SGM Current and Historical News


January. 3,000 acres around Little Rock Creek have been closed to all use, including hiking until February 2003 "or until further notice". Portions of Little Rock Creek have been closed for the last 3 years from Spring until the end of September to protect the habitat of the endangered Arroyo Southwestern Toad.

A 1998 study of the effectiveness of this closure concluded that more needed to be done, since forest visitors continued to enter the closed area, despite locked gates, signs and forest officers who issued 200 citations in a single week during the breeding season. Since forest managers could be held personally responsible for the death of even one Arroyo Toad, they opted to make the closure year-round, and beefed-up, to make the closure more effective.

The closure extends from Joshua Tree Campground in Little Rock Recreation Area in the north, to Sulphur Springs Campground at the south, east along Alimony Ridge, and west to a point just above the Desert Marksman permit area, east of Kentucky Shooting Area. Basin Campground is thus closed, and the Santiago Canyon and Alimony Ridge off-highway vehicle routes.

For further information, contact Mike Wickman, District Ranger Santa Clara / Mojave Rivers Ranger District at 805-296-9710 or Bill Brown, Forest Biologist at 626-574-1613.

Source for the above: Littlerock Creek Closure News Release and ANF "Dear Concerned Citizen" letter, File Code 2670, January 22, 1999, from Michael J. Rogers, Forest Supervisor. This letter also includes a detailed map showing the closure areas, which unfortunately is not on the ANF Forest website. Copies are available at the main ANF office in Arcadia.

This closure may also have been a response to the suit filed on 6/18/98.

None of the hiking trails listed on my site go into the closure area. The PCT from Pacifico Mountain to Sulphur Springs Campground travels along the southern boundary of the closure near Sulphur Springs.

For the reaction of the off-road population, see Shey's page Owner [of Littlerock Lake Resort] hopping mad over closure. Make sure you notice the links at the bottom, all titled "Arroyo Toad", which tell more about the Toad itself, as well as the global problem of frogs in decline. (Thanks to JS for finding this link.)

Samuel Sweet, an expert on amphibians at UC Santa Barbara, petitioned to list the Arroyo Toad under the Endangered Species Act in 1992, because "Arroyo Toads are seriously in trouble as a species. It's not due to any one particular thing, other than the fact they need to live in stream beds. If Southern Californians have done one thing, they've messed up stream beds."

Most of the decline in the population of the toad is due to damming of streams. While that is not an issue here, the Endangered Species Act is written so specifically that forest managers still had to close the land to prevent further loss.

Source for previous 2 paragraphs: SDUT 2/1/99, B8.

February. U.S. Forest Service halts all construction of logging roads for 18 months on 33 million acres, including 14 forests in California. The only excluded forests in California are 4 forests in the northwestern part, Klamath, Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers and Mendocino, among 26 total nationwide. Most of these forests are already covered by management plans designed to preserve endangered species.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said:

There are 383,000 miles of forest roads already in existence, enough to circle the globe many times. Less than half of them meet minimum environmental and safety standards.

The moratorium will only reduce the annual amount of timber cut in national forests by 2-3%.

The moratorium will allow new roads to be carefully planned, instead of being constructed haphazardly.

Source: LAT 2/12/99, A3.

As far as I know, there is no logging in the ANF anyway.

March. 24. The Jumping Frog Institute, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation and others filed suit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for refusing to designate protected critical habitat for the California red-legged frog. This probably doesn't affect the San Gabriel Mountains, but I am not completely certain about that.
A helicopter count finds fewer than 60 bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains, implying a population of less than 100 in total. This is down from over 700 sheep in the 1980s, at which time the population was "perhaps the healthiest wild sheep population in the nation".

Research by the California Department of Fish and Game shows that the direct cause of this decline is mountain lion predation, with a restricted habitat an important contributor. In the Sierra Nevada, the sheep population declined from over 400 sheep to ~50 sheep in the same 15 year period, for the same reasons. It may be necessary to kill some of the mountain lions in order to prevent the extinction of these sheep populations.

Source: Bighorn on the Decline, Daily Breeze, 3/21/99.
The controversy about the road-cutting and subsequent burial of over 5 waterfalls in Rubio Canyon heats up, with numerous people expressing outrage at an "informational meeting" held by Rubio Water on 3/6/99. See Rubio Canyon for the story.

April. Five heavily used water wells near the Chilao Visitor Center were shut down due to radioactivity in the water, presumably due to a pocket of uranium in the rocks. Some of the water is being replaced with water from wells one mile south, but until new wells are dug, water shortages will occur. (PSN 7/22/99)

May. A community public meeting on Rubio Canyon was held on May 20 to acquaint people with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and to gather input on mitigation of the environmental destruction caused by Rubio Water's activities. Before and after pictures of the waterfalls are now online.

June. The Angeles Crest Century is back for September 11, 1999, although 80% of the riders must be JPL/Caltech people for insurance purposes.

July. Buckhorn campsite will be completely closed to public access until August 6 since the campground roads are being repaved. Unfortunately, the only access to the camp and the Burkhart Trail are along these roads, making those destinations harder to access for the duration. JS suggests an alternative is to park in that big wide spot at the exit and bushwhack down, or to park in the big wide spot just before the western end and hike down, adding about 1-1.5 extra miles to your trip.

