The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, First People of the region between San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay, will protect 96 acres of important coastal land near Costanoa Lodge in Pescadero, California, with a conservation easement arranged by Sempervirens Fund. This is the first conservation project for the Tribal Land Trust and the first time Sempervirens Fund has partnered with a tribal organization to protect an ecologically important area. The agreement announced today represents a new model for protecting wildlands for people, wildlife and future generations, while also protecting valuable cultural heritage.
To permanently protect this critical area, Costanoa Lodge, will transfer an existing conservation easement from American Land Conservancy to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band — the State-recognized Tribal government and descendants of the indigenous peoples of the region. American Land Conservancy is transferring some of their easements to local conservation organizations and will be contributing $43,000 as an endowment for the ongoing stewardship and monitoring of the easement.
The protected property is located between Davenport and Pescadero, California, across Whitehouse Creek from Costanoa’s main lodge, adjacent to Año Nuevo State Reserve and near Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The property is situated on the marine terraces and has a high degree of native grasses. The relatively intact coastal prairie is threatened, however, by succession to coastal scrub and encroaching Douglas Fir forest. The prairie is believed to have been maintained through traditional management practices by local indigenous people prior to European contact. Located upstream from this property is a site that is believed to be the “first contact” village site described by the Portola Expedition. The Amah Mutsun people hope to work with Costanoa Lodge staff to develop an innovative partnership to restore and care for the property, such as exploring opportunities to reintroduce traditional native land-management techniques.
Sempervirens Fund, California’s oldest land trust, is providing expertise and technical assistance to the Amah Mutsun tribe in forming The Tribal Land Trust as a self-sufficient nonprofit conservation organization, through a generous grant from the Christensen Fund. Once formed, the Tribal Land Trust will be able to purchase, protect and care for natural lands in the Santa Cruz Mountains and throughout the Tribe’s larger ancestral territory.
“This is a very important day for the Amah Mutsun people,” said Valentin Lopez, Tribal Chairman. “As a landless tribe, we can now start to rebuild a more hopeful and healthy future for our children by protecting the sacred sites and landscapes that connect us to our past. With support from Sempervirens Fund, The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is in the process of establishing an independent 501(c)(3) organization to acquire and steward land for conservation purposes within our historical geography. Our agreement with Costanoa Lodge is the first step in this process. The Tribal Land Trust will help preserve and create a future where all people may drink safely from clean flowing water and visit the land to make profound connections to the natural landscape that embodies the spirits of our ancestors and provides a portal to the larger universe.”
“We are thrilled to help the Amah Mutsun establish a new conservation organization,” said Sempervirens Fund’s Executive Director, Reed Holderman. “The Tribal Land Trust will be an invaluable partner in protecting the natural and cultural resources of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their ownership of this conservation easement is the first step in what we hope will be a long and effective partnership toward reassembling a healthy and accessible landscape between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean, with clear-running streams, native plant-life and protected cultural sites.”
The members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band are the living descendants of Mutsun- and Awaswas-speaking peoples who have continuously occupied the greater Monterey Bay region for thousands of years prior to European contact. Their ground-breaking research at Quiroste Valley, a First Contact village site located near Costanoa Lodge, is fundamentally changing our understanding about how native people lived and how they managed the land around them. The Tribe was also successful in having this area designated as one of the first State Cultural Preserves dedicated exclusively to protecting Native Californian cultural resources.
Learn more: Watch the Quiroste Valley video segment on OpenRoad with Doug McConnell – NBC Bay Area that features Sempervirens Fund and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.