Deforestation and Climate Change Speech

Deforestation and Climate Change

This speech was delivered in Richardson Grove State Park October 24, 2009, by Natalynne DeLapp, EPIC’s policy associate.

We are here today in Richardson Grove because it is threatened by Caltrans’ proposal to widen Highway 101 in order to allow increasing numbers of larger trucks into Humboldt County. No matter how Caltrans tries to justify and mitigate it, this project will create significant and damaging effects to this sacred grove. With only a fraction of old-growth forest remaining, the potential harms to this grove are totally unacceptable. The project would cut through the stabilizing root systems of these ancient trees, move and compact huge amounts of soil and cause other unknown risks to these trees. This project is not “insignificant” to the grove.
Caltrans and big business interests would like to have you believe that small local business owners and the community of Humboldt County will benefit from this project. This spin on reality has confused many people. This project is likely to harm local businesses and could create a domino effect by granting greater access for giant trucks and corporate franchises to dominate our community, like they have most other places across the country. Our vision of a sustainable future would be compromised by this.

This project needs to be stopped. I feel confident, as does EPIC, that we can save Richardson Grove. We have beaten the odds before and can do it again. While EPIC will remain diligent in our resistance to this project, it will take all of us working together to stop this project.

As we elevate our tactics, we will need your help more than ever. More rallies like this one to show our growing numbers, letters to the editor and other media outlets to counter the spin and to use all other skills and resources that we have to creatively fight this project. We can save Richardson Grove and protect our community’s way of life.

Our larger task, however, will be to deal with the global issue of climate change. The event you are all a part of today is to show the world leaders that the people of the redwood region are taking a stand against climate change. This campaign makes a brilliant point about our home. The forests, here in the Pacific Northwest, could provide an amazing reserve for climate storage, on a global scale.

While many communities are searching for how to “think globally and act locally,” our region requires us to think locally because these forests may be one of the most valuable and natural defenses we have to combat the effects of global climate change.

Unfortunately, our forests have experienced a long history of destructive corporate logging, like that carried out by the late Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber. Yet, we have many of you here to thank for preserving the remaining old-growth redwood forests for the future generations. We still have our work cut out for us restoring our forest’s health on the rest of the degraded landscapes.

Yet, in the shadow of Pacific Lumber, another dragon has been lurking, largely unobstructed by grassroots campaigns, and their name is Green Diamond, formerly known as Simpson. If we are talking about deforestation and climate change in the redwood region, we are talking about Green Diamond.

Right in our backyards, Green Diamond, the largest landowner in Humboldt County, adheres primarily to the antiquated logging practice better known as clear-cutting. Their clear-cutting has consumed at least 65,000 acres in the last ten years. They have logged nearly three quarters of their 400,000 acres in the last 50 years and more than 80 percent of their land holding are under 65 years of age.

Not only is Green Diamond clear-cutting its landholdings, they have plans to develop over 5,000 acres of their ownership into residential sprawl in Humboldt County–and this is only the beginning. One such area lies in east Eureka called the “McKay Tract.” This area has been found to be one of the most productive redwood growing regions–anywhere, and has the potential to store massive amounts of carbon–yet Green Diamond is pressuring the County to allow this area to be developed. This forest and many others cannot only be a sanctuary for humans and animals but a storage site for immense quantities of carbon dioxide, thereby buffering the effects of Global climate change

Their logging and management practices are wreaking havoc on wildlife and watersheds, releasing more carbon into the air than other kinds of logging, and failing to capture the carbon that these forests can and must capture if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Green Diamond’s management practices need to be addressed. EPIC is calling on the community to hold this company accountable for its liquidation logging practices, and call for an end to their plans for widespread development of the redwood region. This process will be lengthy, like the fight with Pacific Lumber, but will prove critical for the future of our forests, our local communities and economy.

We need to restore forest function for climate resilience, stability, and for the very survival of our planet. We need to grow larger and older trees. If we don’t deal with climate change, we are likely to lose these forests; and in order to deal with climate change, we need to use our forests–wisely.

The decision makers in charge of creating forest policy have been captured by the very industry that they are regulating; the regulated are writing the very rules that govern the forests. I have been actively engaged with the Board of Forestry and the Climate Action Reserve (CAR, an organization formed to write the rules that govern the U.S. carbon market for carbon offset credits) in Sacramento, trying to prevent the industry from running rampant and creating laws and regulations that only serve their profit-based needs. To give an example, just a few weeks ago the California Air Resources Board adopted Carbon Protocols for forests that allow timber companies to sell their carbon credits to industry while also clear-cutting their lands! This is ridiculous and needs to be reversed. These protocols essentially validate the bad science that the timber industry has created to justify their forest management practices and disregard the science that supports the importance of long-lived trees for storing carbon. How can we allow such policies to govern how our forests will be managed?!

How can a normal life make sense in this day and age when the climate is rapidly degrading and the economy is tanking? What will it take for people to snap out of it and take some responsibility for the fate of the world and their own lives?

Please take action against climate change and continue to stand up for our precious forests. Support EPIC’s campaign against the Richardson Grove project, attend public meetings like the County’s General Plan sessions or go to Sacramento and tell the decision makers that our forests are more than just timber–they are the stewards of clean air, water, biodiversity and carbon storage. Just get involved and stay involved. We all need to do this collectively in order to make it out alive.