The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act is the product of years of discussion and negotiation, involving business leaders, conservationists, elected officials, ranchers, mountain bikers, and other stakeholders interested in the use and well-being of these iconic lands.
Rep. Carbajal and Sens. Harris and Feinstein jointly introduced the CCHPA in April 2019. The legislation will protect 288,003 acres of wilderness, create two scenic areas encompassing 34,882 acres, and safeguard 159 miles of wild and scenic rivers in the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Once becoming law, these protections will help sustain the area’s quality of life by ensuring clean water for communities, protecting valuable wildlife habitat, and stimulating a vibrant local economy.
West Paso Robles rancher and business owner Greg McMillan said, “My family has lived in this area for six generations and it is my heart. I own and operate a small scale grass fed beef operation on family land and have planted an olive orchard. We are blessed to live in an area that contains some of the most rural and wild lands in the West, but the pressures on this land are great. The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will ensure that our wildest lands and rivers remain intact.”
Why We Need Wild Places Along the Central Coast
California’s Central Coast is known for its iconic oak woodlands, chaparral-draped coastal mountains, and the awe-inspiring Channel Islands. The region includes the Los Padres National Forest, California’s second largest national forest. The forest extends nearly 220 miles across the scenic Coast and Transverse Mountain Ranges, rising from the Pacific Ocean to over 8,800 feet in elevation.
The forest provides habitat for 468 species of wildlife including the California condor and the southern steelhead. At least two endemic plant species grow within the forest – and nowhere else on Earth. The region also includes the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the last intact native grassland where pronghorn antelope and tule elk wander free. These wild lands are rich in Native American history, and are popular places for recreation. They are also vital sources of drinking water for local communities and for the agricultural and wine industries.
While there are designated wilderness areas along the Central Coast, many unique wild lands are unprotected and at risk of unauthorized off-road vehicle use and oil and gas drilling. The Act also protects beautiful, free flowing rivers and streams that would be protected as wild and scenic, and keeps the water clean for generations.
Find more information about the bill’s wild places in the sidebar’s Fact Sheets section.
Scenic Area Designations
The purpose of the scenic areas is to conserve, protect, and enhance, for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations, the ecological, scenic, wildlife, recreational, cultural, historical, natural, educational, and scientific resources of the scenic areas.
- Condor Ridge Scenic Area: One of Condor Ridge’s most important features is its truly panoramic views of the ocean. Despite California’s large size and vast and iconic Pacific shoreline, coastal roadless land is very rare. In fact, out of the state’s 148 wilderness areas, California only has three that extend to the beach, and only two more that come within three miles of the shore. If designated, Condor Ridge would encompass 18,666 acres and be the only legislatively-protected area in California between Big Sur and the border with Mexico that is within three miles of the sea. The Condor Ridge Scenic Area would therefore offer a rare recreational experience.
- The area provides habitat for thirty sensitive plant and animal species, including the Santa Ynez false-lupine, a rare plant with beautiful yellow flowers, only grows in this part of the Santa Ynez and nowhere else in the world. The area also provides water to streams that support endangered steelhead trout populations. Tequepis Canyon is managed by the USFS as a California spotted owl habitat management area. The area contains a number of caves with Chumash paintings adorning the walls and is traversed by the popular Tequepis Trail.
- Black Mountain Scenic Area: Located less than an hour’s drive from San Luis Obispo, Black Mountain is favorite local hiking spot. On clear days, visitors to the top are treated to views of the far-off Sierra Nevada and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Black Mountain would encompass 16,216 acres and is one of the few roadless areas in the region that includes oak savannah habitat, a once ubiquitous mixture of grasslands and oaks that is being rapidly destroyed by development throughout the state. Due to its habitat diversity, it may host the elusive San Joaquin kit fox and the San Joaquin pocket mouse, and it offers a refuge for mountain lion, badger, California condor and a herd of wild horses. Three sensitive plant species are known to call the area home, and nine more species may exist there.
- The proposed Scenic Area encompasses the headwaters of the Salinas River which is an extremely important source of water for local communities, agriculture and wildlife.
Condor National Scenic Trail Designation
The purpose of the Condor National Scenic Trail is to provide a continual extended hiking corridor spanning the entire length of the Los Padres National Forest along the coastal mountains of Southern and Central California, and for the conservation and enjoyment of the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, and cultural qualities of the Los Padres National Forest. The trail would extend from Lake Piru to the Botchers Gap Campground in the Monterey County corridor.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act will forever protect:
- Black Mountain Proposed Scenic Area
- Caliente Mountain Proposed Wilderness Area
- Chumash Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Condor Ridge Proposed Scenic Area
- Diablo Caliente Proposed Wilderness Area
- Dick Smith Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Garcia Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Machesna Mountain Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Matilija Creek Proposed Wild & Scenic River
- Matilija Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Mono & Indian Proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers
- Piru Creek Proposed Wild & Scenic River
- San Rafael Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Santa Lucia Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Sespe Creek Proposed Wild & Scenic River
- Sespe Proposed Wilderness Additions
- Sisquoc Wild River Tributaries Proposed Wild & Scenic Rivers
- Soda Lake Proposed Wilderness Area
- Temblor Range Proposed Wilderness Area