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Los Padres makes list of threatened spaces

Santa Barbara News-Press 5 February 2004

By Anna Davison

The threat of new oil and gas drilling in Los Padres National Forest has alarmed a coalition of environmental groups, which this week deemed the forest one of the 10 most threatened wild places in California.

The U.S. Forest Service's 2001 proposal to open parts of the forest for new leasing "puts wild forest lands and endangered species' habitat at risk, notably the California condor," according to the California Wilderness Coalition, which comprises more than 3,500 members and 200 member organizations and business sponsors. "To allow additional industrial development in the condor's last sanctuary would further jeopardize condor recovery.

"The Bush administration in 2003 uncorked a staggering series of environmental rollbacks that clearly had been some time in the making," it added.

The coalition said the leasing proposal for Los Padres would threaten a couple of dozen imperiled species as well as oak woodland habitats and archaeological sites. It urges those concerned to contact members of Congress and urge them to protect roadless areas in Los Padres from drilling by designating them wilderness areas.

Oil industry representatives have said it's unlikely that Los Padres would be drilled because of the expense and difficulty of accessing the area.

Other areas that made the coalition's top 10 threatened wild lands include the privately owned Tejon Ranch, the Klamath River Basin, the Giant Sequoia National Monument and the Sierra Nevada forests. The coalition also noted the threats to the Gaviota Coast from development.

Los Padres National Forest also made the list last year.