Central Coast

Central Coast

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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.

In early 2021, Rep. Carbajal reintroduced the bill in the House and Sen. Padilla reintroduced a bill in the Senate that includes the CCHPA, called the Protecting Unique and Beautiful Lands by Investing in California (PUBLIC) Lands Act. 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.”

Explore an interactive map of the bill here.

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.

Watch an HD fly-over of the proposed Mono Creek Wild and Scenic River made with our partners at EcoFlight:


 

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.

Channel Islands from Condor Ridge

  • 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.
Photo by Jeff Jones.

Photo by Jeff Jones.

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.

Central Coast

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
  • Fox Mountain Potential Wilderness Area
  • Garcia Proposed Wilderness Additions
  • Machesna Mountain Proposed Wilderness Additions and Potential Wilderness Area
  • 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

News

The latest news specific to the Central Coast.

Get The Facts

Find out more about the various wilderness areas throughout the Central Coast.

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Some of the areas we are working to protect

A pregnant female leopard lizard. Photo by Mike Westphal, BLM.

  • Location: Southern Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County, north of Highway 166. Encompasses the existing Caliente Mountain Wilderness Study Area.
  • Size: 35,619 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Bakersfield Field Office
  • Values: includes the highest peak in San Luis Obispo County at 5,104 feet. Tule elk and endangered San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard live there, along with several rare plants.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, Ventura County, south of the existing Chumash Wilderness and north of the existing Sespe Wilderness and Lockwood Valley Road and east of Highway 33.
  • Size: 23,670 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Contains unique rock formations that form arid “badlands” characterized by sparse vegetation and innumerable narrow, deep and eroded canyons. The badlands have yielded fossils from the Miocene era, including pig-like peccaries, turtles, three-toed horses, an antelope-like creature called merycodus, camels and a four-tusked ancestor of mammoths called Gomphotherium among other finds. This area is now home to pronghorn, tule elk, San Joaquin kit fox, black bear, southern spotted owl and California condor. Mount Pinos in the existing Chumash Wilderness and the land around it are sacred territory to the Chumash People. The journey to the top of the mountain from surrounding areas, such as the proposed wilderness additions, was part of the spiritual experience. At least four villages existed in the area during the pre-contact period.

Photo: Jeff Jones

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County, north of Highway 101 and Carpinteria, and west of Highway 33 and the existing Matilija Wilderness.
  • Size: 17,870 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Home to 16 rare plant and wildlife species, including the California condor and Palmer’s mariposa lily. Noted for its striking rock formations. Seasonal streams, including Caliente Creek and Diablo Canyon, offer welcome shade and water.

Photo By Jeff Jones.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Four units (Buckhorn, Mono, Bear Canyon, Cuyama Peak) two of which are located to the south and southwest of the existing Dick Smith Wilderness, west of the existing Matilija Wilderness and Highway 33, and two of which are located to the north and east of the existing Dick Smith Wilderness, west of Highway 33.
  • Size: 54,036 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Buckhorn Creek and Mono Creek flow year-round. The area contains large, beautiful sandstone outcrops, towering canyon walls, occasional deep pools of water and striking limestone outcrops. The area provides habitat for more than 30 sensitive plant and animal species, including blunt-nosed leopard lizard, California jewel-flower, California condor, Kern primrose sphinx moth (a species once thought to be extinct), least Bell’s vireo, and arroyo toad, among others. The San Joaquin kit fox, one of California’s most iconic endangered species with its huge ears and small stature, also calls the area home. The area also holds one of the largest populations of southwestern pond turtles in the Los Padres. The area contains cave art and shrines created by the Chumash.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, San Luis Obispo County. Four units, one of which is located on the northwest side of the existing Garcia Wilderness, south of Pozo Road and three of which are located around the southern side of the existing Garcia Wilderness, south/southwest of Avenales Ranch Road.
  • Size: 7,289 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Beautiful oak woodlands and grasslands serve as important foraging habitat for raptors. The headwaters of the Salinas and Huasna Rivers originate along the flanks of Garcia Mountain. Many seasonal tributaries of the Salinas River have shady streamside groves of hardwoods that serve as true oases during the sweltering summer months. The endangered condor forages in the proposed additions. The area’s numerous erosion-caused caves, cavities, and ledges may once again serve as a nesting-ground for the majestic bird. Golden eagles already nest there.

