COTONI-COAST DAIRIES NATIONAL MONUMENT: A GOOD IDEA?
Sempervirens Fund, which has a long history of preserving environmentally significant land, is spearheading a drive to have the 5,800-acre Coast Dairies property on Santa Cruz County’s North Coast proclaimed a national monument. While the prestige of a piece of land being recognized as worth adding to the roster of national monuments is great, and the protections that come with it are often significant, it is also likely to drive a large increase in the number of visitors. When nearby Ft. Ord, in Monterey County, became a national monument in 2012, visitation jumped from 40,000 to 400,000. Even half that increase in visitors to Coast Dairies would have significant impacts on local services and communities, without bringing in any guaranteed funds to protect the land, the visitors and nearby residents. Moreover, Coast Dairies is already public property, given to the federal Bureau of Land Management in 2014 with very stiff and legally binding deed restrictions that prohibit harmful activities like logging, mining and motorized recreational vehicles. We think that while national monument designation may be a good idea, there has been very little public discussion of the pluses and minuses, and not enough hard data has been collected to base a decision on. This purpose of this web site is to educate the public, encourage discussion, and point toward a path that will lead to the best fact-based decision about how the future of this beautiful piece of the Central Coast will be best served.
COTONI-COAST DAIRIES NATIONAL MONUMENT: PROMISES VS. REALITIES
Promise: Coast Dairies will be better protected from activity harmful to its ecology, flora and fauna if it is a national monument.
Reality: Very strict deed restrictions and other safeguards already are in place that adequately protect Coast Dairies in perpetuity. National monument status will attract many more visitors, who will have a much greater impact on Coast Dairies’ environment and wildlife.
Promise: Visitation won’t increase by nearly as much as Ft. Ord did (360,000 additional visits a year) because it isn’t surrounded by a heavily populated area like the Monterey-Salinas metro area.
Reality: About 7 million people live within a 90-minute drive of Coast Dairies.
Promise: There will be more public and private money for visitor facilities, trail construction, maintenance, patrols and stewardship.
Reality: Additional funds are not guaranteed. BLM will have access to one additional source of money but will have to compete with other national monuments every year to get it. The Republican controlled Congress is unlikely to increase funding not only for monuments but also for other federal lands. In fact, a reduction of funding is more likely. Private foundations donate money to build facilities and trails, not to fund ongoing operations. But the trend in recent years is for private foundations to reduce their funding because publicly owned lands are starving for money and can’t properly maintain facilities. The maintenance budget for BLM’s parent, the federal Interior Dept. is estimated to have a $20 billion backlog.
Promise: There will be adequate services to cope with the increased visitation, including police, fire and emergency personnel, both on the North Coast and inside Coast Dairies.
Reality: Last year on Highway 1 there were more than 250 incidents requiring emergency personnel, according to John Barnes of the Davenport/NorthCoast Association executive board. The Santa Cruz County Sheriff, the County Fire Chief, the captain of the Bonny Doon Fire Team, and County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty have expressed their concern about how they will provide the additional services made necessary by thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of additional visitors. There is no additional funding expected for these services, which are already shorthanded.
Promise: The Bureau of Land Management has adequate funds and personnel to steward and manage the property.
Reality: BLM has only 4 rangers to cover nearly 300,000 acres of land under its control on the Central Coast, and must annually compete for very possibly shrinking funds with other BLM areas. If Coast Dairies is named a national monument, BLM will still have to compete for funds every year with about 140 other monuments.
Promise: Our roads are capable of handling the additional traffic brought on by national monument status. Actually, the backers of the monument have not promised this, since it is a problem whose solution is so daunting and expensive.
Reality: Traffic on Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Davenport is already heavy on good weather weekends. The Mission Street portion of Highway 1 in the City of Santa Cruz is already at a crawl on those days. Monument status will bring complete gridlock. Since it’s a “Scenic Highway,” Highway 1 can’t be widened. Northward, Highway 92 is similarly gridlocked on sunny weekends. The roads that access the coast from Highway 17, other than Highway 1, through Bonny Doon, are unsuitable for much additional traffic, which would also have a heavy impact on that rural community.
