Forest Service Issues Draft Decision
updated: Jan 17, 2014, 9:41 AM
Source: Los Padres Forest Watch
Today, the U.S. Forest Service released its draft decision specifying the levels of development that will be
allowed in sixteen roadless areas spanning 421,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa
Barbara, Ventura, Kern, and San Luis Obispo counties.
Despite widespread public support for more wilderness protections in the Los Padres National Forest, the
draft decision does not protect any new wilderness areas here - in stark contrast to the other three national
forests in southern California, where the Forest Service is recommending 104,801 acres for wilderness
The draft decision adopts the same no-new-wilderness policy that was first proposed last year in
conjunction with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). During the comment period on the DEIS,
the public submitted more than 10,000 comments asking forest officials to reconsider the proposed no-
new-wilderness policy and urging the agency to recommend several roadless areas for permanent
wilderness protection. A wilderness recommendation would immediately bar development in these pristine
"Residents and forest users from throughout the Central Coast have spoken loud and clear about wanting
more of our local forest protected as wilderness," said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres
ForestWatch, a nonprofit organization that generated more than two thousand comments demanding more
wilderness protections for the Los Padres National Forest. "Unfortunately, this no-new-wilderness policy
keeps some of our region's most remote, undeveloped lands open for oil drilling, mining, and other types
The no-new-wilderness policy was first announced in February 2013, when the U.S. Forest Service
proposed long-awaited changes to the management plan for the Los Padres National Forest and released
the DEIS for public review and comment. The proposed changes prohibited motorized vehicles across more
than 300,000 acres of forest land - a good first step - but the Forest Service failed to recommend a single
acre for wilderness designation, the highest level of protection for national forest lands.
In May 2013, thousands of local residents flooded the U.S. Forest Service with comments demanding that
forest officials place stronger, more permanent protections across pristine areas of the Los Padres National
Forest. When the comment period closed, the Forest Service had received more than 10,000 comments, the
vast majority of which asked the agency to adopt Alternative 3. That alternative - dubbed the
Recommended Wilderness Emphasis Alternative - would recommend permanent wilderness protections for
many of the roadless areas in the Los Padres National Forest.
Also during the comment period, more than fifty local land and water conservation organizations - with a
collective membership of more than 20,000 residents - joined ForestWatch in asking the Forest Service to
protect more lands as wilderness. Two expert wildlife agencies - the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA
Fisheries - also weighed in, recommending that the Forest Service identify certain lands for wilderness
protection to safeguard habitat for endangered species like the California condor and southern steelhead.
Several local elected officials also submitted letters promoting more wilderness protections in the Los
Padres National Forest.
Instead of recommending these lands for wilderness designation, the Forest Service selected Alternative 2a,
which places them under the Back County Non-Motorized (BCNM) zoning classification, leaving them
vulnerable to development. While BCNM does increase the amount of protection for these lands, several
types of development are allowed on lands zoned as BCNM, including:
oil exploration and drilling
"temporary" road construction
other energy development
disposal/sale of public land to private interests
commercial harvesting of wood and other forest products
replacement of native vegetation with non-native invasive weeds
These development activities are all allowed on BCNM lands, but they are prohibited in areas recommended
for wilderness designation.
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.
"Wilderness protection is the best way to ensure that we can continue to enjoy clean mountain streams,
wildlife habitat, and the great outdoors without threat of development," said Kuyper. "We will continue to
work with the Forest Service and other stakeholders to reverse this no-new-wilderness policy so that our
local forest lands receive the protection they deserve."
The public has a 60-day period in which to file formal objections with the agency. The objection period
begins today and ends on March 18, 2014. After considering the objections, the Forest Service is expected
to issue its final decision later in 2014.
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