One of the newest national monuments – Cotoni-Coast Dairies near Santa Cruz – has a Los Altos connection.
Sempervirens Fund, a Los Altos-based organization, played a prominent role in encouraging former President Barack Obama to designate the 5,800 acres of land on the Pacific Coast a national monument in his last month in office.
“We really initiated and spearheaded the concept of the monument campaign,” said Sara Barth, executive director of Sempervirens Fund. “We have been the lead organization driving it because we see it as part of our vision protecting the Santa Cruz Mountains and their landscapes.”
When Obama signed the proclamation to preserve Cotoni-Coast (pronounced “Cho-tony”) Dairies Jan. 12, it joined Muir Woods, Fort Ord and Pinnacles as federally protected national monuments in the greater Bay Area.
Barth said Sempervirens Fund worked with many others in the community and throughout the Peninsula to manage the coastal lands and foothills in Cotoni-Coast Dairies.
“The strategy was (that) not only is the land going to receive this stamp of approval, but this will lead to additional attention that will lead to additional resources that will allow it to be better managed,” she said. “Right now, it is largely sitting out there closed to the public, without much happening on it by way of management.”
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns the new national monument, which was once a dairy. According to Barth, the land needs restoration and land management before it can be opened to the public. She estimated that trails would open in approximately two years.
Barth said now that the coastal land is federally protected, she is less worried about the land being sold off or developed as other BLM parcels may be during the Trump administration.
“It is one thing to propose selling your average acre of BLM land,” she said. “It is another thing to sell something given national recognition by the president of the United States, even if it was a prior president.”
Cotoni-Coast Dairies is special, Barth said, not because of their history, but because the land has remained relatively free of development.
“Historically, it would not have been unique,” she said. “It is that all the land around it has been developed. Cotoni-Coast Dairies shows the ecosystems that exist from the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains all the way down through coastal terraces to the coast. It is really a slice of the ecological range you will see.”
Other California national monuments, such as the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument and Fort Ord, received designations due to their roles in U.S. history.
Sempervirens Fund members hope to combine the publicly owned Cotoni-Coast Dairies with their own privately owned San Vicente Redwoods, a contiguous property, to create a protected space of more than 12,000 acres. The group aims to raise funds to create educational programs, trails and habitats that would last for generations.
“We see ourselves as playing an important role both as neighbors to the monument and members of the community,” Barth said. “If the monument is trashed, Sempervirens would have failed abysmally.”
Barth said that while people may have to wait a few years to visit Cotoni-Coast Dairies, she believes it will be worth it in the long run.
“Sempervirens was involved in the creation of Big Basin and Castle Rock State Park,” she said. “We have a long history, and if you look over the long term, these places are part of what makes California extraordinary.”
This, Barth said of the new national monument, is the “next jewel.”
For more information, visit sempervirens.org.