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first_img(661) 257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LOS PADRES NATIONAL FOREST – Three environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service this week, hoping to block plans to expand oil and gas drilling in Ventura County’s Los Padres National Forest. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Los Padres ForestWatch, says additional drilling approved in 2005 would harm the forest, in particular the endangered California condor brought back from the brink of extinction at a sanctuary near Fillmore. The groups say the plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act because of potential damage to wildlife and deterioration of air and water quality, said John Buse of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s very close to the Sespe condor preserve,” Buse said. “We have reports of nesting condors very, very close to some of the areas open for surface drilling. We’ve had a report of a condor nesting near Piru Creek where it’s open to slant drilling.” Oil and gas leases were expanded in July 2005 across 52,075 acres of the Los Padres near the Condor Sanctuary and the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, two areas of condor habitat. Environmentalists worry that the condors will be harmed by oil equipment, the oil itself and simply by having humans in the area because they drop small bits of trash that condors ingest. Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the forest, said forest officials had not been served with the lawsuit and therefore would not comment on specifics. Mandated by a 1987 law, the Los Padres underwent a 10-year study to determine what land might potentially be available for oil and gas drilling, Good said. More than 52,000 acres were identified for possible leasing – 48,000 of that for just directional – or slant – drilling from nearby private parcels or public land approved for surface operations, Good said. [email protected] last_img read more