Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WCB 8/2008

A Total of 8648 acres of California Wildlife Habitat Will Be Saved at August 28th Wildlife Board Meeting

Merced County: 154 acres
Monterey County: 228 acres
San Bernardino County: 8 acres
Riverside County: 104 acres, 178 acres
San Diego County: 188 acres, 24 acres, 235 acres
Shasta County: 4915 acres, 284 acres
Napa County: 738 acres
Santa Cruz County: 64 acres
San Luis Obispo County: 1172 acres
Orange County: 306 acres and 50 acres

August 28, 2008 10:00 A.M.
State Capitol, Room 112 Sacramento, California 95814



*12. Los Banos Wildlife Area, Gadwall Unit, $914,000, Merced County; acquisition of 154+ acres to protect historic wetlands and improve distribution of waterfowl within the grassland area by the addition of wetland habitat located near the City of Los Banos. (funding from Proposition 117),

*13. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve, $1,288,000, Expansions 13 and 17 Augmentation, Monterey County; To consider an allocation for an increase in unanticipated planning costs and a shortfall in funding associated with a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant to facilitate the acquisition of two properties totaling 228+ acres to protect habitat for threatened and endangered species and a significant natural landscape and ecosystem in Moss Landing in Monterey County. Funding source: Prop. 40 (Expansion 13 was approved at 8/2007 meeting; Expansion 17 was approved at 2/2008 meeting

*14. Shay Meadow Conservation Area, and Expansion 1 $152,500, San Bernardino County; To consider the acquisition of two properties totaling 8+ acres to protect threatened and endangered species habitat and wildlife corridors located three miles east of the City of Big Bear Lake, in the incorporated community of Big Bear City. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Prop. 40

*15. El Sobrante, Expansions 1, 2 and 3, $1,989,500, Riverside County; To consider the allocation for a grant to the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority to acquire three properties totaling 104+ acres to protect threatened and endangered species and wildlife corridors and to further implement a Natural Community Conservation Plan, located in the Cities of Wildomar and Murietta. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant and Prop 84.

*16. San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Expansions 30 and 31 $1,060,000, Riverside County; To consider the acquisition of a conservation easement and fee interest in two properties totaling 178+ acres as an addition to the Department of Fish and Game’s San Jacinto Wildlife Area to protect seasonal wetlands and significant habitat for threatened and endangered species and to implement a Natural Community Conservation Plan, located southeast of Moreno Valley. Funding source: Proposition 84. EXPANSION 30 WITHDRAWN FROM AGENDA

*17. Crestridge Preserve, South Crest, and Expansions 1 and 2, $181,500, San Diego County; To consider the allocation for a grant to the Endangered Habitats League, Inc. to acquire three properties totaling 188+ acres to protect threatened and endangered species and wildlife corridors, and implement a Natural Community Conservation Plan on property one mile east of the City of El Cajon, immediately west of the community of Crest. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Proposition 12.

*18. Escondido Creek $200,000, San Diego County; To consider the acquisition of 24+ acres to protect habitat for threatened and endangered species and species of special concern, and a key regional wildlife corridor located in the community of Rancho Santa Fe. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Proposition 40.

*19. Fieldstone Habitat Conservation Plan, Expansion 1, $20,000, San Diego County; To consider the allocation for a grant to The Conservation Fund to acquire 235+ acres to protect critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher and to further implement the Natural Community Conservation Planning efforts, located northeast of the City of Encinitas and south of the City of San Marcos. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants and Proposition 84.

21. Cow Creek Conservation Area, Expansion 1, $1,731,503, Shasta County; To consider the allocation for a grant to the Shasta Land Trust for a cooperative project with the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation and the Trust for Public Land to acquire a conservation easement over 4,915+ acres to protect deer and mountain lion habitat located near the City of Redding, four miles east of the community of Millville. Funding source: Proposition 117

22. Millville Plains Conservation Area, and Expansion 1, $348,000, Shasta County; To consider the acquisition of two conservation easements totaling 284+ acres to protect rare vernal pool habitat located northeast of the Town of Anderson. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Proposition 40.

26. Knoxville Wildlife Area, Expansion 2, $3,370,000, Napa County; To consider the acquisition of 738+ acres as an addition to the Department of Fish and Game’s Knoxville Wildlife Area to protect oak woodlands and threatened and endangered species habitat, east of the City of Middletown, 15 road miles from the community of Pope Valley. Funding source: Proposition 84.

29. Willow Canyon, $2,985,000, Santa Cruz County; To consider the acquisition of 64+ acres to protect upland habitat to support a viable population of Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders and California red-legged frogs located in the City of Aptos. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Proposition 12.

31. Irish Hills Conservation Area, Andre Ranch, $1,005,000, San Luis Obispo County; To consider the allocation for a grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the Department of Parks and Recreation to acquire a conservation easement over 1,172+ acres to protect rangeland, grazing land, and grasslands located in the Irish Hills. Funding source: Proposition 84.

33. Saddle Creek, $11,660,000, Orange County; To consider the allocation for a grant to The Conservation Fund to acquire 306+ acres to protect critical habitat for the California gnatcatcher, low elevation wildlife connections between the subregions of Orange County, reduce habitat fragmentation, and further implement the Habitat Conservation Plans and Natural Community Conservation Plans located within the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, northeast of the El Toro Marine Corp. Air Station and directly adjacent to the Cleveland National Forest. Funding source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Proposition 84 and Proposition 12.

34. Trabuco Canyon, $1,800,000, Orange County; To consider acquisition of fee title to 50+ acres to protect critical low elevation wildlife corridors, California gnatcatcher habitat, provide connectivity to other protected lands in the area and prevent habitat fragmentation located in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, southeast of the City of El Toro, in the community of Trabuco Canyon. Funding source: Proposition 40

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Federal Wildlife Agency Upholds Protections for Threatened Dunes Plant in Imperial County Desert Dunes


Last Wednesday the administration quite rightly dismissed a petition by off-roaders to remove protections from a rare floral resident of California's Algodones Dunes, the largest sand-dune ecosystem in the United States. The Peirson's milk-vetch, a pretty, purple-flowered plant adapted to live in harsh conditions of shifting sands, blowing winds, and arid heat, grows only within a narrow corridor of the dunes -- which, unfortunately for the wildflower, are the popular destination for hundreds of thousands of plant-destroying off-road vehicles each year.

In a dubious petition submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, off-road vehicle groups insisted the milk-vetch population is stable enough that it no longer needs protection. But the agency said those claims just can't be supported. The milk-vetch will retain its protections, and the roughly 50,000 acres of the dunes already closed to off-road vehicles will stay off-limits to their tearing tires.

Read more in the Press Enterprise.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise, July 16, 2008

Wildflower to retain federal protection;
50,000 acres remain closed to off-road enthusiasts
By Jennifer Bowles

A plant that is threatened with extinction and whose low numbers prompted officials to close more than one-third of the desert's most popular off-roading area will remain under federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday.

Off-highway vehicle groups, including the American Sand Association, had petitioned the federal wildlife agency seeking to remove the Peirson's milk-vetch for the federal list of endangered and threatened plants and animals.

The groups said the plant's numbers were more abundant than previously reported and they believed its seed bank could support a healthy and stable population.

