Rise for Climate, Jobs, & Justice–SF, Sat. Sep.8

 

To All,

On September 8, from 11 to 4 pm, thousands will march in San Francisco for the largest climate march the West Coast has ever seen. Together we will Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice as part of a global day of action to demand our elected leaders commit to no new fossil fuels and a just and fair transition to 100% renewable energy.

Join us as we hold our local leaders to account and demand that they walk the talk on climate action.

Where:  Embarcadero Plaza, San Francisco

Sign up or just show up.

For more information: https://ca.riseforclimate.org/?source=tagged&referrer=group-350-bay-area

Larry

 

California Court Finds Public Trust Doctrine Applies to State Groundwater Resources

Court Rejects Claim That SGMA “Displaces” Public Trust’s Application to California Groundwater

RICHARD FRANK, August 29, 2018

Scott River

The California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District has issued an important decision declaring that California’s powerful public trust doctrine applies to at least some of the state’s overtaxed groundwater resources.  The court’s opinion also rejects the argument that California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) displaces the public trust doctrine’s applicability to groundwater resources.

The Court of Appeal’s opinion in Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board decides two key issues of first impression for California water law: first, whether the public trust doctrine applies to California’s groundwater resources; and, second, if it does, if application of that doctrine has been displaced and superseded by the California Legislature’s 2014 enactment of SGMA.  A unanimous appellate panel answered the first question in the affirmative, the second in the negative.

The facts of the Environmental Law Foundation are straightforward and undisputed: the Scott River is a tributary of the Klamath River and itself a navigable waterway located in the northwestern corner of California.  The Scott River has historically been used by the public for recreational navigation and serves as essential habitat for migrating salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Critically, there are groundwater aquifers adjacent to the Scott River in Siskiyou County that are hydrologically connected to the surface flows of the Scott River.  Local farmers and ranchers in recent years have drilled numerous groundwater wells and pumped ever-increasing amounts of groundwater from those aquifers.  As a direct result, the surface flows of the Scott River have been reduced, at times dramatically.  Indeed, in the summer and early fall months, the Scott River has in some years been completely dewatered due to the nearby groundwater pumping.  The adverse effects on both the Scott River’s salmon fishery and recreational use of the river have been devastating.

Environmental groups and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, relying on California’s venerable public trust doctrine, initially responded to this environmental crisis by petitioning Siskiyou County and the State Water Resources Control Board to take administrative action to limit groundwater pumping in the Scott River watershed.  Both the Board and the County declined to do so.

Plaintiffs responded by filing suit, arguing that groundwater resources that are interconnected with the surface water flows of the Scott River are subject to and protected by the state’s public trust doctrine.  Siskiyou County disputed that claim, arguing that the public trust doctrine is wholly inapplicable to groundwater and that the country has no duty to limit groundwater pumping, even in the face of the resulting environmental damage to the Scott River ecosystem. (The Board, by contrast, eventually reconsidered its position, ultimately adopting plaintiffs’ view that groundwater resources interconnected with surface water flows are indeed subject to the public trust doctrine.)

The trial court concluded that the public trust doctrine does apply to the groundwater resources of the Scott River region.  While the litigation was pending there, however, the California Legislature enacted SGMA, which for the first time creates a statewide system of groundwater management in California, administered at the regional level.  Siskiyou County seized upon that legislation to argue that even if the public trust doctrine would otherwise apply to the County’s groundwater resources, the doctrine was automatically displaced and made inapplicable to groundwater as a result of SGMA’s allegedly “comprehensive” statutory scheme.  The trial court rejected this backstop argument as well, and the County appealed.

The Court of Appeal’s decision today resoundingly affirms the trial court on both issues.  On the threshold public trust claim, the justices rely heavily on the California Supreme Court’s landmark public trust decision, National Audubon Society v. Superior Court.  In National Audubon, the Supreme Court held that the public trust doctrine, a foundational principle of California natural resources law, fully applies to the state’s complex water rights system.  Specifically, National Audubon found that the City of Los Angeles’ diversion of water from the non-navigable, freshwater streams flowing into Mono Lake, which were reducing the lake level and causing environmental damage to the lake ecosystem, could be limited by state water regulators under the public trust doctrine.

