An open house tonight will give the public a chance to ask questions about a new strategy for the preservation of the Los Padres National Forest (LPNF) that could leave locals with a limited list of places to shoot and cycle within the woods.

The event, which is part of a series of seven open houses hosted by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service, will run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Los Padres National Forest headquarters in Goleta, located at 6755 Hollister Ave., Suite 150. The focus of the open house will be the LPNF Land and Resource Management Plan, a comprehensive administration and preservation strategy that is slated to take effect Oct. 30 and will guide management of the forest for the next 15 years. Forest Service spokeswoman Kathy Good said the informal atmosphere at the event will give the public a chance to learn about the details of the plan at their leisure.

“[The open house] allows people to ask questions they want to ask and they are not as intimidated,” Good said.

Good said she hopes the meetings will encourage the public to cooperate with local forest rangers as they implement the plan, which outlines measures to protect and improve the Los Padres National Forest, as well as restrictions on development within the forest. She said the Forest Service has already hosted three open houses which had disappointing turnouts of between six and 15 people, but she said she thinks the Goleta open house could draw between 50 and 100 people because local residents have always shown a great deal of interest in the forest.

Jim Turner, Los Padres National Forest forest planner, said the plan looks at how recreational activities and normal wear and tear affect the forest, and it analyzes the best way to preserve the forest’s natural resources. He said the plan divides the forest into eight zones, specifying which ones can sustain recreational use and which ones should be closed to the public.

The new plan includes stricter restrictions on recreational target shooting within the forest, Good said. She said the restrictions are necessary because many sites in the forest have experienced public safety problems, potential fire hazards and natural resource damage due to recreational shooting. The plan also limits mountain biking to certain designated roads and trails to protect the forest’s wildlife, Good said.

“This will help to prevent the known conflict primarily between recreation and threatened and endangered species” Good said.

Turner said the forest plan is reassessed every 15 years to take into consideration any changes that have occurred in the forest’s ecosystem. He said in recent years there has been an increase in the number of endangered plant and animal species living in the forest, which makes it more important for the Forest Service to monitor and protect the Los Padres National Forest.

“New knowledge is being applied that will be reflected in both protection and monitoring strategies,” Turner said.