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EPIC is excited to announce a follow-up community meeting to discuss the Green Diamond Resource Company purchase of 9,400-acres of timberland in the Sproul Creek Watershed in Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino Counties from Boyle Forests LP.

The follow-up community meeting will be held on Monday, May 13, 2019, from 5:30-7:30 p. m. at the Southern Humboldt Organic & Regenerative Education Center (SHORE) space, located at 655 Redwood Drive Garberville, next to the Garberville Laundromat. This follow-up meeting is presented in cooperation with Trees Foundation. EPIC is excited and appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with Trees Foundation on this very important community issue. EPIC staff and Trees Foundation staff will both be present, so mark your calendars for this one, and please come join us!

EPIC will also be hosting the Environment Show on KMUD on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, from 7-8 p.m. We have a great show in store, including follow-up and updates from the Sproul Creek and Green Diamond Community meeting, and exciting new news and new staff interviews.

Finally, please come see EPIC and our staff and tabling booth at the KMUD Block Party on Saturday, May 18th! Big thanks from EPIC to KMUD for offering us the tabling space at the KMUD Block Party. It’s always an event that’s great fun and for a good cause. We are looking forward to having a presence in Southern Humboldt in the upcoming weeks, so please come check us out, and tune in!

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Conservation groups and Humboldt County residents have won a federal court victory halting Caltrans’ controversial Richardson Grove highway-widening project. The project would needlessly harm ancient redwood trees in California’s iconic Richardson Grove State Park along Highway 101 in Humboldt County. The U.S. District Court in San Francisco struck down the Caltrans plan in a 26-page order issued late Friday afternoon.

“We’re elated that the court rejected Caltrans’ misguided and deeply destructive plan,” said Peter Galvin, co-founder and director of programs at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The ancient trees and wildlife of Richardson Grove are too important to pave over.”

“For too long, Caltrans has pushed this unpopular project at the expense of the taxpayers and the environment,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director of EPIC. “EPIC hopes that Caltrans focuses on road projects that are actually a priority, like Last Chance Grade.”

The highway-widening project could damage the roots of more than 100 of Richardson Grove’s ancient redwoods, including trees up to 3,000 years old, 18 feet in diameter and 300 feet tall. Caltrans has pursued this project solely to incrementally improve passage for heavy, oversized commercial trucks, with trailers up to 53 feet long.

In an order setting aside Caltrans’ inadequate environmental review and approval for the project, Judge William Alsup found that the agency failed to address four main issues: the roots of several ancient redwoods would risk suffocation due to increased paving in their root zones; construction within their structural root zones has the potential to impact or topple trees; heavy oversized trucks are more likely to collide with trees in the grove and the damage to redwoods could be more severe; and noise impacts from more and larger trucks rumbling through the park will be much worse than Caltrans is admitting and would diminish public enjoyment of the grove.

Judge Alsup stated that “all of these old-growth redwoods have lived many times longer than our nation has existed,” and “if we were today considering building a major highway through a grove of ancient redwoods, almost certainly the public would demand that the grove be spared and that the highway bypass the park.”

The court will next take arguments on whether Caltrans must prepare a new environmental assessment or provide a more thorough Environmental Impact Statement. Judge Alsup noted that studies cited by Caltrans were not provided to the public and that mastering Caltrans’ incomplete and confusing administrative record has been “awful” and “resembled decoding hieroglyphics.”

Background
Richardson Grove State Park, where tourists often first encounter large redwoods when heading north on Highway 101, is home to one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwood trees in the world. The park has essential habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the northern spotted owl, and its creeks support runs of imperiled salmon and steelhead trout.

Caltrans first proposed the project in 2007, claiming the widening is needed to accommodate large-truck travel. But Highway 101 through Richardson Grove is already designated for larger trucks and does not have significant safety problems. The agency cannot demonstrate that the project is necessary for safety or would benefit the local economy.

Litigation against the Richardson Grove project has been successful in both state and federal court. This is the third federal lawsuit challenging Caltrans’ violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, due to inadequate evaluation of the environmental impacts of cutting into or paving over tree roots.

A state court ruled in May 2018 against a Caltrans motion to dismiss the state lawsuit. The 2010 federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Friends of Del Norte, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, and longtime local residents Bess Bair, Trisha Lee Lotus, Jeffrey Hedin and David Spreen.

