ForestWatch Protects Cuyama Valley From Large-Scale Oil Exploration

Project Would Have Used Dynamite, Helicopters & ATVs to Explore For Oil Deposits Across 23 Square Miles Between the Los Padres National Forest & Carrizo Plain

Cuyama Valley, Calif. – Today, an oil company announced that it was withdrawing plans to use dynamite, helicopters, and all-terrain vehicles to search for underground oil deposits across 23 square miles of the ecologically-sensitive Cuyama Valley in Santa Barbara County. The decision came after ForestWatch and other groups filed appeals, challenging the approval of the plans.

The County of Santa Barbara initially approved the mega-exploration plan in March 2012, claiming that the project was exempt from public notice and environmental review because it constituted “basic data collection.” Working with local Cuyama Valley residents, Los Padres ForestWatch and the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center both filed separate appeals, formally requesting that the County Planning Commission overturn the decision.

In response to the appeals, E&B Natural Resources – the Bakersfield-based corporation proposing to conduct the exploration – announced today that the company “is withdrawing its application for the Cuyama 3D Geophysical Data Acquisition Project.”

If approved, the exploration activities would have occurred over more than 23 square miles of remote land in the Cuyama Valley, a remote portion of Santa Barbara County nestled between the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The area is home to at least 16 special-status plant species and 14 special-status wildlife species, including several species of plants and animals protected under the state and federal Endangered Species Act such as San Joaquin kit foxes, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and Kern primrose sphinx moths.

The oil company was proposing to bury and detonate a combined 37,873 pounds of dynamite at more than 3,000 locations across the Cuyama Valley. The explosives would have been placed throughout the valley using helicopters, motorized buggies, drill-mounted vehicles, and all-terrain vehicles. The underground explosions would have been used to identify the location and extent of underground oil deposits in the area – the first step towards expanding oil development in this remote region.

The Cuyama Valley currently contains two small oil fields – the South Cuyama Oil Field, and the Russell Ranch Oil Field. The exploration plan targeted undeveloped lands between these two oil fields, and if significant oil deposits were discovered – could have resulted in the significant industrialization of this remote area.

The area targeted for exploration included land directly adjacent to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and access routes that serve as gateways to the Los Padres National Forest.

The Cuyama Valley has faced increased oil drilling pressures in recent years. In 2005, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it would allow oil drilling to expand in the area. Also in 2005, an oil tycoon announced plans to drill an exploratory well in Wells Canyon, inside the Carrizo Plain National Monument. And in 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management tried to auction several thousand acres of federal and private land for oil drilling. ForestWatch and other conservation groups have successfully stopped all three of these proposals for the time being.

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