EcoNews Vol. 46, No. 1 - Feb/Mar 2016

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News from the Center - Feb/Mar 2016



We’ve stayed pretty busy over the holidays here at the NEC with so much going around Northwest California. It was hard to take much of a break. Our staff went home to visit their families. Some of us worked right on through.

We spent a good deal of time participating in Humboldt County’s efforts crafting its Commercial Medical Marijuana Ordinance.  The issue of cannabis cultivation and its environmental impacts have occupied a lot of time and effort for your NEC in the last five years. It looks like all the effort and education of the public and elected officials is beginning to pay off.

Agencies from the local to the state are paying attention and starting to act. Because the cannabis industry has been in the shadows—doing what it wants for so long with no oversight—it has been an enormous undertaking to come up with a way to bring it under control and regulate it. County staff has done a commendable job listening to and reflecting on input which the NEC has provided them in concert with our allies EPIC, SAFE and Humboldt Baykeeper.

The NEC continues to work to protect the many wild road-less areas that were dropped from the Thompson Wilderness bill enacted several years ago. The idea to make another attempt at protection for these areas was hatched before Jared Huffman was elected.  We approached him as a candidate and he was excited by the concept. Since then we’ve worked tirelessly with Cal-Wild to help craft a large public lands bill. The result is a Wild and Scenic Rivers & Wilderness bill with an important restoration component. As we write this we are days away from handing it over to Congressman Huffman and his staff.


Forest Planning
The Forest Service is beginning the process of updating or completely rewriting their individual forest plans—in addition to rewriting the whole Northwest Forest Plan that revolves around the Northern spotted owl. To date, there has been only one Forest Service meeting in our area (Region 5). Most of the action so far has been in Washington/Oregon (Region 6).
We are keeping up to date on the latest moves on this through our participation in the Northwest Forest Campaign Network.


Collaborative Efforts
Our efforts to work with the U.S. Forest Service in both Six Rivers and Trinity National Forests through the Trinity Collaborative have continued.

We are making some progress, especially with regard to Six Rivers. Many years of inaction follow decades of abuse and mismanagement.

The collaborative effort is bringing Timber and Environmental groups together, with a diverse mix of community members, to try to find common goals and achieve results in managing our public lands. While it’s been slow going, we actually have found common ground in an effort to try and move the Forest Service forward.

The Promotion of Merv George Jr. to Forest Supervisor of Six Rivers has been a game changer for our efforts. Merv’s frankness and receptiveness to us has been a very refreshing change and we look forward to continuing to work with him and all of his staff at Six Rivers.
Congressman Jared Huffman has also become involved in helping us to reach or goals and is very supportive of our work.

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Eye on Washington - Feb/Mar 2016

February, 2016

The Good News from Washington

As 2015 showed signs of backsliding in most areas of environmental protection and public land use, the strength of local voices aligned with national organizations prevailed to shut down some of the worst legislation coming out of Congress. Yes, grass roots organizations like the Northcoast Environmental Center do make a difference.

We helped stop bills that would remove or limit public scrutiny of large timber operations, give salvage logging a huge pass on public comment, ignore science and remove endangered species protection, and ship even more water to California’s Central Valley. The NEC joined with thousands of others in letter after letter to our congressional delegation opposing these bad bills. In doing so, we enabled them to prove their constituents were against slashing our environmental laws in order to favor corporate interests. Most of those victories were accomplished at the last minute in conference committees behind closed doors.

The good news out of 2015: Your voice counts, but only if you participate.
The other good news out of Washington this year relates to climate change. Not only did President Obama stop the Keystone XL pipeline from running the dirtiest tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to ship to foreign countries, but the Obama Administration also made bold commitments at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (see page 7). 
Many following the events were surprised that the U.S. went beyond expectations toward reducing our impacts on climate change. Much of the success of the conference is based on industrial nations, like the U.S., helping poorer countries who want the same energy benefits as industrialized nations. A skeptical Congress will have to fund those climate initiatives in the coming years. The ultimate success of our country’s commitments will be sealed in the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. 

The bad news: Congress reversed our 40-year ban on exporting American crude oil. 
The final Omnibus (a funding bill with lots of “riders”) included the decision to allow export of U.S. crude oil to China and other countries. Why? So energy corporations can maximize their profits, plain and simple. The effort to sway Congress and the public was led by the American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard. The result will be higher gas prices for everyone. Next time you hear a politician or oil executive suggest we need to assure energy independence so we do not have to rely on our “enemies” in the Middle East for oil, remind them of the 2015 push to allow American oil companies to export oil for the first time since 1975. 

If you are a wolf or a sage grouse, 2015 was not a good year for you either.  Though most of the bad bills related to endangered species were stopped, sage grouse and wolves did not fare well. Our vigilance is needed to assure future generations see them in the wild.


What's Coming?

All or most of those bad bills will be put forward again. HR 2647, the so-called “Resilient Forest Act” that would allow thousands of acres of forests to be logged with little or no public input, is already back on the table in the House of Representatives. That bill was very nearly included in the Omnibus funding bill but was removed at the last minute due to community opposition. There is no time to rest. Bad bills, of which there is no shortage, need to receive strong, immediate and forceful opposition. The NEC is providing just that—with your support.

2016 is, of course, an election year. Look for lots of grandstanding by all parties and little accomplishment, but with this Congress, perhaps that is yet another good thing.

Happy 2016!

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Remembering Two Fallen Giants: Lucille Vinyard

February, 2016


Lucille Vinyard  was called the “Mother of Redwood National Park” by a former park superintendent. I’m sure that quote will be used often in the many memorials for this amazing woman as we mourn her passing in December.

Lucille was born on December 17, 1918 in Santa Cruz, California. I try to imagine what Santa Cruz and redwood forests must have been like in her childhood.  I asked Lucille what sparked her interest in redwoods and she told me her mother used to take her on picnics near their home. Those trees were home. She said they were beautiful, and could not imagine cutting one down. This was her motivation to organize with the local chapter of the Sierra Club in the early 1960’s to stop the “mowing down” of the trees she loved. She saw the creation of a National Park as a solution.

