In this important Forest Plan Access Alert:
1. How you can help
2. An explanation of the proposed designations - Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, Natural Research Areas and Special Interest Areas
3. Listings (by National Forest) of proposed designations
4. National Forest meetings
At this draft stage of the process, the preferred alternative for the
Angeles, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests is alternative 4.
The preferred alternative for the Cleveland National Forest is alternative
2. These alternatives are good news, but we still must evaluate areas being
proposed for specific designations to see what effect they will have on
existing trails and roads.
THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVES ARE NOT LEGALY BINDING. After public comments on the draft environmental impact statement are received and analyzed, the selected alternative will be identified in the final environmental impact statement and the reasons for this choice explained in a record of decision that accompanies its release. The preferred alternative at this stage, represents the agency position for the 90-day DEIS comment period, and is NOT a decision.
We encourage active stakeholders to attend their local open houses (or not so local if they know the other area / Ranger District / Forest well) and try to learn as much as possible about the Draft RFP and how it will affect future management of the Forest. We need the people who are most familiar with specific areas that are being considered for changing designations such as the Wilderness Designation, Wild and Scenic River Designation, Research Natural Areas, and Special Interest Areas to report what is actually on the ground. Quite often the planners don't have as much on the ground knowledge as local trail users.
We need to collect as much information and pictures of locations proposed for the Wilderness Designation, Wild and Scenic River Designation, Research Natural Areas, and Special Interest Areas designations to support our position if we intend to appeal these designations or prevent trails from being closed. Not just questions like "will this close the xyz trail?", but looking out past the immediate plan effects to "how could the Preferred (or other) Alternative management affect trail xyz in the future?" Questions about the real "need" for a particular direction or designation, what the "threats" are (real or overblown), etc. will help guide what information needs to be collected for DEIS Draft Plan comments, and future actions (appeal, ...) if needed, to show a particular direction or designation is simply not needed.
Bottom line, people with extensive local knowledge need to decide if a particular direction / designation is really needed, adequately justified, and how it will affect their interest -- both short and long term. If it isn't needed, is weakly justified (no real threat), and will or could affect their interest, they need to start collecting information (ground work, review of literature, FOIA, ...) to show with hard facts *why* it's a bad decision.
This will be used for the DEIS / Draft RFP comments, but the information collection should continue on critical areas, especially if we think we may need to appeal.
In this alert we have by, National Forest, a list of areas being proposed for the Wilderness Designation, Wild and Scenic River Designation, Research Natural Areas, and Special Interest Areas to help you assist us in evaluating threats to our access. Keep in mind, if trails do go through these areas we may not oppose these designations, but instead ask that the rerouting of these trails be designated in the plans as a condition of these areas being designated.
If you can assist us in evaluating the plans for the National Forest near you please email us. Those assisting in evaluating the plan will qualify for free entrance in our Vision Quest and Toad Festival events, as well as our volunteer events.
Remember when evaluating these areas:
When submitting your comments on the draft Forest Plans and draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), your feedback will be most helpful if you:
* are as specific as possible with your comments
* describe the location(s) where your comment applies (e.g., if applicable, it is helpful if you note the National Forest(s), Planning Place(s), or name of proposed wilderness area, Wild and Scenic River, Natural Resource Area, Special Interest Area you are commenting on) and provide pictures
* indicate where clarification is needed
* suggest alternative management approaches or solutions to the specific problem
The Forest Service will read and organize all comments received by subject matter through a content analysis process. Significant comments will be addressed through revisions made in the final environmental impact statement (FEIS). All comments and the forests' responses to these comments will be published as an appendix to the FEIS.
Keep in mind, Final Plan can change from the Draft Plan (sometimes significantly for particular issues), and that change may not be in our direction.
Also keep in mind the importance of not letting our guard down. Remember we are up against a multi-million dollar organization, the Sierra Club, which is seeking to remove as much of our access as they can. But even their money, given by unsuspecting supporters who do not know their true agenda, cannot stand up to our passion to protect our historical freedom to access our public lands - and so far we have proven that.
You should all know by now that the wilderness designation is very
restrictive and best described as near abandonment of active land
management. The wilderness designation also BANS MOUNTAIN BIKING.
One of the main concerns of the forest service is the limitations that wilderness puts on fire prevention and management due to its restriction on motorized equipment. This concern was expressed by the Angeles National Forest Supervisor in a letter to Tim Allyn of the Sierra Club through a letter obtained by the Freedom of Information Act:
In a May 7, 2004 Los Angeles Times Article Tom White, an assistant project leader for the Forest Service who helped draw up the Forest Plan proposals said forest managers believed there was, for the most part, enough existing wilderness. And he noted that access was limited in non-wilderness areas because Southern California forests have a lower density of roads than other national forests in the state because of the rugged terrain and the relative lack of logging.
"A lot of the wilderness character is actually inherent in the non-wilderness because it's so steep," White said.
But in this article the Sierra Club (and most likely their allies the Center for Biological Diversity) are not satisfied and it is obvious from their support for Alternative 6 that their goal is to stop citizens (and mountain bikers in particular), from recreating in the forest and maintaining their historical access by removing roads and trails.
In a future update we will be quoting directly from their own Conservation Alternative 6 document a poison pill provision that would allow them to easily sue to remove roads and trails as well as restrict the use of fire retardants and other fire fighting methods - which would put fire fighters and canyon communities at risk.
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