But the wildlife agency said those claims could not be supported, in part because rainfall amounts differed between survey years, which could significantly change the number of plants.

The agency used data from federal agencies and independent scientists, and the decision to keep the plant protected was peer-reviewed, said Jane Hendron, a fish and wildlife spokeswoman.

"The assertion that the plants are in even greater number was not borne out by the data," she said. "The plant is affected by off-highway vehicle use, and it's reproductive capacity can also be affected by the off-highway vehicle use."

A member of the pea family, the milk-vetch has pale purple flowers and the entire U.S. population lives at the towering dunes that stretch north of the Mexican border in Imperial County.

The wildlife service said that more than 65 percent of the plant's population sits within the roughly 50,000 acres that were closed in 2000 by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as part of settlement negotiations with environmental groups.

Charlene Bower, a longtime dunes enthusiast who lives in Riverside and works for Yucaipa-based Sand Addiction Magazine, a bimonthly publication geared toward off-roaders, said the decision to keep the plant under protection was unfortunate.

"That means it's less likely the land will be reopened ... and hopefully it will not lead to more closures," Bower said.

Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, which sought the plant's protection, said she hoped those temporary closures would become permanent when the BLM completes an updated management plan for the dunes.

Stephen Razo, a BLM spokesman, said a draft is expected to be released by early next year and the range of options being considered would address the closures.

It's About All Over...Appellate court rules in favor of Mendocino Redwood Co.

Published: Jul 24 2008

An appeals court has denied a creditors group’s motion for a stay in the Pacific Lumber Co. bankruptcy case to prevent a court-approved restructuring plan from moving forward.

Just hours ahead of a deadline for a temporary stay already in place, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Thursday to deny a motion by the Timber Noteholders for a stay pending appeal to allow it to review rulings made by judge Richard Schmidt.

Noteholder attorneys argued they were denied their right to auction off PALCO’s lands they held as collateral to recoup the most money they are owed, as well as were owed as much as $200 million as part of a superpriority claim resulting from a devaluation of the timberlands during the nearly 2-year bankruptcy proceeding.

Although the Fifth Circuit still may still hear the appeal, it's not certain when Mendocino Redwood Co. and its partner Marathon Structured Finance can move forward with its reorganization plan approved earlier this month that allows them to take over commercial timber operations of Scotia Pacific’s 210,000 acres of timberlands and the town of Scotia, it’s mill and other assets.

MRC officials said they would be moving quickly to implement their plan when all legal hurdles were cleared.

Timber Noteholder lawyers argued that a stay pending an appeal was necessary because if MRC implemented its plan it would effectively make their appeal moot.

MRC officals were not immediately available for comment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gravel Mine Proposal Threatens ecological reserve near Temecula

By David Kelly, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer July 21, 2008

For nearly half a century, a pristine world of rock and water high in the foothills above Temecula has been a laboratory for scientists and a rare wildlife corridor linking the mountains to the sea.

The Santa Margarita River, the last fully protected free-flowing waterway in Southern California, tumbles over boulders and down a steep gorge as it rushes toward Camp Pendleton and into the Pacific.

"This is what Southern California looked like 100 years ago," said Matt Rahn, director of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, as his SUV bumped down a rocky road toward the river bottom. "There have been so many changes to this area, but this place has stayed the same."Yet that too may change. Barely a mile away, plans are afoot for an enormous gravel quarry, nearly 1,000 feet deep and almost a mile long. It would be one of the largest operations of its kind in the state, producing 5 million tons of gravel a year and annual revenue of about $60 million. Some 1,400 trucks would enter and leave the site daily.The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is expected to make a final decision on the quarry next year. The long-awaited environmental impact report may be released next month.Those who work on the reserve want the project stopped."A gravel mine of this magnitude is a massive change to the ecosystem," Rahn said.

"This is the only linkage between the coast and the mountains, and you would suddenly have a 1,000-foot quarry in the middle of it."Supporters insist that despite the digging, blasting and trucking, Liberty Quarry would have no ill effect on the reserve, Temecula or communities in northern San Diego County.In fact, they say, it would be a boon to the region -- adding 100 jobs, reducing truck traffic to quarries farther south and getting gravel closer to fast-growing Riverside County.

As for the wildlife corridor extending from the Palomar Mountains to the Santa Ana Mountains and the ocean, project director Gary Johnson said that was long gone anyway.

"The 15 Freeway destroyed it," he said.

Liberty Quarry's claims about the project and its aggressive three-year public relations campaign to win local support have frustrated opponents, who believe it would not only damage the fragile reserve but also pollute the air and scar the landscape."They say our air will be even cleaner," said Kathleen Hamilton, president of Save Our Southwest Hills, which opposes the quarry. "We don't have enough properties like this in the world to sacrifice for this kind of thing."

For its part, Temecula is trying to annex nearly 5,000 acres, including the 415-acre quarry site, to protect the reserve and preserve open space.

for rest of story:,0,6677727.story


Pacific Lumber's Headwaters Forest Logging Plan Loses Big-Time at California Supreme Court

July 18, 2008

The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) today in a case stemming from the 1999 Headwaters Deal between the Pacific Lumber Co. and State and Federal governments.

In its ruling the Judges wrote they “reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remand to that court with directions to reinstate the judgment of the trial court insofar as the latter concluded that the SYP (Sustained Yield Plan) and state Incidental Take Permit approvals were invalid.”


UPDATE: EPIC press release below.

California Supreme Court Sides with Environmentalists in Decades-Long Forest Dispute

SAN FRANCISCO – After decades of legal wrangling, environmentalists emerged victorious in a California Supreme Court case that promises improved protection for California’s endangered species and industrial forestlands.

Today’s ruling in Environmental Protection Information Center & Sierra Club v. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is the culmination of a challenge to the permits issued as part of the Headwaters Deal in 1999 and centered on endangered species protection and sustainable forestry mandates. It holds state agencies responsible for upholding these protections.

“This is a stunning victory for the environment and for holding government agencies accountable. When agencies won’t do their job and follow the law, the courts will not defer to them,” said Scott Greacen of EPIC. “The California Supreme Court clearly saw that CDF and the Department of Fish and Game weren’t following the law.”

California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, who wrote the court’s unanimous opinion, ruled that Pacific Lumber failed to turn in a “sustained yield plan” for its Humboldt-area holdings, as required by the Headwaters Agreement. The court also chastised the agency for approving a document that did not actually exist.

The court also ruled that the Department of Fish and Game broke the law by assuring Pacific Lumber that it would not need to do additional conservation if new species become endangered in the future.

The California Department of Fish & Game shouldn’t have agreed to the “No Surprises” provisions, which limited the timber company’s obligation to mitigate certain impacts on endangered species, including the effects of natural disasters. Instead, the court ruled, those who hold endangered species permits must work to “fully” protect these animals and plants, especially if their behavior enhances the effects of natural disasters on animal or plant life.

The state must approve adequate sustained yield plans to ensure companies have enough timber resources to protect wildlife and maintain the local economy, the court ruled.

EPIC and Sierra Club California first filed this challenge to Pacific Lumber Company’s unsustainable plans to endanger Humboldt’s economy and wildlife in March of 1999. In the meantime, Pacific Lumber has gone bankrupt, and its woodland holdings are being taken over by Mendocino Redwood Company, which promised to practice more sustainable harvest practices.

