Judge Requires Increased Protections for Endangered Species on Southern California National Forests

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943
Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife, (916) 201-8277
Bill Corcoran, Sierra Club, (213) 387-6528 x 208
Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610

Judge Requires Increased Protections for Endangered Species on Southern California National Forests

LOS ANGELES - Monday a federal judge ruled
that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries
Service violated the Endangered Species Act in preparing the biological
opinions for the four Southern California forest plans. The ruling
covers each of the four Southern California national forests
- the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino, which cover
more than 3.5 million acres of lands in Southern California. These
forests are recognized as one of the most biologically rich areas on
the planet, and were established to provide clean drinking water to the
region.

"This ruling is a great victory for the
rare and endangered species that call the Southern California forests
home," said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological
Diversity. "These rare plants and animals are all currently moving
toward extinction, and they need help - help that the federal agencies
should have provided but chose not to during the Bush administration.
We can now start making sure they're properly protected."

The Forest Service revised the Forest Plans for these four national
forests in 2005. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine
Fisheries Service provided "biological opinions" on the revised Forest
Plans that failed to include required protective measures to minimize
harm to the already endangered wildlife species. The agencies also
failed to include any mechanism to track the level of harm to
endangered species or establish limits on the amount of harm for each
species to trigger the reinitiation of consultation on the plans if
those limits were exceeded.

"National forests
provide some of the biggest remaining chunks of wildlife habitat in
Southern California," said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los
Padres ForestWatch, a nonprofit conservation organization based in
Santa Barbara, California. "For too long, federal land management
agencies have emphasized development and resource extraction, exacting
a heavy toll on our region's wildlife. Today's ruling recognizes the
important role that our national forests play in the survival and
recovery of endangered plants and animals, giving them the attention
they so desperately deserve."

The decision will
require greater protection for more than 40 plants and animals that are
teetering on the brink of extinction. Species from the majestic
California condor, rebounding from a low of only 28 birds in the mid
1980s, to the charming California gnatcatcher are threatened with
declines based on the failure of the Forest Service to put in place the
required safety nets to protect these irreplaceable species.

"Land-management plans have impacts on the wildlife that live on our
forests and that's what this opinion recognizes," said Kim Delfino,
California director of Defenders of Wildlife. "We hope this opinion
will set a new tone for the Obama administration in recognizing this
fact and providing wildlife on public lands the protections that they
so desperately need."

The judge gave the parties 21
days to provide additional briefing on the appropriate relief for the
troubled species while the federal agencies prepare new biological
opinions.

"The conservation community warned the
Forest Service again and again that it was wrong in claiming that its
forest plans do not affect our public lands. The plans are the Forest
Service's blueprint for how to manage our forests, and Judge Patel has
held the federal government accountable for fulfilling its
responsibilities to protect our imperiled natural heritage. The ruling
is especially timely because the Forest Service is gearing up to revise
forest-management plans throughout the Sierra Nevada," said Bill
Corcoran, senior regional representative of the Sierra Club.

Plaintiffs in the case are the Center for Biological Diversity, Los
Padres ForestWatch, Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and California
Native Plant Society.

The plaintiffs were
represented in the case by Marc Fink of the Center for Biological
Diversity and Sierra Weaver of Defenders of Wildlife.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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