California lawmakers seek to add Lake County ridge to Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Four California lawmakers — Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla and Reps. Mike Thompson and John Garamendi — want a remote wildland ridge along the eastern edge of Lake County preserved as part of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.
More than a dozen conservation and environmental groups, along with a Yolo County tribe, are backing the legislation in both the Senate and House, where Thompson, D-St. Helena, said Thursday he thinks the chances for approval are “pretty good.”
Walker Ridge, which runs for 11 miles along the Lake-Colusa county line, is an “irreplaceable biological hot spot” — home to imperiled bald eagles and golden eagles, badgers and peregrine falcons and a migration pathway for tule elk, mountain lions, black bears and bobcats, the Tuleyome organization said.
Habitats in the nearly 4,000-acre tract, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, include chaparral, grasslands, oak woodlands and forests of pine and cypress, with areas of serpentine soils derived from ancient sea floor.
“You really get the sense of being in the middle of nowhere,” said Sandra Schubert, executive director of Tuleyome, a Woodland-based nonprofit focused on conservation in the Nothern Inner Coastal Ranges from the Bay Area to Oregon.
The view from the untrammeled ridge is “just phenomenal,” she said, with vistas of Indian Valley Reservoir to the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east and Snow Mountain to the north.
Anthony Roberts, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation tribe in rural Yolo County, told a House panel that Walker Ridge is “steeped in thousands of years of rich history and is profoundly meaningful to the Patwin people.”
The ridge’s natural landscape includes “areas where religious ceremonies are practiced and sites that are central to our people’s origin stories,” he said in testimony to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on March 1.
Roberts said his tribe was “deeply gratified” by the provisions in the legislation that would rename Walker Ridge as Condor Ridge, a translation of the name “Molok Luyuk” in the Patwin language of the Yocha Dehe and other federally recognized tribes.
Congress would by that action “recognize both the historic habitat of the condors and the cultural significance of this area to Indigenous people,” he said.
Dozens of tribes have called “Molok Luyuk” home for more than 11,000 years, Padilla said in a news release, adding that approval of his bill would “ensure that their unique tribal knowledge, history and cultural practices will permanently be part of the national monument.”
“This region of California is rich with Native American cultural landmarks and diverse ecosystems and wildlife,” Feinstein said in the release, noting she had worked since 2015 to protect and expand the national monument.
The legislation also directs the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to complete the management plan for the 331,000-acre national monument unfinished since it was established in 2015.
The two agencies would also be required to engage in “meaningful consultation” with federally recognized tribes on the development and implementation of the management plan.
“This co-stewardship provision is extremely important to us,” Roberts said.
Owners and operators of the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, the tribe generates more than $370 million in indirect and direct economic benefits in Yolo County, according to its website.
Thompson’s first legislative effort to create the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument was stymied by Republican opposition, he said.
The sprawling monument that runs through Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Solano and Yolo counties was established by then-President Barack Obama’s executive order in July 2015.
The two new bills would add only the Lake County portion of the Walker Ridge tract to the monument, leaving out the Colusa County portion.
Support for the bills has come from the Lake County Board of Supervisors and a host of organizations, including the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, Earthjustice, California Native Plant Society and Pew Charitable Trusts.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or email@example.com. On Twitter @guykovner.