CONSERVATION GROUPS HALT GRAZING EXPANSION IN LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST
MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. -- Feb. 11, 2002 -- In a victory for wildlands conservation and endangered species protection along the Big Sur coast, the Los Padres National Forest has withdrawn its recent decision to expand cattle grazing on public lands in the area.
The withdrawal was a response to an appeal by The Center for Biological Diversity and the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, which opposed a plan by the Forest Service to open new lands in the area to grazing and increase the number of cattle on Forest Service lands.
"With all the scientific evidence of environmental destruction caused by livestock, it is about time National Forests began ending grazing in the many places where it harms our native heritage, rather than expanding it as they were planning to do here." said Martin Taylor, Grazing Reform Program Coordinator with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Specifically, the Forest Service was planning to remove a livestock exclosure in a designated Wilderness area, open new Forest lands to livestock grazing around Salmon Creek and on the coastal slope near the Monterey/San Luis Obispo county line, and increase the number of livestock using Forest lands on the Big Sur Coast to 362 from 268.
Following this withdrawal the Forest Service will now redo their environmental assessments, which entail scientific analyses conducted prior to making project decisions. Environmental assessments aim to safeguard against potential environmental degradation resulting from any given project.
Facing scrutiny from the Center and the VWA, the Forest
Service has already shut down the largest of the allotments, the 17,112
acre Gorda allotment, for two years citing ongoing permit violations by
the allotment holder.
"It is encouraging that at last they are paying more attention to our environmental laws. We intend to press ahead until grazing is eliminated from all sensitive areas of the public's forest and the land is allowed to heal from over a century of grazing damage," said Steve Chambers of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance.
In their appeals, the two groups pointed out unmitigated conflicts between the proposed grazing and other public land resources such as water quality, recreational opportunities, Native American heritage sites and wildlife habitat. Endangered species put at risk by public lands grazing on the Big Sur coast are the sea otter, the California red legged frog, steelhead, Smith's blue butterfly and various species of vernal pool crustacean.
Copies of the appeal are posted online at: http://www.ventanawild.org/projects/grazing/bigsurappeal.html and http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/Programs/grazing/los-padres-dec-200 1.html