Williamson Rock in Angeles Forest remains closed to protect endangered frog species

A once-popular rock climbing area of the Angeles National Forest will remain off-limits for at least another year to protect critical habitat of the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog, says the U.S. Forest Service.

The Williamson Rock closure, which limits access to an area of about 1,000 acres north of the Angeles Crest Highway in the vicinity of Cooper Canyon, has been in place since Dec. 2005, according to the Forest Service.

A new order announced by the Forest Service Monday comes into effect on Friday, Jan. 1, and extends the closure until Dec. 31, 2010.

The crag is just off the Angeles Crest (2) Highway and has more than 300 established climbing routes at about 6,700 feet elevation, according to Alpinist Magazine.

Friends of Williamson Rock, a nonprofit group of climbers "committed to preserving climbing access and activity, as well as protecting the natural environment of the Williamson Rock area," has cooperated with the closure since December 2005, according to its Web site.

"Please do not attempt to access Williamson Rock during the closure," the group states on its Web site. "It is imperative that we act as a group —
that is the reason Friends of Williamson Rock was formed.''

The group is working with the Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a climbers' advocacy group called the Access Fund and other private agencies to restore climbing access and other recreational activity at Williamson Rock, according to its Web site.

Monday's announcement said the extended closure "allows the U.S. Forest Service to follow the guidelines for protecting the habitat of the mountain yellow-legged frog, an endangered species.''

A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, which lies within the closed-off area, allows hikers to take a detour around the area by leaving the trail northbound at Eagles Roost and taking the highway to Cloudburst Summit, according to the Forest Service.

Law enforcement, search-and-rescue teams and firefighters are exempt from the closure order.

The Williamson Rock area was not significantly affected by the Station Fire, according to Friends of Williamson Rock.

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