This first one updated December 2021
This next one updated in October 2022
This first one updated December 2021
This next one updated in October 2022
How do you feel about Earth Day 2023, in Santa Cruz and throughout the USA? The first Earth Day was in 1970 and was organized by Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson to be a massive public demonstration to restore the environment. Estimates are that 20 million people took to the streets in protest. They say that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded because of those first Earth Day demonstrations.
Imagine so many people demonstrating because of environmental degradation in the United States! While some things have improved since 1970, we are now facing the greatest threat to the planet ever due to greenhouse gases and climate change. Earth Day in 2023 is tamer, perhaps too tame. What are we going to do to better celebrate Earth Day in 2023?
The best things I find to do on Earth Day in the Monterey Bay area in 2023 are about learning. My favorite educational attractions for Earth Day are being offered in conjunction with Earth Day Santa Cruz. Mainly, I suggest that you check out the free admission to the Museum of Art and History where the main feature is the Bay of Life exhibit. Chris Eckstrom’s and Frans Lanting’s Bay of Life project is very important- a way for more of the Monterey Bay’s people to learn how we live in an epically special place. The photos at the exhibition are more than memorable…they are inspirational, and the project aims to mobilize people, much as Earth Day did at its origin.
For Earth Day 2023, I highly recommend people read the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. The book is full of wisdom about how to live better on this planet. If you are interested in what your find in Ishmael, take the next step and read Derrick Jensen’s Endgame. Both books will point you in the right direction in many ways. A lot of what Derrick Jensen has to say is pretty important.
Environmental education is only valuable if it helps nurture pro-environmental behavior.
In Quinn’s Ishmael, we are asked to reflect on if we are taking too much or just what we need from Earth. I take that another step to ask what we are giving back to Earth. A few of the events I find about Earth Day in the Monterey Bay area in 2023 are about taking less, not giving back to Mother Earth. Some of the events are downright greenwashing or irrelevant. Ecological restoration is the main way I see that we can give back to Earth, but I can’t find a single opportunity to help with ecological restoration associated with Earth Day near Santa Cruz.
I know of five organizations in Santa Cruz that help people give back to Earth. The California Native Plant Society, through its habitat restoration projects. The Coastal Watershed Council through its River Health programs. The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History with its habitat restoration volunteer opportunities. Groundswell Coastal Ecology has The Most Regularly Available opportunities to help restore areas around Santa Cruz. One might consider committing to helping these efforts as a pledge on Earth Day and then following up at one of their next events. Last, Watsonville Wetlands Watch also (rarely) has opportunities to help restore areas in south county.
I know of one event that has brought greenwashing to local Earth Day celebrations. Building new trails is not a pro-environmental behavior, especially when it comes to building those trails at Cotoni Coast Dairies. As I have mentioned in previous essays, that property has not experienced the kind of planning for trails that is necessary to conserve our extraordinary biodiversity, especially that land’s sensitive wildlife species and the species protected through its National Monument status. That hasn’t stopped the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (aka Santa Cruz Mountain Trail Stewardship) from advertising an Earth Day event that focuses on habitat degradation. At their ‘Dig Day,’ volunteers will be unwittingly paving the way for unnecessarily wildlife disturbing activities. Earth Day volunteers will be helping folks rich enough to afford both a car and the gas to get to that park to bring their mountain bikes to have a ‘rad time’ on trails too narrow to be comfortable for bombing bikers and families going for a walk to use at the same time. To assure mountain bikers rule the trails, BLM has proposed rules that would make it illegal to step off of the narrow trails. It’s a pity that the Bureau of Land Management has had such a special relationship with this group, allowing them so much access to the closed park while turning away ecologists who would help better understand the plants and wildlife that need protection.
This Earth Day let’s renew our dedication to vigilance in protecting our public lands from well-funded special interest groups. In California as elsewhere, there are coalitions of businesses organizing to lobby for “increased access”(read wildlife habitat destruction). Their job is to “streamline regulations and policy affecting the active outdoor industry” (read stop public lands managers from protecting wildlife in favor of outdoor recreation). The clout of the Outdoor Industry Association is affecting politics, apparently trickling down right here on our North Coast.
In closing, I hope you can sort through the Earth Day hype to find something meaningful to do. If you seek educational programs, may your experience lead in in the direction of actions that you can take to not only reduce your footprint on Earth but also to help improve wildlife conservation in and around the Monterey Bay. May we all think about that impactful, original Earth Day and how we might soon mobilize to push for the changes needed to avert the catastrophes of climate change. We are gathering together to make a difference, and our might will be felt in the near future.
-this post slightly edited from the original part of Bruce Bratton’s BrattonOnline.com weekly blog.
Someone new on the scene recently asked me to explain the history of what went wrong at Cotoni Coast Dairies. After many, many years, the property still isn’t being managed for wildlife or public safety, and it still isn’t open to the public. As a prelude to this, I urge readers to read my essay on how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) came to manage the property in the first place…a curious story, indeed. This essay compliments that prior essay with more details, especially since BLM took over managing the property. Soon, I’ll be writing the third in this series with suggestions about what is needed to improve this unfortunate situation.
Since its purchase for conservation, Cotoni Coast Dairies has a history of very little stewardship and management. Trust for Public Land purchased the property in 1998 and held it until 2014. During that time, managers working for the Trust for Public Land did almost nothing to maintain the property. Occasionally, someone would show up to clear some anticipated future trail. For instance, TPL contractors extensively cleared riparian vegetation along Liddell Creek, chainsawing decades-old willow trees that shaded endangered fish habitat and provided cover for the endangered California red-legged frog. They argued that the clearance was along an ‘existing road,’ and they started putting this trail on early maps as a favored future public access point. (The trail later appeared on BLM’s maps, but federal wildlife protection agency personnel demanded otherwise, so the trail disappeared from plans.) Otherwise, TPL let fences, gates, and culverts rust away, roads and trails erode, weeds spread, and fuels build up creating hazardous conditions for future wildfires.
