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Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jan 12, 2014

Forest closure area - still in effect - Click map to enlarge

DianneErskineHellrigelLast year’s Powerhouse Fire burned 30,274 acres. Much of that acreage was in the Tule and Red Mountain areas of the Angeles National Forest. A smaller portion of Fish Canyon was also burned.

Tule, Red Mountain, Fish Canyon and Salt Creek are all Inventoried Roadless Areas that have been recently considered for a possible wilderness designation. They comprise a portion of the non-contiguous Angeles National Forest near Castaic.

Fish Canyon and Salt Creek are exquisite examples of indigenous chaparral with intermittent streams, multitudes of endangered species and healthy ecosystems. Fish Canyon has the largest endangered black oak forest in the state.

Tule, before the fire, was a veritable haven for endangered red-legged and yellow-legged frogs. Streams that meandered through Tule by the dozens were filled with the southernmost spade-footed toad.

deh010814a_smallRed Mountain is known for endangered red-legged frogs and arroyo toads that have lived there, as well as the highest peak in the area.

Since the Powerhouse Fire, all of these areas in the forest have been closed to all recreational users.

The first closure order was expected to expire Dec. 31, but it has been reissued and remained in effect until March 1. The forest supervisor will consider boundary readjustments in February.

Also, the Station Fire closure is still in effect in much of the Angeles National Forest, five years after that fire. We could find that the Powerhouse Fire closure will be continued even after March 1.

If you plan to go into this area after March 1, you’ll want to call your local ranger station for closure verification and information.

Hundreds of people have violated the closure order since the fire, erroneously believing Fish Canyon and Salt Creek were not included in the order. After all, Salt Creek did not burn, and while the northeastern region of Fish Creek did burn, its lower area is still in fine shape.

However, the fact of whether an area burned is not the only thing the forest supervisor takes into consideration when making his or her decision about a forest closure.

deh010814c_fishcreek

Fish Creek

Fish Creek

All of the mammals that survived the Powerhouse Fire are now claiming Fish Canyon and Salt Creek as their new home. There are dozens of endangered species trying to find a place to settle down. There are bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and foxes staking out new territories and competing with previous residents for food. In addition, the forest rangers have just relocated three bears into Fish Canyon.

By closing Fish Canyon and Salt Creek to visitors, the forest managers are trying to calm the animal residents within the forest. By closing Tule and Red Mountain, they are hoping for healthy forest regrowth.

It is a complicated matter to consider the biology, ecology and hydrology of a burn area and the surrounding animal sanctuaries. The Forest Service knows exactly what it is doing. It has the experts who have made these determinations.

The problem comes when hikers, mountain bikers or equestrians inadvertently go into the land within the fire closure. The delicate balance can easily be turned upside down, and endangered species can die. Mammals that are already upset by the fire can become even more threatened by people stomping through the area, and this can lead to more competition and even death, in some cases.

deh010814bThere are others who don’t care what the Forest Service says, or even that the forest closure exists. These are the people who cause the most damage to the forest, and indeed, in time, I hope, may be subject to the $5,000 fine for invading the area and up to six months in prison. And if a group goes in, it is subject to a $10,000 fine and six  months’ imprisonment. People who violate the forest closure need to rethink their own selfish motives and consider the consequences of their actions.

Most of the entrances to the Powerhouse closure are marked with signs indicating the area is closed. Some of the signs have been removed by “ambitious” visitors.

ALL property in this area that is under the jurisdiction of the Angeles National Forest is closed.

The map accompanying this article shows the exact boundaries of the forest closure. The forest closure starts at Interstate 5 on the west, includes all of the acreage below Templin Highway and around Castaic Lake to San Francisquito and Cherry canyons on the South, to Pine Canyon Road on the north, and to Elizabeth Lake, Green Valley and Spunky Canyon on the east.

Please be responsible and considerate. Wait for the forest closure to end before you visit.

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy.

 

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

California condor

California condor

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Yellow Mariposa lily

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California buckwheat

 

Comment On This Story
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8 Comments

  1. Angeles Forest doesn’t care that this land belongs t the people.

  2. Its about the animals…..

  3. I wish the map had been included in the article.

  4. Hope it doesn’t stay closed for 5 years (and counting) like the areas affected by the station fire. Us locals need more area to dirt bike!

  5. Follow the link to see the map of the closure area

  6. Blame the guy who started the Powerhouse Fire, not the Forest Service. The forest & its wildlife need a chance to recover or there won’t be a forest to enjoy. (Although honestly, if the Forest Service hadn’t bungled the beginning of the fire and called off L.A. County, the outcome might have been different.)

  7. Hiker says:

    Do you have any statistics of how many have been cited or convicted for trespass?

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