Republican Representative Elton Gallegly, who serves California's 24th Congressional District, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would protect many important wild places in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
This is first step toward securing Wilderness and Wild & Scenic designations for these areas, an effort led by Conservation Alliance Grantees California Wilderness Coalition and Los Padres Forest Watch.
The Los Padres Conservation and Recreation Act of 2012 proposes to protect over 63,000 acres (more than 98 square-miles) of the Los Padres National Forest as wilderness.
Once an area is designated as wilderness, it cannot be opened to road construction, oil drilling, logging or other forms of development, though people can still visit the area to hike, camp, fish, ride horses, hunt and enjoy other low-impact forms of recreation.
The Forest Service is still allowed to fight fires in wilderness areas and to conduct law enforcement and search and rescue operations.
Representative Gallegly's bill would expand the existing Dick Smith Wilderness, Matilija Wilderness and Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest. It would also provide special protection for the Condor Ridge area that rises dramatically above the Gaviota Coast.
This legislation also proposes to protect upper Piru Creek, upper Sespe Creek, Mono Creek and Indian Creek as Wild & Scenic Rivers.
When Congress designates a stream as a wild and scenic river, the watercourse cannot be dammed and the government-owned land along its banks must be protected to a significant degree.
"We're thrilled!" said Laurel Williams of the California Wilderness Coalition. "We're so grateful for all of the effort Mr. Gallegly and his staff have put into crafting this bill. These areas are wonderful places to hike, camp, and if you're lucky, you might even see a California Condor!"