Opposition to Logging Project Reaches 10,000 Comments

Source: Los Padres ForestWatch

Opposition builds at the approach of the August 14 deadline for the public to comment on the Forest Service’s proposal to log trees and grind up chaparral along six miles of the prominent ridge known as Pine Mountain, deep in the Ventura County backcountry.

Local tribal groups, businesses, elected representatives, and members of the public, from Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties, and beyond, have submitted well over 10,000 comments to the Forest Service opposing its proposal to remove old-growth trees and chaparral across 755 acres—the equivalent of 575 American football fields—without an environmental assessment.

The project, located in some of the most diverse and unique habitats in the region, has received many times more comments than any single project proposed in the Los Padres National Forest. Concerns include the avoidance of appropriate environmental study and examination of alternatives normally required for such projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), disturbance of cultural sites, damage caused to a much-loved recreation area, impacts to sensitive plant and animal species, increased wildfire risks, weakening of the forest’s ability to adapt to climate change, and the possibility that the project will be conducted by a commercial logging company. 

Signatures continue to be collected on a letter, already signed by over 30 area businesses including Patagonia, Toad & Co., outfitters, wineries, and breweries, that opposes the project based on the benefits that Pine Mountain ridge provide to the region’s economy and quality of life.

Nearly 70 environmental and social justice organizations have signed onto a separate letter challenging the Forest Service’s lack of collaboration and the skirting of NEPA studies. The letter also questions the efficacy of remote vegetation clearing to protect distant communities from wildfire.

“Our primary concern is the project’s lack of attention and near total insensitivity to the potential impact to Chumash cultural values and resources,” wrote Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, Chair of the Barbareno/Ventura Band of Mission Indians.

Chumash tribes including the Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians and Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, and elected officials including Congressmembers Julia Brownley and Salud Carbajal, Ventura County Supervisors Linda Parks and Steve Bennett, and Ojai mayor John Johnston have submitted letters to the Forest Service also calling for further environmental review and public engagement. 

“I understand, the U.S. Forest Service’s own assessment of potential and existing fuel breaks in the southern Los Padres National Forest ranks this project as 118 out of 163 in terms of priority. Given the project’s low priority, it is unclear to me why this project has been selected to bypass complete environmental analysis,” said Representative Brownley of California’s 24th Congressional District, where thousands of Pine Mountain advocates live.

Despite its massive scale, the Forest Service intends to fast-track the project by categorizing it as “forest health and fuels reduction” to bypass requirements under the NEPA to conduct a detailed study of potential impacts on the area’s unique ecosystems, as well as to consider alternatives that may be more effective and less harmful. The agency has admitted that the project will do little to aid in fighting the type of fires that cause the vast majority of damage to communities each year. Further, vegetation removal projects can increase wildfire risk by removing fire-resistant trees, increasing heating and drying of the forest floor, and spreading non-native invasive grasses and weeds that ignite more easily and spread wildfire more quickly.

“The City of Ojai would recommend promoting defensible space requirements near homes rather than logging special and invaluable old growth forests of Pine Mountain,” stated a letter signed by Mayor Johnston

Over one-third of the project area is proposed for wilderness protection under the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199), approved in a bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives on February 12, 2020 and which waits approval in the Senate, and further included in the National Defense Authorization Act which will go to conference committee between the two houses in the coming weeks.

“Much of the project area is in its natural state, evolved over time without the disturbance of heavy modern machinery. Once trees are cut and the landscape is scarred by a project like this, the wilderness quality of the place is ruined,” said ForestWatch advocacy director Rebecca August. “We hope that those who have not yet spoken make their voices heard before it’s too late.”

The Forest Service will accept comments on the project until August 14. This may be the only opportunity the public will have to weigh in with concerns. To submit a comment online or learn more about the project, visit ProtectPineMountain.org


Los Padres ForestWatch

Written by Los Padres ForestWatch

Los Padres ForestWatch is a nonprofit that protects wildlife, wilderness, water, and sustainable access throughout the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Learn more at lpfw.org.

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  1. Interesting. I’d bet that only a few dozen (tops), of these signers have ever been there. I predict the entire grove will burn, and burn so hot that it destroys the forest for decades. Forest management is essential, now more than ever. Thin the trees. They’ll at least have a chance of surviving the inevitable fire.

  2. SBO: Nonsense. This area is nowhere near residences that need to be protected. The large trees are relatively resistant to fire, and if they are logged and the chaparral removed, the area will convert to non native grasses that are flashy fuels far more likely to spread wildfire under windy conditions. Once this forest has been cut, the habitat is gone forever. The proposal is a false flag to benefit commercial interests that care nothing for environmental preservation. And yes, I *have* been there.

  3. The Founders were wise to protect us from mob rule. They knew this, even before the internet was invented. Remarkable understanding of human nature,; before “psychology” was invented too. Thank you, Founder of our nation.

  4. Why does every article I read now have the word “Justice” used in it? Social Justice, Environmental Justice, Menstrual Justice, Healing Justice, Systemic Justice, Language Justice?
    “Nearly 70 environmental and social justice organizations have signed onto a separate letter challenging the Forest Service’s lack of collaboration and the skirting of NEPA studies. The letter also questions the efficacy of remote vegetation clearing to protect distant communities from wildfire.”

  5. The Fire Service project summary is available on line in this document: 113561_FSPLT3_5299147.pdf . See page 9. Since 2002 eight fires totaling over 700,000 acres have started within one mile of the proposed project. Some of the larger fires are the Day Fire, Zaca Fire, and Thomas Fire. The Thomas Fire led directly to the loss of a firefighter and the loss of 23 lives in Montecito in 2017. So thinning out a small area of forest to install a fire break is an excellent idea- there is a very good chance it will save firefighter lives and resident lives in the near future.

  6. These protests against forest management are the reason every fire becomes a huge conflagration. You can’t have people building roads, homes and infrastructure within forests or along forest boundries and not manage forest fuel breaks and thining operatons. There are more trees per acre in our forests NOW than 200 years ago. Our dense forests are NOT healthy forests, but most can’t see the forest through the trees…

  7. @ 9:44, your statement is worded to imply that the very large Day, Zaca, and Thomas fires started within one mile of the project area. That is absolutely false. And again, there are no human residences nearby whose occupants would be saved by clearing this forest Animal residences, however, will be destroyed.

  8. What you understand about forest management can be summed up in one word. Nothing. Stick to hugging your local eucalyptus and leave the forest management to the experts. You’ve obviously never been to this actual grove, nor have a clue as to why thinning an overgrown grove is the most positive thing you can do for the health of the trees and the surrounding forest and its wildlife…

  9. This isnt the Lorax at work as there isnt enough profits in that small grove to justify the costs of logging it. Like Zookeepers, Forestry managers care deeply about the health and future of the forests. Listen to the experts, not your local Trustafarian. Thinning old grove forests, so they dont burn so hot that they’re eviscerated, is good stewardship. It will assure that the grove survives the inevitable fire. Isnt that what you want? To protect and preserve this for future generations?

  10. Ok most you posting missed the topic. There was no proper review of the impacts. The drive is for them to do the proper environmental analysis.
    Good to see the right chumash group taking steps to participate. Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians are legitimate descendants and all have genealogy to show.

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