EPIC and Humboldt Redwood Company Offer United Thumbsdown on CCVH’s Proposed Cannabis Regulations

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Today, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) and Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) give a resounding downvote to the proposed marijuana regulation offered by California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH.)  Here’s what they say.
fly on pot

We are somewhat strange bedfellows—the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) is a non-profit based in Arcata devoted to the defense of the North Coast’s forests; the Humboldt Redwood Company is a forestry company devoted to managing its large blocks of forestlands to provide for long‐term ecological, social, and economic vitality. Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye, we do agree on this: the marijuana “regulation” being forwarded by California Cannabis Voice Humboldt (CCVH) is bad for our forests. And what’s bad for forests is bad for Humboldt County.

Forests are important to California. Not only do they provide us humans with jobs, wood products, and recreation, they also provide important habitat for California’s rare and native species, like the Humboldt marten and the northern spotted owl, fight climate change by sequestering carbon, and help to supply clean, cool water. But our forests are at risk. Increased forest fragmentation—the breaking of large intact tracts of forests into smaller clumps— is driven by the desire to make way for new residences or commercial ventures by clearing forest land. And fragmentation poses a serious threat to the values our forests provide.

To promote the conservation of California’s forested landscape, in 1976 the State ordered counties to identify forestlands where timber management is the “highest and best use of the land” and categorize them as Timber Production Zones or TPZ. By law, use of TPZ land is restricted to timber harvesting and other “compatible uses”—those activities, as defined county-by-county, that do not “detract from the use of the property for, or inhibit, growing and harvesting timber.” In exchange for limiting the uses of TPZ land, and knowing that sustainable timber management is not a get rich quick scheme, the State offers TPZ landowners significant breaks on property taxes. As a whole, the TPZ system has worked: forest conversion slowed dramatically and responsible landowners could expect a profit from forest management.

While purportedly a marijuana regulation, the CCVH initiative would do more than regulate pot—it would further open our forests to development. Under the initiative, commercial marijuana cultivation would become a “compatible use” with forestlands in Humboldt County. This little change in the law could have drastic consequences. By opening TPZ land to commercial marijuana cultivation, those growing marijuana—California’s most lucrative crop—on TPZ land would receive a tax break. In turn, because of this preferential tax treatment for those growing marijuana on TPZ as opposed to other types of land, the price of timberland would jump as more growers flock deeper into the TPZ land in the hills. Therein lies the problem.

Marijuana production and forests don’t mix. It’s simple: trees provide shade, marijuana plants need light. As marijuana grows push further into TPZ land, our region’s forests will become (even more) pockmarked with clearcuts and white greenhouses.

Responsible forestry will suffer. Forestry is a long-game, deriving profit off slow-growing trees and long rotation cycles. Inflating the price of TPZ land by forcing forestry to compete with marijuana, a high-value crop with multiple growing seasons possible per year, is a losing game. Further, forest health is potentially threatened as folks who have no interest or knowledge in forest management become negligent neighbors.

Wildlife will suffer. Large blocks of forest will become fragmented as roads and permanent human presence associated with commercial marijuana production plod further into once-wild places. In these areas, the harmful effects of rodenticide and other toxicants, diesel spills, water diversions, sedimentation, and nutrient runoff are more acute. Studies have shown that marijuana production deep in federal forests harm the rare Pacific fisher. Diversion of headwaters likewise threatens the sensitive southern torrent salamander and the tailed frog. Sedimentation, nutrient runoff and diversions threaten endangered salmon. In short, the proliferation of pot in our forests is bad for Humboldt County.

When environmentalists and loggers agree, it’d be wise to listen: the CCVH initiative is bad for our forests and bad for our county. While we believe that our marijuana industry is in need of regulation, letting the industry dictate the rules is not the smart thing to do.

Natalynne DeLapp is the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. Mike Jani is the President and Chief Forester of Humboldt Redwood Company.



  • You know the situation is real when logging companies and EPIC are on the same page about things.

  • “as more growers flock deeper into the TPZ land in the hills.”

