Some of the wildest remaining lands in our National Forests are “inventoried roadless areas.” Conservationists have been working to protect them from logging, road construction, and other development since the 1970s. But a Clinton-era federal policy protecting roadless areas on National Forests is under assault by the Trump Administration. Several executive orders signed by President Trump encourage the Forest Service to increase logging and streamline environmental reviews. The result has led to a number of projects that threaten roadless areas on National Forest lands in California with road building and logging. Some of these projects conflict directly with legislation currently pending in Congress to protect these roadless lands as Wilderness and free flowing streams as National Wild and Scenic Rivers.
Three of the most alarming projects that threaten wild places on National Forest lands in California include:
Hyampom Fire Resilient Community Project
The Forest Service has been in discussions with the Hyampom Fire Safe Council in Trinity County concerning a project for landscape-scale treatments to protect the community of Hyampom and limit the spread of wildfire. While there are many aspects of this initial project that conservationists can support, there is serious concern about the project’s potential conflict with areas proposed for protection in legislation introduced by Representative Jared Huffman and Senator Kamala Harris proposing to protect 312,569 acres of Wilderness and 480 miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers in northwest California’s Trinity, Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino Counties.
The Hyampom Project proposes “fuel modification” and prescribed fires in 3,152 acres of the 28,595-acre proposed Pattison Wilderness and 820 acres of the proposed 26,446-acre South Fork Trinity Wilderness. The proposed fuel treatments and wide roadside buffers proposed in the Hyampom Project could also adversely impact the outstanding salmon and steelhead fisheries and scenery of Hayfork Creek and Olsen Creek Wild and Scenic Rivers proposed in the legislation. It could also affect the protected river corridor of the existing South Fork Trinity Wild and Scenic River.
CalWild and other conservation organizations and activists generally support use of prescribed fire in wilderness and roadless areas, but not when the permanent fire breaks used to surround prescribed fire areas are required in roadless lands proposed as wilderness. Although fuel treatment and roadside buffers may be allowed in Wild and Scenic River corridors, these activities must not harm the specific outstandingly remarkable values of the protected river.
The Forest Service recently posted initial information concerning the Hyampom Project but the agency has not yet initiated the project’s environmental review process. CalWild and its allies working to pass the Representative Huffman’s and Senator Harris’ northwest California public lands legislation recently met with the Shasta-Trinity National Forests Supervisor to discuss concerns about some aspects of the project. CalWild and its local allies offered to work with the Forest Service and the Hyampom Fire Safe Council to reduce or eliminate potential conflicts between wild places proposed for protection in the Huffman/Harris legislation with the fuel treatments and other activities proposed in the Hyampom Project. In addition, there is concern that the Forest Service will use a “categorial exclusion” loophole provided by the Trump Administration to avoid fully analyzing this project, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For more information concerning the Hyampom Project, click this link . To review CalWild’s detailed fact sheet about the Harris/Huffman legislation and potential conflicts with the Hyampom Project, go to our fact sheet on the overlap.
Lake Tahoe West Restoration Project
The Forest Service, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and California Tahoe Conservancy are proposing a massive “forest health” project on public lands upslope of Lake Tahoe’s west shore. Stretching north from Fallen Leaf Lake to the Truckee River, the Lake Tahoe West Restoration project proposes 19,500 acres of forest “thinning” (i.e. logging), including 16,500 acres of mechanical and 3,000 acres of aerial or hand thinning. To facilitate mechanical thinning, permanent roads may be constructed in Backcountry Management Areas (BMAs) set aside by the Forest Service for non-motorized recreation.
The BMAs are popular destinations for backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. Within the BMAs, are two Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs), including portions of the Pyramid IRA along the eastern boundary of the Desolation Wilderness and a potential eastern addition to the Granite Chief Wilderness. IRAs are among the wildest remaining landscapes in our National Forests and are a high-priority for protection by conservationists. The proposed road building and logging in IRAs would violate the Forest Service’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Clinton-era mandate meant to protect these wild places from most logging, road buildings, and other development.
In May 2020, CalWild and its conservation allies submitted detailed comments in response to the agencies’ scoping notice initiating the environmental review for the project. This project as currently proposed will violate the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which prohibits road building and logging in National Forest roadless areas. A major issue will be whether the project will be analyzed in a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS), as required for development activities in roadless areas and backcountry areas set aside for primitive recreation. For more information about the project, click this link. For a copy of CalWild’s scoping comments, go to our Lake Tahoe West Comment Letter.
Reyes Peak Forest Health and Fuels Project
The Forest Service is proposing to cut down trees and clear chaparral from 755 acres of public lands on Pine Mountain, a long, high ridge on the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County. The proposed project would remove brush, small trees, and large, fire resistant, centuries-old trees along the popular ridge-top road that accesses three campgrounds and two trailheads. The project will disturb a biological hot spot that includes one of the most diverse conifer forests in the region and rare old growth chaparral. The area supports numerous sensitive and protected species, ranging from the endangered California condor to dozens of rare native plants. Logging and vegetation clearing will also adversely impact Native American cultural values. The project also proposes to log trees and clear natural vegetation from additions to the Sespe Wilderness proposed in legislation authored by Representative Salud Carbajal, which has already passed in the House of Representatives, and pending legislation in the U.S. Senate authored by Senator Kamala Harris.
More than 12,000 people have submitted comments in opposition to the project. In response to a letter from Representative Carbajal, the Forest Service extended the deadline for public comments to Aug. 14, 2020. At this point, the Forest Service doesn’t intend to evaluate the project in a full EIS or even an abbreviated environmental assessment. Per direction from the Trump Administration, the Forest Service has categorically excluded this project from detailed environmental review. Visit the Reyes Peak Project page for more information. If you would like to comment on this project, go to CalWild’s action alert.
CalWild will keep working to ensure that the environmental impacts of these proposed projects are fully and adequately disclosed for public review and comment. We are also working with our public lands champions in Congress to ensure that public lands proposed for protection in currently legislation are not harmed by these projects.