California Sues Forest Service Over National Forest Plan

Tue March 18, 2008 - West Edition
Noaki Schwartz - ASSOCIATED PRESS



LOS ANGELES (AP) The California attorney general and resources secretary sued the U.S. Forest Service Feb. 28 on grounds that it adopted an illegal management plan that allows for road construction and oil drilling in the state’s largest national forests.

The lawsuit filed in federal court claims the plan ignores a state moratorium on road construction in pristine areas of national forests. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the state resources agency joined the lawsuit.

The plan would open up more than 500,000 acres in the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino national forests to road construction. It also would allow for oil drilling on more than 52,000 acres in or around Los Padres National Forest.

The forests stretch from Big Sur on the Central Coast to the Mexican border and provide habitat for at least 31 animal species and 29 plants that are federally listed as threatened or endangered, as well as 34 sensitive animal species.

In 2005 and 2006, the Forest Service told the resources agency in writing that it would not allow road construction in these areas, according to a statement from Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s office. By approving its management plan, the Forest Service violated federal laws requiring it to coordinate plans with state laws, Brown said.

“The Forest Service should scrap these destructive forest plans and protect California’s natural areas as required by law,” he said in a written statement.

The Forest Service was notified of the lawsuit and looked forward to resolving the situation, said Allison Stewart, a national spokeswoman.

“We normally have a good working relationship with California,” she said. “I’m aware that one of the points of contention is the roadless areas…Changes made in that regard were to provide access for fire suppression.”

Sam Davidson, a spokesman for the conservation group Trout Unlimited, applauded the lawsuit.

“In the Cleveland Forest, the headwaters to three streams are in the roadless areas, which are a high priority habitat restoration for recovery of the southern coastal steelhead,” he said. “Bottom line we support the state’s action strongly.”