Los Padres National Forest:
Los Padres National Forest encompasses approximately 1.75 million acres of central California's scenic Coast and Transverse Ranges. The forest stretches across almost 220 miles from north to south and consists of two separate land divisions. The northern division is within Monterey County and northern San Luis Obispo County and includes the beautiful Big Sur Coast and scenic interior areas. The "main division" of the forest includes lands within San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern Counties.
The headquarters, or Forest Supervisor's Office, for Los Padres National Forest is located in the city of Solvang, in Santa Barbara County. The forest is divided into five administrative units called "ranger districts" with district offices as follows:
- Monterey Ranger District (King City)
- Santa Lucia Ranger District (Santa Maria)
- Santa Barbara Ranger District (Los Prietos area)
- Ojai Ranger District (Ojai)
- Mount Pinos Ranger District (Frazier Park)
Management of Los Padres National Forest focuses on the following areas:
- Protecting and enhancing watersheds
- Providing world-class recreation
- Providing world-class wilderness opportunities.
- Promoting use of the forest as a "living laboratory" for ecological diversity and scientific research.
The Los Padres National Forest serves an enormous population base including the San Francisco Bay Area, the greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area, the southern San Joaquin Valley and the many communities along the south and central coast. The Forest provides the scenic backdrop for many communities and plays a significant role in the quality of life in this area. The Forest also supplies a substantial portion of the water needs of several downstream communities.
Ecosystems in Los Padres National Forest range from semi-desert in interior areas to redwood forest on the coast. Forest vegetation is classified into two major types: chaparral (68%) and forested lands (30%). Forested land includes mixed evergreen forests, oak woodland, pinyon-juniper woodland, and conifer forest. Management of chaparral vegetation consists essentially of prescribed burning and wildfire suppression. Forested lands are managed primarily to maintain health and vigor.
Los Padres National Forest provides diverse wildlife habitat. The varied habitats and terrain of the Forest provide permanent or transitory refuge for approximately 468 species of fish and wildlife, of which most are nongame species. The importance of this habitat continues to increase because of habitat losses resulting from urban development outside the National Forest. The Forest Service is charged with the protection and preservation of threatened and endangered species and their critical habitats. Currently there are 23 threatened and endangered animals which occur in the Los Padres National Forest. There are also 20 animals that are considered sensitive. There are three threatened and endangered plant species with an additional 71 considered sensitive. Numbers of listed species change as new information is gathered from field studies and monitoring.
CONDORSThe Los Padres National Forest is a member of the California Condor Recovery Program and has been an active player in the reintroduction of California condors into the wild. Currently there are 70 condors in the wild population in California. The Forest manages two condor sanctuaries, the 1200-acre Sisquoc Condor Sanctuary in Santa Barbara County and the 53,000-acre Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Ventura County.
There is a considerable risk of wildfire in Los Padres National Forest resulting from a combination of weather, vegetation, terrain and human use. Intense wildfires, fed by accumulation of dead vegetation, cause substantial resource damage and are difficult and expensive to suppress. Wildfire burned over 2.3 million acres in Los Padres National Forest since 1912, for a historic average of 25,000 acres per year. Most wildfires in the forest are human-caused, the balance are lightning-caused. The average annual wildfire occurrence has increased steadily over the last 60 years. This increase is attributed to urban encroachment, expanded recreational use of the forest, and old-age chaparral. Chaparral accounts for over 95 percent of the acres burned annually by wildfire.
Livestock grazing in Los Padres consists of 107 allotments and special use permit livestock areas. Of the 107 allotments and livestock areas, currently 59 are active and 48 are vacant. There are a total of 26,387 head months and 33,345 animal unit months permitted. These numbers fluctuate annually depending on such factors as weather and livestock operations. There are a total of 873,110 acres of the Los Padres within allotments of which 410,640 acres are capable for livestock grazing. Most of the use occurs in annual grasslands vegetative communities. The allotment permittees consist primarily of multi-generational family ranches with a long history of grazing on the Forest and prior to the establishment of the National Forest System in 1906. Rangeland management in Los Padres focuses on sustainable livestock grazing at the moderate level while protecting valuable resources within the forest.
Los Padres National Forest produces locatable, leasable and saleable minerals.
Locatable Minerals Include
Leasable Minerals Include
The Forest produces oil and gas in commercial quantities, primarily from the Sespe Oil Field in Ventura County.
- Geothermal energy
Saleable minerals found in quantity include
Los Padres National Forest is a major supplier of wildland recreation for Southern California and the Bay Area. Visitors are attracted to the variety of terrain, vegetation, and recreational settings. Forest recreation has increased yearly. There are 1,257 miles of maintained trails which provide both day-use and extended backpacking opportunities. The Forest has 459 miles of roads and trails designated for off-road vehicle use.
Much of Los Padres National Forest is unroaded and primitive. It has 10 congressionally designated wildernesses comprising approximately 875,000 acres, or about 48% of the forest. These include
- The Ventana
- Silver Peak
- Santa Lucia
- San Rafael
- Dick Smith
- Chumash wildernesses
The spectacular Big Sur Coast, an international treasure, is one of the outstanding features of Los Padres National Forest. The Forest manages, through a concessionaire, several popular recreation facilities along the coast that attract visitors year-round. Several key land acquisitions in the Big Sur Ecosystem have been accomplished in recent years making more outstanding areas available for the public's benefit and enjoyment. Land acquisitions in this area from 1992 to the present included a total of almost 9,300 acres. The Forest acquired the 1,226-acre Brazil Ranch in the Bixby Creek area through a partnership with the Trust for Public Land. The Forest is working closely with the Big Sur community and other stakeholders to craft a vision for future public enjoyment of the Brazil Ranch.
Los Padres National Forest has prehistoric and historic Native American sites, properties related to the practice of Indian and non-Indian religion, historic properties and districts. Interpretation of cultural resources meets a growing demand for information concerning heritage and history. The Forest contains some of the most extraordinary native rock art to be found anywhere in the world. Created by the Chumash Indians, these complex and intriguing pictographs are found on numerous rock outcroppings and in caves. Forest archeologists work closely with the academic community, volunteer site-stewards and local Native American groups to inventory, study, interpret and protect the sites.