The Cleveland National Forest is a testament to nature joining forces with man to create and protect what life might be like in an almost-perfect world.
These wooded mountains and meadows of San Diego County are our last wilderness, one of the few remaining undisturbed settings we have left. The forest and mountains remind us of what life was like before man settled the area. They provide a home for animals and plants.
For these reasons alone, the forest deserves not only our protection, but our thanks. It stands as a regal reminder that we can do better than we have done.
In 1993, county residents voted by a two-thirds margin to protect the Cleveland National Forest from development. The Forest Conservation Initiative stopped encroaching development in its tracks.
In fact, in 1908, encroaching development prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to protect large swaths of the area as a national forest. That national forest once spanned nearly 2 million contiguous acres in San Diego, Riverside and Orange Counties. Today, only 424,000 acres remain. San Diego County is home to 286,000 acres of that total.
My effort at a meeting last week of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors was to include the Forest Conservation Initiative in the county’s environmental study. In short, that meant studying the initiative alongside other proposals. After all, the initiative has been in place for 20 years, protecting the forest. This way, let the best plan win.
However, the Forest Conservation Initiative was left out of the study.
The proposal that was before us would allow more development on some properties and less on others. Lot sizes would vary from one unit per 80 acres to one unit per acre in certain areas. More than 70,000 acres would be affected.
The Environmental Impact Report is expected to return to the Board of Supervisors in early 2015.
To me, it is important to protect the forest from development.
The Cleveland National Forest belongs to everyone. It is the last of its kind in the county. There are other open space lands. But each represents various rangeland, riparian, desert, or water-dominated habitat — not a forest.
The mountains and the trees of the forest are monuments to what man can accomplish when he leaves well enough alone.