The Los Padres National Forest is one of the gems of America's national forest system. Extending more than 200 miles along California's central coast, the area features breathtaking scenery, rare wildlife, free-flowing rivers, and hundreds of miles of trails through chaparral, conifer forests, sub-alpine meadows, and desert sagebrush.
The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed long-awaited changes to the management plan for this area. While some of the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, forest officials failed to recommend a single acre for formal designation as Wilderness. As a result, 16 of the forest's Inventoried Roadless Areas totaling more than 400,000 acres remain vulnerable to development.
Recommending areas for wilderness designation is the first step towards securing permanent protection for these lands under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act is America's strongest land conservation tool – wilderness lands are forever protected from development. Camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and hunting are all allowed in wilderness.
But the Forest Service's proposed changes fall far short of permanent protection. Instead of recommending these lands for wilderness designation, the Forest Service is proposing to classify them as Back County Non-Motorized (BCNM), leaving them vulnerable to development. Oil exploration and drilling, mining, construction of communication towers, "temporary" road construction, other energy development, and the disposal/sale of public land to private interests are all allowed on BCNM lands, but they are absolutely prohibited in areas recommended for wilderness designation.
The agency recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public review and comment. The DEIS selects a Preferred Alternative (referred to as "Alternative 2″) that does not recommend a single acre for wilderness protection in the Los Padres National Forest. In the same document, the Forest Service rejects an alternative approach that emphasizes wilderness protection, called the Recommended Wilderness Emphasis ("Alternative 3″).
A coalition of forest users, local business leaders, elected officials, scientists, and other stakeholders are working together to ask the Forest Service to reconsider its "no-new-wilderness" policy. We want the Forest Service to recommend permanent wilderness protections for thousands of acres of forest land in the Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo backcountry. Join us, and let your voice be heard!
Write a Letter
The Forest Service is accepting public comments on the DEIS and its Preferred Alternative until May 16, 2013. This is the last opportunity for the public to submit comments before the Forest Service makes its final decision later this year.
Click here to send a letter to Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez today, urging her to recommend certain lands for wilderness protection in the Los Padres National Forest. You can edit our sample letter and send it with the click of a button! Easy.
Click to send your letter by May 16!
Click here to learn more about the places at stake.
Click here for background information and maps.