In 2012 the federal court issued a temporary injunction stopping the project, citing numerous errors in Caltrans’ mapping and measurement of affected old-growth redwoods and use of faulty data. Previous legal challenges blocked construction and forced Caltrans to rescind all project approvals in 2014. The agency reapproved the project in 2017, claiming it had made significant changes. However, Caltrans still proposed to cut into tree roots, threatening the stability and viability of old-growth redwoods.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit are Stuart Gross of Gross & Klein LLP; Sharon Duggan, a staff attorney with EPIC and a long-time expert on environmental law; Philip Gregory of Gregory Law Group; and Camilo Artiga-Purcell of Artiga-Purcell Law Office.

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Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Salamander in California, Oregon

EPIC and allies filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to respond to a 2018 petition for Endangered Species Act protection for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander.

This rare terrestrial salamander lives only in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon and Northern California, primarily in old-growth forests. The best habitat for the Siskiyou Mountains salamander (Plethodon stormi) is stabilized rock talus in old-growth forest, especially areas covered with thick moss. Mature forest canopy helps maintain a cool and stable moist microclimate where they can thrive. The species is threatened by plans from the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management to increase logging in southern Oregon.

There are two distinct populations of the Siskiyou Mountains salamander, separated by the mountain range’s crest. A larger northern population lives in the Applegate River drainage in southern Oregon, while the smaller southern population is in California’s Klamath River drainage. Most known Siskiyou Mountains salamander locations are on public lands managed by the BLM and the Forest Service.

In March 2018 the Center for Biological Diversity, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center and Cascadia Wildlands filed a formal petition asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Siskiyou Mountains salamander under the Endangered Species Act.

Conservation groups first petitioned to protect the salamander under the Endangered Species Act in 2004. To prevent the species’ listing, the BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service agreed in 2007 to protect habitat for 110 high-priority salamander sites in the Applegate River watershed. In 2008 the Fish and Wildlife Service denied protection to the salamander based on this conservation agreement and old-growth forest protections provided by the Northwest Forest Plan.

Under the Northwest Forest Plan, the BLM and Forest Service were required to survey for rare species like the salamander and designate protected buffers from logging where the animals were found. But the Western Oregon Plan Revision adopted by the BLM in 2016 substantially increased logging allowed in western Oregon forests, undermining those habitat protections.

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A wind farm is being proposed for Monument and Bear River Ridges near the towns of Scotia and Rio Dell. The wind farm is expected to produce 155MW of electricity from up to 60 turbines. On April 15, the county released its draft Environmental Impact Report, a document required under state law that examines the likely environmental impacts associated with the project and the potential mitigation measures to reduce the severity of those impacts. Its release has triggered a public comment period that ends on June 5 at 5pm. All comments on the document should be sent to CEQAResponses@co.humboldt.ca.us or Humboldt Wind Energy Project Planner, County of Humboldt Planning Department, 3015 H Street, Eureka, CA 95501.

EPIC is still reading the document—it is, after all hundreds of pages long—and has yet to form an opinion on the project. There are obvious challenges with a project like this. While the project could help to decarbonize our energy grid, an undoubtedly important objective to combat global climate change, the wind project is also likely to result in bird and bat deaths, including to some of the most iconic avian friends, like the marbled murrelet and bald eagle, as well as other species that may be less well known, like the streaked horned lark. In reading the document, EPIC is asking ourselves the following questions: Can the footprint be reduced in a way to further minimize the impact to bird species? Has the project avoided impacts to the maximum extent practicable? Has the project minimized impacts to the maximum extent practicable? And has the project mitigated impacts to the maximum extent practicable?

I hope you take the time to read the document—perhaps focus on the biological resources chapter (Chapter 3.5)—and engage with EPIC to share your thoughts. Feel free to contact Tom via email: tom@wildcalifornia.org or call the office at (707) 822-7711.

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By: Joseph McDonald

Hello from the team here at EPIC! We just wanted to let everyone know that we are going to be tabling at the upcoming Trinidad Art Night and are excited to see you there!  EPIC will be at the Trinidad Art Gallery at 490 Trinity St, Trinidad, CA 95570. EPIC staff and volunteers will be serving libations and collecting signatures for wolf protection from 6-9pm on Friday, May 3rd. Several different locations are participating in this event, which you can find here. Come on out and say hello and support this awesome event in beautiful Trinidad! Help us spread the word by inviting your friends on Facebook!

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Directions: Take Packers Bay exit on Interstate 5 (from northbound I-5, take the O’Brien exit, get back on I-5 heading south, then exit at Packers Bay).