The court in the Environmental Law Foundation concluded that the rationale and holding of National Audubon are fully applicable to the facts of the Scott River case.Rejecting the County’s argument that extractions of groundwater should be treated differently from the diversions of surface water that were found in National Audubon to be causing environmental damage to Mono Lake, the Court of Appeal declares:

“The County’s squabble over the distinction between diversion and extraction is…irrelevant.  The analysis begins and ends with whether the challenged activity harms a navigable waterway and thereby violates the public trust.”

Accordingly, the Environmental Law Foundation court concludes that the public trust doctrine fully applies to extractions of groundwater that adversely affect navigable waterways such as the Scott River.

Turning to the County’s SGMA-based defense, the Court of Appeal had little difficulty concluding that by enacting that statute the Legislature did not intend to occupy the entire field of groundwater management and thereby abolish the public trust doctrine’s application to the groundwater resources at issue.  (The County had argued that SGMA’s enactment not only relieves the County of any public trust-related duties, but also precludes the State Water Resources Control Board from acting to protect public trust resources from environmental damage resulting from excessive groundwater extractions.)  The Court of Appeal concludes:

“[W]e can evince no legislative intent to eviscerate the public trust in navigable waters in the text or scope of SGMA…We conclude that the enactment of SGMA does not, as the County maintains, occupy the field, replace or fulfill public trust duties, or scuttle decades of decisions upholding, defending, and expanding the public trust doctrine.”

Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board represents an important judicial ruling concerning the public trust doctrine’s application to California’s water resources–perhaps the most important since the California Supreme Court decided the iconic National Audubon decision 35 years ago.  Additionally, Environmental Law Foundation is the first California appellate decision expressly applying the public trust doctrine to (at least some of) the state’s groundwater resources.  It’s also the first appellate decision interpreting SGMA, although that decision limits the application of the statute and harmonizes it with longstanding California public trust doctrine.

Perhaps most importantly, the Environmental Law Foundation opinion represents yet another ringing judicial affirmation of the public trust doctrine’s continuing, vital and foundational role in California natural resources law and policy.  The California judiciary has in recent years consistently given a robust interpretation to and application of the public trust doctrine.  Environmental Law Foundation is but the latest manifestation of that most welcome trend.

(Full disclosure notice: the author of this post serves as counsel of record for the prevailing plaintiffs in the Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board case.)

Mark West Creek Study (Sonoma County)

Mark West Creek is one of five priority stream systems selected as part of the 2014 California Water Action Plan effort. The 59 square mile Mark West Creek HUC12 subwatershed, located within Sonoma County, is the second largest subwatershed in the Russian River basin. The creek supports several listed anadromous salmonid species including California Coastal Chinook Salmon, and Central California Coast Coho Salmon and steelhead trout. Salmonid populations within Mark West Creek and other Russian River tributaries have declined significantly. Coho Salmon, in particular, neared extirpation within the Russian River basin in the late 1990s, and their recovery is now supplemented by captive broodstock efforts that include juvenile releases into Mark West Creek. Prior assessments have indicated that the low summer and fall stream flows encountered by rearing Coho Salmon and steelhead juveniles is a contributing factor to the species’ decline within the Russian River basin and associated subwatersheds.

The goal of this study is to develop relationships between streamflow and salmonid habitat within upper Mark West Creek. To accomplish this, a combination of empirical and hydraulic habitat modeling approaches will serve as a basis to identify important streamflow thresholds that provide suitable habitat for juvenile Coho Salmon and steelhead. Study questions include:

  • What instream habitat is available during periods of low streamflow within upper Mark West Creek?
  • What streamflows are required to maintain suitable rearing habitat and hydrologic connectivity for juvenile Coho Salmon and steelhead?
  • What streamflows are required to support productive riffle habitat for benthic invertebrates (an important food source for salmonids)?

