Forest plan would curb visitor access

Contra Costa Times


EUREKA, CA- Visitors would be kept mostly to the edges of the 7,400-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve along California's northern coast, under a U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan sent to Congress this week.

Millions of dollars would be spent over eight years to restore watersheds and the ancient redwood forest that was purchased in 1999 by the state and federal governments for $380 million to save it from logging by Pacific Lumber Co.

The plan, expected to govern use of the reserve for 20 years, includes limits on hiking and biking, including closing an historic ridgetop trail and keeping mountain bikes out of steeper, erosion-prone areas. Horseback riding would be banned, and the southern portion of the reserve would be open only to guided tours.

Miles of logging roads would be closed, and one particularly steep road replaced with a hiking trail from the Elk River Trailhead into a section of old-growth forest. Among changes since a May 2002 draft plan is allowing mountain bikes on the first three miles of the Elk River Trail.

Within the reserve, 4,400 acres would be managed as wilderness, though they wouldn't be assigned an official Wilderness Study Area designation. The BLM also has recommended that the Little South Fork of the Elk River and a section of Salmon Creek within the reserve be considered for listing as federal Wild and Scenic Rivers.

The plan was praised by the Sierra Club's Diane Beck for its protection of marbled murrelet habitat, and criticized by trail riders.

Planners were conservative in allowing human use because of the delicate nature of the area, BLM Headwaters manager Dan Averill told the Eureka Times-Standard, but aren't ruling out changes if studies show it can be sustained.

Congress will consider the plan early next year. Comments on the plan are being accepted until Nov. 10.


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