The U.S. Forest Service is looking at 760,000 acres of Los Padres National Forest to determine their potential for oil and gas exploration. The agency has identified 140,000 acres in Los Padres as "high-priority" oil and gas drilling areas; this acreage includes many areas that are being proposed for wilderness protection.

Los Padres National Forest is on California’s central coast, stretching from Monterey County’s Big Sur down to Ventura and the western edge of Los Angeles County. It is the third-largest national forest in California, covering about 1.75 million acres. Located midway between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles metro area, Los Padres is one of the most visited forests in the California system.

The forest is home to 20 threatened or endangered animal species, most famously the California condor. The program to re-establish the California condor began in Los Padres’ Sespes Wilderness. While areas already designated wilderness would be off-limits to drilling, condor habitat would inevitably be compromised by the roadbuilding and other development associated with oil and gas leases.

The areas being considered for exploratory drilling contain 66 percent of the oak woodlands in the forest. Oak woodlands are the fastest-vanishing ecosystem in our state, disappearing thanks to agricultural and urban development, and to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome.

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s California Wild Heritage Act of 2003 (S. 1555) would protect 81 areas in the state as wilderness, including 58,000 acres within Los Padres. This acreage would be added to the San Rafael, Chumash, Matilija, Dick Smith and Sespe wilderness areas. These potential wilderness areas are in the acreage the Forest Service is considering for oil and gas drilling.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) introduced HR 3805, the Los Padres National Forest Conservation Act (co-sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel) on Feb. 11, 2004. HR 3805 would protect Los Padres from all forms of oil and gas development, including the exploratory drilling proposed by the Forest Service.

"We must live up to our responsibility to preserve and protect the forest for generations to come," Capps said in a press release announcing HR 3805. "This bill will protect Los Padres National Forest and eliminate the risk of environmental and economic ruin that could result from more drilling."

Boxer has also introduced a bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, that would ban all oil and gas drilling in Los Padres. The bill, S. 2067, was introduced on February 11, 2004.

The Forest Service intends to publish its forest management plan in late April or early May, followed by a 90-day public comment period. The agency will hold public meetings on the plan; see the Forest Service Los Padres National Forest website at www.fs.fed.us/r5/scfpr for locations and times.

Meanwhile, write to Los Padres Forest Supervisor Gene Blankenbaker at

Los Padres National Forest
6755 Hollister Avenue, Suite 150
Goleta, CA 93117

and let him know you do not want to see oil or gas drilling on Los Padres.

Write your U.S. representative and ask him or her to support Rep. Capps’ HR 3805.
You can find contact information for your representative at:


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places