Protecting Wildlife

Our Endangered Species Project

ForestWatch works to enhance biological diversity on the Los Padres National Forest and surrounding public lands. We aim to reverse the trend of extinction at the local level by advocating for the protection of sensitive species and restoring their habitats in this biologically-rich region.

The extremely rare Refugio manzanita — a species that only grows in the Santa Ynez Mountains within the Los Padres National Forest. ForestWatch submitted a request to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list the species as endangered in 2017. Photo courtesy California Chaparral Institute.

To maximize our effectiveness, we focus on large-scale impacts to habitat and species most in need of protection. We are conducting a forest-wide inventory of all extraction and development activities to make sure that they do not jeopardize sensitive species.

In addition, we monitor new proposals to ensure that they safeguard species and habitat. We will file appeals and, if necessary, lawsuits to ensure that the Forest Service only approves activities that comply with environmental laws and are consistent with the best available science.

The Extinction Crisis

One-third of our nation’s plant and animal species are at an increased risk of extinction. Several factors – including pollution and overharvesting – lead to species extinction, but by far the most prevalent cause is habitat loss. Many species have become so imperiled that national forests – and their large, intact ecosystems – offer the best chance for their continued survival and recovery. National forests are home to 3,000 sensitive species across the country, including one-third of all species listed as “endangered” or “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Unfortunately, the agencies that manage our public lands are failing to uphold their duties to protect and restore these rare plants and animals. We make sure that they do.

Endangered Species of the Los Padres

The Los Padres National Forest is located at the center of one of the world’s top “biodiversity hotspots.” Unfortunately, it is also home to the largest number of endangered, threatened, and sensitive species than any other national forest in California. The forest supports 26 species listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, including the southern California steelhead, California condor, Smith’s blue butterfly, San Joaquin kit fox, bald eagle, California jewelflower, southwestern arroyo toad, and southern sea otter. The Los Padres also supports the habitat of over 300 plant and animal species that the Forest Service has classified as sensitive, species of concern, or species at risk. Many of these species are endemic and found nowhere else on Earth.

A juvenile California red-legged frog — listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act — in a stream in the Los Padres National Forest. Photo by Bryant Baker.

Ecosystems in the Los Padres range from semi-desert in interior areas to redwood forest on the coast. Over half of the Los Padres is wilderness or roadless, providing large, continguous habitats in which species seek refuge from urban development. These habitats provide crucial linkages to other public lands, including four wildlife refuges, the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the Angeles National Forest, the Fort Hunter-Liggett wildlands, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Despite this rich biodiversity, the Forest Service is not upholding its duty to maintain and recover endangered species on the Los Padres. The agency continues to allow harmful activities in sensitive habitat, such as oil drilling, grazing, and off-road vehicle abuse. Worse, the administration is dramatically weakening the standards and regulations used to protect these species.

You can read all about the sensitive, threatened, and endangered species found in the Los Padres National Forest and on the Carrizo Plain National Monument at our Wildlife & Plants page.

California condor

A California condor perched in the Los Padres National Forest.
© AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The California Condor

The Los Padres National Forest is the primary focus of efforts to reintroduce the California condor, one of the world’s most critically endangered birds. There are currently 56 condors in the national forest.

The Los Padres is the only national forest that provides critical habitat for the condor. These areas include the Sisquoc and Sespe Condor Sanctuaries, and two national wildlife refuges — Hopper Mountain and Bitter Creek — which are adjacent to the forest boundary and provide critical foraging areas.