Even after Hwy 33 reopened, vehicular access to Lion Camp in Rose Valley has stayed closed.
The arroyo toad, a federal endangered species first listed as such in December 1994, is the cause of the closure. Arroyo toads breed and live in and adjacent to sandy pools along the Sespe - exactly the spots that summer visitors would choose. There aren't a lot of arroyo toads left - only a few hundred - and more of them live along this stretch of the Sespe than in all other locations put together.
From mid-May to mid-August, juvenile arroyo toads sit still on the surface of the sandy beaches, well camouflaged as they are. Thus they regularly get stepped on and killed by human visitors. Because of the late rains, their breeding season was late and juvenile arroyo toads were still on the beaches by Lion Camp into September. This year they also bred next to Lion Camp in greater concentrations than usual, because upstream beaches eroded in the winter storms.
People can walk to other sandy beaches - the arroyo toads can't. Please understand this and bear with the closures!
KSWC has received many phone calls asking about the closure of Lion Camp in Rose Valley. Currently the main Rose Valley road is blocked just past the Gun Club and Lion Camp is nearly an hour's walk away. We mentioned above that this is due to the habitat requirements for the arroyo toad, a federal endangered species, whose summer beach habitat was washed away in last winter's heavy rains. The beach at Lion Camp itself, normally a busy summer swimming spot for human visitors, is about the only spot left where arroyo toads can breed. Since they sit on the sand's surface, relying on stillness and camouflage to protect them, they are frequently killed underfoot. Because it's a crime to kill an endangered species - and there are only a few hundred arroyo toads left in the world - human use of Lion Camp must take a backseat, at least for a while.
Consultations continue between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, whose mandate includes endangered species, and the US Forest Service, over how to balance recreation use and arroyo toad habitat. It is possible that Lion Camp may be opened for camping in the fall season, perhaps this year.
The next step, expected at some point in 1999, is for the Forest Service to amend their Forest Plan to take arroyo toads into account. At that point, a public meeting will be held. In the meanwhile, we urge you to be patient and to keep arroyo toads in mind.