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11 oil wells to be removed from the Carrizo Plain, "California's Serengetti"

carrizo plain oil well
Jeff Kuyper / Los Padres Forest Watch
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One of the oil wells that will be removed from the Carrizo Plain National Monument

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is often called California’s Serengeti because of all the unique animals that call the area home. It’s a grassland plain filled with wildflowers and is home to kit foxes, antelope squirrels and many more.

“When you think of biodiversity and rare species and all of that, it's like, 'Oh, I'm gonna go to the Amazon and see all that.' But really we have some [animals] that aren't found any place else on the planet right in our backyard,” said Ileene Anderson, a Senior Scientist and Public Lands Desert Director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

During the Trump Administration, the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forest Watch found that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had approved adding another oil drilling facility on the Carrizo Plain.

In 2020, they teamed up to sue the agency, but because of the transition of presidential administrations, the Bureau settled with an agreement. The now-Biden Administration agreed to withdraw from future and previous oil mining projects on the plain.

While many environmental nonprofits are pushing for an end to oil drilling, advocates for domestic oil production like Republican Representative Kevin Mcarthy said California shouldn’t give up on producing crude oil yet.

carrizo plain
Jeff Kuyper / Los Padres Forest Watch
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A side of The Carrizo Plain National Monument without oil wells.

“Stop taking Russian oil, start producing it more in California,” Representative McCarthy said at a press conference in June.

Anderson said if the department had continued to build the oil drill, the ecosystem that the Carrizo Plain provides would have been heavily impacted, pushing the species to the edge of the land.

“Historically there were oil wells in the Carrizo, and I think what really took this off was the proposal to drill a new one. It just seemed like this would be a very bad precedent for the National Monument as well as unnecessary,” Anderson said.

Jeff Kuyper is the Executive Director of Los Padres Forest Watch. He said there are currently 42 oil wells in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, but only nine of them are actively producing.

“The writing is on the wall that oil and fossil fuel extraction is going to be phased out within the National Monument boundary. So it's just a matter of time before we see the Carrizo Plain not have any sign of this long history of oil extraction,” Kuyper said.

Kuyper said the oil wells will be slowly removed over the next few years. Right now, there are plans to restore the well sites to their natural conditions by removing eleven of the wells.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.
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