EkOngKar Khalsa, Executive Director Amah Mutsun Land Trust
P.O. Box 6915
Albany, CA 94706
August 2, 2019
BLM Central Coast Field Office
Attn: Cotoni-Coast Dairies RMPA/EA 940 2nd Ave.
Marina, CA 93933-6009
Re: Comment for Cotoni-Coast Dairies Resource Management Plan Amendment Scoping
Dear BLM Central Coast Field Office Staff,
My name is EkOngKar Khalsa and I serve as Executive Director of Amah Mutsun Land Trust (AMLT). I write on behalf of AMLT, a non-profit corporation established by Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB) as the vehicle through which the Tribe works to steward, protect, and access ancestral lands that are integral to its indigenous identity and culture.
The Cotoni-Coast Dairies (CCD) property is located within the tribal territory of AMTB. Using indigenous knowledge obtained through hundreds of generations of stewardship, Cotoni people and their ancestors inhabited and cared for this land for over 10,000 years before European colonizers arrived. A Memorandum of Understanding executed in May, 2016 between AMLT and BLM describes how the two organizations will work together to protect and steward cultural resources at the CCD property. We are grateful that BLM is taking into consideration the rich history and the many cultural and natural resources at CCD as it begins this planning process. Protection and preservation of these important resources will benefit all people. By protecting these resources, we can learn about the long-term history of CCD and study the methods and knowledge indigenous people used in this area for millennia to create the rich and beautiful landscapes described by early colonists.
I write today to submit AMLT comments regarding the scoping phase of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies Resource Management Plan Amendment. AMLT is submitting its comments in two parts: “Attachment A” contains comments that are suitable for general distribution; and “Attachment B” contains comments which include information that legally must be treated as confidential, such as information about the location of archaeological sites, as well as information regarding the location of other sensitive cultural resources. We request that BLM consult with AMTB / AMLT to redact such information prior to any public disclosure of material contained in “Attachment B.”
AMLT looks forward to continuing its constructive relationship with BLM to protect sensitive resources and revitalize indigenous-based approaches to land stewardship at the CCD property.
________________________________________ EkOngKar Singh Khalsa, Executive Director Amah Mutsun Land Trust
AMAH MUTSUN LAND TRUST COMMENT FOR COTONI-COAST DAIRIES RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PLAN AMENDMENT SCOPING: INFORMATION SUITABLE FOR GENERAL DISTRIBUTION
1. Protection of Natural Resources. AMLT advocates for the protection, restoration, and active stewardship of California’s native biota and habitats. AMLT requests that provisions regarding public access, recreational activities, and permitted land uses (e.g., ranching) in the CCD RMP should be designed to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to native biota from current and future uses of the property.
1.1. Threatened and Endangered Species. AMLT requests that BLM study and consider the effects of current and potential future land uses and permitted activities on any native biotic species present on the CCD property that are: a) listed by the State of California or federally as species of concern or as special status species (e.g., threatened, endangered); b) listed on the California Native Plant Society’s Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants; or c) regarded as locally rare in northern Santa Cruz County by professional botanists or ecologists.
1.2. Sensitive, Rare, and Culturally Significant Habitats and Vegetation Types. The CCD property contains vegetation communities and habitat areas that a) are susceptible to adverse impacts from current and potential future land uses, b) are rare at local to statewide scales, or c) that contain associations of ethnobotanical resources which grant the vegetation type or stand indigenous cultural significance. Examples include a) coastal prairies with relatively high proportions of ground cover by native plants (ca. >5%) and/or relatively high native species richness; b) mature oak forests and mixed hardwood forests; c) perennially wet habitats such as wetlands, seeps, and springs; d) riparian forests; e) old growth redwood groves or forests; f) fire-following vegetation associations; and others.
1.2.1. Identifying Sensitive Habitats and Vegetation Types. AMLT requests that BLM a) consult with local botanists, ecologists, environmental protection stakeholders, and AMLT to identify sensitive, rare, and culturally significant habitats and vegetation types on the CCD property and b) study and consider the effects of current and potential future land uses and permitted activities on such areas.
1.2.2. Cape Ivy (Delairea odorata) in Riparian Corridors. The particularly damaging exotic invasive Cape ivy plant has overtaken substantial areas of certain riparian corridors in the CCD property, including the lower portions of San Vicente Creek and Liddell Creek. If the spread of this plant is not halted, extensive areas of native- dominated riparian forests may be converted into Cape ivy monocultures over the coming decades. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate plans in the RMP to halt the spread of Cape ivy as soon as possible and to eradicate Cape ivy from the CCD property over the next decade.
