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Federal mismanagement hurts forests

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POSTED September 10, 2013 1:41 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

We are writing in response to Jeff Miller’s letter to the editor dated Sept. 3. He mentions that the decline of the Yellow-legged frogs and Yosemite toads is a “warning of the failing health of our high Sierra ecosystems.” While this may be true, the failing health of our ecosystems is not due to any of the historical activities that have taken place in the Sierras for many generations. It is caused by federal mismanagement driven by ill-advised environmental policies.

For many years our National Forests and public lands have been managed by active neglect. The Forest Service’s inventory data of National forests in California show an average of 266 trees per acre on a landscape that can only sustain 40-100 trees per acre. This leaves them susceptible to insects, disease, and wildfire. Because the annual growth exceeds the annual removals, our forests are “fire-adapted ecosystems. “According to a team of scientists convened especially to review the status of the California spotted owl, catastrophic wildfire is the primary threat to spotted owls.” (Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service Press release, May 23, 2006)  In the last five years, wildfire on the Plumas and Lassen National forests has incinerated 30 spotted owl territories. One can only wonder how many wild animals and cattle were burned to death in the recent Rim Fire that was rated the third worst catastrophic wildfire in the state, and burned over 253,000 acres.  If the forests burn, there won’t be any species, endangered or otherwise, or their habitat left to save.

Mr. Miller says that the “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the Endangered Species Act ESA to protect the frog and the toad.” Fish and Wildlife was prodded by lawsuits from Mr. Miller’s Center for Biological Diversity CBD.  They sued Fish and Wildlife to list the frog and toad, along with 477 other species.  In a 2011 Settlement Agreement Fish and Wildlife agreed to a specific plan that would require they evaluate a certain number of species per year for listing under the Endangered Species Act until they had exhausted the list. As of Sept. 3 the list had grown to 757 species.  So it is likely that the list will never be exhausted.

Mr. Miller also says that “opponents of the ESA are leading a misinformation campaign to convince the public that protecting critical habitat will close down our public lands to human activity, and that they never provide any evidence to support that claim.” However, in the San Gabriel Mountains, mountain yellow-legged frogs were declared an endangered species in 2006.  The result was the closing of 1,000 acres of the Pacific Crest Trail referred to as the “Williamson Rock Critical Habitat Closure.”  The closure sends horsemen and hikers on a 20.5 mile detour back and forth across a mountain ridge, or they can choose to travel 4.5 miles along the dangerous Angeles Crest Highway. A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.  Seven years later, this area still remains closed.

This shows that statements by the Fish and Wildlife Service that recreation will not be affected by the designation of Critical Habitat are false.

Loss of habitat is not the problem, and “habitat restoration” (the removal of humans and every human development) is not the cure.  The ESA remedies are not relevant. The proposed actions will not fix the problem.  They will only hurt the people, their families, their communities, and our national self-sufficiency for food, water, energy, timber, and minerals. The opponents of the ESA are the true environmentalists who are working hard to regain their proper place as stewards of their public lands so these lands can continue to provide us with “clean water, breathable air and forest recreation”, instead of vaporized, blackened unusable forests that neither animals or humans can utilize.

Wendy Brown-Barry & Kevin D. Barry
Mariposa County residents & Founders of Yosemite For Everyone
Sept. 8, 2013

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