Enviros Challenge Road Projects in Forest

SAN JOSE (CN) – The U.S. Forest Service approved the spending of federal stimulus dollars to clear more than 700 miles of vegetation along paved and unpaved roads in Los Padres National Forest, without the required environmental impact studies, Los Padres ForestWatch claims Federal Court.
Los Padres National Forest spans nearly 2 million acres, from Monterey to Los Angeles County.

     ForestWatch claims the removal of approximately 2,490 acres of vegetation would endanger habitat of several threatened species, including the California red-legged frog, California condor and Smith’s blue butterfly.
     The Forest Service never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement on how these species would be affected and “did not respond to a number of ForestWatch’s requests to be provided notice and information on any such stimulus projects involving vegetation clearing,” the group claims.
ForestWatch says its staff met with Forest Service officials in February 2009 to discuss economic stimulus projects in Los Padres National Forest.
     “During that meeting, ForestWatch requested the Forest Service’s ‘wish list’ of projects on the Los Padres National Forest eligible for economic stimulus funding,” but the Forest Service refused, the complaint states. “At this meeting, the Forest Supervisor informed ForestWatch members that the Forest Service did not want to disclose the requested list of projects because it ‘would lead the public to get involved in the decision-making process by supporting or opposing the funding of certain projects.'”
     ForestWatch says the Forest Service told it to file a Freedom of Information Act request, which it did, and to which the Forest Service refused to respond.
     The roadside-clearing project was approved September 11, 2009, after the Forest Service found “‘no extraordinary circumstances'” warranting a full environmental report under the National Environmental Policy Act.
ForestWatch seeks a court order granting immediate access to all documents on forest projects and a declaration that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
     ForestWatch is represented by Michael Graf of El Cerrito.

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