Brown Wins Settlement to Protect Southern California Forests

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a settlement that requires the U.S. Forest Service to reconsider its plans regarding wilderness lands in four national forests, including the Los Padres, home of the endangered California condor.

"With this settlement, the state of California will now play an active role along with the Forest Service in determining which areas of Southern California forests will be preserved as wilderness,” Brown said.

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought by Brown and various state agencies and environmental groups against the U.S. Forest Service for its plans to allow roads to be built through hundreds of thousands of acres of wild lands in the Los Padres, Angeles, Cleveland, and San Bernardino national forests.

The four national forests cover more than 3.5 million acres stretching from Big Sur to the Mexican border. While much of this area is wilderness, development has already occurred in parts, and just 900,000 acres remain roadless.

The suit was brought because the Forest Service issued plans that failed to properly analyze the environmental impact of various non-wilderness uses and failed to consult with California state officials. If approved, these plans would have allowed new roads and trails for off-road vehicles and other uses.

“By working together, we’ve achieved our goal of helping to guide the forest management plans to ensure that California’s national forests remain pristine,” said Lester Snow, state Secretary for Natural Resources.

The settlement requires the Forest Service to consider designating as many as 37 new wilderness or roadless areas. While the plan is being redone, the Forest Service cannot allow new roads, and it must undertake restoration efforts. The state and environmental groups will collaborate with the Forest Service to make sure the forests are protected in the revised management plans.

Once completed, the final Forest Service plans will be presented to Congress to permanently protect designated areas as undisturbed wilderness.

A copy of the settlement is attached.

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