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California's 10 Most Threatened Wild Places Report Released

February 5, 2004

Contact:  Keith Hammond, California Wilderness Coalition, 530-758-0380 x109

Increasing Federal Rollbacks Threaten State's Wildlife and Wilderness with Logging, Drilling, Off-Road Abuse, and Loss of Endangered Species

The impact of federal policy rollbacks on California's wild lands accelerated greatly in 2003, according to the California Wilderness Coalition's third annual listing of the state's "10 Most Threatened Wild Places," putting many wilderness lands in jeopardy of damage or permanent loss.

"Just last month the Bush Administration nearly tripled commercial logging on our national forests in the entire Sierra Nevada with the stroke of a pen," said Mary Wells, executive director of the California Wilderness Coalition. "On top of that they are trying to log illegally in California's roadless forests, drill for oil in endangered California condor habitat, and log in the Giant Sequoia National Monument."

California's 10 Most Threatened Wild Places for 2004 are:

  • Sierra Nevada Forests - Bush Administration revoked Forest Service's Sierra Framework; substitute plan allows widespread logging throughout the Sierra, even old-growth areas. Private company's plan to clearcut its own 1 million acres is further degrading water and habitat for rare wildlife.
  • Los Padres National Forest - Proposed oil and gas development puts wild forest lands and endangered species habitat at risk, notably the California condor.
  • Algodones Sand Dunes - Bush Administration's extreme off-road plan would overturn protection of endangered wildlife and wilderness.
  • White Mountains (Furnace Creek) - California's largest unprotected wilderness is being invaded by illegal off-road vehicle trails damaging a rare desert stream.
  • Cleveland National Forest - Proposed freeways, dams, and power lines threaten region's last unprotected wild forests.
  • Tejon Ranch - Sprawl and industrial development threaten irreplaceable wildlife habitat on California's largest private landholding.
  • Giant Sequoia National Monument - Forest Service's plan would continue intensive logging in a protected monument, even cutting century-old sequoias.
  • Golden Trout Wilderness Addition - Salvage logging in a roadless forest would damage proposed wilderness that's home to California's imperiled state fish.
  • Medicine Lake Highlands - Development of geothermal power plants would lay waste to wild forests and sacred lands.
  • Klamath River Basin - Excessive water diversion is killing salmon and hurting farmers, fishermen, tribes, and endangered wildlife.

The report is available online at:

Recent federal policies that specifically target California's wild places include:

  • revoking the Forest Service's "Sierra Framework"; substitute plan nearly triples commercial logging in 11 National Forests of the Sierra Nevada, even in old-growth forests.
  • dismantling Northwest Forest Plan protections for California's ancient forests and salmon.
  • planning to drill for oil in endangered California condor habitat in the Los Padres National Forest.
  • planning to log Giant Sequoia National Monument in violation of the 2000 monument proclamation.
  • overruling its own federal scientists and cutting Klamath River flows, killing 34,000 salmon.
  • approving industrial power plants on three Northern California National Forests, denied by the previous administration.
  • re-opening California Desert endangered species habitat previously closed to damaging off-road vehicles.
  • fast-tracking a new freeway proposed through Southern California's Cleveland National Forest.
  • planning to log roadless areas of the Tahoe and Sequoia National Forests in violation of the Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

Four of the ten threatened wildlands are in Southern California, where the Bush Administration has promoted a freeway through the Cleveland National Forest, proposed reopening endangered species habitat to extreme off-road vehicle use in the Algodones Dunes, and proposed oil drilling in endangered California condor habitat in the Los Padres National Forest.  In addition, the owners of Tejon Ranch, California's largest single private landholding, have begun to break up the vast ranch with industrial and residential development, threatening key habitat and migration corridors for wildlife belonging to all Californians.

Four of the ten threatened wildlands are officially designated roadless areas in California's National Forests slated for logging, oil and gas drilling, geothermal development, and road-building -- projects which are prohibited by the Forest Service's own Roadless Area Conservation Rule.  The Bush Administration has never implemented the Roadless Rule, and in 2003 announced a plan to overturn it.

On a brighter note, several areas from the 10 Most Threatened 2003 list survived major threats of logging or mining:

  • Duncan Canyon: Saved? The Forest Service began illegal salvage logging, but a federal court blocked them before they could log the proposed wilderness. Final outcome is unclear.
  • Panamint Range: Still in trouble. Mining company shelved its plan for an open pit cyanide gold mine. But the Bureau of Land Management is considering reopening the oasis Surprise Canyon to extreme off-road vehicles.
  • Plumas and Lassen National Forests: Still in trouble. The Forest Service withdrew its widely criticized plan to deliberately log spotted owl nesting groves.  But these forests will bear the brunt of increased logging under the Bush Administration's revisions to the Sierra Framework.

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