Central Coast Heritage Protection Act Passes House

Photo: Bryant Baker

Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

Today, in a historic vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which will protect forests, shrublands, grasslands, and wild rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Read the news release from the Central Coast Wild Heritage Coalition, a group of conservation and outdoor recreation groups that have been working on the effort for eleven years alongside local business leaders, elected officials, ranchers, wineries, conservationists, mountain bikers, and other stakeholders.

The bill, introduced last year by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA24), passed today on a 231-183 vote as part of a larger package of public lands conservation bills. The Central Coast portion of the bill seeks to protect more than 245,000 acres of public land in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. It also safeguards 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers, establishes two scenic areas encompassing 34,500 acres, and designates a 400-mile Condor National Recreation Trail extending through the Los Padres National Forest from Big Sur to the Los Angeles County line.

“Today’s vote is a historic opportunity to protect some of the Central Coast’s most iconic landscapes and rivers, safeguarding them for current and future generations,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of ForestWatch, a founding member of the Central Coast Wild Heritage Coalition. “We are now one step closer to adding to our region’s rich legacy of land, water, and wildlife conservation.”

“We are grateful for Congressman Carbajal’s leadership on this important conservation issue,” said Los Padres ForestWatch advocacy director Rebecca August. “We look forward to working with our Senators as the bill gets one step closer to the finish line.”

“Protecting lands on the California Central Coast is a critical step to ensuring our children and future generations have access to wild places and to protecting fragile ecosystems,” said ForestWatch director of youth and community engagement Graciela Cabello. “These lands are some of the most biodiverse ecoregions in the world and we want to see them protected.”

“The wild places protected by this legislation are some of the most spectacular in the country,” said ForestWatch conservation director Bryant Baker. “They are more than deserving of these protections, and we are thrilled to see this legislation advance out of the House of Representatives.” 

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate soon. After advancing through the Senate, the bill will await signature by President Trump, whose office yesterday threatened to veto the measure.


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  1. Unfortunately, a new President and Senate will be necessary for this legislation to pass. Living, working and raising a family here most of my life has convinced me that this small slice of California is indeed magical and worth every protection possible.

  2. If this bill becomes law, how will preventive fire maintenance be impacted? I can’t find any language in the legislation that prioritizes public safety, and disaster preparedness. Local Environmentalists have set up our area for fires impacting tens of thousands by blocking what professionals have identified needs to be done: fuel removal and scheduled back-burning. Salud’s in this only for votes. Resident demands for protections fall on deaf Dem ears.

  3. Go back to the early 90s and you’ll find a time where a guy named Chris Danch hatched the idea to create a continuous 300 mile corridor, inspired by Condor conservation, for a trail across Las Padres National Forest up in to the Ventana wilderness of Monterrey. . After bogging down and having to live his life, the torch was reignited by a guy named Bryan Conant. (Google “plotting a 300 mile trail through our backyard” and “Making the Las Padres even more wild”) This then became the passion of Jeff Kuyper and ForestWatch in the early 2000s. So it’s been stewing for decades in many forms. What’s interesting is how often the word “protection” is used and for what reasons. So what is being “protected” and what is it being protected from? Reading details about the Heritage Protection Act, H.R. 2199 Protection seems to be protecting the area from improper land use and/or private industry uses such as mining. There are stipulations in the bill to keep mountain bikes in selected areas. To also prevent off road vehicles from continuously expanding on the terrain. There doesn’t seem to be any direct wording that anything changes from what’s already in place. There’s also nothing I can find that suggest prevention from fracking or worse. (Although I think the prevention to do so is intended.) From the looks of it, there will be work involved to improve and/or realign trails. Seems a bit like a jobs program. But the document mostly reads about how agencies will interact with one another and which ones are dominant over the other. Politics. Oddly, there’s a provision at the end that gives the Chumash access for personal use and religious ceremonies. Won’t we all have access? Why the carve out here? Overall, I think mostly less than 1 out of 1000 people will ever venture in these areas. But it sure would be nice if those who pushed this just offered more transparent and clear ideas of what this is all about because it’s about as clear as mud for most.

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