EPIC: A Decade in Review

Tom Wheeler
Environmental Protection Information Center
Executive Director

It has been a tumultuous decade with a lot of changes and shifting of winds in the

environmental world. As an environmental community, we all have taken hits but we have fought back with tenacity, strength, and determination to continue to protect our habitat. This has meant that we have had to double-down and retrace steps that we thought had been laid to rest permanently.We look forward to this new decade as a chance to revitalize and make bigger strides in the protection and restoration of the incredible ecosystems of our area and the populations that rely on them.

We were able to accomplish a lot in the last ten years. Three major highlights from this decade include:

Richardson Grove

Supporters of Richardson Grove State Park celebrate two court victories in 2019! Photo courtesy of James Adam Taylor

For over a decade, EPIC has kept the bulldozers from harming Richardson Grove State Park. In 2010, Caltrans issued its Final Environmental Impact Report for the Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project. The project proposed widening Highway 101 through Richardson Grove State Park to allow for a larger category of truck. But in doing so, Caltrans would have to cut into the root system of old growth redwood trees, causing dieback and death to old-growth redwoods.

Stopping this project has not been easy. EPIC has filed 5 lawsuits and—knock on wood—we have been successful in each! (We were given a thankful assist by Caltrans’ poor quality documents, which court after court have found to be inadequate.)

Where do we stand in 2020? Caltrans won’t let go of the project and has appealed our most recent federal court victory to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Will we need to fight the project for another ten years? Who knows! But if we do, EPIC is ready.

Humboldt Marten
The Humboldt marten is a slinky little fuzzball about the size of a cat that lives in the old-growth coastal forests of Oregon and California. A history of overtrapping and habitat destruction has nearly wiped out the species. The marten is so rare that scientists once thought it was extinct. In 1996, researchers rediscovered a population in Six Rivers National Forest. Now there are four recognized populations, each small and isolated from each other.

In 2010, EPIC filed a petition to list the species under the Federal Endangered Species Act because of the precariously small populations and the host of threats—from clearcuts that increase predation of martens by bobcats to rodenticides from trespass cannabis grows on public land. In 2015, EPIC filed another petition to list the marten under the California Endangered Species Act.

Multiple years and multiple lawsuits have brought some good news. In 2018, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list the marten under the state law, and the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the species under federal law.

Pacific Fisher
Protections for the Pacific fisher are actually two decades in the making. The Pacific fisher—an equally cute cousin of the Humboldt marten—is down but not out. With only two natural populations left, including one in Northern California, the Pacific fisher has been a conservation priority for EPIC.

EPIC first sought federal protections for the Pacific fisher in 2000 when we submitted a petition to list the species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Two decades and three lawsuits later, the fisher is remarkably close to achieving protection. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the Pacific fisher under the Act, but we have been here before.

In 2004, the Bush Administration proposed listing the species but failed to do so, which resulted in a lawsuit. In 2014, the Obama Administration again proposed listing the species, but quickly reversed course under pressure from the timber industry. Today, the agency is once again proposing to list the species…but now with a list of exemptions that threaten to swallow the rule.
We have pressed the government to protect fishers for two decades. Will it take two more?