Old-growth chaparral being unnecessarily clearcut by a mechanical "masticator" in the Painted Cave area above Santa Barbara, June, 2010. This type of habitat destruction is not only damaging to the environment, but does not produce the fire risk reduction desired. In fact, the flammable weeds that will ultimately colonize the area will actually increase the level of risk. Notice the "treatment" is not near a home which is where vegetation managment is the most effective in protecting structures from ignition. Photo by Brian Trautwein, Environmental Defense Center.
Here is the result of mechanical "mastication" where huge grinders have clearcut the native vegetation, ripped apart the ancient soil crust allowing the spread of weeds, and destroyed valuable watershed. The area will eventually be characterized by erosion gullies and nonnative weeds. Painted Cave area, above Santa Barbara, 7/09.
A Problem in Santa Barbara
In response to recent wildfires, panic and ignorance have driven some to promote large scale clear cutting and removal of native shrublands. The resulting devastation leads to the unnecessary elimination of valuable habitat, damage to vital watersheds, and the spread of highly flammable, invasive weeds. One of the worse cases of such panic has been occurring in Santa Barbara County and the Los Padres National Forest. Local contractors have obtained grants to destroy large amounts of chaparral habitat around the community of Painted Cave off the San Marco Pass (Highway 154). Please visit our photo album to see what is at stake and what damage has been done.
Now there is a huge 6-mile-long, 300 foot wide (the length of a football field) clearance zone being planned by the US Forest Service along the Gaviota ridge, one of the most beautiful chaparral landscapes we have seen. Find out more about that project and what you can do to help stop it by visiting our Los Padres Clear Cut page.
This satellite photo shows the remoteness of the Gibraltar Rd/East Camino Cielo "fuel treatment" project above Santa Barbara in the Los Padres National Forest. It can be seen in the center of the satellite photo. Notice this project does not function to protect any community since the nearest community is miles away. Federal fuel treatment grants and quotas are based on "acres treated," not on how necessary or effective funded projects may be.
Satellite photo close up of clear cut.
The Result. After years of abuse, clear cutting, and "fuel treatments," chaparral and other native shrublands are eliminated and replaced by flammable, invasive weeds. Photo taken in Ventura County.