Eight years ago, BLM took over management of Cotoni Coast Dairies, and those same patterns largely continued. Early on, BLM staff constructed a new trail, carving through nests of state-listed sensitive wildlife without required State consultation. Like TPL, BLM staff have either overlooked erosion issues along roads or graded long abandoned ‘existing roads’ (aka ‘future trails’) with uncannily similar detrimental impacts to rare fish and amphibians. Meanwhile, terrible weeds and immense wildfire risks continued to spread across the property. The reason BLM staff have given for such poor stewardship: ‘we don’t have an approved plan.’ That changed, but management hasn’t…except for one new stretch of cattle fence and subset of future trails being created mainly by volunteers. The trails and fence came before any work on invasive species or wildfire mitigation, so we sadly sense BLM staff priorities have been directed away from conservation towards recreational access.
Staff from both TPL and BLM have sporadically spent a bit of time working on poor planning processes or participating in largely perfunctory public meetings about property management at Cotoni Coast Dairies. In the year 2000, TPL convened and facilitated a Community Advisory Group (CAG) to advise on guidelines meant to be used by future managers. A few of us on the CAG were asked to provide feedback about the biological portion of those guidelines, but we were unable to improve the largely cursory and incomplete biological assessments used to guide future property management. It is unclear if those guidelines have ever been used by BLM, or if TPL even cares.
BLM has done little to inventory the property, so it has very poor information with which to plan its management. Like TPL, BLM staff have shunned offers to improve biological survey data and so, as with the TPL plans, BLM’s plans have overlooked species and ecosystems that are easily identified and/or previously catalogued by reputable sources. This alienates the conservation community including the wealth of well-trained scientists that this region enjoys.
Instead of the long series of TPL’s CAG meetings, BLM staff showed up for a single community-engagement-style meeting convened and facilitated by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. That meeting surprisingly and very oddly focused on weighing pros and cons of parking lot locations, but it was never clear why public input was sought or what became of it afterwards. In the midst of this, an outside funder parachuted in hundreds of thousands of dollars so that several local organizations could mount a seemingly ‘grassroots’ Monument Campaign.
In 2015, The Sempervirens Fund led the “Monument Campaign,” a fast-paced, highly scripted, well-funded effort to organize rallies and letter writing to show public support for National Monument designation of Cotoni Coast Dairies. In what is increasingly common “fake news,” the bulk of the Monument Campaign messaging was about opening the property for public use, while in fact Monument designation is more about improving conservation of the property…which would typically increase limitations on public access. This nonsense was compounded by campaign organizers’ refusal to address how designation would increase deed restriction protections already in place from TPL. Furthermore, organizers dismissed concerns about managing the anticipated influx of visitors drawn to something called a National Monument. How important the Monument Campaign was in Obama’s designation is unclear, but the divisions in the community were deep and lasting. Organizers were successful in coalescing well-meaning but very poorly informed people whose nonsensical byline was “Monument designation means my family will be able to visit!” On the other hand, there was a surprisingly politically diverse coalition equipped with well-informed questions and concerns that were never addressed. After that local experience, it is difficult for me to believe that any political faction is immune from using scripted ‘truthiness,’ hype, or even lies when they feel those tools necessary in attracting popular support for secret agendas. Unsurprisingly, leaders of the ephemeral Monument Campaign movement have since disappeared from involvement, leaving the aftermath for the real, long-term grassroots organizations to deal with, and we have yet to experience any conservation benefit of Monument designation.
As the Monument Campaign launched in 2015, BLM issued a proposal for the property’s first public access trail, aka the “Laguna Trail,” in an expedited environmental review process that showed our community how poorly equipped BLM staff were to adequately plan for the property. BLM staff relied on old, insufficient biological inventories for their analysis, failed to survey for endangered species, and did not include any analysis of how the trail would address social equity concerns in providing for visitor use. BLM staff did not respond to the many concerns raised by the public but instead completed their pro-forma circulation and approval of planning documents and rapidly deployed machinery and workers to clear the trail. Trail construction proceeded without conforming to even the nominal environmental guidelines outlined in BLM’s planning documents. The hastily constructed trail cut through state-protected wildlife habitat, degraded historical artifacts, and came very close to a native village site which BLM failed to plan for protecting. In addition, if the project had proceeded, BLM would have opened a trail beginning at Laguna Creek Road and Highway 1 without any new parking, litter, or bathroom facilities, without sufficient staffing for enforcement or interpretation, and without a recreational plan for the property as a whole to analyze how to best protect wildlife while providing public access. This pop up trail was BLM’s way of introducing themselves to the land and to our community.
As the first federal land manager in the County, it was BLM staff who introduced our community to the federal government’s environmental planning process. This introduction was surprising in many ways. We had been accustomed to public lands managers paying careful attention to protecting “environmentally sensitive habitat areas” (ESHA) according to Coastal Commission rules. Not so with this property – BLM staff didn’t even provide the public maps of those regulated habitat areas in any of their planning documents! With the promise of National Monument protections, we were hopeful that BLM staff would follow the required and highly regimented process outlined in BLM’s policy “Manual 6220,” which provides staff with guidelines on how to manage national monuments. Again, not so! In fact, BLM staff have not used the 6220 manual and have neglected any public acknowledgement of the manual, as if they do not intend to use it, at all. Moreover, BLM staff have never specifically acknowledged the many species and ecosystems protected through the monument designation process. Monument management protocol seems irrelevant to BLM staff, who are apparently bent on expediting the public access so vocally anticipated by the Monument Campaign (coincidence?).
BLM staff have chosen expediency over thoroughness in each of their property planning exercises. For their most recent property-wide plan, instead of data-based predictions of visitor use, BLM staff chose a largely arbitrary low-ball figure of 250,000 anticipated visitors/year for the property. Instead of the logical in-depth alternatives analysis of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), BLM staff have chosen expedited Environmental Analysis (EA) processes, complete with incredible conclusions of ‘Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI),’ despite significant contrary expert testimony that has gone unaddressed and unacknowledged. As we learned for the first time about its ‘federal consistency process,’ the Coastal Commission recently mandated that BLM use a phased approach to opening the property to public use. The Coastal Commission required that only if/when the BLM proved it could adequately manage public use could it open the full range of parking lots and trails; that proof requires monitoring and such monitoring would normally require a baseline inventory of sensitive natural resources, but we have yet to see that happen…we don’t even know the language to which the BLM and the Coastal Commission have agreed.