Lucille defied all stereotypes. She was a Republican until Reagan slashed funding for conservation.  She not only loved bird-watching, hiking, backpacking and rafting, but was also an avid golfer, fisherman and hunter. Though her wardrobe of choice was blue jeans and a work shirt, she loved recalling the exact pink dress she wore to a hearing about Redwood National Park so she would stand out amongst the dark-suited men.

It was always an honor to visit Lucille and her husband Bill (a botanist and professor) in their home perched above Moonstone Beach.  Adventure, laughter and dedicated conservation work co-existed in their home.

The Northcoast Environmental Center owes much of its beginnings to Lucille’s dedication.  She was present at the organizational meeting of the NEC on November 24, 1970 and was a founding board member representing the North Group of the Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter.

Lucille was a fighter, who inspired me and other activists like me. Once after giving a talk promoting the creation of Redwood National Park, a logger from the audience threatened to shove her house into the ocean. In public hearings to expand Redwood National Park she was spat on and not-so-subtly threatened with a knife. She and I laughed at having to quickly hide by rolling into a logging road ditch on private timber land above Redwood Creek to avoid being caught. We were determined to give witness to the clearcutting devastation wrought by timber companies above Tall Trees Grove.

Without the likes of Lucille we surely would not have Redwood National Park and we might not have the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountain or Russian Wilderness areas.  Lucille and I laughed recalling the bus trip we took over Oregon Pass on 299 in the early 1970’s to testify at an all night Forest Service hearing to protect the Trinity Alps. The bus slid and swerved on the snowy road but the busload of conservation activists encouraged the driver on. I will never forget that ride or the energy she shared at that hearing.

It would be wrong to think that saving our natural areas was “man’s work.”  Lucille was right there on the frontline along with Kaye Chaffee, Susie Van Kirk and many other women. Lucille and her female comrades reminded us what women leaders can do.

Lucille’s battle was never complete. Longtime friends Joe Gillespie and Dave Van de Mark gathered around Lucille’s dining table to look at maps in 2014, discussing new efforts to add over 300,000 acres of wilderness protection in our region. She and Dave nodded heads as they pointed out trails and mountains that were outside wilderness boundaries and needed protection. This was the Lucille I had known for 45 years. This autumn, I met with Lucille so she could sign her letter to add acres of wilderness across the mountains she loved, but would also include portions of Redwood Creek Valley in Redwood National Park to wilderness, as she had always hoped for. Lucille wrote:

“As I look at the forests, mountains and rivers in this place I call home, I am proud of the work we did, but I also know it is not complete. I encourage you to fulfill our obligation to protect these lands for this and future generations. In this rapidly growing nation we need to assure our people of all ages have access to places of inspiration and recreation.”

Though Lucille received several awards for her conservation work, her real reward was hiking and rafting in places she helped save for future generations. It would be nice if the struggle was over and all was saved, but that is not the case.  Fortunately Lucille and her conservation friends have inspired generations of activists to continue this important work. We need to  be brave, like Lucille, and never give up.

Remembering Two Fallen Giants: Susie Van Kirk

February, 2016


The late 60s were a time of great change on the North Coast.  A decade-long battle had  resulted in the establishment of Redwood National Park in 1968, and in the formation of several active conservation groups in the region by 1969. Susie planned to complete her MA in biology at HSU, where her husband Bob Van Kirk had been appointed to the faculty.  She began to study and explore the local area, where she met environmentalists Lucille Vinyard and Dr. Rudi Becking. Inspired by the first Earth Day in 1970, local conservation groups formed an umbrella organization, the Northcoast Environmental Center, and Susie joined the first board of directors in 1971.

In 1972, Caltrans proposed conversion of Highway 101 through Arcata from a four lane highway to an eight lane freeway, calling for the removal of more than 200 homes and businesses in the heart of the town.  The Van Kirk’s home was located at the eastern boundary of the demolition zone so she could see the scale of the damage.  Susie joined the student based Stop-at-Four Committee, and represented the Committee when they submitted a petition to the City Council to halt the project.  While the Council turned down the initiative and construction moved forward, the conflict spurred major changes in the composition of the City Council and a shift in local politics. Chris Beresford, a longtime NEC volunteer who resided in the same neighborhood, recalls “Get-Out the Vote” meetings at the Van Kirk house.

Beginning a long collaboration with NEC director Tim McKay, Susie soon became an integral part of the NEC’s team of researchers and advisors; often representing the Sierra Club’s-North Group and providing detailed analyses and comments on timber harvest plans and environmental impact reports.  Logging on adjacent private lands was considered a threat to Redwood National Park, and by 1972, the student organized Emerald Creek Committee began working with the NEC—joining a larger effort led by the Sierra Club to expand the Park.

In 1973, California’s Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act had increased public regulation of private logging.  When the National Forest Management Act of 1976 directed national forests throughout the country to prepare forest plans based on sustained yield of all forest resources, Susie’s comments helped to shape the direction of plans for Six Rivers, Klamath and Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and later provided analyses of herbicide spraying on forestlands.  Archivist Edie Butler would later observe, “Through her grasp of the complexity of an issue (the result of countless hours of research and study) Susie has helped others to be informed and to advance the quality of discussions and  public deliberations.”

The freeway expansion project in Arcata had aroused public concerns about housing shortages and the loss of historic buildings and structures.  A volunteer group had been organized to inventory historic properties, the Historic Sites Society of Arcata (HSSA), and Susie became their primary researcher and documentarian. The first historical resources survey of Arcata was the basis for her best known book, Reflections of Arcata’s History: Eighty Years of Architecture.

