What Others Are Saying about Designating Coast Dairies a National Monument
Here’s a letter that former county supervisor and long-time environmental champion Gary Patton wrote to Pres. Obama. We need more letters, and soon!
Dear President Obama,
I know you have received a lot of information urging you to declare a National Monument on the Santa Cruz County North Coast. I was the elected County Supervisor who represented that area for twenty years, from 1975 to 1995, and I urge that you NOT declare a National Monument there. Locals (including me) have worked very hard to provide lots of protection for the natural environment of the North Coast, and those permanent protections are absolutely in place already. We don’t need a designation to PROTECT the area. It is already protected, and the designation is largely intended to stimulate more tourism, which business interests think would be a good idea, but which would actually degrade not only the environment, but even public safety on Highway One, already pretty much at its limit during high traffic season. I know that Anna Eshoo, and Barbara Boxer, both of whom I served with when they were County Supervisors, and whom I greatly respect, are asking for the North Coast designation. My advice is “Not Needed,” and probably counterproductive.
Thanks for thinking about this observation. There has been quite a slick public relations campaign in favor of a designation, but the results would not be better environmental protection, which is what is being claimed. As I say, permanent, legally-binding protections are already in place.
Very best wishes, Gary Patton
A comment from Lud & Barbara McCrary
On our way south from Swanton to Scotts Valley last Saturday, Davenport was so crowded with cars, motorcycles and people trying to cross Hwy. 1 that it was frightening. Imagine what a National Monument designation will bring in the way of increased traffic to the small town of Davenport, with its limited parking space, one fire and rescue facility, and no garbage or sanitation facilities. Those in favor of a National Monument designation are giving no consideration to the impact on local residents. They aren’t the ones who will have to deal with this increased impact on their town, homes, and neighborhoods. We residents of the area feel no one else is giving any consideration for our feelings and our lives. We strenuously object to the plan to make Coast Dairies a National Monument. Instead, lease the land for grazing and agriculture to bring in money for the maintenance of the land.
—Lud & Barbara McCrary
A letter from David Rubin
Dear North Coast neighbors and others interested in the future of Coast Dairies Lands,
At Representative Eshoo’s meeting about Coast Dairies Lands (CDL) on Monday, I delivered the Friends of the North Coast petition that opposes development of a National Monument until an adequate environmental review is completed. I wasn’t permitted to speak about the petition at the community meeting, so I’m sending you my comments now.
I spent almost 40 years working at the US Geological Survey (an agency in Department of Interior) before retiring as Senior Scientist in 2013. Much of my job there was devoted to working on environmental problems caused by inadequate environmental review prior to taking action. Here are two examples:
(1) Construction of Glen Canyon Dam caused problems for endangered fish, archaeological sites, and human recreation on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. I co-designed the restoration floods that have been implemented there to help restore habitat along the river (part of a restoration program that has cost almost 100 million dollars). The environmental problems could have been avoided or minimized if hydrologic and ecologic studies had been conducted before dam construction, so that the dam could have been built differently (for example, with capability to bypass sediment).
(2) In the late 1970s, a USGS colleague and I discovered an active offshore earthquake fault adjacent to the Humboldt Bay nuclear reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewed our fault map and permanently closed the reactor. An inexpensive geological survey should have been conducted before the plant location was approved. This would have avoided construction of an unusable nuclear power plant paid for by PGE customers.
The point of these examples is that good science can prevent expensive land-use mistakes.
Representative Eshoo compared planning the National Monument to planning a house: make plans before beginning development. I agree completely with this approach, but I disagree where the project begins. I believe that development would begin irrevocably if CDL were declared a National Monument. Before designating this status, we should complete a careful environmental review of the impact of parking, trails, and recreation on wildlife, fish, and habitat. Without such review in advance, declaring these lands as a National Monument may cause more damage than benefit.
At the meeting on Monday, Representative Farr implied that monument status would prevent oil drilling and other destructive development on these lands. In the case of CDL, however, monument status is not needed, because deed restrictions on the property already limit activities to open space, recreation and agriculture, regardless of what status the lands have. Moreover, according to the California Coastal Commission document Th15d, when the Trust for Public Lands transferred CDL to BLM, TPL retained “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.” “This includes without limitation, all minerals, oil, gas, petroleum and other hydrocarbon substances and rights thereto, geothermal steam and all products derived from any of the foregoing.” Stated simply, the Coast Dairies Lands already have an extremely high level of protection, particularly with regard to mineral rights, because the mineral rights are owned by Trust for Public Lands.