Photo By JeffJones.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, San Luis Obispo County. Three units are on the northern boundary of the existing Machesna Mountain Wilderness and south of Highway 58. A fourth unit is on the southern boundary of the existing Machesna Mountain Wilderness.
  • Size: 8,774 acres (11,133 acres, if the Machesna Mountain Potential Wilderness is included. It is the intent of the legislation that the Machesna Mountain Potential Wilderness become a part of the Machesna Mountain Wilderness at some point in the future.)
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Striking red outcrops of rock, oak woodlands, seasonal wetlands and groves of pine and fir. Condors forage in the area, which is adjacent to a condor release site.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, almost entirely in Ventura County (and a very small portion in Santa Barbara County). Four units. The unit on the northern boundary of the existing Matilija Wilderness is located south of the existing Dick Smith Wilderness and west of Highway 33. The unit on the southern boundary of the existing Matilija Wilderness is located north/northeast of Carpinteria. The units on the eastern boundary of the existing Matilija Wilderness are to the west of Highway 33.
  • Size: 30,184 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Seasonal streams, oak woodlands, expansive grasslands and habitat for sixteen sensitive plant and animal species, including California condor, California red-legged frog, California satintail, hoary bat, Ojai fritillary, pale-yellow layia and Palmer’s mariposa-lily among others. Includes the Dry Lakes Ridge Botanical Area. The “Dry Lakes” are seasonal ponds that shelter four ice age-relict plant species that do not occur anywhere else in the region as well as rare groves of ponderosa pines.

  • Location: Two units in the Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County, on the north side of the existing San Rafael Wilderness. A third unit (Fox Mountain Potential Wilderness) is located to the southeast of the other two units. All units are located south of Highway 166.
  • Size: 23,969 acres (65,051 acres, if the Fox Mountain Potential Wilderness is included. It is the intent of the legislation that the Fox Mountain Unit become a part of the San Rafael Wilderness at some point in the future.)
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Oak woodlands and grasslands offer critical foraging areas for deer, California condor and several other species. The proposed additions contain several rare plant species found nowhere else in the world, including Blakley’s spineflower, discovered by the late LPNF historian Jim Blakley. In addition, the area provides habitat for 21 sensitive species, including blunt-nosed leopard lizard, Fort Tejon woolly sunflower, giant kangaroo rat, Mount Pinos onion, Nelson’s antelope squirrel, San Joaquin kit fox and San Joaquin woollythreads among others. The area possesses many important cultural values, including some of the best known examples of Chumash rock art in the region. Some of these sites are included in the National Register of Historic Places. Native Americans continue to use the area for traditional cultural practices.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, San Luis Obispo County, north of the existing Santa Lucia Wilderness near Pippin Corner and Pozo and south of Pozo Road.
  • Size: 2,921 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: The area contains very fine oak woodlands and meadows that are being quickly developed elsewhere in the region. The area was a condor release site in the past and is foraging habitat for the condor today. The popular Rinconada Trail traverses the area.

  • Location: Los Padres National Forest, Ventura County, to the north of the existing Sespe Wilderness north of Thorn Point.
  • Size: 14,313 acres
  • Management agency: United States Forest Service, Los Padres National Forest
  • Values: Critical condor sanctuary. Several important seasonal streams. Known for its striking rock formations, including Bluff Creek and Topatopa Bluff. The area provides habitat for a good number of sensitive species, including California condor, California red-legged frog, Ojai fritillary, Sierra Madre yellow-legged frog, southern steelhead trout, pale-yellow layia and Tehachapi monardella among others. Several popular trails are located in the proposed Additions including the Boulder Canyon Trail and the trail that provides access to Fish Bowls Camp.

Photo: Craig Deutsche

  • Location: Northwestern Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County
  • Size: 13,332 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Bakersfield Field Office
  • Values: Soda Lake is the largest remaining natural alkali wetland in California. The lake is part of the only “closed watershed” (with no outlet to the ocean) within the Southern California Coast Range and boasts a unique clay dune system. The stark white lakebed can be seen from miles around. The area supports rare plant species and many rare species of wildlife, including blunt-nosed leopard lizard, San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, and San Joaquin antelope squirrel. The area is rich with evidence of its prehistoric and historic past. Painted Rock, a sacred ceremonial site of the Chumash People, rises majestically from the grassland adjacent to the proposed wilderness.  While this area is open to the general public a good portion of the year (closed March 1st to July 15th), it is important to remember to treat the area with the respect that it deserves while visiting it. Hiking and horseback riding opportunities abound across broad plains and gentle ridges. Birders, wildflower enthusiasts, and other nature lovers flock to the Carrizo Plains National Monument in increasing numbers, especially in the spring.