Promise: There will be adequate parking to handle the increased number of visitors.
Reality: Parking lots between Davenport and Santa Cruz are already overflowing on warm weekend days. There is little additional land available to expand them. These lots overwhelmingly accommodate beachgoers. Many of the people who will visit Coast Dairies are likely to also want to spend time at one of the many beautiful nearby beaches, which will force even more parking onto the shoulders of the road. This is dangerous because people will have to cross the busy highway, and the cars will clog the bicycle lanes, which are heavily used. In addition, there are very limited public bathroom facilities between Davenport and Wilder Ranch, in fact, there are only a few port-a-potties serviced sporadically by State Parks.
Promise: Visitor accommodations, including parking, will be established at the shuttered cement plant in Davenport.
Reality: This plant is still owned by Cemex and adequate money to purchase it may not be available. Even if it were, the site is contaminated from 100 years of cement production and will require years of cleanup.
COAST DAIRIES & LAND: HARMFUL ACTIVITIES ALREADY RESTRICTED
One of the myths that has spread underlying the advantage of National Monument status for Coast Dairies is that it will be better protected. The fact is the California Coastal Commission last year approved a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) that legally restricts harmful activities on Coast Dairies in perpetuity. The language of the CDP reflects language in the restrictions that are permanently attached to the deed that BLM accepted. Regardless of efforts by Congressional Republicans to sell off federal land not having National Monument or National Park status, these deed restrictions forever are binding for any subsequent owners.
“The proposed land division, as a whole, will significantly increase public access and recreational opportunities by facilitating transfers to BLM [federal Bureau of Land Management] and DPR [California Dept. of Parks and Recreation] who, through their missions, provide public recreational access opportunities on and to their lands. Although future planning and future reviews will be necessary before certain such opportunities (such as enhanced public trail access) can be realized, facilitating the transfer to such public agencies from the current private landowner through the land division forwards core Coastal Act and LCP goals and objectives. CDLC [Coast Dairies & Land Company, the non-profit corporation set up by the Trust for Public Land, which gave the land to BLM] intends to include (and has included for the DPR portion) a variety of restrictions on the properties via grant deed (i.e., in general, no motorized off-road vehicles, no commercial logging, and the requirement that these parcels must be used and managed for open space, agriculture, and public recreation) to ensure appropriate uses and appropriate resource protection. In sum, the transfers facilitated by the land division will mean that the entire 6,800-acre Coast Dairies property is retained for open space, agricultural (where appropriate), and public recreational access uses in perpetuity.
Before transferring Coast Dairies to the Bureau of Land Management in April 2014, the Trust for Public Land was granted a Coastal Development Permit by the California Coastal Commission. Below are excerpts from that permit describing the restrictions on uses of the property that BLM had to accept to acquire the property:- - Author name here
The largest core of the property, approximately 5,750 acres, would be transferred after the land division to BLM. [California Coastal] Commission staff has worked closely with BLM staff on appropriate next steps following that acquisition, including in terms of both interim and long-term management of the property. In the interim, BLM indicates that it would open up certain key areas to public access in the very short term, and then would proceed to develop a management plan for the property that would define the way in which it would be used and protected over the long-term. Through its federal consistency authority, all such proposals will first be reviewed by the Commission.
In sum, the proposed project has been designed to facilitate a significant and important land transfer of a very large property in northern Santa Cruz County. The grant deeds and the agricultural easement have been designed by the Applicant to protect the property in perpetuity for open space, agricultural, and public recreational access uses and development. To further ensure maximum coastal resource protection, including in relationship to maximizing public recreational access opportunities at Coast Dairies, and to minimize the potential for adverse coastal resource impacts, special conditions are included to apply deed restrictions to the property defining use and development parameters that forward Coastal Act and LCP objectives.
The Applicant proposes the parcelization to facilitate transfer of existing parcels 3, 4, 6, and 15 and Upland Parcels 1, 2, and 3 (all inland of Highway 1) to BLM. These parcels are proposed to be encumbered by a grant deed with the following covenants (see Exhibit I):
1. (a) The subject property shall be used and managed for open space and public recreation in a manner consistent with the protection and preservation of natural habitats, adjacent sustainable agricultural uses, and the rights and interests of the property’s current lessees or their successors in interest.
