By the Los Padres ForestWatch
The best available science has repeatedly shown that the most effective measures for protecting communities from wildfire are investments in home hardening programs, creation and maintenance of smart defensible space directly around structures, improvement of alert and evacuation systems, and reduction of human-caused ignitions.
[Thursday’s] announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that $490 million dollars will be going to several national forests across the country, including the Los Padres, may spell a windfall for communities or a disaster for the many unique ecosystems found in the Los Padres National Forest depending on how the Forest Service decides to spend the money.
The agency has stated that these new funds can go to a variety of actions, including working with adjacent landowners on home hardening and defensible space initiatives as well as efforts to reduce human-caused ignitions on the landscape. The question is whether this is just continued lip service to what fire scientists have been saying is most crucial for community protection for decades.
A news release about the new funding, issued separately by the Los Padres National Forest today, did not mention home hardening or other community-focused efforts. This was a missed opportunity by local Forest Service officials to acknowledge the concerns of thousands of residents in the region who are deeply concerned about the agency’s focus on backcountry logging projects such as the one approved on Pine Mountain in Ventura County in 2021 that was subject to widespread opposition.
Recent proposals, including one that would affect 235,000 acres within the Los Padres, have also been widely opposed by Indigenous groups, conservation organizations, local elected officials, and residents across the Central Coast.
Rather than directing these funds to ineffective and ecologically damaging backcountry logging projects, fuel break construction, and other habitat clearance projects, we hope the Forest Service will invest them where they are needed most: within communities. Otherwise, we can expect more degradation of forests and other ecosystems within the Los Padres.
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