When: April 25th & 26 from 9:30 am – 3:00 pm

Why: To help the rare Shasta snow-wreath populations from being invaded by Scotch broom and to avoid drift from toxic herbicides.

Bring: Gloves, water, lunch and wear long sleeves and hat. EPIC will be providing tools but bring loppers if you have them.

What to Know: There are two main locations we will be working; one is roadside and the other is down in the creek. There is a decent amount of poison oak down by the creek. If you are sensitive to poison oak the roadside location has little to none.

If arriving late you may see us on the road (34N27) before you reach the trailhead. If we are not there, look for the pile of fresh pulled Scotch broom and labeled flagging to find the trail down to the creek. We will leave a few tools near the top of the trail to bring down.

There are only 20 know populations of Shasta snow-wreath (Neviusia cliftonii) on the planet. Most were lost when the reservoir was created. Others are threatened by the proposal to raise the dam and Scotch brooms are another threat that has infested multiple areas near Packers Bay. This plant is endemic to the shores and canyons around the reservoir. The area is rich in biodiversity and is home to many endemic species such as the Shasta salamander (Hydromantes shastae) and the Shasta Chaparral snail.

EPIC staff and volunteers will be pulling the invasive non-native scotch broom and helping to protect streamside plant populations from being sprayed with toxic chemicals. We 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. We look forward to seeing you out there!

If you are unable to make it out for the volunteer day, but you want to support our efforts by helping to cover the costs of travel and supplies, please consider making a donation to EPIC. Thank you for your support!

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Attorney Brodia Minter of KS Wild assesses damage from the Seiad-Horse Project.

EPIC’s successful lawsuit against the Seiad-Horse Timber Sale is headed to the Ninth Circuit. The Seiad-Horse Timber Sale was the Klamath National Forest’s latest attempt to log fragile post-fire forests. To fast track logging, the Klamath National Forest avoided completion of an Environmental Impact Statement, a requirement for projects like this timber sale that present potentially significant environmental impacts.

To stop this illegal timber sale, EPIC filed a lawsuit against the Klamath National Forest and sought a court order to stop most of the project’s activities. The American Forest Resource Council, an industry trade organization representing timber companies, intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Forest Service’s decision. Before the Eastern District Court of California, EPIC won in a sweeping decision that used the Klamath National Forest’s own admissions against them.

Now the timber industry is appealing their loss to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the District Court judge erred in his decision. So EPIC is gearing back up for another round in this litigation.

The timber industry’s plan is likely to backfire. Courts are bound by precedent. For example, all District Courts within the Ninth Circuit are bound by the Ninth Circuit’s previous decisions—from Alaska to California. When EPIC wins before the Ninth Circuit—and we feel confident that we will win, as the Seiad-Horse Timber Sale was blatantly illegal—we will set precedent that will make it more difficult for the government to give illegal sweetheart deals to the timber industry. This is BIG.

A special thanks to our co-plaintiffs, the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and the Klamath Forest Alliance, and to our attorney, Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center, all of whom are dogged in their defense of our bioregion.

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By Joseph McDonald

Bobcats have remained an integral part of California’s native ecosystem and their dwindling populations deserve protection. The state legislator has introduced a new bill, AB 1254, which will set a new ban on the trophy killing of bobcats across the state of California. Mountain lions were protected from trophy hunting back in 1971, so we here at EPIC think it’s high time that bobcats are protected.

Bobcats have a special place in the hearts of those here at EPIC. Back in 2015, EPIC and other environmental groups worked together to gather a huge amount of support for a bill that banned the senseless trapping of bobcats. AB 1213 passed and trapping was permanently banned, but bobcats are still vulnerable to trophy hunting across the state.

Bobcats are important to California’s native landscape, and they support the health of the state’s natural ecosystems. The bobcat is a bit bigger than a normal house cat and feeds mostly on small rodents, which keep pest populations down. They are elusive animals and are too small to hunt large game or even threaten livestock or pets. Bobcat kittens are highly dependent on their mothers for up to 10 months, and when a mother bobcat falls to a trophy hunter, her kittens are likely to die from starvation or predation by other animals. Currently, they are freely hunted in 40 states, mostly for their unique spotted fur, and in California over the past ten years more than 10,000 bobcats have been killed. Hunting, combined with habitat loss, poses a serious problem for bobcat populations and California ecosystems.

