Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument

Take Action Now: Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument needs your voice!

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has opened an important public comment period (which, in consideration of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, has been extended and now closes on Friday, April 3, 2020) that will shape your experience in visiting Santa Cruz County’s newest national monument and impact heavily the future of the monument’s natural and cultural treasures. BLM has proposed several things that Sempervirens Fund believes would be harmful to the monument’s future. We need you to raise your voice and your concerns. Learn more about the history of the national monument below.

What is my opportunity?

According to BLM, “the focus of this planning effort is to provide public access and recreation on the Cotoni-Coast Dairies public lands, while ensuring protection of natural and cultural resources.” The BLM has put out a draft management plan for the monument that includes three different management alternatives reflecting a wide range of uses and management practices. The BLM is now gathering public input on the three alternatives that have been proposed.

How can I read the plan and comment on it?
The BLM plan is available to read here.

Written comments, which are due by Friday, April 3, 2020, on the proposed plan may be submitted electronically here, via email to blm_ca_cotoni_coast_dairies@blm.gov, by fax to 831-582-2266, or by mail to BLM Central Coast Field Office, Attn: Cotoni-Coast Dairies RMPA/EA, 940 2nd Ave., Marina, CA  93933-6009.

We have drafted a sample letter which you can download here.

There have already been two open house meetings held on March 4 and March 5 in Santa Cruz. These meetings were open to the public and provided a chance for the public to learn more about BLM’s proposed alternative management approaches and provide verbal feedback to BLM staff.

What’s at stake?

Most importantly, your voice matters. We encourage you to weigh in on the future of public access opportunities and the management of the monument’s natural and cultural resources. To do so, read the plan and attend one of the two public meetings or submit your comments in writing. At Sempervirens Fund, we believe that the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument can become a much-beloved recreational treasure, a safe-haven for fish and wildlife, a landscape in which rare and important native vegetation is restored and water quality is enhanced, all while honoring the Native Americans who occupied this landscape for millennia. To realize this vision, BLM will need to engage in a careful balancing act. Now is the time to share your opinion on how the monument can be both enjoyed and protected.

What issues are of importance to Sempervirens Fund?

Ultimately, we believe it is important that the public weigh in and be heard. This is our land and it is our responsibility to ensure it is cared for in a way that preserves its values forever. Sempervirens Fund is preparing comprehensive comments on the plan that we will publish here. Here are the issues we feel most strongly about and that we ask you to comment on, either at the upcoming public meetings or via written comments.

Sempervirens Fund is concerned about the following provisions in BLM’s plan:

Natural Resource Management –

  1. No aerial spraying. Under no circumstances should BLM utilize broadcast spraying of herbicides or pesticides as proposed in Alterative C, due to its potential for negative impacts on adjacent communities, as well as on the monument’s water quality, riparian habitats, and connecting marine habitats. The streams in this landscape provide the drinking water for the town of Davenport; aerial spraying has the potential to contaminate this important water source.
  2. No wildlife “enhancement”. Sempervirens Fund is deeply opposed to any management efforts that artificially manipulate wildlife or habitat purely for the purposes of supporting game species that can be hunted. This has significant potential to impact and disrupt existing wildlife populations and vegetation communities and is inconsistent with the conservation priorities expressed in the monument proclamation.

Recreation and Trail Management –

  1. No hunting. Sempervirens Fund recognizes that hunters have a legitimate place on public lands and we honor the essential role they have played in conservation in this country. Nevertheless, we strongly oppose hunting on Cotoni Coast Dairies. The property is simply too small with too many people nearby for hunting to be done safely. Many people live directly adjacent to the property and there is a highway along one border of the monument. Sempervirens Fund also co-owns a large property that is contiguous to the monument. We are concerned about the safety of our staff, our neighbors, and drivers on Highway 1.
  2. No off-trail hiking or dispersed camping. The monument proclamation documents the many sensitive and imperiled plant species on the monument. BLM has also acknowledged that they have not completed an inventory of the property’s cultural resources but they are expected to be significant. To help mitigate the impact of monument visitors on these cultural resources and the vulnerable species, recreation should only occur in concentrated and defined areas. We recommend all recreation be limited to established trails and campgrounds.
  3. No off-leash dogs. We do not support dogs off-leash or off-trail as this has a highly negative impact on wildlife, higher potential to spread invasive species and can create significant conflicts with other recreational users.

Sempervirens Fund applauds BLM for the following features in the draft plan:

Natural Resouce Managment-

  1. Invasive species. We are enthusiastic about BLM’s Weed Management Plan presented in Alternatives B and C. Overall, BLM is proposing a comprehensive plan to combat invasive plant species across Cotoni-Coast Dairies which will greatly enhance the health and abundance of native species.
  2. Reducing the risk of wildfire. We are pleased that BLM is proposing to continue, and expand, its shaded fuel break projects along Warrenella Road and Bonny Doon Road to mitigate the risks of wildfire and keep surrounding communities safe.
  3. Prescribed burning. We strongly support a prescribed burning program on Cotoni-Coast Dairies as proposed in Alternatives B and C to promote ecological health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Recreation and Trail Management –

  1. Connection to San Vicente Redwoods. As co-owners of the neighboring conservation property – the San Vicente Redwoods – Sempervirens Fund strongly supports the creation of a trail connection between Cotoni-Coast Dairies and San Vicente Redwoods (provided in both Alternative B and C) to facilitate the establishment of a regional trail network. Learn more about San Vicente Redwoods here.
  2. Regional trail connections. Similarly, we appreciate the consideration BLM has shown to other possible regional trail connections, including the proposed Rail Trail. Collectively, these trail networks could provide a transformative set of recreation opportunities in this region.
  3. Phased approach to trail building. It is important that the monument finally be opened to the public for recreational opportunities. However, this is a sensitive ecosystem. For that reason, we are pleased to see BLM proposing that public trails be constructed and opened in a phased approach so that impacts can be more carefully monitored and adaptive management can be applied where needed. For this same reason, we support the lower trail mileage proposed in Alternative B unless or until BLM can demonstrate it has the capacity to manage a more extensive trail network.
  4. No target shooting. We are pleased that target shooting is not included in the range of recreational activities being proposed. Because the monument is relatively small and there are many adjacent communities, this recreational activity would present a significant safety risk.
  5. No fishing. We agree that fishing is inappropriate on the monument, particularly given the presence of endangered anadromous fish whose upstream habitat Sempervirens Fund (and many partners) are working hard to restore.

