Science

Monday, April 14, 2014

Northwest Forest Plan's 20th

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 3:31 PM

click to enlarge Northern Spotted owls - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
  • Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Northern Spotted owls

Twenty years after the Northwest Forest Plan’s birth, lawyer/writer Daniel Jack Chasan looks at whether the plan has done all it was cracked up to do. Did it save Northern Spotted owls? Did it protect the logging industry from utter devastation?

Chasan concludes, in part one of his story at Crosscut.com, that “[n]either the owl nor the forest products industry has done as well as some people had expected and many had hoped.”

But the owls aren’t all dead, and the timber industry didn’t conk out.

“Doomsday predictions of massive job losses proved false," Chasan writes. "Certain workers, mills, and communities felt pain. The Clinton administration's brave talk about retraining workers and reviving mill towns surprised virtually no one by proving to be largely hot air. Still, the Northwest economy didn't even hiccup.” The timber industry has fewer workers now, he writes, but more capacity.

And the owl? Chasan notes that a 2004 review by the Bush administration found that “owl populations had dropped faster than anyone had anticipated.”

“It pointed the finger at past habitat loss on federal land, and ongoing loss of habitat outside the area covered by the Northwest Forest Plan," he continues. "It also pointed to the invasion of non-native barred owls, which have been pushing spotted owls out of their habitat.”

The Northwest Forest Plan was a “political compromise” allowing “more logging than the scientists preferred," Chasan says, It was devised by the Clinton administration after the 1990 federal listing of the Northern Spotted owl as threatened triggered a court-ordered cessation in 1991 of “all timber sales in spotted owl habitat, which included nearly all Northwestern national forests.”

“In some people's eyes, we had reached Owlmageddon,” writes Chasan.

The Record of Decision establishing the Northwest Forest Plan was published April 13, 1994. The plan covers 24 million acres of federal land in northern California, Oregon and Washington, 30 percent of which is set aside for what’s called late successional reserves where old-growth is supposed to be protected and enhanced. Ten percent of the total acreage is set aside for protection riparian resources (lands near water). A surrounding matrix of 4 million acres, which critics say contains old-growth trees, too, is for multiple uses including timber harvest.

Part two of the series continues the tale.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Ridding Toxic Killers

Posted by on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 at 6:47 PM

On Tuesday, California passed a regulation restricting retail sales of certain rat poisons, such as d-Con. Soon, only licensed, certified or county permitted application professionals will be able to use them. The restrictions don't go into effect until July 1. But by Friday morning, at least one local retailer already was sweeping those products from its shelves. 

Pierson Building Center's garden shop manager, Lydia Rieman, said she has known for at least a year that the restriction was coming and hasn't been carrying any backstock on d-Con anyway. What limited supplies her shop had were pulled off the shelves today.

"And we'll no longer special order it for people," she said.

Other stores in the area that carry d-Con include Walgreens, Walmart and Shafer's Ace Hardware, and at least as of today they were still selling it. Down in Southern Humboldt, stores voluntarily quit selling such rat poisons last year after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking county retailers to stop carrying the stuff.

The restriction covers any rat poisons containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum and difethialone. They're called second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides, and though d-Con's the most prevalent brand of these products, there are many others. Animals that ingest these poisons — not just the targeted rats and mice, but also pets and wildlife — can bleed to death either from a cut or from internal hemorrhaging. And they can be poisoned even if they don't directly eat the poison.

"While one dose kills, it takes several days and the pest will continue to eat the rodenticide, building up the amount of that remains in their body tissue," said Charlotte Fadipe, with the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. "When wildlife such as a coyote, barn owl or endangered San Joaquin Kit fox, or a family pet, eats the poisoned pest, they end up being poisoned as well."

The use of these rodenticides on illegal marijuana farms has caused particular alarm, especially here in Humboldt County. According to a National Public Radio report, they're responsible for "nearly a third of the deaths of male fishers in recent years" on the Hoopa Valley reservation. And it was brodifacoum that killed a Blue Lake man's dog in February. That death the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office is investigating: Red meat laced with brodifacoum was found in the dog's system — possibly revenge against the dog's owner, who is a researcher studying how the use of these poisons on pot farms affects wildlife.

"The volume of rodenticides will be dramatically reduced," said Jonathan Evans, with the Center for Biological Diversity, about the new restrictions. The Center has raised its reward for information on the Blue Lake dog killing from $2,500 to $20,000. 

However, he said, people can still sidestep the law by bringing the stuff in from out of state. And, he fears a likely challenge from the makers of d-Con, whose legal challenge has delayed implementation of a similar federal restriction from going into effect.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Earthquake and Record Rainfall, Sunday Had it All

Posted by on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Humboldt County got a good jolt Sunday night when an earthquake struck off the coast, west of Ferndale, but the chances of a large aftershock striking the area are diminishing by the minute.

Folks throughout northern California reported feeling the 6.8 quake that hit about 10:18 p.m. some 48 miles off the coast. Most reported feeling a gentle rolling that lasted more than 30 seconds. Humboldt State University Geology Associate Professor Mark Hemphill-Haley said the quake occurred on the Gorda Plate, an oceanic plate that is crumbling as its being subducted under North America and which accounts for 85 to 90 percent of the seismic activity felt on the North Coast.

While Hemphill-Haley said it is true there was a 90 percent chance the area would experience an aftershock of 5.0 or higher in the week following the quake, he said that’s based on a statistical formula and the probability of experiencing such a quake is steadily decreasing. Still, a total 16 aftershocks measuring 3.0 or greater were recorded in the area between the time of the quake and 8:30 a.m. Monday, according to the United States Geological Survey.