  • Location: Northern Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo County
  • Size: 12,585 acres
  • Management agency: Bureau of Land Management, Bakersfield Field Office
  • Values: The Temblors contain native grasses and a host of rare and unusual plant species, such as the Tucker oak and California jewelflower. The Temblors were formed from the uplifting of the San Andreas Fault, resulting in steep valleys and ridges with the Fault being quite striking.

Mono Creek provides habitat for a highly diverse assemblage of aquatic and riparian species, making the creek one of the most unique streams in southern California. The creek also provides an important refuge for native fish species. Flowing through an area of high ecological significance, the creek is home to one of the largest endangered arroyo toad populations on the Los Padres National Forest and also provides suitable habitat for the endangered California condor, California red-legged frog, least Bell’s vireo, and southwestern willow flycatcher, as well as the threatened California spotted owl and sensitive southwestern pond turtle and two-striped garter snake. Mono Creek flows through a distinctive narrow gorge with dramatic sandstone and shale formations, large boulders, waterfalls, and deep pools. The route of the Mono-Alamar Trail parallels much of lower Mono Creek, although floods have removed portions of the trail, creating a challenging route for hikers, backpackers, and canyoneers. The Forest Service identified an outstandingly remarkable wildlife value for the creek. Given the creek’s diverse assemblage of habitat and species, conservationists also believe that the creek also possesses an outstandingly remarkable ecology value.

Due to its pristine nature, Indian Creek supports a very unique assemblage of sensitive, threatened, and endangered aquatic and riparian species. Flowing through an area of high ecological significance, the creek harbors one of the largest populations of endangered arroyo toad on the Los Padres National Forest, and provides suitable habitat for the endangered California red-legged frog, least Bell’s vireo, willow flycatcher, and California condor. The creek is also home to the threatened California spotted owl and the sensitive southwestern pond turtle and two-striped garter snake. Indian Creek flows across the Big Pine Fault, providing critical information for the better understanding of the geological development of North America’s west coast. The Indian Creek Trail parallels much of the stream, providing access to the Dick Smith Wilderness. USFS identified outstandingly remarkable values for the creek include wildlife (associated with the arroyo toad population), geology (Big Pine Fault study opportunities), and cultural (abundant prehistoric sites and at least one nationally and internationally significant rock art site). Conservationists believe that Indian Creek also possesses an outstandingly remarkable ecology value associated with its unique assemblage of sensitive, threatened, and endangered species.

Piru Creek offers rare opportunities to recreate along a year-round free flowing stream in southern California. The stream provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities, including wilderness hiking and backpacking, gold panning, camping, angling, family picnicking, fishing for wild trout, and even seasonal expert-only whitewater kayaking, all within a river corridor with diverse and outstanding scenery. The entire creek flows through unique geological formations that provide important clues to tectonic forces that shape California and North America. Identified by scientists as an area of high ecological significance, Piru Creek provides an important biological refuge for endangered and sensitive amphibians and several other species of listed and sensitive wildlife. Forest Service identified outstandingly remarkable values for the upper creek include recreation, wildlife, geology, and cultural, and for the middle segment, geology. In 2008, upper Piru Creek above Pyramid Reservoir was designated a state Heritage and Wild Trout Water because the creek supports a genetically unique population of wild coastal rainbow trout. Conservationists believe that the middle segment of Piru Creek downstream of Frenchman’s Flat also possesses outstanding scenic, recreation, wildlife, and ecological values. Here, the creek flows through land twisted and torn by tectonic forces, offering a stunning stream-scape to the few kayakers and canyoneers willing to explore the trail-less canyon. The upper and middle segments are an area of high ecological significance providing critical habitat for a number of listed wildlife species. A 7.25 mile segment of Piru Creek from Pyramid Dam to the Los Angeles/Ventura County boundary was protected as a National Wild & Scenic River in 2009. This legislation extends this protection to the upper (Source to Pyramid Reservoir, 37.65 miles) and middle (Los Angeles/Ventura County boundary to Piru Reservoir, 10.95 miles) segments of the creek.

