A new proposal could expand wilderness areas -- where no cars are permitted -- in Southern California national forests by 80,000 acres, protecting the land from development.
The proposal would revise land use regulations for specified “roadless” areas that stretch across the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests.
“This scope of the project geographically is pretty large and tends to get people’s attention,” said Justin Seastrand, environmental coordinator for the Angeles National Forest.
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The U.S. Forest Service is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the proposal and garner public feedback about the plan for the Angeles National Forest.
"Across the national forest, we have a wide variety of uses," Seastrand said. "A lot of people have a lot of passionate feelings about how land should be managed."
The proposal would create a new 40,000-acre Fish Canyon Wilderness area in the Angeles National Forest. The Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County would get the 23,000-acre Eagle Peak Wilderness area, 11,000-acre Barker Valley Wilderness and 5,000-acre Caliente Wilderness.
Land-use rules would also change in some 300,000 acres within the Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests.
The four forests together currently have about 26 wilderness areas totaling more than 1.2 million acres, according to the draft plan. All told, the forests encompass more than 3.5 million acres, with about half of that in Los Padres National Forest.
In the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests, the proposed acres would be designated as a wilderness area, while the changes in the Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests would create backcountry non-motorized zones.
Both zones ban motorized vehicles, limiting visitors to horseback riding and exploring the land on foot. A wilderness zone also bans bicycles from all areas except existing bike trails that are managed by the Forest Service.
Under the proposal, the land would also be protected from developments, such as roads, dams, parks, picnic areas and campgrounds.
“We manage [the land] more for the natural environment, not the human-developed environment,” Seastrand said.
The proposal is the result of the settlement of a 2008 lawsuit filed by environment groups against the U.S. Forest Service.
Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Headquarters in Arcadia. A second meeting is scheduled this week from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Santa Clara Mojave Rivers Ranger District Office in Acton.