In November 1999, Congress directed the National Park Service to complete a special resource study, or feasibility study, of the Gaviota Coast, and to determine whether the area, or a portion of it, is eligible and suitable to be managed as a unit of the National Park System. The feasibility study process determines whether:
The NPS study team is currently documenting the significance of the Gaviota area's resources and considering alternative management strategies. The next major step is to prepare the environmental impact statement (EIS), in which we will analyze the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of each alternative. Because of the detail required in preparing the EIS, as well as other unforeseen circumstances, the project schedule has been changed. We now anticipate releasing a public review draft of the feasibility study in January 2002 for a 90-day review. Copies will be mailed to our mailing list and will be available upon request and on the Internet. Public meetings will be held to give additional opportunities for comment. [note: draft feasibility study report now due January 2003]
The end result of the feasibility study process will be a report of findings and a recommendation to the U.S. Congress. We currently estimate that this report will be completed and transmitted to Congress in November 2002. A National Park designation can only occur in the Gaviota area with authorization through an act of Congress. [note: transmittal to Congress projected for 2003]
Scoping Summary Update: Summary of New Comments Received Since July 2000
Protection of Resources
The NPS convened two one-day invitational workshops on July 26 and 27, 2000 to seek community perspectives on the future of the Gaviota Coast -- the conditions that community members desire to see along the coast in the future. The NPS also sought discussion on how to achieve and sustain these conditions. Representatives from the farming and ranching communities, environmental groups, public agency staff, academic researchers, real estate developers, oil interests, and many others were invited to discuss, in a small group setting, their visions of the future for the Gaviota Coast. The first session focused on agricultural interests; the second included representatives from a broader range of interests. There were many differences of opinion expressed, and much heated discussion. The ideas below represent our attempt to summarize the main ideas discussed, but do not necessarily represent agreement within the groups.
Common Ground is a locally-based process that is attempting to find "common ground," or consensus about the future of the Gaviota coast. People with divergent opinions about the Gaviota Coast have been meeting since November 2000 to determine how to work together, and to determine whether they want to develop a plan for locally-based protection of coastal resources.
The NPS welcomes the development of locally-based and locally-supported initiatives to protect the Gaviota Coast. The NPS has not yet made any proposals or recommendations regarding outcomes, and has not finalized alternatives for the study. NPS will fully consider protection strategies that do not include NPS involvement. In fact, NPS policies require that serious consideration be given to alternatives that do not involve NPS. The policies recommend NPS involvement only when other management alternatives cannot adequately preserve the nationally significant resources. The study report will include at least one locally-based alternative. A conservation strategy with broad community support would be a valuable contribution.
Fact or Fiction?
Fact or Fiction: Is existing land protection adequate to protect the Gaviota Coast?
Ranchers, farmers, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and planning commission, the California Coastal Commission, public land managing agencies and environmental groups have all played an important role in the protection of the Gaviota Coast's significant resources. They are why the coast is still scenic, biologically rich, and culturally unique. These groups have a critical role now and in the future. However, based on experience throughout California, existing land use protection mechanisms rarely withstand the pressures of real estate speculation, increasing land values, development pressures and growing population:
Fact or Fiction: The NPS has refused to adjust the study area boundary to respond to public and landowner requests?
The study area boundary was established by the NPS at the beginning of the study process as part of normal NPS study procedures. It was drawn based on watersheds and the boundary of Vandenberg Air Force Base. A study area boundary is generally selected by NPS on a logical basis, and is an area within which to focus the feasibility study. It indicates the area to be studied, nothing more. The alternatives proposed in the draft study will have different boundaries within the study area boundary, in response to resource values and management feasibility as well as public opinion. Some portions of the study area may not be included under any alternative, and will not be included in any study recommendations.
Fact or Fiction: No one approach will work for the entire study area - it's too large and too diverse?
The NPS study team agrees completely. Different management strategies will be developed for different portions of the study area. Some areas may have no NPS management suggested under any alternative, while for other areas NPS will suggest a range of possibilities, including differing levels of NPS involvement. Some portions of the study area boundary will likely be entirely dropped from further consideration.
Fact or Fiction: Will the NPS use condemnation or eminent domain to acquire land?
The NPS will acquire land only if authorized by Congress, and only from willing sellers. Any legislation authorizing NPS involvement in the Gaviota area can include language restricting NPS to acquisition from willing sellers only. The NPS supports this type of restriction. While some have suggested that the authorizing legislation could later be amended to change this restriction, there are few if any precedents. If land acquisition from willing sellers is authorized, the NPS is required to pay full fair market value plus relocation costs.
Fact or Fiction: Will the Gaviota Coast be overrun with visitors if NPS is managing any of it?
NPS policy is to manage all of its units to protect park resources as the highest priority. Visitor services are secondary to resource protection. A National Park unit along the Gaviota Coast is unlikely to cause dramatic changes to the number of visitors in the area. Visitation at the county and state parks along the Gaviota Coast currently totals approximately 1.1 million visitors per year and constitutes a fraction of the traffic in the area. The possible designation as a unit of the National Park System would likely create a change in visitation limited by the level of development and additional publicly accessible land in the area. If the area becomes a National Park unit, we anticipate minimal development, small-scale facilities, and an emphasis on day-use. A management goal for the area would be to retain its quiet, pastoral nature. Potential visitation and its impacts will be addressed in greater detail in the draft feasibility study.
Fact or Fiction: Will NPS involvement affect the operations of Vandenberg Air Force Base?
The NPS understands that VAFB is an active military base with essential military, civilian and commercial missions. NPS understands the importance and long-term nature of VAFB's mission and operations, and does not intend to propose any actions that would compromise VAFB's mission or operational flexibility. The NPS study team believes that there may be additional opportunities for limited and controlled public access, to enhance the public's understanding of the significant natural and cultural resources of VAFB, and to contribute to the stewardship of these resources, without compromising VAFB's operations.
Temporary Moratorium on New National Park Units?
Change of Address and Phone Number
After approximately August 1st, our new mailing address will be:
National Park Service
Our new phone numbers are:
Ray Murray (510) 817-1439
Our e-mail addresses (PGSO_gaviota@nps.gov)