Applying her thorough and methodical approach to historic preservation, she would write more than three dozen historic property nominations, a dozen publications on regional architectural history, and numerous local histories and reports.  In 2000, she collaborated with preservation consultant Kathleen Stanton on the “Local Legacies Oral History Project” to document the post WWII logging boom and subsequent environmental movement of the last half of the 20th century.  Cited by local librarians as the foremost authority on Humboldt County newspapers, in 2004 Susie completed an extensive study of Northwestern California Newspapers for the HSU library (

Her unique understanding of both natural and cultural history was evident in her work on the Lyons Ranch in the Bald Hills, a National Register of Historic Places nomination. The Lyons family was mixed race, Mrs Lyons was Hupa, and the ranch was in the Chilula home territory.  As historian Jerry Rohde explained, “She told me that if she could do anything she wanted it would be this—trying to restore what years of genocide and repression had cast asunder.”

Susie’s historical research, like all of her projects, reflected a strong sense of social justice and a conviction that she had a responsibility to serve as an advocate.  Susie had begun to work with food programs, homeless and houseless shelters in the 1990s, and befriended many individuals, helping each in important and lasting ways.  In nominating Susie for the 1999 Woman of Achievement award, Edie Butler stated, “Susie Van Kirk works quietly and diligently to make this region a better place for all of us.  I wish that she were in the limelight more but she would not want that.  Her works have touched every one of us and they will have a positive impact for years and years to come.”

County Cannabis Ordinance: Reining in Existing Grows

February, 2016

Humboldt County is moving forward with regulating medical cannabis production with a final ordinance set to be passed as we go to print. With the language of the ordinance still being solidified by county planning staff, nothing is set in stone until the Board of Supervisors takes a final action. However, below is our best reading of the tea leaves as to where the Board stands as of press time (spoiler alert: it looks pretty decent):

•    No new operations in forestlands and incentives for cultivators operating in environmentally-sensitive locations (steep terrain, upper watersheds, too close to streams or wetlands, etc.) to retire, remediate, and/or relocate to flatter agricultural lands.
•    All operations must adhere to strict environmental requirements, including a prohibition on stream diversions from May 15 to October 31, prohibition of non-organic pesticides, prohibition of use of trucked water, and stream setbacks.
•    For commercial outdoor and mixed-light (a.k.a. “light-deprivation”) operations, tiered permitting will require more stringent, site-specific review for larger grows.
•    Operations between 500-5,000 sq. ft. will require a zoning clearance certificate (a ministerial permit—after all conditions are met).
•    Operations between 5,000-10,000 sq. ft. will require a special use permit, which provides an additional layer of oversight. It is handled by county planning staff,  much like a zoning clearance certificate, but affords notice to neighbors to give them the opportunity to provide feedback to staff. Planning staff, neighbors, or the public may request a formal hearing before the Planning Commission.
•    Operations greater than 10,000 will require a conditional use permit.
•    For indoor operations, all operations require zero net energy or a carbon offset to limit climate change impacts.
•    For industrial or commercial parcels, up to 5,000 sq. ft. with ministerial permit and up to 10,000 sq. ft. with conditional use permit.
•    For lands zones for agricultural production (AG and AE), the ordinance would cap operations at 5,000 sq. ft. limited to existing structures.
•    Grows up to 22,000 sq. ft. will be considered through a master planning process with accompanying EIR.
•    Set noise abatement standards for generators to a decibel level appropriate to avoid harm to wildlife and neighborhood disturbance, likely between 25db and 60db.

Overall, the ordinance is pretty decent—and given the myriad of stakeholders and the complexity of the issue—we’ll take pretty decent. Included are a number of hard fought battles (and victories), most notably no new operations in forest lands (including Timber Production Zone or TPZ lands)! With limited exceptions, new cultivation will not be considered until a thorough analysis of cumulative environmental impacts can be done at some point in the not-so-distant future.

How did we get here? To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” In October 2014, California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) invited EPIC, the NEC, and SAFE to participate in an early stakeholders meeting for a draft ordinance that CCVH intended to submit to voters. For the next year, CCVH was hard at work developing an ordinance, issuing a half dozen draft ordinances, with environmental voices providing critical review and comment.

While CCVH was hard at work, the state got in the game. On September 11, 2015, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board passed a waiver of waste discharge requirements for commercial cannabis producers, the first real environmental regulation directly applied to cannabis. In Fall 2015, the State legislature passed a trio of laws to regulate medical cannabis production (AB 243, AB 266, & SB 642). These laws expressly gave the county permission to regulate commercial medical cannabis production and provided a deadline, March 1, 2016, by which counties were to promulgate local regulations. Just four days later, on September 15, 2015, CCVH decided not to run an independent voter initiative campaign and turned their ordinance over to the Board of Supervisors to use as a template.

The Humboldt County Supervisors were tasked with striking a balance between competing forces. If cultivators do not participate, no performance standards or environmental mitigations will be followed, which would not help attenuate the problems facing our watersheds and human communities. This is the crux of the issue within the development of Humboldt County’s ordinance—a sweet spot must be achieved that will maximize participation while providing enough oversight and environmental protection.

Collectively, we are in the process of ushering in a new paradigm for commercial cultivation of medical cannabis in Humboldt County. We are preserving local control, beginning to mitigate the adverse impacts of unregulated cannabis production, and providing a legitimate framework for legal economic activity that can benefit both farmers and the public.

Once the ordinance is adopted, the final environmental document will be circulated for public review and comment, and will be finalized in late February or early March. Stay tuned as the County develops a tax measure to ensure funding for enforcement, which will be a crucial aspect to the reform of marijuana laws and the end of prohibition.

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State Elk and Wolf Management Under Review

February, 2016

Department of Fish and Wildlife Shows Cards to Delist Wolf

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently released its draft Wolf Conservation Plan, a document which will shape the way the Department approaches wolf recovery in California. The Plan may impact protections afforded to the grey wolf under the state and federal endangered species acts.

While the Plan emphasizes nonlethal management strategies in the short term, EPIC is concerned that the Plan will ultimately result in loosened protections and wolf hunts. In the Plan, the Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that it will seek to “delist” or remove protections from the endangered species act if the state reaches nine packs, consisting of just 50 to 75 wolves. The Plan does not seek to ground this number in science. Why? Because this number can’t be justified. The best available science shows that such a small number is too fragile to deem the species recovered. 

