SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – California went into federal court today to challenge the U.S. government’s plan to drill for oil and build roads through a large swath of public forest land, including a 52,000-acre area that is home to the California Condor where conservators are trying to save the bird from extinction.
Filed by California Attorney General Jerry Brown Jr., the suit says plans by the U.S. Forest Service would allow for road construction on a large section of the federally managed forest lands, an area that runs from Big Sur to the Mexican border.
The forest service plans for road construction and oil drilling, says the suit, would specifically encompass more than 500,000 acres in the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland and San Bernardino National Forests, in violation of California’s moratorium on such activity, said Brown.
In addition, the suit alleges, the forest service did not properly evaluate the harm to the California Condor when it approved oil drilling on more than 52,000 acres in or adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest, the site of the main effort to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.
Brown charges the Forest Service violated the federal National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to develop its plans for the forests in coordination with California’s laws and policies. The Forest Service also allegedly ignored recommendations from scientists and the public that one million acres of the land be designated as wilderness, instead deciding to protect only half that amount without giving a valid scientific explanation for the reduction.
The federally-managed forests in California comprise a total of 3.5 million acres, providing habitat for 31 threatened and endangered animals and 29 plants. Brown filed the lawsuit along with the California Resources Agency and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on behalf of the People of California.