Promises unfulfilled after Gov. Newsom directs state agencies to pursue co-management
Aug. 31, 2023
Coyote Valley, CA-The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Coalition to Save Jackson State Forest, the environmental justice coalition the Tribe is part of, are very grateful for obtaining a unanimously endorsed Resolution from the California Statewide Democratic Party that was passed last week in support of tribal co-management of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Jackson Forest is located in the ancestral territory of the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki Tribes in the coastal rainforest lands of what is now called Mendocino County, CA. [See attached Resolution] This Resolution reinforces the Statement of Administration Policy of Governor Newsom which calls for tribal co-management of state-owned lands located in the ancestral territories of CA tribes as part of his call for restorative justice.
The Jackson Demonstration State Forest that the Mendocino County Tribes now seek to co-manage with the State, was created in 1947 and dedicated to commercial logging along with studies to determine how to produce the best quality marketable timber. Over the years, massive logging and road building have continuously and systematically damaged the redwood forest ecosystem and ancestral sacred sites located throughout this forest in its valleys and mountain ridges. The protection of these sacred sites is of grave concern to the Coyote Valley Tribe. Moreover, as climate change, fire and extreme weather conditions ravage the globe and local communities, it is the position of the Tribe and the Coalition that the purpose of this 48,000 acre forest should be rededicated to forest conservation and restoration, and Native American cultural heritage preservation.
On June 18th, 2019, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order N-15-19, creating a Truth and Healing Council in acknowledgment of the past horrendous injustices inflicted upon California Indians by the State. Shortly thereafter, the Governor also issued the policy directive referenced above, as a matter of restorative justice, that the State of California should seek opportunities to co-manage state owned lands with descendant Indian Tribes who had lived on these ancestral lands. The Tribe expresses thanks to the Governor and the Statewide Democratic Party for supporting tribal co-management. However, government to government consultations on this matter to date have failed and the Tribe and the State forest managers have reached a standstill on defining co-management.
Therefore, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has reached out for assistance to Christine Snider, the Governor’s Advisor on Indian Affairs, to facilitate a meeting with the Governor to more fully discuss whether actual co-management, as opposed to mere advice on forest management, is being offered the Tribes in their government to government consultations.
It has been over two years since the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians entered into government to government consultations with the State of CA regarding co-management of JDSF, during which time the Tribe has encountered considerable resistance by the State forest managers (CalFire) in defining what “co-management” actually means under the Governor’s policy directive. The state forest managers would like the local Tribes to be an “Advisory” Council on forest management, a status to which the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has objected to, citing the fate of prior Advisory Councils at JDSF whose pro-conservation and forest restoration management proposals were subjected to ultimate veto by the State Board of Forestry. As long as the State Board of Forestry which is dedicated to logging continues to have veto power over Advisory recommendations and Tribes are merely offered an Advisory Council, the State cannot claim that co-management of this forest is actually being offered to the Tribes. Co-management from the Tribe’s perspective equates to co-equal co-management of their ancestral forest lands as has been afforded by the governments of Australia and Canada as compensation for past wrongs meted out against their indigenous populations. In fact, the Australian model of tribal co-management is only in place for an interim period, after which the land will ultimately be returned to the Tribes.
In the words of John Collier, U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1933-1945, “The California Indians were totally deprived of land rights. They were treated as wild animals, shot on sight… enslaved and worked to death. Their life was outlawed and their whole existence was condemned.” Allowing tribes to participate in co-managing today’s forest at JDSF is the way to provide healing and justice for such terrible wrongs of the past.
The Coyote Valley Tribe and other Mendocino County Tribes are seeking to reestablish their ancient connection to at least what is left of the thousands of years of their once reciprocal relationship with and connection to the forest lands now called Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Obtaining a meaningful co-management status over these lands by the Tribes is the justice the state Truth and Healing Council should provide.