Wolf management has traditionally focused on lethal control, killing wolves if they demonstrate predation on livestock. EPIC’s Program and Legal Coordinator, Tom Wheeler, argues that nonlethal control methods are both more humane and more effective. “Nonlethal deterrence, such as range riders, herd management techniques, and electric fences, has been proven to be effective in protecting livestock from predation.”

The Conservation Plan was spurred by the discovery of a wolf in California in 2011. The wolf, OR-7, was named “Journey” because of his long adventure to reach the Golden State. The lone wolf traveled in and out of California for four years before returning to Oregon where he established a pack near the border, the Rogue Pack. While OR-7 moved on, California recently received its first permanent pack. On August 9, 2015, a game camera caught the first definitive proof: five pups and two adults, frolicking together. The wolves, named the Shasta Pack after nearby Mount Shasta, now call California home. Another wolf, OR-25, originated from the same pack as OR-7 and has been traveling between Modoc County and southern Oregon this winter. 


 Is Elk Hunting Jeopardizing Local Roosevelt Elk?

That’s the question being raised by EPIC in comments to the Fish and Game Commission. Our local Roosevelt elk population—the car-stopping attraction near Highway 101 in Humboldt and Del Norte counties—is one of the most significant populations in relation to its larger subspecies for two reasons: its history and its future.

In regard to its history, this Roosevelt elk population is our last vestige of the past. By 1925, our local population was the only Roosevelt population left in California; the rest were hunted to oblivion. Through a combination of natural expansion of populations in Oregon and forced relocation, Roosevelt elk have spread further in the state. But this expansion also threatens the genetic uniqueness of the subspecies. 

Ill-conceived past management decisions have resulted in the hybridization of Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk. This is not unique to California. Across the West Coast, many if not most populations of Roosevelt elk interbreed with Rocky Mountain elk, putting the subspecies at risk. There are few populations, including those in coastal Del Norte and Humboldt counties included, that are genetically “pure.” 

For this reason, our Roosevelt population is significant to the larger subspecies for the future. Elk management decisions should reflect this uniqueness and prioritize its preservation. The state wants to allow approximately 16% of the total Humboldt and Del Norte populations, or 255 total elk, to be removed in the 2016 hunting seasons. However, the environmental review performed by the Department does not focus on the impacts to our specific population, instead concluding that the hunt will not harm genetics statewide—even though most other Roosevelt elk in the state have hybridized with Rocky Mountain elk.

Elk recovery and wolf recovery are also, unsurprisingly, intrinsically linked. That’s how ecosystems work. Elk are wolves’ top choice of prey but as the wolf plan points out, when elk are not available wolves will switch to hunting “deer and other large herbivores”—including livestock. Without sufficient elk, wolves will broaden their range, increasing the potential for conflicts with humans and livestock. The elk hunting plan and the state’s desire to prevent or reduce livestock predation therefore seems to be at odds with each other. 

For more information on elk hunting and other wildlife issues, including advocacy for wolf recovery in California, please visit

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COP21 Yields Historic Climate Agreement

February, 2016

Leaders and representatives of almost 200 countries met in Paris in November at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), or Climate Change Conference, to discuss climate change in November. Two weeks of deliberations led to an unprecedented deal that formally recognizes climate change “as an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet.” The historic agreement is a turning point in global efforts to address climate change, as extensive COP conferences have taken place regularly for two decades without resolution. 

The Paris climate deal is also historic because for the first time in COP history, participating countries agreed on the need to keep the global average temperature from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. For years, 2 degrees was more or less accepted as the standard limit of allowable increase to discuss—in spite of scientific data revealing a point of no return.

If global temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius, the world would be long past the point of preventing devastating consequences, including increasingly extreme weather patterns, flooding, and droughts. Widespread food and water shortages would be inevitable; climate refugees would be a persistent global problem. Scientists who have analyzed this climate change deal say it will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by half enough as necessary to delay the catastrophic events that would follow a 2 degrees Celsius rise. 

However, the climate change agreement is non-binding—meaning that the success of the agreement in achieving reduced carbon emissions is reliant on countries voluntarily following their stated commitments. The deal is not legally binding by law. The U.S. was the primary force pushing for the agreement to be non-binding due to the fact that the current Congress would be unwilling to pass such legislation.

Also inherent in the deal is that all countries have common responsibilities for climate change, but the extent of their participation depends on their wealth. Wealthier countries like the United States have an obligation to fund climate assistance for poorer countries.

In January, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the Obama administration has a set of goals to solidify the United States’ involvement in responding to climate change, including increasing technical assistance to foreign governments in monitoring and controlling emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the challenge for many developing countries is how to continue to grow economically in a way that does not increase emissions that will contribute to climate change. McCarthy said the EPA will share their experience as leaders of substantial environmental policies with their less resourceful nations in 2016.

Despite the historic nature of COP21, citizens of the world are relying on their governments to translate the climate change deal into action. With only public scrutiny and the honor system to feed the fire, one can only hope that officials move this formal recognition of climate change into action with more earnest than the decades it took to reach this deal. 

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Weed Comes to the Woods: the Environmental Wars Begin

February, 2016

Dr. Loon returns after a five-year break. This is the second of several excerpts from The Price of a Life: Shells, Gold, Carbon Notes and Weed in the Humboldt Bay / 
Six Rivers Region.

The shutting down of the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant in 1976 was a historic event, especially for downwind residents and the children of South Bay School. But it had another long-term significance. It announced the arrival of another spirit of valuation in the Pacific Northwest, a different way of accounting. It had taken years to find its voice, but now the message was unmistakable: the weed economy was here. 

By weed I mean a lot more than marijuana. Any logger will tell you that environmental politics is the effect of smoking too much dope—but they are related in a more essential way. Like the plant, weed economics is nothing new. It’s been the practice of human beings for millennia. It arrived in Humboldt County years before anybody thought to grow pot for money and donate it to environmental causes. The drug laws are only one way to keep a thumb on this segment of the economy. 

