What’s happening in the redwoods and on the north coast?

There are a number of updates on critical projects affecting our forests on California’s north coast that forest advocates will want to keep on their radar.

  • Local Alert! Oakland Redwoods On Chopping Block
  • Richardson Grove injunction delaying Caltrans holds but State Court Falls Down on the Job
  • Caltrans project through wetlands and oak forest forging ahead
  • Wild Smith River and pristine forest in far north threatened by (again) Caltrans highway project
    (Do we see a pattern here?)
  • marbled murrelet critical habitat threatened: call to action!

Redwood Logging in Oakland? BY City of Oakland?

Unfortunate but true. But there is still time to voice your opinions–more about that below. The City of Oakland has announced plans to cut a grove of second growth, but large redwood trees and other native trees along Sausal Creek in Dimond Park in Oakland, apparently with next to no public notice. Fortunately, local people have jumped on this issue. The watershed of the creek encompasses much of the original western extent of the ancient redwood forest region of the Oakland Hills, an ecologically distinct region primarily defined by the creeks in the area. The purported reason for this wholesale cut is to remediate erosion along some private property, but originally, a low cost, low impact option was proposed, which has now turned into a $4 million plan to cut 79 trees (including 21 redwoods) and bulldoze the creek banks. You can sign the petition (deadline has been extended, but is short) at http://signon.org/sign/save-our-dimond-park
and see photos at http://www.facebook.com/SaveOurDimondParkTrees

Richardson Grove State Park

The good news: the injunction secured in the federal case against Caltrans stands and effectively holds Caltrans’ heavy equipment at bay! But this campaign is far from over, though it is growing in interesting ways. We reported to our Bay Area people in July about the state court ruling on the environmental groups’ challenge to Caltrans Richardson Grove project, which was disappointing but neither surprising nor the final word on the case. Whereas the federal court found the project to be deeply flawed in its analysis of environmental impacts, the state court did not find a violation of CEQA and denied a request to keep the project from moving forward from their end. There are currently discussions between litigants (environmental plaintiffs and Caltrans) in the federal case that are confidential, but the federal case is strong, and Caltrans still has not corrected the deficiencies in their assessment of impacts on the redwoods and Richardson Grove State Park. Stay tuned for further action! See also http://www.saverichardsongrove.org/

Caltrans, an Agency Out of Control!

In an effort to develop more effective campaigns on individual projects that severely impact forest species and sensitive habitats, including the old growth redwoods, a coalition of groups is taking a step back to look at the big picture of the number of projects that have major ecolological impacts and moreover, are extremely expensive to taxpayers, controversial, and unnecessary. Caltrans has also summarily ignored huge public opposition to these projects. The current Caltrans projects, outlined in this alert, include Richardson Grove, the Willits Bypass, the Highway 197/199 project in the Smith River Canyon and the Niles Canyon project affecting California steelhead. The new coalition, which includes representatives from EPIC, the Willits Environmental Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Del Norte, Earth First! and your Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters as well as others are calling for an investigation on the wasteful spending on projects not in the public interest at a time of unprecedented budget cuts. Even more important are the impacts on species and forest, wetland and river habitats that threaten to cause irreparable harm. As this coalition is more formerly launched, we will keep you informed as to action you can take.

Willits By-Pass Project Denied Injunction

A $220 million project to site a 4-lane highway the size of I-5 around the small town of Willits in Mendocino county without consideration of other alternatives was just given a pass in court when a request for a preliminary injunction was denied. The proposed project, which could break ground within the month, runs through significant wetlands, an oak woodland, riparian habitat for salmon and steelhead streams, and habitat for endangered plant species. A boondoggle by any assessment, particularly since an earlier Caltrans study found the traffic congestion not significant enough to warrant a 4-lane diversion. The court case remains in federal court, and there will be other plans to stop the road-building when Caltrans proceeds.

Highway 199 Project Threatens Wild Smith River and Redwoods

Another Caltrans ill-conceived highway expansion project, would widen parts of Highways 199 and 197 in Del Norte County in one of the most remote and wild corners of northwest California with the purpose, as with Richardson Grove, to allow larger and heavier trailer trucks known as STAA trucks. The area impacted is the wild Smith River Canyon and the old growth redwoods that line the steep banks of the last undamed and undiverted river in California. Due to the steep terrain and unstable geology, the “improved” parts of the highways would at best be only barely legal for STAA trucks, yet Caltrans proposes to spend $19 million on this project.

Habitat Threatened for Elusive and Rare Marbled Murrelet

Environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity are urging the Obama administration to withdraw from an agreement with the timber industry that would take away the critical habitat designation of 3.8 million acres where the threatened murrelets nest, designated in 1994. If you were around during the Headwaters Forest campaign, you remember the marbled murrelet was front and center, as the small seabird depends on the wide upper branches of large old growth trees to nest. You can find a letter to send to the Obama administration here. This is a backroom deal that compromises an endangered species whose populations continue to decline.

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