1.2.3. Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in Mature Oak Forests. Oak forests are a culturally significant vegetation type for Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Ethnographic and ethnohistoric research from across Central and Northern California documents how indigenous people traditionally managed oak woodlands and forests through regular prescribed burning. These practices maintained open forest understories with low fuel loads, reduced the incidence of acorn-eating pests, and slowed or prevented type conversion of oak forests to conifer forests. Mature oak forest areas on the CCD property may represent the remnants of more extensive oak forests stewarded by Cotoni people prior to Euro-American colonization. Today, in the absence of active stewardship measures, mature oak woodlands and forests in this area may be overtopped and shaded out by conifers, particularly Douglas fir trees. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to prevent type conversion of mature oak forests to conifer forests through active management of mature oak forest areas, which may include methods such as the manual removal of Douglas fir trees and/or implementation of regular prescribed burning, which would curtail Douglas fir establishment.
1.2.4. Type Conversion of Coastal Prairies to Shrublands and Forests. Ethnohistoric and archaeological data from coastal portions of Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties indicate that indigenous people used prescribed burning to maintain widespread coastal prairie areas between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Coast for at least ca. 800 years prior to Euro-American colonization, and possibly much longer. Today, after decades of inactive management, this threatened vegetation type continues to shrink on the CCD property due to type conversion to shrublands and forests. Coastal prairies, particularly those containing relatively high proportions of cover by native species, are a culturally significant vegetation type to Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. California’s coastal prairies, which are the most biodiverse grassland type in North America, are also a threatened vegetation type statewide. Many former coastal prairie areas have been lost due to development, agriculture, and type conversion resulting from removal of vegetation disturbance factors. Maintaining, expanding, and enhancing native biota in coastal prairies is an important goal for AMLT. AMLT also advocates for the control and eradication of particularly harmful exotic invasive plants from coastal prairies, such as those listed by the California Invasive Plant Council in the California Invasive Plant Inventory (e.g., jubata grass [Cortaderia jubata], poison hemlock [Conium maculatum], milk thistle [Silybum marianum], etc.). AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to a) identify and protect coastal prairie areas with relatively high proportions of cover by native taxa or high native plant diversity; b) incorporate provisions in the RMP to promote the restoration of former coastal prairie areas that have recently (i.e., over the last ca. 100 years) type converted to shrublands or forests; c) evaluate the effects of current and potential future land uses and permitted activities on coastal prairies and incorporate provisions in the RMP to protect existing coastal prairies from adverse impacts or type conversion; and d) incorporate provisions in the RMP to prevent the spread of and to eradicate selected particularly harmful exotic invasive plants from coastal prairie areas.
1.3. Streams and Wetlands. As traditional sources for food and water, streams and wetlands are culturally significant habitat types for Amah Mutsun Tribal Band.
1.3.1. Public Access and Stream Habitat Protection. AMLT is concerned that public access to the CCD property may a) increase the illegal take of anadromous and freshwater fishes; b) increase the incidence of illegal camping and trash dumping in riparian corridors; and c) increase erosion and pollution of streams. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to a) monitor levels of illegal take of fishes in proximity to portions of the CCD property opened for public access; b) ensure sufficient law enforcement presence to prevent illegal camping and stream access in portions of the property opened for public access; and c) take actions (e.g., installing barriers) to restrict public access to streams in portions of the property opened for public access in order to discourage illegal take of fishes, illegal camping, and trash dumping.
1.3.2. Cattle Ranching and Water Quality in Seeps and Springs. AMLT is concerned that cattle access to natural seeps, springs, and other permanently wet areas may substantially degrade water quality in such areas by increasing water turbidity (from soil trampling) and nutrient loads (through concentration of cow manure), thereby degrading overall habitat quality for associated plants and threatened animals such as California red-legged frogs (Rana draytonii). AMLT is also concerned that cattle access to such areas may increase erosion and foster conditions that promote invasion and establishment of exotic plants. AMLT requests that BLM evaluate the effects of cattle access on habitat quality in the vicinity of seeps, springs, and wetlands on the CCD property and incorporate provisions to restrict cattle access to such areas in cases where it is determined that cattle access has degraded or is likely to degrade habitat quality.
