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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

The Los Padres National Forest and the Ventana Wilderness

Wilderness designated within Limekiln State Park

December 2008
Limekiln Creek
The newly-designated Limekiln State Wilderness, 23 miles south of the town of Big Sur, consists of 413 acres especially rich in biological diversity. Photo by Steve Smak

California got 413 acres of new wilderness in 2008, in Limekiln State Park on the southern Big Sur coast. This was the first new legislatively-designated wilderness in the state system in more than 30 years.

AB 2945, introduced by Assemblymember John Laird and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, also amends the 1974 California Wilderness Act to authorize temporary roads and motorized equipment within a wilderness area when necessary in an emergency or if it is the minimum tool necessary to meet minimum management requirements.

Limekiln State Wilderness is 23 miles south of the town of Big Sur on the South Coast in Limekiln State Park and is currently closed due to the Chalk Fire. The non-wilderness portion of the park, which opened in 1994, has 33 campsites, picnic facilities, historic limekilns from California’s early days, old growth redwoods, and several short hiking trails.

Limekiln is adjacent to the Ventana Wilderness of over 240,000 acres of rugged terrain in Los Padres National Forest. This newly designated area includes about a mile and a half of the West Fork of Limekiln Creek, an important steelhead spawning stream, and shares a boundary with the US Forest Service’s Cone Peak Gradient Research Natural Area. The most distinctive feature in this valuable ecosystem is the high number of plant associations in one small drainage. The plant communities of coastal scrub, redwood forests, coastal live oak woodland, valley grassland, and chaparral that coexist here provide a high level of biological diversity in a relatively small area.

The Ventana Chapter worked with the Ventana Wilderness Alliance, the California Wilderness Coalition and the California Wilderness Project on this bill with John Laird. An objective was to help provide a way for Sierra Club California to go to the State Parks and Recreation Commission and the Parks Department and work on getting more wilderness designated by administrative action.

John Laird summed it up best:

“AB2945 will link state park lands as wilderness to federal lands in similar designation. The bill also gives the Parks Department the process to do this in other areas around the state. Hopefully the designation for Limekiln State Park —a textbook example of a strikingly beautiful wilderness— will just be the first in many new state wilderness areas.”

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