Some environmental activists will resist this association with the ganja-smoking underclass, and swear they never touch the stuff. It’s probably true. But it’s crucial to remember this: the thing that got called “environmentalism” is itself a weed—that is, a thing not belonging to those in power, growing without permission, always where it’s not wanted. After all, a weed is just a plant whose use has not yet been discovered. 

The weed economy also has a common root, and a kindred spirit, in the shell exchange that regulated human affairs in this region for centuries. It strives to achieve balance, pay back what is taken, and acknowledges the principle of the gift. The weed economy also allies itself with the economy of the natural world, another connection it hasn’t always gotten right. But up to the mid 1970s it had stayed faithful to the idea that economics is not exempt from the laws of ecology. We should have protested loudly the first time this spirit of valuation was called “environmentalism.”

But it’s hard to argue nomenclature when you’re surrounded by angry guys in hard hats and red suspenders.

It was 1977. The Democrats were briefly back in power. Jimmy Carter had named Cecil Andrus to be Secretary of the Interior. Congressman Phillip Burton proposed to add 74,000 acres to Redwood National Park, and Andrus was considering it. In April, Burton announced that he would hold hearings in Eureka, where his legislation was portrayed by the timber industry—which included most of the county’s business establishment and its government representatives—as an economic apocalypse. 

While the government was deliberately and slowly acting to protect the public interest, Arcata Redwood was chopping down old growth as fast as it could, telling workers that the hippie environmentalists and the government were killing their jobs, their babies, and American Values. For years a quiet war had simmered between the loggers and the longhairs, mostly confined to barroom scuffles, but now the timber industry and its allies were actively stirring this antagonism into violence.

On the day of the hearing every logger, truck driver, and mill worker was given the day off. Eureka businesses closed their doors. In a mile-long parade through downtown, trucks  rolled at the head of a throng that marched as one. Afterward, log rigs lined the streets around the municipal auditorium and the crowd out front had the air of Paul Bunyan Days or a public execution. There were said to be axes in the crowd.

Against them was this new alliance, the hip and straight communities coming together out of the culture wars of the 60s. The weed economy. I was part of a small contingent of eco-freaks who had come over from Arcata, where environmental activism had sprung up in the years following the first Earth Day. We must have seemed a wild and strange-looking crew. But at the center of our group was a very conservatively dressed woman, diminutive and fierce, pushing forward through the hooting and hollering loggers. Lucille Vinyard had come to speak on behalf of the Sierra Club, in favor of park expansion. There was a large contingent of cops and deputy sheriffs, but they weren’t there to protect Lucille. We were their new enemy.

The carbon-extracting economy tells its workers and customers that the conversion of our common heritage to private profit is good business practice. Common ownership, the very idea of the commons, is its constant adversary. In this light, we see that stealing Indian land was just an early stage of America’s war against communism and then environmentalism: “They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common,” proclaimed Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts in 1877. “There is no selfishness,” he said, “which is at the bottom of civilization.” Turning public wealth into private commodity is our state religion, sold to us and repeated in relentless advertisement till it’s an article of human existence. No other way of thinking is possible. We carry these assumptions in places deeper than pockets. The weed economy resists this sales pitch, but in the present breakdown between growers and environmentalists we can see the consequences of forgetting their common beginnings. 

The Price of a Life is being printed locally, funded by fifty-dollar pledges which will get you a signed copy and make several more copies available at cost through local bookstores, clinics, and grow shops. Address questions, comments, pledges to

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Elk River Residents Challenge New Water Board Regs

February, 2016

More than 17 years after Charles Hurwitz (owner of Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Company) was forced to shut down his liquidation logging in Elk River, the Northcoast Regional Water Board has issued new regulations to deal with ongoing timber harvests and the 600,000 cubic yards of silt remaining in the river. A federal EPA official has described the years of delay as “analysis paralysis.” 

Upriver residents who have endured floods of increasing severity say the new regulations are just another chapter in the state’s failure to restore and protect water quality because regulatory agencies favor big timber over downstream property owners and fish. Despite a change of ownership, water quality has gotten steadily worse under Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC)  management. 

A new EPA-funded Technical Analysis for Sediment summarizes years of studies and recommends a “zero load allocation” for silt. A new Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) states the amount of sediment HRC is allowed to contribute to the watershed is: zero. A long-awaited plan to restore water quality—known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)—also says, “the loading capacity for additional sediment is defined as zero.” Clearly, the river is unable to carry any new sediment.

A Restoration and Stewardship Program proposes to increase the river’s capacity to absorb sediment, allowing timber operations to continue, and then expand as conditions improve. HRC presently harvests in Elk River at a higher rate than Maxxam, though it uses different methods and calculations. Green Diamond’s clear-cutting in the watershed is not addressed in the new plans.

Water Quality staff describes these standards as “stringent,” and points to numerous measures that will reduce sediment from HRC timber operations: increased setbacks from water courses, a reduced overall cut, a ban on winter operations, and a prohibition from logging in extremely erosive “high-risk” South Fork Elk River tributaries. Water Quality’s executive director has already delayed a 600-acre HRC harvest plan, adjacent to Headwaters Forest and residential neighborhoods, that will affect several of those high-risk watersheds.

Residents maintain that Water Quality’s zero doesn’t really mean zero. Kristi Wrigley, a third-generation Elk River apple farmer, asks, “Why permit any new logging, and generate sediment that will get into the river, if the TMDL says no new sediment?” She points to the “Tier 2” exemptions of the previous WDR, which also promised zero-sediment logging, but then only counted sediment if it was proven to have come from landslides within the timber harvest plan. Miles of roads have already been opened in the high-risk watersheds using those Tier 2 exemptions.

The new WDR would also empower the Chair of the Water Quality Board to grant “exceptions” to its prohibition against logging in the high-risk tributaries of the South Fork. If he finds that HRC has made “a meaningful contribution” to water quality, such as restoring a flood channel, a culvert, or a damaged water system, he can set aside those prohibitions. “And what about the North Fork?” Wrigley asks about the watercourse that has left several feet of silt in her orchard. “Water Quality seems to want to make it an industrial waste ditch.”