Many of us aren’t opposed to establishing a national monument in the future, but we are opposed to committing to this path before completing an adequate science-based environmental review.
To voice your opinions regarding the National Monument proposal, contact President Obama at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments
and contact Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interesting Ideas: Some thoughtful suggestions from Santa Cruzan in a letter to our elected representatives:
After several conversations, meetings, and on-line research, I have reached the conclusion that National Monument status for the Coast Dairies property, as traditionally implemented, is inappropriate and premature at this time. The land, the wildlife, the nearby natural and man-made resources, the archeological treasures, the highways, other infrastructure, the resources available to local agencies, and the neighboring communities are not prepared at this time to support the influx of potential visitors envisioned by the supporters of this proposal.
I do not in any way doubt the good intentions and integrity of those supporters who are actively involved in preserving and protecting our precious and truly threatened natural environment. But we need a serious re-think regarding Monument status.
With that said, here are my suggestions:
1. Create a new model for National Monuments that is not recreation focused, but re-creation and preservation focused.
2. For the first several years, limit access to only those who are willing and able to contribute to the research, preservation, and education activities deemed appropriate for the site(s). They would work under the supervision of trained docents, researchers, or other qualified individuals working in close cooperation with the many organizations involved in this project. As the property is better researched and evaluated, and as financial support for mitigation, restoration and management are firmly established, access can be slowly increased.
3. Insure that such opportunities as described above are available to any volunteer, regardless of physical ability or limitation.
4. Provide shuttle service, possibly from the UC facilities in the Mission Extension area, or perhaps the UCSC campus. On-site parking should be absolutely minimal.
5. No mountain bikes, off-road vehicles, or horse trails should be allowed. Overnight camping for multi-day research and restoration activities can be studied and, if feasible, implemented.
6. On-going public awareness and education forums explaining this new model for public lands should be an essential feature of the plan.
Thank you taking my concerns seriously. I want to thank many local experts for making it so painfully clear that the bio-diversity of the North Coast is greater than other region in the contiguous 48 states. After witnessing the wholesale destruction of Southern California for 60 years, I am absolutely unwilling to stand by and watch that kind of devastation happen here.
“There has been a highly orchestrated effort by Sempervirens (Chair Fred Keeley and XDIR Reed Holderman) to convert Coast Dairies from a regular BLM land-holding into a National Monument. As the latter it will draw many more visitors and likely adversely affect wildlife and habitat (and use a lot more of our scarce surface and groundwater resources for visitors drinking it and using it in restrooms). As you likely know, I fought hard, and largely successfully, to get many protections on the Coast Dairies land, including a Coastal Development Permit. Neither Susan, nor I, favor conversion to a National Monument. No significant additional protection will result and as a practical matter the land will be degraded more by adding an estimated 250,000 to 400,000 visitors per year. There is a developing groundswell of opposition from Davenport and Bonny Doon.”—Jonathan and Susan Wittwer (Jonathan Wittwer is a prominent land use attorney in Santa Cruz County and is the founder of SOAL, Save Our Agricultural Lands.)
