The Los Padres National Forest has proposed the Santa Barbara Mountain Communities Defense Zone Project.
“The desired condition for chaparral is to establish a diversity of shrub age classes in key areas near communities to improve the effectiveness of fire suppression operations. Adequate defensible space around communities could greatly reduce the risk of structure loss, as well as improve safety for residents. Thus, at the urban interface there will be a management emphasis on direct community protection. This could be accomplished in at least two ways: (1) by removing or heavily modifying shrublands immediately adjacent to populated areas (Wildland-Urban Interface Defense Zones); and (2) by strategically creating blocks of young, less flammable vegetation near the interface areas. Both types of fuels modification could slow or even halt the rate of fire spread into urban areas.”
Two conservation organizations have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court “to protect fragile habitat and rare species in the path of a massive, remote fuel break recently approved in the Los Padres National Forest.” According to this article, “The suit is also an effort to encourage the Los Padres National Forest to focus on reducing fire risk where it matters most, directly in and around communities.” Interestingly, the Forest Service used a categorical exclusion from NEPA, which suggests that they think there is no scientific controversy about the effects of fire breaks that are beyond the area needed for defensible space. I’d like to see a court weigh in on this, and how far away “near” and “remote” are, but it might just decide that a CE for “timber stand improvement” can’t be used where there is no timber.