrasting Federal Legislation Shows How (and How Not) to Deal with Fire

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020
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Red Salmon Complex, July 27. Photo courtesy of Inciweb.

California federal legislators have offered dueling bills to respond to the recent large fires that have gripped the West. In one corner stands Senator Dianne Feinstein and her bill S. 4431; in the other are Sen. Kalama Harris and the Northcoast’s own Rep. Huffman, who have brought forward S. 2882 and its House companion, H.R. 5091. To be clear who we are rooting for: EPIC has joined our friends at Earthjustice, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, The League of Conservation Voters, The Wilderness Society, and Western Environmental Law Center in opposing Senate Bill 4431. EPIC also endorses Sen. Harris’ and Rep. Huffman’s bills. 

The two sets of legislation represent two competing schools of thought on addressing wildfires. Sen. Feinstein’s bill would weaken environmental laws to encourage more backcountry “fuels” treatments under the theory that by removing trees and other vegetation, we can influence fire behavior. The problem with Sen. Feinstein’s bill is that backcountry vegetation projects are enormously costly, require repeat treatments (because trees grow back), are ecologically impactful, and are not terribly effective at keeping people safe. Most large and high-intensity fires are climate and weather driven events, where a hotter, drier, and longer fire season (thanks climate change) along with high winds work together to create “megafires.” Sen. Feinstein’s bill, while perhaps a psychological salve as it feels like we are doing something, actually would do little to keep communities safe because the bill cannot fundamentally uncouple this relationship. (But it should come as no surprise that while the environmental community has overwhelmingly opposed Sen. Feinstein’s legislation, it finds many supporters in the timber industry, who are only too happy to take “fuels” off the government’s hands for cheap.) 

By contrast, the Sen. Harris/Rep. Huffman legislation (S. 2882/H.R. 5091) would provide funding, through grants to local and tribal governments, for community wildfire preparation, the development of critical infrastructure, and the hardening of structures and the creation of defensible space. These actions are the most effective measures to keep people and property safe from wildlands fire. It allows for a diversity of potential responses, as the program would pass money along to local governments to tailor projects to fit the needs of their communities.


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.


One Step Closer To National Forest Plan Revisions

Monday, August 10th, 2020
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The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), just got one step closer to revising forest plans throughout the Northwest. The Bioregional Assessment (BioA) spans about 24 million acres across 21 National Forests that are primarily within the range of the northern spotted owl covered under the Northwest Forest Plan. The BioA is a review of the current conditions and trends across a broad regional landscape and will serve as a foundation for land management plan revisions.

The National Forest Management Act requires that every national forest develop and maintain a land management plan, known as forest plans. These individual plans set direction for the landscape and include- desired conditions, non-discretionary standards and guidelines, monitoring plans and wilderness and Wild and Scenic River recommendations. The national forests of the Northwest are well overdue for updates, which are guided by the 2012 Planning Rule.

The ninety-page BioA document includes an overview of management recommendations, what is working well, challenges and opportunities for change and next steps. 

The stated management recommendations include: maintaining and restoring ecosystem characteristics; addressing the dynamic nature of ecosystems to respond to uncertainties; updating and integrating aquatic strategies; reducing invasive species; prioritizing community and firefighter safety; recognizing that fire is a natural process which has an important role in reducing risk of uncharacteristic fire and promoting ecosystem health; expanding timber harvest as a restoration tool; evolving from single species focus; promoting active management; and recognizing the social and economic benefits from recreation. 

What is working well? The BioA in summary concludes— the reserve network of older forests, riparian areas, roadless, wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations has worked to maintain the ecological integrity of our forests. Our national forests are also working to provide clean water, carbon sequestration, traditional ecological resources, and relatively stable timber production, other forest products and outdoor recreation. It also claims that overall the loss of old growth habitat from timber harvest has been “stemmed”.

The “need for change” chapter can be summed up by stating the agency will seek to justify forest extraction in every way possible, that we need logging a.k.a. “active management” by calling it restoration. There are multiple catchy explanations or “needs” such as: 18 million acres lack structural diversity and resilience and do not contribute to ecological integrity; 10 million acres need some type of restoration; 7 million acres need disturbance restoration; 5 million acres in old-growth forest, ungulate cover, wildlife habitat, and scenic corridors have multiple plan objectives that inhibit active management to reduce susceptibility to insects and disease; and 2 million acres have plan direction that emphasizes timber production and these acres need active management.