My personal interactions with BLM staff have historically been less than pleasant, perhaps because those staff members are unused to much public engagement. My experience of poor interactions with BLM staff isn’t isolated. Someone suggested that this might be partly because those staff feel ‘rocked back on their heels’ because of criticism of their work, which is odd because our comments have been professional, polite, and part of what BLM should expect as public lands planning processes. A BLM staffer told me long ago that their colleagues were in for a surprise as they encountered the very actively involved communities of Santa Cruz County’s North Coast. Previously, most BLM staff working at Cotoni Coast Dairies had worked very much out of the public eye, in remote parts of California with little/no public oversight.
While we can’t ascertain why BLM staff have avoided offers for assistance, their subterfuge is as enlightening as it has been damaging. My compassion about staff feeling rocked back on their heels is limited because BLM staff have sought to discredit my work and harm my reputation, even approaching employers with false information to negatively affect my job while also giving ultimatums to conservation networks to preclude my participation. During one encounter at a public meeting, a BLM staff person told me that they would never collaborate with me or the groups with whom I worked because I was “against any public access at Cotoni Coast Dairies.” That was an incorrect statement about my position that I had likewise been hearing from a particularly activist, radical group of mountain bikers. As this BLM staff person echoed that quote, it was possible to better understand communication channels and allegiances.
My earliest interactions with BLM staff at Cotoni Coast Dairies were when I proposed assistance for biological monitoring. I and a few other biologists offered BLM free assistance with biological surveys to improve their understanding of the property. After that proposal, over a very long time, a BLM staff person strung us along through an incorrect informal process without ever encouraging us or acknowledging the potential value of such work. There was a chain of calls and emails that each ended with something like ‘well, maybe….’ By the time we subsequently discovered the correct application process and applied in that way, leadership had changed and the application was then officially refused.
It is important to view BLM’s problems in the context of issues related to visitor access on conservation lands throughout Santa Cruz County. As with all of the other public lands managers, BLM has been planning for visitor use and conservation in a vacuum, as if the surrounding lands don’t exist: this is a deeply flawed perspective. Much of the land from Santa Cruz City to the County line is heavily used by recreational visitors. Most weekends, parking lots overflow with cars and parked cars dangerously line the highway. There are too few trash cans and toilets to serve those visitors. Police and emergency responders are stretched to respond to the many accidents such visitation is bound to create.
County Parks, State Parks, the City of Santa Cruz, the Rail Trail, and BLM each have their own properties to manage and the same 4 T’s issues to address, but they aren’t doing it collaboratively. It is clear that none of those agencies has the resources to address those issues and so those issues are borne by our community. Visitors have come to expect trashy beaches. Emergency responders have come to expect exhaustion and insufficient support. Visitors with elderly family members or small children are avoiding parks due to dangerous or disgusting conditions. As each agency plans in isolation to provide for the maximum number of visitors, parks managers are dooming wildlife and visitor experience – the carrying capacity for the entire North Coast will be surpassed. It is no wonder that our community does not trust BLM to be able to manage their land and the visitors that they plan on attracting. BLM entered an arena of mistrust and fueled the fire with their own mistakes.
Those of you who know me well know I don’t like the passive tense: I like clearly stating the subjects of verbs…who (specifically) is responsible for doing what (specifically). And yet, agencies like BLM are opaque…staff even refuse to specify who is specifically responsible for anything you might witness happening. But, placing the entire blame of the tragedy of Cotoni Coast Dairies on current BLM staff is unfair. Local, state and federal elected officials also bear some responsibility; good intel is that some of them have even winked behind closed doors in Washington DC, saying that local concerns needn’t be addressed. But again, placing a large amount of blame on elected officials also doesn’t seem fair: after all, they should be swayed by popular opinion (or at least election).
We saw how enough funding swayed popular opinion with the Monument Campaign, right? Apparently, no funders have been inspired to sway popular opinion in favor of wildlife protection on conservation lands in this particularly biodiverse region. Even if they did, there is a dearth of organizations who would lead that campaign. And so, in regard to the tragedies unfolding at Cotoni Coast Dairies and across Santa Cruz County’s North Coast, we must bear the brunt of blame within our community, which has long lacked leadership, energy, and focus on environmental conservation. For more on that, read my essay “Democracy and the Environment.” And, stay tuned for the third in this series of essays where I will outline steps forward out of this unfortunate predicament.
-this article adapted and updated from what appeared in late March at Bruce Bratton’s blog BrattonOnline.com
When you visit conservation lands, how do you think critically about stewardship? There are various things to consider and ways you might help.
Often conservation lands managers mention their obligation to balance conservation with public access. In our area, this is especially true for State Parks and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Here are some Mission Statements to help you understand:
State Parks Mission: “To provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation.”
BLM’s mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
The normal thing to do when analyzing how to provide a balance between recreational access and conservation is to perform a carrying capacity analysis, which defines ‘limits of acceptable change.’ Monitoring determines if limits are surpassed, and adaptive management reacts with changes to public access patterns to address any problems. If the carrying capacity analysis process were integrated into a collaborative natural resource management program that welcomed public participation, controversies about changing and limiting public access could be managed with more understanding and cooperation.
If they followed state of the art management practices, conservation lands managers would consistently determine what prospective visitors expected and adjust to meet those expectations. Expectations are monitored through interviews and surveys not only of people actually visiting the conservation area, but also prospective visitors in the general population. Managers normally encounter a great deal of diversity of expectations from conservation lands visitors. Some want active recreational experiences – trails/roads to jog along or mountain bike; some mountain bikers even want “rad” experiences involving tricky terrain to navigate at high speed on single track trails. Other visitors hope for quiet, contemplative strolls, opportunities to observe wildlife, or safe places to walk with elderly or very young family members. Still other portions of the population want to recreate on motorized vehicles, fly kites or drones, or rock out with parties involving amplified music and dancing. And, other segments of the population want places to meditate, collect medicinal herbs or edible mushrooms, help with stewardship, or take photographs. Obviously, it is impossible to provide everything to all people on any given parcel of conservation land, but how can managers decide what to do?
