Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest title=
Photo: Bryant Baker / LPFW
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Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

Last week the Forest Service announced a plan to log large trees and clear native chaparral habitat across 235,000 acres (368 square miles) within four of the five ranger districts of Los Padres National Forest. The announcement comes just a few months after conservation organizations, Patagonia, and two municipal governments filed lawsuits against the Forest Service over their approval of logging on Pine Mountain in Ventura County. The new project is 311 times larger and would fundamentally alter the landscape while taking limited funding away from more effective wildfire mitigation efforts such as home hardening and retrofits, community alert systems, and defensible space.

The announcement—signed by Forest Supervisor Chris Stubbs—included a letter and a short description of the new proposal, dubbed the “Ecological Restoration Project,” that was crafted behind closed doors in recent months. The project is likely the largest to ever be proposed for the Los Padres National Forest as it includes 48,000 acres of logging and other vegetation removal across several areas designated as “forest health treatment units” in addition to 186,000 acres of tree and shrub removal along roads, trails, and in many remote parts of the national forest. If approved, the project would allow the same activities the agency is planning on Pine Mountain—activities that were opposed by over 16,000 people, including tribal groups, elected officials, organizations, and businesses across the region—at an enormous scale.

The project would allow the use of heavy equipment to log live and dead trees up to two feet in diameter across many forested areas, and larger trees with no diameter limit could be removed across the 186,000 acres of vaguely described “fuel break and defense zones.” If the project moves forward and receives approval from the agency, damaging timber harvest and chaparral removal activities could take place from Mt. Pinos to Figueroa Mountain to Big Sur without any further site-specific environmental analysis or public notice.

“What the Forest Service is proposing here is truly massive and dangerous,” said ForestWatch director of conservation and research Bryant Baker. “It would facilitate the construction of dozens of ecologically damaging remote fuel breaks that have been shown time and again to fail under the extreme weather conditions that fuel the largest fires in our region.”

Many areas targeted for clearing are currently being reviewed by Congress for protection as wilderness under the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which just passed the U.S. House of Representatives last month and is awaiting a vote in the Senate as part of a larger legislative package. According to analysis of official mapping data obtained from the agency, about 35,000 acres of the new project overlaps with the new land designations.

Forest officials have indicated that they plan to prepare an environmental assessment for the nearly forest-wide project. While this involves more analysis than the loopholes the agency has been using to approve recent logging projects, it still only requires a single public comment period—ongoing until August 28 unless an extension is granted—and is less robust than an environmental impact statement, which is typically prepared for projects of this size and scope. The agency’s funding for the environmental review process comes from a $1.681 million grant from PG&E, a utility that has been responsible for some of the state’s largest and deadliest wildfires including the 2018 Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures. Because the company’s service area does not cover southern Ventura County, the entire Ojai Ranger District stretching from Pine Mountain Ridge to Ojai has been excluded from the project.

“PG&E is pouring millions into ecologically destructive projects while failing to address their own infrastructure's deferred maintenance and ignition risk in the area,” said Baker, whose organization has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to learn more details about the funding.

For nearly 80% of the project area, there is no diameter limit for tree removal. The proposal states that only “some” trees would be retained in these areas. According to the agency, fuel breaks would be up to 1,500 feet wide depending on the vegetation type, but preliminary analysis of mapping data has revealed that several fuel breaks would be 2,000 to 5,000 feet wide. Researchers have found that fuel breaks are ineffective at limiting the spread of large wildfires, especially under extreme weather conditions such as Santa Ana or sundowner winds. These conditions have been a driving force of some of the region’s largest blazes, such as the 2017 Thomas Fire.

Scientists and conservation organizations have long advocated that instead of going to backcountry logging and vegetation removal projects, funding should be directed to creating defensible space directly next to homes, retrofitting and building structures with fire-safe materials, and reducing development in the wildland-urban interface. Areas where native trees and shrubs are removed with heavy equipment are also prone to being infested with non-native invasive plants that can increase wildfire risk.

The agency is currently accepting public comments on the proposal until August 28. Visit lpfw.org/ERP to easily submit a comment online. An interactive map showing the areas slated for logging and vegetation clearing can be found at lpfw.org/ERP-map.

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Sun Aug 05, 2022 03:37 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

letmego You received a down vote because your calculations do not take into consideration the amount of exisiting fungi that will be destroyed/eliminated that support a wide far reaching host of trees, flora and fauna. It's not only the 365 square miles that will be impacted but the entire forest. The older the trees the greater the network of support to other trees and flora and fauna. Your calculations are void of this impact.