The BioA largely tiers to the 2018 USDA Scientific Synthesis, which was the previous step in forest plan revisions. Both of these documents lean heavily on in-house agency science while dismissing independent and best available science. The revisions, in their beginning stages, are already highly controversial. While this step in the forest planning is not open to public comment there will be “public engagement opportunities” coming soon.

The next step is the Forest Assessment stage, where individual forest roles and contributions will be defined. Candidate stretches for Wild and Scenic River designation will be identified. Wilderness inventory will be constructed and potential species of conservation will be determined.

We are still years away from seeing any formal revised plans. However, there is discussion that the Northern California national forests will be the first out of the starting gate due to the influence of wildfire. EPIC will continue to strategize with our state and regional conservation networks to advocate for the protection of clean water, carbon storage, intact old-growth and mature forests, region-wide habitat connectivity for plants and wildlife and real restoration of our public lands.


BREAKING: EPIC Joins Nationwide Coalition to Defend People’s Environmental Law

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020
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EPIC, along with a nationwide coalition of organizations from the environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and conservation communities, filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) this afternoon. 

The administration finalized its rules that will eviscerate core components of NEPA in mid-July. Under new regulations put forth by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), polluting projects of all kinds will be exempt from basic environmental reviews, and the public will be cut out of one of its best tools to prevent dangerous, shortsighted projects. 

“NEPA ensures that California’s forests remain verdant and our rivers stay clean by requiring that federal agencies understand the environmental impacts of their decisions. Trump’s new rule is a crushing disappointment to good government and to a healthy environment,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director, Environmental Protection Information Center.

“It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and environmental justice communities continue to live with the impacts of decisions that precipitated its need,” said  Kerene N. Tayloe, Esq., Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The changes made to this bedrock environmental law will further undermine basic protections, including the public’s right to participate in decision making and the obligation of the government to fully and thoroughly study the cumulative impacts of health hazards on overburdened communities. They also reflect a disregard of Black, Brown and poor communities and the unwillingness of this administration to execute laws in a way that benefits all Americans. WE ACT for Environmental Justice is committed to pursuing every option available to preserve and strengthen NEPA for the betterment of everyone.” 

“NEPA matters,” said Tricia Cortez, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center. “Here on the border, we know what a world without NEPA looks like because of what we’ve experienced with the border wall. The U.S. government has waived NEPA and dozens of other federal laws to rush construction for a politically motivated and destructive wall project. We would not wish this on any other community in this country. The feeling is like having a train barreling at you with nothing to stop it. To protect our environment and our health, we the people must save NEPA.” 

“We will not allow the Trump administration to compromise our rights to protect our communities and public health from the harms associated with unscrupulous and destructive industrial developments such as mining, oil and gas, and military operations,” said Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “This is a grave environmental injustice and we aim to prevent this attack on one of our most fundamental environmental laws.”

“The Trump administration picked the wrong fight,” said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney serving as co-counsel on the case. “They want to make it easier to silence people’s voices and give polluters a free pass to bulldoze through our neighborhoods. That’s why we’re taking them to court.” 

“We have consistently defeated this administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again for this critically important law,” said Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center co-counsel. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment — it depends on both.”

See the full press release here.


Opening Brief Filed in Case to Save Humboldt Marten

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
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EPIC Challenges Take Permit Issued to Green Diamond

In late May, EPIC submitted an opening brief in the case to overturn a permit that threatens California’s last remaining Humboldt martens. Read it here. With fewer than 200 likely in the state, the marten is teetering on the edge of extinction. Necessary to the long-term survival of the species is to connect the largest population of martens, found on Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County, to prime habitat in the Redwood National and State Parks complex to the southwest. Standing in the way is Green Diamond, which owns the majority of this area.