Conservation lands proponents are sensitive about meeting many different expectations because they perceive benefits of increasing the public’s support of conservation lands acquisition, which is expensive. Sometimes this is complicated because lobbyists for various recreationally-oriented businesses are good at amplifying their client’s voices to advocate for specific types of visitor use. Traditionally, hunter groups and off highway vehicle organizations achieved successes this way. More recently, mountain biking organizations have been similarly influencing conservation lands management. Proponents of conservation lands acquisition dodge the tricky nature of favoring some types of visitors over others by public cheerleading for ‘maximum public access’ while privately providing pressure for a small subset of visitors, usually those they think are most politically influential. This is why State Parks managers opened Wilder Ranch hiking trails to mountain biking without any analysis or planning, welcomed the public onto the Coast Dairies’ beaches without environmental review, and allowed a private organization to operate a parking lot, gift shop, and privately controlled entrance to Castle Rock State Park. This is also why the Bureau of Land Management will soon allow e-bikes to use trails at Cotoni Coast Dairies. BLM is also planning on crowding all visitors onto trails that will be so heavily used as to spurn contemplative users while disturbing wildlife enough to alienate bird watchers. Families will have their hopes dashed of viewing sensitive wildlife such as bobcats, badgers, and foxes, species that frequent the property before the public has been admitted.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind readers that the much-lauded California Coastal Commission has been a close party to such poor ‘maximize public access’ decisions. Politicians have long appointed Coastal Commissioners who agree to the (bogus) ‘maximize public access’ mantra and who consequently believe that protecting nature gets in the way of their political success. Likewise, staff who support this schtick are empowered and promoted…and an organizational culture has been created that knows little else. And so, our beaches, bluffs, and coastal parks are being overrun by visitors, vegetation trampled, hillsides eroding, and wildlife quickly disappearing.
In our rush to maximize public access, we are losing the quality of visitor experience. Social scientists have long understood that conservation lands visitor expectations can erode based on what is “normal” to experience. As levels of trash increase, people expect trash…and become more careless about leaving trash in natural areas. With poor planning, parks become more crowded, and people lose expectation of contemplative experiences, nature becomes less healing. As over-used, badly managed trails erode into ditches with holes, elderly people stop visiting their favorite places; the average age of visitors grows younger and younger. As poorly educated conservationists work together for the ‘maximum use’ paradigm, families stop expecting to teach their children about wildlife from first-hand observation and the conservation movement loses wildlife advocates.
Enter into conversation with conservation lands managers with these critiques and the conversation quickly turns to lack of funding as the excuse. ‘We just don’t have the funding to….’ While I am compassionate to lands managers that they face a very dire funding situation, I posit that such poor funding is a result of bad decisions by individuals within their organization and lack of enlightened leadership in the conservation community.
When you hear complaints about funding, I encourage you to ask some follow up questions, like: ‘Have you completed “Carrying Capacity Analyses?”’ ‘Have you delineated “Limits of Acceptable Change?”’ ‘What has your monitoring revealed about the trends of sensitive plant and animal populations on your land?’ ‘How have you managed for changing visitor use and visitor expectations over time?’ If conservation lands managers prioritized addressing those questions in collaboration with the conservation community and the public at large, funding would be less of an issue. When visitor use is curtailed within the collaborative and adaptive management context, there is increased political support and funding for stewardship, planning, and improved alternatives that better address visitor expectations.
See something, say something. I encourage everyone to speak up and vote for these issues. Any politician at any level must interact with these issues in some way: they should have clearly stated policies that they support to improve conservation lands management. And, they should know the term ‘carrying capacity analysis’ and support the practice as it relates to conservation lands management.
And, if your expectations are not met when you visit conservation lands, you should let the managers know. Are the trails in good shape? Did you see wildlife? Was it too crowded? Did you feel comfortable with the other kinds of users on the same trails? Was there trash? Were bathrooms adequate? Did you and your family feel safe?
Finally, ask conservation lands managers the questions posed above. Also, ask how you might help to manage and monitor within their defined carrying capacity, or how you might then advocate for increased funding for their adaptive management. These dialogues could help immensely.
-this article originally published by Bruce Bratton at his weekly BrattonOnline.com, an invaluable piece of journalism helping thousands of people keep in touch with what really matters around the Monterey Bay area of California. Subscribe today- better yet, donate to keep it going.
I recently came across my 1998 copy of the Pogonip Master Plan and was inspired to share with you some inspiration and interesting tidbits. I find Santa Cruz’ Pogonip Greenbelt an amazingly beautiful place that renews my energy, fuels my curiosity, and, each visit, shows me something new. It is so nice to keep going back to the same places for the last 33 years…to check out favorite trees, familiar meadows, patches of fleeting wildflowers that return each spring, and ancient woodrat houses. Behind this natural beauty is a web of relationships mediated by the City of Santa Cruz Parks Department and guided by the Pogonip Master Plan.
In 1991, the Pogonip Task Force formulated the following vision statement for the Pogonip Greenbelt:
Pogonip is a place to be appreciated for its natural beauty, habitat value and serenity, in contrast to the built environment. Pogonip should provide the community with education and recreation opportunities that are environmentally and economically sustainable.
Since 1991 and the subsequent adoption of the Pogonip Master Plan, how have we done with stewardship of this amazing 640-acre greenbelt? In short, we don’t know. There are no publicly available monitoring reports for anyone to understand how ‘habitat value’ has fared or whether people find ‘serenity’ by visiting there. The City’s Pogonip webpage for some reason posts a link to a private recreational organization’s article on the property, which suggests avoiding areas due to dangerous heroin dealers- that doesn’t sound serene to me. We do know that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ so judging whether or not that part of the vision statement has been realized is too subjective.
The second part of the vision statement emphasizes sustainability, but nowhere in the document are there any metrics for judging how sustainability might be monitored. One would assume that environmental sustainability metrics for recreational opportunities would include at least soil erosion, wildlife disturbance, and invasive species or pathogen spread.
Nearly 30 years later, in 2020 the City created the more recent and very poorly done “Santa Cruz Parks Master Plan 2030” which well reflects the changing nature of City politics…to business-minded anti-environmental politicians. This plan emphasizes Park ‘assets’ – trails other types of development potential of the property – somehow overlooking sensitive habitats that were clearly delineated in the Pogonip Master Plan. It does not provide an updated vision or any new data to help us understand how well Pogonip is faring.
