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Five environmental groups today sued the U.S. Forest Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alleging that the agencies’ plans for the use of four Southern California national forests — including the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County — fail to adequately protect a range of endangered species.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that a 2005 Forest Service update of its over-arching land-use plans for the four forests cleared the way for a range of activities from cattle grazing to road and fire-break maintenance to off-road vehicle use without properly considering the impact each would have on endangered species such as the steelhead trout.

The plans were based on inadequate biological analyses from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fisheries Service, the suit alleges, which failed to establish thresholds for the number of plants or animals that could be killed or impacted each year by those activities.

David Hogan, conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the lawsuit did not intend to eliminate grazing or other activities. It aims to reduce the activities’ impacts to endangered species, he said, which can be done by fencing streams near grazing cattle, closing unnecessary roads or changing the season when land is used.

“This lawsuit is not going to shut down the national forests,” he said.

The other groups joining the suit are the Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, Los Padres Forest Watch and Defenders of Wildlife. In addition to the Cleveland National Forest, the groups sued over plans in the Los Padres, Angeles and San Bernardino national forests.

ROB DAVIS

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