Environmental advocates also agree that the harvest rate—an annual average of 2% of HRC’s 20,000 acres of Upper Elk River—is still much too high for this steep and damaged watershed and that the proposed setbacks are still inadequate. Residents say they don’t feel included in the restoration process—which is not expected to begin for another five years. In May of 2014, residents submitted a petition to Water Quality asking for a moratorium on all Elk River logging until the watershed has begun to recover, but they have not received a response.

HRC maintains that its timber harvesting adds no silt to the river. They have protested the new restrictions, and behind their complaints are the deep pockets of John Fisher, heir of the Gap fortune and owner of both HRC and Mendocino Redwood (not to mention the long-suffering Oakland A’s). HRC has already sued the Board to approve their South Fork timber harvest plan.




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Zero Waste Humboldt: New Laws for California Compost

February, 2016



 With millions of households in the United States struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.  

Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, and the food waste rots in landfills where it produces a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions.   More than a third of the waste disposed by Humboldt County is food and organic material.  

California has adopted five new composting laws to provide for or require commercial organics recycling, tax exemptions for recycling and composting equipment, detailing organics infrastructure, recycling and composting reporting, and composting promotion, according to CalRecycle, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.  

ZWH looks forward to working with local jurisdictions, entrepreneurs, and community groups to solve this waste problem.  Juliette Bohn and Morgan King’s presentations on “Food Waste Solutions” on October 29, 2015 clearly indicated that we have the know-how in this region.  

The new composting laws are intended to move California toward its 75 percent recycling goal by 2020, and to measure its progress as it reaches for this objective. CalRecycle is confident this will also boost the state economically.

“These new laws encourage innovation and strengthen California’s role as the nationwide leader     in sustainable living,” said CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline.  

This is a great opportunity for local public, private and community groups to pull together to resolve a major waste problem.  For more information and to get involved, email Erika Guevara Blackwell at


New California Composting Laws

  • AB 1826 requires businesses to set up recycling services, if they produce at least eight cubic yards of organic waste per week, beginning in April.
  • AB 199 provides businesses with tax exemptions as an allowance for recycling and composting equipment and expands the tax exclusion for recycled feedstock to make new products.
  • AB 876 requires local governments to report necessary organics infrastructure and locations for new or expanded infrastructure. Counties and agencies will need to forecast their estimated organic waste over a 15-year period.
  • AB 901 names CalRecycle as the overseer of existing disposal reporting requirements, and updates reporting requirements for recycling, composting and solid waste disposal facilities.
  • AB 1045 requires CalRecycle and other state agencies to develop and implement policies to divert organic waste from landfills and to promote uses for the material.



Californians Against Waste Director Speaks Locally

Zero Waste Humboldt invites the public to a presentation on “Legislative Action for California’s Zero Waste Solutions” on Friday, March 4, 5:30–7:00 p.m. at the Humboldt State University College Creek Great Hall.

Featured speaker Mark Murray, Executive Director of Californians Against Waste and HSU alum, will discuss Producer Responsibility—a core value in CAW’s development of legislative policies and incentives for manufacturers to reduce toxicity and waste, design for recyclability, increase use of recycled materials, and recommend steps for local Zero Waste Action Plans. 

A $10 donation is requested at the door. 

For information or to RSVP,




Humboldt Baykeeper: Humboldt Bay King Tides Photo Initiative in its Fourth Year

February, 2016


Humboldt Bay King Tides Photo Initiative in its Fourth Year
South I Street at the Arcata Marsh, 10-28-15. Photo: Saroj Gilbert.

Mad River Slough Bridge, Highway 255 in Manila, 12-24-15. Photo: Bernie Levy.

Graph of predicted and actual tide height, from 2012, Humboldt Baykeeper has led the Humboldt Bay King Tide Photo Initiative, which documents the highest tides of the year and allows us to envision how flooding from rising sea level will increasingly impact our beaches, shoreline, neighborhoods, and low-lying infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer pipelines, electric and gas transmission lines, and sewage treatment plants. Nearly 100 volunteers have taken thousands of photographs documenting the highest of high tides at dozens of locations around the bay. Thanks to funding from the Trees Foundation’s Cereus Fund and individual contributions, we have continued to lead this effort, compiling and mapping photos while building a long-term dataset.

King Tide photos from dozens of locations are posted on the Humboldt Bay King Tides Initiative’s Flickr page at

Map of King Tide photos on to El Niño and the unusually warm ocean conditions off of California, sea levels have been elevated, causing the King Tides (highest predicted tides caused by alignment of earth, moon and sun) to be extra high this winter, resulting in the highest sea levels ever recorded in the history of tide stations at the San Diego, La Jolla and Santa Barbara tide stations. The San Diego tide station has been recording sea levels since 1906, La Jolla since 1924 and Santa Barbara since 1974.

In the Humboldt Bay area, this year’s King Tides were nearly a foot higher than predicted in October, November, and December. On December 21, the actual high tide was more than one foot higher than predicted, as shown in the graph above  left.


New Zealand Mud Snail Discovered in Local Stream

The Humboldt Bay watershed’s first known occurrence of the invasive New Zealand mud snail was discovered by a student at Humboldt State University in a daylit section of creek on campus. They have previously been reported in Big Lagoon, Stone Lagoon, and Redwood Creek in Orick. The snails reproduce by the hundreds and pose threats to native species, including aquatic insects that are the primary food source for coho salmon, steelhead, and other threatened fish species.

There is no known method to eradicate the snail once it is introduced, so preventing its further spread is critical. Fishermen, researchers, and anyone else who frequently travels between riparian or aquatic locations should be sure not to spread the snails, which are small enough to go unnoticed on waders, bootlaces, and other gear. Thorough cleaning of gear followed by freezing or complete drying is the best way to ensure that you are not contributing to the New Zealand mud snail’s expansion into Humboldt territory.