To help answer these questions, the Instream Flow Program anticipates evaluating existing data, surveying current instream habitat conditions, performing topographical surveys of the stream channel, constructing hydraulic habitat models, measuring streamflows, and conducting data analyses.

 Mark West Creek Study Plan (PDF)
Map of Mark West Creek subwatershed -- click to open larger image

More Protection for Rivers Sought-Senate Bill 2975

To All,

The Senate passed AB 2975 by Assembly member Laura Friedman.

This bill provides a mechanism for the state to include river segments in its wild and scenic river system, should the Trump administration remove them from the federal system.

If you can nudge the Governor so sign this, please do it.

Thanks to Sierra Club staff (and others) for shepherding this through.

Rue

 

Representative Laura Friedman is also fighting against the Mohave grab. (“For her part, Assembly member Friedman contends that, “California must protect its land and water in the face of dangerous threats such as the Cadiz water mining project, which would drain 16 billion gallons of water each year from the Mojave Desert. There is no time to waste in saving this picture-postcard landscape.”)

https://www.calwild.org/hurdles-cleared-on-ab2975/

She’s a real water warrior…..

Janus

Last Wild Coho Salmon Creek in Russian River Watershed

Felta Creek Threatened By Aggressive Logging Plan

[Note: A court hearing on this logging case will be heard Friday, August 17th at 3 pm in Rm 18, Empire Collge Annex, 3035 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa, CA.  The public is invited to view the Hearing but seating is limited.]

As wild Coho salmon have disappeared in every tributary of the Russian River watershed over the past decades, Felta Creek remains the rare exception. Even in the low fish years of 2006 and 2008, endangered wild Coho salmon survived in the shady pools of this boulder strewn west county stream. This spring, UC researchers discovered multiple spawning beds, or “redds,” in the creek’s gravel bars. But the fate of this fragile habitat now lies in the hands of an absentee landowner with an aggressive logging agenda.

In late 2015, Humboldt County resident Ken Bareilles bought a 160-acre Timberland Production Zone property that includes a core section of Felta Creek’s headwaters. Bareilles, a logger and lawyer, filed a Timber Harvest Plan with CalFire(formerly the California Department of Forestry). Barring some act of intervention, the plan — THP 1-17-017 SON (Fox Meadows) — is on its way to approval.

The fact that Bareilles’ plan progressed this far this quickly has alarmed both professionals and community members. Of the 160-acre property, registered forester Randy Jacobszoon’s plan calls for logging on 146 acres. Of that, 130 acres are slated for Group Selection and Transition Harvest — essentially, aggressive multi-acre patch cuts. According to the California Geological Survey, “site slopes range from 10 to 80 percent gradients … geologic mapping identifies dormant and active deep-seated landslides as underlying the plan area.” How will heavy equipment, logging and hauling during the winter affect a slide-prone landscape?

“I have reviewed logging plans in Sonoma County for over 20 years, and this is one of the worst,” says Larry Hanson, president of Forest Unlimited. “First, there is the delicate and biologically important stream that runs through it. Second, there are critical safety issues related to school children and local residents who use this one-lane dirt road to get in and out of their homes. Finally, there are climate impacts.”

NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, recognizing the critical need to protect this watershed, recommended a more sustainable approach to limit erosion and preserve more of the forest canopy. In a public meeting on Thursday June 15, 2017, Anthony Lukacic, the CalFire official in charge of recommending the proposed timber harvest plan for approval, said one of NOAA/NMFS’s recommendations made it into the final plan. He considered but rejected others, deciding that CalFire’s Forest Practice Rules would suffice if adequately implemented.

According to Russian Riverkeeper, the stakes couldn’t be higher. “Losing one of the single best juvenile Coho Salmon habitats on Felta Creek that get baby Coho through the hot summer months would be a massive blow,” says Russian Riverkeeper president Don McEnhill.

