FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 13, 2006
Conservation Groups Send Notice to Halt Oil Drilling Expansion in
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Today Los Padres ForestWatch, Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice of intent to sue the Bush administration over its plans to expand oil and gas drilling in California’s Los Padres National Forest. The notice charges the U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries with violations of the Endangered Species Act and demands they take action to protect rare plants and animals.
“The Los Padres National Forest attracts millions of visitors each year to take in its scenic vistas, escape nearby city life, and enjoy a wide range of recreational opportunities, including world-class fly fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing,” said Jeff Kuyper, Executive Director of Los Padres ForestWatch. “These visitors bring in more than $75 million annually to our local businesses, and we can’t afford to risk it all for less than a day’s supply of oil.”
According to a 2004 report by the Forest Service and Michigan State University, the Los Padres is one of the most heavily-visited national forests in the country, attracting millions of visitors from San Francisco to Los Angeles and beyond. Specifically, the study revealed that forest visitors spend an average of $43 each day they visit the LPNF. With nearly two million visitors per year, the LPNF is a boon to the bottom line of the local economy.
The Los Padres National Forest Oil and Gas Leasing decision, approved by the Forest Service in July 2005, authorized the expansion of oil drilling across 52,075 acres of the LPNF in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The project will negatively impact wildlife, including the extremely imperiled California condor and numerous other species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. The decision allows surface drilling within a stone’s throw of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary and the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, two areas critical to the survival and recovery of the endangered California condor. In addition, the decision allows surface drilling immediately adjacent to three designated wilderness areas and slant drilling beneath three rivers segments eligible for federal Wild & Scenic River designation – Sespe Creek, Piru Creek and Santa Paula Creek.
“We believe that a mutually-agreeable resolution can be achieved so we can save this vital part of California’s natural heritage,” said Gina LaRocco, Staff Attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “We hope the managing agencies take appropriate action to resolve these issues, and we stand ready to partner with them.”
“The agency has relied on outdated data and unsubstantiated opinions to conclude that new oil drilling will not have any significant impacts,” said John Buse, Staff Attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Exploration alone can have serious consequences for condors and other wildlife in the Los Padres National Forest, even if it never leads to the production of a drop of oil."