    That seems ridiculously unlikely given the context that this is all taking place in — namely preparing for what I think almost everyone now realizes is pretty much inevitable — legalized cultivation of cannabis for recreational use in California within a year or two. And why on earth would lots of legal cannabis growers “flock deeper into the TPZ land in the hills” when that would put them at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to those growers who wisely choose to locate their operations in less remote, flatter lands with much better soil and more water availability?

    And agriculture is already included as a “compatible use” under TPZ rules, as long as it doesn’t significantly detract from the value of the land for timber production. No reason cannabis growing should be treated any differently. We don’t have a big problem of TPZ being devalued by backwoods tomato growers — and for the same reasons there is no reason to expect it to be a problem with legal cannabis growing either.

    • Thank you old head! Well said. I challenge epic to show us where on tpz land they are growing “forests”; all i see are tree farms. The forest has already been fragmented by industrial logging. I woukd think, given the value of pot, that growers would want to lower their overhead and not grow on parcels they have to clear. Pot will end up falling under existing ag regulations, maybe even statewide, which could superceded anything put in place here anyway. It will be an agricultural commidity& that industry considers 1/4acre a ‘micro-grow’ .The ordinance clearly states it can be amended anywhere, & it has aways to go before being put into action. It seems like ccvh is trying to get something to the ballot this year in an attempt to get ahead of whatever state legalization bill thar gets past. The infighting is horrible, pls try to work together for all of our common good. Is this timber company going to make logging our economy again????

      • TPZ is NOT just company land. It’s MOST of Humboldt County. Private owners WILL be cutting their trees to make room for pot cultivation. And it seems to me they’re also trying to get ahead of US by not even posting the final draft they expected everybody to go out and support the other day. THAT is sneaky PR work and I’m really glad EPIC and HRC are looking out for the vast majority of us who won’t or can’t wade through that to come up with a good document.

        • “Private owners WILL be cutting their trees to make room for pot cultivation.”

          Again, that’s just not at all likely in a legalized environment, when there is much, much better land available that is much, much more suitable for agriculture. The only significant competitive advantage to growing this crop way out in the sticks is to lessen the chances that it will be eradicated or seized by law enforcement and/or that the grower will be arrested. Without prohibition, that advantage disappears. The reason people won’t be interested in growing cannabis on a commercial scale in remote, hilly, forested areas of Humboldt County is the same reason people aren’t interested in growing any other crops on a commercial scale in remote, hilly, forested areas of Humboldt County — because there’s just no way they could compete with farmers who are using much better farmland to grow the same crop.

          • People live there. They own the property. Maybe they want to quit their jobs and grow dope at home. People from the Bay Area and LA flooding up to buy their nice home in the country to pay for it with their crops. They WANT to be away from town. They want a nice house where it’s quiet. Bad enough they almost always then decide it’s just too shady and this or that needs to be cleared for this or that, but if they can grow dope, even with much lower prices, they’re going to do it.

            The TREES have to hold their ground. I have been fighting for decades to hold the ground for those trees. I once dropped everything and spent four months at eighteen hours a day, no days off, preventing 80K acres in Mendocino from getting parceled out for gentleman vineyards. It was HARD and I was on full blast that whole time.

            I have lived on the north coast my whole life and I do KNOW how this goes. THE imperative is to keep the trees. They keep the fish. They bring the water. More humans and more grows… all over the place. Death to the ecosystem.

            We have given our blood, sweat and tears to keep home, against staggering odds and filthy arbitrageurs. Now we’re going to ignore that when we can be legal pot farmers?

          • Moreover, aren’t there already laws against cutting trees on your property willy nilly? Despite what some like to believe, your private property isn’t a sovereign nation. You can’t just do whatever you want on it. You can’t dump toxic waste on it, and nor can you clear cut the heck out of it without at least some bureaucratic red tape…there’s environmental assessment reports to be made and such.

            The only thing that -may- have a grain of truth is the possible price increase of timber land…which means what’s really going on here is that the timber companies are once again just concerned about their own bottom (line).

    • This is a poorly written hit piece, and strange bedfellows indeed!

      The two biggest flaws of the perspective laid out here are: 1) it ignores the fact that the undesirable outcomes suggested for the environment have been happening, and will continue to happen, under prohibition-style enforcement; 2) it does not discuss any of the specifics of the proposal, which includes licensing dependent on compliance with water storage and other environmental regulations.