Community members and county officials are alarmed by the scope of the proposed hauling operation. The landowner has an easement to use Felta Creek Road, a private one-lane gravel road that winds above Felta Creek. Four full-time families reside there amidst some grape cultivation. The use and maintenance of this rural road have been sufficient to balance light traffic and the health of the fishery. But Felta Creek Road has never been an industrial logging haul road.

Community members have been told to expect 13 logging trucks per day in 6 separate shifts. Two wooden bridges, privately installed and maintained, have not been inspected to see if they can withstand this kind of impact. There are sharp turns around big trees, few turnouts, two waterfall crossings, a mile-plus section of road susceptible to sedimentation of the creek. At the bottom is Westside Elementary School, with over 170 students, some who walk down Felta Creek Road to attend classes. Most students and families use Felta Road, a publicly maintained county road where school traffic is already congested.

No traffic impact or safety studies were completed as part of the timber harvest plan. At the June 15 public meeting, CalFire’s Lukacic asserted that the hauling operation was a civil matter. A certified engineer’s letter questioning the suitability of bridges, numerous concerns about sedimentation of the creek, fire and public safety issues and threats of litigation have all been filed during the public comment period, set to close on June 26.

What could all this mean for the last recognized habitat for wild coho salmon in the entire Russian River watershed? One local timber operator who reviewed the plan predicted:  “this is going to be ugly.”

According to one official at the CalFire meeting, agencies were concerned about Ken Bareilles’ record of land abuse: a cleanup and abatement order with the Regional Water Board in 2002, as well as CalFire violations. A March 12, 2012 California Department of Fish and Wildlife press release[1] reported what inspectors saw at a Ken Bareilles-owned Humboldt property:

“… soil stock piled next to or in the stream channels, removal of riparian vegetation and poorly installed stream crossings. DFG then filed a formal complaint against Bareilles and he was convicted.

During a storm in January 2012, the team then returned and witnessed sediment entering streams and flowing downstream toward Redwood Creek during the salmon and trout spawning and rearing season. As the rain continued, video was taken of an estimated 10 cubic yards of sediment becoming saturated and flowing like lava into one of four affected streams on site.”

Bareilles’ THP zoned property also happens to be for sale. This means a buyer or coalition of buyers could potentially prevent logging in this critical watershed.

“There has to be a better way,” says Felta Creek Road resident Dan Imhoff. “We have to protect all the healthy habitats that remain in this County.” Imhoff helped start the organization, Friends of Felta Creek, to mount a community response and conservation outcome to the proposed timber harvest plan.


[1] “Humboldt County Attorney Convicted of Multiple Land Use Violations,” from CDFW News, March 12, 2012, web edition

Petition to Sign: Declare Climate Change Major Disaster

Declare Climate Change a Major Disaster before it’s too late

Despite Climate Change having been identified by scientists, leaders, analysts and people from all over the world as “the greatest threat to humanity and life on Earth”, actions taken to address it have been few in number and haphazard in design because Climate Change has not been identified as, and officially declared, a MAJOR DISASTER.

It is very urgent that Governor Jerry Brown, using his legal powers as Governor of California,  issues a CLIMATE CHANGE MAJOR DISASTER DECLARATION and requests Federal funding, in order to unleash all the organizational, structural, scientific and financial State and Federal resources to stop Climate Change and protect Californians’ life and property and our invaluable environment.

The incontrovertible evidence is that Climate Change is incrementally increasing the number and magnitude of catastrophic events like exceptional droughts, heat waves, floods, blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, sea level rise, coastal cities inundation, ocean acidification, extinction of plant and animal species, epidemics, disruption of food production and other deleterious events that, combined or individually, have disastrous consequences on our economies and our wellbeing and survival.

