Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument

Nearing the Finish Line: A Final Plan for Your Review

Your support for Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument has been truly impactful. Recently, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its final plan for managing the monument, and we want to be sure you are aware of what it includes and excludes, and what you can do next.

Significant Protection of Natural and Cultural Resources

When you joined us to press for national monument status for the Cotoni-Coast Dairies property, our goal was to prioritize the preservation of its incredible ecological, archeological, and cultural values. It was a unique opportunity for the public to experience this natural treasure in ways that are sustainable and responsible. It is a tricky balancing act, for sure.

There is a lot that Sempervirens Fund supports about BLM’s final plan. Thanks to you and others who raised their voices on behalf of Cotoni-Coast Dairies, the final plan does these things well:

Wildlife and Habitat Protection
  • Large portions of the property are set aside for the protection of the many wildlife species that depend upon it —including imperiled Coho salmon.
  • Earlier proposals to artificially manipulate habitat to promote hunting have been eliminated.
Managing Wildfire and Invasive Species
  • The plan appropriately calls for a prescribed burn program and the creation of shaded-fuel breaks to help protect the surrounding communities and the monument’s resources from catastrophic wildfire.
  • It calls out the need for managing invasive species, particularly pernicious weeds that threaten the diverse and rare plants that are found there.
  • Ill-advised plans to allow the aerial spraying of pesticides have been abandoned.
Archaeological Preservation
  • BLM worked intensively with our close partners, the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, and incorporated their recommendations regarding the protection of important archaeological sites.
Responsible Recreation
  • Hikers, bikers and equestrians are welcome, but only on designated trails.
  • Dogs are also welcome, but only on a leash and only on designated trails.
  • The anticipated trail network is extensive, but it will be developed in phases to allow for an assessment of existing recreational impacts before expanding the system.
  • BLM’s trails will connect to the trail being built on our San Vicente Redwoods property.
  • Camping and campfires will not be allowed, for good reason, in this highly flammable landscape.

Areas Needing Improvement

Overall, we are encouraged by the plan. But, a place this special and this sensitive deserves a plan that gets all the details right. Here are our primary areas of concern that need to be addressed:

Hunting

The monument is small and surrounded by many homes and roads, which makes it difficult to meet everyone’s expectations for recreational opportunities. Hunting is not appropriate in this setting and creates unnecessary safety risks. The plan allows for the creation of an archery-only hunting program on a large portion of the monument with no limits on the number of hunters or hunting days; no clear buffer zones for public safety and no clarity about which species, or how many, will be killed.

Tighter Recreation Footprint

The plan would allow cars and e-bikes to access some parts of the monument that are critical for wildlife and where the effects of human presence should be minimized. Specifically, the seasonal parking area deep in the heart of the monument will be harmful and e-bikes should not be allowed on the Molino Trail Loop because of its connection to San Vicente Redwoods.

Scientifically-Informed Response to the Wildfires

About 20% of the monument burned in the recent, horrific CZU Lightning Complex Fire. This plan was released just as the fire was declared contained, and before BLM assessed the impacts of this fire, consulted with relevant scientists, or incorporated necessary modifications into its plan to reflect the changed conditions on the ground.

What’s next?

BLM has a process for formally protesting this plan to ask for additional changes. This protest process is only available to those who commented on the earlier draft plan. Protests need to be received by October 26, 2020. You can read more details about the plan and consider your actions here.

Sempervirens Fund will file a protest with BLM that details our concerns and offers proposed remedies to the outstanding problem areas. We ask others who are eligible to join us.

We will keep you updated on the process as it unfolds. We look forward to the day we can all celebrate the completion of a management plan that embodies our vision for a balanced approach to preservation and sustainable recreation in this beloved landscape.

Thank You!

We cannot thank you enough for your steadfast commitment to the long-term protection of Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument. And we are grateful for your commitment to the Santa Cruz Mountains, to redwoods, and to protecting the treasured natural resources of our extraordinary coast.

Read on for more background on the how we got to this point.

Background

March 2020 Draft Management Plan and Public Comment Period

In March 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opened an important public comment period 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.

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, and 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.

BLM had proposed several activities that Sempervirens Fund believed would be harmful to the monument’s future. We asked you to raise your voice and share your concerns and we are grateful you took the time to do so.

Here is our submission: Our Comments

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

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