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UPDATED: Forest Service seeks expansion of Angeles Forest wilderness area

Posted: April 2, 2013 7:14 p.m.
Updated: April 2, 2013 7:14 p.m.

The U.S. Forest Service is considering a proposal that would expand protected wilderness areas in the Angeles National Forest, but it could also prohibit mountain biking on about 20 miles of trails near Castaic, an official said Tuesday.

Justin Seastrand, environmental director of the Angeles National Forest, said the Forest Service could re-designate about 41,000 acres of the forest north of Santa Clarita near Castaic as wilderness area, banning activities that may be ecologically damaging.

Hikers and equestrians, however, would be allowed on the land.

“The recommended wilderness (status) in general is more protective,” Seastrand said. “There’s less allowance for human use and development.”

Motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited in wilderness areas. Some of land is currently designated “back country non-motorized,” allowing bicyclists access.

Ken Raleigh, director of Santa Clarita Valley Trail Users bicycling group, said the wilderness designation would go too far.

“This (proposal) is closing down this area forever. That’s a long time,” Raleigh said. “And 40,000 acres is a lot of land, and it’s right in our backyard.”

Raleigh took issue with the idea that bicyclists are any more ecologically damaging than hikers or horseback riders.

“We want to conserve this area,” Raleigh said. “We just don’t want to be prohibited with using it forever.”

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, president of the Santa Clarita Community Hiking Club, said she has hiked the area and found that some of the trails that would be closed to bicyclists, such as the Burnt Peak and Upper Fish Canyon trails, are largely impassible anyway.

Erskine-Hellrigel also said she has documented a collection of endangered species in the area, including the California condor and the California black oak.

Because of this, Erskine-Hellrigel said she would not mind if some trails in the area are closed entirely.

“Where most of the endangered species are, it wouldn’t hurt me at all to have the trails completely taken out of the forest’s inventory,” Erskine-Hellrigel said.

Seastrand said closing trails to bikers is just one option being considered by the USFS. it is not set in stone that the Forest Service will pursue closing any trails to biking.

Another option being examined, Seastrand said, would use a different designation to expand ecologically protected areas without banning biking.

The Forest Service is in the process of collecting public comments on how best to expand the wilderness area in the Angeles National Forest.

Those wishing to comment can do so online at or by email to Cleveland National Forest, 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200, San Diego, Calif., 92127.

Any mail-in comments should be marked “Attention: LMP Amendment.”

Comments must be submitted by May 16.
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