You can help prevent the spread of this invasive aquatic snail by reporting suspected sightings to L. Breck McAlexander at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Invasive Mussel Project in Redding via email:

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EPIC: Tell the Fish and Game Commission to Protect the Humboldt Marten

February, 2016


The coastal marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), known best around these parts as the “Humboldt marten,” is a stealthy, cat-sized forest carnivore in the weasel family (related to minks and otters). These extremely secretive animals are known for their slinky walking motion and ability to prey on porcupines by biting them on the face.

Typically about two feet long, with large, triangular ears and a long tail, they eat small mammals, berries and birds, and are preyed on by larger mammals and raptors.

The Humboldt marten virtually disappeared from California due to a combination of trapping—its coat, which looks far better on the marten than on a human, is undeniably stunning—and logging. Trapping the marten is currently prohibited, but logging of marten habitat still occurs without  abandon within its range. Marten prefer older forest types where they can hide from predators under a thicket of ferns, salal, and huckleberry, and where prey like wood rats abound. While they can utilize other forest types, including younger stands, these forests are not ideal for the marten. Martens are also sensitive to forest fragmentation. Aware of the risk of a hungry bobcat, the  Humboldt marten does not like to be out in the open, exposed and far from a hiding spot.

California’s last remaining population of Humboldt martens is so small that they were once thought to be extinct. In 1996, after 35,000 survey nights were logged using baited track plates and infrared cameras placed throughout forests in Northwest California and yielded no detections, a Humboldt marten boldly left his print on a track plate located in a remote section of Six Rivers National Forest. The Humboldt marten was alive!

However, California’s sole Humboldt marten population is not doing well. In 1998, researchers estimated that there were likely around 60 martens left in California, located near the Humboldt/Del Norte border. Alarmingly, between 2001 and 2012, the most recent survey information publicly available, the remaining population of Humboldt marten has declined to approximately 40 martens—a drop of 42 percent! Keep in mind, this was largely before the record setting drought. This number is so low that a single event, such as disease, poisoning or fire could eradicate all coastal marten from California. This number is also so low that the species could simply drift towards extinction.

Alarmed by the extremely low population, in 2010 EPIC and allies petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the Humboldt marten under the federal Endangered Species Act. By listing, the species would have received important protections necessary to prevent the marten’s extinction. We were shocked in Spring 2015 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to protect the marten. Without federal protection, but needing to do something, we turned to the California Fish and Game Commission. We sued the Fish and Wildlife Service too, for good measure, as their refusal to protect the marten was clearly against the law.
Shortly after the listing was denied, we filed our petition to list the marten under the California Endangered Species Act.

On February 11, the Fish and Game Commission will determine whether to take the first step in protecting the marten under the California Endangered Species Act by deciding whether it should be a candidate for final listing.By declaring the marten a candidate, the Fish and Game Commission will trigger a one-year review period after which the Commission will make a final decision on whether to protect the Humboldt marten. This is a crucial first step. Because the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to honor its duty to protect the marten, it is even more critical that the Fish and Game Commission move forward with protecting the marten.

Listing the marten under the California Endangered Species Act will not only prohibit humans from harming the marten—in legal parlance, all individuals are prohibited from “taking” the marten—but it will also open up private and government funding sources for restoration activities.




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Sierra Club, North Group: California Forestry Reform Moves Forward

February, 2016

 California Forestry Reform Moves Forward

 Implementation of California’s new Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration (TRFR) Program continues, following the enactment of AB 1492 in 2012. State officials and other stakeholders met in Ukiah in December for the latest in a series of public hearings to collaborate on “Planning Watershed Pilot Projects” and other aspects of the program.

Now in the early stages of the Program, there is a real opportunity for citizen environmentalists, scientists, restoration practitioners, and other stakeholders, including large and small landowners and the timber industry, to take advantage of this new publicly-funded, science-based approach to conserving the public’s shared natural heritage of our magnificent productive forests.

The watershed pilot projects will assess cumulative effects of past and present logging practices to identify specific restoration needs. The projects will serve as a “laboratory” for increasing efficiency and effectiveness in gathering actionable data and developing a set of best practices to serve all stakeholders.

The December meeting was attended by over 50 people, and early comments emphasized their vision that the working group be active participants, not just advisors. Other remarks pointed to the key importance of describing watershed conditions at the outset, to include original conditions as well as subsequent forest damage. In order to chart a realistic pathway to an optimally functioning ecosystem, all participants should have a common understanding of the starting point.

Timber Harvest Plans (THPs), while a potential source of historical watershed health data, may be subject to bias—the reported data may arise from a narrow set of legal permit requirements, rather than from true scientific inquiry.

Early skeptics decried AB 1492 a “backroom deal” and a “taxpayer subsidy” of some of California’s largest landowners and timber operators. In addition to the one percent tax on retail lumber products, the bill also provides an extension of time limits for individual THP’s and sets some liability limits for parties responsible for wildland fire damage to public resources. Under the TRFR program, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s administrative responsibility for logging regulation on private lands is now formally shared with the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and the State and Regional Water Quality Boards. An annual report to the Legislature is mandated.

Funding from the TRFR Program also goes to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program. Urgency for these reforms was created by the budget problems of 2009-2010 that led to appalling staff shortages and inability to carry out THP reviews as intended by the original Forest Practice Act of 1973.

Judging from the form and content of these initial public meetings for the pilot projects, there is hope for some improvement in outcomes for our imperiled wildlife. With the State’s increased commitment to gathering scientific data, increased funding to restore damaged watersheds, and more opportunities for input from the public,  we should expect to make some headway against the serious losses our forests and rivers have suffered from industrialized forestry, road-building and other impacts over the years. I have some faith in our ability to mitigate some of these problems with more people involved armed with more knowledge of what we need to do.



One need not be a Sierra Club member to participate in these outings. Please join us!

