26 Dec 2009, 12:57pm
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Environmental Groups Sue Over Prescribed Burns

By Ben Preston, Santa Barbara Independent, December 23, 2009 [here]

Los Padres National Forest Watch — an environmental watchdog group — in concert with the research-oriented California Chaparral Institute, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service last week. The groups claim there is a lack of opportunity for public input into the USFS’s decision making process for land-management policy. More specifically, they are focusing on the Tepusquet Fuels Treatment Project, a prescribed burn program the two groups maintain was approved without an environmental analysis or public hearings.

“Our number one concern is looking at the bigger picture and the long term consequences of what’s happening now,” said Richard Halsey, an ecologist from the Escondido-based Chaparral Institute. “In the end, the fuel treatment of this 18,000 acres is a political one. It’s not good land management based upon science, and that’s not good.”

However, some residents of Tepusquet Canyon, which runs from Foxen Cayon Road to Highway 166 in northern Santa Barbara County, disagreed with the allegation that the Forest Service doesn’t involve the public. “Do I like everything they do? No,” said Linda Tunnel. “But they do try their darndest to work with the homeowners who live over here. When we have concerns, they always listen to us and have been very open about that they can and can’t do.” Tunnel is among the approximately 160 families who live in Tepusquet Canyon. The La Brea Fire, which burned nearly 90,000 acres in August, came fairly close to her home. “I want to be prepared, and if the Forest Service can do it using winter [prescribed] burns and other ways that can protect us, I’m in favor of it,” she continued, adding that she hadn’t seen anyone from Los Padres National Forest Watch or the Chaparral Institute at any of the public meetings she attended. … [more]



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