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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 25th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 38

Final land use proposals are out for Southern California forests

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The U.S. Forest Service released final proposals on Nov. 25 for managing parts of four of Southern California’s national forests. The final supplemental environmental impact statement for a Southern California land management plan amendment outlines four different options, a no-action alternative, the Forest Service’s proposed action, and two other options.

One of those four choices could be the way of the forests’ futures, which have been up in the air since 2006, when the original land management plan was approved, appealed in a lawsuit, and took a jaunt through the federal court system, ending with a settlement agreement in 2009.

Groups involved in the lawsuit alleged that the land management plan for the Los Padres, San Bernardino, Angeles, and Cleveland national forests didn’t account for all the environmental impacts of certain land-use designations in roadless areas of the forests. The settlement agreement sent the Forest Service back to the zoning table for an amendment to the plan.

The final plan amendment maps out new potential land-use designations for the Los Padres, San Bernardino, Angeles, and Cleveland national forests.

The proposed alternative shifts land from back country, motorized use restricted, and non-motorized areas in the Angeles and Cleveland national forests and puts it into a land-use category called recommended wilderness. Wilderness areas have to be designated by Congress, but the Forest Service will manage recommended wilderness areas as if they’re already congressionally designated. For Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests, land is shifted from back country and motorized use restricted zones to back country non-motorized. Back country non-motorized allows for some resource development as long as it doesn’t require building a road.

A press release sent out by the Forest Service on Nov. 25 said the impact statement isn’t a decision document and isn’t subject to public comment.

“Although the document identifies an agency preferred alternative,” the press release said, “forest supervisors may select any of the alternatives considered.”

The next step in the process starts with an objection period, which allows each forest to issue a draft decision and the public a chance to object to the decision. The press release said the objection process would begin in 2014.