Saturday, February 20. North Group Sierra Club Del Norte Redwoods State Park Last Chance Coastal Trail Hike. Join us for this eight-mile ramble through lush old-growth on a stretch of Redwood Highway replaced in the 1930s. We may glimpse waters below coastal bluffs, while we pause before returning as we came. Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Carpools at 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s) Shopping Center, 10:30 a.m. Damnation Creek trailhead (3.3 mi. north of Wilson Creek bridge, west side Hwy. 101). Leader Ned, 707-825-3652.
Heavy rain cancels.
Saturday, March 12. North Group Sierra Club Prairie Creek State Park Ossagon Trail Hike. We will hike on an old overgrown road from Newton B. Drury Parkway through majestic redwoods, spruce and alder to Ossagon Rocks on a remote part of Gold Beach. We will explore the beach, tides permitting, before returning, for about a five-mile round trip. Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Carpools 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s) Shopping Center, 10:30 a.m. Ossagon trailhead, or by prior arrangement. Leader Ned, 707-825-3652. Heavy rain cancels. 




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California Native Plant Society: Happenings & Exploring the Calflora Database

February, 2016



Beginners and experts, non-members and members are all welcome at our programs and on our outings.  Almost all of our events are free.  All of our events are made possible by volunteer effort.

Evening Programs

At the Six Rivers Masonic Lodge, 251 Bayside Rd., near 7th and Union, Arcata.  Refreshments at 7:00 p.m.; program at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, February 10—David Imper and Greg O’Connell explore the North Coast’s rare plants. Beginning with a presentation about the Red Mountain Two-Flowered preserve, Dave Imper will explore the needs of establishing a conservation easement and the monitoring and habitat maintenance required for the foreseeable future. Dave hopes to engage the CNPS community in this exciting opportunity to work together in this area of unique serpentine soils that supports the only known population of Lathyrus biflorus. Following Dave’s presentation, Greg O’Connell will describe the goals of the Big Lagoon Bog restoration project, as well as the CNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt Program.

Wednesday, March 9—California’s Vast Habitats Seen Through Wildflowers. Local photographer Larry Ulrich began his career while travelling and working with his wife and photographic partner Donna. Experienced botanists with stunning, inspiring, and meaningful work, Larry and Donna have been making a living with a camera since 1972. They will present an overview of the many habitats in California, followed by images of a variety of native plants through the seasons.

Wednesday, April 13—Continued Adventures Hiking and Botanizing in the Austrian and Italian Alps. Kjirsten Wayman, a local chemistry professor and aspiring botanist, spent the last year living in Austria and northern Italy. The Alps are home to many plants and wildflowers, both familiar and unfamiliar to the California botanist. This photographic botanical exploration will highlight a selection of interesting flora and spectacular landscapes of the Austrian and Italian Alps with only the enthusiasm a California botanist could share!


Field Trips & Plant Walks

Saturday, February 27—Dune Forest Exploration.  Two manzanitas and their hybrid will be targets for a day in the dune forest of the North Spit. Pink calypsos are unlikely but possible. Treks across the dunes to the beach or over the railroad to the salty shore of the bay are likely. The exact location of this outing is still being worked out, but expect between two to four miles of walking. Meet at 9 a.m. at Pacific Union School or arrange another place. Dress for being in the weather all day! Bring lunch and water. Return late afternoon. For information call Carol at 707-822-2015.

Sunday, March 27—Arcata City Trail field trip. The recently completed, northernmost section of the Humboldt Bay Trail is a paved trail from Arcata Skate Park on Sunset Ave. to Samoa Blvd. Including the adjacent Shay Park, the 1.3 mile route passes three species of blackberries, at least three species of willows, four conifers, and (with a small detour) a population of the rare Howell’s miner’s lettuce (Montia howellii). We will document these and the common native and non-native plants seen along this unfamiliar path through familiar territory. Meet at the Foster Ave. side of the new roundabout on Sunset Ave. Park in the nearby neighborhood. We might do a shuttle to make the walk one way, or may add on Potawot Village or Arcata Marsh. Be prepared for weather and walking; bring your lunch and water. Please tell Carol you are coming: 707-822-2015.

Saturday, April 2—Burnt Ranch and Grays Falls Day Trip. It’s fawn lily time at Burnt Ranch Campground! East along Highway 299, we may also find other spring blooms like Indian Warrior and Checker Lily. We’ll look for the minute, rare Howell’s Montia in campsite #16, then explore the varied habitats at Grays Falls Picnic Area, including the short trail down to the falls. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at Pacific Union School, 9:15 a.m. at the museum parking lot in Willow Creek, or about 10 a.m. at Burnt Ranch Campground. Dress for the weather; bring lunch, water and clippers (for clipping Himalayan blackberry). Return late afternoon. Please tell Carol you are coming: 707-822-2015.


Exploring the Calflora Database


On February 10, the CNPS North Coast chapter’s program will feature information about CNPS’ rare plant program. If you’re interested in learning more about California’s rare native plants, join us to explore information found on An online database of California plants, Calflora can be a great resource for information about rare, native, and naturalized vascular plants (Figure 1).

To begin using Calflora, consider registering. This is a free service that allows you to contribute observations to the database. Not only will this help CNPS better understand plant distribution throughout the state,  but information entered about rare plants will greatly help CNPS’ rare plant program by providing information about population sizes and verifying whether or not a species is still found at a particular location.

If you’re looking just to find general details about a plant, Calflora’s search capabilities are vast. Enter the name of the plant you’d like to learn more about (common, scientific, or just part of the name), and hit search. The search results show a distribution map, identification photographs, whether or not the plant is included in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered plants, and much more.

Calflora also enables searches by location, and returns a list of plants that grow in a particular area. After clicking on “What Grows Here?” on the Calflora homepage, you will be directed to the “What Grows Here?” tool. In Figure 2, I drew a polygon around my address and learned I should be able to find 142 plants around my home.

Advanced searching options are available through Calflora that allow you to customize your particular inquiry, and does not require a steep learning curve. I encourage you to explore this database, and we’ll see you February 10!    




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