2. (b) No commercial timber harvest operations (as defined in California Public Resources Code 4527) are allowed on the property. The property’s redwood trees will not be harvested, except to the extent determined necessary or desirable for public safety or for the health of the forest as a natural reserve rather than a timber production forest.
3. (c) The use of motorized off-road vehicles will not be permitted on the property outside of established or designated roadways, except to the extent necessary for management of the property, or to protect public health and safety, or in response to other emergency situations.
Even when transferred, CDLC/TPL is reserving all mineral rights of every kind and character in, on and under the entire property, whether those minerals are known to exist now or are discovered in the future.15 CDLC/TPL is also reserving all rights and interests of lessor under their lease with CEMEX.16
WHAT IS BEST FOR COAST DAIRIES? A Proposal.
We think the most important goals for the Coast Dairies property, whether or not it is designated a National Monument, are:
- Protect the environment, flora and fauna who live at Coast Dairies
- Minimize the impacts on local communities (Davenport, Bonny Doon, Swanton, Santa Cruz), on traffic and on services such as the County Sheriff’s Dept., County Fire, Bonny Doon and Davenport Volunteer Fire Teams and the California Highway Patrol.
- Open the property to the public in a way that balances the protection of the environment and habitat with healthy outdoor recreation and appreciation and enjoyment of its beauty and value
Once a property becomes a national monument, visitation and use can increase exponentially, as happened with Ft. Ord, where visitors jumped from 40,000 to 400,000 within a few years of its designation as a national monument.
National monument designation, on the face of it, seems like it would be a good thing. But there is a lot of information that is still unknown that might lead to the conclusion that it would better meet the above goals if Coast Dairies simply remains public land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
We propose that the bill introduced into Congress by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo be withdrawn while the various stakeholders hold a series of meetings to gather information and data, assess the impacts and how they can be mitigated or managed, and come up with a recommendation, which will then be presented to the public at meetings where questions can be answered and concerns expressed.- - Author name here
In the interest of reaching a truly informed decision on whether or not national monument status is a good idea, and to balance the interests of the many stakeholders who will be affected,we propose that the bill introduced into Congress by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo be withdrawn while the various stakeholders hold a series of meetings to gather information and data, assess the impacts and how they can be mitigated or managed, and come up with a recommendation, which will then be presented to the public at meetings where questions can be answered and concerns expressed.
Those stakeholders represented should include the Bureau of Land Management, elected officials, California State Parks, and other public agencies responsible for serving and protecting residents and visitors, citizen groups like the Davenport/North Coast Association and the Rural Bonny Doon Association, and environmental organizations with an interest in the North Coast like Sempervirens Fund, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Save the Redwoods League, and Save Our Shores, and recreational groups like Surfriders of Santa Cruz, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Horsemen’s Association and the Sierra Club.
While we understand that the chances of achieving national monument status, for the short term at least, will be while President Obama is in office, rather than rushing to judgment, we think that it is much more important to come to the right conclusion for the land, the animals and plants and their habitat, and for the surrounding communities as well as the visitors,. There is no danger in this because Coast Dairies already has ironclad deed restrictions in place that ensure that harmful activities will not be allowed there.
COAST DAIRIES & LAND: HISTORY
1901-1998: Private Ownership
The original inhabitants of the property now known as Coast Dairies were the Native Americans who came to be known as the Ohlones, most likely, according to sources, their Awaswas band. Despite many centuries of human habitation and use, the property still appears, though of course it is not, in its natural state. But in reality it has been strip-mined for limestone and shale, its forests clearcut, and its streams dammed and piped for farmers, ranchers and city dwellers, and its native flora overrun with invasive species.
In 1901 the 7,500 acres of land today known as Coast Dairies & Land, which stretches from the ocean at Laguna Beach north past the town of Davenport to Scott Creek and into the lower reaches of Bonny Doon, was purchased by a Swiss family, which owned and operated dairies on the property until the 1920s. It contains 6 watersheds, 3 levels of marine terraces covered by chaparral, coastal dunes and gorgeous beaches and coves. In its upper reaches, forests of oak, madrone, fir, pine and redwood thrive. On its lower slopes, land leased to farmers is used to grow pumpkins, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and other crops.
