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Forest erred in opening road

June 15, 2004|Bonnie Obremski

A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Forest Service acted improperly by opening a 17-mile road in the mountains near Santa Clarita to motorized vehicles.

In a case that pitted a former Forest Service employee against his employer, District Judge Dale S. Fischer ruled in favor of patrolman Robert Libershal, who removed signs allowing off-highway vehicle use along Santa Clara Divide Road, 3N17, in the Angeles National Forest in defiance of his superiors' orders two years ago.

The region is home to a rare plant, the Gleason paintbrush, which was being degraded by traffic.

Libershal says he removed the signs because the forest management plan did not designate the route for off highway vehicle use.

He was suspended for three days without pay for his action.

But in the June 4 decision, the judge ruled that the Forest Service had no justification for its decision to open the road.

"In spite of its own regulations, USFS failed to make any determination of the environmental effects of opening the disputed road [to vehicles] before it did so. In fact, no record whatsoever exists of how the USFS opened the disputed road.... The signs simply appear," the court said.

The court ruled the forest service must conduct an environmental study before it reopens the road.

-- Bonnie Obremski

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