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LOS ANGELES--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman today sued the United States Forest Service for adopting “illegal forest management plans” that permit road construction and oil drilling in California’s largest national forests.
“The United States Forest Service adopted illegal forest management plans that threaten California’s pristine national forests with road construction and oil drilling,” Attorney General Brown said. “The Forest Service should scrap these destructive forest plans and protect California’s natural areas as required by law.”
The Forest Service's plans allow road construction on more than 500,000 acres of roadless area within the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forest. California’s lawsuit alleges that the Forest Service's plans ignore California’s moratorium on road construction in pristine areas of the national forests.
The four national forests include over 3.5 million acres of federally-managed public land, from Big Sur to the Mexican border. The forests have great geologic and topographic diversity including chaparral, oak woodlands, savannas, deserts, alpine areas, and specialized habitat niches. The forests provide habitat for 31 threatened and endangered animals and 29 plants as well as 34 animal species and 134 plants recognized as sensitive.
The Los Padres National Forest, which is one of the state’s largest national forests, also provides habitat for the California Condor and is the site of the principal effort to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
Brown charged the Forest Service with illegally violating the federal National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the agency to develop its forest plans in coordination with state laws and policies. California’s policy is that there should be a moratorium on any plan that could permit construction in roadless areas in national forests.
The attorney general is representing the People of California, the California Resources Agency and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to challenge the forest plans.
In 2005 and 2006, the Forest Service assured the Resources Agency, in writing, that it would not allow road construction on California’s roadless areas. Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman today criticized the Forest Service for not honoring this agreement.
“Time and again we have tried to hold the Forest Service to their word on the roadless policy. They have failed to live up to their promises,” Secretary Chrisman said.
“The Forest Service failed to even acknowledge state policy on roadless areas in national forests in California, let alone attempt to coordinate with those protections,” Brown asserts in the lawsuit.
The Forest Service also ignored public recommendations, including comments from qualified scientists, recommending that one million acres of the forest land be designated as wilderness. Instead the final plans only recommended protecting half that amount, without providing adequate scientific rationale for the reduction.
The plans also fail to properly evaluate the harm to the California Condor and its habitat that will be caused by oil and gas exploration and drilling. Specifically, the plans allow oil drilling on more than 52,000 acres in or adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest—areas which include critical habitat areas for the endangered California Condor.
Los Padres National Forest, which encompasses nearly 1.8 million acres that stretch 220 miles from north to south, is one of the state’s largest national forests. San Bernardino National Forest, which abuts the Inland Empire, is 665,700 acres. Angeles National Forest, near Los Angeles, is 663,000 acres. Cleveland National Forest contains 420,000 acres of natural space in Orange and San Diego Counties. Over twenty million Californians live within one hour’s drive of at least one of these four forests.
California’s lawsuit, filed today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, is attached.
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