Sespe Creek.

Upper Sespe Creek (19.9 miles) flows along scenic Highway 33, which provides access for popular day use recreation activities, including swimming, wading, picnicking, day hiking, horseback riding, and rock climbing in the spectacular Sespe Gorge. Dominated by the Piedra Blanca sandstone rock outcrops on the slopes above, the creek’s riparian vegetation offers dramatic spring and fall colors in contrast with rocky cliffs and dark green big cone Douglas firs. Identified by scientists as an area of high ecological significance, this free flowing stream is one of the best remaining low elevation and relatively intact aquatic ecosystems in the central and southern California region. The creek supports one of the few populations of endangered steelhead trout in southern California and one of the largest populations of endangered arroyo toad. Riparian habitat along the creek is home to the endangered southwest willow flycatcher. USFS-identified outstandingly remarkable values include scenery, recreation, fish, and wildlife. Because Sespe Creek is an area of high ecological significance, conservationists have identified an outstanding ecology value for Sespe creek. Congress protected 31.5 miles of Sespe Creek as a National Wild and Scenic River in 1992. This legislation adds to this protection the upper segment of Sespe Creek from its source, along with a 1 mile segment of lower Sespe Creek down to Devils Gate.

Matilija Creek.

Matilija Creek (7.2 miles) and its Upper North Fork (7.25 miles) provide outstanding opportunities for hiking, backpacking, swimming, wading, wildlife viewing, fishing, and photography in a distinctive and scenic setting. A large waterfall on the main stem is a popular destination for day hikers and the North Fork Trail offers an outstanding overnight wilderness experience featuring multiple waterfalls. The creek flows through critical habitat for the endangered California condor and California red-legged frog, and also provides a home for such water-loving sensitive species as the two-striped garter snake and southwestern pond turtle. The resident rainbow trout in Matilija Creek upstream of Matilija dam are genetic descendants of steelhead that formerly migrated up the Ventura River prior to the construction of the dam. The creek will provide up to 14 miles of substantial high quality spawning and rearing habitat for endangered southern steelhead once federal, state, and local agencies complete the removal of the obsolete Matilija Dam downstream. The Forest Service did not find Matilija Creek to be eligible in the 2005 Los Padres Forest Plan due to a supposed lack of outstandingly remarkable values. However, the agency’s own administrative record and other supporting documents belies this decision. Matilija Creek possesses outstandingly remarkable scenery, recreation, fish and wildlife values.

Sisquoc WSR

The Wild and Scenic portion of the Sisquoc River.

  • South Fork Sisquoc River – 4.2 miles
  • Manzana Creek – 20.6 miles
  • Davy Brown Creek – 4.8 miles
  • Munch Canyon – 2.5 miles
  • Fish Creek – 2.6 miles
  • East Fork Fish Creek – 1.5 miles

The Sisquoc River was designated by Congress in 1992 as a National Wild & Scenic River to protect the river’s outstandingly remarkable steelhead trout fishery and other values (scenery, recreation, wildlife, heritage, ecology). During years with high stream flow and ocean connectivity, the Sisquoc River offers the most abundant high quality habitat currently accessible to sea-run steelhead in southern California. According to the Forest Service, Sisquoc tributaries contribute critically important cold water for the maintenance of anadromous fisheries in the Sisquoc and Santa Maria Rivers. The Sisquoc tributaries proposed for designation in this legislation directly complement and contribute significantly to the river’s outstanding fishery and other values. All the tributaries offer diverse recreational opportunities, ranging from trackless wilderness to developed camping, hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, hunting, and even seasonal whitewater kayaking. In addition to its outstanding recreation, Manzana Creek, Davy Brown Creek, Munch Canyon, Fish Creek and the South Fork Sisquoc River possess outstanding wildlife values and Manzana Creek also have outstanding scenery, historical, and ecological values. Although the Forest Service did not find the Sisquoc tributaries to be eligible in its 2005 Los Padres Forest Plan, the agency’s own administrative record and other supporting documents clearly describe outstandingly remarkable scenery, recreation, fish, wildlife, and historical values for these streams. This legislation extends Wild and Scenic protection to more than 36 miles of Sisquoc River tributaries essential for the preservation of the river’s endangered steelhead fishery and for other values.

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