Lake County News: Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument expansion celebration includes new stewardship agreement

By Staff

On Thursday, federal and tribal officials gathered to celebrate President Joe Biden’s recent expansion of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument.

The action renames the “Walker Ridge” parcel to “Molok Luyuk,” which means “Condor Ridge” in the Patwin language, and adds over 13,000 acres of federal public land to the previously-designated monument, protecting the area in its entirety.

Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-04), U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Tracy Stone-Manning and community leaders were on hand for the event, which took place in Brookes, in neighboring Yolo County.

Members of the Yocha Dehe and Kletsel Dehe Tribes also signed a historic co-stewardship agreement with BLM during the ceremony.

The presidential proclamation advances co-stewardship of the monument to safeguard generations of tribal origin stories and protect wildlife corridors and rich biodiversity in the region.

This co-stewardship agreement stems from the amended 2022 order by the secretary of the Interior and signed by the secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture and Commerce that directs the departments and their component bureaus and offices to manage federal lands in a manner that protects the treaty, religious, subsistence and cultural interests of federally recognized Indian tribes.

“Molok Luyuk has been stewarded for thousands of years by the Wintun Nations,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “This co-stewardship agreement will strengthen management of this portion of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument for generations to come, enhancing our ability to protect natural and cultural resources and to educate visitors to the monument.”

This agreement strengthens stewardship of Molok Luyuk through increased natural and cultural resource program coordination and inter-governmental engagement in management planning processes.

It provides a framework for tribal officials, planners, resource specialists, and tribal members to share additional knowledge and expertise, and provide resources and services to the BLM to collaboratively develop resource management programs and coordinate on land use planning and management of resources.

Rep. Thompson sponsored the legislation, cosponsored by Reps. John Garamendi (CA-08), Jared Huffman (CA-02), and Doris Matsui (CA-07) that called for the initial designation of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in 2013. In 2022 and again 2023, Rep. Thompson, Sen. Padilla, and Rep. Garamendi introduced legislation to expand the Monument to include adjacent Bureau of Land Management-administered public lands.

Last October, Rep. Thompson, Sen. Padilla, and Rep. Garamendi led a letter to President Biden and Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland urging the administration to use its authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to expand the Monument and support co-stewardship opportunities at Molok Luyuk.

In May, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and the BLM celebrated President Biden’s expansion of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument as part of the administration’s unprecedented commitment to protect America’s natural wonders for future generations, honor areas of cultural significance to tribal nations and Indigenous peoples, and expand access to nature.

The new designation protects a striking 11-mile-long north-south ridgeline that is sacred to the Patwin people and hosts a mosaic of rare natural features supported by the area’s unique geologic and hydrologic features.

“Today marks a new era of tribal co-stewardship of ancestral lands. I’m honored to join leaders from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, Bureau of Land Management, and community advocates to celebrate the expansion of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and formalize local tribes’ role in the protection of the land that has sustained them for generations,” said Thompson. “I worked to designate the Berryessa Snow Mountain region as a national monument in 2015 and Sen. Padilla, Rep. Garamendi (CA-08), and I were successful in working with the Biden Administration to expand it. Thanks to President Biden’s proclamation, the biodiversity, geological formations, and cultural connections of this land will be preserved for generations to come.”

“Today, thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration and decades of advocacy from tribal leaders and allies, the Patwin people will once again have a say in how Molok Luyuk is cared for,” Sen. Padilla said Thursday. “We’re setting a new standard of cooperative stewardship and embarking on a new era of public land management that gives tribes a seat at the table. With the historic signing of these co-stewardship agreements, local tribes will be able to more formally contribute their deep, personal knowledge of the history and ecology of the area to better protect and celebrate this land. The expansion of the monument is also crucial for protecting the rich biodiversity and wildlife corridors that make California so unique, ensuring that these areas endure for the benefit of current and future generations.”

“The expansion of Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument enhances protections of the region’s rich biodiversity and rare plant species and provides a lifeline for wildlife such as tule elk, mountain lions, and black bears as a connectivity corridor between the existing monument and other conserved areas,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “This commitment to conservation protects sacred cultural sites and enshrines access to our public lands. It also moves us closer toward California’s 30×30 goal to conserve 30% of the state’s lands and coastal waters by 2030. This shows what happens when big ideas and people rally together to protect incredible places. The California Natural Resources Agency is honored to continue work with California Native American tribes, local communities, and the Biden-Harris Administration to further designate new National Monuments in California.”

“We are profoundly grateful for this commitment to protect tribal cultural resources and the environment. All the support we received to expand the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and include Molok Luyuk, especially from U.S. Senator Padilla, Congressman Thompson, Congressman Garamendi, and environmental organizations — their care and commitment to tribal lands has ensured a better world for generations to come. We look forward to additional opportunities to partner in our ancestral lands,” said Yocha Dehe Tribal Chairman Anthony Roberts.

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