Should the Forest Service intervene on the side of environmental groups?

“Public interest groups filed a lawsuit Thursday, Sept. 15, challenging the city of Highland’s approval of the high-density Harmony development. The development sits at the confluence of Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River and is directly adjacent to San Bernardino National Forest lands and will bring more than 3,600 houses to 1,657 acres of land acquired by Orange County Flood Control in the Seven Oaks Dam project that are currently home to numerous endangered species, rare habitats, wetlands and crucial wildlife connectivity corridors, according to the suit.”

“The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society and the Greenspot Residents Association, who are represented by the law firm Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger. It argues the city of Highland’s City Council’s August approval of the project violates the California Environmental Quality Act.”

It sounds like potentially illegal local government actions could adversely affect national forest resources.  Shouldn’t the Forest Service be trying to protect those resources?  (Not to mention what this would add to fire management costs.)

http://www.highlandnews.net/news/political/lawsuit-challenges-high-density-harmony-housing-development/article_f36e5c3e-7cfd-11e6-845e-2bf853763e42.html

6 Comments

    • I wouldn’t assume that. Those are intermittent watercourses, and you can see there are miles and miles and miles and miles of dry riverbeds and creekbeds in the LA Basin. What do these areas connect TO and FROM? Widen out the view and you can see severely impacted urban “landscapes”, connected to failing orchards, connected to scrublands, connected to a flood control dam. Which “rare species” migrate between National Forest scrublands and urban-industrial lands?

      C’mon, now…. is there REALLY any connection to the Forest Service, here?

  1. This was interesting, but your link has very little information. I’m over here in Sweden for the past 10 years, but previously worked and commuted through this area for almost 20+ years. Most of it was orange groves and other agriculture. I don’t see where an actual specific map is anywhere, but here are three links with far more info. The first id from the Center for Biological Diversity page, the second is a local newpaper and the third is a Facebook page update news on the area:

    https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2016/harmony-development-09-16-2016.html

    http://sbcsentinel.com/2016/09/highlanders-mentone-neighbors-file-suit-against-city-over-harmony-project-okay/

    https://www.facebook.com/highlandcommunitynews/

    Hope this is helpful. The area mainly is in the very lower foothills of Chaparral country, not much else. The large washes and dry river beds are certainly there, but without map I have no idea as to further critique of the area. This has always been a fire prone area as well because of human presence.

  2. Thanks to both of you for the additional info, which led me to look a little deeper. Here’s a picture:
    http://image.redlandsdailyfacts.com/storyimage/LH/20160503/NEWS/160509868/AR/0/AR-160509868.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

    Some people don’t like the idea of the Forest Service taking an interest in what neighboring land owners are doing (and some of those people are in the Forest Service). In this case, the district ranger recognized the threat to national forest resources from actions taken on adjacent lands and wrote two letters to the local jurisdiction during the public planning process. The second letter addressed fire safety, access, recreation, open space, trespass, biological resources, water and erosion. With regard to wildlife, it said this:

    “Impacts that may result from development include habitat loss and modification, stream de-watering noise disturbance, light disturbance, increased fire starts, non-native species introductions, and the impacts of pets. Of highest concern for wildlife is conservation of riparian areas, coastal sage scrub communities and landscape linkages.”

    “There is a need to maintain an inter-connected network of undeveloped areas or landscape linkages, which retain specific habitats and allow for maintenance of biodiversity and wildlife movement across the landscape. National Forest lands are a core element of this natural area open space network and will play an increasingly important role as additional habitat fragmentation occurs on surrounding lands. The SBNF strives to collaborate with local governments, developers, and other entities to complement adjacent federal and non-federal land use zones by providing for landscape linkages.”

    Hear, hear! An excellent model for the role of federal lands and land managers in landscape scale conservation. Now on the original question I asked, the Forest Service “recommends additional analysis on the effects of new development encroaching into wildlife habitat as well as disturbance effects to wildlife species.” The City disagreed with the need for more analysis. Since that is what the lawsuit is about, intervention as a plaintiff by the Forest Service would be justified.

    http://www.ci.highland.ca.us/Downloads/Files/Harmony/Harmony%20FEIR.pdf

    • If it was 40 years ago, these concerns would ring true but, just looking at the aerial photo, it is easy to see that the current severe impacts are not going away…. ever. The fire concerns are minimal, looking at the scrub brush on Forest Service lands. The SBNF is proud of their policy of not letting fires burn. The wildlife concerns are minimal, as they are following the BMP’s on their own lands, already. You don’t see the Forest Service complaining about what happens on private lands in checkerboarded areas of land ownership. The last thing the Forest Service needs is more limits on land management, due to what happens on private lands. In this case, should the Forest Service blast the orchard owners for “habitat fragmentation”?!? If the current barriers aren’t already blocking “connectivity”, I doubt that this development would have much of an impact. Just LOOK at the aerial photo and tell me that everything is great and we should keep it the way it is!

      Hey, populations have to live somewhere…. and if it isn’t on private lands, then WHERE should ever-increasing populations affordably live?!?

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