Grazing Through Climate Change

Tarplant in 2007

Today’s article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Coastal panel staff back Arana Gulch plan, includes the following from the California Coastal Commission (CCC) Staff Report for the upcoming hearing on the Arana Gulch Master Plan:

“The report notes that tarplants in the former dairy site have dropped from 100,000 in the 1980s to 32 this year. The report cites the end of grazing, invasive species and “unmanaged public access” that led to unauthorized trails.”

Tarplant numbers were not studied in the 1980s during grazing on Arana Gulch, therefore we have no baseline on which to compare current trends. A contributing factor that has not been studied is change in the timing and amount of precipitation in the area.

Tarplant in 2011

We have just come out of a multi-year drought and we are observing a significant change in precipitation patterns, for example, earlier rains in the fall/early winter season, and extended rains into late spring and early summer, in addition to increased precipitation in our normal winter rainy season. Tarplant numbers at the airport and Tarplant Hill in Watsonville, and in Twin Lakes State Park, have fluctuated in parallel with those of Arana Gulch, yet the other sites have not had large scale grazing that ended in 1989, coincident with declines in tarplant numbers. This would argue that some factor other than cessation of grazing is responsible for the decline in tarplant numbers at all of these sites.

It is more likely that the decline has as much to do with natural local climate variation as with changes in herbivory with the removal of dairy cattle from Arana Gulch.

The recent increase in tarplant individuals suggests that changes in precipitation patterns is a possible contributing factor to tarplant success or decline and would therefore influence the success of the City’s plans for industrial scale grazing on Arana Gulch..

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Friends of Arana Gulch Reacts to Commission Staff Report


Friends of Arana Gulch Reacts to California Coastal Commission Staff Report

On October 14, the California Coastal Commission meets to consider the application by the City of Santa Cruz for approval of the Arana Gulch Master Plan, which contains the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle-Pedestrian Connection project, a 8 foot wide, paved, Class 1 bike route to be built through critical habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant.

Although the Conditions of Approval by Coastal Commission staff are quite strict and mean it may be years before the City can build its transportation project through Arana Gulch greenbelt, we are once again appalled that staff has recommended approval of a project that violates Sec. 30240 of the Coastal Act.

It is unfortunate that years ago the City deliberately insisted on incorporating its Broadway-Brommer project into an otherwise well-conceived Master Plan. In stubbornly ignoring Coastal Commission staff’s January 2000 recommendation, that it do the Master Plan first and then return with a specific project, the City thumbed its nose at staff and basically declared a show down with the Coastal Commission, daring it to vote against a Master Plan for a greenbelt. The City deliberately confused the issue and the hearing in March is proof positive, with all discussion about Broadway-Brommer and little about the basic goals of managing a remnant of California’s unique coastal terrace prairie.

Worse, the City has consistently lied to the CC by saying that Broadway-Brommer funding was needed to recover the endangered tarplant. All documentation proves otherwise, that tarplant recovery and management is, in no way, tied to Broadway-Brommer. But who listens to facts these days?

Paving the Broadway-Brommer bicycle route through an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) is so 1980s. How much pavement are we going to rationalize for recreation for humans at the expense of the living soil? This is the U.N. Year of Biodiversity and some still act as though we can go on forever ignoring the folly of more pavement and less natural habitat.

Could the City have designed real interpretive trails in Arana Gulch, enhanced for visitors of all capabilities? Yes, if it had wanted to do so. Instead the City re-branded its transportation project, which must pass through Arana Gulch, as an interpretive trail and pasted on some signage, like dressing it up for Halloween. No matter how the City disguises the wide, paved, bicycle commuter route, to this day it derives its funding from the County Regional Transportation Commission and will be built by the Public Works Department. Transportation. Public Works.

We can only hope that at this month’s hearing the Coastal Commissioners enforce the law of the land and vote to deny approval of a transportation plan through an ESHA and suggest that the City return to it with a Master Plan that it can easily approve, under the law.

If you live in California, this directly affects your coast, your Coastal Commission and your Coastal Act. Go to the Friends of Arana Gulch website, HERE, for contact information on how you can comment on this important Coastal Commission decision.

Arana Gulch Breathes Sigh of Relief

Arana Gulch plan faces another delay: Coastal Commission staff needs more time to study city's changes

On Monday, Friends of Arana Gulch asked the California Coastal Commission staff what the hurry was in getting the City of Santa Cruz Proposal for the Arana Gulch Master Plan (plus the vampirish Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Path Connection) before the California Coastal Commission. Commission local staff had just received the latest proposal while half of the staff (of two) was on vacation. We presented a resolution for the Conflict, suggesting that the City should withdraw its proposal and resubmit later, without the environmentally destructive Bike road plan.

