Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas are full of forest and nature. One of those landscapes are in Los Padres National Forest in California which is the second largest national forest, with an extension of 220 miles across the scenic Coast and Transverse Ranges. It has over 8,800 feet in elevation and it covers many wild lands that form local communities in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and Kern Counties. This amazing land is rough and full of mountains and it goes along the Santa Lucia, La Panza, San Rafael, Santa Ynez, and Sierra Madre ranges regions.
Why do we mention this, you might ask. It is because this time we are going to talk about an amazing non-profit organization that is helping the forest in the area of Santa Barbara get bigger and brighter. We will first take a look at the forest and the area that the charity covers and then we can analyze how they work and who they benefit.
A lot of the areas in Los Padres national forest have cultural and spiritual value and are part of native people and their lives within the community. Also, many prehistoric rock art sites are found in Los Padres which represent one of the richest records of prehistoric rock art in the world. These sites include remains of ancient villages, burial sites, rock shelters, and ceremonial locations. Certain peaks and other landforms also provide spiritual and cultural value to Native American communities.
But, today the situation does not look good. The forest is facing more threats than at any other time in history and the U.S. Forest Service, which is the agency in charge of managing these public lands, has a contradictory approach and often approves projects that do not cover the necessities of the community and the forest. Some of the most dangerous threats come from Oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, off-road vehicle abuse, mining, and other extractive industries
There is a solution though. It comes in the form of a group called Los Padres Forest Watch. This charity started as a small group of local forest advocates that gathered around a picnic table and decided that they were going to dedicate their time to help and maintain their region’s wildlife habitats and wilderness landscapes. ForestWatch focuses solely on protecting and restoring forests, chaparral, grasslands, rivers, wildlife, and wilderness along California’s Central Coast, starting at Big Sur coastline, passing through San Luis Obispo’s Santa Lucia Range and the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and all the way to the rugged backcountry of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Los padres Forest watch looks after the forest by combining legal advocacy, scientific collaboration, and community outreach with innovative strategy and field work. The numbers are very good with 88,000 acres protected by the charity and using more than 500 ForestWatch volunteers until today that have helped restore wildlife habitat throughout the forest.
A bit disappointing is the fact that they are the only ones working to protect the entire Los Padres National Forest – from the Big Sur coast to the Sespe wildlands – from damage caused by oil drilling, illegal off-road vehicle abuse, unmanaged livestock grazing, and uncontrolled development.
Los Padres Forest Watch works under certain principles that guide their lives: they are effective because they make every strategy count, resulting in direct on-the-ground protection for public lands; they are always full of arguments because their efforts are based on the best science and they have a scientific advisory committee that ensures that their positions are supported by hard evidence; they are inclusive because they look for alliances with local business, rural communities, and other forest users.
They also base their strategy on the following milestones
They focus on on-the-ground restoration projects that improve forest conditions and repair degraded areas; they are part of projects proposed by public land management agencies to ensure consistency with scientific principles and environmental laws; they do routine checkups to the forest in order to maintain an updated database and have all the necessary information in case of an emergency; they monitor conditions and activities on public lands to reduce or eliminate impacts to forest resources.
Another part of their strategy towards the forest is to consult with leading scientists and s to ensure that public land management agencies are using the best available science. In the same way, they consult with legal s if they need to file appeals or lawsuits to compel public land management agencies to comply with environmental laws.
And when it comes to the community and their volunteer work, Los Padres Forest Watch collaborates with other organizations and citizens committed to forest protection, and catalyze them into action to halt forest threats and restore damaged areas.