PREVENTING HABITAT CLEARANCE ON THE LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST
The ridgeline and trail where the fragile chaparral habitat would have been clear cut, 150 feet on either side of the road. Refugio manzanita can be seen on the right.
US FOREST SERVICE AGREES TO WITHDRAW RIDGELINE CLEARANCE PROJECT
THAT THREATENED FRAGILE HABITAT IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
April 3, 2017 Santa Barbara, Calif. – Today, two conservation organizations and the US Forest Service agreed to drop pending legal action in U.S. District Court concerning a controversial clearance project after the Los Padres National Forest withdrew the project’s approval. The conservation groups filed the lawsuit to protect fragile habitat and rare species in the path of a remote fuel break along the Gaviota Coast and to encourage a greater focus on reducing fire risk where it matters most, directly in and around communities.
The Gaviota Fuel Break would have clear-cut native chaparral habitat across a six-mile-long, 300-foot-wide swath (the length of a football field) between Refugio Pass and Gaviota Peak, along the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The site – located far away from any structures – lies at the heart of the Gaviota Coast, one of the crown jewels of Santa Barbara County.
“We are extremely grateful the Los Padres National Forest reconsidered this project,” said Richard Halsey, Director of the California Chaparral Institute. “We’re hopeful this decision signals greater collaboration with the both fire scientists and conservationists so all of us can develop effective plans to reduce fire risk to protect people and nature.”
The key species at risk is the beautiful Refugio manzanita (Arctostaphylos refugioensis). Considered “endangered” by the California Native Plant Society, the classic icon of the chaparral only grows in a narrow ridgeline band between Point Conception and Santa Ynez Peak along the coast of Santa Barbara County – exactly where the Gaviota Fuel Break was scheduled to run.