Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
For Immediate Release:
April 4, 2001
CALIFORNIA'S WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS AT RISK
LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST FAILS TO PROTECT BIG SUR, SISQUOC RIVERS AND SESPE CREEK AS MANDATED BY FEDERAL WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT
San Francisco -A coalition of environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Center and Keep Sespe Wild filed a lawsuit today under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act against the U.S. Forest Service (Forest Service) and the Secretary of Agriculture in Federal District Court in San Francisco. The suit charges that the Forest Service and its parent, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are in violation of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) for their failure to prepare river management plans for the Big Sur, Sespe and Sisquoc rivers as mandated by the WSRA. The suit asks that the court compel the Forest Service to prepare and adopt river management plans within six months.
The WSRA, passed by Congress in 1968, mandates that agencies responsible for managing segments of the Wild and Scenic River System prepare comprehensive management plans to protect the designated river segments within three years of their addition to the WSRA system. Portions of the Big Sur, Sespe and Sisquoc rivers were officially added to the WSRA system in 1992. By law the management plans were due in 1995.
Peter Galvin, Conservation Biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity stated "These rivers are some of California's crown jewels and must be given the full protection afforded to them under the law." Galvin noted "The Forest Service is over five years late in producing the required river management plans."
Brian Trautwein of the Environmental Defense Center stated "Without the legally required management plans in place, the majestic Wild and Scenic Rivers of the Los Padres National Forest have been subjected to a variety of increasing pressures and damaging activities. Once good management plans are in place, we can look forward to needed protection for the rivers' water quality and endangered fisheries."
Alasdair Coyne, Conservation Director for Keep Sespe Wild stated "The Magnificence of the Sespe Watershed deserves the proper management planning required by Congress."
The Center for Biological Diversity (Berkeley, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Silver City) is a science-based environmental advocacy organization headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The Center was founded in 1989 and has more than 6,000 members throughout the U.S. The Center primarily works to protect endangered wildlife and habitat throughout Western North America and the Pacific.
The Environmental Defense Center (Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of the environment in California's south-central coast region through public advocacy and the private enforcement of federal, state, and local environmental laws and regulations.
Keep Sespe Wild (Ojai) is a non-profit watershed conservation organization which was founded in 1988, to preserve Sespe Creek, one of Southern California's last free-flowing rivers.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Neil Levine of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, John Buse of the Environmental Defense Center and Brent Plater of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Big Sur River-Congress designated 19.5 miles of the Big Sur River as "wild" under the WSRA, from its headwaters to the Ventana Wilderness boundary. This coastal stream is characterized by steep slopes, which are covered with chaparral and oaks. Redwoods are found along almost the entire length of the river. The Big Sur River contains an excellent trout fishery, include steelhead trout.
Sespe Creek-Congress designated 27.5 miles of Sespe Creek as a "wild "river, and 4 miles as "scenic" river. Sespe Creek is a major tributary of the Santa Clara River, which flows to the ocean. The river contains unique geological formations, unusual gorges, and riparian vegetation. Steep canyon walls, swimming pools, and hot springs make the river attractive for recreational use. The 53,000 acre Sespe Condor Sanctuary protects critical condor nesting and roosting sites adjacent to the river. There is an excellent trout fishery in the river and the river provides suitable habitat for steelhead trout recovery.
Sisquoc River-Congress designated 33 miles as a "wild" river. The designation extends its origin in the Los Padres National Forest to the forest boundary. The Sisquoc River empties into the Santa Maria River, which flows to the ocean. Most of the designated portions on the Sisquoc are located in the rugged San Rafael Wilderness Area. The river channel is narrow and rocky, with picturesque waterfalls, pools, and shallow gorges. Riparian vegetation, including oaks, alders, and willows, chaparral, and springtime wildflowers dominant the landscape. The endangered condor occurs along the upper portions of the river, including an area designated as the Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary to protect the birds' bathing, roosting, and nest sites.