Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade
The Cougars Among Us
It appears from discussions on the Bonny Doon “Slice” Facebook page that mountain lions sightings
have been increasing in the last few years. Several long-time Dooners have
reported their first views of these magnificent top predators ever.
Unfortunately, there also has been an increase in encounters with pets and
UCSC Professor of Wildlife Ecology Chris Wilmers started
studying and tracking our local lions (by collaring them) in 2008, founding the
Bay Area Puma Project. Its research
objective is to uncover basic facts about the puma population, including range,
movement, density and feeding patterns, and the impact of human development,
the public RBDA meeting at Bonny Doon School, Chris will discuss
the results of his team’s long-term research on the lions (also known as
cougars or pumas) who inhabit the Santa Cruz Mountains and our area, Ben Lomond Mountain, and ways to keep you,
your family and your pets and livestock safe.
The increased lion sightings has led Elias Varney, a UCSC
grad, to start a Facebook group
called Ben Lomond Mountain Lion Journal,
whose purpose is “…the sharing of experiences in
the San Lorenzo Valley and Bonny Doon areas with our local big cats: Sightings,
pictures, game-cam videos, scat and print identification, as well as the
occasional (and sometimes not so occasional) losses of pets and livestock.” The
page is a great way to share current information about lion sightings and learn
more about how lions behave and how to live safely among them.
The Puma Project’s website, www.santacruzpumas.org,
has some great maps and a wealth of information about pumas. The project
has collared almost 60. On the site you can track their wanderings, and see
their most common routes.
Cotoni-Coast Dairies National
Monument: Lots of Questions, Few
As most of us expected, on January 12, then-President Obama, under
the auspices of the National Antiquities Act, proclaimed Coast Dairies a
national monument, and added to it the name of the Cotoni (pronounced Cha-tone-ee) band of Amah Matsun people
who used to inhabit the area.
Along with other local groups like Friends of the North Coast
and the Davenport/North Coast Association, the RBDA Board feared the
designation would attract many more visitors to the 5,800 acre property that
stretches from Highway One up into Bonny Doon, surrounds Bonny Doon Road, and
reaches up the coast into Swanton, than if it were simply maintained as a
protected area managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, a division of
the US Department of the Interior.
The problem is that national monument designation gears up a
global barrage of publicity, while guaranteeing only a pittance of additional
funding for management and stewardship.
Cotoni-Coast Dairies faces the same dilemma as most other protected
lands. They are managed for two conflicting purposes: public recreation, and environmental
and habitat preservation.
Dairies is different from most other large protected lands: it is just two
hours or less away from a population of 8 million people, many of whom are
enthusiastic hikers and bikers. It isn’t hard to foresee that when a visitor
center and trails are established, 500,000 or more people a year may be enjoying
the property. [State Parks estimates that that many visitors—obviously, many of
them locals who use it frequently—tramp or ride about on Wilder Ranch S.P. each
year. We think that estimate is high.] Since being named a monument, Ft. Ord’s
visitation has zoomed to over 400,000.
Will BLM have the personnel and funding to protect the land and
minimize fire danger and other impacts? Republicans, who control Congress, and
now the White House, too, are hostile to spending money for environmental
protection. The Interior Dept. budget has been shrinking, considering
inflation, for several years, and it has an estimated $15 billion backlog in
deferred maintenance. Private funding may make up some of the budget shortfall
for Cotoni-Coast Dairies, but it can’t make up for a serious deficit.
Historically, conservation organizations have been willing to donate funds for
programs and facilities, but not for operational budgets.
Adding to our concerns are more studies that show that top
predators—mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, etc.—shy away from areas frequented
by humans, even people just hiking through. Cotoni-Coast Dairies is a
significant territory for those predators.
Undoubtedly BLM will proceed slowly, and, we hope, thoughtfully
and carefully, in opening trails. It will take several years, perhaps 10 or
more, for them to fully develop a visitor center (most likely at the Davenport
cement plant site), parking lots and other facilities. Everyone acknowledges
that successful stewardship will require the development of a dedicated
volunteer cadre; BLM itself has only four rangers right now for the 278,000
Central Coast acres it manages.