Chip of SB Aug 05, 2022 11:39 AM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Here is a great short documentary about how the karuk tribe in Northern California are fighting in a race against time to reintroduce low intensity fire to their ancestral lands. State and federal regulations forced them to stop their traditional practices of setting fire to the forest. As a result, their 1.2 million acres of tribal lands are in grave danger. Now, after a century of misguided fire suppression policies promoted by the timber industry, the tribe is finally being allowed to resume its traditional practices of forest management. Unfortunately, it’s not happening fast enough and a high intensity wildfire could wipe out their forest for generations.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Mby72d2Vz30

edney Aug 05, 2022 02:48 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

There are numerous natural causes of fires that we currently supress.
Imagine lightning strikes during the monsoon season a year 1000 were the monsoon reaches SB County in August. Imagine 100's of dry lightning strikes. No one there to put them out. The fires could conceivably burn for years if there is a drought, most of the time creeping along at low intensity, other times pushed fiercely by wind.
SB County backcountry has several "volcanoes" like the one on the bluff in Hope Ranch that periodically produce live flame, but the primary natural cause of South Coast fires would be lightning and some of that was probably from as far away as the area around 1-5 we call the grapevine

LosPadresForest Aug 05, 2022 04:34 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Thanks for sharing ForestWatch. This is a certainly a large and complicated project proposal. Please everyone, take the time to educate yourselves on what the Forest Service is proposing. Read the actual proposal documents and attend either of next weeks Forest Service webinars where they'll explain in detail more information about the project proposal, see link here:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lpnf/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD1046485

Also good to attend the upcoming August 16 ForestWatch webinar in order to hear a different angle. These proposals are rarely all bad or all good, they usually contain some good with the bad. Spend the time and read as much as you can from as many sources as you can but DEFINITELY READ THE ACTUAL PROJECT PROPOSAL and then be sure to make your voice heard by sharing opinions during the NEPA scoping period.

Sun Aug 06, 2022 08:29 AM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

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Sun Aug 06, 2022 09:32 AM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Last week the Forest Service announced a plan to log large trees and clear native chaparral habitat across 235,000 acres (368 square miles)...

To put this in perspective, the City of Santa Barbara is 19.50 square miles, it would take 18 times the City of Santa Barbara to fill 368 square miles.

The area being proposed is huge. Talk about raising the Heat,Water Evaporation and loss of biodiversity in the Forest leading to more forest fires, land erosion and mudslides.

edney Aug 06, 2022 12:51 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Apologies in advance for cut and pasting science into a religious discussion.
Prehistoric fire history in CA shows that before suppression CA burns averaged 1.8 million hectares annually which adds up to 4,400,000 acres. 2021 burns in CA covered only 2,600,000. If the forest has evolved to sustain itself healthily at 4.4M acres anually, then last year we had a deficit of 1.8M acres.
This site concludes with solutions:
https://www.sierraforestlegacy.org/Resources/Conservation/FireForestEcology/FireScienceResearch/FireHistory/FireHistory-Stephens07.pdf

"Air quality policies could be modified to allow more WFU (Woodland Fire Use),
classifying these events as natural sources of emissions would
be a positive step. Currently WFU fires are classified as
anthropogenic sources of emissions and this reduces the
capacity to burn even moderate spatial scales. Increasing the
spatial extent of AMR suppression fire in California is another
important management objective. Political support for
increased use of WFU and AMR needs to occur at local,
state, and federal levels because increasing the spatial scale of
fire will increase smoke and inevitability, a few fires will escape
their predefined boundaries."

Chip of SB Aug 06, 2022 01:28 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Excellent point edney. I think a lot of people dont realize the extent of natural fires prior to human intervention. In addition, I think it is important to note how different the character of the historical 4 million acres of fire per year is compared to the more recent 2 million acres of fire. The historic 4 million acres of annul fire was primarily low intensity. Mature trees would have survived these large, but low intensity fires. By contrast, recent fires are much hotter due to the build up of fuels caused by decades of suppression. As a result of human intervention, these recent fires are extremely destructive and leave little life in their wake.

edney Aug 06, 2022 02:20 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

At those low intesities of the past, even the fungi benefited.

Years ago I read an article that showed how some individual CA fires were thought to have sometimes burned through dry winters and lasted for several years.
Fires that originated due to Sierra lightning may have made it west to the coast and out east into Nevada.
Also most of the fires in the SB area originated as far backcountry from what is now the grapevine area, Tehachapit Transverse range and from the closer San Rafael and Santa Ynez ranges.

It was thought that every once in a while, a "volcano" like the one above the beach in Hope Ranch would start a larger fire as well.

Early european vistitors to Calif. remarked that they could only rartely see the Sierra Mountains during the summer and fall due to the constant smoke

edney Aug 06, 2022 07:13 PM
Logging and Chaparral Removal Proposed Across 235,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest

Sun-
That is great historical photo. Thank you
Certainly happy we have progressed past that phase in our history.

You can't be addressing the "prehistoric" part of my post with a historical photo so you must be addressing this?
"Early european vistitors to Calif. remarked that they could only rartely see the Sierra Mountains during the summer and fall due to the constant smoke"
As per the article you linked, the first oil well in CA was drilled in 1865. The Gold Rush (another ecological nightmare) was 17 years prior, but I was referring to the very early European immigrants that came around 1770 to 1810 when the native American tribes were predominant.
They mentioned not being able to see the Sierra Nevada in summer and fall with "even with the finest spyglass". Hard to believe? Not really if you believe scientists that say CA alone averaged 4.4 ,illiom acres burned a year, most of it in the summer and fall. That is a lot of smoke that probably got trapped in the Central Valley.

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