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Plan Points Up Conflicts Among Forest Users

Officials of the Angeles National Forest recently discovered that a segment of the Pacific Coast Trail was about to be built through the middle of a forest target-shooting area west of Acton.

It will not be the last case of conflict between popular uses of the national forest, as was evident from comments at a meeting in Woodland Hills Wednesday night.

The meeting was called by the U.S. Forest Service to acquaint the public with a draft management plan for the Angeles National Forest--a document that, when issued in final form next year, will guide development and use of the forest for the next 50 years.

The 390-page draft, and a companion environmental impact study of about equal length, discuss how much of the forest will be open for mining, grazing and other economic pursuits, and where people will be able to picnic, camp, hike, ride horses, target-shoot and operate motorbikes.

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The meeting at El Camino Real High School was the seventh, and so far the worst attended, of the dozen meetings scheduled this month and next by the forest service, which will take written comments on the proposed plan through Sept. 20 at its Pasadena office.

Eleven forest service officials were on hand to field questions from 13 citizens, most of them Sierra Club members who argued that the plan tilts toward intrusive uses such as target shooting and motor-biking.

Dotty Rabinowitz, a hiker and Sierra Club member from Panorama City, said the proposal to expand the trail system for off-road vehicles from 70 miles to 581 miles will allow dirt bikes and jeeps to go “bounding all over the place, with noise and soil erosion.”

The Angeles National Forest covers about 630,000 acres of the northern tier of Los Angeles County, taking in part of the Saugus-Valencia area and the northeastern fringe of the San Fernando Valley. This represents nearly one-fourth the land of Los Angeles County, and is within a two-hour drive of as many as 10 million people.

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The management plan also will cover about 10,000 acres of the Los Padres and San Bernardino National Forests on the Angeles’ western and eastern flanks.

Forest service officials said all 154 national forests are preparing 50-year management plans, as required by a 1976 law. Richard Modee, a forest service planning officer and coordinator of the Angeles plan, said the Angeles work began in 1979 and has occupied as many as 30 planners at a time.

Forest service officials said the snafu involving the target-shooting area and the segment of the Pacific Crest Trail will be resolved in the next few weeks by changing the boundary of the shooting area before the trail’s scheduled opening Oct. 1. They said the shooting area and the trail will be one-quarter to half a mile apart, and will be separated by a ridge.

But the case underscores the conflict between different groups of forest visitors, all of whom the forest service says it is trying to accommodate.

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“When you have 8 million people surrounding 600,000 acres of land, we realize we’re not going to make everyone happy,” remarked Hank Hazen, deputy supervisor of the Angeles National Forest.

The draft calls for 48,000 acres to be available to target shooters--which is too much, say members of the Sierra Club.

The draft also calls for adding 292 miles of new vehicle trails within 10 years, with portions of eight hiking trails being converted to vehicle use. The document envisions the addition of 511 miles of new trails for dirt bikes and four-wheel-drive vehicles over 50 years.

The plan also calls for building or reconstructing about 444 miles of hiking and equestrian trails over the 50-year period, but does not spell out how much will be built and how much merely repaired. There are about 484 miles of hiking trails in the forest now.

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“Those people who visit the forest to find quiet and solitude will have a hard time getting away from the noise of off-road vehicles,” Bob Kanne, a Sierra Club official, said in an interview before the meeting.

Kanne, forest planning chairman for the club’s 42,000-member Angeles chapter, said the dramatic expansion of off-road vehicle trails would present other problems, ranging from “erosion damage to . . . difficulty in enforcing the restriction that they (off-road vehicles) stay on designated routes. I don’t think the forest service has any way to enforce that.”

He said the agency should undertake a “more conservative” expansion and monitor its effects “before they open up large areas of the forest to off-road vehicles.”

Modee said the forest service is obliged by law to accommodate “the widest possible array of public uses” and must try to meet recreation demand.

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