Advocacy

caption-dennis-palmFor over 20 years the Ventana Wilderness Alliance has leveraged informed community involvement to preserve, protect, and restore the public lands across the Ventana region using these tenets as our guide:

  • Advocate for expanded Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations to ensure that roadless lands and free-flowing streams remain as such

fort hunterAn Army Reserve installation operated by Installation Management Command, Fort Hunter Liggett is adjacent to Los Padres National Forest in southern Monterey County. Active and Reserve Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coast Guard units from across the country train at the Fort. Military training operations at Fort Hunter Liggett’s 162,000 acres include live fire, bivouac, and convoy training, and use of different training areas based on the activities involved.

wildfire planning

Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement Project

Following a multi-year National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that culminated in 2018 with the release a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision, the Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) embarked on the Strategic Community Fuelbreak Improvement Project.

The fuelbreaks are described as “… strategically located, wide blocks or strips on which a heavy fuel loading has been changed to one of lower fuel volume and reduced flammability.” Conversely, a firebreak or fireline has had all vegetation removed. Generally, the footprint of the fuelbreaks fall on ridgetops where bare-earth firebreaks have been constructed by bulldozers during previous wildfires.

The proposed fuelbreaks will serve as anchor points to permit burnout operations that create “black lines” which could slow or halt the spread of wildfire during a wildfire incident. This “indirect attack” method is more frequently employed than “direct attack,” with firefighter safety an important consideration. These fuelbreaks may also serve as anchor points for prescribed fire operations.

In 2022 the LPNF began implementing these fuelbreaks in the vicinity of the North Coast Ridge Road. Prior to this, a fuelbreak had been constructed atop Henniksons Ridge for approximately 4.5 miles. In December of 2023, the LPNF began implementing additional fuelbreaks, both in the Ventana Wilderness and on non-wilderness forest lands, using motorized hand tools.

To ensure that the projects are implemented in accordance with the direction provided by the Record of Decision and Situational Reports, the VWA will monitor fuelbreak construction and maintenance outcomes with an emphasis on documenting those fuelbreaks located within wilderness.

Wildfire Risk Reduction Project (formerly the Environmental Restoration Project (ERP)

Following the withdrawal of the original ERP, the LPNF has proposed the implementation of a Wildfire Risk Reduction Project (WRRP). According to the LPNF, it is designed to restore fire-adapted ecosystems, reduce fuels, and reintroduce fire on the landscape by prescribed burning.

The VWA is working with the LPNF to promote fire-adapted ecosystems in a manner that preserves and protects the wild character of the Monterey Ranger District (MRD). We have also advocated for the reforestation of native species in certain non-wilderness areas of the MRD. The VWA is closely monitoring the WRRP process and we expect the release of a new Proposed Action in 2024.

cwalkalamThe VWA makes every attempt to formally comment on all NEPA and CEQA issues which have the potential to adversely impact the natural or cultural resources of the northern Santa Lucias. NEPA and CEQA are similar laws with a common purpose - each initiates a process that examines and evaluates the potential environmental consequences of proposed actions before those actions are undertaken.

milpitas dennis palmIn 2012, Monterey District Ranger Sherry Tune, US Forest Service, approved the Milpitas Special Interest Area Collaborative Management Plan. This was a significant step in the protection of the unique cultural, natural and scenic values of an area designated as a Special Interest Area by the Forest Service in 2005. The Milpitas SIA (MSIA) contains approximately 9,500 acres located in the upper watershed of the San Antonio River, much of which is within the Ventana Wilderness. It is approximately 17 miles from Mission San Antonio near the border of Fort Hunter Liggett.

cattle wagon caveThe VWA supports the use of livestock grazing as a closely monitored means for achieving specific habitat conservation and biodiversity objectives, when not in conflict with other resources.