November 4, 2014 (Cleveland National Forest)—U.S. Forest Service officials have signed a Record of Decision for the Cleveland National Forest Land Management Plan Amendment that gives wilderness protection to an additional 43,000 acres in the forest, at least temporarily.
The decision is part of a settlement agreement approved in 2011 following a lawsuit filed by California’s Resources Agency against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Center for Biological Diversity challenging a Forest Land Management Plan that had been approved in 2006.
Will Metz, Supervisor of Cleveland National Forest, calls the decision a “monumental moment” that will have major implications. He adds, “The Forest now has new areas managed as wilderness, which is the highest level of protection that the Forest Service can provide and especially important in this highly developed Region.”
Roughly 43,000 more acres of the Cleveland National Forest are now zoned as Recommended Wilderness and will therefore be managed to retain and improve their wilderness character until Congress makes a final decision about their wilderness designation. These lands are located primarily on the Palomar Ranger District but also include northern portions of the Descanso Ranger District.
This decision also amends the Land Management Plan monitoring and evaluation requirements to make them more efficient and effective.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. Forest Service the areas now zoned as recommended wilderness offer “outstanding opportunities for solitude, primitive recreation, species refuge, and watershed protection” as well as manageable boundaries that avoid conflicts with existing roads and adjacent uses.
The majority of the Forest will continue to have the flexibility to accommodate a range of uses such as mountain biking, hang-gliding, or utility corridors that are not permitted in designated wilderness areas.