Coast Dairies National Monument? - Not So Fast
National Monument Status for Coast Dairies Public Lands Could Be More Harmful Than Helpful
Rep. Anna Eshoo and Sen. Barbara Boxer have introduced into Congress bills to designate as a National Monument the 5,800-acre Coast Dairies public lands in Santa Cruz County, California, which is owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management. National Monument status will not add any legal protections that do not already exist, and the resulting overuse could seriously harm the land’s unique and fragile eco-system, its resources, and public safety.
Instead, we ask Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Boxer to support:
1. Development of a regional approach to manage the many preserved properties in northern Santa Cruz County and southern San Mateo County, which must include the various public agencies and private organizations that own and manage them, as well as the surrounding communities; and
2. Completion and approval of a detailed environmental study conforming to National Environmental Protection Act specifications to determine the level and locations of public access that can be accommodated at Coast Dairies while minimizing impacts to the environment and neighboring communities.
- National Monument status could result in monumental overuse, impacting the fauna and flora of Coast Dairies, and the surrounding communities, because of the worldwide promotion that such status will surely bring, while additional funding for facilities and management is uncertain.
- Animals may no longer find suitable habitat, and creeks, lagoons, wetlands and special status plants could be seriously harmed.
- The existing strong and irrevocable protections are all we need because the Deed Restrictions governing the federal Bureau of Land Management and the California Coastal Development Permit require maximized coastal resource protection, limit use of Coast Dairies to open space, agriculture, and public recreation, and preclude motorized off-road vehicles, commercial logging, mining, and resource extraction, including fracking.
- After a regional management plan is developed and the detailed environmental study certified it may be reasonable to seek National Monument status for the Cotoni-Coast Dairies public lands.
- The area will be opened to public use whether designated as a National Monument or not. Funding for infrastructure and management is not guaranteed for National Monuments, other than an extra $3 per acre, or only about $18,000 a year, about enough for a quarter-time ranger.
- Current protections give us the luxury to take the time for a proper review of all the ways that the National Monument designation will affect the Coast Dairies property and our communities. The current plan is to do this review after the site is designated a National Monument. Consequently there would be no review of the wisdom of the designation itself, and no review of locally controlled alternatives for opening up the area for public use.
There are very high downside risks of inviting the world to visit: fragile soils, multiple salmonid streams, and steep cliffs will make public access very tricky. The size of this property supports mammals such as puma, gray fox, and badger. These species will not remain in areas with high public use. If trails are not sited well, or if too many are opened up, we could lose these species. If hundreds of thousands of additional visitors descend upon the area, choke Mission Street and Highways 1, 92 and 17, and overwhelm the small town of Davenport, we could lose much more.
To learn more about this issue and follow developments, go to http://www.friendsofthenorthcoast.org and join the Facebook group, Friends of the North Coast https://www.facebook.com/groups/846372308752865/