“The impact of this decision will outlast Pacific Lumber itself to create a significant legacy for California’s forests and endangered species,” predicted Paul Mason, Sierra Club California’s Deputy Director. “It requires timber companies and state agencies to protect both the working families and the endangered animals that depend on these woods for their survival.”

A copy of the decision can be found here.


July 17, 2008 California Supreme Court Ruling – Selected Quotes


A. SUMMARY (in the Court’s own words)

“We conclude that one of the challenges to Pacific Lumber’s Sustained Yield Plan (SYP), which, as explained below, is a kind of master plan for logging a large area, is valid, inasmuch as an identifiable plan was never approved. We also conclude, as explained below, that any resubmitted SYP should have an adequate analysis of individual planning watersheds, which the plan as originally approved did not contain. We further conclude that the state Incidental Take Permit, authorizing the capturing and killing of endangered and threatened species incidental to lawful activity, was deficient because it included overly broad “no surprises” clauses limiting in advance Pacific Lumber’s obligation to mitigate the impacts of its logging operations.” (P. 3)

“Petitioners contend there was no single, agreed-upon [Sustained Yield Plan] that has been approved, and that the CDF director’s approval of the SYP must therefore be invalid. We agree…. (E)ven Pacific Lumber and CDF do not appear to agree on what constitutes the final SYP.” (pgs. 34-36)


“There can be no question that approval of a final document that is usable by the government agencies and by the public in monitoring the SYP is required.” (p. 41)


“…the Legislature intended that a landowner bear no more — but also no less — than the costs incurred from the impact of its activity on listed species. To the extent that the changed and unforeseen circumstances provisions of the Incidental Take Permit exempt landowners from this obligation, they exceed DFG’s statutory authority under [California’s Endangered Species Act].” (p. 63)

“This language does not diminish the extent of a landowner’s obligation under
CESA, however, but merely provides that when that obligation can be met in several ways, the way most consistent with a landowner’s objectives should be chosen. It does not relieve the landowner of the obligation to fully mitigate its own impacts.” (p.65)


“The draft HCP established the minimum protective measures to be included in the final HCP — it was to serve as a floor, not a ceiling.” (p. 68)


State Supreme Court Orders New Headwaters Logging Plan

From Staff and Wire Service Reports

The California Supreme Court yesterday overturned approvals by two state agencies of plans for future timber harvesting in the Headwaters Forest on the North Coast of the state.

In what one of the plaintiffs called “a stunning victory,” the high court unanimously rejected the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s approval of Pacific Lumber Co.’s “sustained yield plan” for logging more than 200,000 acres the company retained under the controversial Headwaters Agreement.

The agreement, brokered by Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 1996, requires Maxxam Incorporated, which acquired Pacific Lumber in 1986, to sell several thousand acres of environmentally sensitive old-growth redwoods to the government in exchange for permission to log its remaining acreage.

That permission, in turn, was conditioned upon preservation of habitat for the imperiled marbled murrelet and the northern spotted owl, prevention of excessive logging and protection of streams.

The Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville, the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers of America sued the state in 1999, 30 days after the state and federal governments signed the $480 million deal to buy the ancient redwood groves.

Violations Alleged

The groups charged that the agencies violated the Forest Practices Act, California Endangered Species Act and California Environmental Quality Act as well various provisions of the Fish and Game Code when they reviewed and approved the long-term logging plan and other permits.

In 2003, John Golden, a visiting superior court judge from Lake County, granted a writ of mandate sought by the petitioners but later allowed the company to proceed with logging pending the appeals court decision. Halting logging would place the entire Headwaters deal in jeopardy, Pacific Lumber warned.

In 2005, however, the First District Court of Appeal said the agency reviews were legally adequate.

But Justice Carlos Moreno, writing yesterday for the high court, said the SYP—a kind of master plan for logging a large area, which by law precedes the adoption of individual timber harvest plans—should not have been approved.

Unlike the Court of Appeal, the high court said it was error for the CDF, in its 1999 determination to approve the SYP, to treat a series of interrelated documents as a single, integrated plan.

Flawed Determiniation

That determination was flawed, Moreno wrote, because it referred to a draft which had been largely superseded by a later EIR; did not specify which portions of the draft it was treating as part of the final plan, what the relationship was between the draft and certain other documents referenced in the determination, or what the department meant in saying that it relied on “additional information provided by” other agencies, including the Department of Fish and Game.

The court also ordered the company, which is owned by Maxxam Inc. of Houston, Tex. to submit new plans addressing how it intended to log near watersheds. The justices said the Department of Fish and Game and the CDF wrongly agreed to protect Pacific Lumber from having to alter its endangered species protection plan if new animals become threatened.

The ruling has little immediate effect on Pacific Lumber’s logging activities in Humboldt County because the company has been operating under a different harvesting plan since a trial court judge first ruled against it in 2003.

The issues are further complicated because Pacific Lumber filed for bankruptcy protection last year in Texas. Last month, a bankruptcy judge there approved a plan, supported by environmentalists and local residents but opposed by some creditors, that would give control of the company to Ukiah-based Mendocino Redwood Co., which has promised to significantly slow tree-cutting. Officials with Mendocino Redwood didn’t return a call for comment.

Scott Greacen, head of the Environmental Protection Information Center, which along with the Sierra Club sued the state and Pacific Lumber, said the ruling will force the state to better consider endangered species protection when approving timber harvest plans.

“This is a stunning victory for the environment and for holding government agencies accountable,” Greacen said.

A spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game said agency lawyers were reviewing the complicated 87-page decision, which did side with the state and the company on a number of other issues, including finding that considering economic and employment issues for the next 10 years, rather than the four years argued in the lawsuits, was reasonable.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to Humboldt Superior Court to figure out what to do next.

The case is Environmental Protection Information Center v. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Pacific Lumber Company), 08 S.O.S. 4221.


The Pacific Legal Foundation is not happy…

California Supreme Court Decision in EPIC

Yesterday the Calfornia Supreme Court issued a decision in Environmental Protection Information Center v. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. PLF filed an amicus brief in support of the Real Party in Interest Pacific Lumber Co. (PALCO). The case raised issues under a number of state environmental laws, including the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

This case concerned an environmentalist challenge to several environmental planning documents pertaining to Pacific Lumber's proposed timber harvesting in the Headwaters Forest. PLF's AC brief argued that (1) the "no surprises" policy of the Department of Fish & Game (DFG)---which allows DFG to provide an incidental take statement under CESA that puts an absolute cap on the permittee's required mitigation---is consistent with CESA's requirement that the negative impacts of a proposed action be "fully mitigated," and (2) the common law public trust doctrine does not extend to nonaquatic habitat and species.

On the "no surprises" issue, the Court ruled that the incidental take statement was illegal because the mitigation cap applied even for harm that PALCO's own timber actions might cause, and not just the harm caused by third parties or acts of God. The Court definitely left open, however, the possibility of a valid no surprises permit that limits mitigation for harm not caused by the permittee's own actions.

