Huffman pushes for California Coastal National Monument plan
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman will join Sen. Barbara Boxer and Reps. Anna Eshoo and Lois Capps at a meeting on Friday in Cambria with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to discuss the proposed expansion of the California Coastal National Monument — an expansion which includes Lighthouse Ranch in Loleta, 13 acres of the Trinidad Head, and the Lost Coast Headlands.
In a press release, Huffman said he was pleased to work closely with the Trinidad Rancheria and Wiyot Tribe on the effort to preserve ancestral lands.
“The coast of Humboldt County is home to important and unique marine and coastal animals, plants, and habitats,” Huffman said. “Expanding the California Coastal National Monument to include areas such as Trinidad Head and Lighthouse Ranch would be good news for the environment, the coastal economy, and the citizens of California and the nation ... I am grateful that my constituents will have the opportunity to weigh in on this important proposal.”
Out of the six proposed lands, half are within Humboldt County, which Ben Morehead, executive director of the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust said was exciting news.
“It’s an honor to receive this sort of attention,” Morehead said. “Not only do these places offer beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, but they are also culturally and historically significant lands here on our coast.”
Trinidad Mayor Dwight Miller said that if the 13 acres of Trinidad Head are granted monument status, it might bring a lot of tourism to the area.
“The people of Trinidad are generally welcoming to tourists and it’s a good thing for more people to find out about these treasures on the coast, but we might have to adjust to the influx of people coming in and out of town,” Miller said.
Among the proposal’s supporters is the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council. Tribal representative Shirley Laos said the council has backed the plan since its inception.
“Our property is the access point to the Trinidad Head and we would be happy to be involved with any projects or upgrades with the property,” Laos said. Laos said council has eyed the California Coastal National Monument for the last 15 years. The original monument proposed by former President Bill Clinton in 2000 didn’t include onshore lands until 2014 where President Barack Obama expanded it to include coastal lands along with the previous rocks and islands off California’s coast.
“Trinidad is a sacred and spiritual spot for the Yurok people and most of our members are of Yurok descent,” Laos said. “It’s part of the spiritual landscape of our people.”
The Wiyot Tribe is also in support of the project as long as the name of the Lighthouse Ranch is changed to Waluplh which will reflect the cultural and historical significance of the land.
Cultural Director for the Wiyot Tribe Tom Torma said this will create an additional level of national recognition for the Wiyot Tribe and language.
“The name change will help people understand the significance of the land to the Wiyot people,” Torma said, “I think it’s extremely important to have that name and show that their presence is recognized and that the culture is valued.”
Torma also mentioned that the people who live in this area know what a special and beautiful place it is to be but that they should also recognize the history behind it.
The inclusion of the Lost Coast Headlands, however, raised some concerns.
Humboldt County 1st District Supervisor Rex Bohn said the biggest problem with monument status for the Lost Coast Headlands is the roads.
“It’s not beautiful if you can’t access or see it safely,” Bohn said. “We’re hoping that BLM will understand our traffic restrictions. You can’t exactly lug a trailer up there. The roads are fairly primitive and inaccessible to a lot of vehicles.”
Yvette Green of Ferndale owns 5 acres in the Lost Coast headlands while the BLM leases 200 acres. Green, whose family has been there for more than a century, opposed the inclusion of the land in the monument because she said honoring the land goes way beyond protecting it when it comes to laws and regulations.
“This isn’t Yellowstone,” Green said. “This is a very high agricultural use area with people trying to maintain their way of life.”
She said even if the BLM improves the road, the amount of heavy traffic from tourists would disrupt the harmony of the land and said the other BLM sites don’t have this problem because they are off U.S. Highway 101 or main roads.
Although Green said the Lost Coast Headlands should not be considered for the monument, she said that she has a good working relationship with the BLM.
“At this point in time, the local BLM and my family have had to work through some incredibly sensitive subjects,” Green said, “The beauty of it is because it’s raw and untouched land, and by changing the designation you’re losing the rawness of it.”
Sam Goldman, California program director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, said that BLM’s previous efforts to maintain sites for the monument have been quite successful in places like Point Arena in Mendocino. He said BLM plans to provide signs, restrooms, trail restoration and other essential needs depending on the site.
“Some people might have a little skepticism when it comes to government projects,” Goldman said, “but case after case in California public service has done an impeccable job at protecting and using the lands.”