“Should the former Coast Dairies property be designated as a National Monument? The Coast Dairies property is about 5,800 acres in extent, and is located on the Santa Cruz County North Coast. It is already in public ownership, under the stewardship of the Bureau of Land Management. BLM also has responsibility for a large part of the former Fort Ord, and Fort Ord, of course, has already been declared to be a National Monument. National Monument status is not conferred by popular vote. The President gets to say what lands should become National Monuments. You can read the Presidential Proclamation that conferred National Monument status on Fort Ord by visiting kusp.org/landuse. Not everyone is enthusiastic about designating the Santa Cruz County North Coast as a National Monument. No money comes with the designation. Just lots of visitors! 400,000 annual visitors is a figure being suggested as a realistic estimate. Where do they park? How do they get there, and would such a designation actually turn land already protected into what amounts to a nationally advertised resort destination? Will Davenport turn into a hotel/resort gateway? Could the natural resource values of the North Coast actually be compromised, not protected, by the Monument designation.These are all worthy questions. Robust public discussion and participation is advised!”— Gary Patton, for 20 years the Santa Cruz County Supervisor for the Third District—from his blog The Land Use Report, March 19, 2015
“This will probably be a huge boon to the town of Davenport. Since we have no economic base up here [Bonny Doon], it will be an impact without compensation in our community. We will immediately need about 8 people to step up to the plate and become volunteer firefighters. I don’t think that many people exist in our community currently that could meet the physical and time demands. And there is no money in the plans that I have seen to pay for more emergency response. We already have trouble getting our roads fixed and ditches and vegetation cleared. I’m just not sure how the money brought into the county would ever trickle into our area. I’m asking for some equitable hashing out of the financial impact. It is great to have people enjoying the area, but it needs to have a sound plan to accompany the public use.”—Susan Mason, Bonny Doon Fire Team Captain
“Bay Area conservation groups say they want to raise the land’s profile, which was preserved in 1998 when environmentalists purchased the six-mile stretch of property with $40 million from the Trust for Public Land. But let’s be clear. Raising the profile really means figuring out how to get the cash to manage the property, and this is clearly what this effort is all about. The Bureau of Land Management, which now controls the inland portion of the land, simply doesn’t have the money to manage it. We support the idea of actually granting the public access to protected spaces rather than just acquiring land and locking the gates, as can be the case with public land acquisition — but doing so to the extent this monument proposal would do comes with significant challenges. The concerns from property neighbors in Davenport and Bonny Doon about traffic and strains on local public safety resources are legitimate and will need addressing. Picture the drive up Highway 1 to Davenport, especially when you’re stuck behind a slow-moving RV whose driver seems oblivious to the dozens of cars stacked up behind him. Now picture thousands more people on the road. Where exactly will people access the land? Where will they park? Where will that visitor center go? What other facilities would be needed and built? No one is offering exact estimates on visitors, but Fort Ord in Monterey County, a recently designated national monument, saw 400,000 people last year. We also have to ask: This is a grand piece of property, but what exactly qualifies it as a national monument? It’s an expansive stretch of undeveloped coast in a part of the world where that is getting more and more rare, but the property also surrounds a polluted old cement plant. The monument, meanwhile, would have redwoods in the name, but the majority of the land has none. Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the north, The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park to the south and Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park to the east could each arguably claim more impressive stands. Backers of the local project know the drill, and are saying and doing all the right things — they’ll engage the public, seek community buy-in and address concerns. We hope they do that. The proposal could transform the county’s North Coast. It could speed transformation of the cement plant. It could be an economic boost to the entire region. But first myriad issues need to be addressed.”—Santa Cruz Sentinel Editorial, Feb. 21, 2015
“We have no budget in our 2015-2016 fiscal year for a North Coast deputy. We’re concerned about the beaches and Davenport. We’re going to need more funding. We’ll have to have a full-time North Coast deputy when the national monument opens.”—Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart, at a Davenport/North Coast Association meeting in Swanton March 18, 2015
Letter to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors—”I am a professor of Dramatic Literature, currently teaching a course on Greek Tragedy to future engineers and real estate moguls at UCSC. As an authority on tragedy, I would like to deliver a professional opinion regarding the Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument campaign. Yesterday’s lecture was on the Hippolytus by Euripides, a play that is built on the proposition that humans are, by nature, rapacious creatures; innately and universally driven by desire – the desire for more, better, and bigger – and that that desire, in combination with short-sighted thinking, can and will eventually lead to tragic consequences. (Think environmental destruction.)
