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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

San Diego Mountain Developments Risk More Fire Disasters and Loss of Habitat Linkages

San Diego Weekly Reader
, July 23, 2008

Way Too Many People Live Out Here
By Geoff Bouvier

A lawsuit was filed in March of this year by five environmental groups — including the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club — stating that overarching land-management plans prepared by the U.S. Forest Service in 2005 do little to protect federally listed species and critical habitat from harm. The suit involves all four national forests in Southern California, including the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County.

Forest Service officials, sick of being vilified, would rather see compromise.

Meet the New Development…

Most of the countryside north of Ramona is still rugged and beautiful. Vaulting hills pull the view up toward the blue sky, wide valleys pull the view out toward the distant horizon, and a litter of boulders pops up periodically among the pervasive ground-covering green. Whole vistas in this scenic area remain almost untouched by human hands.

But then...

Just outside downtown Ramona, a mile or two after Magnolia Avenue turns into Black Canyon Road, you turn left onto Stokes Road and head up into Rolling Hills Estates.

Glistening white plastic fences and streaming yellow pennants herald the arrival of the “royal” subdivision: the development of a new place for people to come and live in huge houses close to untouched mother nature.

“We’re in a subdivision that is one of the best and worst examples of how development is unfortunately occurring next to the Cleveland National Forest,” says David Hogan, 38, unfolding his lanky frame from the driver’s seat of his truck and surveying the wide scene through sunglasses. Hogan is the conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help “those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.”

Well over half of Rolling Hills Estates isn’t built yet. A few finished, lived-in houses stand next to a few finished, vacant ones, next to half-finished construction sites, next to cleared empty lots, next to areas where lots will presumably be. Much of the land of these estates is just exposed soil that’s eroding.

“Development is going to occur, obviously, and in some areas it’s going to be inevitable,” Hogan says, sounding like a teacher. “But it can be done in a way — especially when you’re at the edge of these precious natural lands — that don’t spill the impacts of development into the national forest.”

Hogan’s tone changes.

“Here, there’s this very arrogant spillover of impacts into the forest,” he says. He sweeps his huge hand across the landscape with a motion that seems to encompass both that landscape and his own disgust. “The lots are bulldozed right up to the forest boundary. Which then implies that there’s an expectation that the national forest has to manage the shrublands that are right next to it to prevent fire risk for the people that move here, instead of the developer or future residents taking responsibility for protecting homes and managing vegetation on their own property.”...

for rest of story, click here

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