The Pogonip Master Plan rightly acknowledges the importance of managing the property for wildfire, prescribing an array of management activities. Search “Pogonip Fire” on the internet and you’ll be able to peruse the many recent fires in that greenbelt. Here’s a list of the 9 easy to find ones:
|July 14, 2009 – unknown acres||July 23, 2021 – ½ acre|
|July 13, 2015 – 3 acres||October 15, 2021 – 2 acres|
|November 7, 2018 – ? acres||October 16, 2021 – 2 fires, ? acres|
|June 20, 2020 – 2 acres||June 4, 2022 – ½ acre|
|November 8, 2020 – 1 acre|
Here’s a map of from the 1998 Master Plan – it has a lot of interesting things on it. First, it illustrates the ways the City was planning on managing the property for fire. Along fire roads, every 10 years the City was going to thin and prune limbs. They were also going to do prescribed burns, mow and graze. They haven’t grazed or done any prescribed fire…and the mowing hasn’t been nearly that extensive.
It is also interesting to note that there are wetlands mapped in the Upper Main Meadow…right where leaders of the Homeless Garden Project have said that there weren’t any wetlands.
This greenbelt property deserves your attention. I advise you to visit and enjoy it – there is a lot going on with wildlife, views, and amazing smells of autumn. You can join the occasional volunteer days to help do restoration- one is coming up on October 29 (email me if you’re interested)! Also, why not ask your City Council members what’s going on with the studies in the Lower Main Meadow- the area slated for the Homeless Garden Project; there were going to be lead contamination studies and a development plan by the Garden folks. Also, you might ask the City what they are doing to assure that the property is safer for fire: why don’t they graze or do prescribed fire…what about more mowing? Finally, wouldn’t it be nice to get periodic updates from Parks on the state of our Greenbelt, including how environmentally sustainable recreation is being managed…and whether the habitat values are improving or degrading?
-this article reprinted from its original location at Bruce Bratton’s online BrattonOnline.com blog- a treasure for our local community…please subscribe, donate/support!
What’s going on with public land management around you, and what are you doing about it?
Most citizens of the U.S.A. state that they want healthy wildlife populations and clean water for their communities and for future generations to enjoy. And yet, repeated surveys of Santa Cruz County residents suggest declining efforts to learn about wildlife so that individuals could take action to protect assure wildlife conservation. We can see this decline also reflected in our activism and politics. When was the last time you heard about an environmental activist group taking a stand to protect local wildlife? Which politician can you name that had environmental conservation as a major portion of their platforms? Have you looked at the agendas or minutes from Santa Cruz County’s Commission on the Environment or Fish and Game Commission – both advisory bodies to County Supervisors? I challenge you to find any evidence of solicited or unsolicited advice to the Supervisors. In short, our County, at the top of the nation’s biodiverse counties, is effectively asleep while their precious natural heritage is being rapidly eroded by neglect. I frequently hear how much Santa Cruzans appreciate the wildlife, the open space, and the natural beauty of this area. If we take these things for granted and do not make efforts to be involved with conservation, I think we know what will happen to these values: they will decline, whither, and disappear altogether with time. It is time to make a shift, and the shift is best focused on our public lands management.
One of the most important things we can do as citizens of this county is to be involved with the management of the public lands around us. There are many ways to be involved in wildlife conservation on public lands throughout the region: volunteering for stewardship, rallying political support for increased conservation on public lands, and supporting environmental conservation organizations. There are three main threats facing nature conservation public lands: changed disturbance regimes, invasive species, and poor management of visitor use. I discuss each briefly in the following and present ways that you might be involved in solution for improved public lands management.
With climate change and increased development encroachment on natural areas, natural disturbance regimes, such as fire and grazing, are rapidly changing presenting a high degree of danger to nature conservation. With climate change, fires are expected to be more frequent and more severe; this is exacerbated by increased human interactions at the Wildland Urban Interface where accidental fires more frequently occur. Likewise, we have removed tule elk and pronghorn and it is becoming increasingly difficult for natural areas managers to use livestock to mimic natural grazing regimes. With both fire and grazing, public lands managers need more public funding to increase their ability to manage natural systems. There needs to be more public outcry and support for both funding and expertise within those agencies to improve lands management. Those kinds of support are also important for invasive species management. A different kind of support is needed for better management of natural areas in the face of poor visitor use management.
Badly managed visitor use in natural areas is a major cause of concern globally for nature conservation, and locally this seems to be nearly entirely ignored. The most glaring evidence that this is a problem is the nearly ubiquitous and unquestioned philosophy that increased access to natural areas is an important goal for nature conservation. Look carefully around our local parks agencies and you’ll also notice that there are no personnel trained at managing the conflict between nature conservation and visitor use, the field of study necessary to assure nature conservation in parks. The most recent planning effort for visitor use in a public park was with the BLM’s Cotoni Coast Dairies property, a real disaster in public process with recreational infrastructure development proceeding apace despite an active and unsettled legal appeal by a very small of citizens who have seen too little community support. Of the many larger, environmental groups in the area, only the Sempervirens Fund has offered publicly stated concern…”Important details remain to be determined and we look forward to working with BLM to resolve them.” For the grave impacts to nature from visitor use in natural areas, there seems to me to be a need for a fundamental shift in both public perception and in the public lands management agencies to better recognize and address this issue. The following section outlines some actions you can take to help this process forward.
There are many ways, big and small, for you to be more involved with the paradigm shift needed to better address the serious issues surrounding visitor use management in natural areas. First and foremost, many more of us should become educated about the science documenting the concerns and how those concerns are addressed through social and environmental carrying capacity analysis and adaptive management. Social carrying capacity analyses define the limits of acceptable change from visitor use conflicts: conflicts between different types of uses (for instance, mountain bikers vs. passive recreational use of families with children) or conflicts due to overcrowding. Ecological carrying capacity analyses define the limits of acceptable change for soils, biota, or other natural phenomenon (for instance, amounts of trail erosion, wildlife such as cougars that are easily disrupted by visitors).
Another thing we can do to help the situation of poor visitor use management in our parks is to advocate for improvement. We should tune our senses to notice negative impacts of visitor use and then aim our activism towards change: make formal reports of issues to natural area managers, follow up on those reports, and also message higher level administration, commissions overseeing those agencies, and politicians who are invested in agency oversight. Persistence will help. Let’s also vote for politicians who promise to help. And, let’s support environmental groups who promise to work on these issues. Finally, many more people who care about these issues need to be involved with public lands management planning. Currently, mainly exploitive and well-funded non-passive recreational users are organized and vocal during these processes (i.e., Outdoor Industry Association funded groups like mountain biking advocates). Meanwhile, traditional conservation groups like the Sierra Club and Audubon Society have shied away from such issues due to either controversy or co-option. We need a new group or need to sway old groups to take these issues on.