Today, local Coastal Commission staff announced that they had insufficient time to prepare their Staff Report before the August 11 meeting in San Luis Obispo, and the application by the City of Santa Cruz is postponed, for an undisclosed length of time.

Stay tuned to this blog and the Friends of Arana Gulch web site for updates.

It’s the Law, Don

In a misinformed editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Don Miller, Sentinel Editor, completely missed the point of the recent California Coastal Commission decision regarding the City of Santa Cruz’s application to build a paved bicycle route through critical habitat for an endangered species, the Santa Cruz tarplant, Holocarpha macradenia.

The editorial is incorrect in several respects. The City of Santa Cruz did not argue that “paving two trails” in Arana Gulch “would be the greater good, publicly and environmentally.” Rather, the City proposed a transportation project in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, which is not allowed under the California Coastal Act.

It doesn’t matter that the City worked on the flawed plan for over 15 years. It doesn’t matter that the inadequate alternatives proposed in the Arana Gulch Draft Master Plan Environmental Impact Report were defended in court. It doesn’t matter that a recently proposed alternative route is not considered “safe and accessible” by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. The Broadway-Brommer bicycle route with paved trails and two bridges across critical habitat for the tarplant, is simply illegal under state law.

What matters is that the City has for years failed to manage Arana Gulch, resulting in eroding paths, illegal campers and endangered species. This is no excuse for the California Coastal Commission to bail them out by approving an illegal project.

The City of Santa Cruz should do the right thing, finally: manage Arana Gulch for the tarplant and all other species, and look elsewhere for their transportation project.

Coastal Commission votes unanimously to continue decision on Arana Gulch Master Plan!


In a stunning upset for the City of Santa Cruz, the California Coastal Commission voted tonight to continue the decision on the application by the City for approval of their paved bicycle routes through the Arana Gulch greenbelt.

Commissioner Mark Stone made the motion, saying, “We would like to give this project another shot and look to see if there is any alternative that satisfies the Commission.”

Stone and a majority of other Commissioners indicated they would vote against the project as proposed because they believed it was clearly a transportation project made to look like a conservation plan.

The Commissioners directed the City to consider alternatives to the Broadway Brommer transportation project through the Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area that would significantly impact the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant.

Look for details and developments at the Friends of Arana Gulch website.

How to Help Save Arana Gulch


Plan to attend the March 10, 2010 California Coastal Commission meeting in the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 5th Floor, 701 Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. Check the Hearing Agenda for specifics on time of the Hearing and other events.

Testimony at the hearing should include the following critical points:

  1. The proposed Broadway-Brommer Bike project (now called an “interpretive trail”) will cause “significant and unavoidable impact” to habitat of the endangered and threatened Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia).
  2. The B-B Bike project (“interpretive trail”) will violate an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) as defined in the CA Coastal Act (Policy 30240). The City of Santa Cruz has failed to demonstrate that this proposed project is “resource-dependent,” as specified by the Act.
  3. The City of Santa Cruz has never substantiated its claim that money for management of tarplant habitat will come from construction funding for the Broadway-Brommer Bike project. The City has not identified any dedicated funding mechanism to mitigate “significant and unavoidable” damage to Santa Cruz tarplant habitat.
  4. Urge that the CCC only approve the Arana Gulch Master Plan contingent on the removal of the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Path Connection project (as found in six Public Use objectives on page 30 of the Draft Master Plan, as well as portions of Sec. 3.4).
  5. Finally, ask that the CCC instruct the City to consider alternatives outside of Arana Gulch for any proposed east-west bicycle transportation project.

If you cannot attend the hearing, please send your letter covering the above critical points, BY MARCH 1, 2010, to:

Dan Carl, District Director
California Coastal Commission
725 Front Street, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Please share this information with others and encourage them to write letters and attend the hearing. All City, County and State residents can participate to Save Arana Gulch!

Friends of Arana Gulch web site: http://members.cruzio.com/~arana

Save Arana Gulch, don’t pave it!


It is beyond ironic that in the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, the City of Santa Cruz persists in a project that will decrease critical habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant in Arana Gulch.

Arana Gulch is a tiny remnant of a Coastal Prairie ecosystem that once stretched for hundreds of miles along the Central Coast, supporting an incredible profusion of life that occupied this region for thousands of years before humans destroyed it with pavement and buildings. The proposed paving project on Arana Gulch will forever carve up what little remains, strangling the Arana Gulch Greenbelt with a Black Belt.

Let’s celebrate this Year of Biodiversity by thinking beyond ourselves for a change and preserving and restoring this fragile piece of critical habitat for the few remaining species that have survived our intense domination of the natural world.

Save Arana Gulch. Don’t pave it.

Go to: Friends of Arana Gulch to find out what you can do to help SAVE ARANA GULCH!