Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 12, 2016

Contacts:  Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943,
Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610 x 1
Pamela Flick, Defenders of Wildlife, (916) 442-5746

Lawsuit Launched Over Oil, Gas Development in Los Padres National Forest

U.S. Forest Service Plan Threatens Climate, Wildlife, Water Supplies

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch and Defenders of Wildlife filed a notice of intent Tuesday to sue the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies over invalid and outdated Endangered Species Act approvals on a 2005 U.S. Forest Service plan that allowed expanded oil and gas development throughout the Los Padres National Forest. The challenge aims to halt new leasing or drilling approvals pending Endangered Species Act compliance.

Expanded oil and gas operations — including fracking — would further industrialize public lands, cause climate pollution, harm endangered species like steelhead trout and California condor, and threaten to pollute water supplies amidst the state’s historic drought.

“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. “Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service’s plan would auction off these treasured landscapes to the highest bidder, placing them — and the clean water they provide to our wildlife and communities — at grave risk from oil development and fracking.”

Approvals to expand oil and gas drilling were granted under a 2005 “oil and gas leasing analysis for the Los Padres National Forest” and fail to account for an avalanche of new information relating to how regional drought, climate change and more extreme fracking technology may damage endangered species and their habitats — such as by causing more wildfires and polluting precious surface and groundwater supplies. 

“We can’t allow fracking pollution to threaten California’s public lands and waters. Even the 2005 decision relied on outdated data information to conclude that new oil drilling will not have any significant impacts, and now there’s much more information showing the devastating effects of these activities,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Oil and gas exploration and operations can have serious consequences for condors and other wildlife in the Los Padres National Forest, so the Forest Service must fully consider the impacts to our waters and wildlife.”

In September 2016 a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management’s Bakersfield office violated the law when it adopted a plan that would allow oil and gas operations across millions of acres of public lands, including those in the Los Padres, without considering the environmental risks of fracking; and in 2013 a federal judge ruled that the agency violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County without considering the environmental risks of fracking.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch and Defenders of Wildlife previously challenged the 2005 plan for failing to fully analyze impacts of oil and gas operations under the National Environmental Policy Act. Today the conservation groups notified the Forest Service of the need for supplemental environmental review. The groups also point out that the expansion of fossil fuel development on public lands is contrary to the nation’s climate goals and called on President Obama to halt new fossil fuel extraction on our public lands.

“Wildlife and habitat across the country are already feeling the effects of climate change,” said Pamela Flick, California representative with Defenders of Wildlife. “It makes no sense to increase our climate emissions on public lands, further threatening endangered species, at a time when our state, nation and the world are joining together to curb carbon emissions — all for just a day’s supply of oil.”

The Forest Service approved an expansion of oil and gas leasing activities on the Los Padres National Forest in a 2005 decision that opened more than 52,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to new drilling projects, including more than 4,200 acres that could be affected by new infrastructure. The plan would allow surface drilling adjacent to three wilderness areas and permit slant drilling beneath three creeks designated or proposed for protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as well as calling for new surface drilling next to the Sespe Condor Sanctuary and the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge. In April 2007 the Center for Biological Diversity joined with Defenders of Wildlife and Los Padres ForestWatch in a lawsuit contesting that the new plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act.

In response to the 2007 lawsuit, the Forest Service agreed to revise its analysis of the plan's impacts on endangered species. The parties agreed to stay the lawsuit until the new analysis was completed. The project will hurt wildlife, including the extremely imperiled California condor and numerous other species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit

Los Padres ForestWatch is a local nonprofit conservation organization working to protect wildlife, wilderness landscapes, and the great outdoors in the Los Padres National Forest and other public lands along California’s Central Coast.

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