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Forest Fines Go Up

New Bail Schedule for Los Padres National Forest


Breaking backcountry rules just got a lot more serious, as a federal judge recently raised the fines that could be imposed on folks caught doing illegal things in Los Padres National Forest and made mandatory court appearances — with the associated risk of jail time — much more likely for serious offenders. Previously, the fines — which had last been set in 1990 and could be levied for everything from littering to causing wildfires — ranged from $15 to less than $100, but are now $100 to $500; whereas only eight crimes would have meant a courtroom appearance before, now 47 require a mandatory appearance, and law enforcement officers can use their discretion to order the same for another 107 offenses.

“We’ve seen some very extensive illegal off-road vehicle trespassing all over Los Padres National Forest, so we were trying to think of way to combat the problem,” explained Jeff Kuyper of Los Padres ForestWatch, which led the charge to raise the fines and had to file a Freedom of Information Act request to even get the existing rates, which Kuyper quickly realized were just a “slap on the wrist.” Though he isn’t sure why Los Padres officials have yet to publicize these new fines, Kuyper explained, “We were thrilled that the penalties had been strengthened as much as they were.”

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