by Larry Glass and Carrie Tully
Sometime during the last two decades climate scientists warned that a tipping point would be reached when carbon emissions passed 400ppm. It’s now been above that level for more than two years, and we’re entering into the point of no return. We’re seeing large numbers of hurricanes in the Atlantic, extended record-breaking heat waves on the west coast, and now extreme wildfire conditions with unseasonable high winds and low humidities. All of these disastrous outcomes are what you would predict as the climate destabilizes.
Here in Northwest California, we now find ourselves on the front lines of an episode of “extreme” wildfire. We say “extreme” to differentiate these events from common wildfires which can, in many cases, have beneficial results. Extreme wildfires are outside the normal fire regimes that the forests and grasslands need as part of their ecological function. These fires can be so intense that rather than being potentially beneficial, they incinerate everything in their path. This is not what we mean when we say we want to bring “natural” fire back to the forest. A natural fire burns with varying degrees of intensity, creating a mosaic on the landscape which removes the ground fuels and brush, and in some cases entire groups of trees. This is the type of fire that has been suppressed since colonization, and it has created the extremely unnatural and volatile conditions in our forests. In fact, many of our forests were actually oak woodlands and prairie before fire suppression created the great confier invasion. Fires must be a consideration in every aspect of forest management.
The Northcoast Environmental Center has joined with Humboldt Alliance for Responsible Planning (HARP) in filing an appeal with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the lead agency for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in regards to the proposed five-story hotel amongst other developments on the Trinidad Rancheria. The NEC provided thorough comments in the scoping process and joined with HARP in submitting extensive and exhaustive input after the BIA issued its draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Those extensive comments were submitted by Greenfire, a well-known California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and NEPA expert law firm.
Now the BIA has issued a final FONSI based on a weak and inadequate environmental assessment. Our contention has always been that only a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would satisfactorily reveal the many environmental impacts wrought by this development. The document improperly segments issues on a piecemeal basis to completely avoid considering the many effects of these foreseeable aspects of their entire development project. When the BIA approved this FONSI it failed to discuss or adequately discuss required issues. This decision is not supported by the Administrative Record, nor does it satisfy the “rule of reason”. The required procedures were not adhered to in making necessary documents available for the public to review. The NEC wants a full and complete environmental review of all activities connected to this project so that the public can adequately weigh the impacts and reach an informed decision.
Back “at the office”, the NEC Coastal Programs Coordinator, Casey Cruikshank has hosted another incredible Coastal Cleanup “Day” this year! Though there were many alterations to the original style of the event, and despite delays due to poor air quality, the community adjusted to these changes in stride. We had a fun, rewarding month of community-focused cleanups and citizen science data collection! We want to once again thank all of our participants and sponsors who made this year’s Coastal Cleanup Day successful. We will provide details about the winners of each prize in next month’s EcoNews!
While Coastal Cleanup Day is one of the tactics the NEC utilizes to bring awareness to reducing single-use plastics, we are constantly striving to find more ways to encourage changing this behavior. Our very own Administrative Assistant and Outreach Coordinator, Chelsea Pulliam, has been working to develop a “Reduce Single-Use” pledge to be adopted by local restaurants. Often the default for restaurants is to provide single-use utensils, napkins, condiments, etc. without asking. This pledge campaign would shift the default to only providing these accessories upon customer request. Since COVID-19 shelter-in-place rules have been in effect, most to-go orders are being eaten at people’s homes where they already have utensils, napkins, and condiments. Hence, providing all of those accessories is redundant and wasteful. Learn more at www.yournec.org/pledge.
For more information about how to live a zero waste lifestyle, visit www.zerowastehumboldt.org and check out their Lifestyle Tips page!
In addition to business as usual, the staff has been representing the NEC at meetings on local environmental topics. We feel that it is essential to be informed on all the items, issues, projects, proposals, and changes that are happening so that we can keep our members and followers up to date. Despite COVID-19 slowing many parts of our lives down, there are still many actions to take, and much to be engaged in. With staff participating in topics such as forest management, oceans and Humboldt Bay, energy, rivers, and transportation, there will be plenty of information to share. Please keep a look out for action alerts and EcoNews Roundup Reports, as well as social media posts which will contain much of the information we encounter!