The ban on recreational shooting in Los Padres National Forest has been extended six months, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said Friday.
Los Padres officials said the ban is being extended until June 30 in the interest of public safety because the extended weather forecast calls for increasingly high fire danger conditions and the potential for a wildfire to be sparked by shooting.
Those convicted of violating the ban could be fined up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, be imprisoned for up to six months, or both.
Despite the recent rainfall and cooler temperatures, live fuel moisture has been slow to rise because the brush is in a state of dormancy, said Andrew Madsen, Los Padres public information officer.
Live fuel moisture levels across the forest are currently hovering just above the critical 60% threshold, and weather forecasters are predicting persistent, strong offshore winds will continue through April, further reducing fuel moisture levels, Madsen said.
Long-range weather models also consistently show precipitation well below normal, drier-than-average atmospheric conditions and a high likelihood of elevated temperatures through spring.
If the forecasts prove accurate, grasses will cure out earlier than normal and grass fires could begin igniting weeks earlier than usual this year.
Under the extended order, discharging a firearm is prohibited except in the designated target ranges at the Winchester Canyon Gun Club and the Ojai Valley Gun Club, which operate under Los Padres permits, monitor conditions and implement measures to keep fires from igniting accidentally, Madsen said.
Those hunting during the state’s open hunting season and who possess a valid California hunting license are exempt from the firearms ban.
For more information, call the Los Padres National Forest Headquarters in Goleta at 805-968-6640.