It remains a mystery where the money will be found to meet the
additional costs for local emergency services and law enforcement, and there
seems no way to cope with increased traffic on Highway 1/Mission St., and
feeder roads like Highways 17, 92 and 84, and even Felton Empire and Empire
Grade. Along with the near-term prospect of opening San Vicente Redwoods to the
public, we fear that Davenport, in particular, Bonny Doon and even Santa Cruz
may become much busier than many of us will like.
Missing from Monument Proclamation
Responding to concerns raised by the RDBA and the Davenport/North
Coast Association, in April 2015 the County Board of Supervisors approved a
resolution basing their support for Coast Dairies becoming a national monument
on a set of conditions that could help mitigate the impacts of the expected
increase in visitation. President Obama’s monument proclamation failed to meet
many of those conditions.
The Supervisors’ resolution specifically stated, “There should
be no implication in the Proclamation that the National Monument is adjacent to
the California Coastal National Monument.” Instead, Coast Dairies is now
officially part of the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National
Condition 10 said “Long-term funding from private, as well as
public, institutions should be secured to assure adequate management of the
Monument.” While Sempervirens Fund, which initiated and spearheaded the
campaign for monument status, has promised some funding, it is a pittance
compared to the amount needed for “adequate management,” and Congress is more
likely to reduce the Interior Dept.’s budget than expand it.
Condition 3 stated that “The Proclamation designating the
National Monument shall contain a commitment that the National Monument
Management Plan shall: a. Be comprehensive and specific to the land included in
the Coast Dairies National Monument.” The Proclamation ignores this, and the Cotoni-Coast
Dairies management plan may instead be included in the CCNM management plan,
which could well make it much less specific to Cotoni-Coast Dairies. The
Proclamation also ignores Condition 2, which calls for the management plan to
be completed within 3 years.
Condition 3f. said the Proclamation should direct that the
management plan “Assure that local fire and rescue services are not
overburdened by increased use.” That language isn’t in the Proclamation.
Condition 3g. demanded that a fee-for-service be negotiated for
emergency services, and take into consideration “costs that occur off the
property as a result of its public use.” Again, not in the Proclamation.
Condition 9 was that “There should be no specific reference to
plant communities not specifically listed as endangered on Federal or
California state endangered species lists.” The Proclamation specifically names
several such plant communities.
Will the Supervisors push BLM to live up to the conditions
their Resolution demanded? We think they are honor-bound to do that, and that
it is very much in the community’s interest.
Sempervirens Fund and other organizations that backed the monument
campaign have an ethical obligation to try to reduce the negative impacts of
that designation. Ironically, we who fought this designation on the grounds
that Coast Dairies was already fully protected and that greatly increased
visitation would bring only negative consequences, must nevertheless work hard
to try to make the best of this by participating in the management plan
process, overseeing BLM’s plan implementation, and by volunteering as docents
on the property itself.
San Vicente Redwoods Trails
It will be about three more years before you can hike, ride
your bike or horse, or walk your dog on San Vicente Redwoods, the 8,500-acre
property that stretches from Empire Grade nearly to Davenport. That was the
word at the January RBDA meeting from Bryan Largay, the Conservation Director
at the Santa Cruz Land Trust, which has been developing a public access plan
for the property for about three years.
Earlier, the Land Trust had been hoping to have one or more
trails open by 2016, but detailed studies of the flora, fauna, geology and
other critical matters have not only pushed the timeline back, but added to the
projected overall costs of trail construction to protect against erosion and
impacts on such things as mountain lion denning and roaming. Some of those
costs have been underwritten by a $500,000 donation earlier this year from
Santa Cruz Bicycles, the world-renowned mountain bike manufacturer, and a
matching grant from an anonymous donor.
