Recreational Shooting Ban extended on LPNF

Recreational shooting ban extended for six months

GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest officials announced that the Forest Order prohibiting recreational shooting has been extended until June 30, 2020, to provide for public safety due to increasingly high fire danger conditions in the extended weather forecast and the potential for a wildfire sparked by shooting.

Despite recent winter rainfall, live fuel moisture levels across the Forest did not significantly recover and are currently hovering just above the 60 percent critical threshold. Predictive weather forecasts indicate persistent, strong offshore wind events through April that will likely further reduce fuel moisture levels.

Long-range weather models have consistently shown well below normal precipitation and drier than average weather with a high likelihood of elevated temperatures through the spring months. If these forecasts are accurate, grasses will cure out earlier than normal and grass fire activity could occur weeks earlier this year. These conditions allow fire to burn readily and remain present in the larger dead and downed fuels in the landscape.  Even with recent precipitation and cooler temperatures, live fuel moistures are slow to rise due to a state of dormancy in the brush.  

Preventing accidental starts from recreational shooting under dry conditions is key to protecting life and property. Shooting ranges under permit by Los Padres National Forest monitor and implement preventative measures to avoid accidental starts.

Under this Forest Order, discharging a firearm is prohibited except in the designated target ranges at the Winchester Canyon Gun Club and the Ojai Valley Gun Club. Persons hunting during the open hunting season as specified in the laws of the State of California and having a valid California hunting license are exempt from this Forest Order.

A violation of this prohibition is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

The Lookouts of Big Sur

Here is my latest article for Voices of Monterey Bay:

In the fall of 1984, Soaring Jenkins and future husband Isa Starkey climbed up Cone Peak for the first time. She made it up the 2¼-mile trail — cussing, sweating — and there met Ruth Albee, who’d been a lookout in various places for a decade.

Ruth “was in her 60s and loved the trail I’d just sworn at,” Jenkins said. “But I looked around and fell deeply, instantly in love with the tiny glass room and the wide expanse of ocean and mountain views. I told her I wanted to be a lookout and she said, ‘Go ahead and apply here; I’m going to work next year at Chews Ridge Lookout.’”

It was that easy. Jenkins was a lookout there for the next six years and she says she did it for the love of the place. Other Big Sur fire lookouts I know say they do it out of a feeling of service and duty. It’s a way to give back to Big Sur.

Though it was one of the most difficult and isolated lookouts in California, Jenkins-Starkey told me that “I wanted that job more than anything, I felt a strong magnetic pull to be there, yearned for it, and learned everything I could through the Fire Brigade training, to prepare for it.”

For the rest of the article, including interviews with Nadine Clark, of Big Sur, and Scott McClintock, of the Federal Fire Lookouts Association, on the Chew’s Ridge Lookout Program, see https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/01/02/they-look-out-for-us/ :

“I had a May Sarton quote taped next to my desk: ‘Loneliness is the poverty of self, solitude is the richness of self,’” said Jenkins-Starkey. “It got me through a lot. After I’d been there several years I began to feel that everyone ought to have a long, long period of solitude to learn the contents of their mind, to learn how to exist, to just be, instead of always doing something.”

Learn the contents of one’s mind through solitude. I like that.

Prescribed Burns in LPNF

Los Padres to begin implementing prescribed fire activities

GOLETA, Calif.— Los Padres National Forest officials today announced plans to begin implementing their annual prescribed burning operations on the Forest over the next few months. When favorable weather conditions are present, specific project locations and dates will be shared on the Forest’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The objectives of the projects are to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to people and communities, create conditions which offer a safer and more effective wildfire response, foster more resilient ecosystems, and minimize the effects of large wildfires on the landscape.

When implementing these projects, fire managers follow a burn plan that outlines the “prescription” or environmental conditions such as temperature, wind, fuel moisture, ventilation and relative humidity that need to be present before the project begins. When the criteria are met, crews implement, monitor, and patrol each burn to ensure it meets the goals and objectives outlined by managers. The prescribed fire program will continue through the winter and spring months as permitted by weather and other environmental factors.

Prescribed fires including both understory and pile burning are intended to reduce the amount of vegetation, such as needles, small plants, brush, and small trees which can carry fire from the forest floor into the treetops. Studies and experience have shown that prescribed fires stimulate the growth of grasses, forbs and shrubs that provide food for deer, mountain quail and other wildlife.

The ignition of all prescribed burns is dependent on the availability of personnel and equipment and appropriate conditions. Prescribed burn planning and execution are closely coordinated with the National Weather Service and Air Quality Management Districts in order to manage smoke production and minimize impacts as much as possible.

When these burns occur, information signs will be posted along the roadways to alert the public to the burning activity and subsequent visible smoke in the area.

For questions on the Los Padres National Forest prescribed fire program, please contact Fuels Management Specialist Rebecca Dykes at (805) 961-5764.

USFS to limit public comment due to changes in the NEPA

“Under President Donald Trump, federal agencies have chipped away at the reviews and permitting required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Earlier this month, the Forest Service proposed a significant overhaul of the NEPA process for logging and development on millions of acres of federal forest and grassland across the West. 

In a statement, the Forest Service said NEPA environmental reviews are time-consuming, redundant and prevent active maintenance of healthy forests. The agency called it the first serious change to NEPA’s regulation of forest management in more than 10 years. 

