LOS PADRES · ANGELES · SAN BERNARDINO · CLEVELAND
On July 19, 2006, the Center and eight of our partners appealed the Forest Service’s approval of the land management plans for the four national forests of southern California. In our appeal, we outlined the litany of flaws in the management plans that will result in more environmental damage on these popular, biologically rich forests.
The long-awaited final plans were released by the Forest Service on September 22, 2005 (view the plans here). The management plans affect more than 3.5 million acres of public forests, guiding decisions on everything from protecting plants and wildlife and providing recreational opportunities to deciding where potentially damaging development and off-road vehicle trails can be placed. The revised forest plans outline the management goals and strategies to be implemented for the coming 15 years, and the specific standards that the Forest Service must follow when taking management actions on these public lands.
In 2001, the Center and other groups submitted a comprehensive, scientifically based Conservation Alternative, which outlines visionary standards and guidelines for management that would continue to provide world-class recreational opportunities while offering new ways to protect the rich array of plants and animals that call these forests home. The Conservation Alternative became Alternative 6 in the Forest Service’s Environmental Impact Statement for the management plans.
The Center also submitted a report to the Forest Service in May, 2005 that identified biological diversity hotspots in the four national forests. Hotspots are unique habitats with high numbers of imperiled native plants and animals, such as pebble plains in the San Bernardino Mountains which host rare endemic plants, and streams with few or no exotic species that still support healthy populations of arroyo toads, California red-legged frogs, and other federally protected endangered species. The report recommended that the identified hotpots be designated as “Critical Biological Zones” so that they can receive the greatest levels of protection in the final land management plans.
Despite thousands of comment letters in support of Alternative 6, in its final plans the Forest Service failed to protect the forest and its many endangered and threatened species from new and fast-growing threats. Examples include:
• The final plans would open the door for increased use of noisy, polluting off-road vehicles that damage streams and rivers, rip up wildlife habitat, increase fire risk, and interfere with the enjoyment of the forests by the 95% of visitors who do not use off-road vehicles.
• Some of the most ecologically sensitive areas on the forests were not designated as Critical Biological Zones in the final plans.
• The final plans reduce the acreage of proposed wilderness from that recommended in the draft plans. For example, Morrell Canyon in the Cleveland National Forest was dropped from wilderness consideration, paving the way for a highly destructive hydroelectric project. Wilderness is one of the best tools for protecting imperiled plants and animals and providing solitude and spiritual renewal.
• The standards – the heart of a forest plan – are vague, weak, ineffectual, riddled with loopholes, and provide no guidance to local managers and no assurance to the public that soil, water, biological, air, and heritage resources will be protected as mandated by law.
• The primary emphases of the final plans are to maintain and gradually expand motorized roads and trails and recreational and commercial uses of the forests, and to conduct widespread logging throughout the forest, while attempting to ‘mitigate’ afterwards for damage caused by land-disturbing activities to the many imperiled plants and animals and their habitats.
We still have the chance to ensure that a visionary plan is adopted that ensures a healthy future for our southern California national forests and its inhabitants, so that generations to come will be able to discover and appreciate the wonders of nature.
For more information, please contact Monica Bond at firstname.lastname@example.org.