Proposed Logging Project Needs More Environmental Review

Proposed Logging Project Needs More Environmental Review 1024 768 California Wilderness Coalition

The proposed project, named the Reyes Peak Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project, is a 755-acre project in the Pine Mountain area of the Los Padres National Forest, in a remote part of Ventura County. The project involves creating fuel breaks by the removal of trees up to 64 inches in diameter and the clearing of rare, old-growth chaparral. While the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) states that the project will primary focus on trees 24” inches or less in diameter, it leaves entirely too much discretion to personnel in the field to decide if trees up to 64” in diameter are removed. The project description says it will thin on average from 8 to 44 trees per acre. Given that conifers exist on about 423 acres of the project area, this means that the USFS intends to remove about 10,998 trees from this relatively small area.

Pine Mountain Campground

Almost 35 percent of the project area is located within a roadless area (the Sespe-Frazier Inventoried Roadless Area). This roadless area has been included in Representative Salud Carbajal’s Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, as an addition to the existing Sespe Wilderness. The House of Representatives approved this addition to the Sespe Wilderness by passing, on two separate occasions, Representative Salud Carbajal’s Central Coast Heritage Coast Protection Act – once in February as part of the Protecting America’s Wilderness Act and again earlier this month as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The proposed wilderness addition is now pending in the Senate with Senator Kamala Harris’ PUBLIC Lands Act.

Extensive logging and chaparral removal to create permanent fuel breaks is not appropriate in a roadless area, much less in an area that is included in pending legislation as a wilderness addition.

To make matters even worse, while the USFS is required to conduct environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, it has chosen to proceed with this project with extremely minimal environmental review. The USFS is also relying on data that is outdated and not necessarily representative of the Pine Mountain area. The USFS claims it is entitled to use what is called a categorical exclusion, which allows them to conduct very minimal analysis of the impacts the project will have on the natural, environmental, cultural, scenic and other values of the area. The USFS also claims that since there are no “extraordinary circumstances” associated with this project, the use of a categorical exclusion is appropriate.

However, we disagree. The project area is part of the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Chumash people. There are multiple Chumash tribes which consider Pine Mountain and Reyes Peak an area vital for gathering medicine, engaging in ceremony and prayer and uplifting and protecting the plants and animals that call this their home. The project will also likely negatively impact the rare and sensitive plant species that have been documented there as well as the scenic and recreational values of the area that are beloved by locals for activities such as hiking, camping, birdwatching, and wildlife watching. These impacts, coupled with the fact that the project overlaps a roadless area that the House of Representatives has voted to add to the Sespe Wilderness and that is pending in the Senate, clearly amounts to “extraordinary circumstances” which would require the Forest Service to conduct a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which would involve much more extensive environmental review and the analysis of several different alternative projects.

Please help us urge the Forest Service to conduct an EIS for this project to ensure that the project will indeed protect forest health while at the same time protecting the area’s numerous important values.

For a deeper dive, here’s a link to the USFS’ project description.

ACTION ALERT INSTRUCTIONS

Below is our suggested letter to send to Kevin Elliot, Los Padres Forest Supervisor. CLICK HERE to be taken to the Forest Service comment letter page. You can paste the letter below in the “letter text” box. Please feel free to add your own perspective.

Dear Mr. Elliott:

I’m writing to request that the USFS conduct a higher level of environmental review before making a decision about whether and how to proceed with the Reyes Peak Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project. Due to the presence of extraordinary circumstances, it is not appropriate for the Forest Service to proceed with its proposed project with the use of a categorical exclusion.

The project area is part of the ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Chumash people. There are multiple Chumash tribes which consider Pine Mountain and Reyes Peak an area vital for gathering medicine, engaging in ceremony and prayer and uplifting and protecting the plants and animals that call this their home.

The project will also likely negatively impact the rare and sensitive plant species that have been documented there as well as the scenic and recreational values of the area that are beloved by locals for activities such as hiking, camping, birdwatching, and wildlife watching. These impacts, coupled with the fact that the project overlaps a roadless area that the House of Representatives has voted to add to the Sespe Wilderness and that is pending in the Senate, clearly amounts to “extraordinary circumstances” which would require the Forest Service to prepare a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that includes the Forest Service’s thorough analysis of several different alternatives for this proposed project for the public to review and consider.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

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