The open stretches of Coast Dairies provides important hunting and grazing grounds and migration routes for pumas and other wildlife, including some sensitive or rare species like the California red-legged frog, and its streams provide water for the City of Santa Cruz and habitat for endangered steelhead and coho salmon. Its beaches teem with seabirds and pinnipeds like seals and sea lions.
In 1995 a Nevada development company acquired a stock option to purchase the Coast Dairies property, and proposed to divide the land into as many as 139 luxury residential lots and build a marina.
The development was fought by local environmental groups and individuals, and area conservation groups and foundations and the State government put together enough money to make an offer to the development company. Under the umbrella of the Save the Redwoods League, the purchase was finalized on Oct. 26, 1998 for a reported price of $40 million. The money came from the Packard Foundation, the California Coastal Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, other locally funded Santa Cruz Land Trust donations and some other State funds.
For some more discussion of the North Coast history, see the Santa Cruz Public Library article at santacruzpl.org/history/articles/382/
1998-2006: The Land Preserved, the Management Process Begins
Save the Redwoods League passed ownership rights to TPL, the Trust for Public Land, whose responsibility it was to create a long-term property management plan which would be predicated on protection of the land from development or environmental degradation. Public access to the property’s beaches continued, but access to the uplands was deferred until a management plan was in place. A broad group of federal, state, and local interests, and the public, were invited to participate in the creation of the plan. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Coastal Conservancy provided funds to support drawing up the plan, which was required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
As time passed it became clear that TPL intended to turn the landward acres of the property over to the federal Bureau of Land Management and the beaches to the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Before this could happen, however, it seemed that the yet-to-be-completed management plan would determine how BLM and CDP would be able to use the land. Strict deed restrictions were put in place to ensure that the land was well protected from adverse uses, like mining, commercial logging, or motorized recreation vehicles.
TPL formed a Citizens Advisory Group to provide input in the development of the management plan. Its first meeting was in September 1999. Groups participating on the task force were environmental organizations included the Rural Bonny Doon Association, the California Native Plant Society, the Surfrider Foundation, Friends of the North Coast, farmers, Big Creek Lumber and RMC Inc. (the Davenport cement plant owner at the time), and federal, state and local government agencies and schools.
The management and public use plan was to be developed by TPL with the task force’s input, and that of a Steering Committee consisting of Save The Redwoods League, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, the State Coastal Conservancy, the Santa Cruz County 3rd District Supervisor’s office (the late Mardi Wormhoudt, a champion of land conservation, was 3rd District supervisor at the time), BLM and CDP.
The first step was to assess the property’s resources, flora and fauna, and, existing leases and historical uses, and then identify areas that need to be protected or restored and those that could be used for recreational, agricultural and other activities. Then alternative management options were to be developed and analyzed and the final plan selected. It was unknown how long the process would take, but expectations at the time were no more than 2 or 3 years.
In 1999, responding to pressure from mountain bikers, surfers and other groups who felt left out of the advisory group, TPL decided to open it to anyone who wanted to participate. With this action it quickly became questionable whether the advisory group would have any meaningful influence. By opening it up to anyone, rather than limiting it to organizations with a clear constituency, the advisory group’s role became much more muddled. Still, TPL indicated that it hoped to have the management plan completed by August 2001.
Despite some funding hiccups, planning for the Coast Dairies and Land property finished the first stage: the Existing Conditions Report. It might have been called “here is what we’ve got to work with,” a simplistic phrase belying the enormously complex task of planning for the huge property. This work was carried out by a technical consulting firm called Environmental Science Associates (ESA). The result of this research on Coast Dairies was a ponderous document presented to the TPL on July 14, 2001 and later released to the public.
TPL presented its “Opportunities and Constraints Analysis” (OCA) in November 2001, and held a meeting for the Community Advisory Group (CAG) on December 1 to discuss and explain this important document. The OCA followed up on the “Existing Conditions Report” and represented the “what we can do with it” phase of the process. It was designed to delineate a planning framework for a property with diverse and complex management needs. Resource management and planning policies from State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management were incorporated, since the recommendations were to become the basis for the final plan, once various alternatives had been considered.