      The impression the text leaves is that EPIC and HRC are against pot, not that they want to find solutions to the environmental impacts of the cannabis farming that is already occurring.

  • Water and timber. Remember the photos from the timber museums when entire creeks and rivers were diverted for log floating. Those were some crazy days. The shear ingenuity was amazing.

  • One acre of weed sequesters as much carbon dioxide as one hundred acres of trees, so that part of the argument is irrelevant.
    Tpz holdings that are not corporate owned are already being used as weed farms right now. I don’t imagine a influx of people investing anymore time/money or energy into rugged rural Tpz land in humboldt county. Line legalized you can commercially farm weed right off of I-5 in 100,000sqft light deps while being regulated as a agricultural commodity.
    Why would big AG stakeholders have any interest in shitty humboldt TPZ land? They won’t.

    • I don’t understand the first sentence. What does it mean, and what is the source of the information? The thing about trees “sequestering” carbon dioxide is that they grab it and keep it until they die. Weed has a very short life span and any CO2 it holds will be quickly released. So, ?

  • At the risk of being facetious, letting the industry dictate the rules is EXACTLY how America works. Fortunately, CCV-H’s proposed ordinance is reasonable, is based on facts, research, and community outreach, AND its authors are committed to good stewardship of our lands.
    EPIC is worried that TPZ lands might be encroached upon? This is a DRAFT – how about proposing modifications to the proposal that might address such concerns, rather than painting the whole thing with the same brush? I have always supported EPIC and I support CCV-H. But you can’t just say no to everything and succeed at anything. EPIC needs to use its brainpower to effect the changes that are most beneficial to the ordinance and the environment. Not run its mouth to belittle a year long effort that has real value while offering no solutions.
    Humboldt County has an agricultural, resource extraction economy. With some luck and a lot of smarts, that’s not going away.
    Let’s see some collaboration to sustain it in the best way possible.

    • Seconded!!! Thank you. Very well put. What I read is that epic would rather work with a corporate entity whose industry has been known to break rules even with permits (and just pay fines) as well as being sneaky&liars, instead of working with a local group even if there are personality differences locally. Enviros please put your good energy and knowledge into working on state regs for all ag products in the state. The enviro I talked to was saying we need different rules for ag & I asked how its done for a grape grower and he said I dont know. How can u b working on enviro regs when you dont even know how the system in place works? The ordinance can be amended, so write something for that. Singling out one crop is wrong. At least pretend you care about water and chek the vineyards for compliance as well. The permitting process will come to a halt now that they hand picked parcels that were working with f&g on permitting to bust. Bye bye epic, the hands that have fed you will now retract. Ask your employee who was part of the biggest bust at that time about mega-grows. You awarded her male counterpart volunteer of the year before he had to go to prison for his mega grow. Working with a timber company to protect tpz land? Are you gonna kick off earth firsters if they occupy the forest? I feel like I am in a parallel universe. Epic with a timber company? Does epic even remember gypsy chain?

      • Dear Frustrated and Heart: I recommend that you watch the archived footage of yesterday’s Board of Supervisor’s hearing, afternoon session, and listen to what I said to the Board and to CCVH.

        “Enviros please put your good energy and knowledge into working on state regs for all ag products in the state.”

        EPIC is a forest protection organization for NW California (only), and we specialize in regulatory & law enforcement. Currently, the single biggest threat to NW California’s forests is the further proliferation of timberland conversion for cannabis cultivation–people are not pushing deep into the hills to grow a low value food crop. A quick search of Google Earth shows the doubling of forestland conversion in the past 4-years for pot farms (many without residential structures or water storage). Folks with low value, cut-over TPZ land are selling out at high prices to people with dollar signs in their eyes and no love of the land or desire to restore the forest. Growing trees (and in theory forest) is a long game, 50-100 year rotations, not multiple harvests in a season. General agriculture is regulated, as are the vineyards, what is not regulated in the slightest is cannabis cultivation. Now is the time to create an effective and well regulated framework for an industry that deserves to be treated with respect and without fear of retaliation or persecution, if they are following the rules. EPIC will continue to work with the NCRWQCB, CADFW, County, CCVH, HUMMAP, EGA and any other entity to try to help shape a regulatory framework that our region needs and deserves.