California has its share of Climate-related catastrophic events, both forecast and current, particularly showing in the 500-year drought that, in 2015 alone, caused a near $3 billion loss for California agriculture, left several communities without water, 542,000 acres lay fallow, 6335 wildfires burned 307,598 acres (including much of the town of Middletown) and destroyed thousands of structures. Also, the pumping of very large amounts of groundwater used to compensate for the lack of surface water is causing the separation of the lithosphere from the ground above, which will lead to earthquakes.

In February 2017, the confluence of Atmospheric Rivers, fueled by Climate Change and of infrastructure insufficiently built and maintained to withstand the forces of the new Climate created havoc in California, like in the region of the Oroville Dam where the severe damage to its two spillways caused by the racing waters, put 200,000 lives, thousands of structures and thousands of acres at very serious risk.

Climate Change is still being discussed as a tremendous potential threat to our children and grandchildren but, the reality is that Climate Change is already here and that it will get worse if we continue dumping more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Indicators of Climate Change are already in the danger zone. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, which for 1.3 million years had not been higher than 275 ppm (parts per million) until the onset of the Industrial Revolution, are now above 410 ppm. The global average air temperature is since 2015, 1º Celsius higher than in pre-industrial times, a level that climate scientists consider the gateway to the acceleration of the disruptions of the Climate (1.5 º Celsius for the first half of 2016 and 1.2º Celsius for the whole 2016).  It is now confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record.

Without a Disaster Declaration, this greatest-of-threats remains undefined and acknowledged, taking away the focus necessary to effectively deal with it. We say that we are “fighting Climate Change” without having ever declared war.

The extent and nature of the problem requires immediate, massive action to retrofit our economy to stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and move fast towards a “carbon negative” economy, as well as to make the necessary changes to minimize the damage from Climate Change-related events that are going to unfold from Climate disruptions that have already taken place.

To mitigate our Climate Change Disaster, action must be immediate, must be massive and requires a level of mobilization of all our resources similar to what this country experienced during the New Deal and World War II. Individual actions, while useful and necessary, are insufficient. Indirect measures, like taxes on carbon emissions, are beneficial but too slow.

Putting off the retrofitting of our economy to address Climate Change is a very dangerous mistake. Factors such as the long residence time of already emitted greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the activation of slow feedbacks (like the melting of the permafrost) will soon make future mitigating actions inconsequential.

There is a lot to lose from inaction and a lot to gain from speedy action. Without speedy action, more catastrophes will unfold with a high price in the loss of lives and property and high risks to the economy. With speedy action, life and property will be better protected, California’s economy will experience a boom, California will have access to federal disaster funds that do not require the approval of Congress and California will lead other States and Countries in the highly needed and greatest peaceful cooperation effort ever.

Governor Brown, please accept leadership of this massive transformation of California to a CLIMATE CHANGE-READY STATE. This life-affirming effort will give us the greatest chance of thriving through change instead of merely surviving change.

We are living in extraordinary times, that require extraordinary actions and your extraordinary leadership.

References:

James Hansen, et al. “Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required
Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People,
Future Generations and Nature”. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081648. December 3, 2013
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081648

Alex Park and Julia Lurie. “California’s Drought Could Be the Worst in 500 Years. And why it’s too late for the rain.” Mother Jones. February 10, 2014.
http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/02/california-drought-matters-more-just-california

Richard Howitt, et al. “Economic Analysis of the 2015 Drought For California Agriculture. UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences”. August 17, 2015.
https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Final_Drought%20Report_08182015_Full_Report_WithAppendices.pdf

“Our Earth in 2050. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels double”. greenphysicist2.blogspot.com
http://greenphysicist2.blogspot.com/2010/02/atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-levels.html

Marcin Popkiewicz. “If growth of CO2 concentration causes only logarithmic temperature increase – why worry?. SkepticalScience.com. April 15, 2014.
http://skepticalscience.com/C02-emissions-vs-Temperature-growth.html

Larry Elliot. “Climate change disaster is biggest threat to global economy in 2016, say experts”. The Guardian. January 14, 2016.
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/14/climate-change-disaster-is-biggest-threat-to-global-economy-in-2016-say-experts