On the public trust issue, the Court noted that there are two public trust doctrines in California, one common law (e.g., National Audubon Society v. Superior Court (Cal. 1983), aka the Mono Lake decision) and one statutory, Cal. Fish & Game Code 711.7 ("The fish and wildlife resources are held in trust for the people of the state by and through the department.") (N.B. it's a little misleading to call this a public trust doctrine; it's more the old ex ferae naturae doctrine, i.e., the sovereign owns all wildlife not reduced by capture). The Court rejected the environmentalists' public trust claims: although its reasoning is a little opaque, the Court seemed to articulate the rule that where an activity is alleged to violate the public trust, if there is an existing statutory obligation that is applicable, a court's analysis should be directed to the statute for determining whether any duty has been breached, rather than to the public trust doctrine.

On one major issue that PLF did not address, the Court overturned PALCO's sustained yield plan (governing its planned timber harvesting), on the grounds that "(1) that CDF did not properly approve an identifiable Sustained Yield Plan; (2) that any newly submitted Sustained Yield Plan must include an adequate analysis of the cumulative impacts of Pacific Lumber’s timber harvesting activities at the individual planning watershed level consistent with the Forest Practice Rules and sufficient to support Pacific Lumber’s long-term sustained yield estimate."

The L.A. Times's report, here, overstates the decision's impact.


Supreme Court rules in favor of EPIC in PALCO case

The Eureka Reporter, 7/18/2008

The California Supreme Court issued a ruling Thursday that ends a decade-long legal dispute that environmentalist groups say promises to improve protection for the state’s endangered species and industrial forestlands.

The Environmental Protection Information Center and Sierra Club California filed a legal challenge against the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Pacific Lumber Co. related to the company’s harvest plans as part of the historic Headwaters Agreement approved in 1999.

A trial court ruled in favor of the groups, but was reversed by an appellate court before landing at the Supreme Court in 2006 where it has languished in part, because of a temporary stay in the matter during PALCO’s bankruptcy.

The environmental groups called the ruling a “stunning victory” that holds state agencies responsible for upholding protections whose impacts will outlast PALCO.

“When agencies won’t do their job and follow the law, the courts will not defer to them,” stated EPIC’s Scott Greacen in a news release. “The California Supreme Court clearly saw that (CAL FIRE) and the Department of Fish and Game weren’t following the law.”

In a unanimous opinion, the justices concluded that the environmental groups’ challenge was valid that an identifiable “Sustained Yield Plan” — a master plan for PALCO’s logging — was never approved.

“We further conclude that the state Incidental Take Permit, authorizing the capturing and killing of endangered and threatened species incidental to lawful activity, was deficient because it included overly broad “no-surprises” clauses limiting in advance Pacific Lumber’s obligation to mitigate the impacts of its logging operations,” the ruling stated.

Frank Bacik, vice president and legal counsel for PALCO, said Thursday that the ruling is a legal issue of interest to the state, but not so for PALCO.

“We don’t care about the SYP,” Bacik said, which he indicated was one of three viable options.

While the trial courts invalidated the entire SYP, Bacik said PALCO moved on years ago to an alternative method of demonstrating maximum sustained production under a valid parallel federal permit the state agreed to honor.

“There is never been a challenge to that,” Bacik said.


State Supreme Court gives new protection to endangered species

Commercial interests may be liable for unforeseen losses of wildlife, unanimous court rules.

By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer,0,5387802.story

July 18, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court gave new protection to the state's endangered species Thursday, ruling unanimously that developers, loggers and other commercial interests may be required to compensate for unforeseen wildlife losses.

The ruling, which affects both public works and private development, threw out a long-term logging plan approved by the state for 200,000 acres in Humboldt County, a plan that lower courts put on hold several years ago.

The state high court said the Department of Forestry had approved an "unidentifiable" plan that was still a work in progress and then delegated its completion to the logging company.

Justice Carlos R. Moreno, writing for the court, called the Forestry Department's action illegal and an abrogation of its duties.

The California Department of Forestry "failed to proceed according to law," Moreno wrote.

The decision grew out of lawsuits that followed the historic Headwaters Agreement, a 1996 pact between Pacific Lumber Co. and the state and federal governments. It was designed to resolve litigation and disputes over the logging of old-growth forests.

The battle between loggers and environmentalists centered on land that had been in timber production for 120 years and was home to the marbled murrelet, an endangered bird. After Pacific Lumber was acquired by Maxxam Inc. in 1996, Pacific began cutting down old-growth redwoods at a faster rate to offset Maxxam's debt. The deforestation led to litigation and huge protests.

The pact required Pacific Lumber to sell part of its land to the government for conservation and to obtain environmental permits.

Thursday's ruling ends a long-running battle over those permits but is not expected to unravel the pact. The decision established rules that the state must follow in approving large-scale logging plans or any major development that might endanger wildlife facing extinction.

Environmentalists and labor groups praised the ruling, saying it would help make the state more vigilant before granting permits for environmentally sensitive work.

The decision will help ensure that "landowners fully account for their impacts and the agencies today don't give away the store and bind the hands of future management requirements," said Paul Mason, deputy director of Sierra Club California.

The court said permits allowing companies to kill endangered and threatened species during the course of development should not make the industry immune from having to take future measures to compensate for unexpected wildlife losses.

Although companies need not compensate for species killed in natural disasters out of the industry's control, they must mitigate for wildlife losses when the company's conduct contributed to them or when a natural disaster makes the commercial activity more threatening to endangered wildlife, the court said.

"When natural disasters change baseline conditions, then logging activities that previously would not have had a significant impact on endangered species may now have such an impact," Moreno wrote.

Industry critics expressed fears that the ruling could deter companies from entering into voluntary conservation plans.

Paul Weiland, a land-use lawyer who represented the building industry in the case, said developers might be reluctant to sign an agreement that requires them to compensate for unforeseen losses of wildlife above and beyond what they have been required to spend for mitigation to get the permit.

Permits for the taking of endangered species can be in effect for several decades. Pacific's endangered species permit was for 50 years.

"The question is, who should bear that risk," Weiland said. "People are willing to take on a permit when they feel they understand the risk, but when the risk is unknowable, people are less inclined to do it."

Jonathan Weissglass, who represented the labor industry in the case, said the ruling would prevent agencies from signing off on uncompleted logging plans.

"If agencies were able to get away with what they did here, it would be a complete disaster," he said.

Scott Greacen, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, a Humboldt County-based forestry conservation group, agreed.

"Clearly any sustained yield plan will have to reside in a single document," he said.

But he said the protection of endangered species was an even more important element of the ruling.

"The ruling means the state Department of Fish and Game can't tie its own hands and prevent itself from imposing mitigation in future years if circumstances change and require those measures to protect species," Greacen said.


Bankruptcy judge denies stay in PALCO case

By Nathan Rushton, Eureka Reporter

Published: Jul 16 2008,

A federal judge overseeing the Pacific Lumber Co.’s denied on Tuesday an emergency motion by a creditor group to put a stay in place while it appealed the plan the court approved last week that allows Mendocino Redwood Co. to rebuild the bankrupt timber company.

It was the latest in a string of unfavorable rulings for the Timber Noteholders, who are owed more than $700 million in loans to Scotia Pacific, and were seeking additional money they said they are due because of the devaluing of the 210,000 acres of SCOPAC lands they hold as collateral.

Judge Richard Schmidt did give the financiers enough wiggle room to potentially plead their case to a higher court.