CAG members became concerned because language describing logging policies was inconsistent with the original Vision Statement drafted by the steering committee. CAG members were also concerned about provisions of the 1872 Mining Act which might have allowed new mining claims to be filed on portions of the property to be conveyed to the Bureau of Land Management. It was not clear whether County and Coastal Zone ordinances that prohibit certain land uses would have to be honored by federal law.
The long-running planning process moved to the next phase after the CAG convened in January 2002 to offer their input before the comment period closed on February 1. TPL consultants worked on drafting the management plan alternatives to be presented to the CAG by spring.
The Management Plan and associated documents stalled while several water issues were sorted out. The Coast Dairies planning team had expected to provide the next deliverable planning documents in May 2002, with its CAG meeting to follow in June. These documents now had to be modified to reflect the impact of reduced water availability. The revised version was to be issued in late August with a CAG meeting to follow in September.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted money to rehabilitate and improve 2 farmsteads on Coast Dairies property but only if the farmland remained in production for 20 years. State Parks balked at the conditions. They knew water supply problems were imminent, so they refused the money and never made the improvements.
The CAG met for the last time in July 2003 and attendees heard BLM staff deliver more bad news for farming on the North Coast. Legal staff advised BLM that it did not have legal authority to take over Coast Dairies agricultural leases and agricultural-worker housing leases, one of TPL’s stated goals from the beginning. The CAG was then disbanded.
In response to water concerns, in winter 2003 TPL told farmers on the Coast Dairies property that its entity which held title to the land, Coast Dairies & Land Company (CDLC), would not continue to seek creek diversion permits, would not seek water rights and would not design, fund, or construct any off-stream storage. This action was in response to scrutiny from regulatory agencies. After touring the property in July 2001 and examining the infrastructure that supplied water to various fields, state and federal officials warned CDLC of problems with water rights and the design of diversion structures as well as concerns about water levels needed to be maintained year-round for the health of steelhead and coho salmon in North Coast streams.
The CDLC told farmers that they would be offered reduced rent and encouraged to convert irrigated agricultural lands to dry farming, which offers little profit. It became clear that CDLC no longer intended to complete the required Environmental Impact Report for splitting the agricultural parcels off from the main portion of Coast Dairies property. This meant the plan’s environmental review would be carried out by State Parks and BLM. BLM officials in Sacramento indicated their willingness to accept the property with some restrictions. These were still being negotiated and would have to be approved by officials in Washington, D.C. This concerned local environmentalists, because the George W. Bush administration favored the interests of mining, logging and oil exploration over environmental protection.
In March 2004 Santa Cruz County Counsel notified TPL in writing that the transfer would require compliance with the Subdivision Map Act as well as require a Coastal Development Permit (CDP). Compliance might take many months once applications for the permits were submitted to the County.
State Parks was slated to acquire the lands west of Highway 1, including the coastal beaches. The bulk of the lands east of the highway were to go to BLM, with the remaining agricultural lands going to Agri-Culture, the educational branch of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. TPL wanted to rethink their options and the land transfer was postponed.
2006-2014: Public Acquisition
In a deal heralded as the most significant addition of beaches to Northern California state parks in 31 years, the transfer of 5 miles of Santa Cruz North County beaches, 407 acres in all, from CDLC to California State Parks Dept. was finally completed. Transfer of the balance of the CDLC /TPL property to BLM was scheduled for later in 2006.
When the time came for TPL to divide and transfer the land to BLM it became clear that the goals and restrictions identified by the CAG and the Management Plan would not necessarily be applied to the property when it was transferred. TPL claimed the property transfer was exempt from requirements for a Coastal Development Permit. Letters from Santa Cruz County Counsel reinforced the position of the Coastal Commission staff but TPL instead continued to look for ways to exempt itself.
