Forest plan brings fears of
by Kelly Feser Eells
Many local mountain bike enthusiasts like not being able to see
the forest for the trees, though they worry that designating
"primitive" recreation areas will lead to further recreational
Of the nearly 60 people who attended the Los Padres National
Forest Public Planning Workshop at Rancho del Rey last Thursday,
less than 10 red dots ended up on the two, large maps of the
forest provided by workshop facilitators. A "red dot"
placed on any portion of the maps indicated an interest in expanding
the forest's primitive areas, which Director of Conservation
Partnerships Rich Tobin explained were, "the most remote
and pristine" areas on the national forest's Recreation
"I'm really excited about this workshop," the first
meeting between the community and the Forest Planning
Team, "other than general scoping," said District Ranger
John Bridgewater. "We're going to ask you to get involved,
provide solutions to areas where you (or we) know we have problems."
Land and Resource Management Plans - also known as Forest Plans
- are currently being updated for all four Southern California
national forests: Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino.
"Congress passed legislation," said Tobin, "that
every forest develop a land management plan, to be updated every
10 to 15 years."
The Los Padres Forest Plan was implemented nearly 15 years ago,
"and much has changed since then."
Tobin noted that the four-year process of updating the plan includes
revising management direction for species and habitat protection
providing "recreational conflict resolution" making
roadless areas and potential wilderness recommendations and possible
other resource concerns "as identified through the scoping
The issue "that kept coming up," he added, "was
Tobin directed the room's attention to the ROS, a handout providing
descriptions for each of the five colored dots participants received.
In addition to red, green, blue, yellow and gold, signifying
semi-primitive non-motorized; semi-primitive motorized; roaded
natural; and rural, respectively dots were distributed.
"You'll notice there are some very large areas in the Mt.
Piños, Ojai districts (of the forest) that have been designated
by Congress as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System,"
said Tobin. "Those areas are basically fixed and would,
literally, take an act of Congress to change."
Bridgewater pointed out that the public workshops do, however,
provide opportunities to petition Congress to designate even
more areas as "NWPS components."
Several audience members asked for clarification on the differences
between primitive and NWPS areas, and wanted to know what, exactly,
"you can do in NWPS zones?"
Tobin explained that NWPS zones prohibited both motorized and
mechanized (for example, mountain bikes) use, but that mountain
bikes were allowed in areas designated primitive. "But you're
on your own."
Other participants expressed concern about the certainty that
mountain bikes would be allowed in these areas. Oak View resident
Chris Popp said, "I don't want to further inhibit the public
from using (these) lands. When I put a dot up, I want to make
sure the area doesn't get taken away (by the government) if I
designate it primitive."
Tobin assured the audience that "the Forest Service has
no leaning. It's very objective; (Los Padres Forest Supervisor)
Jeanine Derby will listen to all recommendations."
"I don't see the purpose of this," added Popp, "because
if Congress decides they want more wilderness ... Well, it seems
we have no impact. Say you want a pristine area. But if you put
a red dot up there, you can almost guarantee Congress will come
back and slap a wilderness label on it."
Tobin said, "in all fairness to Congress, there are a lot
of environmental groups, currently working with Sen. Barbara
Boxer, lobbying to get more wilderness legislated. But we've
been working with her staff, encouraging them to 'lay low' as
we initiate this process. We've asked that they 'please don't
fast track this.'"
Ojai resident Alastair Coyne, representing Keep the Sespe Wild,
confirmed that his was one of the environmental groups - as well
as the Wild Heritage Campaign - actively lobbying Sen. Boxer.
"Most of the (existing) wilderness was designated in the
1980s," he said, "before mountain bikes" were
invented. "But the proposed areas, as I understand, are,
primarily, expansions of existing NWPS areas."
Coyne displayed a map of the proposed expansion areas, which
include Dry Lakes; Chorro Grande; Beaver 1 and Beaver 4. "I'll
be willing to talk with members of the mountain bike community,"
he added, and see "if I can help them further investigate
Call (805) 968-6640 for information about upcoming public workshops.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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