I would like to say how pleased I am to hear of the good work being carried out by our Environmental Affairs Board. As a center of learning, society looks to universities in pioneering our way to social improvement. This is why we should applaud the efforts of the EAB and its UC Go Solar Campaign. The recent disaster off the coast of Spain only emphasizes the need for such transformations.
However, this is not a problem limited to the coast of Spain. The United States’ dependency on petroleum threatens our very own back yard here in Santa Barbara. Despite opposition from local elects, the USDA Forest Service has targeted 140,000 acres for development of oil leases in Los Padres National Forest by what its own admission is five to 10 days worth of oil. Its agenda is undeterred by the fact that this area is home to the California condor, which has been on the Endangered Species list since 1967, and had approximately 40 million dollars spent on its recovery. Further, oil drilling in our forest requires the development of roads, leading to even greater erosion and sedimentation of our water sources. Sedimentation affects not only the quality of drinking water, scarce as it is, but also the quality of water needed by the farmers and ranchers who make up a large part of our local economy. Are we being haunted by the negligence that resulted in 1969’s oil spill off our coast? We should not forget that this disaster largely led to The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and modern environmental regulations. NEPA requires government agencies to take environmental impacts into account before taking action. Is the Forest Service forgetting its legal and moral obligations to our forests and communities as required by law? Perhaps “oily” dollars speak louder than the voices of the people, to whom these lands belong.
So what is to be done to protect our forests and community? The greatest hope lies in Senator Barbara Boxer’s California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act that she and representatives Sam Farr, Mike Thompson and Hilda Solis introduced to congress this summer. If passed, this bill would designate approximately 2.5 million acres in California as wilderness. Defined as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” the Wilderness Act of 1964 is the appropriate tool for protecting Santa Barbara’s and the rest of California’s precious wilderness. The CWHWA would exclude the special interest of oil companies from exploiting our back yards for their own personal gain. I praise Senator Boxer and other supporters of CWHWA for their courage in standing up for California communities and working for their protection. As mentioned above, our local elects are opposed to the Forest Service’s scheme. This is why Santa Barbara City Council has passed a resolution in support of The California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. In addition, the bill has received support ranging from that of Congresswoman Lois Capps to Mayor Marty Blum and supervisors Gail Marshall, Susan J. Rose and Naomi Schwartz.
Unfortunately, Senator Dianne Feinstein has not found the necessary courage to join them. In January, there will be a new, more oil-friendly congress, and the passage of this bill will have even more barriers to pass. This is no time for Senator Feinstein to remain ambivalent. We must remind her that she is responsible to the people, not big business campaign contributions. I ask my fellow students, staff members and faculty of UCSB to lead the way in preserving the natural beauty and priceless resources of our community. Contact Senator Feinstein and urge her to support the California Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. For more information go to .
John Stevenson is a junior political science major.