US Forest Service's proposed new management plans for four national forests in Southern California could add about 80,000 acres to wilderness areas, restrict motorized access to paths and protect environmentally sensitive areas

LOS ANGELES , December 6, 2013 () – The U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) proposed new management plans for four Southern California national forests could expand wilderness areas by about 80,000 acres, The Alpenhorn News reported on Dec. 6.

On Nov. 25, the USFS released its final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) addressing proposed land-use zoning changes in the San Bernardino, Angeles, Cleveland and Los Padres national forests.

The proposals would ban motorized vehicles and bicycles in some areas and would prevent further developments, such as roads, dams, parks and campgrounds. Prescribed hazardous fuel burns would still be permitted.

The proposals are the result of the 2011 settlement of two 2008 lawsuits against the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) by environmental groups including the Sierra Club, California Wilderness Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Among the top concerns of environmental groups were environmentally sensitive areas, particularly those that host Big Horn Sheep and Riparian Toad populations.

The proposed management plans would not restrict any roads that are currently accessible to the public, The Alpenhorn News noted.

The SEIS is not currently subject to public comment, but the public will be able to have input during the next step in the decision-making process after a draft is submitted in January 2014.

Although the document identifies the alternative plan preferred by the USFS, it will be up to the forest supervisors for each of the national forests as to which of the four land management plans to choose.

The proposed plans, if approved, could go into effect next summer.

The primary source of this article is The Alpenhorn News, Crestline, California, on Dec. 6, 2013

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