Southern California environment news and trends

Court ruling restricts gold mining in the West

Rising Price of Gold Spurs Increases In Prospecting In California

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As reported by the Associated Press, a new ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has tightened restrictions on gold mining in states across the West, including California.

The ruling, which passed by a margin of 7-4, states that the U.S. Forest Service must consult outside federal wildlife agencies before allowing any activities that could potentially threaten an endangered species, in this case salmon. The ruling was the result of a previous lawsuit submitted by the Karuk Tribe in Northern California opposing suction dredge mining in the Klamath River (which had been approved in 2004). The suit claimed that dredging could harm coho salmon, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Suction dredges are gas-powered vacuums that pump sand and gravel up from riverbeds. 


Court orders reevaluation of Southland forest areas

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Angeles National Forest.

Approximately one million acres across four Southern California forests are to be reexamined by the U.S. Forest Service, with the potential of hundreds of thousands of those acres being rezoned into “recommended wilderness” and “back country non-motorized” areas.

As reported by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the updated evaluations could restrict some off-road recreation, decommission unused roads and help revitalize the natural habitat of endangered species like steelhead trout and the California condor.

"These are also some of the best places for hiking and camping,” said Paul Spitler, director of wilderness policy for The Wilderness Society. “Some outstanding beautiful spots in the forests, with waterfalls and streams ... great places for Southern Californians to get away from it all."


Lawsuit aims to protect California condors from lead bullets

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The Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and Sierra Club have announced the combined intention to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to protect endangered California condors from toxic lead poisoning in Arizona’s Kaibab National Forest.

As reported by, Arizona’s California condors are the world’s most endangered species, and that lead poisoning — due to lead-based ammunition used by hunters entering the condor's food chain — is avoidable thanks to the availability of nontoxic alternatives. As recently as 2006, 95 percent of Arizona’s condor population suffered from lead poisoning, with an estimated 12 to 14 dying from it. Up to 70 percent of the birds have been treated for lead exposure.

“At a time when other agencies are stepping up efforts to get toxic lead out of the food chain, the U.S. Forest Service continues to bury its head in the sand, refusing to exercise its authority to protect wildlife on its lands and prevent the needless lead poisoning of Arizona’s condors,” said Jay Lininger, a conservation advocate with the Center For Biological Diversity. “If we want condors to survive, we must stop using ammunition that contaminates their food supply with toxic lead, especially on our national forests.”