Climate Protection Campaign. “Sonoma County Community Climate Action Plan”. October 2008.
http://coolplan.org/ccap-report/CCAP_Final_11-05-08.pdf

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. carbonify.com
http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-dioxide-levels.htm

Emily J. Gertz. “2015 Was the World’s Warmest Year—and 2016 Might Be Even Hotter”. January 20, 2016. takepart.com
https://www.yahoo.com/news/2015-world-warmest-2016-might-even-hotter-201357621.html?ref=gs

Fire Statistics. “Incident Information”. CalFire. CA.GOV. January1 – December 31, 2015.
http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/incidents/incidents_stats?year=2015

Ethan Huff. “How California’s extreme drought will lead to a wave of earthquakes”. NaturalNews.com. August 18, 2014.
http://www.naturalnews.com/046503_drought_earthquakes_California.html

Pau Ratner. 2016 Is Going to Be the Hottest Year Ever (According to NASA, NOAA, & Pretty Much Everyone). Big Think. July 24, 2016.
http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/2016-is-going-to-be-the-hottest-year-ever

 

Why California’s New Wild and Scenic River Is a Big Deal

After years of work, the state’s Mokelumne River has been awarded Wild and Scenic status. It’s a significant win for conservationists and local residents, as well as an important example of consensus building.

Written by Steve Evans Published on July 26, 2018

Mekelumne River Sierra Nevada foothills
Thirty-seven miles of Mokelumne River in the Sierra Nevada foothills has been designated as Wild and Scenic by the state of California. Amit Patel via Flickr

The Mokelumne River became California’s newest Wild and Scenic River when Governor Jerry Brown signed the natural resources budget bill in the last week of June. Protection of 37 miles of this magnificent river in the Sierra Nevada foothills – from Salt Springs Dam to a point just upstream of Highway 49 – became a reality after decades of advocacy by Friends of the RiverFoothill Conservancy and other conservation groups.

The unusual legislative vehicle used to protect the river – the natural resources budget trailer bill – became possible after political obstacles were overcome and a rare consensus among conservation groups, water agencies and the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) was forged.

In response to 2016 legislation authored by Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals), the CNRA conducted a study to determine the Mokelumne’s eligibility and suitability to be protected as a state Wild and Scenic River, a designation that helps protect it from destructive dams and diversions.

Released in early 2018, the study found the river to be free-flowing and to possess extraordinary scenic and recreation values. More than 1,700 people responded positively to the draft study’s conclusion that the river was suitable for state protection. The final report proposed special language to ensure that state designation did not affect existing water rights and facilities and that future additional rights to water from the Mokelumne could be acquired for projects that avoided harm to the river’s flow and extraordinary values.

A map of the Mokelumne River, showing Wild and Scenic designations. (Courtesy of CalWild)
A map of the Mokelumne River, showing Wild and Scenic designations. (Courtesy of CalWild)

Representatives from Friends of the River and the Foothill Conservancy worked out the language with water agencies from Amador and Calaveras counties, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) and the CNRA. In response, the local foothill water agencies withdrew their long-standing opposition and formally supported Wild and Scenic protection for the Mokelumne.

“It took several years to reach agreement to protect the Mokelumne River for present and future generations,” stated Eric Wesselman, executive director of Friends of the River. “But with some persistence, we eventually developed the political consensus needed to protect this magnificent river in the Sierra Nevada foothills.”

“This is a landmark achievement,” said Scott Ratterman, president of the Calaveras County Water District Board. “We are proud to have reached a consensus with all stakeholders that protects local water rights and the river for future generations.”

The support of the local water agencies neutralized opposition from local supervisors in Amador and Calaveras counties. EBMUD, which delivers clean drinking water from the Mokelumne to 1.4 million customers in the East Bay Area, has supported Wild and Scenic protection for the river since 2015.