Schmidt did grant the Noteholders its petition for a direct appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of his confirmation order for MRC and Marathon Structured Finance Fund’s reorganization plan, as well as left in place a 10-day stay granted last week that is set to expire July 25.

In addition to a bond in the amount of $176 million needed to provide security to the parties in the case, Schmidt said that if the court were to grant a stay pending an appeal, it would condition the stay on the Noteholders agreeing to facilitate a $30 million loan arrangement for PALCO and SCOPAC and the log discount program the Noteholders agreed to last week in lieu of a bond.

In his conclusions for denying the stay, Schmidt said the Noteholders attorneys didn’t meet the burden for proving to the court its necessity — noting that the issues the Noteholders intends to raise on appeal were already covered during the confirmation hearings.

And to their assertion that there would be irreparable injury to the Noteholders if the stay is not granted because the appeal might become moot if MRC was able to take over and effectively change the company before the appeal was settled, Schmidt said a majority of courts have ruled that’s not sufficient.

Schmidt said testimony during preceding hearings demonstrated other parties will be irreparably harmed if a stay is granted, including a risk that the MRC/Marathon plan could collapse or that put PALCO at risk of being liquidated by creditors recouping their tens of millions of dollars in outstanding loans.

Schmidt indicated that the public interest weighs strongly against a stay pending appeal, given the amount of support for the MRC/Marathon plan by North Coast residents and the bevy of federal, state and local wildlife and other government agencies.

In arriving at his figure for how much a bond should be, Schmidt wrote that he considered the risk that MRC/Marathon’s plan would not be consummated as a result of a stay pending appeal, as well as the impact to various parties in the case.

The Noteholders raising adequate capital to post a substantial bond was not the issue for Schmidt, according to his ruling.

“The Noteholders only asserted that a large bond would be the target for future damage claims that may not be meritorious,” Schmidt wrote. “The very purpose of the bond is to ensure payment of actual damages suffered as a result of a stay and this court will ensure that any such damages claims receive a fair and appropriate hearing.”

Schmidt determined that an appropriate bond amount for any stay pending an appeal of his confirmation order is $141 million, which he based on money due to unsecured creditors, litigation trust funding, various claims, administrative claims, employee bonus plan compensation, an estimated reduction of PALCO liquidation value and money for backlogged road work and potential fines.

Schmidt multiplied that number by 125 percent to reach the $176 million bond number to take into consideration additional risks from the increased harvesting Scotia Pacific executives intended above what MRC’s business model entailed, as well as the risk of losing more key employees, who have left in recent months.

Eureka’s Parcel 4 future uncertain


There’s huge potential for the dilapidated scrap of land behind the Bayshore Mall — many agree upon that. But when it comes down to what the best thing may be for the 15 acres — either open space or development — local officials haven’t been able to come to an agreement.

The land, known as Parcel 4, was recently dedicated as an open-space conservation easement, accepted by the Redwood Region Audubon Society from the California Coastal Commission.

Jim Clark, RRAS President, envisions cleaning up the area to make it more safe and accessible.

“It’s not what you would call an inviting place,” he said, walking through littered trails of broken glass and rusted metal. “There’s a lot of junk and debris and it’s physically dangerous.”

An old cement building, decaying and covered in graffiti, used to be home to lumber mill drying facilities, Clark said.

Transients are sprinkled throughout the area, but it hasn’t stopped locals from jogging or walking their dogs on a daily basis.

It’s the recreating public, Clark said, that the RRAS hopes the land will attract — once it has been cleaned up a bit.

However, the RRAS will have to jump over a series of hurdles for the city of Eureka, Parcel 4’s owner, before anything could happen — and they city isn’t exactly pleased with the recent open-space easement.

“We do not believe this was in the public interest,” said Lisa Shikany, environmental planner for the city of Eureka.

story continues at link above...

Thursday, July 10, 2008


A Bit of Greenwashing for the New-Sprawl Tejon Ranch Project…

(Note size of Tejon Ranch in relation to existing L.A., Antelope Valley and Bakersfield sprawl--if only 10% of Tejon is paved that is still any enormous amount of new sprawl.)


Sustainability Helps Fuel Landmark Pact in SoCal

A decade ago, many in real estate circles scoffed at the notion that a significant portion of Southern California largest, most historic and environmentally sensitive tracts of open space could fall under the bulldozer for homes, resorts and distribution facilities.

For over a half century, environmentalists, state officials and the courts wrangled with the longtime owner of the 270,000 acres in Kern County and northern Los Angeles County comprising Tejon Ranch. Conservationists say the land, a throwback to the era of Mexican ranchos, is home to the California condor and at least two dozen other endangered or threatened species.

However, Tejon Ranch Co., the publicly traded real estate development and agribusiness company that owns the land, in May reached a landmark deal with a coalition of groups to preserve 90% of the ranch land 60 miles north of Los Angeles. In exchange, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Audubon California and other groups agreed not to oppose existing industrial projects and proposed development along Interstate 5, including the 1,400-acre Tejon Industrial Complex, the proposed Tejon Mountain Village resort and Centennial, a planned residential community of 23,000 homes.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed the agreement as the largest-ever private conservation of land, a historic deal that illustrates "we can protect California’s environment at the same time we pump up our economy."

Not every environmental group is on board with the plan, particularly those who continue to worry about the destruction of condor habitat. And the Tejon Mountain and Centennial projects still require public comment and state and local approval.

However, the agreement extends and leverages sustainability work conducted over the last decade for the Tejon Industrial Complex, a fully entitled and operational warehouse and distribution center project. The center will total 15 million square feet at build out and is competing with industrial markets in the Inland Empire as a major West Coast transit point for goods shipped into the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

Some 3.3 million square feet is already vertical or about to be at Tejon Industrial, including IKEA’s 1.7 million-square-foot and Oneida Ltd’s West Coast distribution centers, a 606,000-square-foot spec building in a joint venture with The Rockefeller Group finished last spring and more than 60 acres of retail that includes a Petro Travel Plaza, a Best Western hotel, In-N-Out Burger, Starbucks and other food establishments. On Wednesday, Tejon Ranch announced that Famous Footwear, a retail division of Brown Shoe Co., will move into a 350,000-square-foot built-to-suit under construction. In March, the U.S. Department of Commerce expanded a foreign trade zone to include an initial 177 acres at the complex, giving companies access to cost savings on duties and other benefits and savings.

"For the first time ever, you’ve got opposing groups talking the same language and agreeing on how things should be done," said Barry Hibbard, vice president of industrial and commercial development with Tejon Ranch. "The agreement allows us to show others what we’ve been doing."

"The reality is the resource plan that was put together was very similar to what’s been discussed in the 10 years I’ve been here. A few acres here and there that might be a little bit different, but it memorializes what was the intent all along."

As early as 1999, Tejon Ranch was hammering out voluntary air pollution emissions reductions with the air-quality district and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to model the potential impacts of an additional 15 million square feet of industrial space on the surrounding area. Further, the company helped rid the region of smog-belching post World War II agricultural and oil field equipment that was consistently the biggest polluter in the San Joaquin Valley.

"Before we ever turned a spade of dirt, we had 100% mitigation on the project," Hibbard said.

Having a master plan is better land use than allowing the hodge-podge of numerous parcels to be developed piecemeal, Hibbard said. Plus, smaller developers can't really afford "to do truly sustainable things in a one-off deal," he said.

