Some new legislation introduced in Congress would designate more than 240,000 acres of land on the Central and South Coasts as wilderness to give it additional protection.
Democratic Congressman Salud Carbajal of Santa Barbara introduced the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act, which calls for expanding nine wilderness areas in the Los Padres National Forest, and designate four in the Carrizo Plain Monument.
Alasdair Coyne is Conservation Director for the non-profit environmental group “Keep Sespe Wild” says it would create a major expansion of the Sespe wilderness area.
The plan would also provide new protections for the Carrizo Plain National Monument, northeast of Santa Maria. The monument was on a list under review by the Secretary of the Interior for a possible reduction of protections, for development of resources. Its status is still a question mark. Neil Havlick, the President of the Carrizo Plain Conservancy, says the proposal would help solidify protections for the monument.
Carbajal admits getting the legislation passed would be difficult, and need bipartisan support. Still, he says you have to start somewhere, and he’s hopeful to get some Republicans to sign on to the bill, which has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Supporters say while the goal is ambitious, the potential protections are worth the effort. The wilderness designation is the highest form of protection which can be used on public land. Once in place it bans mining, logging, roads, and permanent structures.