The public has 60 days to weigh in on these significant changes. The proposed NEPA revisions comment period closes Aug. 12. Here are some key takeaways:

The proposed changes would reduce environmental review for logging and infrastructure.

The Forest Service wants to expand the number of projects that would qualify for “categorical exclusions” — projects that can bypass environmental analysis or environmental impact statements. The exclusions would apply to forest thinning, various types of road and trail building, brush removal and recreational site management. More controversially, forest projects of up to 7,300 acres (with logging on up to more than half of those acres) could be excluded from NEPA review. Mineral and energy exploration — such as using seismic testing to gather geological data and various small-scale infrastructure building — could also be exempt if it lasts less than one year.”

For the rest of this article see: https://www.hcn.org/articles/u-s-forest-service-might-limit-public-comments

Forest Fire Lookout Project – Chew’s Ridge, 6/6/19

CHEWS RIDGE LOOKOUT

Project Description

The Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest, in partnership with the Forest Fire Lookout Association, will be exploring the possibility of activating the Chews Ridge Lookout and staffing it with local volunteers in order to provide firefighters with early fire detection, as well as other assistance to the National Forest.  In many circumstances, catching a fire when it is still young can prevent it from becoming large and destructive.  This project gives volunteers the opportunity to help improve fire safety in Monterey County rural areas, the Ventana Wilderness, and the Los Padres National Forest.

To read about this project in detail, see: https://firelookouthost.org/chews-ridge-project/

USFS Invasive Species Removal

Public comments sought on draft Environmental

Analysis for Invasive Plant Treatment Program

GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest officials today announced the release of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for a proposed Forest-wide Invasive Plant Treatment Program. Interested members of the public are encouraged to submit written comments on the draft EA by June 27.

CORRECTION – Los Padres National Forest News Release – We regret the mistake of providing the wrong due date for public written comments – correct date is June 19, 2019

The draft EA evaluates the environmental impacts of implementing a program to control non-native and invasive plants using a combination of mechanical, manual, livestock and chemical treatment methods. With limited capacity to control or eradicate these non-native populations, the Invasive Plant Treatment Program provides necessary tools for improving and restoring native ecosystems and habitat.

Exotic invasive species create a host of environmental effects, including displacement of native plants, loss of habitat and forage, potential loss of soil productivity and reduction in water quantity, as well as a potential increase in the intensity and frequency of wildfires. The program would provide for the aggressive treatment of existing infestations of invasive plants, and would encourage rapid containment or eradication of new infestations before they can become established.

The program is designed with resource protection measures to reduce or eliminate potential impacts to natural resources and the human environment. Following these treatments, restoration actions may be needed to stabilize the area and prevent re-colonization of invasive plants. More information on the Invasive Plant Treatment Program is available on the Los Padres National Forest website at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=51845.

Written comments may be mailed to the Los Padres National Forest Supervisor’s Office, Attention: Kyle Kinports, 6750 Navigator Way, Suite 150, Goleta, CA 93117; or hand delivered to the Supervisor’s Office at the address shown above during business hours (M-F 8:00 am to 4:30 pm); or submitted by FAX to 805-961-5729. Electronic comments may be submitted to comments-pacificsouthwest-los-padres@fs.fed.us.

Msg from Rep Panetta re: Oil Drilling on Public Lands on the Central Coast

 

Dear Neighbor,

The administration just announced a proposal to open over 700,000 acres of public land on the central coast of California to new oil and gas drilling. Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Fresno counties are included in the proposal.

Our community is concerned about expanded oil and gas exploitation on the Central Coast. You can share your opinion of the proposal directly with the Administration during the next 27 days, through June 9, 2019.

Click here to share your public comment here.

Tips for submitting effective comments can be found here.

In Congress, I have cosponsored bills that would prohibit oil and gas exploration and leasing on our public lands and off of our coast. I will continue to fight to protect our public land, ocean, and coastlines so that our communities, country, and future generations can continue to enjoy the natural beauty of the Central Coast.

I encourage everyone to speak out and participate in this public comment period.

Sincerely,

JIMMY PANETTA
Member of Congress

 

This is an official correspondence from Congressman Jimmy Panetta. If you have any questions please contact my office.
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USFS approves expedited commercial logging project in Condor habitat, 4/29/19

Forest Service Approves Expedited Commercial Logging Project in Condor Habitat

Trees of all sizes will be on the chopping block as part of the project.

Goleta, Calif. – Yesterday, the Forest Service announced its approval of the second of two commercial logging projects in the Los Padres National Forest. The approval of the 1,600-acre project along Tecuya Ridge comes just five months after the agency authorized an adjacent 1,200-acre project allowing commercial logging in Cuddy Valley at the base of Mt. Pinos.

The agency fast-tracked both projects without preparing a standard environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, instead declaring that the projects were excluded from environmental review under a loophole in the National Environmental Policy Act. A full environmental review examines potential impacts to plants and wildlife as well as alternatives to the proposed activities. The normal review process also provides more transparency and opportunities for the public to weigh in with concerns about the project.

The logging area provides prime habitat for endangered California condors. According to condor tracking data provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly fifty condor roost sites occur within a half-mile of where trees will be cut and removed. These roost sites are typically large dead or live trees that are used by condors for resting overnight between long flights. Federal standards require a minimum half-mile buffer from condor roosting sites to protect them from disturbance, given their sensitivity and importance in condor survival.