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Wilderness Alert

March 10th, 2002

WILDERNESS ALERT FROM TOM FERCH

I went to the San Bernardino NF "Front Country" meeting last night in San Bernardino. These meetings are being held as "working groups" where we sit around a table and look for common ground. There were ten "citizens" and about ten forestry service people present. The encouraging news is that the Sierra club appears to be making significant reductions to the wilderness areas they are requesting, at least in this part of the forests.

Of the ten citizens that were there, two were representing businesses interests (Communication towers and water facilities), one was a land owner, one was representing the Sierra Club, and six were representing OHV use. There were no equestrians or mountain bike groups present.

The topic for last night was the proposed wilderness areas that were suggested during the earlier meetings and from public comments. Of the four on map, the Sierra Club is only supporting two. The two that are no longer being considered are not large enough (5, 000 acres) to qualify as Wilderness, and are stand alones (They do not back up to an existing wilderness area). The Sierra Club is recommending these two areas for Primitive Non-motorized. During the meeting we requested that they be designated Primitive motorized, since they have existing drivable trials. The other two proposed wildernesses back up to existing wildernesses. Since our last meeting in February, the Sierra Club has dramatically reduced the size of these areas. The Sheep Mountain wilderness additions are probably 40% of what they were a month ago. There is only one existing trial that is in jeopardy and it is a spur that runs through an area that has been proposed for use as a ski resort (The proposed addition would connect up with the existing Baldy resort). We added that the spur should be cherry stemmed for possible future use by mountain bikers. The remaining wilderness addition is located south of the San Gorgonio Wilderness and appears to be 30% of its original size. The only issues that came up for "Raywood" were that the boundary lines were not accurately drawn, and that they should be drawn properly to exclude existing trails.

Joyce from the Sierra Club said that Boxer's office has put pressure on her group to find wilderness areas that the public supports. Boxer does not want to deal with opposition to her bill. This change in the approach is altering their recommendations for Forest Plan and for Boxer's legislation. We can only hope.

I asked the obvious question last night, "If most of these proposed wilderness areas are inaccessible now and there are no proposed mines, roads, pipelines, etc, why not just leave it as is?" What are the benefits? Elliott Graham of the Forest Service said that "it is about having trust between the Forest Service and the environmental groups". By giving in they

(USFS) are building "trust". My question is "how about building trust with forest users?"

Is there a big push to write Boxer's office? I see progress and I think that we need to pour on the coal.

Tom Ferch

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