    • Environmental groups, including EPIC, actually voiced this concern directly to CCVH early in the ordinance drafting process. If TPZ land is so undesirable for growing, as some of these comments suggest, I wonder why CCVH has been unwilling to change this part of the ordinance.

      • Because they want to grow dope legally at home and they don’t want any environmentalist group OR timber company pointing out how bad it is for the forest and the watershed.

      • because this is development piggy backed onto the weed industry.

        “I didn’t subdivide, I sold some farm lands to ‘farmers’. And they live there on the ‘farmette.’ ”

        Whining about timber and enviros working together, agreeing on this opinion?..they share values, just like developers and weed growers do that want to buy, sell, and live on TPZ lands.

        Just tell me the developers and real estate industry is neutral even critical about this proposal..I’ll wait.

        If it’s going to be legalized, why do we need this ordinance again?

        Developers trying to cash in on the legaization regulation schemes.

        Easy money.

    • I suppose you support Island Mountain kind of operations. CCVH tactics sound like Obamacare signed and we’ll tell you what’s in it. Since when do you buy something without seeing what it is? And when have snake oil salesmen I.e politicos ever been honest about anything except their own wants & needs?

      • Do you actually know what the Island Mountain grow scenes were like? Unlikely. We see what Law Enforcement (LE) wants us to see. Since when is LE fair and unbiased?
        To the best of my knowledge, only one site presented seriously scary environmental damage, which is, of course, deplorable.
        Many of the ones in Humboldt County were actually well run family farms. They all get lumped in together in LE press releases, and painted with the same brush. The owners are unable to speak out due to fear of prosecution, no matter how well run their farms are.
        That huge water bladder shown in the paper? Filled during the winter to AVOID drawing down the creek in the summer. This should be lauded, not criticized. Isn’t that is exactly the work that Mattole Restoration Council has been advocating for years?
        Of course CCV-H is advocating for Cannabis farmers – that is their avowed purpose. That doesn’t mean it isn’t seeking to preserve the health of both our environment and economy.

  • stinkfootsteve

    Of course they are downvoting,…that doesn’t come as a surprise whatsoever.
    These people don’t know what’s good for them.


    When it becomes “legal” small people won’t be allowed to grow at their homes or for personal use. The MMJ patients in Wa state are being attacked by the weed shop people for stepping on their bottom line.
    It will be grown in a corporate model that won’t allow for anyone else, but the corporation to dabble in the industry. Nobody will be coming to Humboldt to grow, they will be leaving behind a deflated housing market and ghost towns like the gold rush did.

  • To epic and all having a problem with tpz for cannabis cultivation, try going through the process with the County. Learn about the limitations on tpz and let go!
    The county wants tpz properties to be 160+ acre parcels but there are many smaller parcels 40+ acres that are still zoned tpz.
    The point is tpz properties are a lot of ground! A cannabis grower or anyone/ entity can only convert 2-3 acres( I have gotten different answers at planning dept). 2 acres is relatively a very small piece of that tpz property. all of these properties have been logged. The road systems are there, the clearings for “logging operations ” are there and a farmer or anyone can pretty much find 2 acres on 40+ acre parcel to convert with minimal grading. The regulations for compatible use on tpz are in place. Cannabis farming and its potential determents are within those regulations already. A cannabis farmer on tpz should have the right to farm within their 2 acres of compatible use( which allows 1 dwelling, outbuildings, and AGRICULTURE) and entertain the idea of timber harvesting on their property too if all they are after is dollars! Milk that land!! I prefer to sustain the forest, plant trees and thin it for fire prevention… I love my forest and my cannabis cultivation .. Epic is stereotyping growers without giving cimsideration to the fact that growers may actually follow the laws when they are reasonable and just. what a thought!! And there is absolutely no value difference on property regardless of the zoning in this county. It’s based on water and sun not is it tpz!?? I’m an environmentatist and I think epic is taking a poor stand here.

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