In addition to the distribution center itself, industrial developers like ProLogis, AMB and Tejon Ranch have sought ways to reduce unhealthful diesel emissions from trucks. Tejon Ranch Co. operates a large Petro truck stop at its industrial center. While most trucks stops require drivers to keep their vehicles idling to operate air conditioners and other equipment, Tejon Ranch supplies electrical power for an hourly fee that works out to a lot less for drivers, especially in the era of $5.50-per-gallon diesel.

LEED has been behind the curve in achieving sustainability in industrial real estate, prompting industrial developers to improvise their own solutions.

"Whether it’s LEED certified or not doesn’t really matter. We want a product that’s sustainable in design, material and thinking," Hibbard said. "The end goal isn’t to just check the box. We look at the simple things: white reflective roof, reclaimed water, low-flow irrigation landscaping using natural rocks, groundcover, the Petro travel center which serves as a staging area for multi-axle trucks, and direct access to the freeway."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

State's Largest Landowner Seeks to Convert Forests into Housing Tracts

June 6, 2008

Sierra County is embarking on a new policy of issuing zone amendments without environmental review. The most flagrant example is the recent approval of Sierra Pacific Industries application to rezone over 7000 acres of timberland in the Timber Production Zone (TPZ) to General Forest (GF). SPI is requesting similar rezones of comparable acreages in five other Sierra Nevada counties in anticipation of their new venture into the real estate business. As the largest landowner in California and Sierra County their plans to rezone vast acreages of timberland to a district which will allow private country clubs, golf courses, guest ranches, summer home tracts, mobilehome parks and travel trailer parks among other uses regardless of the impacts to timber production must be reviewed for consistency with the Sierra County General Plan and for its potential impacts on the environment.

The rezone, along Henness Pass Rd. between Perazzo Meadows and Jackson Reservoir will open the forest to significant environmental impacts, as well as alter the rural qualities of Sierra County. Not only will it remove valuable timberland from production, it will compromise the commercial use and the forest health of the remaining productive timberlands by introducing incompatible uses. Development on private in-holdings within the National Forest alters the forest structure, can interrupt ecological processes; increases the potential for invasive species and disease and insect infestations; increases fire danger; and promotes rural sprawl. Sierra County relies on volunteer fire fighters to keep our communities safe. Making land use decisions which will encourage development remote from existing communities puts a tremendous burden on those volunteers and reduces the security of the people who live in those communities.

The High Sierra Rural Alliance is a non-profit, grassroots organization committed to the preservation and enhancement of the rural Sierra experience. We believe rural values, including rural land use patterns, provide a balance between human, economic and environmental well-being. We think rural values include taking responsibility for our choices. We need your help to continue to monitor the County’s actions and provide credible, objections to irresponsible decisions.

A planning drought

Should city of L.A. impose a moratorium on growth?

L.A. Daily Breeze and Daily News, July 9, 2008

We hear all the time about Los Angeles' water shortage.

The county Board of Supervisors has issued a water-supply and conservation alert, urging residents to cut water usage by 15 percent to 20percent. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the first statewide drought in 16 years. And county officials warn that water rationing could become a reality as soon as next year.

All of which makes one wonder why Los Angeles city officials continue to push for densification - seemingly oblivious to the fact that we scarcely have sufficient water to accommodate L.A.'s existing population.

For years, city officials have rubber-stamped developments without so much as a thought to the impact on long-term water supply. Indeed, last week Angelenos learned that a Hollywood-area community group has taken on the job that city officials have manifestly failed to do - demanding that the city halt all growth until officials have first conducted a sufficient analysis of L.A.'s infrastructure needs.

The group, the La Brea-Willoughby Coalition, contends that City Hall is supposed to produce an annual report that analyzes the city's infrastructure needs. Those needs include transportation, sanitation, schools and police service - the necessities that ought to figure into any reasonable assessment of city growth.

But L.A., which has long lacked any sort of a coherent, well-defined growth plan, has, according to the lawsuit, failed to update the Annual Growth and Infrastructure Review since 1998. Worse yet, La Brea-Willoughby reports that the city has approved nearly 2million construction permits during that time.

So the growth has continued, unabated, but without the sound planning and assessment that logically should precede it. Coming from a city that is in the business of awarding density bonuses - allowing developers to build more than an area is otherwise zoned for, without providing sufficient parking - this should come as little surprise.

No wonder the coalition is seeking a moratorium on future development until the city determines just how much expansion and densification its infrastructure and services can support.

And given the state of the local real estate market, if ever L.A. could accommodate a moratorium on development, this would be it. Better to plan carefully and wisely for future needs than to be reckless and create a future in which water rationing isn't merely an occasional threat, but a constant certainty.

Open Space Vote files over 8,000 signatures in Redwood City!

Measure poised for November ballot
June 12, 2008

Redwood City's Open Space Vote, ”a coalition of environmental and grassroots organizations sponsored by Save The Bay and Friends of Redwood City" recently filed over 8,000 petition signatures to qualify the Open Space Vote measure for the November 4, 2008, ballot. As threats to Redwood City's open spaces grow, requiring voter approval of development on open space lands will ensure that only the best possible projects for the environment and the community are built. Just fewer than 5,300 valid signatures are needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The 8,121 signatures submitted were collected in only 45 days, a quarter of the time allowed by law ”indicating overwhelming support among Redwood City residents.

Open Space Vote will amend the Redwood City Charter to require a two-thirds vote of the public to approve any development on existing open space. Open space deserves the strongest possible protection; once these lands are gone, they are gone forever. The measure has been endorsed by Acterra, the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Clean Water Action, the Committee for Green Foothills, Friends of Bayfront Park, Greenbelt Alliance, Sequoia Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and former Congressman Paul N. "Pete" McCloskey, and State Senator Byron Sher. Major funding is provided by Save The Bay.

If you are interested in helping with the campaign to save open space in Redwood City, please email

Learn more about the Open Space Vote at

10,000 Acre Conservation Easement funded by State in 2007 in the Lower Sierra Nevadas, Part of Linkage that is Threatened by Tejon Ranch Project

Parker Ranch


Winding through the Tehachapi Mountains just one hour north of Los Angeles exists what is arguably the most vital wildlife corridor in North America.

A vast collection of open landscapes, the corridor links the 2,000-mile-long Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges to the east, and the 800-mile-long Sierra Madre, Traverse and Peninsular Mountain chain to the west.

At the base of this corridor is Parker Ranch — nearly 10,000 acres of rangeland dotted with blue oaks, buckeyes and scores of wildflowers each spring.

Working closely with the Parker family, The Nature Conservancy recently purchased a conservation easement on the ranch to protect it from development, regardless of future ownership. The easement will ensure this key segment in the wildlife corridor — and the Parker family’s ranching heritage — are preserved for generations to come.

..."Parker Ranch is truly a biological crossroads, linking meadowlands to valleys and hillsides to mountain ranges,” said E.J. Remson, project director with The Nature Conservancy.

But land development near Parker Ranch is pressing in from all sides.

"If this ecological link is broken, the repercussions on wildlife could be felt well north of the Canadian border, and deep into Mexico,” said Remson.

