By Rebecca August —
The Forest Service has extended the deadline, from June 30 to August 14, for the public to comment on its proposal to cut down trees and chaparral across 755 acres deep in the Ventura County, Calif., backcountry. The move follows a letter sent to Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott by Congressman Salud Carbajal, who introduced legislation earlier this year that would protect portions of the project area under the Wilderness Act.
The Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199), which was approved in a bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives on February 12, 2020, would expand several existing wilderness areas in the Los Padres National Forest. The bill includes two additions to the Sespe Wilderness that extend into the proposed logging and chaparral removal area. The bill enjoys widespread bipartisan community support and is currently awaiting approval in the U.S. Senate through companion legislation introduced by Senator Kamala Harris.
The letter from Congressman Carbajal requested the comment period extension and asked that the agency consider conducting an environmental assessment, something officials have indicated that they will use loopholes to avoid.
It comes on the heels of letters from more than 8,500 residents of Ventura County and beyond who have submitted comments in opposition to the project. Concerns include damage caused to a much-loved recreation area, disturbance of cultural sites, impacts to sensitive and rare wildlife, increased wildfire danger, and weakening the forests ability to adapt to climate change.