Mountain bikers are eager for more local trails, including on
Cotoni-Coast Dairies and Pogonip. Those whose job is to reduce bikers’ impact
on land, plants and animals, and other recreational users (hikers and
equestrians) are very aware that a small subset of bikers will strike out on
their own if legal, managed and monitored trails aren’t provided (or even if
To that end, the Land Trust has worked with its conservation
partners in San Vicente, Sempervirens Fund and Peninsula Open Space Trust
(POST), who will fund it, and with County Parks and the County Sheriff, to
implement a patrol program on San Vicente.
Largay said current plans call for 38 miles of trails. Trail
design will separate hikers, equestrians and bikers as appropriate to try to
eliminate problems. Some of the old logging roads will be made into trails.
When it owned this property CEMEX logged it extensively. Projected costs have
been rising because of the neglected state of those roads.
Eventually, of course, the San Vicente trails will link up on
the southern end to Cotoni-Coast Dairies, which separates it from Cement Plant
Road in Davenport. In the beginning, the plan calls for a short dog-walking
trail paralleling Empire Grade, and loop trails going down into the property.
Largay said there will be a free 25-car parking lot off Empire which will be
locked at night, and will be expanded when and if needed to ensure people don’t
park on Empire or on nearby private roads. In response to a question at the
January RBDA meeting, he said there definitely will not be access to the
property from Bonny Doon Road.
2017 is the 60th
anniversary of the Rural Bonny Doon Association. No one (except Mother Nature,
of course) has shaped the community that we live in and love more than the many
men and women who have served on the RBDA Board during these 60 years, starting
with lobbying successfully for the County’s first zoning laws and general plan.
We’d like to mark this
anniversary with a special celebration, and we’re looking for ideas, and of
course, volunteers to make it happen. A community celebration with a BBQ and
songfest? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call any of the board officers here—and let’s
talk about it.
County Starts Commercial
Cannabis EIR Process: Get Your Comments In
The County has begun its process to do an environmental impact
study (EIR) on its new proposed commercial pot-growing and manufacturing
regulation, Ordinance 7.128. On Feb. 13 the Planning Dept. issued a notice that
it is opening the public comment period on what impacts the EIR should study,
or suggest changes in the proposed ordinance that would have different
environmental impacts. The burgeoning growth of commercial marijuana
cultivation and manufacture of cannabis-based products is a major change in
land use, and any ordinance regulating it must conform to State environmental
regulations and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The public and interested agencies were given 30 days to
comment on the ordinance and its potential impacts.
Written comments should be submitted or postmarked no later than 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Indicate
a contact person in your response and send your comments to: Matt.Johnston@santacruzcounty.us
or Matt Johnston, County of Santa Cruz Planning Department, 701 Ocean Street,
4th Floor, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
On Feb. 27 from 4:30 to
7 p.m. (unfortunately, this may be before you find this Highlander in your mailbox) the County will hold a Public Scoping Session at Simpkins Swim
Center meeting room, 979 17th Ave., to inform the public and
interested agencies about the proposed ordinance and solicit verbal comments
Relevant documents are available for public review at the
Planning Dept. Records Room, 701 Ocean Street, 4th Floor. Relevant
documents are available for public review at the Planning Dept. Records Room, 701
Ocean Street, 4th Floor. You can find them online at: http://www.sccoplanning.com.
Scroll down to “News and Announcements” and click on the first item,
“Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Commercial Cannabis Regulations and
Licensing Program for Cultivation and Manufacturing.”
The RBDA Board believes that any regulations must address the
dangers of forest fires; house fires caused from flammable chemicals or inadequate
electrical wiring; and selling personal plants on the black market (thus
competing with licensed growing); and must protect wildlife from rodenticide
poisoning (predators like foxes, coyotes, and raptors can die when eating
poisoned rodents). Growing cannabis inside rodent-proof buildings eliminates
the need for rodenticides but growing inside homes increases the risk of house
fires. Both options—poisoning wildlife or causing fires—seem unsatisfactory,
and we don’t have a solution. One possibility might be to allow growing only in
rodent-proof structures (including greenhouses) that have been inspected for
If the County’s proposed cannabis regulations are approved,
they will protect much of Bonny Doon from commercial cannabis cultivation.
