Los Padres National Forest is one of the top places in America considered "too wild to drill," according to a new report from The Wilderness Society. It highlights a dozen of the nation's most unique landscapes that it says are threatened by oil and gas drilling.
The Los Padres forest not only provides drinking water to the Santa Barbara area but also is well-known for two iconic animals, said Warren Alford, California regional representative for The Wilderness Society.
"The last [wild] California condor was captured here and became part of a successful reintroduction program," said Alford, "and the last California grizzly bear was captured and killed. And that's just an indication of how wild and how rugged this area is, and it's simply too wild to drill."
The oil industry already has 180 operating wells in less sensitive parts of the forest, including the Sespe Oil Field in Ventura County. Another 52,000 acres could be opened up to oil drilling in the future.
Alford said his group believes guided energy development is appropriate on public lands that already have impacts from oil drilling. But he says there are far too many places where the natural benefits of the area outweigh the small amounts of oil and gas that could be found.
"We should direct those activities to places that are appropriate, that don't have the level of ecological significance, and that already have other human impact," he said.
The report also provides suggestions for protecting these wild places, including steps that Congress and President Obama can take to protect them from oil and gas drilling.