The turnaround in the river’s political fortunes was dramatic. The foothill water agencies managed to block passage of a 2015 bill by then-Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) that would have added the river to the state Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Ironically, the Hancock bill included water rights assurance language similar to the special language worked out with the CNRA and subsequently included in the budget trailer bill.

The Mokelumne is now the seventh river protected as a state Wild and Scenic River in addition to the original eight rivers protected when the system was established in 1972. California Wild and Scenic Rivers are protected against destructive dams and diversion projects and state agencies are required to protect the rivers’ free-flowing character and extraordinary scenic, recreation, fish and wildlife values.

Since 1988, Friends of the River and the Foothill Conservancy have worked together with their conservation allies to protect and restore the Mokelumne River. The groups advocated for federal Wild and Scenic River protection through land and resource plans by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. They secured improved flows and recreational access through the federal relicensing process for utility PG&E’s extensive hydroelectric facilities on the river. They successfully pressured EBMUD to restore public recreational access to the river downstream of Highway 49. Along the way, three dam projects were shelved due to opposition by conservation groups. Now, 37 miles of the river are permanently protected by the state.

The newly protected segments of the Mokelumne River represent an important recreational resource for residents of Amador and Calaveras counties and their tourism-based economies. Protection of the river was a longtime priority of the locally based Foothill Conservancy and other local conservationists.

“I can’t begin to tell you how happy we are,” said Katherine Evatt, board president of the Foothill Conservancy. “It’s a tremendous day for our community. People really love the Mokelumne. We have worked for decades to ensure that this beautiful river is protected for generations to come and, finally, the upper Mokelumne is a California Wild and Scenic River.”

Top Climate Scientist Joins Coalition in Calling for an End to Clearcuts and Timber Plantations

July 10, 2018 by John Talberth

One of the world’s leading climate scientists joined a coalition of 18 conservation, scientific, and community organizations calling on Oregon’s new Carbon Policy Office (CPO) and the Department of Forestry (ODF) to do an about-face on the state’s evolving forest carbon policy and to immediately implement measures to curb the harmful climate impacts of clearcutting and tree plantations. In a thirteen-page letter sent to CPO Director Kristen Sheeran and State Forester Peter Daugherty, the coalition urges the state to abandon the timber industry’s preferred ‘hands off’ approach to forests and climate change in favor of a forest carbon policy based on science and principles of environmental justice. The letter was also sent to forest policy makers in Washington state since that state is on a similar track with respect to forests and climate.

Dr. William Moomaw of Tufts University, one of the world’s leading climate scientists and lead author of three global climate assessments published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated: “As next in line for adopting state level climate policies, all eyes are on Oregon and Washington. It will be essential for these states to protect older carbon rich forest, and to allow more younger forests to continue growing to store additional carbon. Research has consistently shown that clear cutting, short rotation times and conversions to plantations are major drivers of climate change and loss of climate resiliency. Reducing logging related emissions, halting any further loss of carbon rich old growth forests and expediting the conversion of tree plantations back into climate resilient forests are essential elements of a science-driven climate strategy.”

Despite the imperative to act, to date, Governor Kate Brown and legislative leaders have refused to consider regulating the timber industry in climate legislation cued up for passage in 2019 despite multiple studies documenting the fact that logging is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state and that millions of acres of industrial tree plantations pose grave risks to rural communities as climate change unfolds. Instead, the state is promoting logging and wood products as a climate solution. According to Dr. John Talberth, Senior Economist for Center for Sustainable Economy “Oregon is blundering down the wrong path by failing to consider direct regulation of harmful forest practices and, instead, promoting wood products as a climate solution when in fact timber sourced from industrial tree plantations is very carbon-intensive. The climate would be much better served by including timber industry emissions in climate legislation and by reducing demand for carbon intensive wood through improvements in recycling and reclamation rates, repurposing existing buildings rather than building new ones, paperless offices, less waste at construction sites and mills and changes in building codes to restrict construction of gargantuan single-family homes.”

