Los Padres Forest Required to Provide Better Protection to Condor, Steelhead

FRAZIER PARK (June 28, 2011 at 2:20 p.m.)—This is a press release that has just been issued by the plaintiffs in a lawsuit about better protections for endangered species. The suit was against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Forest Servic.

Judge Orders Increased Protections for 40-plus Imperiled Species on Southern California National Forests

LOS ANGELES— A federal judge today ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Forest Service to increase protections for more than 40 threatened and endangered species in the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino national forests of Southern California. Today’s order, responding to a lawsuit by five conservation groups, follows the court’s 2009 decision that found the agencies were in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“The court’s decision is another important victory for the rare and endangered species that call the Southern California forests home,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that brought the lawsuit. “These forests are recognized as some of the most biologically rich areas on the planet, and the new protections are desperately needed to keep imperiled species like the Santa Ana sucker and arroyo toad from going extinct.”

The Forest Service revised forest-management plans for these four national forests in 2005. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service provided reviews, called “biological opinions,” of the revised plans that failed to include required protective measures to minimize harm to already-imperiled plants and animals. The agencies also failed to include any mechanism to track the level of harm to endangered species and didn’t establish limits on the amount of harm each species could withstand before wildlife agencies would be required to reinitiate their consultation on the forest-management plans.

In 2009, the court found that the agencies violated the Endangered Species Act and ordered additional briefing on the appropriate remedy. Today’s decision orders new protective measures to be developed and put in place for these four national forests within six months, including “incidental take” thresholds, mitigation measures, and monitoring and reporting requirements.

The court also ordered interim protections for particular species and habitats while the additional long-term safeguards are developed, including determining the population of steelhead trout on the Los Padres and Cleveland national forests, closing or maintaining the closure of the Williamson Rock Area and Little Rock Creek Road on the Angeles National Forest, and closing the Cherry Canyon area of the Los Padres National Forest to shooting practice.

“The court’s ruling today is a win for wildlife and people alike,” said Peter Nelson, director of federal lands with Defenders of Wildlife. “The American people overwhelmingly think of national forests as a place where wildlife populations should be safe, and endangered species should be restored. That’s what the law requires, and the federal court agrees.”

The 40 plants and animals teetering on the brink of extinction that will benefit from today’s decision include the California condor, which is rebounding from a low of only 28 birds in the mid-1980s, and the California gnatcatcher, which is threatened with declines because of the Forest Service’s failure to enact proper protections.

Plaintiffs in the case are the Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and California Native Plant Society.

The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Marc Fink of the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Weaver of Defenders of Wildlife.

Ileene Anderson
Biologist/Public Lands Desert Director

This is part of the June 24, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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