New Wilderness and River Legislation to Help Protect Los Padres Forest

Feb 29, 2012

The Wilderness Society (TWS) recognizes Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-24) for introducing legislation today to help preserve wilderness and rivers in the Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Rep. Gallegly’s “Los Padres Conservation and Recreation Act of 2012” will add 64,000 acres of federal Wilderness and protect 89 miles of waterways as Wild and Scenic Rivers to the southern Los Padres forest. The bill also establishes an 18,000-acre Condor Ridge Scenic Area.

“Southern California is one of the nation’s most populated regions, and the Los Padres National Forest offers a scenic and accessible recreational escape,” said Paul Spitler, Director of Wilderness Policy at The Wilderness Society.  “We thank Congressman Gallegly for his efforts to preserve these vital lands so that future generations can continue to experience and enjoy this spectacular California destination.”

Among the areas to be protected in the legislation are additions to the existing Dick Smith, Matilija, and Sespe wilderness areas. These areas provide outstanding opportunities for hiking, camping, and swimming, as well as essential habitat for the iconic California condor. The Condor Ridge Scenic Area affords sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.

“Passage of this legislation will ensure that future Californians can continue to experience these majestic landscapes – complete with condors soaring overhead – into the future,” Spitler said.

While The Wilderness Society supports the legislation, it raised concerns about provisions that would reopen roads that are closed for safety or conservation without undergoing a full public review, and wilderness management language - such as removal of trees - that are inconsistent with the federal Wilderness Act.

TWS will continue to seek improvements to Rep. Gallegly’s bill as it proceeds through Congress, Spitler said. “We look forward to working with the Congressman, California’s senators, and other members of Congress to improve the bill in coming months and ensure that it is signed into law.”

The Los Padres’ varied habitats are home to 468 species of wildlife including the endangered California condor and the southern steelhead.