Comments by ForestWatch

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Posted on September 25 at 9:11 p.m.

For more info about how this bad bill could affect our local Los Padres National Forest, click here:

On Mandated Logging Bill Passes House

Posted on May 1 at 9:21 a.m.

Dick Smith was a true wilderness champion, and fought tirelessly to protect and safeguard our local backcountry. Thank you for helping us remember and celebrate his tremendous legacy - the Los Padres National Forest is a much richer and wilder place because of people like Dick who dedicated their lives to protecting our great outdoors. Great article.

On Who Was Dick Smith?

Posted on March 29 at 9:13 p.m.

Maybeso, please check your facts before levying such serious accusations. ForestWatch timely filed its 2010 tax return last year, in accordance with all legal requirements, and it is publicly available on the internet.

On Fuel Break Squabble

Posted on March 29 at 3:56 p.m.

Bimboteskie, these are new areas being cleared. We're not talking about areas cleared last year -- we're talking about mature native vegetation, some of which is decades and decades old and provides excellent bird habitat. I encourage you to go out and visit the area to familiarize yourself with it.

On Fuel Break Squabble

Posted on March 29 at 12:49 p.m.

Greenbean, we agree that negotiation and communication are key here. That's exactly what we've been doing for the last three years. The discussion first began in 2009, and several email, written, and in-person conversations have occurred since then, most recently in January and March 2012. During all of these conversations, the Forest Service adamantly refused to make reasonable adjustments to their project. That's why we sent them this Notice of Intent. When we repeatedly suggest reasonable solutions (avoid clearing brush from Feb through August) that are required by law, and the Forest Service ignores them, the only other option we have left is to pursue legal remedies.

The County of Santa Barbara, CalFire, and the California Department of Fish & Game all prohibit clearing from Feb thru August to protect nesting birds. In fact, the recently-completed Mission Canyon Community Wildfire Protection Plan (signed by the County and CalFire and prepared by Mission Canyon residents) contains a February through August avoidance period. All we're asking is that the Forest Service get with the program.

BeBe - While some ground-nesting birds can (and do) nest in previously-cleared areas, what we're concerned about is clearing pure stands of native chaparral. This is where birds nest. Fall and early winter would be the ideal time to do this work, before bird nesting occurs.

Interestingly, the Forest Service approved a similar project (a 70 mile wide fuelbreak) in Ojai back in 2006, and imposed a March 1 through August avoidance period. Same bird species, same mountain range, same elevation. That project is currently being implemented, and it's unclear why the Forest Service isn't willing to make this project consistent with past practices.

On Fuel Break Squabble

Posted on March 28 at 12:55 p.m.

Becky, our first approach is always one of communication and negotiation. We only rely on litigation when all else fails, as a last resort.

Case in point: We first notified the Forest Service about this nesting songbird issue in 2009, and again in early 2011. When those letters fell on deaf ears, we had two face-to-face meetings with Forest Service staff in January and March 2012. During those meetings, the Forest Service still refused to make reasonable adjustments to their project. That's why we sent them this Notice of Intent. When we repeatedly suggest reasonable solutions (avoid clearing brush from Feb through August) that are required by law, and the Forest Service ignores them, the only other option we have left is to pursue legal remedies.

As we've suggested repeatedly to the Forest Service, they can complete the project outside of the songbird nesting season. This would accomplish their objectives AND protect nesting birds, a win-win for everyone. It's unfortunate that the Forest Service -- in its bureaucratic stubbornness -- would rather go to court than take simple steps to comply with the law. This is our last-ditch effort to get the Forest Service to do the right thing.

On Fuel Break Squabble

Posted on March 8 at 9:08 a.m.

Thanks for your comment, Dr. Dan. Correction, the Buckhorn Road is not one of the six roads that this bill seeks to reopen. Those roads that the bill would open are the McKinley Fire Trail, the Hildreth Road, Pendola Road, Arroyo Burro Road, Potrero Seco Road, and Cherry Creek Road. These roads have been closed for decades, for very good reasons involving public safety, endangered species, wildfire protection, and law enforcement issues. You can visit our website at to read our detailed summary of this bill, including a list of these roads and specific reasons why Los Padres ForestWatch opposes their inclusion in this bill along with some of the other environmentally harmful provisions. ForestWatch does not support these controversial provisions and is fully committed to working with members of Congress to remove them if and when the bill starts moving through the process.

