Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

NEWS RELEASE -- for immediate release WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27

Keith Hammond, CWC, 530.758.0380 x 100
Daniel Patterson, CBD, 909.659.6053 x 306
More Information: Preview report, Supporting materials


Many of California's last unprotected wilderness areas are in imminent danger of being despoiled -- in some cases irreparably -- by urban sprawl, desert development, logging and energy exploration in roadless forests, and environmental rollbacks by the Bush Administration, according to a report released today.

Based on a statewide survey of wild and roadless areas threatened with development, the 32-page report by the Davis-based California Wilderness Coalition details imminent threats to California's ten most endangered wild places, including the Mojave Desert, rare coastal habitats in Southern California, and roadless forest areas on several of California's National Forests.

"Destroying California's last remaining wilderness for energy development is like burning the furniture to warm the house," said Paul Spitler, executive director of the California Wilderness Coalition. "Californians' natural heritage of wilderness and wildlife can still be saved in these ten places, but only if we act now to protect them."

In these ten areas, development threatens one National Park, one California State Park, six National Wildlife Refuges, five designated Wilderness Areas, 18 potential wilderness areas totalling 800,000 acres, and at least 45 threatened or endangered species -- including the California condor, desert tortoise, coho salmon, and several species unique to California.

According to the report, the 10 most threatened wild places in California are:

  • Mojave Desert (Fort Irwin) -- Base expansion threatens pristine wilderness and desert tortoise
  • Los Padres National Forest -- Oil and gas drilling threatens 20 imperiled species for 10-day supply of oil
  • Mojave Desert (Cadiz Project) -- Water-mining threatens five Wilderness Areas and a National Park
  • South Orange County -- Urban sprawl and road project threaten rare habitat and California State Park
  • Trinity Alps Wilderness Additions -- Logging old-growth forests would destroy proposed wilderness
  • Owens River Headwaters -- Off-road vehicle damage and ski area threaten a forest jewel
  • Gaviota Coast -- Urban sprawl threatens a last remnant of Southern California's undeveloped coastline
  • Santa Ana and Palomar Mountains: Urban development threatens local extinction for mountain lions
  • Medicine Lake Highlands -- Previously rejected power plant projects threaten unique wilderness
  • Klamath River Basin -- Bush Administration water proposal threatens endangered salmon

Five of the ten threatened wildlands are in Southern California: two in the Mojave Desert that would impact the threatened desert tortoise, and three in California's unique coastal environments where large numbers of threatened and endangered species are in the path of encroaching urban development.

"The pressures on Southern California wildlands are already intense and will only increase," said Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in Idyllwild. "It's smart to conserve our land, wildlife and water quality now as it protects our own quality of life."

Four of the ten threatened wildlands are roadless areas in the National Forests, threatened by logging, oil and gas drilling, geothermal development, and potential ski area expansion -- projects which would require extensive road-building and other development. Road-building in roadless areas is specifically prohibited by the Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule, but the Bush Administration has yet to implement the Roadless Rule, and may attempt to overturn it.


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