-this article originally appeared at Bruce Bratton’s weekly BrattonOnline.com If you haven’t subscribed, I recommed it: “The last great news sources of Santa Cruz.”
This can be difficult to find otherwise, so posted here for reference.
This is a slightly edited reprint of my recent column at Bruce Bratton’s online weekly, to which I strongly suggest you subscribe.
Each season life in the coastal prairie changes in hue and character. The many inches of rain and the cold nights fashion the winter’s prairie now turning bright green with life that is gradually emerging from quiescence. Most annual plants have germinated; both annuals and perennials are growing slowly, the sward just 4 inches tall. The first flowers are blossoming, swales and pools abound with water, gophers throw muddy balls out their desperate breathing holes, and frost ices leaf edges, wilting tender new growth. Newborn calves follow their hungrily grazing mothers far to find enough food. Recreational trails through the prairies are frequently stirred muddy messes, destroying life while eroding ancient soils onto the few remaining prairies; bicyclists proudly sport their muddy equipment and clothes. Some signs of early winter prairie are ancient, while others are quite new.
The first native coastal prairie wildflowers are related to broccoli and celery. Popweed and peppergrass are in bloom, relatives of broccoli. These are a tiny plants on shallow soil or along trails and the sparrow-grazed edges of shrubs…or on last year’s badger or gopher mounds. They have little white flowers with 4 petals that seem to twinkle almost like glitter brightening the prairie. After flowering, popweed makes elongated pods that dry and then ‘pop’ sending seeds further than you might think possible from such a small plant. The U.S. gave popweed to the rest of the world…as a pest! You are probably more likely to encounter both of these plants in sidewalk cracks or (popweed) in potted plants in town. I’ve had the unpleasant experience of getting popweed seeds in my eye more than once, a victim of the barrage of flinging seeds from one of these weeds hiding in a pot that I was moving in my nursery.
The other very early prairie wildflower is starting to show color. It is called ‘footsteps of spring.’ It has the botanical name Sanicula arctopoides – that last word of its name being a botanical pun: “arcto” for bear and “poides” for foot: barefoot (harr harr!) footsteps (guffaw!) of spring … chuckle-chuckle go those goofy botanists. The name seems right somehow if you think Spring leaves footprints when she arrives: the first really bright thing is this plant- the entire 8” across flat plant turns a surprisingly vibrant yellow framing similarly yellow clusters of flowers. These wildflowers tend to make patches on shallow-soiled ridgelets and outcrops in the prairie. And so, Spring seems to have left footprints with her arrival as she danced from ridge to ridge and across rocky pathways to awaken the prairie from its moist green wintery slumber.
Many people are surprised that many of our prairies are wetlands, but if you wander out there now, you’ll become a believer. Coastal Terrace Prairies are on flat ground, mostly along the ancient wavecut and uplifted coastal terraces within a few miles of the coast. Housing and agriculture cover most of the first terrace, the one right above the ocean, but there are extensive prairies on the second, third, and fourth terraces. Look uphill and inland of Highway 1 on the North Coast, for instance. Being flat, coastal terraces don’t drain well and so are apt to have long periods of saturated soil, which is a key attribute of wetlands. In some places, there’s water pooled across the soil surface, but mostly the soil is just so wet that only plant species adapted to wetlands can survive. Walk across these areas and you’ll find shimmering rivulets snaking among the grasses downhill to add water to creeks. Along the edges of these squishy grasslands are seeps and springs oozing and gushing with plentiful water now and remaining green late into spring. In mima mounds and on rocky areas on the terraces, you might find vernal pools- small ephemeral ponds with chorus frog or toad tadpoles, festooned with curious alga and teeming with zooplankton.
Looking broadly across the prairies, grasses are mostly what you see, but slimy things are hiding underneath. Perennial grasses, many of them million-year natives, are waking underground with only the slightest sign in their leaves; their tiny leaves are green, but their new white roots have already grown inches into the surrounding soil, quickly claiming as wide an area as possible. They compete against quicker-growing annual grasses, most of them here for just a few hundred years; these get tall faster and shade natives, inhibiting many native plants from establishing from seed. Without something like the ancient megafaunal grazing regimes, the non-native annuals create a (relatively) towering canopy protecting slugs and snails from bird. Under the grassy protection, mollusks devour the nutrient-rich native annual wildflower seedlings before they stand a chance.
In some places, cattle graze the prairies, maintaining some semblance of the evolutionary disturbance regimes that coastal prairie diversity requires. Betting on a better yearling market, some local cattle ranchers set the bulls free among the heifers at a time that makes for calves right now. This is a difficult time for raising a calf – despite the slow growing lush grasses, there’s very little protein in those leaves. To make enough milk, the mothers must constantly graze, cropping the prairie short. Flocks of birds follow the cattle for the food they expose along the way. Research UCSC Professor Karen Holl and I have performed over the past many years has shown that cattle grazing in coastal prairie creates more abundant and more diverse native annual wildflowers than adjoining ungrazed areas. Cattle grazing, cow trails and the lightly driven ranch roads that accompany livestock also make for excellent habitat for the rarest of beetles…the Ohlone tiger beetle.
The Ohlone tiger beetle is emerging from its burrows now, bright metallic green-blue carapaces like finest jewels of our local prairies. This species is only found in a handful of grasslands near Santa Cruz. On sunny, warmer days, it forages for invertebrates along open trails in only the most diverse coastal prairies. Those sunny warm days also attract mountain bikers who cruise so swiftly along the trails – including miles of trails that are not sanctioned by the landowners – as to smash innumerable of these endangered insects. Just last week, a colleague visited the Mima Meadow at UC Santa Cruz to find many smashed, most probably killed by fast-moving bicyclists. The carcasses were on a trail not sanctioned for bicyclist use and even in an area the University, as a legal mandate from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, has set aside expressly for beetle conservation. If court cases from Florida are any precedent, the University could be held liable for the death of a federally protected endangered species…and penalized. Perhaps that’s what it would take for the University to enforce the protection of this area.