We know Californians value bobcats— these small carnivores help keep pest populations low which in turn benefits farmers and local communities. The state banned mountain lion hunting as far back as 1971 and once again, the state has the opportunity to make history by continuing its path to protect another keystone species and promote the health of their natural ecosystems by putting an end to trophy hunting of bobcats.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act across the continental United States. The plan would do away with 40 years of wolf recovery and leave these intelligent animals vulnerable to trophy hunts, trapping, poisoning and persecution. This politically driven agenda is contrary to the clear scientific evidence that wolf populations have not rebounded across their range.

The Endangered Species Act is America’s most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. It serves as an essential safety net when state management has failed to protect imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife. Since its enactment, 99 percent of listed species have survived and hundreds more are on a path to recovery.

Thanks to the Act, wolves have returned across the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes states. Wolves are just beginning to repopulate in the Pacific Northwest, including here in California. Without federal protection wolves may never recover in places like Colorado or the Adirondacks.

There were once hundreds of thousands of wolves in the lower 48, but today there are only roughly 5,000. California is home to perhaps fewer than ten confirmed resident wolves at present. Their ongoing repopulation from neighboring states could be jeopardized should they be delisted. For example, in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, where wolves have already lost federal protections, trophy hunters, trappers, and others have killed nearly 3,500 wolves since just 2011. Federal protections are essential to help wolves return to remaining suitable habitats where they used to roam.

As part of our nation’s heritage wolves deserve better. Playing politics with imperiled wildlife is unacceptable. Act now to defend wolves across the country! Click here to sign the petition.

The comment deadline for wolf delisting is May 14th 2019. If you would like to submit your own substantive comments electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov – in the Search box, enter Docket No. FWS–HQ–ES–2018–0097, which is the docket number for this rulemaking.

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OR-7, affectionately named “Journey”, was the first confirmed wolf in California since 1924. He traveled over 4,000 miles back and forth from California to Oregon in 2012-13 and has since sired five litters in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. At least three of OR-7’s pups and two of his siblings have been documented in California.

The Lassen Pack is California’s second confirmed wolf pack. Their territory lies within Lassen and Plumas counties. The alpha male (CA08M) was born into the Rouge Pack in 2014, sired by OR-7. The alpha female (LAS01F) was collared in June of 2017. The pair has had two litters and currently consists of two yearlings and five pups.

OR-54 was born into the Rogue Pack, likely in 2016. She was 83 pounds when collared in October 2017. In early 2018 the young female traveled over 500 miles through four counties in one month before retuning to Oregon. She returned to California in April 2018, traveling through six counties and spent most of her summer near the Sierra Valley. By January 2019, OR-54 had traveled over 4,325 miles.

The Shasta Pack was the first contemporary wolf pack in California. The alpha female was the younger sister of OR-7. The all black pack occupied a portion of Siskiyou County and produced five pups in spring 2015. The family was last seen together in late 2015. There were no sightings until May 2016, when a solo yearling male (CA07M) was detected near pup-rearing sites used in 2015. He is thought to be the only know survivor from the pack. In November 2016, CA07M was the first wolf to return to Nevada in nearly 100 years. While it’s believed the pack no longer exists, some evidence suggests at least one wolf was roaming within the Shasta Pack territory in 2017.

OR-44 was born into Oregon’s Chesnimnus Pack in 2016 and was collared in December that year. He entered CA in March 2018 into Siskiyou County where he was last located due to his collar failing. His current whereabouts are unknown.

CA10F is a female wolf born into the Rouge Pack in 2014. She is a sister to the alpha male of the Lassen Pack. She was tracked moving southeast through Siskiyou County in January 2017. She has no collar and her current whereabouts are unknown.

R.I.P — OR-59, a 1.5-year-old male, entered California on September 29, 2018. On December 5, in Lassen County, he was detected in the vicinity of a dead calf that had died of natural causes. On December 9th his collar sent a mortality signal and he was found dead. The action is now under criminal investigation.

R.I.P — OR-25, was a full brother to OR-7. He traveled through Washington’s Columbia Basin, Mt. Hood National Forest and down the length of the Oregon Cascades. In late 2015 and early 2016, he made four separate trips to California, where he roamed Modoc, Lassen, Shasta and Siskiyou counties. In late October 2017, at four years old, he was killed illegally in Klamath County, Oregon.

R.I.P — An uncollared wolf was found dead in Lassen County on September 5, 2018. The mortality is under investigation.

Wolves need your help! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act across the continental United States. The comment deadline for wolf delisting is May 14th 2019. Act now to defend wolves across the country! Click here to sign the petition.

 

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