Within the Coastal Zone and one-mile inland from there, commercial growing will
only be permitted on properties zoned A (Agriculture) or CA (Commercial
Agriculture), and there are few in Bonny Doon. Nevertheless, the RBDA Board
continues to have concerns about impacts of growing in other rural regions in
the County, impacts caused by growing for personal use, and problems resulting
from lack of enforcement.
To reduce diversion to the black market, we recommend that
personal cultivation limits be based on a fixed number of plants rather than
square footage of a growing area. We also recommend that the County require
permits for personal cultivation, a simple on-line registration system similar
to that for outdoor burns, and require people to agree to rules like no
rodenticides and other restrictions.
Sempervirens Fund Wants to Bank Trees
On Feb. 15, Sempervirens Fund held the first of a series of
meetings with landowners in the Santa Cruz Mountains to discuss a proposed
voluntary carbon bank tailored to their needs. Sempervirens was trying to see
how much interest there is, and what the landowners require to make this
program attractive to them.
The program’s goal is to provide incentives to smaller
landowners to promote tree conservation, which could lead to better carbon
sequestration. Deforestation and other destructive land uses are estimated to be responsible
for nearly 25% of carbon dioxide emissions around the world. [On the other
hand, scientists are still gathering data and, for complex reasons we won’t go
into here, debating whether tree preservation actually reduces carbon
By “small landowners”, we mean people who own 40- to 200 acres
and sell trees for timber. They could allow more time between timber harvests,
and possibly thin their forest to promote faster growth and reduce fire hazards.
Sempervirens’ mission is to protect and preserve the redwood
forests of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their current tools include acquiring
conservation easements, timber rights, trail easements and land. The carbon
bank could add another tool.
The overarching idea is for Sempervirens to act as a non-profit
matchmaker between landowners and third-parties who want to purchase carbon credits.Small
landowners currently can’t participate in the carbon markets because of the
high cost of meeting the State’s inventory requirements.
The Sempervirens carbon bank will not satisfy the regulatory
obligations of carbon credit buyers,
many of which are expected to be tech companies that want to be greener.
An initial feasibility study was completed in 2016 and paid for
by a $100,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy, a State entity.
The next phase will be a small pilot project funded by the Gordon and Betty
Your RBDA Membership: New 5-year
A big THANK YOU! to all the
members (new and renewing) who used
the postage-paid envelope in the January Highlander to
send in your annual RBDA dues. We hope we made
it easier than ever to keep your membership current, renew a lapsed one, or to
join our great organization for the first time.
Another thank you to those who
provided email addresses! We are encouraging our members to provide them so we
can continue to build a database to use in very time-sensitive and critical
situations, and strictly for RBDA related issues and business. We will never share your email address with
a third party without your permission.
If you missed the previous Highlander, or misplaced the envelope
and you want to join or renew your membership, please call our Membership
Coordinator, Jennifer Joslin, 831-419-7141 or email her at email@example.com, to find out if you are current or not. We will be
sending out a reminder in March to those of you who didn’t have a chance to get
that check in the mail Memberships run February 1st to January 31st.
Because our dues are so affordable
and many of you like to join for multiple years at a time, we are adding a 5-year
option for our members. Two members at a household is $150 and a single member
at an address is $100. Just make a notation on your check that you want the 5-year
membership and indicate the name(s) and address of the member.
The RBDA is your community
organization and your voice at the County Building for all the issues that
impact us here on so-called Battle Mountain.
Heidi E. Hart, President, CEO
California Dreaming Real Estate
Local / Non-Corporate
831 247-9410 firstname.lastname@example.org
Boyce-Abel Associates & Family Land Planning
Facilitating & mediating land, estate and asset transference issues
of Our Sponsors
Sponsorships: $100 a
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P.O. Box 551, Felton
The Rural Bonny Doon Association
• Felton, CA 95018
voice in preserving our special quality of
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