No tsunami warning was issued after the temblor, but Hemphill-Haley said some folks evacuated from low-lying areas, which he said was smart. The recommendation, he said, is that folks leave low-lying areas for higher ground any time they feel more than 15 seconds of strong motion. People hanging on the coast, he said, should get moving toward higher elevation as soon as they feel any shaking at all.

Sunday night’s quake should serve as a wake-up call, Hemphill-Haley said, urging people to check their quake kits and emergency plans.

The earthquake trumped news that Sunday’s rainfall broke a 30-plus year record. Scott Carroll, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Eureka recorded 2.58 inches of rain Sunday, smashing March 9’s previous record of 1.17 inches in 1983. The precipitation onslaught brings the area up to 52 percent of normal rainfall levels for the current water year, which runs July 1 through June 30. This week’s forecast looks pretty dry, Carroll said.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Google Glass Hits Humboldt

Posted by on Tue, Dec 24, 2013 at 1:42 PM

click to enlarge "You have overdue fees." Humboldt County Librarian Kitty Yancheff sports a pair of pre-release Google Glasses. - SHANE MIZER
  • Shane Mizer
  • "You have overdue fees." Humboldt County Librarian Kitty Yancheff sports a pair of pre-release Google Glasses.
Hey readers: What's the best thing that Google Glass technology could do for Humboldt? The scariest?

The technology is not available to consumers yet — and no release date has been announced — but if you're dying to wrap a pair of these Geordi-cum-Robocop techno-specs, they're going on ebay for around $1,999.
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Peat Miner Must Pay

Posted by on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 6:56 PM

A complaint filed over a long-time allegedly illegal peat-moss mining operation in Bridgeville has resulted in two Humboldt County residents — peat moss miner Daniel Wojcik and landowner Robert Wotherspoon — entering felony and misdemeanor pleas yesterday for violations of the Surface Mining and Recovery Act and Lake and Streambed Alteration permitting process and of the Clean Water Act.

Their penalties amount to one of the "largest ever to be assessed in California against non-corporate defendants for violations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act," according to a news release issued this evening by the Humboldt County District Attorney's office.

The release says that "circuit prosecutor" and Deputy District Attorney Matthew Carr, who filed the complaint on behalf of the understaffed Humboldt D.A.'s office, alleged that numerous violations had occurred over at least a decade on Wojcik's "large-scale industrial surface mining of peat from wetlands" on land owned by Wotherspoon. The alleged violations include:

Wojcik operated without a permit to mine peat from the wetland — the sort called an "inland peat fen," a rarity in California which "develops slowly, over thousands of years," says the news release. It notes that the few neighboring fens of the mined areas contain rare plants, but it's not known whether the mined areas did;

Wojcik did not have a business license to sell said peat;

Wojcik and Wotherspoon conspired to mine the peat.

In the settlement reached with the D.A.'s office, Wojcik must pay a $189,222 penalty, work 500 hours of community service and replant timberland, among other things. Wotherspoon must pay $130,804, work 100 hours of community service and "donate to the state permanent access to the violation site for monitoring the restoration and as a 'living laboratory' for scientists to access to study this sort of rare ecosystem and its hoped-for regeneration," says the release.

We previously wrote about another aspect of this case, in which Daniel and Robin Wojcik, owners of the peat moss company McClellan Mountain Ranch, challenged the county's code enforcement warrant to inspect the lands in question.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Redwood Fatties (And Climate Change)

Posted by on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 1:11 PM

An ongoing, multi-year study of climate change effects on redwoods in old-growth forests has yielded results some layfolks might find surprising. Among them: Coast redwoods and giant sequoias are busting out with the big girth. 
click to enlarge redwood_researchers__photo_courtesy_Save_the_Redwoods_League.jpg

"Coast redwoods in a few Northern California old-growth forests produced more wood since the 1970s than ever before in their millennial lifespans," says a news release from Save the Redwoods League, which is leading the study.

The study, Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative (RCCI), began in 2009 and is expected to continue at least another 10 years. Many bigshot researchers are taking part, including Humboldt State University's redwood guru Stephen Sillett. The aim is to be able to predict "how rapid global climate change will affect redwoods in old-growth forests over time."

Other findings include: 

"ancient redwood forests can store up to three times more carbon above ground than non-redwood forests worldwide;

"California summers have warmed, but precipitation has remained highly variable and not decreased over recent decades;

"Redwood height growth slows with age, but redwood volume growth increases, meaning older redwoods produce more wood every year than younger redwoods."

The results underscore how important it is to preserve the 5 percent of ancient redwood forest that's in the world, says the League's release:

Continue reading »

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Star Light, Star Bright -- Perseid Meteor Shower on Its Way

The Perseid Meteor Shower

Posted by on Fri, Aug 9, 2013 at 2:30 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF NASA
  • Courtesy of NASA
Technically, meteor showers aren't rare. Every year, a handful of large showers comes through like clockwork, continuing their orbits in a mathematically predictable fashion. And stray chunks and dust hit the Earth's atmosphere daily. Some of this debris brightens a sliver of sky for a fraction of a moment before disintegrating, but a significant portion blinks out without glory.

Somehow, even though we know there's nothing cosmically extraordinary about these flaming balls of celestial rubbish -- and we're centuries away from seeing them as signs from the god(s) -- we still look up and think, "Wow! A shooting star!" And unless you're made of stone or generally just too cool for school, you're next thought is usually, "Make a wish!" Because that giddy child in all of us still loves the idea that we're seeing something so special; our inner children still know cool when they see it, and they will always have that over our adult selves. I urge you to let that inner child out to play, and your perfect opportunity to do so is right around the corner.

Continue reading »

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