1.4. Exotic Invasive Biota. AMLT advocates for the control and eradication of exotic invasive species in California’s ecosystems. It is critical to actively monitor landscapes to prevent the establishment of local populations of particularly harmful exotic invasive species. Once such species gain a foothold in an area, control and eradication can become difficult and costly. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to actively monitor the CCD property for establishment and spread of particularly harmful exotic invasive species (such as those listed in the California Invasive Plant Council’s California Invasive Plant Inventory) such that newly established stands of such plants can be eradicated before they become widespread.
1.4.1. Evaluating Impacts of Exotic Invasive Plants and Means of Control / Eradication. Some exotic invasive plants are particularly harmful to native vegetation types because they expand quickly and may form monocultures. Local examples include jubata grass (Cortaderia jubata), french broom (Genista monspessulana), Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), milk thistle (Silybum marianum), poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), Cape ivy (Delairea odorata), and others. AMLT requests that BLM evaluate the CCD property for threats to native vegetation from aggressive
exotic invasive plants (such as those listed in the California Invasive Plant Council’s California Invasive Plant Inventory), work with ecologists and local stakeholders to prioritize species and areas for invasive exotic plant eradication, and incorporate measures in the RMP to control and eradicate such species.
1.4.2. Evaluating Impacts of Feral Pigs and Means of Control / Eradication. AMLT is concerned that feral pigs may substantially degrade habitat quality in portions of the CCD property. AMLT requests that BLM evaluate the impacts of feral pig populations at CCD and, if it is determined that feral pigs are currently adversely impacting habitat quality or are likely to do so in the future, implement means through the RMP to control or eradicate local populations of feral pigs.
1.4.3. Control and Removal of Exotic Trees and Forests. AMLT advocates for the removal of exotic trees and exotic-dominated forests such as blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) forests in California’s public lands and open spaces. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to prevent the further establishment and spread of exotic trees and forests on the CCD property and to remove mature exotic trees and forests where feasible. AMLT also requests that BLM include provisions in the RMP to prevent the continued establishment and spread of trees that are native to California but not to the local region, such as Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa).
1.5. Biological Resource Research. In cases where the presence, extent, or population size, of sensitive or special status species, vegetation types, or habitats has not been studied recently (i.e., in the last ten years), AMLT requests that BLM conduct research to evaluate areas of potential impact prior to implementing development or public access plans which may cause adverse impacts to such resources.
2. Protection of Indigenous Cultural Resources. AMLT advocates for the protection of indigenous cultural resources in the traditional territory of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The Tribe also considers natural biotic resources such as ethnobotanical plants or traditional game animals to be types of cultural resources, however this section focuses specifically on non- biotic cultural resources. Such resources include archaeological sites, culturally significant landscape features, and non-biotic traditional crafting resources. The locations of certain types of cultural resources on public lands are treated as confidential information by federal and state law, as well as by conventions of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. In this section, we describe general concerns and requests regarding protection and stewardship of such resources. Attachment B of this comment includes confidential information regarding RMP scoping at CCD, such as detailed information about concerns and requested protection measures for specific cultural resources on the CCD property.
2.1. Protection and Stewardship of Indigenous Archaeological Sites. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band considers indigenous archaeological sites to be sacred and culturally significant places. Archaeological sites retain their cultural importance to the Tribe whether or not they retain stratigraphic integrity and whether or not they are determined to be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Archaeological sites can be
adversely impacted through actions such as artificial earth movement, archaeological excavations, looting, and others, as well as through natural processes such as erosion. The Tribe considers an archaeological site to be adversely impacted whenever artifacts or features are artificially moved from their original archaeological context, as well as whenever previously disturbed artifacts or ecofacts are removed from a site. AMLT advocates for indigenous archaeological site protection through avoidance and minimization of adverse impacts to sites throughout the traditional territory of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. AMLT requests that BLM continue working together with AMLT to identify unrecorded indigenous archaeological sites on the CCD property, evaluate possible threats to sites, and incorporate provisions in the RMP to avoid or minimize threats to archaeological sites and other associated cultural resources and to regularly monitor archaeological sites to evaluate adverse impacts. AMLT requests that BLM continue consulting with AMLT while planning for development of public access areas and routes in order to prevent public visitors at the CCD property from accessing indigenous archaeological sites. AMLT requests that BLM continue consulting with AMLT regarding potential archaeological research projects on the CCD property.