How can I stay informed about the management plan for Cotoni-Coast Dairies?
Sign up for our email alerts.

Sempervirens Fund Spearheads Successful Campaign for Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument.

Just eight days before the end of his presidency President Barack Obama added the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property — on the north coast of Santa Cruz County — to the California Coastal National Monument. In signing the monument proclamation, Obama endowed the landscape with special conservation status and brought Presidential recognition to its incredible ecological, cultural and historic values. Without this monument designation, the landscape might never be opened for the public to enjoy or restored to its full ecological richness. Thank you President Obama for leaving a natural legacy that will benefit us and future generations!

View from Cotoni-Coast Dairies

The Cotoni-Coast Dairies property includes approximately 700 acres of redwood forests that connect with the 8,532-acre
San Vicente Redwoods property, protected by Sempervirens Fund and POST in 2011. Photo credit to Ian Bornarth.

Sempervirens Fund, under the direction of former California Assembly-member and past Board President Fred Keeley and current Board President Jacqueline Wender, led
the monument campaign from its inception with generous support and the active involvement of our board, donors, foundation funders, and key partners. Without the vision, tenacity and tireless leadership provided by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and former Senator Barbara Boxer, this landscape would not have been protected. We are deeply indebted to them for championing this effort. We are grateful to former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, California Resources Secretary John Laird, Assemblyman Mark Stone, Santa Cruz Supervisor Ryan Coonerty and Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band for providing essential support to this campaign. Dozens of partner organizations, including Peninsula Open Space Trust, Save the Redwoods League, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, and The Nature Conservancy, hundreds of local businesses, and over 15,000 members of the public also endorsed and supported this designation. It was a remarkable team effort.

Map of CCD

The Cotoni-Coast Dairies property includes six watersheds that drain to the Pacific Ocean.

“This is the ‘stuff’ of a dream come true. After years of hard work by so many, this majestic property will be protected in perpetuity,” Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said. “I salute our region’s environmental leaders and conservationists, the dedicated work of thousands of local citizens, local elected officials, conservation advocates, and tribal leaders who have worked so hard to secure this designation. And I thank President Obama for his extraordinary leadership of environmental conservation. This proclamation ensures that this jewel will forever remain a part of California’s coastal crown, allowing future generations to learn from its history and enjoy its beauty.”

The Cotoni-Coast Dairies monument addition spans 5,800 acres of scenic federal land in California’s Coast Range that represents a globally recognized biodiversity hotspot that is exceptional even within the context of the adjacent, ecologically rich Santa Cruz Mountains. Its Mediterranean climate and unique topography — marine terraces etched by multiple watersheds — foster numerous ecosystems within a relatively small area. CotoniCoast Dairies is home to 14 native vegetation communities, including redwoods, two types of native grasslands and many rare plant species. It serves as a refuge for many imperiled plant and animal species, including the iconic mountain lion, gray fox, California red-legged frog and peregrine falcon. It connects to 15,000 acres of adjoining protected lands, forming an impressive 23,000-acre area of wildlands only an hour’s drive from the Bay Area’s seven million people.

In addition to redwoods and watersheds, the property is home to four registered ancestral Native American archaeological sites, and many more still may be identified through formal archaeological surveys. The Cotoni (pronounced “Cha-toni”) were the Native Americans who inhabited the area before European contact. They were part of the greater Awaswas nation whose descendants are members of today’s Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument is the first national monument to be named in honor of the indigenous people of California

Showing support at public meeting in Cambria

In September 2016 more than 300 people travelled to a public meeting in Cambria to show their support for the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument campaign. Photo credit to Ann Blanchard.

“This is historic for Cotoni and Amah Mutsun descendants,” said Chairman Lopez. “Our Cotoni ancestors lived here for thousands of years as they raised their families and stewarded the lands that provided for all living things. The National Monument designation protects and conserves the beauty and spirituality of this land for all future generations. We are grateful to those who supported this effort.”

The campaign to protect Cotoni-Coast Dairies started as a stand-alone effort but eventually created enough momentum to support monument designation for five other coastal areas (Piedras Blancas, Lost Coast Headlands, Trinidad Head, Orange County Rocks and Lighthouse Ranch) that will serve as “gateways” to the existing California Coastal National Monument. Collectively, these additions begin to fulfill the vision of the California Coastal National Monument as a string of coastal pearls that allow people to access and enjoy remarkable coastal treasures up and down the state.

For answers to Frequently Asked Questions, please visit our Get Involved Page.

Cotoni-Coast Dairies was 1 of 6 sites added to the CA Coastal National Monument in January 2016.
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This article was originally published in our Spring 2017 Mountain Echo Newsletter.

Frequently Asked Questions:

May I visit the new national monument?
The Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument is not open at the present time. The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that manages the land, will embark on a multi-year process with public input to create a management plan for the property. In other words, it may not be open for a while.

Where can I find more information?
More information about the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument can be found at:sempervirens.org/ccdnm

For answers to Frequently Asked Questions, please visit our Get Involved Page.