Padilla Bill to Protect Molok Luyuk and Expand Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Advances in Congress with a Senate Hearing

Senator Padilla’s Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act includes provisions for tribal co-management

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined the Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources during a subcommittee hearing on a series of bills, including his Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act, S. 4080, which is cosponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The bill is a companion to H.R. 6366, introduced by Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.). Today, environmental and community advocates celebrated this important step toward the permanent protection of a rare and rugged Northern California landscape.

“The sacred lands within and around the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument are central to thousands of years of tribal origin stories,” said Senator Padilla. “This bill would expand the existing Monument to include nearly 4,000 acres of sacred Tribal land, require federal agencies to finally develop a management plan for the monument, and give Tribal governments a seat at the table to better manage and care for these lands. It is our duty to protect the abundant natural resources and the rich history on Molok Luyuk for today’s children and for future generations, and I look forward to working to ensure we see this bill to fruition.”

The legislation would add an adjacent 3,925 acres to the current Monument, support tribal co-management, and change the name of the additional wildlands from “Walker Ridge” to Molok Luyuk—Patwin for “Condor Ridge”—a name the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation provided. 

“Protecting Molok Luyuk, a place of profound natural beauty and deep cultural significance, is a win-win for Californians and California’s tribes. We are excited to see the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act moving forward,” said the Tribal Council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

In 2015, President Obama designated Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument with Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) who introduced the original bill. The Monument, along with the proposed Molok Luyuk (Condor Ridge) addition, is culturally significant to local Native American tribes and notable for its varied habitats and wildlife, including imperiled animals. The legislation would not impact privately owned, state, tribal, or non-federal land in any way.

Molok Luyuk (Condor Ridge) includes public land adjacent to the existing monument in Lake County that is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The ridge is home to great biodiversity including over 30 species of rare plants, ancient blue oak woodlands, rugged rock outcrops, wildflower meadows, and extensive stands of McNab cypress. The area also provides wildlife connectivity for many species including deer, mountain lions, and black bears.

“Molok Luyuk is characterized by fascinating geology, outstanding biodiversity, profound cultural significance, and incredible views. These lands are eminently worthy of the permanent protection that Senator Alex Padilla and Representative John Garamendi have stepped forward to propose,” said Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Chair Victoria Brandon.

For years, advocates called for lasting protection of Molok Luyuk. Without permanent protection, the lands included in the bill will continue to be at risk of inappropriate and harmful development. The area has been the target of repeated development proposals for large-scale wind energy, despite the California Energy Commission’s finding that the area had only moderate to low energy potential.

“This hearing is an exciting milestone for the legislation. Over two decades of advocacy have contributed to this legislation, so we’re truly gratified to see this support for protecting Molok Luyuk and the provisions in the bill for engaging meaningfully with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation,” California Native Plant Society Conservation Program Director Nick Jensen said. “We thank Senator Padilla for his leadership in expanding Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and honoring this area’s profound significance to our tribal partners.”

The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument Expansion Act would provide much-needed, lasting protection for the land along with the requirement for a Monument Management Plan within one year. The legislation also calls for cooperative management with Tribes or Tribal partners in the development of the management plan and subsequent management decisions. The land is of tremendous present-day cultural and religious importance to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, and includes sites central to their origin stories. The cooperative management provision would help safeguard this one-of-a-kind area in partnership with local Indigenous tribes. 

“Molok Luyuk is a place filled with natural beauty, wildlife, rare plants, and indigenous treasures that, as neighbors, we have long appreciated. We are thrilled at the progress of this bill through the Senate and grateful to the leadership of Senators Padilla and Feinstein,” said Sandra Schubert, Executive Director of Tuleyome. “We are glad they have joined the fight to protect Molok Luyuk from current and future threats while respecting Tribal stewardship over the lands.”

The bill would also increase recreational access to world-class nature and outdoor activities for locals and visitors. Popular recreation activities on these lands include hiking, sightseeing, mountain biking, camping, horseback riding, and off highway vehicle (OHV) use on designated routes. Incorporating the area into the existing monument would improve land management, bring additional resources for trail construction and maintenance, help improve public access, and protect sensitive wildlife and prime habitat areas. This will also help ensure equitable access to the outdoors in a county where 22% of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. 

“We’re deeply grateful to Senator Alex Padilla for being a consistent champion for our nation’s public lands since taking office,” said Ryan Henson, Senior Policy Director for CalWild. “We are thrilled to see the bill to protect Molok Luyuk pass this hurdle as it moves through Congress. These lands are a public treasure that deserve permanent protection and improved management.”

The expanded Monument also would mark an important step toward helping the State of California and the Biden Administration meet the critical goal of protecting 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030, added Elyane Stefanick, California Program Director for the Conservation Lands Foundation, in reference to California’s 30×30 Initiative and the federal America the Beautiful call-to-action. “Conservation Lands Foundation supports the expansion of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument and ensuring this remarkable landscape has a robust management plan,” Stefanick said. “As we near the 118th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, we acknowledge that the history of public lands is complex. The addition of Molok Luyuk to the National Monument honors the original stewards and caretakers of this land.”

A letter of support for the legislation from over 50 organizations is available here.

Video of the testimony is available here

Photos of the lands to be protected are available for use here. Please credit Bob Wick for these images. 


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