A group of residents, joined by two conservation groups, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over a commercial logging project it approved for Los Padres National Forest.

Mountain Communities for Fire Safety filed the suit July 29 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles alleging the Cuddy Valley logging project on 1,200 acres at the base of Mt. Pinos, about 30 miles southeast of New Cuyama, will increase the risk of wildfire to nearby communities.

Los Padres ForestWatch and the John Muir Project subsequently joined the suit, which claims the Forest Service’s approval of the project violated the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act.

The plaintiffs allege the violations stem from the Forest Service using what they referred to as a “loophole” in the law that allows the logging activities to be excluded from environmental review by claiming the project would protect area homes from wildfire.

In the lawsuit, they cite studies that have shown removing small undergrowth and leaving large mature trees reduces the risk of high-intensity wildfires, yet the logging would remove larger trees.

A statement posted on the Los Padres National Forest website said no issues were found in a science-based review that indicated a full environmental impact statement was necessary for the project.

Officials said the goal of the project is to create a healthier forest and the logging project is a means to that end.

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News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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