Skip to comments.CA: Governor urges stricter rules to protect wilderness areas (more restrictions on forest roads)
Posted on 08/13/2007 9:11:25 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
Gov. Schwarzenegger recently escalated a battle of words with federal officials over how to manage the remaining wilderness areas in Southern California's national forests.
In an August letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Schwarzenegger accused the federal government of not doing enough to make sure wilderness in the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres national forests is protected from road construction.
The state and environmental groups want more restrictions on forest roads than are outlined in new forest management plans, 10- to 15-year master plans for land use in the forests. Schwarzenegger charged the federal government with not living up to promises made to the state over the past few years as the management plan was written.
This month, the U.S. Forest Service denied appeals by the state seeking to limit roads in wilderness areas to those needed for fighting fires or for accessing Indian tribal grounds or recreation areas.
The Forest Service has taken the stance that it needs the flexibility to create roads that help balance the threat of wildfires and demand for off-road vehicle activities with wilderness protection, said Matt Mathes, regional spokesman for the agency.
Similar disputes have simmered in other states when a legal challenge to federal wilderness law left states in limbo between conflicting regulations from the Bush and Clinton administrations.
California could also take this dispute to federal court, state officials said.
"Your recent denial is unacceptable and places the protection of valuable land in greater jeopardy," Schwarzenegger wrote in a letter to the secretary of agriculture. "Frankly, it is not too much to ask for the Forest Service to do the right thing and live up to its own assurances. Please take the necessary action to ensure that California's forests are safeguarded for generations to come and resolve this important issue before any more time and resources are expended. The people of California deserve nothing less."
The regional office of the U.S. Forest Service is deciding how to respond to the governor's letter, Mathes said.
The forest management plan allows officials the flexibility to build "environmentally acceptable" roads in lieu of the makeshift roads created by people using the forest for recreation and off-roading, he said. The user-created roads can damage the forest through erosion or by trampling sensitive habitat, Mathes added.
Throughout the planning process, environmental, recreational and industry groups competed for a say in how Southern California's last remaining roadless areas should be used. Groups such as the National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Riverside Land Conservancy have advocated for increased wilderness protection. Groups such as the Warrior Society, the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Trails 4 All have sought to expand trail and road systems for recreational use.
In the meantime, a proposal for a hydroelectric power plant in Lake Elsinore is the first one on the horizon to test the state's tolerance of new road construction against the federal government's more flexible standards.
If approved, the plan would involve pumping water from the lake to a hilltop reservoir and then releasing it downhill to power turbines during peak electricity demand. The electricity would travel along power lines through 30 miles of the Cleveland National Forest.
The project would require access roads to be built through wilderness areas of the forest, said Sandy Cooney, spokesman for the California Resources Agency.
Thin your forests.
Now don’t go getting practical.
We’ll just let nature takes it course, the forests to become diseased and infested with beetles , add lightning to start fires and then blame President Bush and Global Warming like all the GReenies..
Now that’s real stewardship, huh?
Took a drive through AZ, Utah, CO and NM this summer. I saw a lot of beetle damage. The mountains around Breckenridge are terrible.
I haven’t been thru that area in years.. pretty country.
we need a few years of good rainfall and a lot of removal of dead and diseased trees ,, knock on wood.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
I was in Steamboat Springs some years ago, listening to a naturalist on a ski tour. She was proudly saying how the beetles were coming and soon two of the three types of evergreens would be killed. I asked why they didn’t try to kill the beetles and save the trees and she looked at me like I was crazy.
Here is my latest column on the Forests. We got abunch of trees to harvest after the fire. Hope we get a chance to salvage them.
“Recently I attended a Conversation with the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gail Kimbell. I was invited to give a presentation on the impact of the current management of the National Forests on the County budget, social and economic well-being of our citizens and the threat of fuel build-up on the Forests and wildfire risk to local communities. Supervisor Cook assisted with additional comments.
“The presentation discussed the unfulfilled 1991 MOU the Klamath National Forest had signed with the Board of Supervisors pledging to identify, demonstrate and promote products and services involving Forest resources that contribute to economic development and diversification of the County. I also talked briefly about the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Resolution declaring the National Forests to be a dangerous public nuisance and directing the U.S.D.A. to commence immediate and accelerated efforts to abate this nuisance through comprehensive and widespread hazardous fuel reduction on National Forests throughout Siskiyou County.
“Another presentation I found of particular interest was from Mark Bosetti of Sierra Pacific Industries, who talked about the loss of milling and manufacturing infrastructure and the shortfalls in timber supply to keep the mills and biomass (energy) plants running. Mills and plants are not running at full shift capacity and maximum efficiency. Consequently, they have higher overhead and lose competitiveness in the market. It was noted that there are few facilities that have survived post Northwest Forest Plan are not dependent upon large private timber holdings.
“The question was asked: Are we no longer in the business of harvesting timber from federal lands?
“Chief Kimbell replied that it was no longer the focus of management and was just another function. She explained that the public said that it wanted a bigger picture for how the National Forest was managed and the end product condition of that process. Removal of logs, biomass and wildfires were now only a part of the treatment of the Forests. Timber and wood products were no longer a primary focus of the Forest. She said that recent court decisions have reinterpreted various federal laws such as NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and NFMA (National Forest Management Act) as an expression of social license. The Chief stated that we lack the social license to put a chainsaw into the National Forest.
“I did express astonishment at her statement and my concerns that the mission of the US Forest Service had been changed. The 1897 Organic Act stated that the purposes for establishing the Forests in the first place were: (1) “a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of United States citizens;” and (2) securing favorable conditions of water flows. (In 1978, United States v. New Mexico, the court rejected claims that the Act established a third purpose for which forests could be created - “to improve and protect the forest within the boundaries.) The Act also directed the Secretary to make provisions against destruction of the forest reserves by fire and depredations. The Forests were always intended to be working forests, not parks, nature museums or unmanaged wildlands.
“At the turn of the last century, concerns over the lack of management of valuable public timber stands and threats of wildfire had actually led to the County inviting the establishment of the Forests here in Siskiyou County.
“(According to the September 15, 1903, Yreka Journal: “A.F. Porter of Washington, DC, agent of the Bureau of Forestry arrived Monday The objective is to make a complete examination of the county as to suitability of creating a forest reserve. Mr. Porter passed a good deal of his time with Mr. C.H. Edward of the Forest Reserve Committee and District Attorney Given. The matter was fully discussed and all data prepared by the committee was placed at Mr. Porter’s disposal. He stated that in the creation of a forest reserve the Government would take in consideration the wishes of the people in the part affected, he further stated worthless land would not be incorporated therein. The commission will make its report to the Secretary of the Interior about February 1, 1904, and the matter will soon thereafter be determined.”) In the 1940s, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors urged further acquisition of surplus Southern Pacific Lands to assure a long term logging and lumbering economy.
“In the original Congressional debates over the Organic Act, Senate Report No. 105, 22 stated: unless the reserved lands of the public domain are made to contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the country, they should be thrown open to settlement and the whole system of reserved forests be abandoned.” It seems that we have come full circle.”
Thanks for posting this. Your columns are always informative and educational.