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Rare Tree Vole Appears on Humboldt Redwood Company's Rainbow Ridge

Presence Confirms Controversial Logging is Taking Place in High Conservation Value Forest

PETROLIA, Calif., June 24, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The hotly contested logging on Rainbow Ridge in Humboldt County, California—scene of protests and multiple arrests in the past week—just got hotter when the closely guarded tree sitter on a tall Douglas-fir tree on Rainbow Ridge was visited this morning by a rare species of rodent, the Sonoma Tree Vole (Arborimus pomo). 

The vole is mainly found in old forests, which are fast disappearing due to logging.  While not listed as endangered, it is a species of special concern and an "indicator species" of forest health as well as the favored prey of the Northern Spotted Owl, a state and federally listed species.

Local residents, spearheaded by the Lost Coast League (LCL) and over 100 individuals and organizations, filed a formal complaint months ago with the Forest Stewardship Council for certifying the Humboldt Redwood Company's (HRC's) logging plans as sustainable.  Investigation of the complaint resulted in a finding that LCL was correct with regard to High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF) designations on the Mattole watershed lands. 

Subsequently, HRC was required to establish criteria for designating HCVF and submit that criteria to its certifying auditor, Emeryville's SCS Global Services (SCS).  However, SCS's Brendan Grady allowed the present logging to proceed without approving an HRC designation plan, stating, "Based on the analysis we have reviewed at this time, there are no areas meeting the HCV definition that are being proposed for harvest."  The Lost Coast League does not believe that to be a valid conclusion.

LCL's Michael Evenson said that the cursory examination of the area by the SCS team in a recent audit, which walked right past the old tree with the vole, did not find the forest held high conservation values. 

"The Spotted Owl which nested nearby might take issue with that determination," Evenson said.  "She is losing her favored prey, necessary for rearing young and continuing to maintain her endangered population on Rainbow Ridge."

In 2011, HRC wildlife biologist Sal Chinnichi found that Sonoma Tree Voles were likely to be found in abundance on Rainbow Ridge, an indication that HRC was aware of the High Conservation Values before submitting the harvest plans.  See: https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/psw_gtr238/psw_gtr238_389.pdf

"Sonoma tree voles are a rare species because their home-- mature and old-growth Douglas-fir trees-- are largely gone," said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in Arcata.  "The presence of tree voles is strong evidence that this area is a High Conservation Value Forest and requires protection under HRC's own standards."


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SOURCE Lost Coast League