Cleveland National Forest managers close entire north end of Santa Ana Mountains

By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com

The management staff of the Cleveland National Forest has effectively closed the entire north end of the Trabuco Ranger District in the Santa Ana Mountains to public access for a year with an order issued in late October. This is all under the guise of protecting the watershed after the 960-acre Silverado Fire that started Sept. 9. The fire area has been closed since then.

If you take the time to read all the after fire reports on soils, hydrology (and watershed damage), along with plants and wildlife, none of the material gives any credence to public closures, except where there is or will be severe road damage once rains begin. The biggest resource concern expressed in all the reports is that illegal OHV use will worsen damage to the watershed and exacerbate flooding. Yet, the documents on the burn admit that closures are a waste of time:

“Past experience shows administrative closures are ineffective in preventing unauthorized OHV activity,” according to the after-fire report.

Yet, if you ask USFS staff why the area is closed to the general public, they will give you the usual, shopworn answer: Public safety.

None of the material provided about the closure has any documentation there is a single public safety risk for those in the burn area. None. When I was asked about details on public safety concerns, I was told “the hillsides are very steep in that area” and that “there’s no money to put in heavy gates or do fencing to keep people [really they mean illegal ATVs] out of the burn.” So the solution is to close a huge chunk of the forest?

Ask yourself the logical questions: Are the hillsides steeper than before the burn, and somehow more dangerous to hikers or people driving on adjacent roads? Is there any evidence that crowds of people will want to hike in the burn? Or even more importantly, if there were, would that have some kind of negative impact on the resource?

The answers to those questions is “no.”

There is no public safety issue. Locking the only gates into the area alleviates the Forest Service staff from doing its job: fencing the edges of burns to keep OHV riders out, signage to tell them OHV use is prohibited, or installing new gates that would protect just the burn area while allowing public use to continue.

The agency can spend $5 million to fight the fire, but it can’t spend a few thousand dollars for some gates, fencing, and signage?

If you are unfamiliar with the area, and were to look at the map of the “closed area,” it would look prudent, consisting of only 3,500 acres around the burn. But the closure is effectively much, much larger because of the road closures.

With the closures of Silverado Canyon Road and Bedford Road (both gated at the forest boundary), the entire forest from Ortega Highway (Highway 74) to the northern edge of the forest has no vehicle access. That is over 100 square miles of closed forest, ostensibly to protect the public from themselves on a 960-acre burn site.

It is just goofy beyond all comprehension. The Silverado Canyon Road closure is understandable (it goes right through the heart of the fire), but reality is that Bedford Road and the entire Main Divide Road could and should still be open to the public. Under the current closure, there is only a small portion of the Main Divide Road along the burn. The fire was actually stopped below the road, and there is no reason the road should be closed. And there is no justification for closing such a huge area to the public.

Increasingly, the U.S. Forest Service’s response to any and all fires in Southern California is to close the burn, and vast areas around the burn, simply because it is an easy administrative solution that makes it appear the agency is being responsive to a “problem.” The reality is something far different. It is lazy management at best, opting for the easy, quick-fix solution to an imagined problem, one that really doesn’t exist. At worst, it is discriminatory against recreational users of all stripes, especially a couple of groups many in the agency don’t like -- legal OHVers and hunters.

Fish and Game Commissioner suggests Manhattan Beach

politicians pushing for pier fishing ban have worst of motives

Richard Rogers, a member of the California Fish and Game Commission openly accused Manhattan Beach politicians of being classists in their push to ban fishing on the pier in that coastal city.

At the Commission’s Oct. 8 meeting, Rogers wondered aloud whether the proposed pier fishing ban was less about public safety and more about pandering to the wealthy members of the community.

“I think there is a social issue involved here. [There are] people on the strand who are all now multimillionaires. Those houses are worth millions,” said Rogers, a one-time Manhattan Beach resident. “The people on the pier aren’t so tony. They come from a mile or two or three or four inland of Manhattan Beach. I’m accusing Manhattan Beach of maybe having a reason for stopping fishing on the pier that they are not willing to talk about.”

Rogers challenged Manhattan Beach’s civic leaders and the city staff to provide the Commission with any data or information to prove public safety is an ongoing program that would justify a permanent ban on pier fishing or more restrictive regulations.

“So far they have been very reluctant to [present information]. They don’t respond to letters. They are very reluctant to even engage,” said Rogers. “I think they are fighting their own little political battle. They are completely wrong, legally. There is something else going on here and it doesn’t have a darn thing to do with fishing on that pier.”

The move to ban fishing had its origins when an angler hooked a great white shark while fishing off the pier in July. The shark, while struggling against the line, actually bit a long-distance swimmer. There is no evidence that a great white shark has been hooked by a shore angler ever before in the state, and all types of shark attacks are extremely rare. This was the fluke of all flukes. But the Manhattan Beach leaders banned fishing temporarily to address the issue and then later adopted fishing restrictions on the pier. That is illegal because setting regulations are the sole authority of the state Fish and Game Commission.

The Commission is now examining a request from Manhattan Beach to set special regulations on the pier. They include a ban against cleaning fish on the pier, throwing debris from the pier, the use of more than two hooks per line, use un-baited hooks (snagging), and anything other than a monofilament line.

Currently, anglers at Hermosa Beach Pier are already prohibited from throwing bait from the pier and overhead casting. Each angler is also limited to use of two poles.

Chris Cheng, of Top Shot fame,

at Bass Pro Shops Nov. 28-30

Chris Cheng, a one-time winner of the popular television competition shooting show “Top Shot,” will be at Bass Pro Shops autographing copies of his book, “Shoot to Win,” and talking with fans.

Cheng was the winner of the History Channel’s “Top Shot” during season four. His book, “Shoot to Win” came out Oct. 14, and it is a collection of his tips, tactics, and shooting techniques that helped him win the competition. He will be at Bass Pro from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 28 and from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29 and Sunday, Nov. 30.

END

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