2.2. Protection and Stewardship of Culturally Significant Landscape Features or Sacred Places. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band considers certain types of landscape features (e.g., particular locations, viewsheds, and sources of traditional crafting material) to be culturally significant landscape features or sacred places. AMLT advocates for the protection of these cultural resources through avoidance or minimization of adverse impacts, which must be evaluated on a case by case basis for each particular resource. AMLT requests that BLM continue to work with AMLT to identify culturally significant landscape features or sacred places on the CCD property, evaluate existing and potential adverse impacts to such resources, and incorporate provisions in the RMP to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to resources.
3. Active Approaches to Land Stewardship. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band believes that the Tribe’s ancestors actively stewarded natural resources in its traditional territory for thousands of years, employing methods such as plant tending, pruning, sowing, and prescribed burning. Such practices were widespread prior to European colonization and are well documented among indigenous peoples of Central and Northern California. Recent historical ecological and archaeological research indicates that indigenous prescribed burning transformed regional landscape vegetation by maintaining expansive coastal prairies in San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties over the last ca. 1000 years, and possibly longer. Since the early 20th century, much of California’s public lands and open spaces have been inactively managed as wilderness areas. In combination with wildfire suppression and climate change, this approach has proved unsustainable, resulting in increasingly severe catastrophic wildfires throughout the state over the last several decades. Locally, inactive management of open spaces as wilderness has led to loss of threatened coastal prairie habitat, which is converted into woody vegetation types in the absence of regular disturbance. AMLT advocates for active approaches to contemporary land stewardship as the best way to meet multiple stakeholder goals such as a) retention and enhancement of biodiversity and landscape heterogeneity; b) reduction of catastrophic wildfire risk through fuel management; c) protection and enhancement of sensitive or special status species and habitats; d) control and eradication of
harmful exotic invasive biota; and e) promoting public education about and involvement in the stewardship of public lands and open spaces. AMLT requests that BLM evaluate the potential benefits and feasibility of actively managing natural resources on the CCD property and incorporate provisions in the RMP to facilitate and guide active approaches to land stewardship throughout the CCD property. AMLT requests that BLM consult with local ecologists, environmental stakeholders, and AMLT to evaluate needs for active stewardship at specific locations on the CCD property throughout the RMP development process.
3.1. Historical Ecological Approach to Land Stewardship Planning. Historical ecological research integrates approaches and data from many disciplines (e.g., ecology, history, geomorphology, environmental sciences, archaeology, etc.) to understand relationships between people and landscapes over the long term. This approach helps land managers understand the many interconnected processes that have produced contemporary landscape conditions. In many cases, historical ecological research in California demonstrates how relatively recent (19th and 20th century) extractive land uses and development have degraded native species and natural habitats. Historical ecological research can guide efforts to steward and restore landscapes based on their historical condition and ecological processes over the long term, leading to more sustainable and place-based management methods and goals. AMLT requests that BLM work with researchers, environmental stakeholders, and AMLT to integrate historical ecological research into the RMP development process and to use the results of such research to guide the selection of method and goals for management of the CCD property.
3.2. Prescribed Burning. Over the last two decades, land managers in the Santa Cruz Mountains region have successfully implemented prescribed burning programs to manage open spaces, specifically at locations such as Año Nuevo State Park, Big Basin State Park, Wilder Ranch State Park, the UC Santa Cruz campus, the San Vicente Redwoods property, and other locations. Prescribed burning reduces fuel loads, enhances landscape vegetation heterogeneity, and maintains an important ecological niche for fire following flora. Prescribed burning is also a culturally significant traditional land stewardship practice for Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, and AMLT advocates for the incorporation of prescribed burning into land management planning where appropriate and feasible. AMLT requests that BLM evaluate the potential for use of prescribed burning as a land management tool at the CCD property and incorporate provisions in the RMP to allow the use of prescribed burning for landscape management purposes in appropriate locations.
4. Special Management Areas. Portions of the CCD property contain associations of sensitive indigenous cultural resources and culturally significant natural resources located in proximity to one another. Due to the sensitivity and legal protection of cultural resource locations, these areas are described in detail in confidential comments (Attachment B). In order to protect such associations of cultural resources in perpetuity, AMLT requests that BLM consider designating special management areas in such locations that exclude or limit public access and that facilitate access to such areas for Amah Mutsun Tribal Band members for traditional cultural practices including stewardship, gathering, and ceremony.
