Off-Roading in Elsmere Canyon?
While Elsmere Canyon has apparently dodged becoming a dump, it may not be out of the woods yet...
U.S. Forest Service officials are overhauling management plans for federally owned Southern California forests, and they could approve off-road vehicle use in Whitney and Elsmere canyons.
After viewing the USFS’s “preferred plan” for the Angeles National Forest, which takes in parts of the three canyons east of the city, “I about went through the roof,” Councilwoman Marshal McLean told fellow Santa Clarita city leaders at a recent council meeting.
She said she asked USFS representatives what happened to the designated riparian areas or the cultural and historic designations.
“They said, ‘No one’s brought that to our attention,’” McLean told council members. “I felt like I was back in 1989 again.”
Local activists and city leaders fought long and hard to save Elsmere Canyon from plans to turn it into a gigantic dump. McLean, who was in the forefront of that battle, said she was aghast at the uses USFS is considering for Elsmere, as well as the federally owned sections of Whitney and Placerita canyons.
Maps of different proposed uses for national forests, posted on the USFS Web site, show “back country motorized” use for much or all of the three canyons. The maps cover all Southern California national forests and lack specifics, but the one marked “preferred” for the Angeles National Forest shows no wilderness or riparian designations for local canyons.
USFS officials favor that plan “because it allows the Forest Service to place needed emphasis on vegetation and hazardous fuels management and to keep a healthy forest,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Sherry Rollman.
The thinning of dead trees and shrubs to prevent forest fires is one way to manage fuels, she said.
“It also allows the flexibility to respond to the variety and level of recreation expected from a growing, culturally diverse population. We’re expecting a 20 percent forest use increase in the next 10 years,” Rollman said.
“If you make areas off limits to vehicles, if roads are not maintained for various types of vehicles, that can also make it difficult for fire access, for fire suppression,” said Tom Reilly, park development administrator for the city of Santa Clarita.
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