A proposal to cut down hundreds of trees in Los Padres National Forest in the name of forest fire prevention is up for public comment once again this week. The Forest Service – which first introduced the plan as part of 2004’s Healthy Forest initiative – hopes to reduce tree density in a 665-acre area of Figueroa Mountain in Los Olivos from 530 trees-per-acre to about 100. The agency is considering two plans of action, both of which call for the use of a masticator – a massive lawnmower-like machine – and handheld chainsaws. The older plan recommends chopping trees of all types – some with trunk diameters of 30-plus inches – while the newer alternative calls for thinning out only those trees with a diameter of less than 12 inches. The nonprofit Los Padres advocacy group ForestWatch has criticized the first proposal as excessive and ineffective in reducing fire risk.

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