Amargosa River falls 200
Falls on the Amargosa River

Wild rivers in the San Gabriel Mountains and Eastern Sierra took a huge step toward preservation May 22. The bipartisan Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act was introduced as companion House and Senate bills sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

The legislation proposes to protect more than 52 miles of Wild & Scenic Rivers and nearly 476,000 acres of Wilderness, including some of the most spectacular scenery in the West.

The Amargosa River south of Death Valley, the Owens River Headwaters in the Eastern Sierra, and Piru Creek north of Los Angeles would gain Wild & Scenic protection. The Owens River Headwaters flows into one of the most popular wild trout streams in the West. Piru Creek is one of only three year-round coldwater trout streams in Southern California. The Amargosa is a rare free-flowing desert river that supports many rare and endangered wildlife species.

to read more:

"Players" in Tejon Ranch Deal Debate it

PRO: The Tejon agreement is a true conservation victory
Water deal leaves bad taste, State transfers contaminated groundwater in drinking water supply for millions

from the PCL Insider newsletter, July 9, 2008

to read story with additional weblinks, see:

Last week, the California Department of Water Resources announced that it will allow contaminated groundwater to be pumped into the California Aqueduct, which supplies water to millions of Californians, in order to deliver more water to the Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley.

Because the groundwater in question contains high levels of salts, nitrates and selenium, DWR would normally prohibit its transfer within the California Aqueduct. However, due to the Governor's emergency declaration in June, DWR will make an exception and allow 20,000 acre feet of this groundwater to be transferred, even though it will degrade the water supplies of areas such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside.

In addition to the transfer of millions of gallons of contaminated water via the California Aqueduct, the Westlands Water District is receiving help from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). MWD announced that it would lend 25,000 acre feet of water to the Westlands Water District this summer. (This announcement came just weeks after Metropolitan Water District, which also serves Los Angeles, San Diego and Riverside, instituted a "Water Supply Alert" calling for extraordinary water conservation.) Written agreements require Westlands Water District to "pay back" the lent water by October. However, the Westlands Water District may have trouble making good on those terms if the dry spell of the past two years extends to this fall and winter.

The Westlands Water District is one of the largest irrigation districts in the world. It serves agricultural businesses that receive some of the greatest water, energy and crop subsidies in the nation. The lands irrigated in the Westlands Water District are severely drainage impaired. When these lands are irrigated salts build up in the soils and toxic levels of selenium concentrate in drainage waters, producing poor conditions for crops and highly toxic agricultural runoff.

Just last month, the United States Geological Survey reported contamination build-up within the Westlands Water District will result in unusable soils and groundwater in as little as 25 years. The USGS further found that taking 300,000 acres of land within the Westlands Water District out of production would eliminate the drainage and contamination problem altogether. PCL has been promoting compensated land retirement within the Westlands Water District for some time.

These two actions to benefit large landowners in Westlands Water District, at the expense of others, demonstrates once again that California cannot support the water demands of drainage impaired agricultural lands without further degrading drinking water quality and the reducing the health of the Bay Delta Estuary.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

South Orange County Toll Road Backers Get New Hearing Before the Feds

In May, the Department of Commerce – despite TCA pleas to the contrary - announced that it would hold a Public Hearing on the toll road agency’s appeal to override the California Coastal Commission's rejection of the 241 Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach.

We have just received word that the Department of Commerce will hold its Public Hearing in the TCA's appeal of the Coastal Commission’s on July 24 and/or 25 at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center.

At the Coastal Commission meeting in February, you all helped us make a resounding statement against the Toll Road… and your voices were critical then in convincing the Coastal Commission to decide against the Toll Road.

Now we need to do it again – but even bigger this time!

Please make plans to attend the hearing at UC Irvine with your friends and family and stand up for San Onofre, for state parks, and against the Toll Road.

We will let you know as soon as we have more specific information on the time, location, and details of the hearing.

Remember – Save the Park… Stop the Toll Road!
Save San OnofreProtect California's Parks & Beaches
P.S. There will be a guided hike of the San Onofre area on June 28th at 10:30am. We will meet at the Trestles Beach Parking Lot at El Camino Real and Cristianitos. Email or to RSVP.


Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi's letter of opposition:
3700 Acre Yuba River land Purchase May be Funded by Feds this Year

May 29, 2008

From the Trust for Public Land

This year, the Forest Service has an opportunity to acquire 3,700 acres of forestland in the Sierra Nevada. An appropriation of $5 million is needed through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Interior Appropriations bill to protect these lands.


In the 19th century, in order to spur construction of the transcontinental railroads through the barrier of the Sierra Nevada to the Pacific, the federal government granted lands to railroad companies in alternating square miles along the route. The subsequent Sierra “checkerboard” of alternating federal and private ownership presents numerous challenges including mixtures of pristine and degraded wildlife habitats, areas opened and closed to recreation, forests interspersed with housing, and complications in forest fire management. Projected population increases in the counties around Lake Tahoe over the next 20 to 40 years dramatically heighten the threats to this landscape, promising further habitat fragmentation, invasion of nonnative species, deterioration of water quality, and increasing difficulties in managing wildfire. The Forest Service has identified the Tahoe National Forest as one of three national forests in the West projected to be most affected by increased housing development in the next two decades.

To meet these challenges, the Forest Service has sought to consolidate these checkerboard lands. Available for acquisition in FY 2009 are nineteen parcels of land, covering 3,700 acres in the vicinity of the Middle and North Yuba rivers in Sierra and Nevada counties. The Forest Service has recognized that north-south habitat connectivity is crucial to wildlife migration in the Sierra Nevada, and the adaptive challenges now being brought to the fore by climate change reinforce the need to consolidate these checkerboard lands. These parcels also provide riparian corridor habitat for numerous species, not only along the Middle Yuba, but also along key tributaries of the North Yuba River. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) lies near some of the parcels in areas popular with PCT hikers. In addition, the North Yuba River flows alongside the Yuba-Donner Scenic Byway, from which some of these lands are visible. Land along this highway is very popular for a variety of recreational pursuits, including cross-country skiing, hiking, fishing, biking, whitewater rafting and camping.

PLEASE ACT NOW! read the rest of this action alert:
Sierra Pacific Industries is no answer for Pacific Lumber's ills

by Scott Greacen/Environmental Protection Information Center

For the Eureka Times-Standard

This week, in what we hope are the final days of the Pacific Lumber (PL) bankruptcy proceedings, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) inserted itself into the process. Archie “Red” Emmerson, SPI's owner and chief executive, was in the Corpus Christi, Texas courtroom pressing his offer to purchase PL's Scotia mill, an offer buttressed by 10 declarations from local timber luminaries like Dennis Scott and Bob Barnum. Opinions differ as to what SPI actually intends to achieve, but any student of California timber will tell you it's not a great idea to get between Red Emmerson and something he wants.

We at EPIC think it's unlikely SPI will prevail this time. The Scotia mill is not for sale, and would only be sold if bondholders manage to derail the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) plan to reorganize Pacific Lumber with a new argument that the value of the timberland has declined during the bankruptcy process. It's unlikely the bondholders will win, not least because they are arguing against their own previous claim that the land was worth more than MRC's offer. Still, the consequences for Humboldt County of allowing SPI to take control of Pacific Lumber's key assets are so severe that it's worth underscoring a few reasons we strongly oppose SPI's bid to buy the Scotia mill.

