Today, on September 24, U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland visited Molok Luyuk (Condor Ridge), a proposed expansion area of the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in Northern California. Tribal and community leaders, as well as Representative John Garamendi and Senator Alex Padilla, have all called upon President Biden to use the Antiquities Act to expand the National Monument. In response, Maite Arce, president and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement:
“We applaud Secretary Haaland for visiting Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. The proposed expansion to include Molok Yuluk has received widespread support from tribes, environmental groups, and community leaders, as it would protect a rare and rugged landscape and safeguard public lands that are sacred to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and are critically important to protect in the face of a changing climate.
The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the original residents of the area, have a long and significant connection to Molok Luyuk, stretching back thousands of years. The ridge includes areas where religious ceremonies are practiced, sites that are central to origin stories, and vital trading routes. Protecting these lands would establish co-stewardship with federally recognized tribes and would give area residents much needed access to this nature and the outdoors.
The proposed national monument expansion would also help improve access to the outdoors for the region’s residents. Highway 20, off of which Molok Luyuk lies, is the only east-west road through the Monument. Popular recreation activities on these lands include hiking, mountain biking, photography, camping, horseback riding, and off highway vehicle (OHV) use on designated routes.
Molok Luyuk also serves as a critical wildlife corridor between the existing monument and other protected areas for species such as tule elk, mountain lions, and black bears, and is home to imperiled wildlife, including bald and golden eagles, badgers, peregrine falcons, and over 30 species of rare plants. Protecting this important habitat will help preserve biodiversity and allow for continued wildlife migration in the midst of a changing climate."
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument stretches from Napa County in the south to Mendocino County in the north, encompassing 330,780 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Representatives John Garamendi and Mike
Thompson and Senators Padilla and Dianne Feinstein led California's Congressional delegation in issuing a letter to the President and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland with this call to protect Molok Luyuk. Last year, a bill in support of this effort was introduced in the House by Representatives John Garamendi and Mike Thompson and authored in the Senate by Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein. It was reintroduced again on March 7, 2023.
Alvaro Gamez, a member from Por La Creacion Faith-based Alliance, which develops stewards of God’s creation by educating and engaging this generation to leave a legacy for the future, shared: “This Earth has been designed by God, and all pieces of design and creation should be well maintained, and the beautiful ridge of Molok Luyuk is no exception. Our future generations are in serious need of us being good stewards of this land so that the promises of God come to fruition and multiply. For this, we must conserve the land, stretch it out, and be good stewards so that our future generations can reap the harvest of those benefits and preserve the Earth.“
Oscar Velazquez, also a Por La Creacion Faith-based Alliance member and pastor of Fuente de Vida Eterna in Stockton, California, shared: "The protection of the lands of Molok Luyuk is essential, as it constitutes an invaluable treasure for us and for future generations. Safeguarding these lands takes on critical significance, as places like these play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities."