For starters, there is no “hit list” for trails in the Los Padres National Forest. There is a list of routes that are within Inventoried Roadless Areas within the four southern California forests (Los Padres, Angles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland).
To understand what is happening, I need to review a little history. In 2006, the California Attorney General filed suit against the Southern California Enterprise Forest Plan that covered the Los Padres, Angles, San Bernardino, and Cleveland NFs.
At that time, BlueRibbon Coalition brought together a coalition (AMA D36 and CA4WDC) to file as intervenors. At that time, NO OTHER group was interested in joining the lawsuit.
As a result of the litigation, a "settlement" was reached and the decision was announced in fall of 2010. That settlement called for the litigant parties to establish a collaborative team to determine a prioritized list of routes within Inventoried Roadless Areas for decommissioning and restoration action. And, all proposed actions are to be subjected to a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for final disposition.
That list contains all of the routes (slightly over 2,700) within the 85 Inventoried Roadless Areas within the four southern California forests. The list does contain some designated system trails such as Snowy 19W04, Halfmoon-Kinkaid/Piru Creek 20W07, Arrastra - 20W05, Miller Jeep/Lockwood Valley - 20W06 and a few others.
That team has been meeting since April, 2011. The result of the team discussions has been to establish a means of providing a "score" for the routes based on resource issues and access potential. I have participated in each team meeting.
A number of issues have arisen trying to work through that process. Most important, the quality (and quantity) of data held within Forest Service records. Basically, there are a number of glaring holes in the Forest Service data. Many of the routes on the list (over 2,700) have no data points at all.
Of these routes, virtually all of them are segments. Some segments join system designated routes. Other segments join with an isolated system designated route.
Keep in mind, the team direction was to develop a prioritized list of routes for further disposition action. NO ACTION will be taken based on the results of the collaborative team process. All actions are subject to NEPA analysis where the final disposition of the route segment will be to keep it as it is an integral part of the existing route system or decommission it.
Overall, I have argued against the environmental community introducing new or additional data that is not substantiated by existing Forest Service data. This process was to determine a list of prioritized routes for site-specific analysis within a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
And, I have insisted (it appears it will stand) that the prioritized list be a snapshot at a point in time that reflects the data available as of that date. And, that list needs to be able to be replicated at any future date.
As this list is a tool the land mangers can use to prioritize their workload, I am open to them having the ability to fill in missing data and correct data errors. However, the integrity of the original list developed as a result of the collaborative process needs to be retained.
My stance throughout the discussions is that no “on-ground” actions will occur that are not part of a NEPA analysis. The list in and of itself is not a substitute for planning nor is it a decision document that defines actions to implement.
My hope is the site-specific NEPA analysis will substantiate the need for the route to be retained as part of the designated system. As some routes have a system designation, there is a potential they could found to be duplicate and subject to proposed closure based on Travel Management Sub-part A.
Looking forward, the list does provide a known entity to begin ground-truthing the routes prior to the SEIS comment period. The SEIS will be a critical time to bring forth the importance of routes for recreation.
The “list” will be available for public review first week of August. The list will contain the Inventoried Roadless Area name, route identifier, and other data elements and can be sorted as necessary.
In preparing for the SEIS, it will be necessary to create sub-lists from the main list that identify the routes within Inventoried Roadless Areas. Each one of those routes needs to have an on-the-ground review that can determine the validity of the data listed for the route. At this point in time, the Los Padres and San Bernardino have the most routes involved.