Oil and Gas Drilling–BLM’s Central Coast Plan

Image of waterfall on Jamison creek in spring.

BLM proposal would allow oil and gas drilling near protected lands.


BLM Plan Threatens Protected Lands and Wildlife

UPDATE: BLM Publishes Final Oil & Gas Leasing Plan

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has finalized its plan to make available new leases for oil and gas development across a large swath of Central California, including the Santa Cruz Mountains. The final plan announced today is unchanged from an earlier version that was objected to by Sempervirens Fund and other conservation organizations, as well as by California Governor Gavin Newsom. In June, Sempervirens asked Governor Newsom to use his authority under BLM’s rules to formally object to the agency’s proposal to expand the amount of oil and gas development allowed in the Santa Cruz Mountains and elsewhere in Central California. The Governor responded and joined us in strongly objecting to expanded drilling in this region. The Governor’s words to BLM were very clear: In developing a resource management plan, BLM must work with state Governors to understand and minimize conflicts with state laws and policies. California is at the forefront of addressing climate change and spurring strong economic growth across our state. BLM’s Central Coast proposal is in direct conflict with California’s policies, and with our state’s commitment to reducing consumption of fossil fuels, a major contributor to climate change. BLM should not proceed with this proposal as currently envisioned. And yet, that is exactly what BLM did. Citing President Trump’s Executive Order 13783, which is focused on promoting energy independence and economic growth, BLM’s plan encourages new and expanded oil and gas development on more than 725,000 acres in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Stanislaus Counties. Our redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains already face substantial threats from development pressure and the harmful impacts of climate change. New oil and gas development would add to their vulnerability. While this plan allows new leases to be sold, any new wells would have to undergo additional environmental review before actual drilling could occur.

Governor Newsom’s June Response

Governor Newsom sent a response to the Bureau of Land Management, saying “BLM’s Central Coast proposal is in direct conflict with California’s policies, and with our state’s commitment to reducing consumption of fossil fuels, a major contributor to climate change.” Read the Governor’s letter here.   On May 10, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) submitted a proposed Resource Management Plan (RMP) that would open 725,500 acres of federal public land and mineral estates. If enacted, it would restart oil and gas drilling on federal land in 11 California Counties in both the Central Coast and the Bay Area, thus ending a moratorium that has been in place since 2013. This would have a significant impact on all of California’s coastal natural resources, including streams and rivers, fish and aquatic life, and protected redwood forests and open spaces in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The full proposal is available on the Federal Register’s website.  

Our Letter to Governor Newsom

Image of Marbled Murrelet swimming in ocean.

The endangered Marbled Murrelet relies on clean water and old-growth redwoods.

In opposition to the BLM proposal, Sempervirens Fund sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to review and reject the RMP because it:
  • undermines numerous state environmental laws;
  • contradicts several local ordinances; and
  • ignores strong opposition voiced by Californians.
The Governor had until Sunday, July 9 to review and respond to the BLM proposal. You can read our full letter here.


What Is at Stake?

All aspects of the oil and gas industry are environmentally harmful–from the land disturbance caused during the
Image of large, old-growth redwood tree.

Only 5% of old-growth redwood trees like this remain.

construction of the necessary infrastructure to the pollutants released during the extraction process, to the emissions produced when the fossil fuel products are eventually burned. BLM’s proposal could threaten ecologically sensitive areas, causing severe problems such as:
  • increased air pollution;
  • contamination of groundwater and surface water;
  • increased erosion of hillsides;
  • more sedimentation in streams;
  • fragmentation of natural habitats;
  • direct disturbance of threatened and endangered species;
  • disruption of species migration patterns;
  • localized seismic activity; and
  • additional greenhouse gas emissions and the associated consequences of climate change
Environmental changes like those listed above can also increase drought conditions, thus increasing the threat of more-extreme wildfires in the affected areas, including right here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Respect the Wishes of California Residents

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors amended the County General Plan in 2014 to permanently prohibit exploration and development of onshore oil and gas resources in Santa Cruz County. However, the County has limited jurisdiction when it comes to federal lands. If BLM’s proposal goes unchecked and unchallenged by the Governor, the Federal Government will lease federal land to companies for oil and gas drilling here, in direct opposition to our local government’s authority and power to make appropriate land-use decisions.


You Choose to Protect These Lands

Though Sempervirens Fund would never allow oil and gas drilling on our properties, nearby lands and waterways will be impacted by oil and gas drilling on federal lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains. People like you helped us protect our properties with generous and sizeable donations. It would be a devastating loss to all of us–and to future generations–if Sempervirens Fund’s protected properties, local parks we helped establish, and lands protected by our conservation partners were harmed by local oil and gas drilling.
Rare Santa Cruz long-toed salamander.

The endangered Santa Cruz long-tailed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) is found only close to a few isolated ponds in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties in California.


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