Green Diamond clearcut along Redwood National Park border

Green Diamond’s clearcut-heavy management is antithetical to the needs of the Humboldt marten. Martens require mature forests and thick layer of herbaceous undergrowth to slink through the forest undetected by predators. Clearcutting destroys this undergrowth and leaves martens exposed. Clearcutting also provides prime habitat for the marten’s number one predator, bobcats, whose populations explode because of the woodrats and rabbits that enjoy clearcuts. With so many bobcats present, Green Diamond’s lands become uninhabitable for martens and, where clearcuts are near occupied marten habitat, bobcats begin to tread further into these occupied areas. That’s why it is curious that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the company a free pass to “take” martens through their management.

As we’ve previously recounted, through funny math and a promise to relocate martens, Green Diamond convinced higher ups at the Department to issue a permit. And as we’ve now discovered through Public Records Act requests and through litigation, the actual scientists who work closely with Green Diamond were aghast—one writing that “this [Safe Harbor Agreement] sounds absolutely Orwellian” and that the permit “will, as a whole, actually be harmful.” Political interference to benefit a powerful timber company and plodding through the objections of staff scientists is something that we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration, not California’s wildlife agency.

The case is being heard in Humboldt County Superior Court by Judge Kelly Neel.

EPIC would like to extend a special thanks to our excellent attorneys, Marie Logan and Greg Loarie, of Earthjustice for representing us and our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity, who are our co-plaintiffs in the case. #TeamMarten

 


The Attack On Environmental Safeguards Continues Amidst Global Crisis

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
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The sheer amount of attacks on our environmental laws in the past three-plus years is stammering and has increased amidst the newest global crisis we are all facing. The current administration has orchestrated the largest reduction of protected public lands in U.S. history and has attempted to roll back nearly 100 environmental rules. The clean water, clean air, and the forests that all life depends are at risk, while our right to affect change is also being diminished.

Changes that have already occurred include eliminating rules to reduce methane emissions from drilling on public lands, rolling back regulations to increase the safety and transparency of hydraulic fracturing, watering down offshore drilling safety rules enacted after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, dramatically shrinking national monuments, and weakening enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended enforcement of environmental laws during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, signaling to corporations they will not face any sanctions for polluting the air or water as long as they can claim in some way these violations were caused by the pandemic.

Sage-Grouse on the Curlew Grassland, Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Photo Credit: US Forest Service.

There are over seventy more sweeping policy changes just within the Department of Interior (DOI) alone. These proposals add to a destructive record of rolling back protections for wildlife, suppressing public input, and dramatically expanding drilling and mining throughout the country. There are too many to comprehensively list, however, one in particular that would greatly affect our region is the removal of 10 million acres of critical habitat focal area for the greater sage grouse. The sage grouse is a hugely important “umbrella species” that has long been a signifier of environmental health across the west, including northeastern California.

Not only that, but the nation’s most effective law at protecting wildlife, the ESA, has been dramatically weakened. In May this year, a United Nation’s panel on biodiversity released a massive, troubling report on the state of the world’s animals. The bottom line: As many as 1 million species are now at risk of extinction. It is a biodiversity crisis that spans the globe and threatens every ecosystem. ESA species listed as “threatened” are defined as “any species, which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.”

These new rules constrain what is meant by “foreseeable future” and give significant discretion in interpreting what that means. The agencies that enforce the ESA have had to base their decisions of whether to protect a species solely on scientific data, “without reference to possible economic or other impacts of such determination.” The new rule removes that phrase and allows economics to be a consideration. Individual species are also targeted. Gray wolves, across the nation, are currently proposed for removal from the endangered species list when they have not even begun to recover in places like Colorado and California.

Perhaps the greatest threat to the forests of Northern California is the proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA allows the public to participate in land management decisions and requires that agencies consider environmental impacts from activities, such as logging. It also requires that different alternatives be considered. Here, the proposed changes would diminish all of the above: removing the requirement for alternatives, allowing larger projects to move forward without analyzing effects (as we have seen too often on the Mendocino National Forest), and eliminating public comment, forcing litigation as the only recourse. To add insult to injury, Trump has appointed 1 of every 4 appellate judges and two justices to the Supreme Court, tipping the favor against environmental and public interest.

It is time to turn the tide and sweep away this onslaught of harm. The breakdown of environmental laws and public interest is the breakdown of society. We must defend the natural world- the water, air, forests, and wildlife to thrive and survive. It is comforting to see that we have the ability, even globally, to move people to act in unison, toward a common goal. We must protect the web of life to safeguard our quality of life.