The public gathered at the Angeles National Forest headquarters in Arcadia this week to weigh in on the U.S. Forest Service proposal to redesignate up to 67,715 acres of back country in the Angeles National Forest as wilderness, the most protective zones for forest lands possible.
The proposal may affect about 4,000 acres along the West Fork of the San Gabriel River above Azusa.
The wilderness designation effectively bans all mechanized equipment, from cell towers to mountain bikes.
The Angeles National Forest proposal is part of a larger plan to amend the Forest Service's 2006 land management plan for the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino forests as required by a settlement with the California Resources Agency, which successfully challenged the LMP on the grounds that the document did not go far enough in protecting California's pristine back country.
Forest Service officials say maintaining the balance between making the forests as accessible as possible and protecting the environment is difficult.
"People enjoy the forest and we protect the natural resources people enjoy," Forest Service spokesperson Justin Seastrand said. "It's a constant dichotomy."
There are three alternatives the public can choose from, although the regional forester will ultimately make the final decision as to which alternative will go into effect.
Alternative 1 would make no changes to the land management plan — an option that isn't really an option, Seastrand says, because the Service would likely wind up back in court.
The Forest Service's recommended Alternative 2 designates 41,065 acres of the Angeles, 71,991 of the Cleveland, 338,011 acres of the Los Padres and 47,755 acres of the San Bernardino national forests' land as wilderness.
Alternative 3 is much more restrictive. Under this alternative, 67,715 acres of Angeles National Forest would become designated wilderness.
"[The Forest Service] is doing exaclty what I think they should be doing," said San Gabriel Valley resident Steve Hernandez, adding that he favors Alternative 3. "They're trying to preserve the wilderness for future generations...We've got kids and grandkids."
If you weren't able to attend Tuesday's meeting, you may still submit written comments. Mail comments toCleveland National Forest, ATTN: LMP Amendment, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200 San Diego, Ca. 92127-2107.
You can also file comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or the project website.