This week, a judge decided that nearly 30 species of rare plants and animals that call the four Southern California national forests home are in need of more protection than they are currently given, and ordered the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue new biological assessments within six months. The decision affects the Los Padres National Forest, which comprises most of the Santa Barbara’s ridgeline and backcountry and includes such endangered species as the California condor and arroyo toad; among other specific actions, it bans target shooting in the Cherry Creek area alongside Highway 33 outside of Ojai.
“We’re currently in the process of reviewing the judge’s decision,” said Stanton Florea of the Forest Service’s regional office in Vallejo.
The groups responsible for the lawsuit — namely Los Padres Forest Watch, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, and the California Native Plant Society — put out a press release on Thursday proclaiming victory. The order was expected ever since a judge determined in 2009 that the four forests (which include, in addition to the Los Padres, the Cleveland, San Bernardino, Angeles national forests) had broken the Endangered Species Act when they approved new management plans in 2005. This week’s move demands “incidental take” thresholds, better monitoring requirements, and more mitigation measures.
“Rivers and streams in our national forests provide some of our region’s best remaining habitat for endangered steelhead trout,” said Jeff Kuyper of Los Padres ForestWatch in the release, “and today’s decision will complement ongoing efforts to restore the health our local creeks, while ensuring clean water for local farms, businesses, and our families.”