Upper Big Tujunga Road is also closed to through traffic at Barley Flats due to a wildlife study there. This may be connected with the later construction of an OHV trail there. See 2/7/00 above. (JS)

The Eaton Canyon Equestrian area reopened. (PSN 1/5/00)

August. Switzer Falls was closed after several ground squirrels tested positive for sylvatic plague, carried by fleas. It will reopen after the fleas in the area are killed. This was the first incidence since 1996. (San Gabriel Valley Weekly 8/27/99, 8)

In the last week of August, 6,000 marijuana plants were removed from 6 "gardens" over 25 acres off the Forest Highway, the biggest plantation discovered in several years. 10-20 plantations are found yearly, with 10-15 thousand plants removed every year, an estimated one-third of what is grown, based on finding crop remains after harvest. (SDUT 1/7/96, A3; LAT 8/30/99, B3)

Five people died after failing to negotiate the sweeping curve at mile marker 68 just east of Islip Saddle while they were coming home from a "rave" party held 28-29 August at Snowcrest Snowpark. (LAT 8/30/99, B1)

The Mt. Baldy (Shinn fire) blaze burned ~600 acres on 25-29 August near Sunset Peak, after a car burst into flames after going over the side of the road near Mt. Baldy and Shinn Roads. The Bridge Fire burned over 7,100 acres on 29 August - ~7 September on both sides of Highway 39 north of the East Fork Road, and over 4,000 campers and local residents along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River were evacuated. Only residents were allowed on SR-39, Glendora Mountain Road, and Glendora Ridge Road. Along SR-39, the fire burned from San Gabriel Dam to Coldbrook Campground, with near total destruction along its path, leaving only white ash in places. The Shannon Fire in the Sierra Pelona Hills burned over 3,000 acres on 30-31 August. (Yahoo! News 8/25/99; LAT 8/30/99, B3; LAT 8/31/99, B1, B2; USFS Fire News; JS 9/20/99)

A series of arson vehicle fires becomes more frequent. Summary of vehicle fires in 1999 to date:

Jan. 27Two vehicles, one on Big Tujunga Canyon Road, the other on Angeles Crest Highway. Both arson.
Jan. 29One vehicle, Little Tujunga Canyon Road. Arson.
May 6Two vehicles, both on Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Both arson.
July 5One vehicle, Angeles Forest Highway. Accidental.
July 10One vehicle, Angeles Crest Highway. Accidental.
July 17One vehicle (stolen tow truck), Big Tujunga Canyon Road. Arson.
Aug. 8Two vehicles, one on Little Tujunga Canyon Road, the other on Lopez Canyon Road. Both arson.
Aug. 9One vehicle, Little Tujunga Canyon Road. Arson.
Aug. 15One vehicle, Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road, a half mile before the Camp Colby turnoff. Arson.

All the vehicles were abandoned and intentionally lit, usually at night, probably to remove any criminal evidence in the vehicles. "The reason we determined it was arson is because there were no identifying marks on the vehicle," said Dick McCombs, district fire management officer for the L.A. River Ranger District. "There was no license plate, which means it was most likely stolen. Normally, when (vehicles) are stolen and abandoned like that, they are torched." Such arson fires have been happening for years, and also occur in the deserts. (LAT 8/21/99, and another article in previous week)

September. Monrovia plans to change its general plan to allow development of part of the San Gabriel Mountains within its boundaries. A hearing to receive public comments is scheduled for 9/29/99 at 7 p.m. at Clifton Middle School Auditorium, 226 S. Ivy Avenue, Monrovia. See Foothills Wildlife Conservancy for more info.

Upper Big Tujunga road reopened on 28 September. (JS)

October 19. Eaton Canyon Natural Area was closed for up to two weeks after routine tests showed the presence of plague in three ground squirrels. Another infected squirrel was found at Table Mountain campground, which coincides with its normal annual closure. An infected kitten was also found in Lancaster, just north of the ANF. (Eaton Canyon Natural Area, 10/19/99; LAT 10/21/99.) Such events happen routinely in the ANF - see below.

Work has begun on reopening SR-39 from SR2 to just above Crystal Lake. It has been closed since 1978 due to massive landslides on the west face of Mount Islip. Dave Anderberg reports that the security guard at the gate at Islip Saddle said that the road would reopen in 6 months to a year from now, although previous reports had given the opening date as 2004. Dave also observed many trucks and equipment working on the road on 20 October, making a 2000 date seem more likely. (Dave Anderberg 10/20/99)

The Forest Service has suspended permits for raves until further notice. (LAT 10/9/99, C5)

November 30. $1.5 million was received from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in order to acquire a protected corridor for the segment of the 2650-mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) where it crosses the Sierra Pelona Valley in the SGM. (Pacific Crest Trail Association Press Release)

December 13. Death of Bill Reilly from a heart attack. Bill was one of the leading forces of the JPL Trailbuilders. Since 1981, Bill put in almost 3,000 volunteer hours building and repairing trails in the SGM. A memorial sign from the Forest Service will be installed on the North San Gabriel Peak Trail in spring 2000. That trail was built by the JPL Trailbuilders, and is a testament to Bill's ingenuity. (JPL Hiking Club Notice 1/18/00)

19. Roy Randall completes his 100 Robinson hikes, hiking 1006 miles in 96 days over a period of 548 days.

22. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to list the southern California mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) as endangered. The frog's only known habitats in the SGM are on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River: the upper reaches of Prairie Creek/Vincent Gulch, Devils Canyon, and Alder Creek/East Fork; and on the Mojave River at Little Rock Creek. See below for the closure of 3,000 acres due to the frog's cousin, the Arroyo Southwestern Toad, as an example of what might happen next.

26-28. The Santa Anita II arson fire burns 738 acres north of Arcadia centered near the microwave tower south of Chantry Flat. (PSN 1/6/00)

31. Mike Rogers retires as ANF Supervisor after nearly a decade in that position (since 8/90). His deputy Susan Swinson becomes interim ANF Supervisor. (PSN 1/12/00)

News pre-1999

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Updated 8 February 2001.