Sierra Pacific up to the Same Old Tricks
A proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI), was recently released in its draft form by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a companion Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), to which EPIC submitted extensive comments.
The Draft HCP put forth by SPI, the largest non-federal landowner in the State of California, would allow the company to “take” both federally-threatened northern spotted owls (Strix occidentails caurina), and its near-relative, a federal candidate for listing, the California spotted owl (Strix occidentails occidentails), a native species to the Sierra-Nevada.
A major part of the package put forth by SPI would be the authorization of experimental removal, collection, and study of yet another owl, the non-native and much larger and more aggressive barred owl (Strix varina) that has made its way from the east and become a major complicating factor to northern and potentially California spotted owl survival and recovery in the wild.
SPI is also offering other incentives, like more clearcuts and fuelbreaks as wildfire mitigation to break up the continuity of the ponderosa-pine plantation riddled landscape the company itself creates with its clearcut plantation forestry methods. Oh, and SPI is dangling the carrot of cleaning up illegal trespass cannabis grows on its property, too. What, you may ask, does any of this actually have to do with northern or California spotted owl survival and recovery? Well, nothing—of course, since that’s not really what SPI
is interested in.
Despite over 20-years of ESA protections as a threatened species, the northern spotted owl’s downward spiral toward extinction only continues to accelerate, to the point where an “endangered” classification is obviously now warranted. The California spotted owl receives far less protection during the course of non-federal lands timber operations than does the northern spotted owl, and it now seems clear that this owl also warrants ESA listing and protection. The SPI Draft HCP represents an effort by the company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to grandfather in poor, outdated, or uncertain measures before the status of either species is officially changed.
EPIC Concerns with Green Diamond’s Sproul Creek Intentions
Green Diamond Resource Company, the local re-branded/greenwashed name for the parent Seattle-based Simpson Timber Company, purchased 9,400-acres of timberland in the Sproul Creek Watershed of southern Humboldt and northern Mendocino Counties late last year from Boyle Forests LP. Boyle Forests is the remaining successor in interest to the Barnum Timber Company in Southern Humboldt and Mendocino.
Prior to the transaction between Boyle and Green Diamond, Boyle donated a conservation easement to the Northcoast Regional Land Trust that prohibits sub-division, parcelization, and development on the 9,400-acre property. What the conservation easement does not restrict, however, is forest management activities or the types and methods of forest management activities.
Sproul Creek is a major tributary to the South Fork of the Eel River, and a tributary into which massive amounts of money, time, investment, sweat, and effort have gone to try and repair damages done in the past and to restore and support one of the last major salmon-spawning tributaries in the system.
The Green Diamond purchase in Sproul Creek raises significant concerns for the fishery, the water quality, and the health of the forest overall in one of Southern Humboldt and Northern Mendocino’s last largely undeveloped areas.
To date, Green Diamond has only demonstrated its ability to do clearcuts—lots of them—and on very short harvest return intervals called rotations. Believe it or not, Green Diamond seems to think clearcutting redwoods every 45-years at absolute most is a perfectly fine and acceptable thing to do in an era of forest depletion and climate change. This behavior in Sproul Creek could spell disaster for the local fishery and the restoration money, time, and effort invested in the watershed.
EPIC has taken a pro-active and community-orientated approach to informing local residents about their new neighbors, what they are known to do, and what people can do to change what might seem like an inevitable outcome. We have helped to organize and participate in two community meetings with concerned local residents to provide information, share skills, answer questions, and get the community mobilized. True to our roots, EPIC dug deep, and we hope Green Diamond will take notice, and a different path in Sproul Creek.