Drilling the Wilderness

Los Padres National Forest officials are set to decide by January whether to allow oil and gas drilling in roadless areas targeted for protection in US Senator Barbara Boxer’s wilderness bill.
“It’s a race to the finish,” said the California Wilderness Coalition’s Keith Hammond, noting that any approved drilling leases would preempt protection by Boxer’s SB 2535. “There’s a very real risk they will finish this leasing plan before we can pass the wilderness bill.” The bill, with no vote date set, would protect 2.5 million acres statewide, including more than 300,000 in the Los Padres forest along California’s south-central coast.
But on 100,000 of these acres — wilderness home to 20 imperiled species, including the California condor — Forest Service officials would allow extraction of at least 17 million barrels of oil (or the gas equivalent).
State and federal regulators have also permitted exploratory projects, completed in September, for gas drilling on more than 16,000 acres of Central Valley grasslands and wetlands in the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge and the state’s Los Banos and Volta refuges. The area hosts 47 federally designated threatened or endangered plants and animals, including the kit fox and the golden eagle.
No environmental groups have organized to oppose the exploration.

Comments are closed.