California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman have sued the U.S. Forest Service for adopting “illegal forest management plans” that permit road construction and oil drilling in California’s largest national forests. The two officials filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
“The U.S. Forest Service adopted illegal forest management plans that threaten California’s pristine national forests with road construction and oil drilling,” Attorney General Brown said. “The Forest Service should scrap these destructive forest plans and protect California’s natural areas as required by law.”
The Forest Service’s plans allow road construction on more than 500,000 acres of roadless area within the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forest. California’s lawsuit alleges that the Forest Service’s plans ignore California’s moratorium on road construction in pristine areas of the national forests.
The four national forests in question account for more than 3.5 million acres of federally managed public land, from Big Sur to the Mexican border. The forests have geologic and topographic diversity including chaparral, oak woodlands, savannas, deserts, alpine areas and specialized habitat niches. The forests provide habitat for 31 animals and 29 plants classified as threatened and endangered, as well as 34 animal species and 134 plants recognized as sensitive.
The Los Padres National Forest, one of the state’s largest national forests, also provides habitat for the California condor and is the site of the principal effort to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
According to the Attorney General’s office, the Forest Service assured the Resources Agency, in writing, in 2005 and 2006 that it would not allow road construction on California’s roadless areas. Secretary for Resources Chrisman criticized the Forest Service Thursday for not honoring this agreement.
“Time and again we have tried to hold the Forest Service to their word on the roadless policy,” said Chrisman. “They have failed to live up to their promises.”
According to the Attorney General’s office, the Forest Service also ignored public recommendations, including comments from qualified scientists, recommending that one million acres of the forestland be designated as wilderness. Instead, the final plans only recommended protecting half that amount, without providing adequate scientific rationale for the reduction. The plans also fail to properly evaluate the harm to the California condor and its habitat that will be caused by oil and gas exploration and drilling.
Source: Office of the Attorney General, State of California
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