In addition to calling attention to the high emissions associated with Oregon wood products, the coalition letter expresses alarm over the public health and safety risks of industrial tree plantations. According to Regna Merritt of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, “Watersheds dominated by clearcuts and industrial tree plantations are far more susceptible to low water flows, toxic algal blooms, wildfire, floods, and landslides than watersheds dominated by native and well-managed forests. Recently, the majority of forested municipal watersheds in Oregon were classified as ‘waters of potential concern for harmful algal blooms’ so this is a huge public health issue.” Industrial forest practices and tree plantations were cited as one of the key drivers of Salem’s run-in with toxic algae blooms because they produce warmer, slower moving water that is laced with sediments, chemicals and fertilizers that stimulate its growth.

In the coalition letter, ten specific policy interventions are identified that form the basis for immediate action. One includes halting state support for logging carbon-rich mature and old growth forests on federal, state, and private forestlands. According to Brenna Bell, staff attorney for Bark, “The timber industry and their friends in Congress have created the mirage of a ‘forest health crisis’ they claim can only be solved with more logging. This is not based on best available science. Killing trees to prevent them from dying naturally from insects, disease or fire, does not ‘cure’ the forest, or enhance carbon sequestration or reduce emissions. Studies show that industrial logging, even thinning, emits far more carbon than forest fires.”

Other policy interventions proposed by the letter include reporting wood products emissions in biennial greenhouse gas inventories, ramping down such emissions on par with other sectors, modernizing the Forest Practices Act to make climate smart practices the law, and removing tax breaks and subsidies for harmful practices. The letter also asks the state to abandon its commitment to forest carbon offsets as the primary strategy for promoting more climate friendly practices. Daphne Wysham, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network states: “Over two decades, I have observed first-hand the rampant fraud and perverse incentives baked into offset schemes. Paying people not to do harmful practices often results in more harmful practices being implemented – a classic moral hazard dilemma. Oregon should not replicate these failures and, instead, provide incentives that reward foresters who know how to harvest timber and leave a climate resilient forest behind.”

Resources:

Action to Protect Land and Water Conservation Fund

What has been described as “America’s most-important conservation program” is set to expire Sept. 30.

Established in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided—at no cost to U.S. taxpayers—millions of dollars for conservation, land acquisition, park access, infrastructure improvements, and much more.

But in December 2015 Congress struck a deal to reauthorize the LWCF for just three more years—a deadline that runs out this fall.

Fund expenditures have improved the quality of life for Americans in all 50 states in over 40,000 projects at every level. The program is primarily funded from royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling projects.

National parks and forests, wildlife refuges, trails and local parks and the communities near them all stand to gain from a healthy and permanent LWCF. The overwhelmingly popular and effective fund must not only be renewed but also permanently authorized.

For more than five decades the LWCF has helped create a wide array of outdoor recreation opportunities, from beloved neighborhood parks to wild backcountry areas and the trails that connect them, all adding immeasurable richness and wealth to the United States.

Contact your member of Congress today and urge him/her for fight for a permanently authorized Land and Water Conservation Fund.

An End to the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

What has been described as “America’s most-important conservation program” is set to expire Sept. 30.

Established in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided—at no cost to U.S. taxpayers—millions of dollars for conservation, land acquisition, park access, infrastructure improvements, and much more.

But in December 2015 Congress struck a deal to reauthorize the LWCF for just three more years—a deadline that runs out this fall.

Fund expenditures have improved the quality of life for Americans in all 50 states in over 40,000 projects at every level. The program is primarily funded from royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling projects.

National parks and forests, wildlife refuges, trails and local parks and the communities near them all stand to gain from a healthy and permanent LWCF. The overwhelmingly popular and effective fund must not only be renewed but also permanently authorized.

For more than five decades the LWCF has helped create a wide array of outdoor recreation opportunities, from beloved neighborhood parks to wild backcountry areas and the trails that connect them, all adding immeasurable richness and wealth to the United States.

Contact your member of Congress today and urge him/her for fight for a permanently authorized Land and Water Conservation Fund.