Celebrate Earth Day by Supporting Some of Our Beautiful Earth!
Written by Gayle
What’s 2 million acres, almost 80 years old, has more than 1,200 miles of maintained trails, stretches from the San Francisco Bay area to the LA County line, ranges from semi-arid desert to the coast and Redwood Forest, has more that 450 animal species, and has been an active player in the rescue of the California Condor?
The Los Padres National Forest.
|photo credit to Los Padres ForestWatch Website
The National Forest Service has a huge task to watch over and protect this incredibly vast area, especially in this age of shrinking funds and unpleasant budget fights.
But never fear… Los Padres ForestWatch is here!
Jeff Kuyper, the Executive Director of LPFW, grew up hiking, camping and backpacking in Orange County. When he went to USCB for his undergraduate work, he fell in love with the Los Padres National Forest and spent many happy hours hiking, backpacking, and camping there. On his trips back to Orange County he was stunned at how quickly the primitive areas that he had enjoyed as a boy were being eaten up by development.
After law school in Oregon, he returned to Ventura County and enjoyed the beauty of Los Padres once again. However, he discovered that the National Forest had no watchdog group to make sure that environmental laws and regulations were being enforced. National Forests are the least protected of all of the National Lands. He saw that there was no public voice in the care of the Forest.
|photo credit to Los Padres ForestWatch Website
So ten years ago Jeff started Los Padres ForestWatch, despite having to keep his day job. There were several other volunteers that helped to get funding and begin the work of protecting the Forest. Soon they had a few grants, including one from Patagonia, which gave them a big boost of confidence! After a few years the work and support had grown enough that he could work full time on ForestWatch. Today, there are four full-time staffers, but enough work for ten!
|From the LPFW brochure–photo credit David Coughlin
Los Padres ForestWatch has two main missions–Advocacy and Habitat Protection/Improvement.
ForestWatch keeps track of pertinent laws and regulations. They advocate for strengthening the laws, as well as for the budgets for enforcement. They also are heavily involved in monitoring livestock grazing on National Forest Lands (Livestock grazing is the largest commercial activity in Los Padres National Forest). They help to keep the Forest Service informed. They do the same for oil production. They have just published a report on fracking in Los Padres National Forest–there has been fracking at 350 sites since the 1950s. Here is a brief news report on their advocacy on this issue (from their website). Mining, Off-Road Vehicles, and Logging are also issues on which ForestWatch is monitoring.
|Photo Credit–Jacob, our HR Director, and Joel, a member of of IT team, backpacked in the Sespe area in April!
ForestWatch’s big issue right now is to increase the number of acres of Wilderness within Los Padres National Forest. Currently there are about 800,000 acres of National Wilderness (which has more habitat protection, such as no motorized vehicles in the Wilderness). ForestWatch is advocating for about 300,000 more acres. This will bring the total acreage of Wilderness to just over half of the Los Padres National Forest.
ForestWatch has occasionally had to “get tough” in their advocacy, but generally now they are being heard in their quest to make sure that environmental laws are being followed. They are making headway in protecting the Forest for future generations!
|Photo Credit Los Padre
s ForestWatch website
Los Padres ForestWatch and its volunteers watch out for problems in the vast forest. It doesn’t take long for an off-trail pathway to look like an established trail, and ForestWatch helps monitor the trails in the Forest. They contact the Forest Service when they see signs of illegal activities (generally ATVs that have gone off-trail, or, ummmm, let’s say illegal gardening), and then they will help the Forest Service to clean up the tell-tail signs of the activity.
|Photo Credit–Jacob and Joel
Los Padres ForestWatch sponsors several volunteer events throughout the year to help maintain or improve the habitat of the Forest. One of the biggest needs is micro-trash clean-ups. There are 10-12 of these events scheduled for this year! ForestWatch has removed 10,000 lbs of micro-trash (mostly broken glass and bullet shells) to date. Micro-trash is particularly troublesome because condors, being naturally curious creatures, pick it up and take it to their nests, even feeding it to their young. The babies then starve to death with bellies full of interesting, shiny, trash.
|Photo Credit Los Padres ForestWatch website
The volunteers also remove illegal fences, many of which have been in the ground for up to 100 years. Los Padres National Forest is home to the Prong-Horned Antelope, the fastest north-American land animal. They are fast but they can’t jump, and the fences endanger their ability to navigate their habitat. The Forest Service contacts ForestWatch, who then send volunteers to remove the fences.
|Photo credit–Jacob and Joel
ForestWatch also sends teams of volunteers to remove invasive plants, mostly tamarisk.
For these and many more reasons, Lassen’s is supporting Los Padres ForestWatch at our Earth Day Events on Saturday, April 26, with Shop for a Cause. A percentage of the entire day’s sales will be donated to ForestWatch to help them with their important work.
If you’d like to learn more about Los Padres ForestWatch, come to Lassen’s on our Earth Day Event, or click here. You can volunteer for some of their next volunteer events as well!
We have a beautiful earth–let’s protect it!