For Immediate Release, March 5, 2008
Contact: David Hogan, (619) 473-8217 or (760) 809-9244 (cell)
Suit Filed to Protect Endangered Species on
Southern California National Forests;
Forest Plans Disregard Rarest Plants and Animals
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.– Five environmental groups filed a lawsuit today over the failure of three federal agencies to protect dozens of threatened or endangered species on four Southern California National Forests – the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino.
According o the lawsuit, overarching land-management plans prepared by the U.S. Forest Service in 2005 and related documents known as “biological opinions” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service do little to protect federally listed species and critical habitat from many harmful Forest Service activities, including roads, off-road vehicles, power lines, oil and gas, logging, and grazing. The groups’ lawsuit follows a related lawsuit filed last week by the state of California over planned development of wild roadless areas under the forest plans.
“Southern California National Forests provide an increasingly rare wild refuge for imperiled plants and animals in a growing sea of urban development,” said David Hogan, conservation manager at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Yet the Forest Service ignores these values and treats most of this land as if it were worthy only of development for urban infrastructure or other exploitation.”
“The Forest Service admits that its plans will harm endangered species, yet they fail to consider alternatives or impose standards to avoid or mitigate this harm, and fail to require any method for tracking how many individual plants and animals are actually killed,” added Marc Fink, the Center staff attorney who filed the suit.
“The Forest Service cut corners in planning for the protection of Southern California’s national forests, leaving the agency unable to account for how its plans will affect our many native animals and plants threatened with local extinction,” said Bill Corcoran, senior regional representative for the Sierra Club. “Today’s action is intended to ensure that future generations will enjoy a rich natural heritage.”
"Southern California's four national forests provide some of the last, best protected lands for endangered wildlife in the state, including the iconic California condor,” said Kim Delfino, director of the California program for Defenders of Wildlife. “Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service have all so far failed to ensure that our endangered fish and wildlife, and these national forests themselves, are protected into the future."
“The Los Padres is one of the most biologically rich national forests in the country, and the public here feels strongly that its wildlife and habitat deserve the highest level of protection," said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “Instead, what we have today are weak standards, political meddling, and empty promises.”
The four southern California National Forests are ecological jewels in need of new and creative conservation attention. Encompassing over 3.5 million acres of coast, foothill, mountain, and high desert terrain, the forests shelter a remarkable total of 3,000 plant and animal species – many of which occur nowhere else on Earth – from metastasizing urban development. From the iconic California condor and steelhead trout to the diminutive Quino checkerspot butterfly and San Diego thornmint, the forests provide a home for at least 480 at risk species. They provide an unprecedented opportunity to preserve a natural remnant of southern California for its own sake and for the benefit of millions of nearby California residents, communities, and visitors.
Today’s lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, California Native Plant Society, Defenders of Wildlife, Los Padres Forest Watch, and Sierra Club.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.