Perhaps one could understand a University’s difficulty in managing natural areas, but what about our State Park managers? Many of the coastal prairie trails at Wilder Ranch State Park once had Ohlone tiger beetles, but State Parks destroyed much of that habitat by dumping tons of gravel to ‘harden’ the trails as a ‘solution’ to allowing recreational access during the muddy winters. Parks staff subsequently decided to manage a small remnant area (successfully) for this endangered species. Even so, coastal prairie trails are a muddy mess these days, and use only stirs up that mud, loosening it so that it washes off into the surrounding grasslands. Those extra nutrients spur weedy growth and destroy wildflowers. Meanwhile the incising and eroding trails serve to drain the surrounding wet meadows, an alteration that also degrades the habitat. Shame on users and managers alike for destroying eons of evolution and a legacy for future generations! If you see the (rare) ‘trails closed’ signs…which are almost always (if present) defaced and thrown aside…please prop them back up and go for a forest walk, instead.
This was my post from the highly recommended weekly publication Bratton Online (10/20/21 edition)
I hop off my bike and lock it to a post at the entrance to the beach. I’m here to meet Juan and Ted and their dog Fluffy for an evening stroll to catch up and get some fresh air. I smile with the transition to the beach, which is a regular way to leave my busy day behind and return me to myself, my normal world and what I want to be – relaxed! Squinting through the reflective brightness off the sparkling water, I spot my friends already down by the water and jog towards them. We exchange hugs and start on our walk. We won’t turn around for a long while…this stretch of sand goes on and on, and we have an hour before we need to head back to our homes. We keep to the wet sand where its easier (and less messy) to walk. Juan uses one of those plastic scoop arms for extra lift to lob a ball for Fluffy. There’s lots to talk about, the light breeze feels invigorating, the sand cool and wet between my toes. For the breeze and noise of the lapping waves, we walk closer than we might otherwise to hear one another better. Fluffy comes crashing into us as she rough houses with another dog, now we are sandy and wet to our waists, laughing, and smiling at another group passing by. The sun is getting lower, and the clouds are turning pastel orange and magenta, a myriad of colors reflected in fractal patterns of swirling sea foam. We’re quiet for a bit, pausing on our walk to watch bottlenose dolphins pass by and to hear the lapping waves. Way down the beach we approach a party – bonfires in big metal bins and chairs around portable tables, musicians setting up for an event that will last into the night. We are at our halfway point, turning around we face into the wind and towards the setting sun. I know from our past walks that we are now each pondering what more we want to ask to make sure we are all caught up on conversations that have lasted years. Our walks are not often enough, this time together is precious. The conversation picks up pace and the walk back seems faster than the way out. We brush off the sand, towel off Fluffy, and say our goodbyes.
In parallel, the nonhuman organisms at the beach were having very different experiences during our visit. Walking in the wet sand, Ted, Juan and I crushed hundreds of living organisms and smashed the structure of the sand where critters had tunneled for breath and to filter feed…contributing to the greatly diminished diversity and abundance of such organisms with increasing recreation on beaches. Fluffy’s cavorting flushed dozens of shorebirds, already exhausted from being frightened over and over by people and their dogs. Those shorebirds also particularly need the wet sand, where they probe for food; they only get a few chances to dart into that feeding zone between the constant parade of walkers. The fires and noise from the beach party will keep nesting beach birds on high alert nearby, as they cuddle their newborn chicks; those families will not be having restful nights and will have a harder time remaining healthy. Next season, maybe they will remember not to make a nest so close to those areas of the beach where parties light up the night, but there isn’t much beach left where they can still find peace.
There is so much we take for granted about our beaches and few even realize what a natural beach might look like, or how nature maintains and forms it. Our best beaches are sandy, and that sand is constantly on the move, eroding and replenishing with the wind, waves, and tides. Streams and rivers are beachmakers, depositing sand into the ocean. In Santa Cruz County, the sand is driven downshore from the north with the prevailing wind and current. Promontories create sand deposition shadows- rockier areas to the north of most beaches and more sand on the south, including piles of sand up on the bluffs above the beach to the south. Where beaches are wide enough, there are low mounds of sand towards the waves and bigger and bigger dunes further onshore. Typically, the sand blocks most rivers and streams in the summer, creating still water lagoons full of life.
Our beaches are super-diverse ecosystems, teeming with life wherever we let them thrive. Where we don’t trample them, plants establish close to the sea. Sea rocket, with its pale, simple 4-petaled lavender flowers, is notoriously resilient, establishing from seeds that are constantly floating around the ocean waiting to wash ashore. This plant is cosmopolitan, on beaches around the world. By stabilizing the blowing sand, sea rocket starts formation of the little mounds we call foredunes. Foredunes then become habitat for many other species. Further inland are taller and taller back dunes where waves rarely crash. There can be freshwater ponds in back dunes in the winter. Elephant seals rest there. North facing back dune slopes have ferns and mosses; throughout these taller dunes you can find succulent plants, shrubs flowering year-round, endangered lupines, wallflowers, paintbrush, spineflower, and gilia…as well as many species of songbirds. Around the lagoons and ‘dune slack’ (ponds) ducks breed and red legged frogs, newts, and garter snakes flourish. Raccoons, pond turtles, egrets, herons, and lots more are at home in these wet areas.
As I mentioned above, we have loved our beaches to death but, in some places, people are trying to establish more of a balance. Across the Monterey Bay, there is just one beach that is off limits to people: Wilder Beach. We set aside this State Park beach to protect nesting endangered snowy plovers. Any regular and observant beach goer will know this story: there are signs and “symbolic” fences on many beaches to remind people not to trample their habitat. Unfortunately, fences and signs are not enough, and the species is struggling to survive in our region. What few snowy plovers are left is because of a team of conservationists associated with the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science who monitor the species and work with parks managers to protect them. Without those always underpaid and generous people, there would be no signs and no fences: they serve as the conscience for the species and are supported by grants and donations. Further south, in Santa Barbara County, at Coal Oil Point, a docent program has volunteers standing by the plover fences with signs and binoculars educating visitors and assuring plover safety, a program that is being duplicated elsewhere. Again, generous conservationists coming to the rescue!
Snowy plovers are an indicator species for healthy beaches and dunes, and other programs are working to restore the plants needed to sustain healthy plover habitat. From Seabright Beach through Pacific Grove’s Asilomar State Beach, parks managers and volunteers are controlling invasive species and planting dune plants. Ice plant is the most widespread and pernicious threat. Each year for the rest of eternity, people will have to comb the beaches and dunes to find iceplant and rip it up before it takes over. Thanks to years of this work, we are starting to see the return of dunes and associated vibrant rolling mounds of wildflowers.
