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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Defeat for Bush's Calif. eco policies...

Fed Judge Overturns Roads Plan for So-Cal National Forests

excerpted from:

September 30, 2009
San Francisco, CA -- A federal district court judge ruled late Tuesday that U.S. Forest Service management plans for four Southern California national forests did not adequately protect those forests' wildest landscapes. In the ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel agreed with seven environmental groups that the Forest Service failed to assess cumulative damage to those national forests that would be caused by piecemeal road building and other development in most of the forests' roadless areas, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The environmental groups, represented in the suit by Earthjustice attorneys Erin Tobin and Trent Orr, are the Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, California Native Plant Society, California Wilderness Coalition, and The Wilderness Society. "Some of the most wild and pristine areas of southern California's national forests were given a second chance with this court decision," said Ileene Anderson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "These areas provide critically important strongholds for endangered species such as steelhead, the California condor and the arroyo toad; especially during this time of climate change." "The decision vindicates the public's right to know how our national forests are managed," said Earthjustice attorney Erin Tobin. "It is a victory for southern California's wild areas and wildlife, healthy forests, and clean drinking water." At issue are more than a million acres of roadless areas within the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests. The four forests, surrounded by some of the most rapidly urbanizing land in the United States, are the last remaining refuge for the region's imperiled species such as the California condor. At the same time, the forests are increasingly subject to disturbances ranging from off-road vehicle abuse to oil and gas development to invasive species, the impacts of many of which are exacerbated by road building. The challenged management plans recommended just 79,000 acres of roadless areas for possible wilderness designation and slotted more than 942,000 acres for possible road building or other development. According to the court's ruling, the Forest Service violated federal environmental law by ignoring the "larger picture" of how allowing more development in roadless areas — while recommending almost no such areas for permanent wilderness protection — would affect the forests' irreplaceable landscapes and wildlife. The court also ruled that the Forest Service's failure to consider alternative approaches for monitoring the health of forests and their wildlife that are harmed by wildfire management, energy development, and substantial off-road vehicle use was a further violation of the law...

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