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Temporary Closures of Forest Service Recreation Areas

Corona, California, March 27, 2000.....Beginning Saturday, April 1, through September 30, 2000, the Trabuco Ranger District, Cleveland National Forest, will Temporarily close the following areas: 1) Silverado/Maple Springs Road - closed to all entry (i.e. hikers, mountain bikers, equestians, all vehicles including motorcycles, 4-wheel drive and other street-legal vehicles; 2) Lower San Jaun Picnic Area - closed to all entry. These areas will be closed to accommodate the breeding season of the federally-listed endangered Southwestern Arroyo Toad; 3) Elsinore Peak - year- round closure to public entry, except electronic users who will be required to keep their vehicles on the designated road. This closure is to accommodate the federally-listed endangered Munz's Onion.

"We are taking this action to afford the Arroyo Toad the protection it needs during its breeding season, which lasts approximately from the first of April to the end of September. Protection of habitat and native plant and animal species is a major concern and and important part of the Forest Service mission", stated District Ranger Clem Lagrosa.

Signs will be posted at the closed areas. "We regret any inconvenience this action may cause the Forest visitor. We hope they will consider alternative locations to visit on the Trabuco Ranger District", stated District Wildlife Biologist Mary Thomas.

Visitors may contact the District office, (909) 736-1811, for more information about alternative roads and picnic sites. Status of closures will be posted on our web site.

Revision of Southern California Forest Plans

Forest Plans guide all resource management activities on a national forest and establish multiple use goals and objectives and management requirements (also know as standards and guidelines). The current southern California Forest Plans are 10 to 15 years old, and have not been revised or significantly amended. During this time both new issues and new information common to all four Forests have emerged and the Forest Plans need to be updated in a coordinated manner. The changes needed to comply with ESA restore ecosystems health will be significant.

The Forest Service is beginning the revision process and will start public involvement in 2000. A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for all four Forests that outlines alternatives for addressing these issues will be developed. A draft EIS is expected to be released in 2002 for public review.

Litigation update

The Southwestern Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in September 1998, against the four southern California National Forests seeking to prohibit a wide range of management activities and projects until the Forests' Land and Resource Management Plans (Forest Plans) are in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under ESA, the Forest Service is required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concerning the effects of Forest Plans on all federally listed threatened and endangered species (T&E). National Forests in southern California have always consulted with FWS on specific projects but not on the plans as a whole.

The Forest Service and the Southwestern Center for Biological Diversity have negotiated a settlement agreement which was signed by the courts on March 2, 2000. The settlement of this litigation will enable the Forest Service to focus its resources and implement additional measures for protection of threatened and endangered species habitat. Forest Service biologists in consultation with the FWS have identified high priority areas where immediate action is needed to protect threatened or endangered fish, wildlife, and plants. Actions such as habitat surveys, barriers, closures, improved road crossings, fences, and interpretive signs have already been taken.

Some of these necessary measures affect large numbers of forest visitors and are highly controversial. For example, immediate threats to the Arroyo Southwestern Toad, a recently listed species, resulted in the Angeles National Forest implementing a 3,000 acre closure which affects off-highway vehicle use. Additionally, several developed recreational facilities on the Los Padres and Cleveland National Forests have been closed temporarily to protect endangered species.

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