5. Public Access at Cotoni-Coast Dairies. BLM is in the process of evaluating the suitability of approximately ten locations on the CCD property as public access points. AMLT began working with BLM to evaluate the suitability of certain portions of the CCD property for public access in 2016, and this year AMLT has carried out cultural resource survey at the proposed public access points. Due to the confidentiality of cultural resource location information, AMLT will provide BLM with recommendations regarding the suitability of each proposed public access point in confidential comments (Attachment B). Generally, AMLT requests that BLM avoid placing public access points in proximity to indigenous archaeological sites or other vulnerable cultural resources, sensitive habitat areas, and areas likely to adversely impact local residents and communities.
5.1. Public Access and Law Enforcement. AMLT is concerned that opening portions of the CCD property for public access may substantially increase the need for law enforcement presence on the property. Public access on the property is likely to result in increased illegal activities such as trespassing, unauthorized camping, poaching (especially of plants and fish), and dumping. AMLT requests that BLM a) consult with local land managers in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties who operate coastal locations open to the public to assess the need for law enforcement staffing; b) incorporate provisions in the RMP to ensure that portions of the CCD property are not opened for public access until sufficient law enforcement staffing is available to effectively enforce laws and regulations; and c) incorporate provisions in the RMP to close areas opened for public access if it is determined (e.g., through recorded increases in illegal activity) that law enforcement staffing is not adequate to effectively enforce laws and regulations.
5.2. Public Access and Maintenance Needs. AMLT is concerned that opening portions of the CCD property for public access may substantially increase the need for operation and maintenance of associated areas, such as to remove litter, maintain roads and parking lots, maintain trails, etc. AMLT requests that BLM consult with local land managers in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties who operate coastal locations open to the public to assess needs for operation and maintenance of such areas and that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to ensure that portions of the CCD property are not opened for public access until adequate operation and maintenance staffing is available to support developments and facilities associated with public access.
5.3. Public Access and Associated Support Facilities. AMLT is concerned that in the absence of adequate visitor support facilities such as bathrooms and potable water supplies, local communities such as the town of Davenport may be adversely impacted by public access on the CCD property. It is widely understood that the town of Davenport receives higher levels of tourism than its public infrastructure can safely support, particularly during the summer months. AMLT requests that BLM consult with local land managers in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties who operate coastal locations open to the public to assess the need for development of support facilities for public access and that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to ensure that portions of the CCD property are not opened for public access until sufficient support facilities have been constructed.
Allowed Recreational Uses. AMLT is concerned that certain types of recreational uses are incompatible with the status of the CCD property as part of the California Coastal National Monument, and specifically with provisions in Presidential Proclamation 9563 to protect natural and cultural resources on the property. AMLT specifically requests that BLM evaluate the potential adverse impacts of off-highway vehicle access, hunting, fishing, recreational drone use, off-trail hiking, off-trail mountain biking, and back country / primitive camping. If it is determined that the potential adverse impacts of such activities are contrary to the intent of Presidential Proclamation 9563 or to other guiding documents for management of the California Coastal National Monument, AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to prohibit such activities on the CCD property. AMLT requests that BLM continue to consult with local stakeholder groups throughout the RMP development process to evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks of any recreational uses of the property under consideration.
Interpretive Materials and Educational Programs. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band recognizes that an overwhelming majority of California’s public has access to few accessible and unbiased sources of information about local indigenous societies, stewardship values, and history. As a result, there is a considerable need to educate members of the public about these topics. AMLT advocates for collaborative development of interpretive and educational programs for members of the public in open spaces in the territory of Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to work with AMLT and Amah Mutsun Tribal Band to collaboratively develop interpretive materials and educational programs regarding indigenous culture and history for visitors to the CCD property.
Traditional Cultural Resource Gathering. Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is not a federally recognized tribe and does not own land, yet its members need access to land in the Tribe’s traditional territory to tend and harvest natural resources for the continuation of traditional cultural practices such as basket weaving, preparation of traditional foods and medicines, and many others. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to continue working with AMLT to provide Amah Mutsun Tribal Band members with access to the CCD property in order to tend and harvest traditional ethnobotanical and other cultural resources, so long as such activities do not significantly impact resource quantity and quality.
Cleaning Historic and Illegal Dumping Areas and Transient Camps. Portions of the CCD property have been used as expedient garbage dumping areas over the last several decades, and in other areas garbage has been left behind from recent illegal transient camping. AMLT requests that BLM incorporate provisions in the RMP to install barricades or implement other measures to discourage illegal dumping and transient camping where appropriate and to regularly remove garbage from dumping areas.