Man has walked the wilderness for thousands of years. Then he tamed it and moved into it. Then he started playing in it.
Since the invention of snowmobiles and quads, there has been an ever-increasing demand for motorized access in California’s national forest areas.
Some like it, some don’t.
The USDA Forest Service plans to keep at least one pristine canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley in its natural state. It’s part of a larger re-designation of National Forest areas across Southern California, and the feds want know what local residents think about it.
Federal Court Order
In 2010 a federal court ordered the USDA Forest Service to reevaluate its roadless areas (IRAs) in the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests, and designate hundreds of thousands of acres as “recommended wilderness” or the slightly less restrictive “back country non-motorized.”
Starting May 29 in a series of public meetings and workshops, all Southland residents will have a chance to weigh in.
It’s the latest step in what appears to be a slow legal dance between the Forest Service and various California environmental groups and elected officials. In February 2008, then-Attorney General Jerry Brown and Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman sued the Forest Service, alleging it wasn’t holding up its promise to protect roadless wilderness areas.
The California Resources Agency, the Wilderness Society, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Los Padres ForestWatch, Defenders of Wildlife and several other environmental organizations jumped on the legal bandwagon, and in 2009 the cases were adjudicated together in the U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit sought to compel the Forest Service to reevaluate nearly 1 milion acres in the Southland, of which 80,000 are in the Angeles National Forest.
Re-zoning the areas could mean a prohibition of off-road recreation and the decommissioning of unused roads and trails.
It would help restore the habitat of some of Southern California’s endangered or threatened species such as the steelhead trout, California condor and arroyo toad.
The state and the environmental groups got their wish Jan. 3, 2011, when the court approved a settlement whereby the Forest Service would craft a new Land Management Plan, re-examine its management of IRAs and consider alternative monitoring protocols in the four forests.
Federal Judge Marilyn Hall Patel also ruled that the Forest Service must at least consider re-zoning certain areas as recommended wilderness or back country non-motorized land use zones.
Castaic Area Wilderness?
Most changes would occur in the Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests, but on Santa Clarita’s doorstep, roughly 40,000 acres at Fish Canyon and Salt Creek, just above Castaic Lake, are being considered for re-zoning as a wilderness area.
Under the settlement, the Forest Service is required to gauge public opinion. To that end, a series of public meetings will be held during the 45-day scoping period, which began on April 27. Locally, meetings are planned for May 31 in Acton and June 1 in Frazier Park.
Also, written comments may be submitted prior to June 11 to: Cleveland National Forest, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92127-2107, Attn: LMP Amendment. Comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or filed through the project web page at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=35130.
The times and locations of the meetings are:
* May 29, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, E.P. Foster Library, 651 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001 (Los Padres National Forest)
* May 30, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Angeles National Forest Headquarters, 701 North Santa Anita Avenue, Arcadia, CA 91006 (Angeles National Forest)
* May 31, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Santa Maria Red Cross, 3030 Skyway Drive, Santa Maria, CA 93455 (Los Padres National Forest)
* May 31, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Santa Clara Mojave Rivers Ranger District Office, 33708 Crown Valley Road, Acton, CA 93510 (Angeles National Forest)
* May 31, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, San Bernardino National Forest Headquarters, 602 S. Tippecanoe Ave., San Bernardino, CA 92408 (San Bernardino
* May 31, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Palomar Ranger District Office, 1634 Black Canyon Road, Ramona, CA 92065 (Cleveland National Forest)
* June 1, 2012, 1:00 PM to 4 PM, Frazier Park Library, 3732 Park Drive, Frazier
Park, CA 93225 (Los Padres National Forest)
* June 5, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Descanso Ranger District office, 3348 Alpine Blvd, Alpine, CA 91901 (Cleveland National Forest)
* June 5, 2012, 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM, Trabuco Ranger District office, 1147 E. 6th Street, Corona, CA 92879 (Cleveland National Forest)