The U. S. Forest Service is seeking public input on a proposal that could limit mining activities along a 20-mile stretch of Piru Creek.
Officials with the Mt. Pinos Ranger District are preparing an environmental analysis to determine whether people who mine for gold as a hobby in the creek's stream bed are hurting wildlife species in the area.
Of particular concern is the welfare of the Arroyo toad, said Lisa Morris, a biologist for Los Padres National Forest. The toad is being considered for federal status as an endangered species, she said.
Amateur gold miners often use large suction dredges that scoop up piles of sand and rock from the bottom of Piru Creek, she said. Although the dredge is effective for siphoning out gold flakes and other heavy metals, it also grinds the Arroyo toad's eggs into bits, she said.
The toad lays up to 10,000 eggs at a time in the creek bed and, when they are destroyed, the toad's population begins to decline, Morris said.
She said the Forest Service does not intend to completely close off the creek to the hundreds of people who use it on the weekend to pan for gold. But biologists hope to find some compromise that will allow both the miners and the toad to use the creek, she said.
Comments on the project must be submitted in writing by Dec. 15. They should be mailed to U. S. Forest Service, John Kelly or Lisa Morris, HC1 Box 400, Frazier Park, CA 93225.