Sierra Pacific Industries is not only the largest landowner in California, but also the largest clearcutter. Clearcutting and other forms of even-aged management are not just ugly; they
reduce complex forests to oversimplified tree plantations, which don't provide the benefits of natural forests. Clearcut logging and plantation forestry create higher risks of unnaturally intense fire than selection logging, increasing risks to adjacent forests. Clearcuts create more water pollution, soil damage, and harm to habitat. As well, large-scale clearcutting is closely tied to SPI's intensive herbicide use, in which toxics are applied across the landscape to suppress native plants.

Over the long run, clearcutting trades short-term profits for long-term yields. Smart selection forestry increases stand volume over time, maintaining both habitat and production jobs. Despite all this, and the tremendous unpopularity of clearcutting, SPI seems intent to continue these failed forest practices. SPI even has the gall to package old-growth liquidation and clearcut forestry as a panacea for global climate change.

SPI has earned a reputation for sharp elbows. In the Sierra counties where SPI appears to be systematically converting thousands of acres of timberlands to massive housing developments, citizens are organizing to resist the harm rural sprawl does to their communities. According to Cal Fire officials, after the 2002 Sour Grass fire in Calaveras County caused by an out-of-control SPI burn pile, the state of California had to take SPI to court to recover only $500,000 of the more than $940,000 taxpayers spent fighting the fire. In April 2007, SPI settled a class-action suit filed on behalf of hundreds of SPI truck drivers for $2.4 million; drivers alleged they had been forced to work 15-hour shifts without the breaks the law requires.

SPI seems to have a hard time taking pollution control laws seriously. Just last year, SPI was assessed a $13 million fine for air quality violations, one of the largest penalties ever levied by the California Air Resources Board. The charges included “falsification of emission reports as a result of operator tampering with monitoring equipment,” as well as repeated violations of emissions limits and other serious violations. Here in Humboldt County, SPI settled a Baykeeper lawsuit over its failure to clean up toxic wastes, including dioxin, from their mill site. In a similar case in 2007, SPI was charged with violating waste discharge standards in Amador County for releasing dioxins and phenols, and for failing to report the releases, all in violation of their agreement with the state.

SPI's aggressive practices have serious consequences for other players in the timber market. SPI has closed at least nine mills in California just since 1990, steadily increasing its leverage over the market. (Note that SPI's plan for the Scotia mill includes closing SPI's existing Manila mill and a 15-year log supply contract with whoever winds up owning PL's timberland). Against this backdrop, SPI's attempt to acquire the Scotia mill looks a lot like a bid for regional dominance. That would be bad not only for the environment, but for small timber owners. In a situation where there is lots of demand for logs, but little competition to buy them, small producers would be vulnerable to the infamous choice SPI offers small operators elsewhere: sell your logs at our price or don't come back.

In short, SPI's poor track record of corporate citizenship suggests an SPI takeover of PL assets would be a disaster for Humboldt's forests and future. Given this history, we are left to wonder why some of Humboldt County's prominent timber names support SPI's gambit. Maybe they're just afraid to cross Red Emmerson.
Scott Greacen is Executive Director of EPIC, the Environmental Protection Information Center. EPIC has monitored and challenged Pacific Lumber's forest practices over the last two decades.


Lawsuit Filed to Stop Disastrous Army Relocation Project From Killing More Desert Tortoises

July 2, 2008

LOS ANGELES— The Center for Biological Diversity and Desert Survivors today filed suit in federal court against two government agencies over the relocation of hundreds of desert tortoises and transfer of land-management authority from the Army to the Bureau of Land Management without required environmental review.

“It’s time to overhaul Fort Irwin’s disastrous tortoise relocation program,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Though we can’t stop the Fort’s expansion, we can ensure that the relocation of these rare animals is done right. With the severity of the impacts to tortoises from the expansion, it‘s imperative that the Army’s mitigation be as successful as possible.”

Despite the potential to drive the tortoise closer to extinction, in 2001 Congress authorized Fort Irwin to expand into some of the best desert tortoise habitat remaining in the western Mojave desert. As partial mitigation, in March the Army moved more than 770 tortoises from one expansion area onto lands acquired by the Army and now managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The new lands, however, provide much lower-quality habitat and contain pockets of diseased tortoises.

Desert tortoise relocation has never been attempted on such a large scale, and this spring’s relocated tortoises suffered devastating initial mortality from predators: within days more than 20 tortoises had been killed by coyotes. Healthy tortoises were also moved into areas where diseased tortoises live, which is in direct conflict with the recommendation of epidemiologists. The lands into which the tortoises were moved are far poorer habitat because of numerous roads, illegal off-road vehicle routes, houses, illegal dumping, and mines. (This is why the area currently supports low numbers of existing desert tortoise, some of which are diseased.) Subsequent phases of the relocation effort will involve over 1,000 tortoises, although the relocation sites have yet to be identified.

“Moving healthy tortoises into low-quality habitat that contains diseased tortoises is a recipe for disaster,” said Anderson. “And protection from predators is essential based on the last relocation’s tragedy.”

Having survived over 1 million years in California’s deserts, desert tortoise numbers are now crashing. The crash is due to numerous factors including disease, habitat degradation, crushing by vehicles, military and suburban development, and predation by animals. Because of its dwindling numbers, the desert tortoise, which is California’s official state reptile, is now protected under both federal and state endangered species acts.

Recently, population genetics studies have identified the desert tortoise in the west Mojave desert, including those at Fort Irwin, as distinctly different from its relatives to the north, east, and south. This finding sheds new light on why increased conservation and relocation success are more important than ever for the Fort Irwin relocation.

“The relocation plan could be much improved by reducing the number of tortoises being moved, making sure only healthy tortoises are moved into healthy populations, and improving the habitat quality in the relocation area by making it a tortoise preserve,” suggested Anderson, “where there are a minimal number of roads, no off-road vehicles, dumping, or mining allowed, coupled with strict enforcement.”

Greetings from the Tahoe Rim Trail!
The trail is no longer under snow...

and the Tahoe Rim Trail Association's programs have begun. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities, guided hikes, events, and trail information, check out our website ( We hope to see you out on the trail this summer!

Happy Trails!

Join us for a Work Party!
We are currently working on a trail building project out of Tahoe City. The project involves building NEW trail, as we are rerouting a 3 mile section of the TRT that will improve the trail by decreasing the steepness and avoiding a major rocky area while adding more vista points. We have three remaining work days in which we expect to finish this project! If you would like to be a part of this exciting trail building project, use our online registration to sign-up!

Dates and details below:

Dates: Tuesday, July 8; Saturday, July 12; Tuesday, July 15

Time: 9am-3pm Location: Tahoe City North trailhead of the TRT

Directions: Turn on Fairway Drive off Highway 89 on the west end of Tahoe City. The trail is across from the Fairway Community Center on the right. If this parking lot is full, park at the Tahoe City Public Utility District offices about 0.1 mile back toward highway 89.
Trail work volunteers need to bring water, lunch, snacks, long sleeved shirt, long pants, closed-toed footwear (work or hiking boots), work gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, and a day pack to carry it all. The TRTA provides hard hats, tools, and crew leaders.

To sign up for these work days and to learn about our many other trail work opportunities throughout the summer, visit our website.


E-Mail the editor:

rexfrankel at

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