California’s scenic Central Coast would gain new protection in House bill

Within driving distance of both San Francisco and Los Angeles, some of our nation’s greatest natural wonders comprise the region known as the Central Coast: peaceful oak woodlands, rugged chaparral, scenic rivers, stunning coastal mountain peaks and much more.

Legislation introduced on May 20 by Rep. Lois Capps would permanently protect such areas within the Los Padres National Forest, Carrizo Plain National Monument and elsewhere in the Central Coast, setting aside new wilderness, scenic areas and wild rivers. It would also protect habitat for rare species like the California condor and the endangered San Joaquin kit fox.

New protection for the Central Coast is long overdue, and it comes with the support of businesses, land owners, civic groups, farmers, ranchers and others in California and nationwide. For its incredible recreation, its scenic beauty and its great value to the tourism economy, the Central Coast must be preserved for future generations.

Check out a few of the scenic places that would be protected under the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act:

Credit: Warren Alford.

California’s second-largest national forest, the Los Padres National Forest contains a wide variety of landscapes, from redwood forests to wildflower-covered grasslands. Among wildlife whose habitat can be found in the area are California condors, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, tule elk and bighorn sheep. Dozens of threatened, endangered or otherwise vulnerable species call the area home. The new bill would protect new wilderness and scenic areas and designate wild and scenic rivers in Los Padres.

Credit: Warren Alford.

Los Padres National Forest is also an outdoor recreation mecca for residents of the Bay Area and Southern California, with more than 1,200 miles of maintained trails, fish-filled streams and scenic campsites. The region is popular with hikers, hunters, anglers, horseback riders, campers and cyclists.

Credit: emdot, flickr.

Under Rep. Capps’ bill, three new wilderness areas would also be designated within Carrizo Plain National Monument: Soda Lake Wilderness, Temblor Mountains Wilderness and Caliente Mountains Wilderness. The popular grassland monument is known for spectacular wildflower displays in the spring, but it also contains everything from ephemeral wetlands to groves of juniper and oak. 

Credit: Mikaku, flickr.

Sometimes referred to as California’s Serengeti, the Carrizo Plain harbors rare wildlife species like the giant kangaroo rat, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, San Joaquin kit fox and San Joaquin antelope squirrel. Exotic and threatened plant species include Jared's pepper grass, California jewelflower, yellow San Joaquin woolly threads and orange forked fiddleneck. Tule elk and pronghorn antelope also live on the plain.

Credit: Robert McNicholas, flickr.

Carrizo Plain National Monument draws hikers, birders, wildflower enthusiasts and others from across the country. Among its many attractions are Native American pictographs and the famous San Andreas Fault.

Credit: Jeff Jones.

The proposed Black Mountain Scenic Area is the northernmost piece of land specified in the new bill, to the northwest of the Carrizo Plain. This designation would protect a roadless swath of mixed savannah and oak forest in the Los Padres National Forest, containing habitat for wildlife including mountain lions, badgers, San Joaquin kit foxes and San Joaquin pocket mice.

Credit: Jeff Jones.

Another view of what could become the Black Mountain Scenic Area.

Credit: Roy Randall, flickr.

Containing Mt. Pinos, the tallest mountain in the Los Padres National Forest, the Chumash Wilderness is a mix of pine forests, chaparral and badlands to the south of the San Emigdio Mountains. It is immensely popular among hikers and campers. 

Credit: Jeff Jones.

Named for a journalist and all-around renaissance man known as “the conscience of Santa Barbara County,” 30-year-old Dick Smith Wilderness is immediately adjacent to the San Rafael and Matilija Wilderness areas. In addition to starkly beautiful river gorges,  waterfalls  and rocky hillsides, the wilderness area, which would be expanded under the new bill, is home toblack bears, deer, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and other wildlife.

 

Credit: Jeff Jones.

The expansion of the Dick Smith Wilderness would help bridge the gap between it and the Matilija Wilderness, providing a valuable corridor for wildlife on the move.

Credit: Jeff Jones.

By expanding the Matilija Wilderness area too, the legislation will protect a portion of Matilija Creek and a picturesque mix of creeks, oak forests and grasslands that harbor abundant flora and fauna. Much of the area is considered sacred by the indigenous Chumash tribe.

Credit: Brad Ells via Wilderness.net.

About 10 minutes from the city of San Luis Obispo, the Santa Lucia Wilderness offers numerous trails for hiking, hunting and fishing. Potential expansions feature rocky peaks, oak woodlands and meadows that attract California condors and other raptors. The area may contain the rare Camatta Canyon amole, a flower that is thought to exist only in the La Panza Mountain Range. 

Credit: Jeff Jones.

Under the bill, the Santa Lucia Wilderness would be expanded to help bridge the gap between it and the Garcia Wilderness. Near Hi Mountain, elevation in this area tops out at around 3,000 feet.

Credit: Jeff Jones.

Forested peaks, chaparral and oak groves can be found in potential additions to the Machesna Mountain Wilderness. The would-be new wilderness area also includes habitat for various raptors and tule elk.

Credit: Jeff Jones.

Known for its array of Chumash pictographs, California condors and picturesque geology, the existing San Rafael Wilderness, to the northeast of Santa Barbara, would be expanded by thousands of acres.

Credit: Nick Chill, flickr.

A view from San Rafael Wilderness.