Four hundred years ago…imagine the scene at the beach. Native peoples must have had a common presence on beaches for many reasons: launching boats, fishing, clam digging, tide pool foraging, harvesting of marine algae, leisure, and play. The lowest tides of the Spring and Fall must have drawn many people to the deep rocky intertidal where there were easier to reach larger and more varied shellfish. And there would have been grizzlies, condors, and coyotes sharing that space, feasting on (stinky!) washed up marine mammals. The tiny snowy plover probably had much larger flocks scampering around. Every beach would have had intact dune communities and clean lagoons.
Can we find a way to conserve beach and dune species for future generations? What would that entail? Biologists suggest we need more control of the main threat: beach visitation – we already have too much. We thank the California Coastal Commission for steadfastly pursuing public access to beaches, a job that never seems to be finished. But we also understand that this agency has a mandate to protect biological diversity, something that they sometimes forget when it comes to beach access. For instance, they recently required the University to provide public access to Younger Lagoon and were surprisingly acquiescent at State Parks providing nearly unregulated and completely unplanned public access to Coast Dairies beaches. The Coastal Commission doesn’t have a plan for beach and dune biological conservation in California despite this being the only ecologically sensitive habitat that is in their jurisdiction statewide! I think almost all of us would like for all the plants and animals to have a place on Earth, even if it means giving up some of our conveniences…including our ability to use every beach or every inch of every beach. We need a comprehensive plan across all California beaches if we are to realize this outcome. And people need to care enough to support parks and the Coastal Commission if they decide to do pursue beach and dune protections. Oh, and it would be good to keep our Fluffy dogs from harassing beach wildlife, our strolls up on the dry sand, and our trajectories steering wide, away from foraging shorebirds.
Introduction and Background
Obama’s Proclamation giving National Monument status to Cotoni Coast Dairies included protection for an interesting list of birds: a challenge or a nose-thumbing to preservationists? We don’t know, but in this essay I present both perspectives. First, a reminder that experts presented the President with a science-based white paper suggesting a list of sensitive natural resources worthy of protection by his Proclamation; most local conservation organizations wrote letters supporting this proposal. The white paper included 7 species of birds that are protected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but not protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)…and so, without mention in the Monument Proclamation, might not be protected on BLM lands:
The white paper also included recommendation for recognition of species that are federally protected as long as they are on California BLM’s sensitive animal list:
And, experts mentioned two other notable bird species that frequent the property:
At first glance… the Proclamation was a moderate success for bird conservation- experts proposed 11 bird species for the Proclamation, and the President’s Proclamation included 9 bird species. But, the Proclamation included just two of the species experts proposed: the white tailed kite and peregrine falcon. Besides the kite and falcon, the other species listed by the President are common and widespread enough to not warrant any conservation concern. Here are the other 7 birds listed in the President’s proclamation, along with their listing status:
Optimism: A Presidential Challenge?
An optimist might consider the list of birds in the President’s Proclamation could be seen as a challenge to biologists, preservationists, and BLM. The President might have been truly insightful, providing protection for species common enough across the property for scientifically sound analysis of the impacts of varying levels of future visitor use. Only when there are enough nesting attempts of a bird species can we compare nest success in areas with and without visitors, or between areas of varying visitor use types/intensities.
With all of the biota listed in the Proclamation, BLM is required to provide protections in their management plans, setting scientifically-based preservation targets, and monitoring the status of these resources over time. Establishing preservation targets for species will involve developing various hypotheses, such as:
It is likely that at least some of these birds are common enough across the property right now, when the property is seeing very little visitor use, that experts can inventory their densities and then notice change over time in response to varying management decisions. This would not be the case with more uncommon species.
I should point out that this optimistic viewpoint is difficult to completely uphold because the President did not include the expert’s suggestion of olive-sided flycatcher in his Proclamation: this is a species common enough on the property to meet the criteria outlined above.
Pessimism: A Presidential Nose-Thumbing?
The pessimist might consider it a purposeful snub by the President when he ignored most of the birds recommended by experts for inclusion in the Proclamation. He might have various reasons for snubbing the experts.
For instance, in recent Santa Cruz County history, and with the Monument Campaign in particular, we have seen political leaders leveraging and emphasizing the divide between pro-access, maximum use, recreation advocates and conservation advocates. If the pro-access, maximum use advocates had leverage with the President, they may have advised that inclusion of the conservation community’s recommendations as something to ignore.
An additional and perhaps additive possibility is that the President’s advisers were opposed to preservation of grassland habitat on the property, possibly because of the near necessity of using livestock grazing to maintain that habitat. Despite a growing scientific consensus, some maintain that California’s coastal grasslands are largely ‘unnatural’ relicts of human management, evidenced by their ‘natural’ succession into mixed coniferous forests. And, while fire is sporadically used to maintain California’s coastal grasslands, livestock grazing is more common. Many of the bird species that experts recommended for inclusion are dependent on extensive grassland habitats; some may even require livestock grazing to maintain structure that is conducive to nesting success. The reader is no doubt cognizant of some of the environmental community’s opposition to livestock grazing on conservation lands, and this philosophy could well have been in play when advisers helped the President to draft his Proclamation. None of the birds included in the President’s Proclamation rely on grassland habitat.
A final additional and perhaps additive possibility is the Presidential adviser philosophy that the protection of grassland dependent birds might interfere with maximizing visitor use of the property. Grasslands on the property offer the easiest opportunities for access to the many visitors desiring expeditious photographic opportunities. And so, perhaps the President’s advisers refused protection of grassland birds in order to more readily allow for maximum visitor use.
The future will help inform the prevalence of the optimistic or pessimistic interpretation of the President’s motivations for naming the Monument-worthy birds of Cotoni Coast Dairies in his Proclamation. With luck, we may be able to have conversations with the President’s Proclamation advisers to learn, first-hand their rationale. And, we may gather more clues in the advocacy of Monument Campaign organizers and others during the planning process for the property. We will share our discoveries to help science-based conservationists better engage with similar situations in the United States. And, we will use what we learn to improve our strategy moving forward with preserving the sensitive natural resources of Cotoni Coast Dairies.