Outside my professional life, I have a hobby, and that hobby is Coast Dairies. I have hiked on the Coast Dairies property regularly for forty-two years, and gotten to know the eastern half of that property intimately (perhaps more so than any one on the monument campaign). In the process, I also got to know Fred Pfyffer, a graduate of the University of Fribourg in agronomy, who came to this country from Lugano, Switzerland, in 1920, at the age of nineteen, to manage the land at the behest of its Swiss owners, and subsequently became the president of the Coast Dairies and Land Company. Sixty years after his arrival in Santa Cruz, Fred would regale me with tales of raising cattle in the dwindling company of elk on the coastal prairies, and of driving the cattle down Mission Street, then a dusty dirt road, all the way to King City. Parts of that history had to do with degradation of the environment. He saw Liddell Creek silt in subsequent to the development of the limestone quarry, thus depriving the anadromous fish population that have dwindled and almost disappeared (the Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout) of suitable spawning habitat, and the approach of invasive brush (thistle, Scotch broom, poison oak and coyote brush) that was then in the slow process of engulfing the coastal bench lands as small-scale open grazing became less profitable and less popular along the coast.
I was an enthusiastic supporter of the acquisition of the Coast Dairies property as public land in the late1990s. I campaigned on behalf of the purchase, wrote letters to Governor Deukmajian encouraging the state’s fiscal support of the purchase, and donated money to the effort. I subsequently conferred on occasions with the Trust for Public Land regarding the management of the land during the interim period between the purchase of the land its transfer to the Bureau of Land Management. I also have to admit to opening up a trail on the property connecting the interior oak forests to the coastal terraces. In addition, I have been in regular contact with Rick Cooper, the Field Manager at the Hollister Field Office of the BLM and have shown him around the land.
What came out of the 1998 Coast Dairies purchase and the property’s subsequent transfer to the BLM last year was the best result we could have possibly hoped for. Contractual deed restrictions were attached to the Coast Dairies land that would assure the preservation of the habitat indefinitely (no extraction of mineral resources, no logging, no fires, no visitor motor vehicle use, no hunting and fishing, no overnight camping, etc.). Furthermore, those agreements are guaranteed in perpetuity.
In effect, we have assured the preservation of the habitat indefinitely as best we can. Now we are rushing headlong into a situation that will likely throw all those gains away. With all of its political shrewdness, the Sempervirens Fund, has launched its campaign to convert the Coast Dairies property into a national monument. The wildfire reception this campaign has enjoyed in the Santa Cruz area and the formation of a growing coalition of civic organizations indicate that this is clearly a (bad) idea whose time has come. I am hoping that we can slow this movement enough to think it through with greater rationality. Most of the objections to the conversion coming out of the Rural Bonny Doon Association, the Davenport/North Coast Association, the Friends of the North Coast, and other concerned citizens have to do with promoting and mitigating the human recreational use of the property. Their concerns with garbage collection, parking, fire prevention, Westside Santa Cruz traffic, access, etc. are not baseless, and merit serious consideration. There was, for example, a major forest fire on the Coast Dairies land less than six years ago that burned 7,817 acres.
It should be apparent to you that my major concerns are not with the recreational use of the Coast Dairies land. I enjoy hiking there, and I can easily see that others would also. My concern is one of scale. Becoming a national monument is tantamount to issuing an open invitation to hundreds of millions of visitors. To quote the Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument brochure, “With national monument designation comes added protection, attention and national recognition that a place is particularly special.” As I have stated, the protection is already in place: That leaves the attention and recognition. Since national monuments are included in federal national parks information and publicity, families from Newark, New Jersey to Santiago, Chile will know of the Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument and may choose to include a visit in their plans for a California vacation. Why not? It’s astonishingly beautiful. Furthermore, as the Monument brochure states, it will also “generate considerable economic benefits for the community.” But, at what price? We all know that Fort Ord’s visitors population increased tenfold to 400,000 per year in the three years since it became a national monument, and Fort Ord will, upon completion, have two and a half times the landmass that Coast Dairies has as well as more access points and miles of trail. Even the Wilder Ranch State Park receives 483,000 visitors annually. But, let’s suppose that Coast Dairies only attracts 100,000 visitors annually, as the Santa Cruz Land Trust Deputy Director Stephen Slade estimates, that’s still close to 300 visitors a day, and we know that there will be a far greater concentration on holiday weekends.”
So, simply put, here’s my question. “Is issuing an invitation to the Coast Dairies property that will draw several hundred thousand visitors a year consistent with Santa Cruz Redwoods National Monument campaign’s stated goal of habitat preservation? It’s a rhetorical question: Obviously not.—James Bierman, Professor of Theater Art, UCSC