On More Wilderness and Off-Roading?

Posted on July 23 at 11:56 a.m.

The Zaca Fire had nothing to do with Piru Creek. The article misquotes the ForestWatch website. Here is the relevant excerpt from the ForestWatch website:

"Unfortunately, recent wildfire suppression efforts on the Los Padres have significantly degraded some of the best remaining arroyo toad habitat, particularly in Mono Creek, the Sisquoc River, and Piru Creek where bulldozers cleared large areas of land. Some estimates place the arroyo toad mortality at as much as 50%, the heavy equipment crushing many toads in their burrows."

Damage to habitat in Piru Creek occurred during suppression efforts for the 2006 Day Fire. Arroyo toads in Mono Creek were affected during suppression of the 2007 Zaca Fire, as documented in a recent USFWS status review:

Fire suppression activities may pose a threat to the arroyo toad in some cases. For example, in response to the 2007 Zaca Fire, a number of broad fuelbreaks and safety zones were bulldozed in several areas, including the lower portions of Mono and Indian Creeks (Sweet 2007a). Based on research along Mono and Indian Creeks prior to the fire (Sweet 1992, 1993), juvenile and adult arroyo toads were known to make extensive use of the stream terraces where several of the fuelbreaks and safety zones were constructed and that in August/ September of 2007 when construction occurred a large proportion of the population would be within burrows on the terraces (Sweet 2007a). Therefore, any toads that were in burrows were very likely killed by the bulldozing. In addition to causing direct mortality, Sweet (2007a; 2007b) reported that the bulldozing operations severely degraded essential upland habitat by removing shade and the opportunity for toads to select microclimates based on soil temperature, moisture content and ground cover. The bulldozing also created substantial barriers to toad movement through the placement of large piles of woody debris between the creek bed and the terraces and formed ideal conditions for the terraces to become invaded by non-native weeds, in particular yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) (toads are unable to inhabit terraces where yellow star thistle is well-established (Sweet 2007a)).

This episode was well documented by U.S. Forest Service biologists as well as field studies and research conducted afterwards by an independent arroyo toad expert, as well as by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The issue is not whether to suppress or not to suppress wildfires when they are threatening our communities. The real issue is, what actions can be taken to lessen the impact of wildfire suppression on threatened and endangered species. We can still fight fires and protect arroyo toad habitat, it's not an either-or scenario.

On Counting the Days for the Arroyo Toad

Posted on January 7 at 11:08 a.m.

This is a good article, but it just glosses over one of the main threats facing condors -- small bits of glass, plastic, nails, bullet shells, and other small objects that can clog up the systems of young condors, often resulting in death.

ForestWatch has been organizing microtrash cleanups in the Los Padres National Forest for three years and counting. We've organized 9 cleanups and removed 1,148 pounds of small glass bits, bullet shells, bottle caps, nails, and other small trash that is harmful to young condors when ingested. We have plans to clean up another dozen sites this year.

We're based right here in Santa Barbara and need all the help we can get. To learn more, or to sign up to be notified of future cleanups, visit our website at

On The Great California Condor Comeback

Posted on December 24 at 11:02 a.m.

Our lawsuit challenges a set of Forest Service regulations that restrict the public's ability to participate in decisions affecting national forests. We are not directly challenging the Tepsuquet Project, but we are citing it as an example of how decisions are made behind closed doors with little or no public input.

This is hardly an instance of "nitpicking." If we had a chance to review details of the project, provide comments, and possibly appeal this project, we would have been able to convince the Forest Service to modify the project and make it less controversial. Instead, the Forest Service approved the project without providing any details about it, or its environmental impacts, to the public.

Shutting out the public is not only bad policy, but it violates the federal Forest Service Decisionmaking and Appeals Reform Act -- and two federal courts (including the Ninth Circuit) agree.

At the core of our lawsuit is the basic principle that these are public lands, and the public should have a say in how they are managed. When the Forest Service proposes to do something that will impact thousands of acres of national forest land, the agency has an obligation to notify the public about what it's proposing, to disclose the environmental impacts, to consider alternatives, and to approve the project using an open, transparent process. Our lawsuit seeks to restore that.

To read more about our lawsuit, I'd like to invite you to visit our website at where we've posted a copy of the lawsuit and a short Frequently Asked Questions document.

On Forest Service Under Fire

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