In February 2010 a letter from the Santa Cruz County Planning Department informed the public that the County would not require a CDP. However, State law required the County to ask the Executive Director of the Coastal Commission to determine whether a permit was required. The County was asked to request that determination and settle the question but the County declined, so in March, a Petition was filed in Santa Cruz Superior Court on behalf of Save Our Agricultural Land and several entities including the Rural Bonny Doon Association, requesting that the Court force the County to comply with Coastal Commission rules.
The suit dragged on, bouncing back and forth from Superior Court to the California Appellate Court. In March 2014 TPL agreed to apply for a Coastal Development Permit. Late in 2014 the suit was finally settled and in December Santa Cruz County registered the agricultural conservation easement SOAL and its associated plaintiffs fought for, guaranteeing that the agricultural parcels would remain as farms in perpetuity. It stated that there would be preferences for organic farming, that pesticides would not be used within 275 feet of the town of Davenport, that commercial logging would be prohibited, that there would be a ban on recreational motorized vehicle use, and that access to the upland (non-agricultural parcels) for recreational pursuits (hiking, etc.) would be maintained.
With legal issues out of the way TPL transferred the remaining 5,800 acres of Coast Dairies to BLM in April 2014. BLM announced that it would open limited public access within a year, but then backed off and said that instead it would offer periodic guided tours. In March 2015 the head of BLM’s Central Coast division said that he planned to open a 2-mile loop trail near the Laguna Beach parking lot sometime in 2015.
Meanwhile, in early 2014, the Sempervirens Fund with other conservation organization partners acquired from CEMEX corporation 8,500 acres stretching through San Vicente Canyon from near the closed Davenport cement plant north up to Empire Grade in Bonny Doon. The land had been used for limestone mining and timber operations. The new owners changed the name to San Vicente Redwoods and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County was put in charge of developing a public access plan.
2014 to the present: Public Access and the National Monument Campaign
Soon after, Reed Holderman, at the time Sempervirens’ Executive Director, began pushing a plan to have Coast Dairies designated a national monument. Oddly, and mysteriously, Sempervirens Fund’s board of directors voted not to try to have San Vicente Redwoods included in the monument. Holderman maintained that with a national monument designation, Coast Dairies, or as he wants to call it, Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument, despite more than 100 years of history and the fact that there are very few redwoods there, none of them “old growth”, would be better protected from adverse uses and would have access to more funds for facility development and stewardship.
But the deed restrictions permanently attached to Coast Dairies are some of the most stringent on any preserved property, and having monument status doesn’t come with any guarantees of additional funding. What is more certain is that monument status will attract many more visitors, impacting the land’s environment, flora and fauna, and challenge the ability of local law enforcement, fire and search and rescue services, which are already dealing with very tight budgets, to cope with the increased crowds.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
This website has been created to educate people about Coast Dairies, its history, how it became protected open space, the legal bases for that protection, and as much information as we have been able to gather about the possible positive and negative impacts of it becoming a National Monument. We hope that it persuades you that there is a lot more that needs to be known before anyone can make an educated decision about whether Coast Dairies being named a national monument is a good thing for the environment and ecology of Coast Dairies, for the surrounding communities of Davenport, Swanton and Bonny Doon, or even for the City of Santa Cruz, especially its rapidly developing west side.
We ask that people who are concerned about the increased impacts from monument designation sign our petition at ipetitions.com/petition/coast-dairies-national-monument-not-so-fast. To learn more about this issue join the Facebook group, Friends of the North Coast. https://www.facebook.com/search/str/Friends+of+the+North+Coast/keywords_top.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo: eshoo.house.gov/contact/
If you agree with our position, please write to the media, and your elected representatives, especially those in Congress who have introduced a bill to create the monument. Voice your concerns, ask questions, and suggest that it would be better to study this further before advocating for something that could change Santa Cruz’s North Coast forever.- - Author name here
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer: email@example.com
U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein: firstname.lastname@example.org
State Senator Bill Monning: sd17.senate.ca.gov/send-e-mail
Assemblyman Mark Stone: lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD29
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty: email@example.com
And remember: Talk to people you know, discuss your concerns, and share this website URL. Consider writing to the media. Finally, if you have ideas about how to slow down this rush to judgment please share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org- - Author name here