Mount Pinos Forest Health and Fuels Reduction Project

Mt. Pinos Snow Play Area 1963 Mt. Pinos Snow Play Area 2020


On April 7, Los Padres National Forest announced a plan to protect areas of the Mount Pinos Ranger District that are at risk to overstocking and the devastating impacts from disease and insect infestation. This forest health project was initially shared with the public in late 2019 during an open house and field visit to the project area. In 2006 public collaboration began when the project was listed in the Mount Pinos Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

The Mount Pinos Forest Health Project is located within a federally designated Insect and Disease Treatment Area where declining forest health conditions put the area at risk for substantial tree mortality over the next 15 years. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress authorized the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize work in these designated areas, and to expeditiously plan and implement projects to address the risk posed by insect and disease outbreaks.

A primary goal of this project is to reduce tree densities to promote forest resilience to drought, insects and disease. When completed, this area will also provide safe and effective locations from which to perform fire suppression operations. To achieve this goal, professional Forest managers will selectively thin specific areas across 1,682 acres on the eastside shoulder of Mount Pinos between Cuddy and Lockwood Valleys in both Ventura and Kern Counties, California. Read more...


The 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act authority as amended in 2018 will be used for this project to:

  • Reduce risk and increase resilience to insect or disease infestation
  • Enhance efforts to protect watersheds and address threats to forest and rangeland health
  • Reduce wildfire risk to communities, municipal water supplies, and other at-risk Federal lands through a collaborative process of planning, prioritizing, and implementing hazardous fuels reduction projects
  • Protect spotted owl habitat north of the project area from the effects of catastrophic wildfire.

In 2014, Congress authorized the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize work in Insect and Disease Treatment Area, and to expeditiously plan and implement those projects. Congress also specified that certain projects within insect and disease infested areas would be categorically excluded from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The law specified that these Categorical Exclusion projects are exempt from the pre-decisional administrative review objections process. Certain timber stand and/or wildlife habitat improvement activities also may be categorically excluded from the need for an Environmental Analysis or Environmental Impact Statement as outlined under NEPA Handbook direction (Chapter 30, Categorical Exclusions).


The public scoping period for the Mount Pinos project is open through May 7, 2021. Project leaders strongly encourage interest groups and individuals to share comments. Please click on the link below to be able to view the full proposed action for the project and to submit comments. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Why is the Forest Service proposing this project?

A: The project area lays within a designated Insect and Disease Treatment Area which has been identified as being at risk to increased tree mortality. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Congress authorized the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize work in these designated areas, and to expeditiously plan and implement these projects.

Q: What is the purpose and need of this project?

A: The purpose of the project is to reduce existing stand densities and alter stand structure and species composition to create landscapes more resilient to the impacts of drought, insects, and disease outbreaks.

Q: What type of actual work is being proposed as part of this project?

A: The proposed work will include a combination of mechanical thinning treatments, mastication of brush and smaller trees, and hand treatments such as pruning, hand piling of material and subsequent burning. The most cost efficient and effective treatment within each stand will be chosen based on timing, equipment availability, and post-treatment results.

Q: What are the intended outcomes of this project?

A: The intended outcome is to create stands more resistant to drought, insects and disease, and devastating crown fires; encourage a mix of species and stand densities resembling the pre-fire suppression era; and encourage a stand structure that emphasizes large-diameter trees. The project is designed to reduce overstocking in selected stands and to improve the structure of live and dead material in treated stands.

Q: Is an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being prepared for this project?

A: The Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations allow Federal agencies to exclude from documentation in an EA or EIS certain actions that do not individually or cumulatively have significant effects on the human environment. The preliminary analysis indicates that the proposed project may not require documentation in an EA or EIS under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 and subsequent laws passed by Congress. Under Forest Service policy, certain timber stand and/or wildlife habitat improvement activities may be categorically excluded from the need for an EA or EIS. The project is still being analyzed and public input and collaboration will help determine if there are any issues which would warrant further analysis under an EA or EIS. If an action fits within a specific category and the action would not have significant effects, it would not warrant further analysis in an EA or EIS.

Q: Is this project exempt from compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?

A: Categorical exclusions are not exemptions, waivers or “loopholes” to avoid a NEPA review; it is simply one way to comply with the NEPA. The CEQ regulations provide for categorical exclusions to implement NEPA for the purpose of reducing delay and paperwork.

Q: What type of wood products could be available through this project?

A: Wood products such as firewood, biomass, poles, chips and logs could be available.

Q: Is there recent research that supports the project’s purpose and need?

A: A 2014 report by the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station compiled research demonstrating that managing forest densities through mechanical thinning treatments and prescribed fire resulted in forested lands being less susceptible to insect and disease outbreaks, or stand-replacing wildfires, as well as making ecosystems more resilient to climate change.

Q: What steps are being taken to safeguard sensitive and endangered species within the project area?

A: The project was designed with operating restrictions to avoid or minimize impacts to federally listed plants and wildlife, critical habitat, and Forest Service sensitive species.

Q: When will the work begin on this project?

A: The project could be implemented immediately at the conclusion of public collaboration and when the Decision Memo is signed.