SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal (D-24th District) and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) have launched the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which would designate nearly 250,000 acres of public land in the Los Padres National Forest and Carrizo Plain National Monument as wilderness.
The announcement was made this morning, by Carbajal using the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens as the backdrop.
The legislation still needs to go through several committee meetings including Natural Resources. If approved it would establish a 400-mile long Condor National Recreation trail, stretching from Los Angeles to Monterey County through the Los Padres National Forest.
Representatives Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), who also represent portions of the Los Padres National Forest, co-sponsored this legislation in the House.
“As our federal public lands and national monuments come under increased threat of oil and gas drilling, it is now more important than ever to act to permanently protect our open spaces,” Carbajal said. “The Central Coast is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America and these public lands provide invaluable local water supplies and recreational outdoor activities to our communities. We have a responsibility to protect these special places for future generations and that’s why I’m proud to introduce the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act.”
The wilderness designation prohibits roads, vehicles or permanent structures, as well as logging and mining. Carbajal says it is the highest form of protection the government can give to a public land.
Over the years, as national parks and grasslands have been protected, the effort has been bipartisan, and sometimes it occurred because of Presidential actions and sometimes by the Congress.
The bill will designate four new wilderness areas in the Carrizo Plain National Monument and expands nine existing wilderness areas in Los Padres National Forest. It protects Condor Ridge and Black Mountain as new scenic areas, and designates the Condor Trail as a National Recreation Trail within the Los Padres National Forest.
By designating these wilderness areas, it will prevent these significant areas from mining and drilling.
Among those taking part in the announcement were Alasdair Coyne, Executive Director of Keep Sespe Wild; Neil Havlik, Carrizo Plain Conservancy; Chris Danch, Condor Trail Association; Vitali Mostovoj, Vet Voice Foundation; and Steve Windhager, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens